HEY! You can't hang around here no more.

Sunday, February 28, 2010 | 2 Comment(s)

If I've learned anything about the good things in life, it's that when you're on a roll, don't question it, just go with it.   And so, we have more pictures from the locker room (this is a prelude to the conclusion of the series "The Five People You Meet in the Men's Locker Room").

They have moved me into a larger locker (same locker room) at the gym, and now I have a full 7 ft. of locker at my command.  It's actually quite a luxury after the half-locker.  Today's picture comes from just a few lockers down from mine:
If you can't tell right away from the picture, this guy has decided that even the 7 ft. of space in his locker are not enough for drying his swimsuit.  So he hangs it from the outside of his locker, threaded through the lock.  While you can't tell from this picture, the suit is generally hung liner side out.  This is his bathing suit's constant state.  What I mean to say is, it NEVER goes in the locker.

This, in a few words.  Is fucking disgusting.  For many reasons.

1)  For those around him, we don't want to have to look/happen to graze against the dick-juice side of your dirty bathing suit.  How presumptuous of you to assume that you can just hang your dirty grossness out in the open.  Do you see ANYONE else resorting to that kind of behavior.  No.  Put your friggin pants in your friggin locker.

2)  What is the theory behind your decision to hang your bathing suit out in the open instead of inside the locker.  I can tell you from experience that I manage to get mine dry with a simple wringing and hanging.  Don't want a damp locker?  Do you understand what a locker is?  Do you think that hanging it outside the locker and inside the environment of the greater locker area is cleaner.   The general state of the locker area is already a moldy mossy virus-infected grey.  How can you want your drawers spending MORE time in that.  So.  Much.  Badness.   That sir, is a gross mistake.  Which brings us to 3.

3)  How naive are you to believe that your leaving your cheese encrusted swim shorts out to offend us all isn't going to be met with any retaliation?   I'm not saying it was me (I'm not saying it wasn't, but I'm not saying it was), but I've seen various people drip their wetness on it.   I might have even seen a snot rocket head in it's direction.  Why would you shake your own grossness into it.  It's like a cloth spider web just waiting to be tampered with.   In my dreams I take Ben-Gay to those bad boys (I'd wear gloves for application of course), but the owner has so much back hair already, that I would  feel like I was piling on to his misfortune.

But seriously folks, that nasty.

The Toilet Knows What you did last Dumper

Friday, February 26, 2010 | 2 Comment(s)

Ok. I have to admit it. I have a problem. I can't stop taking pictures in bathrooms. This is serious guys. Why does hilarious stuff keep happening in the confines of washrooms. But, I have to stay pure to my virtues and report it. Because who else will bring you behind the brown curtain if i don't.

Usually the men's bathrooms in the psychology building are a refuge. Being that Psychology is a fairly female dominant field, the chance of someone even entering the bathroom at the same time as you is slim. I'm not endorsing it as a hang out spot or anything, but if you did need a reliable place to hide out--it's there.

Until a few weeks ago when the signs got put up. Check this out:
This sign was posted over every urinal and toilet in the building (at least in the men's rooms)! Now first of all, "Be Health." What does that even mean. It reminds me of that show Mr. Slim Goodbody (remember when a name like that was PC, even for an educational show) in the 80's with the guy with the bodysuit picturing his insides (c-c-c-creepy). I don't use a public toilet to "be health," i go there to shamefully take a dump. To force me to be socially conscious at the same time is really above my pay-grade.

And perhaps it's just the dirty Wesleyan hippie in me, but we were taught: "if it's yellow let it mellow" in order to "Be Environment," in the hopes that our water preservation would help future generations "Be health." I realize it's a state school, but do we really have to remind people to flush.

Admittedly I'm being kinda a dick. I'm sure these signs are the result of the janitors getting fed up with the aforementioned horrific aim of the undergrads and their urine and putting signs up in order to cut down on the constant urine stench they must be forced to deal with. But I'm a snarky grad student, and it's still my blogs-honest job to make fun of this.

Turns out, I'm not the only one. Some grad student (or dare i suggest faculty?) finally reached their breaking point and posted this sign (eerily similar to the orignal) above the 6th floor shitter:
I laughed.
It's not even the best possible way to go. But the effort they took to cut the paper the same way as the original is what sold it for me. Also, the fact that this particular bathroom smelled of residual poo also seemed ironic.

I think i would have chosen: "The stalls have eyes. Be Victim"
It's also effective in that it's hard to shit when your are scared--hence "scared shitless." And therefore, less work for the janitors. This is why I became a Social Psychologist.

The only other sign I've ever seen in my building is a mysterious one that appeared on the wall above the stairwell which read: "The stairs feel your steps." Weird right? It was removed eventually, before i got a chance to replace it with "The steps feel your stares." Shame.

It makes it all worth it.

Thursday, February 25, 2010 | 0 Comment(s)

So I had a hard day. One of those days where it feels like every time I fix one problem it sprouts two new problems that need solving. And it really was no one's fault. But it was just non-stop all day--boom boom boom. I didn't even find time to eat. And the one positive of the day (besides that the rain cleaned my car--which badly needed cleaning) was that I was able to go home at 8, as opposed to 9:30. And I didn't tell my gf, cause I thought i'd surprise her.
10 minutes before i'm going to leave i get the text: "making dinner for us. Probably going to eat soon. But it will be here for you :)"

that's the shit folks. the poo. the tits. the good stuff. Knowing that working late is sucky, she made dinner for us. that's what they call the 'little things.'

Know what else. She bought me chocolate covered almonds. I love those. I am a lucky bitch.

The SwimMan

So, do any of you know what it's like to swim laps while listening to Jay-Z.  I do.  Today I used my SwimMan waterproofed iPod Nano in the pool.  I've been waiting for this thing for awhile.  I didn't realize that while you may be paying for 4-5 day delivery, that timer starts when they actually mail it to you.  And there is no time limit for that.  I was quite worried when a week after i sent in my PayPal money (I am still not adept enough to know how these processes work, and therefore innately distrust the whole process), I still had no fun water music.  Bummed and worried, I contacted the company in California, and they informed me of the backorder situation on their product.  I was close to asking if their email system was on backorder, but to be honest the man was so friendly, accommodating, and genuine that i didn't have the heart.  In all honesty, I was just excited to get the product and less concerned with expressing my frustration.

So it came.  And it's as advertised.  Well, it's as advertised in that it didn't break or fry my face off when I used it today.  It is going to take a little getting used to having the buds in my ear while swimming--and by that i mean it will take some time until i stop constantly worrying that i am getting water in my ears or that the earbuds are going to fall out and break the whole system.  But, those are mostly my problems, not the SwimMan's.  Musically, it was a revelation.  Gliding through the water to Snow Patrol really suits me. Some things I learned:

1) Rap/Hip-Hop is the shit when in the water.  Stereotypically, this seems ironic.  Physically, this makes perfect sense.  
2)  Me First and the Gimme Gimmes thought up the best "theme" for a band ever.  They play 70's and 80's standards (Walking on Sunshine, Ain't no Sunshine When She's Gone, etc. -- trying to subtly influence the local weather here with my song choices)--except they rock them out punk style.  Every single song is amazing.  In and out of the pool.  Just saying.
3)  Some songs don't translate to the pool.  Barenaked Ladies or They Might Be Giants are good examples.  While I love their music, I love them primarily for their funny/intelligent wordplay and that just isn't the "it" factor for getting my body moving.  

Speaking of "Body Moving," I should add that song to my swim playlist.  Speaking of swimming playlists, i need more exercise songs.  Swimming is the first non-team sport oriented exercise I have ever accomplished any consistency with. That is how a graduate student says that they've quit every other exercise form they've tried (running is the devil's sport--more on that later--FOR SURE).  Because of this, my music falls more into the 'relaxin' category than the 'move your body' genre.  So, if you have groove music--send it my way.  Burn me a CD.  It's what Jesus would do.  

ps.  This was the scene in my building's bathroom today.  

I'm not even sure what to think here.  Pooping with a friend?  Putting your legs up while you poop?  Long distance high board peeing contest?  Balance your book upright to read while pooping?  Phobia of putting your book-bag on the floor (maybe that one is even understandable considering what i have decided is the undergraduates' lack of urinal aim)?  I'm stymied.  So once again, I took a picture in a bathroom of the bathroom.  This is becoming a strange habit.

Kids: From A to Pee

Wednesday, February 24, 2010 | 2 Comment(s)

Kids man, kids.

Tonight, while I was waiting for my sandwich to finish cooking, a girl and her father came into the pizza shop. The girl was right around what I would classify as "brat aged." She was past the cute toddler phase and headed squarely into that awkward "why is my body getting lumpy" period. I associate this age group with a "mine mine mine me me me" attitude and generally not a whole lot of fun to be around. She tugged on he dad's pant leg and asked for some change. "Here we go" i thought to myself. "Why?" her dad asked. "For that," she replied, and pointed to the collection jar for the Haiti Relief Fund. "Well," i thought to myself, "I'm the asshole."
She later waited to hold the door for me on my way out. Whata nice kid.

When I was her age, I thought girls peed out of their butts. It's true. And, after thinking about this some, it's actually not that far-fetched a conclusion. I mean, as a little tot, all you are told is that boys pee standing up, and girls sit down. Isn't it logical to conclude that if I sit down to poop out of my butt, girls must sit down to poop OR pee out of their butts. Now again, I'm not arguing that I was correct, I'm just saying it's understandable. And it's not like I logged (hehe. I said logged) a whole bunch of time in the little girl's room.

Even today the other sex's peeing ability remains a bit of a mystery. I mean its like you women have this unpredictable nozzle of the water gun attached right there to your body, able to shoot off in any direction. And I'm not being derogatory here. I'm just pointing out that this is one of those things that the opposite sex can never totally grasp. Like how you women will never know what it feels like to pee around a corner. And I think that having some mystery is good, whether you find it in the flight of a bird, the laugh of a child, or the unpredictable nature of a woman's pee-hole.

Phone Rage

Tuesday, February 23, 2010 | 3 Comment(s)

Today at 8:30pm I got a call from a campus number on my cell phone. Worried that it was job related, I answered. "Hello, I'm looking for Mr. Zimbler." "This is he." "Hi Matt, how are you doing tonight?" "fine thanks." "Great, my names James and I'm an undergrad here at UMass, I'm calling from the UMass a*YAWWWN*nnual fund." (Yes. He actually yawned, on the phone, while in the middle of saying the organization he was working for.)
Me: "Wait. You're calling from the Alumni Association"
James: "No, the Annual Fund, we're run by different people (same purpose?)."
Me: "Do you know that I'm still a student here?"
James: "Well, that must mean that you got your Masters on your way to a PhD."
Me: "Bingo."
James: *cough laughs to himself* "Well . . . ah . . . then this is kinda awkward . . . you got any extra money kickin around. . . ?"
James: "Well . . . I"
Me: "Let me stop you right there James. As a grad student making what I can only say is near the poverty line, I don't really have any extra funds kicking around that I'd like to additionally give to the school."
James: "You'd be amazed how many people are in the position."
Me: "No I wouldn't. Goodbye James."

Now this is one of those situations much like the one last week, where what I want to say (what I want to unleash) is an unholy tirade about the audacity of a school asking for money from a graduate student while simultaneously arguing to reduce our pay while increasing our fees. Asking for money after raising the price of grad student gym fees from $120 a year to $290. And you are sharing my cell information with campus fund raising organizations? That doesn't make me feel good. That feels like a breech of trust. You can lick my taint Annual fund. Lick. My. Taint.
But that's not James' fault. He's smoking weed and dialing names on a list for his work study money. So I'm not gonna let it out on him. But I swear, I'm one fee increase away from making an office worker cry. I'm not proud of it. But that doesn't make it not true.

Left Turn Only

Monday, February 22, 2010 | 4 Comment(s)

There is something secretly beautiful about two cars at a red light, opposite each other, both turning left simultaneously when the light turns green. There is a moment where you just have to commit to trusting the idea that the person in the other car isn't going to screw you both and plow into you instead of turning. In that choreography there is beauty.

(I chose this photo because it was called "stock-photo-left-turn-sign. Which just happened to be exactly what I wanted. If you want to give shutterstock some business, their numbers at the bottom)

How Babies are Destroying America

Sunday, February 21, 2010 | 5 Comment(s)

It's not entirely my fault that this is such a confusing time.  As a man in his 30's (albeit early thirties!) it seems as if my peers are dropping kids like quarters at an arcade.  I mean, people who I didn't even know had significant others are popping up on Facebook sporting el baby belly.  

And while there is nothing at all WRONG with this of course, it kinda makes my head spin.  Here's why.

In high school I was brought up, like many children of the 80's and early 90's (pre-Juno), that teen pregnancy was the worse possible fate.  I mean, at least the way it was presented to me, it would have be preferable to stick a hepatitis infected needle in my arm than knock up one of my 16-year-old classmates.  It's not difficult to see how I didn't lose my virginity in high school considering that I connected baby making with at least 1 of the 4 horsemen (horse-people?) of the apocalypse.  Something about a teenaged girl's belly growing seemed to make god cry, and I didn't want any part of that.  (Thankfully, even god liked playing with boobies.)

This mindset didn't stop in college.  While I finally moved past the 'sex = baby' barrier, I still got the feeling that if I came home and told my parents that i had gotten one of my classmates pregnant, my rents would have begun some sort of religious fasting process involving wearing black, ripping their clothes, and shouting to our Jewish ancestors, "our son is dead!"  (this is an exaggeration--they would never disown me--but you get the idea).   

So now, well post-college, i realize that this mentality is still ingrained in the nooks and crannies of my life approach.  When someone tells me they're pregnant, my first half-second reaction (before my common sense kicks in) is, "man are your parents going to be pissed."   But that's just the thing.  The exact opposite is true!  Parents are DYING for grandkids.  What initially was a parent's fear of their child's lifelong scarlet letter has turned into the search for the holy grail (excuse my mixing my metaphors/literature/media).  

Someone pulled the ol switch-a-roo on me, and frankly I'm kinda pissed about it. After a lifetime of successfully NOT knocking anyone up, NOW i'm expected to turn all of that repression around and aim for insemination.  Not cool parents.  Not cool social expectations.  Fuck you onions!  Just when I thought I'd gotten the hang of this whole 'growing up' thing, babies have to come along with their squishy cuteness and change all the rules.  

Screw this.   I'm getting a dog.

They should call it "Unsurance" not Insurance

Saturday, February 20, 2010 | 4 Comment(s)

To be honest, I was planning on, after yesterday's more serious post, coming back at you with a can't miss comedy from my past.  Oh, the best laid plans.  How they always fail.

Speaking of fail, today (the 19th) has been brought to you by the letters, F, A, I, & L.  Since it's best not to try and write nostalgic comedy when under the influence of stress-induced anger, the misadventures of young mattitiyahu will have to wait.  Hopefully, in its stead, you will enjoy the stupidity forced upon me as much as I detested it.  Enjoy.

Yesterday I called a prescription into the pharmacy.  This is not unusual, as my jovial attitude and kind disposition are the result of a good amount of therapy and low doses of anti-depression and anti-anxiety medication.  I also have more annoying, non-fatal, genetic flaws than I could have ever imagined.  We're talking lactose-intolerance, eye infections, deviated septum, ingrown hairs--it's an endless list.  So usually i am taking some medication to alleviate whatever form of annoying inconvenience my body has decided to serve up recently (im looking forward to future gluten-intolerance). A few minutes later the pharmacy called back and asked me to bring my insurance card with me, as they were having trouble getting the medication (which was essentially a refill) to go through my insurance.  This is common enough, as is the general incompetence of the pharmacy staff.

The next day, today, I brought my card to the pharmacy and gave it to them.   They said that their computer says that I do not currently have insurance coverage for drugs.  This being what I would consider one of the main functions of insurance, i was (i think understandably) concerned.  I went home and called my provider.  They said, their computer said (see a pattern), that my insurance had not been renewed as of 1/31/10.  So i currently had no health insurance, and I had no idea or inkling that my coverage had been discontinued.  Now I was worried.  I was shocked actually.  My own irresponsibility I can suffer, but doing everything "correctly" and ending up being left out to dry without my knowledge is firmly not ok.  I asked the insurance women who, at the university level, is responsible for letting the insurance company know that I should have insurance.  She said the university bursar's office.  And so my journey (taking place in the 45 free minutes I've had today [currently typing this at work in the lab]) continued to the bursar.

The woman on the other end of the phone sounded young.  Undergrad young.  I am sad to say that I am already jaded enough in my post-graduate career that when dealing with something as serious as my getting or not getting health coverage, I do not want my destiny in the hands of a UMass undergrad.  More on that another time (I do, in general, really enjoy both interacting and teaching undergrads).  Long story short here, the young woman said, that her computer said, that I am paying for health insurance, so I should have it.   My reaction: EXACTLY!  and (sarcastically) "well at least if i'm not getting covered, i'm paying for it."  Sigh.  I ask the woman, if this is the case, and she now knows it is, why the "unsurance" company still does not know it.  She tells me that this falls under the umbrella of "health services."  Which means, that she will transfer me.

Getting transferred is the emotionally equivalent of "it's not me, it's you."  Besides the fact that 30% of the times i've been transferred I've been disconnected (necessitating i start the whole phone chain process over), I usually end up feeling no closer to my goal than I started--and i have to repeat my situation over and over until I hate myself.  On some level all of this transferring, put on hold, talk to my supervisor, crap is designed to test how upset you REALLY are--and hoping that in the end you'll give up and just hang up.  I resent this.  As does any person who has ever had a problem that they could not ignore.

So the person I talk to at the health center asks what department I need.  I say insurance.  "Hold please, I'll transfer."  (*i look at the camera a la Jim from the Office)

Next woman, "Hello, how can I help you."  I begin to explain the situation.  She interrupts, "Ok, I'm going to transfer you to so-and-so, she deals with that insurance."  3rd transfer.  I'm hating myself.  I'm hating them.  But, in fairness, I do feel like I am getting closer to the epicenter of the problem.  Boy am I right.

Last woman, "How can I help you?"  I explain, again.  She tells me, that her computer says, that i am correct and I should have insurance, but they just haven't put the paperwork through yet.  I ask what that entails.  She says that they have to update my insurance "by hand."  "By hand" is another one of those expressions that has lost it's actual meaning, and now simply is used to denote something being laborious.  I mean, she isn't meant to take the computer apart and write in pencil that my insurance should be renewed on the inside--before replacing the cover.  She means, of course, that she must navigate onto her computer screen to a place where my info is stored, and most likely check a box.  This is not, in my opinion, laborious.  Boring, sure.  Laborious, no.

And even if it were difficult--it is Feb. 19th (full disclosure: I am now finishing this post on the 20th)--almost 3 full weeks from when they let my insurance expire.  If there is a pile of paper work that determines whether or not people are getting insurance coverage, wouldn't one assume that even if you were late in getting things done, you would not leave that particular pile left untouched for weeks on end?  Isn't this a fairly high priority pile?  I bet THEIR health coverage doesn't depend on any of the information in that pile.  Here, I briefly think to myself that if this woman transfers me I might have to bomb their building.  Thankfully, sh"e does not.

This is my god damn health coverage.  Check the fucking boxes sister!  And not just mine.  Check the fucking boxes of everyone who has been deemed to be paying for their insurance and yet stil doesn't have it.  I feel like im teaching this woman the basics of her job by hand.  By which i mean that it feels laborious talking to this woman's dimwittedness.  I ask her if she realizes that this "oversight" (i'm doing my best to stay calm.  I do not say, "laziness, incompetence, stupidity, apathy, . . .) has prevented me from getting my medications (i purposely don't specify which meds--cause i want her to feel badly about this).  She apologizes and says she will rush it through.  I say a somewhat curt, "thank you--that would be appreciated."  I know I'm being kind of a bitch here, but come on!!!  I rarely get too steamed, but me not having health insurance because of, from what i get tell, no good reason, is seriously uncool.  I would not go to a middle school dance with this problem--it would ruin my reputation.

And another thing.  I emphasized how much of this problem was diagnosed along the way by computer screens.  There is this thing called "the internet" now.   Let's get these computers talking and figure out a way to streamline this problem.  But lets face it, i'll probably be going to see a robot doctor before we see the health care/insurance system streamlined.  A boy can dream.

The Fastest Man on Ice

Thursday, February 18, 2010 | 10 Comment(s)

I have been getting into the Winter Olympics. While I understand that there are many sound arguments both for and against the Olympics, I honestly don't care. All I know is that i have been pretty psyched up to watch all of the crazy events no matter if it includes skiing with a gun (biathlon) or cleaning ice with almost supernatural OCD (curling). I dont recall being this into the games in previous years, so I can only imagine that this change has at least something to do with the fact that my gf, who was a competitive x-country skier through high school, gets super excited for the games. And i, as is my tendency, generally get pretty psyched up for things my gf is psyched about. I am, admittedly, easily excitable. It's a good dynamic overall.

But something happened last night during the speed skating event that got me pretty friggin mad at NBC (who is broadcasting the Olympics), and I feel the need to share what took place with you all, as both a matter of venting and perhaps even a quick social psychology lesson. Get out your pencils (laptops), class is in session.

Shani Davis, for those of you who don't follow the games that closely, is the reining 1000m speed skater (he will also compete for the 1500m) from the US. He was brought up by a single mother in Chicago, and he is black. Shani Davis, at what is considered the speed-skating "middle distances," is the fastest man on skates. He's beautiful to watch and, from my understanding, has an absolutely grueling training regimen. Additionally, for those of you who might not assume this, there are NOT a lot of black speed skaters. Rephrase: I do not know of any other black speed skaters ever. Shani was the first African-American to win a Winter Olympic gold medal--ever.

It also needs to be said that Shani is . . . um . . . quirky. He trains separately from the US team and recently even called Steven Colbert (who saved US speed-skating by helping them raise sponsorship) "a jerk." He later raced Colbert (giving the novice a 12 min. head start--hilarious tv) and blew his doors off. All this is to say that Shani has not been without controversy throughout his career. Some of it deserved, some of it not deserved.

But last night, as Shani was winning his second gold in defending his 1000m gold, the NBC announcer said this, "Wow, Shani Davis, who just has amazing natural talent, . . . " I don't know how the sentence ended. My anger has clouded my memory. Now, let me tell you why that statement is racist.

I'm sure the announcer doesn't "hate black people." He wouldn't say he's racist at all. But he is participating in a practice that devalues the accomplishments of the minority, in order to keep the status quo of privilege tilted in his favor. To say that Shani has, "natural ability" at speed skating, is laughable. On a lot of levels. First, it is explaining away all of the incredible amounts of training and work it takes for anyone to be the best at any sport (even curling). I don't care if you are born with blades growing out of your feet, you still can't be the fastest person after 1000m on ice without unwavering dedication and sacrifice. Second, natural ability huh. The ability that Shani was born with for going fast on ice. Yah, that's likely. I mean, just considering the incredible number of opportunities Black youths have to get on the ice . . . i mean . . . there is natural talent all over the place. Oh wait, no. Shani Davis, quirky or not, overcame what have got to be unrelenting odds to become the athlete he is. And once again, AT SPEED SKATING! To call his success a result of some innate ability, and not to credit his success to him as an individual, is to explain away Shani's triumph as a matter of essentially genetic luck. And this has everything to do with race. America has a long and un-proud tradition of explaining away Black successes as a matter of some predetermined genetic physical advantage (my friend, also black, when I recounted this story added, "yah, Shani must have thought the ice was grass, and just ran."). This serves to discredit the idea that the minority group member earned his/her success and distances the minority group from being able to take credit for their success. It also serves to create the idea, linguistically, that positive traits from minority group members are specific to that individual, whereas positive traits of majority group members, are more generalizable to the group (e.g. Norwegian's are great at x-country. Instead of, Sven has incredible innate ability.). Rest assured, when the valence is reversed, aka. negative attributes about minorities, the language generalizes to the group once again (and negative majority group traits are individualized to the specific individual, to spare the group). And now, all of this bullshit has people thinking that Black people are born at a physical advantage.

*edit: From the response this post is getting (which i LOVE) i feel the need to clarify something. I think what is missing from my explanation is the inflection of the announcer who, in my mind, was explaining Shani's success as a factor of his natural ability RATHER than his grueling workout regime and training--which are insane.

On an unrelated note, I saw a news report the other day talking about a recent car accident that, "police believe 'speed' was a factor in" Good thing I was sitting down when i heard that. (I would love to see what 2 parked cars getting in an accident would look like.)

Interesting Matt fact #628

Tuesday, February 16, 2010 | 10 Comment(s)

I like green peppers.  That is not the interesting fact. You should have known that because that is not interesting.  I say that i like green peppers because I have a fairly extensive "no fly zone" when it comes to vegetables, (I'm looking at you eggplant.  asparagus.  brussel sprouts.) that the green pepper is nowhere near.

*tangent.  Whenever I tell someone that I don't like eggpant, their first reaction is one of pity.  I don't know why, but I see it, and it's there.  After that split second when the part of their brains that mediate "appropriate behavior" kick in, their tune changes in a more Hare-Krishna direction.  By which I mean--conversion.  "oh, I make it so it tastes just like a chicken cutlet."  But here are the problemS that I have with that.
1) If I want to eat something that tastes "just like a chicken cutlet," why don't I just eat a chicken cutlet.

In my mind, they respond, "oh, but eggplant is so much better for you."

2) In almost all cases, this is true.  the EXCEPTION of course being when you bread and deep fry the shit out of either of them.  At that point, I don't really think the health benefit margins are too thick.

3) It is an insult to food to think that the preferred preparation of a food would be to try and mask its taste to taste like something else.  Now I realize that this totally imaginary conversation I'm having is about chicken/eggplant cutlets, so getting all philosophical about the place of food is a bit of a reach, if not just completely nit-picky.  But you're forgetting something.

I'm having an imaginary conversation with myself.  So I can BE reach-y and nit-picky.  that said, I respect eggplant enough to realize that people enjoy it.  And I am ok not being one of those people.  Let's just leave it at that.

end tangent*

This was a blog about an interesting fact about me if you recall.  AND is amazing.
Anyways.  When I cut open a green pepper, and you get that weird white almost foamy stuff that connects the inner pepper walls to the seedy core.  That white stuff.  Freaks.  Me.  Out.   I think it's gross and otherworldly.  It's a totally green food, why is there white in there.  And the consistency is totally inconsistent with the rest of the vegetable.   The pepper iscrisp and firm. The alien white crap is limp and fungus-y, and is the vegetive equivalent of the limp "dead fish" handshake.  Fuck that freaky white shit. (seen here on the viewer's right side)

On a separate note, I respect garlic for having an outer skin that knows its place.  You squeeze (great word--Q & Z, both 10 points) a garlic clove hard enough and that skin will slip right off.  It realizes that its function is to act as a barrier up to the point that the garlics innards are being accessed, at which point, its job is over and the quicker it gets out of the way the better.  Good on' yah garlic skin.
Not onions.  Onion skin will cling and grasp at itself like saran-wrap on, well, saran-wrap.  it can be an awful bother.  Fuck you onion skin.

Picking Teams and Righting Wrongs

Sunday, February 14, 2010 | 2 Comment(s)

I can honestly say that I have never met a German person I did not like.  Ever.  In all of my travels (including a brief stint to Germany), the German people in sum have been friendly, outgoing, and really smiley.  I say this as an introduction to what I can only say is one of those irrational things about me.

Here goes:  As a jew, I don't hold any German person responsible for the atrocities that took place in and around that country circa the late 1930's-1940's.  I don't.  That would be ridiculous, uncalled for, and even a bit xenophobic (oh yah--rocked an "x" word).  But, here's the thing.  I DO, however, take those negative feelings from history out on the German national teams.  This includes Olympics, World Cup, and any other international competition where competitors are identified by their flag.  I root against the Germans.  Across the board.

And it would be highly irrational of you to tell me that this is a highly irrational reaction.  The reason i'm writing about it is indeed because I realize how totally f'd up it would seem to normal humans.

The way I figure it is that we all need an outlet for our conscious and subconscious anger and resentment. And I can't find a more victimless purge valve than me screaming at the Polish ski jumper to knock the German's off the medal-stand.  Or, perhaps even more risqué, for the German biathletes to not be such accurate snipers.  Did I say snipers?  I meant marksmen/women.

I think you all feel me.

ps.  I come by this irrationality quite honestly as, after a horrendous experience with a Brazilian exchange student (he shit-smeared our bathroom), my mother and father always root against Brazil in the World Cup.

Saturday's Review of Friday

Saturday, February 13, 2010 | 2 Comment(s)

I didn't realize it was a 3 day weekend until i went to bed last night.  That either means im super out of it or that I've gone soft in grad school.  Probably a combination.

I'm gonna jump around this Sat. morning, so try and keep up.

1.  Yesterday was the Olympic opening ceremonies.  I watched them.  They were long.  I can summarize for all of you who didn't have the free time to watch an hour long parade of nations.  It was broken into 4 sections.
     A) Intro--a snowboarder boarded through the Olympic rings.  The 4 native nations said hello (Hello natives!!!--*waves vigorously*).  It actually was touching how much they featured the native peoples of Canada.  Reminded me how much the US would never do that.
     B) The previously mentioned parade-o-countries.
     C) Video/projection/dance/peter-pan high flying act/slam poetry.  This was by far the best part.  The way they synced up the projections with live action really worked, and they could even project pictures on the audience.  It came out really beautifully.  Not much to make fun of here as i even rewinded some parts to see them again (shout out to the Orca's swimming across the stage).  Also in this section was some downright Canadian entertainment.  I talking tap-dancing in flannel (actual sparks flying out of their tap shoes) and fiddlers of course (tons o fiddlers).  IN JEAN JACKETS!!!!  oh Canada--i love you so much right now.  They were one step away from making the torches shaped like hockey sticks--swear.
     D) All hell breaks loose.  After a technologically perfect show, things begin to break down as one of the 4 torch stands which is meant to rise and form one meta-torch stand, doesn't.  The music plays on and everyone's just kinda sitting tight.  Finally the TV commentators say, "truth be told, something's technologically not working correctly."  They then launch into the failure which is Canada and how it's really more like a glorified Maine than its own country.  Ok, I'm exaggerating.  But they did seem to make this malfunction a big deal.  This is a sporting event right?  It's not like Canada needs this ceremony to go off perfectly to please their glorious ruler so that he can make a play for nuclear independence.   It's Canada.
     The announcers then babble on about "we're going to take a break--no we're not--now we are" all while Gretzky, a.k.a. "the great one" (cept for that whole gambling incident) hitches a ride to downtown Vancouver to light the outdoor torch.  My favorite line from the announcers, "It seems like someone must have let slip where the outdoor torch lighting was taking place, because there is a good amount of people collecting."  Um . . . the cauldron is about 3 stories high and looks like a glowing blue snowflake.  I don't think they needed to poster the neighborhood for this secret to creep out.  It was either the Olympic torch or the worst cover for a terrorist attempt ever.

2.  Yesterday a Harvard trained biologist was denied tenure at Alabama University, and proceeded to lose her shit and go on a shooting spree, killing 3 colleagues.  Now, there is no part of this that i condone, obviously, but i think when PhD's start picking up guns because of tenure denial, we get an idea of how broken that academic process really is.   Tenure is the holy grail of the academic.  It is an ephemeral concept that means job security and even a drop or two of carte blanche.  After 5 years of being a prof's bitch (grad school) and then at least 5 more years of nose-to-the-grindstone work to submit your tenure portfolio, you can see how one could be upset by the denial of a decade's worth of one's contribution.   im just trying to give you guys some context.

3.  On Fridays, the Social Psych department at UMass has a speaker series, where psychologists from the  northeast come and give a talk about their research for about an hour.   Yesterday's talk was about the effects of social support in romantic relationships (e.g. if having your partner's support helps you in preparing for the bar exam).  Without getting into it, it turned out that the type of support was an important variable.  Which led to this gem:

Speaker: "One guy in our study said that he actually went on a trip down to Florida for the week leading up to his gf taking the bar in order to give her space to prepare.  Now, of course, this is not the kind of support you would want to give if she had breast cancer."

Way to drive your point home.

SI Swimsuit Issue is a Misnomer

Thursday, February 11, 2010 | 6 Comment(s)

So on Monday I received my SI Swimsuit Issue (Im a subscriber).  I know that you can call or write to not get this issue (timed to line up with Valentine's Day each year--somehow I know this reinforces my last blog post--im just not sure how exactly) and instead receive an extra issue added to the end of your subscription, but frankly that takes even a modicum of energy.  One which I am not willing to spend on my magazine subscription.

 (*Brief Tangent:  I also subscribe to Newsweek.  This subscription began as a gift from a friend of mine [one of those 2 for 1 deals] but i have resubscribed since.  I tell you this only because somehow the name on the subscription reads "Multitiyahu."  It remains the funniest and my favorite misspelling of my name thus far in life.  I partially think I resubscribed because I simply couldn't do without the giggle I get every time I read the name on the cover. End brief tangent*)

So today, Thursday, I thumbed through the swimsuit magazine for the first time.  And here are my thoughts.

1) Yes, Bar Refaeli is the hottest jew I have ever seen (I'm sure that link will help my blog's hit count).

2) Brooklyn Decker, aka. the Swimsuit cover model this year, aka. tennis star Andy Roddick's wife, is totally fucking weird looking.  I can't look at her and NOT think of E.T. dressed up like a lady.  That's just my opinion.

3) I cannot find anyway to call this a "Swimsuit" issue.  Most of the pictures I saw had the models holding their tops.  Not really the way to sell swimwear.  And not really focusing on the fabrics.  Unless "swimsuits" now include a ton of boob colored material,  they certainly don't put the 'wear' in 'swimwear' (or swim for that matter--none of em are in the water).  Usually, and I'm assuming still, they have a section where the "suits" are literally painted onto the models.  Swimsuit issue?  No.  The appearance of naked ladies issue? Yes.

4) Speaking of naked lady issues, I also can't find an excuse to put this stuff in a sports magazine.  I mean, I enjoy the content as much as the next hetero guy, but seeing models lying on rocks, while potentially grueling work (shhhh. don't tell Detroit that this qualifies as work, let alone grueling work), is not a sport (similar to how golf isn't a sport--walking is--golf = hobby--but that's a blog for another day). Can we agree that bikini ladies are not 'sports relevant.'  (Can we agree that i've used too many quotes in this post in general.) I think everyone will be happier if we just admit that the majority (not all, but the majority) of sports fans are male, and males (not all, but the majority) like to look at pictures of scantily clad pretty women, and thus, we have the Swimsuit Issue.  I don't feel like Sherlock Holmes revealing this, but it goes just a little bit too unsaid.  I should add that they do have a section where they have actual female athletes in bathing suits (this year the Olympic Downhill Ski Team), but personally, while it is nice to see how amazing these athletes' bodies are from so much training, it just seems even more objectifying since these women are so talented at things other than looking beautiful.  (they used to have a section featuring male athletes with their wives in bikinis.  Egalitarian FAIL)

5) So here is the crux of my argument (and also, why the magazine went unopened for 4 days).  I can get past the moral outrage of the existence of this issue.  In reality, I have none.  SI makes it more than easy to not receive it and compensates you.  By now, everyone knows what they're getting if they do choose to get this particular issue, and I don't feel the need to babysit America.

But me, I'm pro porn.  Porn has tons of good uses (inside and outside relationships--again, another blog [cause it's got bad uses too, certainly]).  One of the uses it is particularly good for is looking at naked people.  It's the best at it actually.   To drive home this point, I give you a conversation I have a number of years ago with my younger male cousin, who was probably a freshman or sophomore in high school at the time.

I decided to try and be the cool older cousin and give him my old porno mags from when I was in high school (i was out of college already at this point).  The only magazines that I still had (and i never had that many) were the creme de la creme.  A who's who of "high class" unrated porn (great stories).  Anyway, I go up to his room and hand over my collection, which he flips through, and thanks me for somewhat off-handedly.  "That's it?" I ask, somewhat befuddled by his lack of elation in his new found wealth.  "Um . . . you've heard of the internet right?" was his reply.

I am fortunes fool once again.  Little did I know that porno mags had already become the stone tablet of porn distribution.  In my defense, when he did get around to looking through them, he told me they were pretty sweet.  (Damn right they were sweet, they were my girlfriend for 3 years).

What I'm trying to say here is that, to me, the swimsuit issue is just another form of soft core porn.  Well developed airbrushed gorgeous porn.  But still porn.  And still soft core.  If I really want to look at naked ladies for some alone time, I am going to look at naked ladies.  Not almost naked ladies.  And if i'm being honest, and I think it's apparent that I am, I'm probably going to watch videos of those naked ladies in action, not still shots.  All and all, SI is a poor man's porn.  Or a 14-year-olds.  Maybe the swimsuit issue is today what the Victoria's Secret catalog was in my day.  aka. "better than nothing." (Though nothing can be fun too ;-))

True Hollywood Story: Valentine's Day

Wednesday, February 10, 2010 | 5 Comment(s)

I should start by saying that I have never had a bad Valentine's Day.
Ok, that's not true.  One year my then girlfriend's dog died on Valentine's Day and her mom decided to go ahead and call her up at college and tell her that evening (ingenius mother's birth control tactic?). . . which i happened to be visiting her for.  It was a mess.  But even still, consoling someone you love on the death of their pet certainly isn't what I was expecting on that day, but it's also definitely part of the job description of being a significant other.  So i sucked it up.  But that's the worst of it.  Really.  In college i would use Valentine's Day as an excuse to ask beautiful women that were a bit intimidating out on dates.  Both times I had a wonderful evening.

But here is the thing.  I hate Valentine's Day.  I really really really hate hate hate it, and I think it's a bad thing.  I don't feel this strongly about most subjects, but on this i will take a stand.  One of the excitements of getting my PhD as a "relationship expert" is so that I can say, I'm an expert on romantic relationships, and Valentine's Day is fucked up and should be done away with.

Let me explain.

If you are in a relationship, I have no doubt that it is possible, and possibly even wonderful, to set aside some time for you and your significant to do something, just the two of you (or three of you or four of you, I don't judge).  Putting aside the fact that part of a healthy relationship is letting your partner know that they are loved and cared for all the time, I understand that we all lose sight of that from time to time and take those we love the most for granted.  But lets understand something.  This paragraph so far, is talking about the VAST minority of people in America.

For most people in relationships (still focusing on them to start), Valentine's Day creates an amazing artificial pressure to do something particularly special for your loved one.  Putting pressure on most relationships is akin to farting in your relationship's face: you may survive it, but you're not going to enjoy it.  Pressure creates two separate sets of expectations (from each partner) and therefore creates the possibility for an incredible amount of unnecessary let down and disappointment.  The irony being that Valentine's Day creates tension, fights, and conflict for couples that otherwise probably wouldn't be fighting.  So even for the subsection of the population that presumably should benefit from this "holiday," you see negative returns.

And now the single people.  Let's be real folks, the majority of people who are single out there are not socially adept enough to just "make sure they have a date" for Valentine's day.  That's just the truth.  Even many of those who can get dates don't always have people around they WANT to date at any particular time.  And what could make those people feel more jump-off-a-bridge awful than a day (and month leading up to it) where the media/society/restaurants/stores all tell you that the only way to have value is through your love with another (actualized through a credit card).  That is some utter bullshit right there folks.  And people DO get sad.  Depressed.  Forlorn.  And if they don't, they still can end up internalizing that negativity and the message that their lives are incomplete without a relationship.  And then Valentine's day goes and announces this message from its candy heart, chocolate-rose covered megaphone that there is something wrong with you if you're single.  And it's like revving your Lamborghini's engine in front of a homeless guy driving his shopping cart.  It's like driving a Hummer when the world is slowly burning.  It's just so utterly douchey that I can't be a part of it.

If you're in a relationship, you lose.
If you're not in a relationship, you lose.
That's called a lose-lose.  (Even Michael Scott knows that that's not what you want)
This is so not a good holiday.

The only real winners on Valentine's Day are card companies, chocolate makers, flower sales (online flower prices are skyrocketing [for love]), and jewelry stores.  And frankly, I don't care if you throw that stuff off a bridge, it the lonely 14 year olds I'm more concerned about.

Just say no to the perpetuation of pressuring us to love on any particular day.  Love everyday.

And, for the record, buying the discounted Valentine's Day candy on the 15th is TOTALLY kosher.

Paying the Piper: Award Blog: This one goes out to Karen and Arthur

Tuesday, February 9, 2010 | 2 Comment(s)

It is time to pay the piper.  This is my blogs first award show.  This one is the pay-off for the worst contest ever created (my bad) and the haiku contest (my good).

First Karen.  She won the "guess the fruit" contest.  She correctly identified said calabash from its file name "calabash.jpeg." Great job Karen.  Great job me.  But a deal is a deal and here is what I have to tell you about Karen.  While I met Karen as a lowly undergrad at Wesleyan, we were not friends.  I can't say exactly why that is.   We weren't enemies.  But I was a dance major and she wore skinny jeans and hung out with film majors (i think).  So, different circles I guess.  Anyways, it was both of our losses.  Thankfully, post-college, we re-met through mutual friends and realized the amazingness of each other.  And Karen, make no mistake, is amazing.  Here's an example.  One day before leaving the country for 2 weeks, I call Karen and tell her how I am an idiot and I am looking for a place to park my car in Boston for, um, 2 weeks.  I am doing things last minute (unshockingly) and I've just realized that it costs over $300 to park your car in a garage for 2 weeks.  Karen's first response is, "no problem."  Her second response is to actually figure out how that is going to work out.  Now, in the end, I found a solution that didn't entail Karen parking my car at her friends house for me, but what is really important here is how readily she activated to help a friend.  That's the stuff that counts in my book.  Unfortunately for her, she has found herself surrounded by absent-minded goofball friends like myself so often, that she has elevated the idea of "good friend" into an artform.  She is the one to call when you need bailing out of jail when you don't want it to accompany a lecture (thankfully hasn't happened yet).  She's the poo.  the tits.  the shit.  She's good people.   Strangely, Karen recently moved into the apartment AND bedroom of an ex-girlfriend of mine from when I was living in Boston.  This coincidence was the motivation for this text exchange:

ME: Brunch with gf's grandparents tomorrow.  We look forward to seeing you in Amherst soon.  ps. I've done messy *insert sex act* in your bedroom.  Mua!
Karen: That blows.  In reference to both facts.
flash forward to a text days later.
Karen:  I would love you to stay here, but I had to burn that house down after your last text.  Sorry.

A good friend, and funny.

Prize #2.  With due respect to all who entered (shout out to Melissa, John, and Erin) I think it's clear that Art Black won the haiku update contest with this gem:

infarctions aside, life's good.
i heart insurance.
Whenever you can use "myocardial" as your first 5 syllables, you are starting ahead of the pack.  On the unfunny side, it pains me that one of my favorite people in the world would go have a heart attack at 31 just to win a friggin blog contest.  A+ for commitment Arthur, but you have got to chill out.  For those of you who get connected to people you have never met extremely quickly, you will be pleased to know that Art is recovering well and hopefully this experience will prevent any more medical funny business in the future.

As for his reward, I offer this story.  Art and I met on a high school Jewish youth group teen tour bus trip (that's a lot of adjectives) across the USA (both ways).  We became close friends.  The year after that summer, we went on another Jewish teen tour that took us to Poland (aka. concentration camps) and Israel (Israel looks absolutely incredible when juxtaposed with seeing the past slaughter and burning of millions of people--fyi).  We followed up these trips with visits to Kentucky (where he was living--my first and only time eating KFC) and to Conn. (where I was going to college--my first and not only time shrooming).   But this story comes from the bus teen tour in high school (sophomores?).

As part of this trip, we moved in and out of hotels almost daily.  The 45 of us would descend on a hotel, take over a floor for a day or two, and then be gone as suddenly as we had arrived.  As we went through some of the southern states there was the added bonus of it seeming like some Jewish UFO landing everywhere we went.  We once wrapped tefillin during a service (those things the authorities thought were bombs and landed a plane because a boy was wearing) at a truck stop in Alabama.  A little scary and a lot funny.  Anyhoo.  The whole group of us was in the lobby area of one of these hotels, in the process of checking-out.  I, as is not uncommon, needed to go to the bathroom.  As I walked into the bathroom, Art was washing his hands on his way out and he alerted me to the fact that our friend Alan (notorious funny) was in the occupied stall.  I took the other stall and began to chat with Alan.  As sometimes happens when I start talking, I just kinda go and go and go.  It was probably a whole minute before I realize that Alan wasn't replying.  This is typical Alan.  Sure sure, make ME feel like the asshole.  I wave my hand under the stall, "Alan.  HELLLLLLLLO.  WTF (I probably said the whole "What the fuck" as I'm not sure WTF had been popularized yet).  Why aren't you talking to me?"  I got fed up. "ALAN!" I reached under the stall and grab Alan's pants and yanked.  

"Get the FUCK out of here!"  

That was not Alan.  That voice was entirely too low and too "old sounding" to be anyone under 50, let alone a high schooler.  I would say it scared the shit out of me, but alas, I already had taken care of that.  I didn't even wipe.  I pulled up my pants and hauled ass out of there.  The nice thing about being transient all summer is that your suitcase is always nearby.  I quickly found mine and changed shoes (My thought process being that this is the only way Mr. Pulled-Pants could really identify me).  I next found Art and punched him.  Then i told him what happened.  The we laughed really hard.   And that is the story of how i harassed a total stranger while we were both taking a shit.  Another gold star on my record.

Upper Middle Class White Kid Games

Monday, February 8, 2010 | 1 Comment(s)

Yesterday my gf and i hosted a superbowl party (suck it manning). By all accounts, it went well. But the real action, as reality show has taught us, happens before the guests arrive. The gf and I gave our house a cleanin, by which i mean we removed all features that would denote someone living there.

(*Note: This is NOT my actual house!)
This is strange to me. I am not, by nature, a cleaner. I do have a "dirtiness line" that I will not let my living space get to, but it usually revolves around what I like to call "wet mess." Clothes on the floor, papers strewn about, bags and blankets lying around = dry mess. Mold, left out paints, spills = wet mess. So i find it strange that the social norm here is to clear out all of the landmarks of activity living. Don't get me wrong, our house certainly needed the vacuum, so all and all it was a win win, but i just find it so unnecessary. As long as it's not disgusting or smelly, who cares. I certainly don't. If your house has a comfortable chair for me to sit in--im happy. Hell, even a carpeted floor is plenty. Who am I to judge how you want to keep your living space. I don't have to live there--you do.

This said, when i DO clean, I go totally OCD. I will scrub that sink until there aren't even any streaks left from the sponge. I will polish that facet. This is pretty out of character for me, but I picked it up quite honestly from my father, who would clean the countertop (*cough* still cleans the countertop *cough*) so obsessively that I used to purposely position crumbs at either end to make him go back-and-forth and back-and-forth. You've gotta loved upper-middle class white kid games. Yah just gotta.

The more I know, the more I just figure out how little I know.

Sunday, February 7, 2010 | 1 Comment(s)

Please tell me this is everyone.

I had all day to work on an assignment for school.

So I caffeinated, and I facebooked. and I videochatted. and I watched a little tv. showered. more caffeine. more facebook. news. read some news. email. other email.

and before I know it, it's 8pm and I haven't written anything. Did I write a few pages. Yes. But in order to do what could have been done in 2 or 3 solid hours in the morning, I had to torture myself and stress and procrastinate all day. These are the days that I wish I could get do-overs on.

I'll try again tomorrow.

My Yoko

Friday, February 5, 2010 | 1 Comment(s)

I'm going to take a break from my Vegas fiasco to wish my friend Yoko Kurosaki (pictured on left) a very happy birthday.

Back in 2004 I spent a year teaching English out in the mountains in Japan. While the experience itself was absolutely indispensable, my particular job (which was to go to all 100+ middle and elementary schools in the county--twice) was not a prizewinner. This being the case, I really had to make the most of the positives during my time there, and my friendship with Yoko was one of my favorite positives.

Out in the country, there aren't many twenty-somethings. Generally, around that age you either go away to school or migrate to a city. In my little country county, this seemed particularly true. Yoko was about my age and was assigned to teach in a special English program at one of the smaller middle schools. This school, essentially a magnet English school, was down the block from my house and requested my teaching services on a fairly regular basis (more-so than any other school). Being able to have repeated visits with the same school allowed me to form a relationship with some of the students (my favorite part of teaching). During the summer, I even was allowed (after heavily volunteering and pleading) to go to that school to help out with their sports clubs, instead of sitting at a desk in the county educational building watching "Love Actually" on repeat (the only movie i had on my computer).

So Yoko, whose own English far exceeded the English ability of both most Japanese and most Japanese English teachers (there was more than one instance at other schools where the [usually older] English teacher would try to teach students absolutely horrifyingly incorrect grammar--causing great tension between them and the foreigner trying to teach proper English) was sent out to the country to help with their special English program. Yoko's family lived in a more populated area closer to Tokyo and she too was therefore a bit of a transplant out in the country. But what makes Yoko special to me, and what I can never thank her enough for, is that she too decided to make the most of the opportunity we had together, and really opened up to me as a friend. While this may seem like an incredibly small thing from the outside, in the Japanese culture, opening up is not something done lightly. I'm pretty sure there were only a few instances (besides those with Yoko) where I felt that the Japanese people I was with let me "behind the curtain." And it isn't without risk. While the Japanese won't tell you anything mean to your face, they gossip like crazy. [For example: One American English teacher left his town after 3 years thinking he was loved by all. Only after his departure did it come out that he was resented for his laziness and flaunting of the rules. When I went to his schools (i went to everyone's schools), I too thought they loved him. ] And additionally, when there are only 6 or 7 white people in the entire county, you can be sure they were talking about us.

(*Tangent. To give you an idea of my visibility, I couldn't go to the grocery store between 6-8 during the week because all of the students would come running up to me asking for my autograph. Absolutely crazy. End Tangent*)

So, considering that Yoko and I had a completely platonic friendship, being sen out with me was a fairly high amount of risk for a non-romantic person. But she saw me, lost in the middle of a rice field and way out of my element, and she essentially took pity on me. She helped me learn my surroundings and how to navigate the basic interactions necessary to happiness and survival. It's incredible what one visit to a restaurant with a "translator" can do for all of your successive visits there (one thing is that it gets you food you actually wanted).

And we didn't have outlandish adventures. We got sushi, wen't to the mall in a nearby city, we just hung out. But while that kind of interaction with foreigners was common in the Mecca's of Tokyo and Kyoto, for me--out in the middle of nowhere--they were few and far between. Being friends with Yoko helped me to see the depth of the individuals I was working with, instead of falling into the trap of seeing the Japanese people as one united entity. Yoko also gave me the freedom to bring my creativity to the English curriculum. She let me conduct a Halloween class where the kids were allowed to dress up (see pictures--I dressed as a Japanese bathroom door) with bobbing for apples (they'd never heard of it), pumpkin carving, and a drawing contest (the products of which we used to decorate the classroom).

Pic 2. The kid in this picture was called "Mame" because his head was shaped like a bean (which is what mame means). He was, if i had one, my favorite.

Pic 3. Me as a bathroom door, with cowgirl, dog, Mickey Mouse, Samurai, old japanese farmer, guy in white, and Mame as an old bald guy with glasses.

Pic 4. Jack-o-lanterns!!! (Pumpkins are green in Japan)

Pic 6. Yoko showing the girls how it's done (a 13 year old girl in every culture fears getting her hair wet at school)

Pic 7. A champion

Yoko also taught me a measure of compassion. Now, when i see Japanese (or really any non-English speaking) tourists wandering around a city, my first instinct is to try to help them navigate their way. Once you have lived and been shown kindness in a culture where you can't even read the street-signs, it is harder to ignore foreign tourists as if they are simply a noisy obtrusive inconvenience in my getting from point A to point B. And that's Yoko's fault. :)

And while, unfortunately, I have not been able to se Yoko since I left Japan in 2005, we keep in touch. And hopefully, in the not too too distance future, we will meet up again. But until then, there is plenty of room for her in my heart.

Happy birthday Yoko. Much love.

The Vegas Vixen Paradox

Thursday, February 4, 2010 | 2 Comment(s)

I'm not sure if it needs to be said explicitly, but i will anyway: Vegas is known for its prostitutes.  Said more accurately, Vegas is known for its hookers, massage parlors, call girls, strippers, back rooms, lap dances, delivery hookers (they bring em right to your room), and the invention of dollar bills as sexual currency.  There are men at every corner slapping leaflets against their hands to advertise for massage parlors.  Everywhere.  I swear a significant percentage of people on the strip at any given time are naked.    In short.  They are there.  They are everywhere.

But here is the thing.  The number of women in Vegas that look like hookers . . . I mean women that look like you could pay for their services . . .  Are everywhere.  In numbers so large that they could not possibly all actually be prostitutes.  Because, apparently there is something about Vegas that, much like the Halloween Vortex, makes it allowable (and even encouraged) for women to dress outlandishly slutty.  Dresses were so short that i saw more than one crotch flash in my 4 days.   Is there something about being in the presence of actual hookers that makes women want to fit in with them?  It was strange.

I will say this Paradox was accentuated by the popularity of the new term "cougar."  I saw some old meat that looked like it was bound together by the saran wrap clinging to its flesh.  Dressed up old lady is still old lady.  And I saw MUCH more of it that I felt altogether comfortable with.  Perhaps I should start redefining my image of "old," because Vegas is lightyears ahead of me.  

All and all i left Vegas realizing two things from the women around me.

1)  Vegas's sadness is accentuated by the fact that everyone in Vegas is single (or acting single).  The lack of bonds gives a sense of a lack of bonds.

2)  I could never live in Vegas for an extended amount of time and come away with a healthy relationship to women in general.  The mere fact that the first thought that entered my mind when I looked at provocatively dressed women was, "is she a hooker?" would doom me to constant objectification.  It's just another part of the sickness that is Sin City.

The $38 Buffet

Wednesday, February 3, 2010 | 3 Comment(s)

Now, there really are quite a few negatives about Vegas that I feel need to be shared. But, in the spirit of optimism, i'm going to go with one of the positives. And thus begins the story of the $38 buffet.

Saturday night, my final night on the strip, a few friends and I were looking for a relatively inexpensive, tasty (remember what I had eaten the night before) dinner option. Having already eaten at Burger Bar (YUM!--so good I suggested going again), we decided to hit up the Bellagio Buffet.

Now, I'm going to be honest, "buffet," to me, does not have a good connotation. When I think of a buffet I think of a line of food laid out on a table or set of hotplates, that sits, touched or untouched, for a block of time not unlike the block of time you are supposed to reserve for the cable guys arrival ("just be at home anywhere from 10am - 4pm, we'll get to you"). So the chance of getting food that has been sitting out is generally pretty high. I, for reasons I can only think must be tied to my experiences, also think of Chinese food and multiple forms of fried noodles and rice. There have been exceptions to the rule. I once went to a glorious Indian wedding in NYC whose endless Indian delicacies rocked my sari off (figuratively). But this, sadly, was the exception, and most buffet dinners I have had have led to extended visits to Sergeant Porcelain's infirmary. It's conservation of mass folks--what goes in, must come out.
All of this is to say that when the group decided on buffet, I was not thrilled. But it promised to be relatively inexpensive, so I acquiesced (im a cheap date). Because of the 5 person limit for cabbies, I took the bus and met the rest of the group at the Bellagio. (*Begin tangent. The Bellagio is beautiful. It is everything the Riviera is not. There are rooms dedicated simply to art exhibits and floral displays. It has a huge fountain [from the end of Ocean's 11] outside that shoots streams of water in time with songs blasted from the heavens. I'm not saying that the consumption culture of Vegas is my thing, but if it is your thing, the Bellagio is your thing. End Tangent*)
By the time I got the the hotel, there was a line for the buffet (not a good start) and I was full on hangry (so hungry that I'm angry). Like everywhere in Vegas, there was also a second line for "people with buffet line passes" aka. "hotel approved cutters." My friends were at the food already, and I was not about to eat alone. I cut. Sue me. I don't care. Turns out, as karma would see to it, cutting only allowed you to move directly to the register to pay for said buffet. "How many?" she asked. "just one for the buffet" i replied. "38 dollars," she retorted. "Just one," I repeated. She just pointed to the register (which glowed $38.00).

Full stop. I have seen Pulp Fiction, and thus have heard of a 5 dollar milk shake. But a 38 dollar buffet!!! I did not see how this could be possible. In my vision of lined up food, a 38 dollar buffet must stretch for miles. Alas, peer pressure kicked in. They were inside and eating, I was outside and hangry. I paid. I felt robbed and a little violated (which, in all honesty, was kinda a constant feeling in Vegas). And then I saw it, and all of my tension and angry melted away.

In looking for my friends I happened upon the sushi station (yes, station). The sushi station is a full circular counter with a sushi chef in the middle. On it there ia all-you-can-eat sushi ranging from seaweed salad, to basic salmon and tuni sushi, to elaborate hand rolls. I immediately have two simultaneous thoughts.
1)The first is that I begin to understand that the Bellagio will be redefined my previously held notion of "buffet."
2) I realize that, though I was planning on eating cheaply, I will, nevertheless, be eating my money's worth.

Your see, the sushi bar was merely the tip of the Pizza-the-Hut that was the epic display of food at the Bellagio buffet. Where the Riviera made me suspect that there was, quite possibly, no actual kitchen on the premises, the Bellagio made me think that they actually had a working farm behind their double doors. I immediately made the decision that vegetables and starches would NOT be a part of my dinner, and that I should forgo poultry in favor of the goods of the oceans and land. I totally understand why i avoided the vegetables and starches (the prior have no food in their food and the later take up more than their share of space), but I can't honestly tell you how i so automatically discarded the possibility of eating foul. But the decision was automatic. Thus, this happened.

Salmon -- 4 ways -- sushi, some kind of raw hawaiian salad, cooked, and smoked
Tuna -- sushi & handroll
Sea Bass -- not mutated, not ill-tempered
Shrimp -- in paella and a la carte
Mussels -- in paella, poached, steamed, and in red sause
Giant Crab Legs -- from Alaska and Japan
Kobe Beef (un-ba-fucking-believable. this was my 2nd time eating Kobe [both this trip] and its juicy deliciousness really was as epic as I heard)
Prime Rib
Short Rib (didn't fall off the bone--grrrrr)
Roast (not that good)
Lamb Chop (the best kind of lollipop)
Lamb some other way

aaaaaaand I think that covers the main course. If you haven't guessed yet. I am not a vegetarian (Captain Obvious to the rescue!). I do think I need to take a second to say that there is a very good argument for this monstrous buffet being evil. The amount of excess and, i can only imagine, waste, is really indefensible. But, seeing as I plan on bagging on Vegas pretty hard in the upcoming blogs, I am trying to ignore the negative here with a semi-blind eye. Feel free to express your outrage in the comments if you so choose. And with that, onto dessert.

Creme Brulee
Key Lime Pie
Eclair (with chocolate filling!?! Fail.)
Peach/Apricot Mouse (which was yum)
Bread Pudding (orgasmic--and many people's fav)
Carmel Sause (eaten both on stuff and with my fingers--I love carmel/butterscotch almost as much as Fluff)
Flan (flan itself--not great, sause around it, drank that right up i DRINK YOUR FLAN JUICE . . . I DRINK IT UP)
A banana (dipped in carmel)
Other desserts of note that I didn't eat -- soft-serve ice cream station, apple crisp, cheesecake)
I even had a little fun with my food (for $38, there should be an actual playground for playing with your food). Here's my little food sculpture:
(i am so immature. this picture was made with 2 key-lime pies and carmel sause. there is a little bread pudding hanging off the side of the pie, but isn't there always. I still say it's hilarious.)

Other notes RE: the buffet. There was a salad bar station, which i imagine has never once needed refilling. I am sure I missed both important things that I ate and that were available that I missed. The point is that this "buffet" was so elaborate that you could actually miss things. No longer constrained to a straight line, this non-linear food display occupied a small football field with pretty much every food that I know of. I now understand that buffet = choice, and the Bellagio certainly gives you plenty of that.

After the meal, I had eaten so much that my food baby felt like it was pregnant with twins. I felt a little like a pre-juiced Violet Beauregarde. The punchline here is that as I went to the bathroom post meal, I was SHOCKED to see that it only contained one stall!!! This, i thought, must be an oversight. There is no way that that many humans can pound that much food, and then there is only one receptacle for return. Thankfully, for myself and others, upon exiting the buffet, there is a rather large bathroom directly outside the buffet area. I realized soon afterwards that this is most likely designed purposely to move visitors out of the buffet area as soon as they reach capacity, so they don't, um, unload, and come back for more.

On a helpful note, if you start doing your taxes now, you'll get your return right around when your friends are frantically trying to send their taxes in. And there ain't nothing better that riding one's high douche horse (a saying my friends and I have come up with for behavior including correcting someone's spelling in an IM conversation) right around tax time. Don't say I didn't ever teach you anything. ;)

I Vomit Up Chunks of Food Better than the Riviera Hotel

Tuesday, February 2, 2010 | 0 Comment(s)

(Think Eminem) Look whose back, Look whose back, Look whose back!

I've missed you and I've missed blogging to you. I really have. Having no internet access (again, WTF Vegas!) for 4 days, to me, is like the loss of a trusted friend. I can say fairly confidently that I can more capably deal with being apart from my gf for that period of time than i can deal with being disconnected from el interwebo. And I realize that this means that i have a problem. And I'm past the first step of admitting that it is a problem. But i am obstinate in my refusal to proceed to step two--actually doing anything about it. The upside, of course, is that these little voyages to new locales (this time for a psych conference) are virtual treasure chests of blog fodder. And while I will save you all from conference related info, I think you'll enjoy some of experiences on the sin which is Sin City.

To begin this Vegas themed week, a warning. If you are going to Las Vegas at any time in the near future, do NOT go to the Riviera Hotel and Casino (i would include a link to it, but I don't want it to get any unearned attention). When we told the cab driver we were headed there, he replied, "What, you going to visit your grandparents or something." And he was right. The place looks like the hotel that was left out in the sun until it turned a nice urine yellow color (the walls, the carpet), and instead of compensating with lower prices, instead they decided to charge extra for everything. And while I already gave the concrete examples of the gym, internet, and exercise area costing extra, here's a better philosophical example. We asked an older gentleman who worked for the hotel and was stationed near the hotel check-in if he could direct us to what was essentially the rear entrance to the building. After giving us the walking directions to get through the hotel, he not so subtly hinted that perhaps we could tip him for such a service. We responded by completely ignoring his not so subtle request. Because, oh my friggin god. Should I tip you for urinating all by yourself as well? Is his thought process that anything he does besides just standing in one space is tip worthy? It was not only him though. I saw dealers guilting players into tipping as well. Instead of a vibe of classiness and wealth cajoling you into spending your money, the Riviera decided to take the claw and scrape and wear you down approach. F that. F that big time. I would stop bagging the hotel here, but they really deserve more. Unfortunately (and through very little fault of his own) the grad student in charge of the "School Reunion Dinner" on Friday night, scheduled our reservations for the Asian restaurant at the Riviera. My expectations were low, but it was all you could eat and dessert was included (i still wasn't excited to be truthful--but their were good people there). The result failed to meet even my lowest expectations. The buffet style greasy mess had salted crab legs (how does one even do that?) and unsalted edimame (which tasted like wet cardboard). I couldn't even identify some of the proteins in what I will call their "Mu Shu Mix." Thinking about the meal now is literally giving me dry heaves. And when I asked about dessert (thinking how can you f-up sugar [they would show me]), they replied, "we're working on it."
They said this in a way that made me think that someone was in the kitchen (if there was a kitchen) was literally trying to figure out what he could pass off as dessert. They settled on (slightly dehydrated) sliced fruit. i didn't see one person eat it. The punchline? This, sadly, cost us almost 30 dollars a person. I left un-full un-satisfied and un-happy. So, once more, AVOID THE RIVIERA. Additionally, even grad students (used to living . . . um . . . modestly) changed hotels what for the exposed pipes and general grobstequeness of their initial room.

With this warning in place, tomorrow I will turn a more positive note in my story titled: the $38 buffet.

ps. last chance to enter your haiku update in my haiku life update contest!