Sunday, August 28, 2011

Ruled by Fear

As a 37 year old man, I know that a 14 year old kid is not suppose to have all of the answers.  I know this.  And for the most part it's exceedingly true.  I'm sure there's a rare exception, that kid, wise beyond their years, though I think for the most part that kid is just a fictional character in a book or movie.

So, when I recently decided to look through my old high school yearbooks, I was not doing so in order to find the answer...but I did.  It was written on the front inside cover of my 9th grade yearbook.  And more than once on that page.  And then again in the back.  It was written in the messages of over half the people that signed my yearbook that year, which may not have been a lot of people that year, but I have over a dozen messages that say practically the same thing.

Reading through all of the signatures, I have the obligatory "Hey, this year was great, see you in the fall, have a great summer" etc etc etc.  I think there was one of two that were literally just a signature.  Then a couple from kids who I never really liked and signed my book with a line such as "Hey, you're a dick, love whoever".  But the majority of the messages all read the same.

"Hey Dan, You're a great person/friend, You're smart/nice/talented/etc, But you're also a coward/chicken/gutless"

There it was, relentlessly repeated.  The same message, over and over.

After the third time I read the same message I had to stop.  I turned off my tv, I turned off the light in the other room.  I sat in the semi-dark and I thought.  And I realized it was true.  And not just back then but still, now.  A bunch of 14 year old punks with little knowledge and insight into life saw right through me and called me out.  You're a coward.  I am.  I've always been.  I'm afraid right now.  A general sense of doom permeates me.  I don't admit this from feelings of depression, I admit it now because I finally see it.  I've admitted to being afraid of this situation over here or this type of thing over there.  But no.  That's not quite it.  I'm just afraid, always.

I'd love to end this note with a tremendously powerful and positive message about how now that I recognize this I will soon rise up and conquer it, vanquish it, curb-stomp it's ugly face and then I will have my success and I'll rise to the top and be an inspiration to all those that dream...blah blah blah.  But the truth is, I don't know if that's going to happen.  Yes, I recognize now that this fear has kept me caged in and has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. But I also see that I'm completely conditioned by it.  The iteration of failure, the clear signs that the very world finds my existence abhorrent.  I don't know if I'll be able to escape that.  I'd like to and I know that recognition of a problem is the first step of moving beyond it.  So, though I can hardly claim any confidence in becoming a completely different person, I guess the most positive spin I can put on this is that I am at least putting my foot forward upon the first stair of change.  Beyond that, I don't know.  But it's funny, I never expected to find the answer written in my 9th grade yearbook.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Something that I have not learned at the gym...

And I'm very upset to not have discovered either this phenomenon or at least a reasonable explanation.

Every man should know about the concept of "shrinkage".  Actually every woman should know it too!  A man, gets into the water for a while, and the water, which doesn't even have to be very cold (just colder than human body temperature), causes his little friend to turn into Templeton the Timid Turtle. come when I visit the sauna, an environment completely opposite of the one that causes shrinkage, I don't experience any sort of expansion (extension, amplification??).  A dry, warmer than body temperature environment and...nothing.  This seems incredibly unfair.

In one situation we have a serious physiological reaction which could seriously hamper a forthwith social interaction.  Why can't we at least be able to make up for it with it's opposite.  I thought there was suppose to be some sort of equal and opposite reaction thing going on.  Could you imagine the spike in sales of home saunas if, upon exiting one, every male's member became Halstead the Hefty Horse!?

Saturday, June 18, 2011

What I've learned at the gym

I've learned a lot about myself and life by visiting the gym daily.  I'll share with you now my new found knowledge.

About me:

  • Were I in the need to lift a car off of a person, apparently my ass would be doing most of the work.  My ass-ceps are far more powerful than my thigh-oids.
  • Were I then in need to throw that car over my head with both arms (probably to impress a chick) I would be mostly using my shoulder and back since they are out of proportion stronger than my arms for some weird reason.
  • Speaking of out of proportion, I am.  I already knew this one but changing all the settings on the gym machines reminds me each time.  My legs and arms are not in proportion to my torso like a  normal human being, I'm a freak, and it's ok.
  • The muscles used to open my legs apart are stronger than the muscles used to close them shut *cough*slut*cough*
  • I've learned that I am much more comfortable with my body and self such that I do not have to quickly change when no one is looking, if I need to be naked, so be it.  However, I do not think I will ever be so comfortable to stand naked except for sandals and have a twenty minute discussion with someone.  Kudos to all you old naked men out there.
  • Due to the combination of lack of height, paranoia, and ocd-tendencies, I end every workout with a hop.  (I have to hop up to make sure I didn't leave anything behind on the locker shelf that I can't normally see even standing on tiptoes.)
  • I've also learned that some people are simply better than you or me.  I shall label them Elite and prove to you their existence through the following observations
  1. The Elite do not need to wipe down the gym equipment after using it.  Their sweat is so angelically hygienic that it is an honor and privilege for you to use the damp equipment when they are done.
  2. The Elite can use whatever equipment they want and when.  They do not need to follow the numerous posted signs proclaiming that people going through the full circuit have the right of way. Their time is simply more valuable than yours, why else would they jump onto a machine right before you and make you wait.
  3. The Elite are allowed to set their water bottles on a treadmill and (while the treadmill is still running) walk away to do some other part of their workout, making everyone else wait for a different machine.
  4. And based on all of the above, the Elite are male.
What I've learned about the YMCA in particular:
  • In order to accommodate for the old people and the children who make up the majority of pool users, the water will be so warm that no matter how many times you've been in it, you will immediately think upon entering it "Ugh, who just peed here?!"
One last observation, particularly useful for small business owners I would think.

  • If you own a parking lot that has 2 points of access and at one time in the distant past, these 2 points of access were unlabeled and acted as both an Exit and an Entrance, but are now very clearly labeled Entrance and Exit Only, you will always have drivers who drive in through the Exit and leave through the Entrance because at one time they were allowed to do so.  They are grandfather-claused and allowed to ignore both signage and fellow motorists.  (These drivers however are not members of the Elite, because these drivers are female.)
Something I've learned while typing this entry.  Sometimes things are funnier in your head.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Parenting tips

I think that an important aspect of being a good parent is understanding that sometimes small gestures and words can make a big impact on the future personality of your child.  There are many times that one of my non-parent friends will say "Oh wow I never thought of doing that but I can see how it could have a huge impact."  That's very vague so I'll give you an example.

I was recently at the grocery store and had the following encounter.

I was walking through the produce section when I turned the potatoes and found myself looking down the barrel of a bright red plastic toy gun in the hands of a young smiling boy.  Now, you can image a lot of people (well, those who wouldn't just ignore the kid) might put on a big smile and say "Oh no!  Please don't shoot me!"  Followed of course by the child pretending to shoot them.  But do you see what's so very wrong with this?  You're encouraging the child to shoot an unarmed person who's already clearly surrendered.  I'm a big fan of sarcasm, but sarcasm has no place in a gunfight!  Hmm, t-shirt idea: "Don't bring a knife, or sarcasm, to a gunfight".  Also, as a young child, they very well may not understand sarcasm at all, and yet they still pull the trigger or, in the case of a cheaper toy gun model, shout "BANG".  We'd be teaching this young impressionable child to abuse authority in a very extreme and dangerous manner.  If this child grows up to be in law enforcement, I wouldn't be surprised to find a charge of police brutality.  Or perhaps he'll slip into the underbelly of society and find himself facing manslaughter charges after a botched holdup.  The dark possibilities are endless.

That's what I mean about thinking about the long term consequences of small, seemingly unimportant, encounters.

So, instead of possibly ruining this child's life, I took that extra split second and thought about it and instead interacted with him in a much more positive manner.

Once the gun was pointed at me, I said "Aha!  I'm going to rape your mother and cut you into tiny pieces! Nothing will stop me unless I'm dead!"  See the difference?  Now I've given him a real reason to shoot me.  I've given him motivations that focus on family values, loyalty, and self reliance.  It's also a good life lesson about the real dangers of the modern world of decaying morals.  And maybe, just maybe, I've also given the mom a real reason why perhaps buying a toy gun for your kid and letting him shove it in the face of strangers isn't that great of an idea in the first place.

Saturday, May 28, 2011


Just a quick note on an observation.

There are too many people in the world.  Here's my empirical proof:  I've used "xenozephyr" as a username on the internet for ages.  Not just years...ages!  Yet, nowadays when I sign up for an email address, blog, or anything else internet related and choose "xenozephyr" it always tells me "Sorry! That Username is not available".  When a made up word such as xenozephyr is routinely unavailable, then there are simply too many people in the world.  I mean, it's got an 'x', a 'z', a 'ph', and a 'y' in it!

Today we have to be even more creative than in the past in order to just get through all of the randomness that mutes us.  Just remember that the next time you read something of mine and think "Oh boy, that fella's pretty creative", I'm even more creative than you think.  My words had to travel through the dredges of mediocrity polluted by an overabundance of chimps with typewriters!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

High School Reunions and Statistics

Recently I've been exposed to an ongoing conversation regarding my 20th High School Reunion.  Thanks Facebook Groups for the spam!
When the Facebook Event was created and I was sent along a message asking me if I were attending (Yes, No, or Maybe) I quickly, and gleefully, clicked on No.  To be clear to my readers, I currently live in my hometown and really have nothing going on in my life, so distance and time were definitely not a factor in this decision.

I've read quite a few messages essentially saying "Can't wait to be there and find out how everyone's been doing!!!".  Really?  Are there people like that still, even in my generation?  I understand it when my grandmother talks about catching up with her friends from school.  There was nothing else going on back then.  That was the age when people actually knew their neighbors.  I don't talk to my neighbors (but to be fair that's because the majority of my neighbors are related to me.)  I'm not the most social of persons but I'm hardly a wallflower and still it surprises me that anyone my age would be remotely excited to visit with people whom they hardly spoke to half their life ago.

If you're still curious why I would never go, I'll break it down for you.

Of a class of 257 students.
People who I would legitimately like to see: 9 (3%)
People that I'd put up with a few minutes of small talk: 21 (8%)
Completely Awkward Encounters: 5 (2%)
People I greatly dislike and would hate to even see from half a room away: 15 (6%)
People who I absolutely do not care about: 207 (81%)

Those figures of course assume that the people who I'd like to see would even attend.  So, in a random group of 4 other people, I'd likely end up having to talk to 3 people who I've never talked to at all in my life and perhaps someone who I shared a class with once and didn't completely despise.

Says hypothetical random female friend: "So, Dan, why aren't you going to your twentieth high school reunion?"

My reply: "Statistics my dear, statistics."

Monday, May 23, 2011


I've published my first post in my new blog and yes, I already have to recant it.

So, as it turns out, this package that I was obediently waiting for never even existed!
The sender (an eBay store) informed FedEx that they would be shipping two items but never did.  That's annoying in itself, however, I think FedEx bothers me even more.  FedEx took this information and said "Uh, oh ok George!" and never bothered to look down and see that their hands were empty!  They generated a delivery date on two packages that didn't exist and never checked it until after the delivery that didn't happen.  Very annoying.

I had sent in one email to FedEx simply asking about my packages.  After discovering what had happened, I send them another email.  I thought you might enjoy reading it.  I had fun writing it.

Dear Sir/Madam/Rumormonger:

I have since contacted the sender and discovered that they never sent either package.  Besides my dissatisfaction with the sender, I am greatly disappointed with your company.  For more than a week, your computer system informed me that 2 packages would be arriving at my location and only after I inquired was the truth discovered.  For more than a week, your computer system believed that 2 objects existed when in reality, they did not.  I find this highly annoying and even slightly disturbing.  

What's next?  Are you going to tell me that Santa Clause isn't real?  That there's no Easter Bunny or Tooth Fairy??  

I hope to God (who's very existence has now been cast into doubt) that the next time FedEx brings me a package that it's delivered by Big Foot, wearing the Emperor's New Clothes while riding a Flying Pig.  If not, I send it back.

I rearranged my schedule to be home waiting for two packages that didn't exist.  Thanks for making me a jackass!

A customer who no longer believes

My follow up email to the sender was far less whimsical and slightly more colorful.  I'll leave that one to your imagination.