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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Whom are you to correct I?

I want to begin by acknowledging the fact that correcting other people's grammar is an annoying habit. And it's a habit that I definitely possess, as Ian can attest. He has to live with me harping on him for saying things like "nucular" instead of "nuclear" and "I should have went" instead of "I should have gone". I know, I'm a harpy. At least I am aware of it. And no, I'm sorry, I don't think this is something I can change.

But I do think there are limits to the acceptability of correcting people's grammar. For instance, you simply don't correct the grammar of strangers. Like you don't call a secretary that you don't know personally, and tell her that it's "out for lunch" and not "out to lunch", because if you do, you are a rude asshole who also happens to be wrong.

You also don't belittle an emotional gesture by focusing on grammar. For instance, I once read in the advice columns that I so lovingly read that a woman was upset when her daughter wrote a thank you letter to her grandmother, and it was returned all marked up in red. Can we say bad taste? Yeah, it's best to just focus on the gesture and not cheapen it by going grammatical nazi on someone, even in the pretense of "teaching".

This also happened to me when I was having the break-up talk with Like Me But Not in Love With Me. I brought a letter laying out everything that I wanted to say to him, because I wanted to make sure I remembered to say it all in the heat of the emotional break-up. I mistakenly wrote "you" when I should have written "your", and that's the first thing he said to me when he popped his head up after reading my letter. And it wasn't even a mean letter but a sincerely heartfelt letter. His remarking on the grammar, though perhaps a defense mechanism against emotion, completely cheapened the emotional expression I had been trying to make.

The fine line here is that there is context within which it is ok (if still annoying) to correct grammar, and there are times when it is definitely not ok. I like to think that I do a good job of respecting those boundaries, but people like Ian who receive my wrath might tell you that a few more boundaries ought to be drawn. Eh, I can think of worse habits that Ian might have to live with, so to him I say consider thyself blessed.

I like to think that I strike a decent balance between welcoming linguistic change and upholding linguistic tradition. Officially, I am a descriptivist, which means I am more prone to say that usage determines correctness, and if enough people use a certain form, then it is correct. Language, after all, is ever-changing. Things that used to be prevalent, like say double or even triple negatives (which were used to add emphasis), are no longer considered acceptable, but maybe one day they shall return. Change is the norm in grammar. Having said that, there lives inside me a nasty little grammatical prescriptivist who slaps down her ruler on the hands of people who, for instance, fail to understand the proper distinction between who vs. whom. This is where my wrath is taking us today.

First of all, I totally recognize that this grammatical rule is not properly explained in English classes (if indeed any grammatical rule is properly explained in English, aka literature, classes). I was fortunate enough to have an English teacher who knew a very easy trick for deciding whether you should use who or whom. She said, "If you can replace who/whom with him/her/them, then whom is the proper choice, if you can replace it with he/she/it, then who is proper." This is easy to remember because whom, him, and them all end with "m".

But most people don't even know why we have a who and a whom in the first place. Do you know why? If not, don't feel bad, I'm about to tell you. Simply put, there are two main functions that a noun or pronoun can play in a sentence - a subject function, or an object function. The subject does the action of the sentence, and the object receives the action of the sentence. (And the action is the verb, if you were wondering.) Take this sentence:

Ian gave the tulips to Sra.

There are three nouns in this sentence: Ian, tulips, and Sra. Ian plays the subject role, while tulips and Sra are both objects. (To get technical, the tulips are the "direct object" and Sra is the "indirect object", because the tulips are directly receiving the action of the verb, and I am indirectly receiving the action. INSERT YOUR OWN JOKE ABOUT SRA INDIRECTLY RECEIVING ACTION HERE.)

Now back to who/whom: who is the subject form of the pronoun, and whom is the object form. So who can only replace subject nouns, and whom can only replace object nouns. (And if you're paying attention, you will now realize that he/she/it are subject pronouns while him/her/them are object pronouns. [Same goes for subjects I/we vs. objects me/us].)

(Isn't grammar completely interesting and exciting!?! ... No?... Oh well...)

In conclusion, I do think it's excusable to say who when whom is correct, mainly for the reason that whom is becoming archaic; many U.S. dialects don't even include whom in the lexicon. However, when people say whom when they should say who, it just looks like they are trying to look sophisticated and intellectual, but instead they are doing themselves a disservice by giving away the fact that they don't understand the difference.

So now that you are properly educated, my dear Bunsnip readers, I expect you all to go forth and mis-whom no more.

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Time for a new scam

I hate when the other secy goes on vacation, because that means I have to deal with all the freaking weirdos that traipse into our offices off the street. The other secy sits at the reception desk downstairs, and my office is upstairs. So for the times when she's out of town or otherwise away from her desk, we have a fun little ding-dong device posted in the reception area downstairs with a little sign that says "ring bell for service". It's remarkable how many people are too dumb to follow these simple instructions. It's not unusual for me to be roused from my chair because someone is walking through the offices downstairs hollering, "Hello? HELLO!?!"

Okay people, have you ever gone into an office in which the front desk attendant is not there? I have -- I'm sure most people have. So what do you do? Well, you usually go to the front desk and see if there is a little bell that you can ring for service. And if that doesn't work (but usually it does), then you wait around for a couple minutes to see if the receptionist comes back. If she doesn't come back within a few minutes, only then do you walk through the office, because walking through someone else's office uninvited is rude.

Anyway, today we get some schmoe off the street coming in here, ignoring the "ring bell for service" sign, and hollering "hello?" from below. So I go down, and he apologizes, saying he couldn't tell where anyone was at (yes, he put that preposition at the end of his clause, and yes, that is the only preposition that I personally believe does not belong at the end of a clause). For a moment, I considered pointing out the little "ring bell for service" sign, but he looked a little bit stupid, and I didn't want to make him feel bad by rubbing his stupidity in his face, so I just said, "That's ok."

And that's when he launched into his little sales pitch. I'm sure you've heard it before. First he gives his name and shakes my hand, and then he tries to break the ice with a little humor: "I'm from New York... don't beat me up!" ::smile:: (Umm, actually if you are from New York -- and based on your accent I don't believe you are -- then I should be afraid of YOU beating ME up. But anyway, go on.) He continued his spiel, throwing out some acronym that he's apparently affiliated with -- I'll call the acronym ULOBS, for Utter Load of BullShit. He says that the objective of ULOBS is to earn points so the members of ULOBS can go on a trip to Europe.

This is the moment where I just want to tell the little scam artist to scram, but just like a telemarketer, he talks so fast that I can't gracefully get a word in edgewise. If I were at home, I'd tell him to fuck the hell off, but seeing as how I'm at work and thus representing the firm, I have to be a touch more polite. So I allow him to carry on for a moment, but I can't keep a grimace from surfacing on my face. And that's when he makes his first mistake by giving me an in. He asks me if I'm alright and then vaguely gestures to the corner of his mouth, and I know he's referring to the fact that the corner of my mouth just turned down in a major scowl, and I wonder for a moment if my face looks so hideously deformed at that instant that a person couldn't help but remark upon it. But I shake the thought off and tell him, "Yeah, we're not interested in solicitations."

And that's when he makes his second mistake by getting defensive. "I'm not soliciting," he says and then gestures toward the area at his feet, "I don't have a vacuum cleaner." For a moment I consider pointing out the fact that he doesn't have to be selling something to be soliciting -- asking for money is a solicitation, and though he hadn't asked for money yet, that's what these points-to-go-to-Europe scam artists always ask for. But this man is much larger than I am, and so I think better of it and simply tell him, "I'm sorry."

"Just once, I wish someone would let me finish before telling me to get lost," he continued, and I started to get a little nervous. Real salesmen are supposed to be gracious and polite. You are killing your chances of any present or future sales if you get argumentative or irate with your customer. Thus his behavior confirmed my suspicion that he was not a real salesman, but a con artist, and I can't feel safe in the presence of a con artist, so I began to edge backwards. "There's a lot of fucking cunts in this neighborhood, let me tell you," he said, and then he made an about-face and headed for the door, continuing to mumble slurs about my whoredom under his breath.

I breathed a sigh of relief when he shut the door behind him. "What a freaking psycopath!" My office manager was leaning over the railing listening in to make sure nothing went awry, and my boss yelled from her office, "Is it the guy in the plaid shirt out there?" And I said, "Yeah, he could at least dress the part if he wants to pass himself off as a salesman!"

It's true, this guy didn't play the part very well, but not all of these scam artists are as blunt in the brain as this guy. In fact, I learned the truth about this kind of scam the hard way during my first semester of college in 2001.

I was studying in my dorm one night when I received a knock on the door from a casually dressed college-aged kid who presented a similar sob story about how he was trying to earn enough points by selling magazine subscriptions to go on a trip to Italy to study architecture. It was right after the 9/11 incident, and I was feeling a need to renew my sense of faith in humanity and kindness, and I could also relate to his needs as a poor college student, so I told him to come in, and I picked out a magazine I would be willing to subscribe to from his official-looking magazine price list. Then he told me he would earn double points if I paid in cash. That should have been a tip off, but I was a naive 18 year old, so I didn't think anything of it, and together we walked to the ATM in the student building, and I withdrew and handed him $75 cash. He was very charismatic through the whole thing, even while he took advantage of my generosity in the post-9/11 world and ripped me off.

Back then, $75 was a whole lot more money to me than it is today, and even today it's a lot of money. But I didn't start working until my second year of college, and so all the money I had was what I had saved in a mutual fund from childhood, and most of that was to be reserved to pay for my lodgings in the dorms. When I realized I had been had, I felt extremely embarrassed at my stupidity, and extremely angry that someone could be so opportunistic right after thousands of Americans had burned and plunged to their deaths from a supposed terrorist attack. It was a huge wake-up call to me. Usually I like to give people the benefit of the doubt, but now I know that people should not be trusted blindly and by default, so I am much more wary these days, unfortunately, but necessarily.

I got my revenge several years later when I was living in my current apartment and this very same guy came knocking at my door. I didn't recognize him at first, but when he shook my hand and launched into the exact same story he had presented me years before, I laughed and said, "You know what? I remember you. I used to live in the student dorms a few years ago, and you came around pitching this exact same story, and you ripped me off back then. I paid you $75 for a magazine subscription that I couldn't afford and never received. So you'd better get the hell out of here right now and stop knocking on these apartment doors, or I will call the police." He tried to deny that this was a scam, but quickly became defensive and said, "Well, fuck you!" to me. I said, "Fuck you too," and slammed the door in his face. Then I posted a sign about the scam above the apartment mailboxes and hoped that no one else had been reeled in like I was. Vindication is so sweet!

So let that be a lesson to you folks -- there are ways to make sure that your donations go to legitimate causes. Be very wary of college students who claim they are trying to earn a trip to Europe. Take it from a girl who's studied abroad twice -- you can't earn enough to go to Europe by selling magazines. But they can earn enough to reserve a special place for themselves in hell, and a special place for you under the dictionary heading "gullible". Learn from my mistake and make charitable donations to reputable sources only.

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Mail Call - It's Exceedingly Good

I'm so glad I don't have to sort the incoming mail at work anymore. Ever since they assigned me 4 attorneys instead of 3, I've been generally busy enough at work that they don't ask me to do mind-numbingly boring tasks such as open the mail, seal and post the invoices, and sort the duplicate copies of docket sheets (the purpose of which I've not yet figured out). Of course, I'm not so generally busy that I can't manage to post or read a blog here and there. But that's because I'm just s'darned efficient.

Anyway, after you open and sort the mail, you have to deliver any junk mail or personal mail to the individual attorneys, and one particular attorney never fails to ask whether there's "anything good?" in his mail. That always used to bug me for a couple of reasons: (1) I don't want to make small talk about your junk mail, and (2) I don't actually examine your mail close enough to be able to tell you what it is, so I don't know if it's anything good, and (3) you can see whether it's anything good simply by looking at it yourself.

I may be an assistant, but there are still some things that are more efficient if you just do them yourself. (Like when you hand me something to put in my filing, and I later discover that the file it belongs in is in your office. How about you just file the damn thing yourself then, so I don't have to hunt for it? Or else bring me the file with the document and I'll take care of it. Of course the real reason is that you are sloppily disorganized and don't even know what files are in your office.)

So today, the other secy was doing her daily mail delivery, and when she got to Mr. Anything Good?'s office, he didn't miss a beat on posing his usual question, but this time, instead of trying to come up with some serious answer, the secy somewhat ironically said, "yes, it looks exceedingly good." And that forced a smile onto my otherwise bored expression today.

Maybe she's just as annoyed by these trite little pleasantries as I am.

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Dear Crazy Bicyclist with a Death Wish,

Thanks a lot for pulling out in front of my car today when I was just about to make a right turn on a green light. Yes, that's right, green light, thus I had the right of way and it wouldn't have been my fault if you had ended up under the tires of my car. In fact if Ian hadn't been in the car with me to point out the fact that you had popped up out of nowhere, under my car is very well where you probably would be right now. And I would be on the side of the road, sobbingly trying to explain to a police officer just how you ended up under the wheel of my car. And I'd have had to live with the knowledge that I killed somebody, even if it wouldn't have been my fault. Frankly, I'm glad I don't have to live with that, and you should thank your lucky stars that you don't have to live with... er, die with that either.

Sure, you had your little spandex biking outfit on, and your biking helmet. But let me tell you something: Your helmet is not going to save your life if I run you over with my car, and your little biking outfit obviously does not make you a smart biker. You might as well have been Bill Gates in a Superman costume.

Here's the thing: even if you did have the right of way, as a biker it is still up to you to look out for your own well-being. Drivers aren't looking out for you, trust me. If you can tell that a driver doesn't see you, then you better fucking yield, unless you really do have a death wish. And if that's the case, you might as well go jump off a cliff or something so you don't have to involve somebody else's conscience in your fate.

And before you go accusing me of being a cyclist-hater, let me just say that I am the proud owner of a brand new Specialized City7 24-speed hybrid commuter bike, complete with generator-powered headlights and taillights, a luggage rack, and even a little bell. And I rode it to work both days this week. And guess what? When I wasn't sure if a car could see me or not, I fucking yielded, because I value my life even more than I value my hot titties new bicycle.

My Hot Titties New Bicycle

So, please, look out for yourself, alright? Because even though I am sympathetic to the needs of bicyclists, I too am a driver of an evil automobile, and as a driver, I am not guaranteed to see you or your spandex shorts when you fly out in front of me. Bill Gates in a Superman costume? That I might see. But whether you or Bill Gates, neither of you is impervious to being sucked under my wheels. Not even if you are dressed like Superman.

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Friday, May 16, 2008

Lacking the Mother Gene

I don't have a motherly instinct -- not a single motherly cell in my body. Sometimes I feel like I'm the only girl who's like that and everyone else just can't get enough of babies. That's not true, of course, I've actually met other girls like me -- girls who just don't get children. Children are a complete mystery to me and it's always been that way, as long as I can remember.

I don't think I've ever held a baby in my arms, but if I did, I was probably too traumatized by the experience and thus blocked it out of my mind. Babies are little moving, breathing collections of human limbs that nonetheless seem completely alien to me, and I don't know the first thing to do with them.

The fact that I don't get children is part of the reason that I'm not planning on having children. But, having said that, not planning on having children and not having children are two entirely different things. One can never say never, as they say. For instance, one of my dear friends who is just like me in that she never wanted children and never really understood them has just announced that she is pregnant. It wasn't planned, of course (because she, like me, was not planning on having children, remember?), but she and her boyfriend are going along with it anyway.

And you know what? --Brace yourselves-- I was actually very happy for her when she told me. Weird, I know! I mean, usually when a friend tells me she is having a baby, I say, "Wow, congratulations! I'm so happy for you." But this time, I actually really honestly from the bottom of my heart MEANT it when I said it.

I don't know what the difference is in this case. I mean, first of all let me explain that it's not like I don't want my other friends to have children, or even that do I want this friend to have children. It's just that normally I don't give a rat's hind quarters that someone is having a kid, because I don't much care for the little beasties, but this time, I do. Give a rat's hind quarters, that is. Why is that?

Maybe it's because she's 35 -- kind of nearing the endgame of child-bearing years. Or maybe it's because I really respect her as a person in general, and I think her boyfriend is awesome as well, and that they'd make great parents. Maybe it's because they're both European and I somehow have more confidence in the kid-rearing sensibilities of European culture. Hell, I don't know what it is. But whatever it is, it makes me wonder if I do have a heart somewhere underneath my cold little steel rib cage after all.

Then again... let's not be too hasty.

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Cats vs. Cat Catchers: Redux (or, more appropriately, Regeese)

My brother Zac is a great artist. As a boy he would draw constantly, filling in the front sides of the pages of an entire drawing notebook, and then going back and filling in the back sides of the pages. And then he'd start on another notebook. He has stacks and stacks of notebooks that he filled up when we were kids. I was always mesmerized by the way he could see something in his head and transfer it to paper seemingly effortlessly in his very distinctive style.

So when we were quite young, Zac and I liked to play cats vs. cat catchers. Of course, the cats were the good guys and the cat catchers were the bad guys. Sometimes we would run through our sprinklers while making believe we were the cats trying to avoid the cat catchers. I don't really know where the logical connection is there. These things come so naturally to kids, but I've lost access to that part of my imagination, it seems. Anyway, other times, Zac would draw paper dolls for us exhibiting many characters from both the cat side (in humanoid form, of course), and the cat catcher side. If I remember correctly, sometimes there was a rouge cat who was on the cat catcher side, and maybe there was like a human scientist on the cat side. Vague memories, though, so I'm not sure.

Anyway, what brought these memories back to mind was an incident that happened yesterday. There are a couple of nesting geese that live near my office on 200 S and 700 E -- right in the middle of the city with no water or park in the area. But these geese are very content with their location and very vociferous when they cross the street on foot and force cars to stop or slow for them while they stand and honk (the geese, that is, not the cars... well, sometimes the cars honk too). Miraculously, they haven't been killed yet, and I think the whole situation is quite amusing. I say if they want to risk their lives living in the city, that's their business.

So I was a bit disturbed yesterday when I started walking home from work and saw a woman half a block ahead of me flagging down an animal control vehicle. Apparently she had called them in to capture the geese. As I approached the vehicle, the goose catcher retrieved her net from the back of the vehicle, and memories of cats vs. cat catchers flooded back into my mind. But this time it was a battle of the good-guy geese versus the bad-guy goose catcher and her evil animal-hating minion. I knew which side I was on. So as I passed the evil animal-hating minion and the evil goose catcher who approached the poor unsuspecting geese with her net, I yelled, "RUN, GEESE, RUN!" And of course, they don't speak English, so they didn't run, but I couldn't bear to watch, so I kept on walking. A few paces down the road and the honking started. The battle had commenced, but I kept on walking.

I felt like I was all wet in the sprinklers.

But much to my delight, this morning the geese were back in their usual place, honking vociferously as ever, as if to declare that, yes, this is their home. I was worried that the poor geese were to be destroyed, but maybe the evil goose catcher had instead taken the geese to Liberty Park, where dozens of other geese nest about the pond. Foolish goose catcher! Geese have wings, and better navigational instincts than your on-board GPS, and obviously these particular geese do not have the same lust for water and grass that the other geese have. No, they long for something different. They choose not the suffocating anesthetic of the suburbs, but the violent jolt of the capital. That is their choice.*

* Last two lines borrowed from the film The Hours.

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Bothersome little language things

Eye-ball Molesting Periods

I. Hate. When. People. Put. Periods. Between. Words. As. If. All. The. Words. Are. Individual. Little. Sentences. Don't. Get. Me. Wrong. There. Is. Such. A. Thing. As. A. One. Word. Sentence. But. Such. Sentences. Do. Not. Include. Prepositions. Or. Articles. Or. Verbs. Mostly. They. Can. Just. Be. Nouns. Or. Adjectives. And. Sometimes. Words. Like. "When". But. Only. When. Used. With. A. Question. Mark. M'Kay?

So for love of unstilted and flowing sentences, please try to contain yourself with this nasty little habit, for me. (Personal apologies to those of my readers who love to put periods between words. I know, I know, you do it for emphasis, even though there are PLENTY of other methods of adding emphasis. I don't mean to insult you personally.)

A little too much self-loving going on

I also hate the phrase "Love me some...", as in "I love me some baby Jesus," or "I love me some ginger snaps." I don't know where this came from, but I want it to go back to wherever that is and never again enter my auditory or visual senses.

Faulty Reflexes

Finally, I hate when someone asks a person how they are doing and they say "Good, and yourself?"

And I don't even mean the part where they say "good" instead of "well", cause that doesn't really bother me. (Why shouldn't "good" be considered an adverb as well as an adjective? I don't see why not.) I'm talking about the part where they use the reflexive pronoun "yourself" instead of the nominative pronoun "you". You don't say "Yourself is doing well," but "You are doing well." So the question form of this sentence is "How are you doing?" or "Are you doing well?" NOT "How is yourself doing?" NOR "Are yourself doing well?

Now it's your turn. Tell me the little language things that you hate. Extra points if it's something that I routinely do.

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Friday, May 9, 2008

Wedding Gift Etiquette

In the advice columns that I read obsessively, one topic that shows up constantly is weddings. The issue usually has to do with (1) bridezillas, (2) overbearing family members, or (3) gifts.

The advice for the first two is usually the same: (1) you don't have to cave in to the unreasonable demands of Bridezillas, and (2) overbearing family members ought to be reminded that the day is not about their desires. But there are mixed feelings on the issue of gifts.

Many people write in to ask whether there is a tactful way to request monetary gifts instead of announcing a gift registry, because in this day and age, it's not uncommon for couples to live together before getting married, and in that case they already have all the appliances and silverware they need. Most advice columnists say that it is never ok to request money in the invitation, and some of them even say that it is tacky to announce a gift registry at all. They say it is presumptuous to assume that people will give you a gift.

Personally, I think it should be totally kosher to tell your guests that monetary gifts are preferred. After all, I'd rather give you money that you will need than give you a $50 toaster that will end up in your post-wedding yard sale. And if you'd rather have gifts, I'd like to know about your gift registry so I don't give you something that 5 other people also give you and that you don't want anyway. And furthermore, it's tradition to give people gifts when they marry, so it's not as if you are being presumptuous in announcing what you would prefer. The advice columnists just can't come up with a tactful way to do it, cause let's face it, asking for presents can't be done tactfully. Unless you're a kid writing a list for Santa. Santa doesn't get offended by requests for gifts, because he's in the business of gift-giving. Well, weddings are big gift business too, so maybe if people would lighten up about the matter, we could get on with our lives and I could read about something else in the advice columns.

But I suppose that's simplifying matters too much. There are definitely some concerns about proper etiquette that deserve attention. For instance, some people view wedding invitations as invoices. I think that can be true, but only when the invitation goes to someone with whom the bride and groom aren't really close. So first rule of etiquette, only invite people you are close enough to that you wouldn't mind giving them a present if they were the one getting married. (Incidentally, I think the real invoice invitations are graduation invitations -- cause you aren't really invited to the graduation, you are just invited to send money. Next time I get one of those, I'll send $100 in gold pirate coins, shipped COD.)

And then there are wedding showers. I've always wondered what the point of a wedding shower is. After all, people are expected to give gifts at the wedding, right? So why should we have to give additional gifts at showers? And then there are the brides who have multiple showers. (Note to brides: if you insist upon having multiple shakedowns showers, do not invite someone to more than one of them. It's bad etiquette, and makes you look mighty greedy.) But seriously, can't we just do away with showers? Especially the ones where I'm good enough to be invited to your shower, but, oh, you don't have room for me at your wedding. Now that IS an invoice. Second rule of etiquette: don't have a wedding shower, or if you must, only have one, or if you must have more than one, make sure each guest list is different, and finally, make sure each guest on any one of the guest lists of your multiple showers (you greedy little Bridezilla) are also invited to the wedding. And there better be good food at the wedding too. And booze.

Don't get me wrong, I'm happy to celebrate the occasion with people that I really love. And if I do really love you, then I am generous when I give you a wedding gift. I'm even generous when I am invited to give you both a wedding and a shower gift. And I don't even feel too bad knowing that the favor will never be returned, since I'm not planning on getting married. After all, people ought to give not because they want to receive, but because they want to give. Third rule of etiquette (this one applies to gift givers): Keep perspective in mind when you give a gift; don't feel like you have to give more than you are willing or able, and give because you really want to. Finally, don't plan on getting your gift back if the wedding is called off or if the couple divorce in a year. A gift is a gift, my friend.

So those are my basic feelings on the wedding gift matter. Anyone have anything to add?

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Thursday, May 8, 2008

HealthQuest2008: April

Remember last time when I said I was pushing my gym days up to 4 per week? Yeah, that didn't happen. This strange phenomenon occurred: it got warmish during April, and on those warm days I'd walk up to the gym instead of driving. But then the weather would spring back into the frigid zone, putting me in a bad mood and making me not want to leave the house at all, even though I've been going to the gym since January, when it was much colder. So my gym attendance has fallen back to 1-2 days per week. Better than nothing, but not exactly where I wanted to be.

Even so, I've been trying to walk a lot more even when I'm not going to the gym, and I feel really fit compared to how I felt in January. My leg muscles are freakishly strong, and I think that I might actually have a bicep or two underneath my fleshy arms. I suspect I'm getting some abs under my flabby gut too.

But still not a lot of budging on the fat.

So I've tried a new tweak with my diet. Last time I was bringing a small lunch to work and eating bits of it throughout the day to try to keep my metabolism up. This time I've decided that my small lunch wasn't small enough. So now I bring two pieces of fruit -- one for the morning and one for the afternoon. Then at lunch, I limit myself to 400 calories, which is usually a PB&J or a Michelina's Frozen Dinner. I had my fill of frozen dinners growing up, so I was skeptical about trying these again, but these ones actually aren't that bad, and they only cost 1 piece of pirate gold. The pizza is actually pretty tasty with its spices and real pepperoni (as opposed to those fake little pepperoni chunks on most frozen pizzas), and as long as you stay away from the meat entrees, the other dishes are pretty good too.

Then, of course, I have one cup of coffee in the morning, and sometimes another in the afternoon.

This works pretty well, and I actually feel satisfied after having just a PB&J or a frozen cuisine. My problem is that I end up binging in the evenings, especially on days I go to the gym. So now I need to work on restraint and portion control at home.

And that's where I came up with another one of my brilliant ideas: a set of "diet dishes", which are perfectly sized according to appropriate portion sizes. Glasses hold 8 ounces only; bowls hold 1 cup of cereal with milk only; plates are small enough for elves to eat off of. That way, all you have to do is fill you dish, and then eat that and that alone.

And you know what else I've realized? People pay more attention to number than size. For instance, if I eat 3 slices of pizza, I don't consider whether they were small slices or large slices, I just say I had 3 slices. So in other words, if someone gave me smaller portions, I don't think I'd notice the difference. That's why sometimes I wish I was like a cat in that someone else has to fill my bowl with food. It'd be a lot easier to trick me into eating less that way.

Does anyone else have tactics for controlling portion sizes?

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Wednesday, May 7, 2008

I'll give you $100 in pirate money if you put ticket machines on the trains

Went to a Bees gave with Sov last night and decided to take the Trax to the ballpark.

So I'm walking up to the Trax station and just then I can see the train approaching, but I've still got to buy my ticket. So I hurry over to the ticket machine, and the transaction goes really fast, my ticket prints just as the train pulls to a stop. But then my change starts dispensing, and I had forgotten that they give you those god damned gold dollar coins for change from these machines, and I paid with a $20. So I try to grab all $16 worth of pirate money with one hand while holding my wallet and ticket in the other hand, but my fist isn't large enough to hold 16 gold coins, so I drop 3 or 4 of them on the ground. Scrambling, I manage to pick up my fallen money and step over to the train where I push the button for the doors to open. But they don't open and the train pulls away from the station, leaving me alone with 16 fucking pieces of pirate gold in my hands. I place the coins in my pocket and proceed to extend my middle finger toward the train with the hopes that the idiot driver sees it and feels a little shame for being a fucking douche bag.

This whole incident reminds me of my number one gripe about the Trax: they need to put ticket machines on the fucking trains. I once told this to a police officer who was taking down my information after he caught me on the train without a ticket (I had a Trax token, mind, but no ticket, and that's not good enough). The reason I got on the train without a ticket? I got to the station at the same time as the train, I was running late, and so I decided to risk it and hopped on the train. Now, if there were ticket machines on the trains, this wouldn't be a problem. I told that to the police officer while he called in my information to make sure I wasn't a repeat offender, and he said, "That would give people an excuse to say 'Oh, I was going to buy a ticket!'" and I scoffed at the foolish pig and said, "That's where you're wrong. People have an excuse NOW to be caught without a ticket -- they have MY excuse. But put ticket machines on the trains and then people have NO excuse not to have a ticket, and then nobody has to decide whether to miss their train or risk getting fined." He was silent to my retort, because I had bested him in logic, and he was ashamed. Good thing he could hide his teary eyes behind his stupid aviator glasses.

Before you try to tell me that ticket machines on trains are impractical, I say au contraire. Take a trip to Berlin and you'll find that their subway trains, street cars, AND city buses ALL have ticket dispensers on them. They are tiny little boxes attached to the standing poles by the doors. And let me just point out that Germans are about the most efficiency-oriented people on the face of the planet. If ticket machines on trains are good enough for the Germans, then by god they're good enough for us.

I would also like to address the god damned pirate money. Listen up, America: The ONLY way gold dollar coins are EVER going to catch on is if (1) we do away with paper dollars altogether, and (2) we make it so that ALL machines accept the dollar coins. It would be even more successful if we instituted a $2 coin, much like the Euro. That way, when I buy a $4 Trax ticket with a $20 bill, I only have to get 8 pieces of pirate money in change, and my fist is big enough to handle that. But if we're going to be realistic, the only reason the Euro coins work so well is that cash money is much more dominant in Europe than credit card money. In America, it's exactly the opposite. Many people don't even carry cash regularly anymore. And when we do, we discard our change from our pockets into our coin jars at home, to be forgotten until we cash in the coins a year later when the jar is full. So coined dollars are more of a burden in America than anything else.

Sometimes, I feel like the only rational person in the room.

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Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Liberally-minded, with exceptions

I'm a liberal. But I don't exactly fit the mold of your stereotypical liberal.

For instance, I'm unapologetic about my disdain for bums, whereas I think liberals are generally concerned about the well-being of the homeless and impoverished.

Furthermore, I've learned my lesson about supporting taxes -- which liberals generally do. Don't get me wrong, I think the theory of taxes is sound. It makes sense that we all chip in for common services provided by the government, especially if we are the ones who use those services.

In elections in recent years, I supported the local tax grants for the Arts & Zoo Council of Utah, and for the Leonardo Exhibit at Library Square, and for a levy of taxes for Trax. But look what happened: We gave the Zoo $1Million, and now all of a sudden they are rallying for another $20Million, or some such outrageous number; We gave the Leonardo another $1Million (I believe), and 5 years later the project is empty-funded and nowhere near completion; We gave Trax whatever they were asking for in their grant, and yet it's more expensive than ever to take the Trax.

So when the Cops & Firefighters were rallying for a new Public Safety Building in last year's election, I actually read the proposal, and found that they had packed the terms with a whole bunch of expensive extras. In other words, they were being greedy. So I voted against that proposition (and thankfully it did not pass). I would have supported a reasonable bill that asked for a new building at a reasonable price, and nothing more. But those cops & firefighters couldn't see past the dollar signs in their pupils, and so they've been shot down until they can bring a more balanced proposal to the table.

So in other words, I'm much more cautious about my support of taxes these days.

But aside from the bums and the taxes, perhaps the greatest exception to my liberality is that I wholeheartedly despise the POLITICAL CORRECTNESS MOVEMENT. (If I could, I'd write that in a scary wavy Hallowe'en-type font, just to highlight the seriousness of the matter.)

The delightful Sterkworks recently posted about a political correctness issue involving the cleaning crew at her office. (It's a nice post, pop over there and read it.) I posted a comment which addressed the issue specifically, but which also related my feelings on the P.C. movement in general. Here's the pertinent part:

"I hate how the P.C. movement makes people think that they need to dance around everyone’s feelings. To me, the best thing to do is just be reasonable and try to treat people how you want to be treated. The P.C. movement stinks of bigoted people trying to look like they aren’t bigoted by dictating what people can and can’t say or do."
A few anecdotes and general explorations of P.C. issues:

  • Remember back when you could call the descendants of the original peoples of America "Indians"? And now P.C. dictates that you have to call them "Native Americans". (Ok, so then what do you call me? Cause my native land is also America. You can call someone a native Mexican, but you can't call me a native American unless I'm tribal.) Funny thing is, ask the "Native Americans" what they want to be called, and they'll tell you that they don't care whether you say "Indians" or "Native Americans" -- they are both English terms. They prefer to call themselves by their tribal names. So here we are, trying not to hurt the feelings of the Native Americans when in actuality they don't care one way or the other. So whom are we serving in this ridiculous charade?

  • Once when I was in college, I responded to a woman's letter which was printed in the UofU's Daily Utah Chronicle. She was complaining that the school's "Entrepreneur Week" was sexist, because it only used the masculine form of the French word Entrepreneur, and not the feminine form, which is something like Entrepreneusse. (But I don't speak French, so I'm not sure.) I pointed out in my reply letter, which was also published, that she completely overlooked the fact that when we are speaking English, "entrepreneur" is an English word, and in English we don't make a distinction between masculine and feminine for most words. Nobody would have read "Entrepreneur Week" hanging on a banner from the business building and thought, "Hey, why are they not including women in this week's exciting festivities?"

  • A few months ago, Ian and I joined Broy in meeting with a local Atheist group at a coffee shop in town. At one point, a group of people entered the coffee shop, one of whom was very clearly a transgendered woman. Two of the people in the Atheist group proceeded to quietly mock her, and both Ian and I thought it was ironic that we were sitting in a group of people who complain of being persecuted because of their lack of religion, and yet there they were in turn persecuting this woman because she was TG. We were both offended by this display, though we didn't say anything to one another or the two mockers. But then, perhaps due to the sensitivity of the moment, Ian took offense when I leaned over and said, "She's wearing WAY too much make-up." He thought I was likewise mocking, when in fact, I was merely saying something that I would have said about any other woman wearing too much make-up. He should have known better than to think I would mock a transgendered person for being TG. I have transgendered family and friends, and I love them both and have absolutely no problems with them. But when people become sensitive, sometimes they misinterpret the meaning behind the words.

  • In the Harriett Cole advice column, there has been recent discussion about the word "boy" as a derogatory term for black people (I'm sorry, should I be saying African American? No? We abandoned that term? Ok, just trying to stay P.C.). Anyway, in yesterday's column, a woman wrote in saying that when the warehouse she works in was getting a much-needed cleaning, she walked in and said, "Boy, it sure looks great in here!" right in front of a black man sweeping the floor. The man threw down his broom and argued with her about her using the word "boy". Clearly she was just using this term in an exclamatory sense, and not in a derogatory sense. Hell, she wasn't even using it in a noun sense, but more of the sense in which I just used the word "Hell" -- not as the noun it usually represents, but as an expletive.

The point is, I think people ought to focus on the INTENT of words and actions before getting their panties in a twist. People are going to misspeak and hurt people's feelings, and often that will not have been their intention. Of course, there are bigoted bastards out there who do want to hurt people's feelings. Also, I would argue that no one is free from prejudice. I have my prejudices. But on the whole I think most people are decent human beings who just want to live their lives and be able to speak their mind without having people tell them that they are a bigot because they chose a non-P.C. term.

And I'll end with a little linguistics: Words do not have inherent meaning. Thus, no word is inherently good or bad. Meaning is assigned through use, and though there are words that hurt, sometimes words hurt only because the intent of their use is misinterpreted. This is what the P.C. movement ignores completely.

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Sunday, May 4, 2008

Bad advertising... and a weekend of things I love and hate

There's a recent trend in advertising where companies try to downplay the negative aspects of their product or service even though the negative aspect is the product or service itself.

For instance:

Diets don't work.

Weight Watchers does.

Um... last I checked, Weight Watchers was a diet.

Or this one:

It's better than fast food.

It's Wendy's.

Yeah, once again, not really seeing the difference.

Went on a long walk today with Ian. First we walked down to Caffee Niche to get some Niche Quiche, but they were out. So we had open faced breakfast sandwiches instead. As always, they were amazing. And I don't even like eggs.

We forgot to put sunscreen on, though, and my back was facing the sun as we ate our breakfast. So now the part of my shoulders that was not covered by my shirt is bright RED. I hate when that happens. Not only for the skin cancer reasons, but also because it will look stupid when I have darker flesh on part of my shoulders. I'm a pretty (ghostly) white person, though, so maybe the skin won't darken. I can only hope it won't.

I try never to be in the sun long without sunscreen, but I always seem to forget at the beginning of the warm season.

We bought some sunscreen at the dollar store after breakfast, lathered ourselves up, and then walked all the way to Liberty Park. There are a shitload of people at Liberty Park on Sundays. It wasn't as relaxing as the park usually is. But then we walked back up to our apartment, which is up hill the entire way.

So in other words, we earned our amazing dinner of steak, potato salad, pasta salad, green salad, and honey moon ale. I love barbecue season.

We also went to Barnes & Noble so I could spend my $50 gift card which I received from work for secretary's appreciation day. I love being a secretary at a law firm on secretary's appreciation day. I bought the soundtrack for Once (since we saw the Swell Season at the Depot on Friday, and it was swell), and I bought a book of postcards from I like reading other people's secrets, and sometimes seeing parts of myself, but mostly seeing parts of other people that I'm glad are not mine.

Today was a good day. Made up for the fact that we spent our entire Saturday sitting on a couch in Wyoming.

God I hate that state.

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