Or scarves. Or astronaut fashion. Or raining men. It gets a little weird. Check it out.)
I'm a week into a two-week trip to Greece, about which I'm sure I'll have more to say later. For the moment, though, there are six thousand years' worth of ruins that aren't going to trudge through themselves, and a spanakopita calling to me from a taverna down the street.
Of course, it's calling to me in Greek, which I don't understand, so maybe it's saying "Don't eat me! Don't eat me!". That would be truly unfortunate for it when I finally get over there. I hope its tears are delicious.
Anyway, in lieu of actual writing, here's an ecard -- just like the ones we used to know. Stin ygeia mas!
(Which is the bestest quantum mechanical exclusion principle?
Working in a small company is kind of weird sometimes.
I've always avoided big companies, because it seems too easy to get lost in the shuffle. If you've got nine thousand people doing the same thing, then I figure you either end up redundant or way, way specialized. Neither of those seem good.
"I don't want to build some application fourteen other people already built, probably better. And cheaper. And with a coordinated color scheme more pleasing to the eye."
For instance, I'm a programmer. I don't want to build some application fourteen other people already built, probably better. And cheaper. And with a coordinated color scheme more pleasing to the eye. Also, I don't want to be stuck at my desk, only allowed to use the 'J' and 'Z' keys on the keyboard, because the good coders have all the other ones covered already.
I'm pretty sure that's how big companies work. Also, in my world, all the business travel is done on those old galley ships where the slaves row everyone back and forth. I'd be in the back. And probably only allowed to use the downstroke. Big companies suck.
Still, there are tradeoffs to small groups. I learned that in college. My school had less than a thousand people enrolled, and less people in my class than I graduated with in high school. On top of that, I picked a wildly unpopular major, so by senior year I was taking most classes with the same six people.
That's a recipe for disaster, right there. With six people, you can't hide. You can't skip a class and hope nobody notices. You can't sit in the back and nap through the boring crap. There's six people -- there is no back. We could've had class at a freaking booth at an Outback Steakhouse.
Given what they usually served in the school cafeteria, I almost wish we had. Lunch Lady Clara does not understand what a "blooming onion" entails. Trust me.
A small company is a little like those tiny classes. There's no fading into the background or napping the afternoon away in a stall in the mens' room. People would notice.
Also, there's only one stall in the mens' room. So people would also form a very long line. And possibly make an extremely unfortunate mess.
The point is, in a small place everybody knows pretty much what everyone else is doing -- and what they're about to do. I don't talk to a lot of people on a daily basis -- usually, I'm too busy banging on my 'J' and 'Z' keys and waiting in line for the bathroom stall. But I told a couple of people I'd be on vacation for the next couple of weeks. And today, everyone seemed to know about it.
That's not a bad thing. It's kind of nice to be told "bon voyage" by the boss. And the boss' boss. And the boss' boss' boss. And the HR lady and the CEO and the comptroller and the security guard. And maybe the lady who comes in to clean in the evenings. It's possible she said "barf in the garage", instead. We have a complicated relationship.
So anyway, I'll be out of the country for a couple of weeks. Hopefully, I'll be updating things around here, but either way I should return with plenty of stories about a remote and exotic foreign land. And maybe an island. Maybe some mens' rooms. Who knows?
In the meantime: bon voyage. And happy weekend. From me -- and everyone in my office. Probably.
If there's a disadvantage to being a smartass -- and no one's saying there is; I'm just hypothesizing if -- it's that you can't really turn it off. Even when you're not being a smartass, you're being a smartass.
Or people assume you're being a smartass, which has more or less the same effect. Namely, you get punished for being a smartass. And that hurts -- on those rare and unexpected occasions when you're not, in fact, being an actual smartass.
(I'm reminded of a quote by wise man and donut connoisseur Homer J. Simpson:
"I don't mind being called a liar when I am lying, or when I'm about to lie, or just finished lying. But not. When I'm telling. The truth!"
I don't lie quite so often. But apply the sentiment to smartassery, and it fits.
Also, donuts are pretty great. Shut up.)
Recently, I suspect I was deemed to be a smartass, and now I'm being punished. But I didn't mean to be a smartass. I was only trying to improve my diet, and also help a lady with her omelets. I haven't been in this much trouble over food since I added tabasco to my grandpa's applesauce. Here's the background on what happened:
This particular "CSA" -- which I just learned stands for "Community Supported Agriculture", and not "Crate Stuffed with Asparagus", as I previously thought -- turned out to be very convenient. A few others in my company joined in, so every week the farm folks would deliver our boxes of veggies right to the office. No picking up at some farm stand out in the boonies, or tracking down Haystack Slim on the back forty to get my share. Show up at work, and boom -- box of greens. Easy.
It stayed that way through summer and fall, so I signed up for the winter share. And no one else did. The whole company is allergic to kohlrabi or some shit like that, I guess. But with just one box, the farm stopped delivering to our door. So I picked my veggies up at a site more or less on my commute home from work. Not as convenient, but still a long way from Haystack's back forty.
"I got 99 first-world problems, but a CSA ain't one."
(Although to be fair, he's now down to a "back thirty-two". They don't call him "Slim" for nothing, you know.)
I opted out of the late winter and spring sessions -- trudging through a foot of snow to pick up three pounds of celery root I don't want got a little old, but when summer rolled around this year, I hopped back in. I hoped I wasn't the only one, and happily my company got their culinary shit back together, a few employees signed up, and we got deliveries at the office again. And there was much rejoicing. I got 99 first-world problems, but a CSA ain't one.
At least, it wasn't. Or ain'tn't, I guess. For a while.
When signups rolled around, some people only wanted to dip a toe back in the farm pool. That meant buying an "egg share", for a dozen eggs every week. But you could only get an egg share with a veggie deal, for some reason. So I let a lady -- an executive lady, it turns out, a real VIP in our company -- piggyback on my greens to get her eggs. But we only came to this arrangement after I'd signed up. And that's where the fun started.
I emailed the farm to make the change, and received a response from a person -- we'll call that person "Patty" -- who told me to go to their website, log in and add the eggs.
So I went to their website. I logged into their website. There was nowhere to add an egg share. I emailed Patty back to get alternate instructions.
Patty replied, telling me precisely which page and section the link was under.
I went to the page and looked at the section. No link was under there, or anywhere, so I took a screenshot, emailed back and basically shrugged over the internet. Maybe Patty, farm goods administrator, sees a link there. But I, lowly vegetable monkey, do not.
Patty replied, telling me that Patty would take care of it. Patty would make sure the eggs were added before the first delivery, in about a month.
Three days short of a month later, I logged into the website, saw no egg share, and hadn't heard from Patty. Thinking maybe Patty was some sort of intern -- associate farmhand? cow milker spotter? -- who'd forgotten or gone rogue, I sent a note to the main farm email, saying Patty had been in touch, but she'd apparently dropped the ball.
I got a response, rather quickly. It was from Patty. Patty said that Patty would definitely take care of it (good). Patty further said that Patty was the owner of the farm, actually (oh... sorry). And further, that Patty was emphatically not a "she" (ouch).
It's possible I should have known some of that. They do send a newsletter every week with the produce. But I get about as far as the endive salad recipe in those things before I get bored and throw them away. So I didn't mean to upset Patty. But I can see where she might be a little sensitive at this point.
Sorry, he. He might be sensitive. Yikes.
Still, the farm (finally) added the eggs. My veggies were delivered every week -- probably spat on, but that's still "organic", right? -- and VIP lady got her eggs. Everything was great, all summer long, and I didn't have to worry about accidentally poking the Patty bear.
A few weeks ago, I signed up for the fall share, with the VIPs eggs on rider -- and no one else did. Down to one box again, the farm -- meaning, Patty -- emailed to ask if I would pick up my stuff at the other place again. I groused a little. I pouted. It's possible I called Patty "she" again -- completely unintentionally, of course -- but I agreed to make the drive.
And that's when Patty got
her his revenge.
Last week was the first for fall, so I schlepped over to the pickup spot, and found... no box. There were boxes for other people, and eggs, but nothing with my name on it. The delivery person had left a list, and I wasn't on that, either. So I called the farm -- and got Patty, naturally -- to ask, whassup?
"Oh! I'm sorry. It looks like we accidentally sent your box to Belmont. Is that somewhere you can get to?"
In fact, it was not. The pickup spot I was at is, give or take, on my way home. Belmont, on the other hand, is, give or take, on my way to Canada. Assuming I ever drove to Canada from work on a Tuesday evening in September, and why would I do that? It's not even maple syrup season, for crissakes.
Patty apologized, and promised to make up for it this week with a "full share" box this week, the size up from the one I usually get. Double the produce for double the trouble. That was a bit of a worry -- with just the wife and I at home, we struggle to get through a "small share" every week. But it seemed fair, so I emailed the VIP lady that her eggs were 86'ed and called it a night.
And Patty, evidently, set about plotting his next move.
This week, I showed up -- and indeed, there was a double-big box waiting with my name on it. And an extra-sized -- 18 rather than 12 -- carton of eggs. That was great.
Until I checked the other boxes, and also found my usual small share box, and another carton of eggs. I now had roughly twelve pounds of vegetables and enough eggs to choke Cool Hand Luke. The only bright side is that they weren't delivered to frigging Belmont, with three gallons of milk and a crate of fresh cow pies.
I lugged everything to my car, drove it home and stuffed the fridge top to bottom with veggies. Now I can't get to anything without a stalk of celery or some leafy-assed lettuce smacking me in the face. And when I dropped three dozen eggs off for the VIP, she looked at me like I had two heads -- and one of them was a Napa cabbage.
"How am I supposed to use all of these?"
I don't know, man. Omelets for dinner? Garbage can lid frittatas? Thirty pounds of custard?
I got my own problems over here. Like how to get rid of fourteen acorn squash in a week without inviting a local Wampanoag tribe over for an early Thanksgiving.
And also, picking out some sort of apology card for Patty. Because otherwise, who knows what in the hell I'm getting from the farm next week? No boxes? Six boxes? A pissed-off goat riding a tractor? Could be anything.
I guess it's what I get for being a smartass -- even when I'm not trying to be a smartass. If I could turn it off, maybe I wouldn't be overrun with organic free-range heirloom potatoes or whatever other shit is slowly starting to rot in the kitchen right now. Either that, or I should start reading the newsletters I get in email very, very carefully.
Nah, screw that. I'd rather deal with the veggie guy. Bring it on, Patty.
If you like ice, champagne or beer -- that's separately, not all together at once, weirdo -- then nucleation should be on your radar. And maybe in your glass. Bottoms up, science-lover.)
Being overly literal -- like, literally literal -- is annoying as hell. Certain figures of speech or inconsistent usages make your cerebellum twitch, like a lab monkey with a forebrain electrode.
Or a lab monkey with mild OCD who takes things too literally. Probably that also works, if you're not into torturing primates for the sake of science. Or humor. So, good for you.
The thing about being literal and also an introvert is that you wind up mostly only annoying yourself. You twitch, and you want to complain -- but that involves interacting with other humans, and who wants that, really? Other humans are probably the ones who made you twitch in the first place with their un-literal illogical nonsense, so you tend to keep your twitching -- and your bitching -- to yourself.
It turns out you can be literal and an introvert and have a website. Which turns out to be a nice outlet for the weird non-literal things that no one else notices or cares about, but keep you awake at night twitching and muttering to no one in particular. Things, for instance, like these:
1. Pepsi made with "real sugar"
I like Pepsi. And I know what they're trying to do here. But it's wrong. Literally wrong.
Sugar is a carbohydrate, and there are many kinds. The three sugars we mostly shove in our foodholes are glucose, fructose and sucrose -- the last of which is made of one each of the first two chemically glommed together.
(Yeah, that's right, "chemically glommed". It's a technical term. I know sciency stuff. Shaddup.)
All of these things are sugars. "Real" sugars. Pepsi is trying to say -- without actually saying it, for some obtusely roundabout reason -- that they're not using high fructose corn syrup. But the main ingredients of corn syrup are glucose and fructose (i.e., sugars), while cane sugar is largely composed of sucrose (also sugar), which breaks down into glucose and fructose (still sugars).
I'm not going to touch the "cane sugar versus HFCS" health debate with a ten-foot cotton candy-covered pole. This is purely about semantics. Cane sugar is "real sugar". And corn syrup is "real sugar". They're not the same chemically, but they're both sugar. "Real" sugar.
If Pepsi wants to say they only use "cane sugar", then do it. "Real sugar" doesn't mean the thing they think it means. Twitch.
2. Most of Buzzfeed
We all know that click-bait headlines are click-baity. As an occasional article writer, there's some pressure to craft these monstrosities myself. But I don't. Because I twitch.
Which is probably the stuff I'm writing is nowhere near as popular as Buzzfeed. But I just can't do it. It's not about authorly "integrity", exactly. It's more about not having an epileptic fit at the keyboard, over writing (real, recent, Buzzfeed) headlines like these:
21 London Street Foods That Will Change Your Life
By... giving me diabetes? From London? I don't remotely understand.
Calvin Harris' Ice Bucket Challenge Will Make Your Ovaries Explode
I'm fairly certain it won't. I'm still contemplating personal growth by Hyde Street dosa. But my ovaries are safe as houses in the meantime.
"Also, I've seen the English Patient, and a mouth spider's got nothing on that."
This Woman Keeps a Spider in Her Mouth and It's the Worst Thing You'll Ever See
This is already untrue if the woman also keeps the spider in literally any other orifice she owns. And it's the internet, so: probably. Also, I've seen the English Patient, and a mouth spider's got nothing on that. Not to mention my ovaries may have just exploded, and that was no picnic to watch.
Basically, screw Buzzfeed. And the clickbait, misleading, twitch-inducing, wildly popular headlines they rode in on.
3. This sign in my wife's parking garage
Great, a checklist. I'll follow that.
Compensating for missing letters -- how do those come off, anyway; does somebody sandblast the door on the way to their Honda? -- steps 2-4 make perfect sense:
My doors are locked, check.
My windows are up. My sunroof is... uh, "up", sure. And my "convertible" -- which I assume is probably located near my recently-exploded ovaries -- is also "up", to the best of my knowledge. ("Closed" would be better. But I'll live with "up".)
I have removed my valuables. (It's possible I was asked to "re-love" my valuables. But come on -- I already call them valuables; what more do you want? I'm going with my interpretation.)
The point is, all of these items can be taken as instructions, (more or less) literally. Then there's the first item:
I'm literal. It's a good thing I'm not the one parking in this garage, or I'd be buying a new battery every week. My wife, she's normal; she can handle it. Me, I'd be putting some AC Delco rep's kid through college.
And twitching, all the way.
(Heyo! The science we "out droppin', son" this week over at Secondhand SCIENCE is all about those freaky critters who light themselves up like Christmas trees.
Wanna know how the fireflies fire? Then check out the words about biolumenescence over there. Plus something new tomorrow. New and sciency -- that'd light anyone up! Have a gander.)
People who don't know me well think I'm quiet. I don't say a lot in crowds or around people I don't know well -- and that's generally better for everyone involved, whether they know it or not. We'll get to that.
People who know me a little better often tell me I should talk more. They're surprised -- because I'm "quiet" -- to find that I have a knack for seeing relationships between things that others might not, and recognizing patterns, and (usually) making jokes out of these kinds of observations. Some people seem to enjoy them. And they tell me I should engage more often.
The people who know me best don't say any such things. Because they know the reason I don't talk to many people is that I'm not very good at it, probably because my brain is too busy thinking about patterns and relationships to worry about whoever it is I'm talking to. So I'm prone to blurt things out that might be interesting or funny because they're quirkily relevant somehow -- but not to the person I'm talking to.
I tend to forget that last bit, because my brain doesn't have the capacity to do its pattern-searching business and consider the context of the conversation and remember all the lyrics to R.E.M. albums from twenty-five years ago.
Something had to go. My brain made a choice.
And now I have to live with it. Like I did last week, when my wife and I were out at a perfectly lovely party thrown by a couple we know. It was a small affair -- just a handful of people eating, drinking and chatting. Most of us knew each other fairly well, but the missus and I at one point found ourselves talking with a woman we'd met just a couple of times before. Nice woman. Very pleasant woman. Also, very pregnant woman.
She was talking about her plans for the kid and the delivery, and mentioned the hospital she'd be using -- and that triggered a match. Somewhere deep in my head a box got checked -- I knew someone who'd used that very same hospital for her delivery a few years ago. I'd been a bit adrift in the conversation, as the women talked about baby rooms and maternity leave and motherly glows and all sorts of other things I know nothing about. But here -- finally -- was something I could contribute; an anecdote perfectly germane to the situation. And hey, come to think of it, it's kind of a funny story...
So I proceeded to tell this woman -- this very pregnant woman who I don't know very well -- about this other once-pregnant woman who showed up to her hospital one day for some sort of pregnant-lady mid-term tune-up, and was told: "yeah, you probably shouldn't leave or the baby might fall out."
The woman at the party looked a little shocked at this. That was great! I took it to mean I'd made the story intro sufficiently interesting -- you've got to hook 'em in the first three sentences, you know -- so I storytellered on:
"The docs at this hospital -- hey, and it's the same one you're using! -- put this lady on immediate bed rest, right there, after the appointment. So she went in for a checkup and spent nine-and-a-half weeks lying in a hospital bed, holding the baby in."
"It's like going to the nurse for a band-aid, and she takes out a kidney."
The party woman's eyes got wider.
"I know, right? Nine-and-a-half weeks, just like the movie! Bet they cut that scene from the film, eh? 'Just live here at the hospital on your back for two months. Trust us; we're doctors!' It's like going to the nurse for a band-aid, and she takes out a kidney."
The lady at the party looked fully aghast now. My wife wasn't far behind; she was at maybe eighty percent aghast, or eighty-five. Pretty aghast, sure -- but clearly not quite at the level of this other lady.
It dawned on me that perhaps what amounts to a hospital horror story starting with a pregnancy checkup for a woman late in her second trimester might not -- despite the clear similarities -- be the sort of thing an expectant mother using the same hospital would want to hear, especially if she had a pregnancy checkup looming in the near future.
"Oh. Monday morning, you say? Uh... I'm sure it'll be fine."
But at least you're not late in the second trimester. Right? You're probably in a different situation altogether. I mean, what are the odds?
"Twenty-six weeks? Oh, so that's... late in the second trimester. Right."
Well, on the plus side, that other lady's baby was just fine. And I'm sure your checkup will go smoothly. I bet it'll be done in an hour, hour and a half, tops. That hospital is, like, so good, and the doctors totally have medical degrees and this other thing was just a one-time deal, I'm sure, and good golly, look at the time -- honey, we should really go now so we can get home to do that thing... oh, you know, that reallyimportantthing, and hey, you, good luck with the baby, it'll be so great and you'll probably barely be in labor and just shoot him right out and god I'm still saying things, so bye -- and say bye to your husband, and maybe don't mention that we talked about nine-and-a-half weeks -- the story or the movie, I think, in this case, is best, and oh, now my wife is pulling me toward the front door so we should go, good to see everyone -- byeeeeeee.
And this is why I don't talk to people. Especially people I don't know well. And especially pregnant women I don't know well. And especially ESPECIALLY pregnant women I don't know well, when the topic is hospitals, childbirth or sexy Kim Basinger movies.
It sounds pretty specific, I know. But you'd be surprised how often it comes up.
Well, actually, it probably is. But the parts I understand are pretty simple. So there's that.)
I like animals. Not just the delicious ones, but some of the other ones are good, too. Like bobcats. And rhinos. And the white-tailed ptarmigan.
Come to think of it, those might be delicious, too. I shouldn't knock what I've never tasted slow-roasted with barbecue sauce.
Anyway, animals are pretty cool, and I like taking care of the ones that I can bond with in some way.
Where now "bonding" doesn't mean "pan-searing with garlic". That joke's done. We're moving on.
Problem is, I can't always tell whether or not I'm bonding with an animal, or whether it thinks I'm just part of the furniture, or a tree or possibly a very odd-shaped hairy rock that sometimes eats Chee-tos in its underpants while watching reruns of Top Gear.
"There's nothing you can say to a banana slug, for instance, that's going to make a lick of difference in its behavior."
Maybe they have rocks like that in some forests. I don't know. I haven't had a chance to visit many forests, because -- as implied above -- I have a very busy schedule.
Now, some animals you're clearly not going to bond with. There's nothing you can say to a banana slug, for instance, that's going to make a lick of difference in its behavior. Likewise, training grasshoppers is a phenomenal waste of time. It doesn't matter if you use positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, choke collars, clicker training or tiny little electric cattle prods. Grasshoppers gonna hop. And they don't give a damn what you think about it.
Clearly, for an animal to provide some sort of companionship, you've got to shimmy further up the evolutionary ladder. The question is, how far?
Some people keep lizards. I don't see that helping anyone, really. Having a conversation with any animal that sticks it tongue out so much would be like a never-ending interview with Miley Cyrus. Pass.
I had a snake once. It's pretty much the same. So, interviewing Miley Cyrus with no legs, I guess. That's not really an improvement.
Then there are birds. That's where things start to get blurry for me. I birdsat a parakeet a couple of weeks ago, and there were times -- mostly when it was sitting on my head, chirping at me like we were in some sort of avian Ratatouille movie -- when I thought we were actually communicating.
(Just for the record, the bird version of Ratatouille is Cockatouille. In case you were wondering.)
Other times, I wasn't so sure. The bird would come over and peep at me and peck at my finger. So I'd try to feed it a raisin, or one of those Chee-tos from between the couch cushions, and it would peep and peck at my finger. I gave it fresh water. Peep 'n' peck. I opened the front door and told it fly and be free. Peep peep, peck peck.
Finally, I thought we were getting somewhere when it hopped on my hand and shimmied up my arm, as if to tell me something important. Then it took a shit on my sleeve, flew back to its cage and peeped at me again. So either it doesn't like my choice in casual wear, or I don't know what the hell birds want.
I mean, I know what some of them want: to be delicious. But that's mostly just chickens, and the occasional Peking-style waterfowl. Other birds, I don't really "get", you know?
Then you get into the small mammals and rodents. Or as my wife calls them, "poop factories". She says all those furry little critters do is eat and poop it back out.
I talked to her about getting a gerbil once. "Poop factory." Okay, how about a guinea pig? "Poop factory." Hey, hon, my little old aunt Priscilla asked if she could spend the weekend with us. "Poop factory! Poop factory! Poop factory!"
To be fair, she's kind of right. If Priscilla's off her meds, you'd better hope she's in Depends.
Bigger animals are better, though I suppose it's still hard to communicate with some of them. Moose are pretty inscrutable, for instance. You never know when polar bears are hungry, or just pissed off and cold. And cats. Lord, don't get me started on those persnickety bastards.
So I guess what I'm saying is -- I like dogs. Dogs are pretty great. You pet them and they like it, and if you're patient enough you can make one sit for you, or lie down, or open the fridge and fetch you a Sierra Nevada. I don't see cats doing that. Or parakeets. Or banana slugs. How long would that even take? Days. Who wants that?
In conclusion, dogs are awesome. The rest of the animal kingdom, most of the time, if you're trying to relate or bond or have a heartfelt discussion about The Catcher in the Rye? Forget it. None of those other animals are any help at all.
Which is probably why some of them are delicious. I'm just saying.
(This week's Secondhand SCIENCE whut-whut is all about gravitational lensing. You wanna bend some starlight? Then you'll need a black hole or a galaxy or a certain singer's badonkadonk. Check it out.)
Things are a little hectic this week, with a current events sketch show tomorrow to prep for, and some writing deadlines looming on the horizon. Or in some cases, looming directly over my shoulder.
"Deadline breath smells like old garlic and fear, by the way."
Deadline breath smells like old garlic and fear, by the way. Not a good time.
So, in lieu of anything substantive word-wise, please to be enjoying this clip of our Always on Deck sketch group, shaking our collective thang at the Best of Boston Sketch Festival at ImprovBoston a few nights ago. It's ten minutes of paradise.
Okay, maybe not "paradise", exactly. Poughkeepsie? Plattsburgh? Peoria?
Yeah. Peoria sounds about right. We're ten minutes of Peoria. Come and get it, sunshine.