Archive for January, 2011

Too little way too late

In my last post, I wrote about the high school class called Educational Career Planning that took up ten weeks of my life.  I left one important thing out though: my teacher.  He was a nice enough guy, as I remember, with the unfortunate surname of Oring.  At the time, I thought I was very clever when I’d write notes to MC Squared and refer to “my teacher Mr. (B)Oring,” but I’m not as proud of that awesome wordplay now.  Instead, I’m frustrated by my poor timing.  You see, I took that class in 1993, and in 1997 a little move called “Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery” came out.  Pay careful attention to Tom Arnold’s line at around 35 seconds into the clip: “Don’t force it; you’re going to blow out your o-ring.”  I didn’t have that line in my arsenal until four years too late, and that really bothers me.  “(B)Oring” was the best I could do?  Sadly, that appears to be the case.

You might be thinking, “Why do you care about a joke you didn’t make almost 20 years ago?”  Because, friends, it’s not alone.  I have two more, so I could chart this shit like it’s a frickin’ trend of me missing the joke boat.  Come with me back to the time of junior high.  I had some classes with a guy whose last name was Nowfar (pronounced “NO-far”).  We were friendly enough that I went to his bar mitzvah, which is a whole other post I’ll get to sometime.  We stopped going to the same school in 1991, but it wasn’t until at least a dozen years later that I realized I could’ve called him “Big Chief Nowfar” the entire time.  I knew that stupid joke about a Native American not being able to pass gas back when I met him too, so I don’t have any excuse other than a lack of imagination.  I could’ve subtly called him “Chief” for two years without him knowing why and laughing internally each time, but noooooo, I had to go and just call him by his actual name instead.  Stupid kid.

This last one truly pisses me off.  I was out to lunch with some co-workers last month when I saw someone from high school who I hadn’t seen since graduation in ’95.  As I greeted her, she looked me up and down (like the piece of meat I am) and said, “You’re a man now!”  I rather liked that confirmation.  Anyway, the point here is that her last name is “Naficy,” pronounced “nuh FEE see.”  See – it’s so damn obvious that I don’t even have to tell you what jokes I somehow neglected to make in my youth.   I spent 6 years in classes and even hanging out socially with her, and I didn’t make one single joke about her last name sounding like shit.  I honestly don’t know what the hell was wrong with me.  Did my desire for/fear of girls overwhelm other parts of my brain?  That’s my best guess at this point, but either way, I can’t help but be disappointed in my younger self.  (And I just realized this second that all three jokes I didn’t make have to do with the butt.  Maybe I just had an ass joke deficiency.)

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If someone were to ask me to name the single most useless class I took in high school, I’d be torn between two: Physics and Educational Career Planning (known simply as ECP).  The vote against Physics getting that title is that while the content was completely and utterly useless, the class itself was quite memorable. The teacher was pretty nerdy and awkward but didn’t seem to realize it (which was a great combination), so I created an impression of him that I used occasionally during our improv shows.  I think I nailed it too, because I’d hear louder laughs in the audience from people who were in that class with me.  He also once told the class that – due to the physics involved in a car crash – “that poodle in your backseat becomes a bloody missile going 60 miles per hour.”  This led to countless drawings that MC Squared and I would pass back and forth depicting that exact scene.  I can’t shake that one, and I still to this day have the phrase “bloody missile” float around in my head when I see people driving on the freeway with little yippy dogs on their laps.  So how can I call that class useless?

ECP was also a complete joke of a class.  I think there may have been something in there about how to keep a schedule and maybe something about balancing a checkbook, but I honestly don’t remember how I filled ten weeks of my life with that class.  Here’s the thing though: I remember one and only one thing from that class and it now kinda freaks me out.  We took some long ass questionnaire about our likes and dislikes and it was supposed to tell us what career matched our answers.  I was 15 years old and had my share of hobbies but no real sense of who I’d become or what I’d want to do for a living.  I got my sheet back with the top 10 or 20 matches, and at the top of the list was “Columnist.”  That was something I’d never considered before as a possible career path but it totally made sense to me.  If I had to guess, the modern version of that questionnaire would spit out “Blogger” for the same answers I gave.  Granted, I am not a columnist or blogger for my profession, but when I look back at that “useless” class, it may have provided more insight as to who I’d become as a person than any other.  Here’s what gets me: what could I have possibly been asked that would spit out the “columnist” profession?  I remember saying that I didn’t mind being indoors, but that’s the only question I really recall.  Was there something on there about “having varied opinions and a desire to share them with others in a regular format”?  I have no idea, but it freaks me out a little to think that a questionnaire given to my 15 year old self could be a reasonable predictor of…anything.  Is that retroactive peek into my future more or less useful than the image of a bloody poodle missile?  It’s too close to call.

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The password is…difficult

When I started college in 1995, something called “electronic mail” was very new to me (and most of the world).  The university gave me an email account, and if I had the patience to wait for the dial-up modem to connect, I could use the all-text interface to write to the small handful of people I knew who would look at their own email accounts sometime in the next week.  A whole lot has changed since then, obviously, when it comes to the ease and frequency of email.  Another aspect of that world has also changed dramatically: passwords.

I remember getting an email account for my job on campus two years later and having to choose a password.  I was told that my password could be anything except two things: the same as my login, and the word “password.”  I’d actually thought of doing the latter, but I guess that was a much less original idea than I’d anticipated.  At the time, I knew I was about to be working 20-30 hours a week while also having a full course load, so I made my password a reminder for myself: “sanity.” 

I thought of this recently because I had to set up a user name and password for a company that I occasionally work with.  There were four guidelines for creating my password.  It must:

1. Be at least 8 characters
2. Have at least one number
3. Have at least one capital letter
4. Have at least one symbol

I was stumped.  In the past, I’ve added a number here or there to my standard passwords to make them unique (especially for those associated with bank accounts), but I didn’t even know where to start with this.  My old “sanity” password from the days before major hacking and identity theft would’ve failed on all four counts.  The only thing I had going for me was that I’d only be using this specific password for a month or two while working on a particular project, so I wouldn’t be living with this decision for any length of time.  That said, it was still pretty daunting.  I ended up using a short word with some capitals, the number 4 to stand for “for,” my client’s initials, and then an exclamation mark so it sounds like an exciting sentence.  I wasn’t thrilled with it, but it fit the bill and at least made me smile every time I typed it in. 

In hindsight, I could’ve gotten really creative by using the letters of the numbers or symbols.  For example, using a 1 where the letters “o-n-e” would normally appear could’ve been cool (like in “b1r,” naturally).  Or maybe an ampersand for the letters “a-n-d” could’ve worked.  Let me know if you think of any good ones, as I’ll probably have to do this on another project sometime soon.  So pay “At10tion!”

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Sometimes I wish I had all the money in the world. Not all the time, but this is one of those cases that I would definitely find a way to purchase this and install it in my house. You see, the guys and I have had a contest in the past to see who has the longest (in length of time) urination. Generally this happens on Vegas trips, where we time our stints at the urinals and report back to track the high score leader.

One’s ability to score high is a function of two things. Your ability to hold it until the last possible moment, and your kegel dexterity. There are two camps, though, the kegelers, and the purists who think kegeling is artificial inflation of your score. I can certainly see where the purists are coming from. The Toylet would eliminate the need for that argument altogether, while satisfying both camps with what I think everybody can agree is a fine alternative scoring method.

The whole concept is quite weird, but the icing on the cake is “The North Wind and Her” game, which invites us, basically, to pee the dress off of a girl, in a public restroom. I don’t consider myself super PC, but I do wonder about the message society sends with that one. When I hear of things like this, I often wonder what it was like being in the board room for that proposal.   I also wonder what ideas don’t make it through. Because developing this system would take an entire team of people, designing new hardware, testing, writing software, etc. And it reminds me, sometimes when I have ideas, and then I say “nah, that’s crazy,” maybe I should think twice.

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The short and long of it

I care too much about words, in case that hasn’t been made clear by my previous posts.  Well friends, today is a special day as I have found an entire category of words that I really dislike.  Admittedly, the category only has two words in it so far, but it’s a category nonetheless.  For more information on my discovery, please meet me over at paragraph two.

Let’s start with “master of ceremonies,” shall we?  What’s wrong with that?  Nothing, although it would sound weird to me if someone said that whole phrase instead of the much more common “MC.”  But I go from understanding to angry when “MC” turns into “emcee.”  In all seriousness, what the fuck is that about?  We’re shortening it to its initials, but then elongating it to a word that spells out the sounds of those initials?  Why in the world would we do that? 

Oh, and guess who might be at the same party as the master of ceremonies: the frickin’ deejay.  Yep, same thing going on here.  “Emcee” and “deejay” are actual words, and reasonable or not, that really bothers me.  If this abbreviation elongation is such a good idea, then why aren’t we turning “M.O.” into “emmo?” Are we eventually going to “elloell” while watching “teevee?”

The idea of stretching out shortened versions of words or terms makes no sense to me whatsoever.  Come on, English, you’re better than that.  Remember, I want to be moved by words and not pissed off by them. Sorry, “peeode.”

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My chinny chin chin (and cheeks)

As of this past week, your humble blogger P-Dawg has had a beard for 2 years.  I like it, I’m totally used to it, and I thoroughly enjoy being able to shave my neck every other day instead of every day while still looking presentable.  All that said, it wasn’t a slam dunk from the very beginning of this facial hair experience.

I’d gone a week plus without shaving once before, about a year and a half before this time.  Then, I shaved my neck to get a good shape to it and tried it out for one day at work to get a feel for people’s reactions.  My lovely wife was very diplomatic, saying that it looked cute but she preferred me clean-shaven.  My boss took a look and said something completely without opinion like, “Hey, look at you!”  I asked if he liked it and he said, “It doesn’t matter if I like it; it’s how you feel about it.”  Not quite a ringing endorsement.  My co-worker Rob walked in, saw my new facial accessory, and said, “Put that thing away, you’re scaring the children.”  I’d gone in saying it was a one day experiment, and I shaved it off the following morning.

This time, however, I realized that I actually liked how it looked and was determined to live with it for a little longer to make a full assessment.  I remember a handful of reactions from people seeing me for the first time as a bearded man.  Fellow blogger MC Squared said, “What’s up, Grizzly Adams?”  Our friend Dave turned to him and said, “You gonna let him keep that for your wedding?”  (It was 7 months from then, but he seemed genuinely concerned that I might have a beard in wedding photos and then not have one later in life.)  The next week I saw the guy who cuts my hair.  “Mountain Jim!” he yelled when he saw me.  While I’m not sure who he’s referencing, at least it sounds like a manly comparison. The same co-worker Rob from earlier thinks I look like Pau Gasol, which is simultaneously insulting and flattering. 

There are two comments that I heard far and away more than the rest.  In second place: “You look like a rabbi!”  I heard that most when I was wearing a suit, but maybe it was the Torah that I was bringing everywhere with me.  (Actually, though I kid about the Torah, I was a co-officiant at Mike Honcho’s wedding and probably looked super rabbi-like.)  And in first place: “Jesus!”  I suppose being thin, Jewish, and bearded could give one a Jesish appearance, but I don’t really see it.  The best of that bunch was when I texted a guy I work with occasionally in New York telling him that I hoped the Knicks would get LeBron when he became a free agent.  He wrote back, “Your lips to Your ears.”  Nice.

So it’s been two years now, and the questions have all turned from “Are you going to keep it?” to “Do you think you’ll ever shave it?” and “Would your kids recognize you without it?”  Yes, I see myself being unbearded again sometime, but I don’t know when.  If it starts going gray I think it’ll have to go, but hopefully that’s a while from now.  As for my kids…I don’t know.  My daughter looks at me confused and has even started crying once when I’ve put on a baseball hat, so I think I might have to shave in stages to make it less drastic.

In any case, I did something new earlier this week.  I was looking at a document on my computer, said “Hmmm,” and stroked my beard.  When I realized what I had done, it weirded me out and I immediately emailed myself to write about it.  I really hope that was a one-time thing, because while I’m fully comfortable being Beard Guy now, I don’t ever want to transition into Creepy Stroking Beard Guy.  Wish me luck.

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