Sunday, June 29, 2008

Oh, City Life

And now, a return to form with a late-night blog entry. Here goes:

What a weird week it has been! When my friend Jerry Atwood was in high school, his senior year they decided to get senior shirts made that said "What a long, strange trip it has been," you know, like the Grateful Dead thing. Anyway, he didn't like this idea, and wrote a letter to the school newspaper. Long story short, he was suspended for bring a stun gun to school because he was afraid that a bunch of jocks were going to beat him up. To hear him tell this story is a real treat.

Some moments just feel totally cosmic. Not like it's always a good thing, but that the balances of the universe have evened out, and you get what you have coming to you, good or bad. Let me explain:

The day after my birthday, I went to Indianapolis to meet my parents at an Italian restaurant downtown. My aunt Helen was there and so was Grandpa Dixon. My dad had just returned from Brazil, and he was going to be traveling with Helen and Grandpa to a family reunion in New Hampshire. Grandpa got to talking about how he had met Doris, my grandmother, and he said that when he first met her, he thought that he didn't stand a chance against all the other guys who were vying for her attention, but that for some reason he just decided to go for it, and the rest is history. The cosmic alliteration of Dwight and Doris Dixon was sufficient, and they found it in themselves to not pass this tradition of alliteration to all of their children, (although now that I think about it, it may have seemed like they were headed down that path at first, because their first child was named Deanna).

Grandpa is quite hard of hearing at his age, and speaks quite loudly. As he was telling his story (and his voice was carrying), I wondered if the people sitting in the neighboring booths were listening in on what he was saying as well. "Is it possible that they are finding this interesting at all?" Would I want to listen to the stories of someone else's grandpa? In my heart, I want to say yes, but I really can't be sure. What if that person's grandpa was Noam Chomsky? Is James Lipton a grandpa? These are things that I wonder. I really do not like James Lipton. I bet he is a creepy grandpa.

On the way home from this restaurant, I ran out of gas. I walked about .5 miles to buy a gas can and fill it up. My state of mind as I made that walk was one I will never forget. As I walked slowly and cars whizzed by so fast, I couldn't help but think that it was my own negligence that had landed me in this predicament. "E" means empty. Don't think you know how much further below "E" it's supposed to go. I had put off getting gas, and now it had come back to get me. I had really been "nipped in the butt."* <- more on this below! At the gas station, the woman at the counter said that they had been selling more gas cans than they ever had before. She said "It might be expensive, but that doesn't mean you don't still have to fill your car up." All throughout high school, the notion of ending up a gas station attendant was thrown around by teachers as a threat for those who didn't take school seriously. "Sure, you can drop out of high school, if you don't mind working at a gas station for the rest of your life." It worked. I studied, not for the desire for any sort of greatness, but from the fear of ending up working at a gas station. But this woman at the gas station, she knew what was up. Without flat-out saying it in so many works, she knew that the laws of thermodynamics that run an engine are as unchanging as the balance of the universe. Maybe she knew it from seeing so many other people screw up, or maybe she knew it because she had been there before.

You'd think by my 31st birthday I would know this, but I guess I'm still trying to figure it out. Nip it in the bud, they say. Make it right early on.

*Speaking of "nip it in the bud," here's some wonderfully recursive irony: At a meeting for work the other day, one of the supervisors kept saying "nip it on the butt" in contexts that suggested that she really meant "nip it in the bud." However, this malapropism was not nipped in the bud early enough, causing her to continue using it about three times throughout the meeting.

In her defense though, I will say that "nipping something on the butt" is perhaps a more culturally tangible phrase than its predecessor. If you were nipped in the butt by something, like a dog (dogs are the only things I have heard of that nip, but maybe that's just me) then you would probably not do it again. If a problem was quickly nipped on the butt, it is unlikely that it would happen again (although they disagree here).

What's great about the evolution of oral language is that it does whatever the hell it wants, there's no stopping it, even with prescriptive grammar. Words mean whatever people believe them to mean, and as long as that meaning is shared, the word embodies that form of reality. Whoa dude, I know, yeah.

Last Sunday, on the day of my b-day, I drew a comic, but by the time I got around to thinking of posting it, it seemed completely inappropriate, wrong. Maybe I'll sneak it in later.

In closing:



Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Lunchtime Battles

I'm sitting in the Indiana University Student Union, eating my lunch, reading a magazine, and I can't help but notice that the two guys across from me seem to be discussing some really interesting, next-level stuff. Something that seemed to a mix of computer programming, geometry, and visual cognition. They dropped terms like "data packets," "recursion," and talked about how the past 50 years of computer programming might have been going at it the wrong way all along. The professor several times said to his grad student "Wait, slow down, I don't think I really get what you're saying." The student said "Maybe I'm not explaining this properly." The student had ideas that the professor didn't seem to get. There was no sense of rank between the two of them. They seemed genuinely interested in what they were doing, as if what they were talking about might actually be the most interesting thing in the world at that moment.

A man emptying the trashcan walks up to me and says "Is today Thursday?" Today is Wednesday. I tell him this. He says "Crud, I thought today was payday."

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Respect the D.A.D.

I tried to call my dad for Father's Day, but then my mom reminded me that my dad is in Brazil right now. I sent him an email, but I'll have to admit that I did miss hearing his voice today.

Happy Father's Day, P.D. I hope you know how much we love you. Thanks for the good genes. Aside from those bumpy spots on the backs of my arms and that hiccuping thing, I really can't complain.

Is it still like this down in Brazil?

My Dad, in Brazil

I really love the look on my dad's face in this picture. What a handsome and cool guy.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Spoon Collection is Straining Your Relationship? Facebook's "Ceci n'est pas une pipe"

Is it just me, or does anyone else get this weird spoon collection ad when they log on to Facebook? For me, the ad on the left of the page is usually something seemingly based on my "personal" data, an ad that is weirdly targeted to whatever their fuzzy logic determines my demographic to be, something like "find hot single over-30 women in your area." I just logged in to the 'book right now, and it gives me an ad for Nike shoes. I do love shoes! Spoon collections though, that's what gets me.

Is this the new generation of ads? Is absurdity the only way to catch people's eyes anymore? Is this the "Ceci n'est pas une pipe" of the internet era? I didn't click on it because I don't want them to think that it's working. I don't want to fall for their trick. It's just a more sophisticated version of too-easy-to-be-true "Which one of these people is Brad Pitt?" banner ads that they use on other more visually-assaulting websites. That being said, as a social networking site, Facebook has kind of a shady history of not being discreet with people's info, so I'm a bit skeptical (funny coming from the guy who once posted his entire passport info on the interweb), but now I kind of regret not clicking, although I'm pretty confident that the results would be expectedly disappointing. A Google search of "let your friend know that his spoon collection is straining your relationship" (in quotes, of course) only reveals other people puzzled by this ad.

I guess what it comes down to is that it's not actually about catching people's eyes anymore, since all it takes is a set of boobs or an annoying animated graphic to do that. These days it's about clicks, and I guess that's what makes this ad theoretically effective, because people are like "WTF?" and then boom, they're trying to get to the bottom of this mystery, mission accomplished for the web ad people.

But forget about that, here's what's more important:

Andrea Rosen was just on VH1 again. Jackpot! This time she was talking about how "I totally lost my V" to "More Than Words" by Extreme. This confirms that Andrea Rosen is my ultimate celebrity crush.* And, I mean, come on, she's not really even that big of a celebrity. Yet. There was that yogurt commercial, and there was her neighbor role on Stella, and she was Michael Showalter's roommate, but yeah... To me she is the star of stars. Oh Andrea, why does it have to be this way? This will probably show up on her Google Alert, so I might as well include a personalized message. OK, here goes: Andrea. Seriously. Quit frontin'. I'll gladly be your house husband while you bring home the VH1 bucks. I want your witty commentary about everything, all the time. You could roll your eyes at me and make spot-on hilarious comments about the way I make dinner or pay the electric bill or whatever. With you, every dish washing session could be the Best Dish Washing Session Ever. Top 20 Everyday Moments of the 2000's.

* The first exposure I had to celebrity crushes was my 5th grade teacher Mr. Mugg, who claimed that if MacGyver appeared at her doorstep and asked her to run away with him, that she would immediately leave her husband and children with zero hesitation. I always wondered if she would truly follow through on this claim, it puzzled my young mind. And I was a huuuuge MacGyver fan.

Rube Goldberg 2008 Video: "We've Got Medieval Going On"

I was lucky enough to go to Purdue's annual Rube Goldberg Contest in West Lafayette this year, and my pics that I posted on the MAKE blog even got picked up by those jerks at the warring nerd havens Gizmodo and Engadget. Anyway, I was there with the Nineteenth State Collective crew, and we made this little video ditty. And yes, the youngster with the fake beard who you see there in the preview background does get interviewed.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Thursday, June 05, 2008

An Example of Nice Japanese Stationery

This is a letter that was sent to me on my mission, I would guess in 1997. It's from Kitano Yoko. I really appreciate the handwriting on this one. When I was home in Lafayette yesterday, I went up to the attic to get a few boxes of my stuff, because my parents are trying to clear some space up there now that the stuff from my grandpa's house arrived. I found a box that had every letter that I received while I was on my mission.

There were so many letters from my family (especially from mom, probably hundreds), letters from friends (such as: Jerry Atwood, Fumiko and Hazuki Chino, Jade and Lauren Yoho, Craig Sopata, Jaimee Reifer, Shannon Swartz, Melanie Craig [who despite breaking my heart my freshman year of college, wrote me 17 times while I was in Japan], Celeste Peterson, Mark Ertmer, Ursula Eagly, Malisa Hopson, Becca Hopson, Ryan Stahl, and Brian Strahl). One thing that seeing all these letters made me realize is that email is a substandard means of communication when it comes to the nostalgic quality of these letters. The feeling of getting letters, touching letters, even smelling letters, seeing someone's handwriting, etc., is just beyond compare. They are so beautiful, and it's so wonderful to hold something on your hands that is from ten years ago.

Letters were all I had, there was no phone, (pretty much) no email, no texties. It's funny to see just the one side of these conversations, since all I have is the letters I received. I sometimes struggle to remember what I could have written to these people.

I could write a book about these letters, and expound upon the meanings behind what these people wrote to me, the stories behind their lives, the meaningfulness of everything and anything, their words still living on pieces of paper. The globe, the world still felt huge, the bigness of it all, and the sincerity of all the friendships and times that were shared, it's all such a precious and beautiful thing to have been a part of.

I could spent a year writing about these letters. Maybe that is what I'll do. It makes me feel really lucky to read these words that people have written. It makes me feel incredibly loved. Thanks to the writers of the letters. Your handwriting meant a lot to a lonely mohinder.

Sunday, June 01, 2008



Natto-zushi, before the roll.

I know what you're thinking... It's not dirty: It's brown rice. What can I say, I'm a hippie. And I did trim the edge of that nori, I know it's too long. It was good stuff, even though I had to resort to using the stray packets of leftover soy sauce that were in the silverware drawer when my "real" bottle of soy sauce ran out.

I was always kind of mad at whoever kept putting those condiment packets in the silverware drawer (Hector, probably), but within the past week they have really paid off. I used to think "Seriously, who will actually use this Taco Bell mild sauce later?" and more than anything, I was just kind of confused as to why the silverware drawer was the place to store these items (because where I come from, they are kept in the butter compartment of the fridge, which makes even less sense, but whatever). Wouldn't you know it, this week I was beautifully saved (TWICE!), first by some ketchup packets (I somehow found myself with some lonely french fries that needed ketchup, and the cold ketchup in the fridge seemed all wrong to me at the time, my palate demanded room temperature ketchup), and then also by the aforementioned soy sauce, so it just goes to show that sometimes if you don't at first understand something, you just gotta have faith, faith, faith. (Cue George Michael Music). The meaning will be revealed to you my friend, in the most profound and meaningful way. Ketchup for your lonely fries, soy sauce for your pretentious sushi rolls.

There is harmony in the universe once again.