"There’s no link between diabetes and diet.
That’s a white myth, Ken, like Larry Bird or Colorado."
-Tracy Jordan, 30 Rock

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Long Delay due to Nausea

Sorry for the long delay in posting. An overcast but bright day in the field last week without sunglasses combined with a computer intensive week, all served up hot under some new ultra high intensity fluorescent tubes directly above my head has left me with a significant case of eye strain. I didn't realize how bright those tubes were, or I would have strapped a couple of these oatmeal can eclipse viewers to my skull before entering the building. Anyway, when I get eye strain, I tend to be nauseated and headachey around the clock, so I've tried to avoid any extra computer hours in my life these past days at almost any cost.

After many an angry email about the lack of updates, I have decided to bravely choke back the actual vomit and spew forth some blog-vomit for your reading pleasure...

First off, in trying to find an appropriate picture to convey just how freaking bright these new fluorescent bulbs are, I did an image search on "burned retinas". It turns out that only a few google image results for this search are actually about bright things, while the majority are from people blogging about things that they have seen that are so horrifying so as to burn the image onto their retinas forever. Most aren't really appropriate, but here is one for your viewing pleasure:

You're welcome.

It is time to end this post as the fuzzy orange haze is starting to creep back into the edges of my vision... more coming as soon as I stop heaving... BH

Friday, May 9, 2008

8 things about me (that might terrify you)

So my friend Shamalam asked me to participate in this blogger thing called Crazy Eights where you share eight unusual or little known facts about myself. Spouting such things on the internet is sorta like having a million strangers rifling through your underwear drawer, but luckily, I can trust all three people that read my blog. Fair enough, here goes.

1) I have never, ever, in my whole life chewed a piece of gum. Seriously. This is due to a childhood fear of choking coupled with a gross gum-chomping sister. She's not so gross anymore (hi K!), but I still won't eat gum. Over time this has also manifested into a hatred of gum... if I step on a piece on a hot summer day, I am quite literally ready to hunt down the gum-dropper and beat them senseless after I clean my shoe off on their face.

2) I prefer to eat pizza with the cheese removed, again due to the childhood choking on stringy melted cheese thing. Rip that cheese off, throw some Parmesan on the remaining saucy bread, and eat it alternating with the cheese/toppings via fork. I don't do this in public because a scary looking 6'4" 285 pound man has no business eating like a toddler out in the open, but if I'm home alone, I grab me a fork and say "hello, Parmesan!".

3) I think Facebook might be the creepiest thing ever. It is sometimes sorta neat to track down people from the past, but inevitably it results in an awkward standoff where no one knows how far to take things... it is like a high school reunion but in small email doses, where everyone ends up nodding their head in cyberspace saying, "yeah, cool, sounds great... um...yeah." It is also really creepy for a grown-ass man to email some other grown ass man and ask him "wanna be friends?"

4) I hate cats. But I think I covered that before... ah yes, I did, in A Disturbing Revelation ...

5) Despite my reputation as an all around nice guy/teddybear/swell dude, sometimes I am a total prick. I don't mean to be, but sometimes I am. Like sometimes I'll talk a little shit about people behind their back. I always feel bad about it, but I still do it. I've tried to counteract this by being an asshole right out in the open, and I think it might be working.

Like today, this dude at work told a really dumb joke, and instead of fake laughing, I just looked at him, smiled, and said "dude, you're a jackass", and went back to work. I felt really good about myself after that. I think being an asshole is making me a better person.

(NOTE 1: Talking about coworkers like this guy and the One-up-ya guy is a prime example of the fact that I'm an asshole... but assholes need to let off a little hot air now and then too, even if it is a stinky habit.) (pause... wait for it... now go ahead, laugh at my fart joke.)

6) I have a documented memory disorder. I was tested in middle school because I would get great grades on most things but was just unable to memorize things. It would have been a learning disability but in order to qualify, it had to be paired with another diagnosed weakness. Everything else was pretty good, but my memory is really crappy. It was a pain in the ass throughout school, and was totally apparent in all my grades. Thinking, writing, and doing classes were b's and a's, while the "look at a squiggly under a microscope and write down 10 characteristics of that subphylla" class was a D-.

Despite this memory problem I have amazing recall for totally useless information, and I really kick-ass at Trivial Pursuit. I somehow remember that they made less than 30,000 of the CJ-8 "Scrambler" Jeeps, yet I have no idea why World War I was started. Something about the assassination of some Serbian dude named Franz Ferdinand, but that is it. My mom is a history teacher, and if she knew this she would cry. Don't tell her.

The worst part is that people ask me about the testing and whether I have short term or long term memory problems, and I just don't remember. It would be a bad joke if it weren't true.

7) I have spooky-good visual discrimination. I can't really do it like a party trick, but if someone is doing a word search, I can glance at it upside-down out of the corner of my eye from 5 feet away and see the words. They just pop out at me.

In grad school, we did this forestry lab where we had to measure a 10-acre forest plot using a compass and a chain. The method was for one person to walk in a straight line along a compass bearing (directed by another to keep a straight path), and then the third would walk from person A to person B measuring out the 166 feet (one chain), or the length of a side of a square acre. I was the runner guy... I'd head in a direction, jumping logs, dodging prickers, skirting swamps, and line myself up at what I thought was the right distance. The C person then measured the straight line (carrying the dumb end of the tape measure), and time after time, the person stopped within arm's length of me. I can also eyeball small distances and visualize things remarkably well too.

8) I've confronted many of my fears and won.
  • I was really afraid of heights, so I started rock climbing.
  • I was afraid of needles and blood so I started donating blood regularly.
  • I was incredibly queasy about childbirth so I started watching ER regularly and made it through a 33-hour labor and C-section without hesitation.
  • I grew up next door to a man who lost an arm in a motorcycle wreck so I started motorcycling.
  • I was deathly afraid of medical procedures, especially lower abdominal/groin area procedures, so I ignored a muscle tear that I thought was a hernia, and lived in pretty significant pain for 18 months. I've mostly fixed the muscle tear, and have developed a brilliant coping mechanism for dealing with medical fears. It is called a vaso-vagal reaction, and it involves getting dizzy, sweating profusely, and losing vision, followed by loss of consciousness.
9) I thought The Godfather was terrible. I act like I'm a really knowledgeable film critic, but I secretly think a lot of the classics sorta suck, and I really love some other terrible films; I can watch Vertical Limit and Deep Blue Sea over and over again. Every guy everywhere will list The Godfather as their favorite film, but I could barely get through it. I don't even remember if I did get through it. (I'm also a pretentious prick for sometimes calling them "films" instead of "movies". Who the hell am I trying to impress? I'm afraid of stringy cheese and needles for fuck's sake!)

10) I like to eat my food evenly. Near the end of the meal, I should have one bite of each item left, and enough drink to wash it down. This is an unconscious pattern that I catch myself doing sometimes and it freaks me out a little. I do it with fast food(bite of burger, a few fries, maybe a single chicken nugget), I do it with pizza (bite of crust, bite of middle, just the right amount iof topping left), I do it with desserts (always maintain the cake to frosting ratio), and I even do it at Thanksgiving... exhausting, that meal is...

There are some exceptions, like I will sometimes eat all of an item first, especially if it is something I don't particularly like... veggies go first when mom's watching just to relieve the pressure, or hot bread out of the oven goes down the hatch fast, but more often than not, I am left with equal parts on the plate.

11) Sometimes I get really distracted, and take things way too far... I realize that my 10 minute email check has turned into two or three hours, or my Sunday night quick project turns into a major room renovation. Sometimes I even lose track of myself and realize that it is 1:31AM, I'm exhausted, and I've just finished item #11 on an 8 revelations list.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Several Things that Terrify Me

1) Sketchy CraigsList ads:

looking for a docotor - $100 (meriden)
Reply to: sale-672335293@craigslist.org
Date: 2008-05-07, 10:18PM EDT

Private person needs a Doctor for a private job will pay $100.00 for a 15 minute job. If the job takes a 2nd appointment will pay an additional $100.00 cash prefer a Cardiologist but will take a General Practitioner. Interns on last year rounds ok to apply would like to have job done this weekend

2) Sketchy Foreign TV shows:

3) Those squeaky cotton balls jammed into the top of pill bottles, fingernails on chalk boards, and the occasional really dry squeaky Colorado Front Range snow. (All three activate the same fear node, so they are technically the same thing.

4) White food, including cream cheese, cottage cheese, sour cream, yogurt, and all white salad dressings, including but not limited to ranch and blue cheese dressing, but strangely enough not including mayonaisse, mozzarella cheese, or ice cream. (don't bother trying to figure out the pattern... modern science and several neurotic friends have spent years diagnosing this issue...)

Don't Buy This House

I conducted an environmental site inspection yesterday on a property in beautiful Bridgeport, Connecticut yesterday. Apparently they want to tear the existing house, shed, and garage down to build some old folk dorms (aka a 55-plus active adult community). Aside from the fact that every feature of the house was some combination of ugly, broken, stained, unsafe, smelly, and/or straight-up illegal, the place was really quite charming. Oh, and the location was crappy too.
But what really stood out was the basement... it was a typical site inspection basement, meaning that the basement was unlit and supremely sketchy. As expected, there was some light trickling in through a filthy cracked window, but most areas were pretty dark. I navigated only by the flash of the digital camera, a la Jodie Foster as she blasts a few rounds into Monk's boss. As I peered into the dark, I wasn't sure what I'd see...
Aside from the illegal dumping piles, the walnut panelling, the wet floors, the incredibly contaminated dry cleaners next door, and the big oil stains everywhere, there was one feature that really stood out for me. No, not the "how to create a guaranteed electrical fire" of a circuit panel, above that. Instead of regular floor joints, these jokers used nearly whole trees, and the didn't even bother stripping the bark off. I might expect this at, say, Abraham Lincoln's log cabin, but in a 1940's colonial in a city, it struck me as odd. Much as I hate to see classic old architecture destroyed to make way for cookie-cutter developments that spring up overnight, I'm feeling like the best way to renovate this house is with the business end of a wrecking ball.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

80MPH Pollen Injection

So I headed south to my mom's house tonight after work to spend a few extra hours on the bathroom remodel that I'm doing for her. It was a pretty uneventful ride, except that my face was getting blasted by the wind pretty significantly. You see, a few days ago my helmet rolled off the moto seat, hit the pavement, and cracked the shield. I ordered up replacement parts, but until they arrive, I have to ride with no shield on the helmet. The shield-less helmet tends to funnel the wind into the helmet more so than under normal conditions, so I looked sort of like this as a screamed down I-91:The good news was that my sunglasses kept my eyes relatively wind-free. On the way home, however, I had to switch to my regular glasses, which left me eyes much more exposed... so on that ride I looked more like this: Anyway, as I rode along with my lips flapping in the wind and my eyes tearing up enough to make me severely dehydrated, I realized two things:
  1. The open-faced helmet combined with the highway speeds created what was essentially a giant pollen funnel, shooting enormous quantities of allergens directly into my system. I was essentially mainlining grass spores, smoking ragweed out of a three-footer, or snorting dustmites off a mirror through a twenty dollar bill. Good stuff... gonna breathe real well tomorrow.
  2. With tonight's toilet installation, I realized that the number of new toilet installations I've completed within the last year or so is up to six. That is far too many toilets for a single year. That is probably more toilets than most people install in a lifetime. That's two bathroom remodels for Ma and three in my house during renovations...
Now drop your calculators there Mathletes, and don't get your pocket protectors in a bunch... I am aware that 2+3 does not equal 6... but what you have failed to grasp is the inevitable screw-up at the end of a bath remodel where I got everything in place and then immediately spilled purple PVC primer on the brand new linoleum, and had to rip the whole room apart again to reinstall new linoleum. That was a feelgood moment, ya sure ya betcha.

So Mr Toilet Expert, says you, what sort of toilet is the kick-assing-ests toilet on the block? Well, sportsfans, I'm glad you asked. The Niagara Flapperless toilets are pretty freaking sweet from a design perspective... ecologically friendly for the low water usage, low maintenance because the system has no flappers to wear out, and it flushes well too. Plus they are pretty reasonable priced at about $120 for the bowl and tank. Click here to watch an incredibly boring video I found that shows the tipping bucket technology. It is about a minute long, and crikey, it's boring. Enjoy!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Soul Conservation

According to a town zoning document I am reviewing, apparently the Litchfield County Soil Survey, in conjuction with the US Department of Agriculture, has a Soul Conservation Service.

What ever happened to the separation of church and state?

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Yet Another Wacky Idea

So it is 5 in the morning, and I've been up for an hour already. No one else is up except Eddie the dog, and he is clearly not interested in discussing my latest business plan. I tried to talk about it last night with my personal business guru Tree who is never afraid to say "wow, terrible idea Brian" when required, but he wasn't home, so I just left a message insisting that he immediately wire me the full funds required to start this up... I haven't seen the funds yet, and no one is awake, so listen up, folks:

The engineering company where I work bought a new building about a year ago. We take up the top floor, have a steady renter in one bottom half, and another renter in the other bottom half who is about to move out. We plan on taking over a good part of that area for the new environmental area, including an office for me, as in a non-cubicle work area with walls, a ceiling, and a door... best of all, it is far away from the bathroom. That will leave one or two small rooms and the rear warehouse area available for rent. We had a company anniversary picnic yesterday at lunch, and since it was raining, we set up the grill in the mostly empty warehouse area. Now I had been in there before, many times, but all of a sudden, standing there with a cheeseburger in hand, I saw it... the warehouse area is a nearly perfect location for a commercial climbing gym.

It was a weird moment, not quite a vision, but a slow awakening as I tossed that cheeseburger down my gullet . I immediately saw the two main walls covered in holds and roped up, but as I looked around, the other areas became clear... office area there, bouldering cave there in the cage area, storage/changing area up on top if the cage there, rental desk there, freestanding tower area there... There's a big garage door over there to open in nice weather, and huge skylights above for additional natural light. It has 24' ceilings, a decent height for top-roping courses. The location is awesome too... less than a mile from a major highway, and located on a side road/business park road past the indoor soccer arena but not quite to the health and fitness club. There isn't a ton of parking, but most indoor climbing gyms are open strange hours anyway... 5PM to 10PM during the week is common, perfect for sharing the lot with a 8 to 5 business.

Anyway, here's some pictures of the site: The big open walls would be great for roped full height areas, while the cage area would make a great bouldering cave. Other bouldering areas could wrap around the shorter walls, and a full height roped spire would balance out the other corner. Lockers and changing benches could be on top of the cave, and the office and bathrooms are in that room under the heating ducts.

My town is pretty wealthy(except for me) and pretty active(ditto), so I'm sure the place would attract a bunch of people... heck, in a town where there are a dozen kindergarten soccer teams, 1st graders can play lacrosse, and soccer is an organized religion, you know that jamming the kids into activities is almost mandatory. Most of the girls on the 1st and 2nd grade lacrosse team that I'm coaching this season are also playing soccer, gymnastics, and/or swimming... There is a great huge climbing gym 30 minutes south of me where I climbed a lot in high school, and a pretty small gym about 20 minutes from the location up near the mall, but I think this town could easily support another...

Since leaving Boulder, I've always wanted to build a climbing wall in my house or garage, but just never got around to it... and I've always wanted to run my own business... and this location just seems nearly perfect. I really like my current job, and want to stay there, but this seems like (once it is up and running) something that could be managed as a part-time venture (with lots of help, obviously)... and this, my friends, is why I was wide awake at 4 in the morning on a Saturday. Sorry to bore you with a not funny post, but I needed the brain dump.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

The Half Eaten Corn Muffin

Well as long as I'm bitching about high local taxes (see previous post), thereby confirming that I am officially a cranky old bastard at 32, well listen up, ya'here, and lemme tell ya 'bout the put'n'take... down at the local transfer station, there is a "put'n'take" area, where you can leave your used stuff that someone might need, and take stuff that someone might have left, assuming of course that you want a 1976 Emerson hi-fi with an 8-track player and cat-scratched brown speakers, because that is the only thing that people ever seem to leave. But anyway, I digress.

My town, let's call it Taxonbury, charges really high taxes, like 10 Mill points higher than any town around. The schools here are really great, but otherwise, the services are pretty dismal... think pay toilets at the town hall... Anyway, citizens need to pay to buy a pass to drop off your recyclables at the transfer station. With that pass you can also pay to drop off other non-recycleable stuff: old appliances, yard trimmings, etc. I swung through there the other day to drop off some corrugated cardboard recycling and a few other items for the put'n'take... and the Transfer Station attendant informs me that there is now a $5 fee to drop stuff at the put'n'take. That's right, sports fans, my town now charges to let you give things away for free.

Keep in mind that stuff rarely even reaches the ground, as there is a whole put'n'take army constantly loitering in the area, ready to leap across the retaining wall to grab that Jefferson Airplane poster and the olive green 1972 toaster oven right out of your hands before you even unload it...

So anyway, not being interested in paying to give my stuff away, I moved onto step 2: the yard sale. For those not familiar with the tradition, a yard sale is a process where you spend most of a weekend day attractively staging your belongings in your driveway so that people driving past can easily point and sneer at the junk you once wanted. A few people will stop by to give you a dollar or so for a $20 item, or maybe $10 for a brand new $100 item. At the end of an 8 hour day you will realize with dismay that you just gave away $500 worth of items for $17.25, still have 3 hours of clean-up left, and effectively would have been better off working in some Thailand sweatshop sewing swooshes onto $150 sneakers named after some douche who didn't finish high school.

After packing up all the junk again and crying myself to sleep, I awoke refreshed and ready for step 3: Freecycle. Freecycle is an online community designed to help people reuse things and keep stuff out of the landfill. In theory, it is brilliant, and in some cases, it works swell. In most cases, it works like this: Offer in Hartford: Half eaten corn muffin. Wrapper is mostly intact, but muffin must be picked up by 3:45PM... or Wanted in New Haven: 42" LCD Plasma HDTV, in very good to excellent condition. Must be in original packaging with instructions, and delivery must be available as I have no car right now, and my parakeet has terminal feather rot so I can't leave her side.

By posting my yardsale items in Freecycle, I hoped to help some people out, get rid of some stuff, and maybe even save myself a bit of work. I wrote up some descriptions, posted the items up for grabs, and immediately was flooded with responses and requests for certain items. I carefully responded to each and everyone, gave detailed directions to each person, and set the items at the curbside for convenient pickup. After the first day, none of the items were retrieved. I understand how busy life can be, so I gave everyone a second day. Still no pickups... so I emailed politely every last person.

I woke up the next morning hoping to find an email box full of courteous responses, but was greeted only with a few offers for new mortgages, random Facebook friend requests (apparently my picture looks hot, and lots of people want to meet me for discreet fun), and many offer for products to help enhance that certain part of the male anatomy.(I hope my new facebook friends don't find out about those emails...) Anyway, it was also pouring down rain by now, so I decided to let the stuff sit out for one more day. I returned home to find all my stuff still there, and I suspect some of my neighbors might have added new items to my soggy pile of unwanted treasures.

You know how the story ends... me, in the front yard, listening to my sweet new Emerson hig-fi, trying in vain to build a bonfire with a bunch of soggy crap. At least I have a half a corn muffin to munch on...

Seriously though, folks, that is not very good advice. As some of you know, I have been actively fighting to protect the environment since high school, through undergrad, through a Master's program, and through a bunch of years as an environmental scientist, and when it comes to reducing, reusing, and recycling old stuff, my best advice is this: be sure to use lots of gasoline and old tires to really get that bonfire going, and make sure it is plenty hot before you toss in the brand new 42" LCD Plasma HDTV... despite the amazing picture clarity, those things are full of nasty pollutants, and they can cause big environmental problems if your bonfire isn't hot enough.

April Sucked

You ever have one of those months where you have to tell a bunch of people that you have to move far far away and they get super mad and yell at you for 26 days continuously and then all of a sudden it turns out that you're not going to move and all those mad people are now happy people, but wait, you can't afford not to move, so maybe then you have to still move but maybe close instead of far far away, and then all of a sudden you realize you can resolve the whole issue by moving your sofa to a different room? Of course you have... everyone has, I'm sure.

Yeah, that was my April.

I do realize that everyone has months just like that, and maybe even a lot of you had the exact same experiences this past April... if so, congratulations on living through it and not running off to the tattoo parlor for an impulsive bad decision on your way to run away to Alaska to work on a crab boat in the Bering Sea. Don't get me wrong, impulsive tattoos are generally a great idea, as is running away to Alaska to work a fishing boat, but obviously, doing so with a fresh tattoo is not the best idea. Those rubber overalls chafe something awful, and the tattoo will never heal properly when constantly coated in salt water and fish slime in sub-freezing temperatures.

So anyway, long story short, instead of moving to the hot zone we'll be staying in central Connect-the-dots, and instead of moving locally to a town with smaller houses and smaller taxes, we'll likely stay put, block off a room or two, add a roommate to the mix, all the while bitching about the high taxes. Lots of mixed feelings all around, but not moving is certainly easier than moving, and not selling during a massive real estate slump is always a neat perk too. I guess overall, despite some mixed feelings, it was a good decision, and house-wise, I'm really happy... I dig the house, the cul-de-sac, and the neighbors...

Anyway, speaking of moving far away, warmest congratulations to my favorite Spanish-fluent Canandaiguan accupuncturist former roommate now living in Godzilla-Land and his lovely wife on the arrival of their 3320-gram baby1.0. She is the cutest tri-lingual infant I've ever seen. Well done Wilson-san.

Coming soon -
the t-shirt story, something about mary, and rat pancakes.