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23 November 2010

Quite necessarily scatalogical.

I've become obsessed with my advancing age (apologies to any reader older than me) -- of milestones marking time's incessant march.  I am constantly musing that things are different now than they were.  Of course, there are all the physical reminders.  The left side of my tongue feels weird most of the time...because I burned it?  Flexing this muscle this certain way always hurts.  My knees are completely intolerant of abuse.  I have done these things to myself; I am mostly inactive, but occasionally and unpredictably I am active enough to hurt myself, to teach myself again the lesson that I should take it easy.  But these physical twinges, now that I've overcome -- at least temporarily -- the obsessive worry that they mean I'm dying, aren't as interesting as the changes I notice on occasion about the way I interact with the world.  Cognitively, I'm very much not the same as I was.  Which is obvious when you come right out and say it, but which is precisely the sort of thing I can get really going on about after a drink, and which I'm compelled to give an example of here.

I stepped in shit last night on the sidewalk.  I saw my footprint in it this morning; I parked right next to it and stepped right out of my Yaris into shit.  Old, rubbery shit.  I tracked it into my apartment, oblivious, and proceeded to microwave a frozen dinner.  When I began to smell it, I cursed the garbage in the kitchen, which probably contained some old chicken packaging or something.  I lifted the lid, breath held, sealed the bag, and took it outside.  Then I came back inside, ate my food, and sat down to play Halo: Reach.  I won more completely than I ever have or probably ever will again.

But all the while, I kept smelling poop.  Between games I would sniff suspiciously, moving around the apartment to try to locate the source of the odor.  Did something die in the wall?  God, it smells awful everywhere.  What the fuck?  And eventually, I did find something on the floor of the living room: an offensive little ball that, when I picked it up barehanded (what the fuck?), did indeed smell like and was in fact shit.

Here's how I know I'm older now: I still didn't put it together.  I blamed my brother, or one of his friends, who had clearly tracked it in the day before, when I was staying at Amy's place.  Can you believe these people? I wondered aloud.  Still, even with the decroded piece of crap spirited away, my apartment was uninhabitable.  It was like I could taste it (indeed, I spent much of today still feeling as though I could smell it, as though it had penetrated my very being the night before).  And I continued to play, my performance suffering at the hands of extreme distraction.  I lit candles.  I opened a window.  It never occurred to me to remove my shoes.

I didn't actually figure it out until this morning, when I put on the same pants I had taken off the night before (so what?), and crossed my left leg to put a sock on.  There was shit all over my jeans.  Of course there was -- I sit cross-legged when I play, left leg on top of right shit-smeared foot.  Only then, confronted by incontrovertible evidence and after at least 30 seconds of processing time, did I understand.

I am older because it just didn't occur to me that I could have stepped in shit.  I haven't stepped in shit in years.  I don't remember what it feels like.  My memory hadn't even been jogged by the unmistakeable smell.  I spent all day in an office, probably taking no more than 30 steps out of doors all day long.  When I was growing up, I stepped in shit just about every day.  Barefoot, often.  (We didn't name our childhood Wiffle Ball diamond "Dog Doo Field" because of a generous sponsorship by electronic typewriter magnate Wendell Dogdoo.)  There was a time when I would have known instantly that I had stepped in shit.  Those days are, for the most part, behind me.  Because I'm old now, you see.

Buster, our beloved groundskeeper, in front of home plate.

12 November 2010

Tough Guy

I gave someone the finger today in my car. I held it up proudly, wagged it back and forth a bit, slowly, like a wave. The gesticulatory (first I typed "gesticular" but apparently that's not a word) equivalent of a sing-song fuckyou. In fairness to me (for such displays are decidedly not my style -- I'm occasionally accused at work of being an "avoider"), my target fired first, and I was only imitating his own style with the slow wave. Let's back up a bit.

If you must drink such a revolting
amount of soda, please at least find a  
trash receptacle when you're done.
On the way to work this morning, I pulled up behind a black Chrysler 300 with his gas cap hanging off and was considering the best way to signal the driver to alert him when I watched a large big gulp cup fly from the driver's side window, right into the middle of 15th Avenue. Littering sends me into unspeakable rage. It's all I can do to resist ramming a car when I see the driver drop a gum wrapper out the window; I get apoplectic when I see a pedestrian toss an ATM receipt onto the sidewalk. And this...this was much worse. If the crime were measured simply by the size and weight of the refuse, we're talking orders of magnitude worse than a gum wrapper. Not to mention the relative biodegradability. And this was like 2 blocks from my house.  That's my neighborhood, man.  Cups go in cup holders until you can dispose of them properly. I decided to let his gas cap dangle.

I remained behind him on my way to the parkway, and a few minutes later I found myself sitting at a green light behind him, while he fiddled with his cell phone. So I honked. I let my Yaris's horn (not as intimidating as I'd have liked, but you go to war with the army you've got) express, shrilly, my displeasure for a good 3 seconds. I watched him look up at me in his rearview mirror, spite obvious on his face although I could only see a narrow slice of it in his mirror and much of that was obscured by dark glasses, and then came the wagging finger. Without thinking, and with a defiant grin, I returned it. He turned right, I went straight, and went about congratulating myself for such a macho display.

I turned right at the next light and found him sitting at the light waiting to go the same way I was. Apparently he gets to the highway by turning right then left one block earlier than I do. The intersection we were at is more complicated than your average one, from a traffic light standpoint, so we had plenty of time, with neither of us able to go anywhere, to just stare at each other. And man, he was huge. And mean looking. Bald. If you've seen The Wire, he looked a bit like Herc. Only bigger.

So then I spent about 60 seconds cursing myself for thinking I was a tough guy, trying not to look scared and surreptitiously locking my car door. And then the light turned green for him and he went, and then the line turned green for me and I did. And then I ended up right behind him in slow traffic on the Belt Parkway for a couple miles, vacillating between rage and fear. And then I came home 10 hours later and spent half an hour writing about it for no good reason.

09 November 2010

Seventy-six cents

Amie Street, wonderful site though it was, is no longer*. Seriously. Go to and you're now redirected to the Amazon MP3 store. Amazon, you see, was an early investor in Amie Street, so I guess they got the rights to the domain name when the company folded. I'm getting away from the point, though. The point is that Amie Street had a great model for independent artists to try to get some traction: all your songs started off free, and gradually increased in price as more and more people downloaded them. Users could recommend tracks to other users (and in doing so, could gain credit for themselves if their recommended songs climbed in value). It was a very cool idea and I'm sad that it didn't work.

Amie Street was also the only place I ever made any attempt to sell my own music.  Turns out the full market value of sulky, overly melodramatic and indulgent amateur pop songs is $0.76.  I know, because they sent it to me via PayPal the other day.  I'm pissed because I think that might put me into a higher tax bracket.

* Full disclosure: for a little while in 2007, Amie Street was paying me to write reviews of things in their catalog.  No, I never reviewed my own record.

08 November 2010

Review: Proofiness: The Dark Arts of Mathematical Deception

Proofiness: The Dark Arts of Mathematical DeceptionProofiness: The Dark Arts of Mathematical Deception by Charles Seife

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I liked this, but I was expecting to love it. I think, if I'm honest with myself, I wanted it to be more heavy-handed in its indictments of those whose faux-mathematical manipulations are the most egregiously misleading. It seemed to me that a few times Seife had his subjects by the balls, and let them get off with little more than a finger-wag.

View all my reviews