Tuesday, April 21, 2009

My New Roo!

I'd been waiting to talk about my new car until I had some pictures. Well, I finally finished the roll, took it to the lab, and got my prints today. Yes, that's correct. These pictures were shot on film, on a Canon F-1 35 mm SLR circa 1971, to be specific. I'll post some other pictures from my first roll soon. For now, let's get down to business.

2006 Subaru Impreza 2.5i

  • 4 doors
  • 4 wheel drive
  • 5 speed manual transmission
  • 4 cylinder boxer engine
  • 173 hp
  • 3016 lbs
I fell in love with it last Tuesday, and drove it off the lot last Thursday. It's the first car I've taken out a loan on, but I had to have it. It's pretty much exactly what I wanted: a perfect blend of a grown-up car and a ridiculous high school boy racer. It's a frickin' blast to drive. Finally I'm back in a car with a real gearbox. I've wanted one of those back nearly every day for the last two years.

Subarus have quite a rally racing pedigree (that's racing road cars on loose dirt and gravel roads in the mountains and stuff), hence the 4WD. I really want to get it out in some snow, but unfortunately I think it's all behind us this year, so I might have to settle for a big flat field of mud if I can find one.

Despite what the "Outback" commercials and this post's title may have led you to believe, Subarus are Japanese, not Australian, and have proven to be quite reliable, so I hope to enjoy this car for many years to come.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Say What? – Specimen 3

  • Location of Discovery: online car forum
  • Context: story about being pulled over for no apparent reason
  • Required Background: basic spelling and grammar

"After 5 minutes of bickering back and forth the officer after my refusal to search my car just out of shear president."

  • My Immediate Reaction: laughter
  • Analysis: "Shear President" must be a hair salon in Washington, D.C.. Salons love puns. Also, while a capital letter and a period earn bonus English points on the internet, it helps if there is some sort of decipherable sentence structure in between.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Regularly scheduled programming will resume shortly.

Look, I'm so sorry. I knew I wasn't going to be able to keep up with Crappy Poem of the Day. It will return, I promise. I've just been super busy with car hunting since I smashed my last one. Luckily the hunt is over now. I've paid my down payment, and I'm going to pick up my new car after work today. It's awesome. I'll tell you more about it soon, and hopefully resume blogging as usual soon after that.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Life Experiences

Sometimes I wonder whether I'm a little too obsessed with collecting major life experiences, whether good or bad. When something interesting happens to me, I often say, "Well, now I can say I've done that," even if the experience was sort of terrible.

Well, now I can say I've spun my car through several consecutive 360's down the highway and smashed into the barrier wall. I've had an airbag deploy in my face. I've sat in a state trooper's car.

I have NOT ridden in an ambulance in serious or critical condition. I'm completely fine. I didn't hit the wall very hard, probably just barely enough to total the car.

~ ~ ~

So, here's how it went down: It all started last week. I was at lunch with my coworker Jake, and he said, "Glad we only have a four day week next week."


"Yeah, we get Good Friday off."


This was fantastic news. I was planning to drive to K-State this Friday night to see my beautiful girlfriend Dani – who I haven't been able to see for almost three weeks now – but now I had the perfect opportunity to surprise her by showing up a day early. Every day since then, I couldn't wait for Thursday, when I would show up at her house and she would freak out. It was gonna be great.

So last night after work, I went home, packed, ate some dinner, and headed west at about seven. It was kind of rainy, which made me happy because it looked like a thunderstorm was brewing, and I've been waiting for a good spring Kansas thunderstorm. I usually hurtle around the ramp from 435 North to 70 West, but took it nice and slow, because it was wet and slippery. I didn't want to end up in a ditch. So then I was cruising happily along, headed west on 70, past the "Last Free Exit" to K-7, listening to NPR, enjoying the rain, going about 65, when I hit a little puddle.

[Shift to present tense!]

My car starts to slide sideways. Oh Shit. Hydroplaning. I've recovered from these before. Gently correct it.

Still spinning. Oh Shit. Not getting out of this one.

Still spinning, going backwards. This is really bad. Oh shit, I could die.

Still spinning. Wait a second, I'm still spinning straight down the highway. I might not even hit anything. Please stop. Please don't hit anything.

Still spinning. Damn it, that's the median barrier wall. I'm gonna hit it. Okay. Brace for impact. Back against the seat, head on the headrest.

BAM! Oh, that wasn't that bad. I didn't hit very hard. I think I'm fine. I'm still spinning, though. My car's full of smoke. Why is that? It it from the tires? No, how would it get inside the car? The brakes? No.

Still spinning. Oh, there's an airbag in my lap. That's what the smoke is.

The car finally stops. Thank God. Okay. I think I'm okay. Oh geez, I'm sitting sideways in the left lane of the highway. I don't think my car can drive. Do I get out? Traffic is coming from the passenger side. I'm probably safest sitting in the seat, not standing where the car could plow over me if it gets hit. I'll stay here till there's a break in the traffic.

Cars whiz by, then both lanes stop. I put the car in neutral, jump out, push it across the highway, then let go and watch it roll off and land in the ditch, its nose coming to rest softly in the dirt. Traffic resumes. No one stops or rolls down their window to ask if I'm okay. Wow, people are assholes.

I jump back in the car; it's still cold and rainy outside. Airbag smoke smells terrible.

I roll down the windows. Rain is blowing into my car. Well, so much for seeing the look of sheer joy and excitement on Dani's face when I surprise her. Now the surprise will elicit only a tone of shock and concern on the phone. That sucks.

I probably won't make it to Manhattan tonight, either. That sucks a lot.

I wait a minute for the smoke to clear out, then roll the windows back up. I start calling my family. They're all in a Maundy Thursday church service, not answering their phones. Great. I start calling them one after the other: Mom, Susanna, Dad. Wait a minute for one of them to call back. Call again: Mom, Susanna, Dad. Finally after about the fifth round of calls, my Dad picks up. I tell him I'm fine, but my car's probably totaled. He asks if I've called the number on the roadside assistance sticker that Mom gave me last week. I laugh, and tell him it's still on my desk at home. He finds the number for me to call. I call, and get stuck in one of those terrible phone menus at the insurance company, giving me a bunch of useless options about servicing claims. I don't want to file a claim right now. I want to go home.

Finally I get someone on the phone, and as soon as I start to talk to them, the state trooper pulls up. "Can I see your license and proof of insurance, please?" Really? That's still the first thing they ask when your car is smashed up and in a ditch?

I tell the insurance guy to hang on a second. Officer Petigna tells me he'll call the tow truck. Insurance companies take too long, and want too much information first. Okay. Thanks. I was fed up with the insurance company already.

I get my papers, put on my coat, walk up out of the ditch, and hop into the trooper's car on the shoulder of the highway. Officer Petigna is really nice, it turns out. We talk for an hour about K-State while we wait for the tow truck. His daughter is thinking about going there, but he's never had a chance to visit, so he asks me all about it.

The tow truck arrives. I thank Officer Petigna, and get out of his car and into the tow truck. The driver, Michael, is really nice. His wife is going to school to become a trauma nurse. Michael used to work as a volunteer fireman. He's seen a lot of people die, including his dad. His dad was a fireman too, but died at home of a heart attack. "After seeing my dad die, nothing can really upset me anymore." Interesting take.

DAMN IT! I've had my portable recorder and microphone this whole time. I should have been documenting this entire experience.

We get to the tow lot, I get my bags out of my car, thank Michael, and get in my mom's minivan. My dad and my sister are there, too. They're glad I'm okay. They brought me a bottle of chocolate milk. Thanks guys.

~ ~ ~

An excerpt from my Life Experience Checklist:
  • Hear my voice on the radio – Check.
  • Jump out of an airplane – Check.
  • Rush the field at a football game – Check.
  • Rush the court at a basketball game – Check.
  • Hang out in a police car (front seat) – Check.
  • Be in a high-speed crash – Check.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Food Smell: Mmm, Mmm, Gross.

The smell of food before I have eaten: delicious.
The smell of the same food after I'm done eating: nauseating.
It's a strange phenomenon.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Crappy Poem of the Day #012

Looking for a flat
First must pick a neighborhood
No clue what I want

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


There was an article in The New York Times on Sunday that left me steaming. It was about how big investors are frowning on Pixar's upcoming movie, "Up". They're worried that it doesn't have enough commercial appeal. They anxiously note the sparse dialogue, pudgy male lead, lack of a female lead, basically anything that distinguishes it from the rest of today's lowest-common-denominator, mass-market, animated kids' movies. Further, these critics moan that Pixar's last two releases, "Wall-E" and "Ratatouille", have been Pixar's worst performers because their premises have been too obtuse. Those films made a piddly $224 MILLION and $216 MILLION dollars, respectively. Aww, how pathetic.

Now, I have no doubt that Pixar could make more money by making "The Incredibles" over and over and over again. Americans are stupid. They forget that they've seen the same movie a hundred times. They want to see it again. They want to watch cars with huge cartoon eyeballs, then their kids want shoes shaped like said cartoon cars. And there's nothing wrong with that. I understand that cars with cartoon eyeballs are more fascinating to kids than a grumpy old man in a house with some balloons on it.

My problem is that the people who run big business in this country have no respect for art, craft, beauty, progress, integrity, or anything else if there's a penny more to be made by tossing those values aside. How the hell are we supposed to develop as human beings if we just do the same thing over and over, merely because new things are scary and people are more hesitant to buy them?

I decided a long time ago that as an engineer, I wanted to design the coolest, most innovative gadgets and gizmos. The second that I realize I'm designing cheap knockoffs or products that will just barely work until they're out of warranty, because that's how the company can make the most money, I'm looking for a new job.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Do The Right Thing

This movie has been on my "need to watch" list for a long time, but always lurking near the bottom; probably because it's an '80s movie, I'd never heard about it from any of my friends, and it's about race relations, which is just not something I'm super interested in. Please don't take that the wrong way; I'm just saying I'd usually pick "action" or "comedy" or "sci-fi" over "race relations" as a genre.

Well, I just finished watching it, and it's the best movie I've seen in a long time. Probably the best race relations movie I've ever seen. As far as cultural relevance goes, I'm sure it's lost a lot in the twenty years [yikes!] since its release – I don't think black people listen to Public Enemy* as much anymore – but whether or not this movie does anything to help black people and white people get along today, it's still a cinematic masterpiece. It's funny and poignant, the writing and directing are brilliant and gorgeous respectively, and the movie is bursting at the seams with all kinds of energy: joy, love, anger, and hate.

Please, please, if you are twenty years behind the times like me and haven't seen this movie yet, go rent it. Grit your teeth through the painfully long, painfully 1989 opening credits, then enjoy a two-hour snapshot of humanity in its simultaneous beauty and horror.

* My most relevant 30 Rock link ever! If you don't understand the reference, click here.

Sappy Poem of the Day #011

My dear Dani Lou,
Fifteen days I've missed you, Love.
Just four more to go.

Sunday, April 5, 2009


At the beginning of the year, I decided to start a project. This year, I am going to record four stories for radio and submit them to This American Life.

It's April. That means a quarter of the year is over. And that's fine. I didn't expect to complete one story per quarter. I've never done this before; it's going to take me a while to get started. Here's the problem: I haven't started. At all. In January I was scribbling down ideas for possible subjects but none of them are any good, at least for the type of story used on TAL. Most of my ideas are more like news stories, not narratives.

I have some serious writer's block, or recorder's block, or documentarian's block; I don't know what you call it in radio. After reading advice from Ira Glass and many other brilliant radio personalities on Transom.org, it seems that there are many ways that radio stories can be born. Unfortunately, I'm having a hard time making any of these strategies work. I know it will get easier after my first time, but at the moment I feel like it's impossible. Here are my strategies for getting started, and why I haven't been able to move forward with any of them:

Brainstorm for a topic.
I can't think of any good story ideas, at least not narrative ones. This American Life is all about narrative. The only ideas I can seem to come up with are more like news stories or essay topics. I don't know how this method even works for narrative. Do you invent a story and then somehow find someone who has had that experience? How the heck do you find them?

Interview someone with a good story to tell.
I can't think of anyone who has a story that lots of people would want to hear. Now I know that this is a fault of my own. I know that I know lots of people with really compelling stories to tell, I just can't think of who they are, or what the stories are. If anyone can help me out with this, I'm open to suggestions.

Just roll tape on anything that talks.
I think that this might be the easiest way for me to get started. I think if I'm just in the mindset of recording audio, I could get inspired pretty quickly and record at least enough material for a very short story. I love editing audio, so I'd have no problem cutting four good minutes from several hours of audio.

Unfortunately, this is still going to prove extremely difficult for me. I think a lot of people are freaked out by the sight of a microphone, and since I'm a shy and non-confrontational person, the last thing I want to do is force someone else to be uncomfortable by shoving a microphone in their face – especially if I don't really have a good reason for doing it. That feels really creepy. I'm not always the best at making conversation, so things could get awkward really fast if I don't have any prepared questions.

I have the same problem with photography. I generally hate posed pictures of people. Candid shots are way more fascinating to me, but I feel like a creep just taking pictures of people for no reason, even if I know them. I really want to, but I just get so uncomfortable doing it, so I never do. None of my good photos are of people, because I can't shoot them.

~ ~ ~

The problem with these road blocks is that I don't know whether I'm supposed to go over or around them. Are there other, better ways to find stories, or do I just need to conquer my fears and start rolling tape, and make thousands of mistakes? I don't know. I wish I had a radio mentor, someone who could guide me through my first steps. I know that once I get started, I can do it. I just have to figure out how to stand up before I can take those first steps, and I can't seem to muster the strength to do that.

Crappy Poem of the Day #010

The mailbox is somewhat outdated,
Yet also it's quite underrated.
Each day I check it,
Always expectant
For parcels, and often I'm sated.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Crappy Poem of the Day #009

Oh crap, it's the fourth.
Missed the poetry deadline.
Two poems today.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Dreams, Metaphysics, Cats, Tanzania

It's shocking how real dreams feel. I mean really shocking. I had a dream last night that felt like it took place over several hours, and the whole time I thought it was real life. It felt exactly like real life. Every sight, touch, and emotion felt completely authentic, even if the surrounding circumstances were completely dream-like and ridiculous. But suddenly, I woke up and was genuinely startled to realize I was only dreaming.

The fact that our brains can create realities that are so vivid but completely imagined is a little scary. Even before the movie existed, I've pondered more than once whether we really do live in The Matrix Рnot that we're all human batteries being cultivated by a race of robots, but whether I'm just a brain (maybe not even a brain) in a jar somewhere, with an artificial reality being pumped into me. Maybe the people I think are all around me don't even exist. Maybe it's just me and the mad scientist controlling my reality, and that's all there is in the universe. Maybe nothing in my world exists outside of my direct experience Рlike a messed up metaphysical Schr̦dinger's Cat experiment. When my officemate walks out the door, and the sounds of his footsteps fade away, how do I know he doesn't just disappear to save processing power in the computer that's feeding my brain? How do I know that the evening news is even real, and that Tanzania even exists? I've never seen Tanzania, have you? Oh, you have? How do I know that's not just a pre-programmed memory? How do I know you are a real person, and not a character written into my world to convince me that my world is real because you've been to Tanzania?

I know I'm opening up like seventeen different cans of worms here: conspiracy theories, metaphysics, physics, religion, philosophy, etc., but I don't really believe all that stuff. It's just bizarre to imagine. It squeezes the juice out of my mind grapes.

While I'm on the subject of mind-bending metaphysics, have you ever imagined what it would be like to completely cease to exist? I mean not just think about it in an abstract sense – really try to imagine it. It's not just poof, the world is gone, and you're floating in blackness. It's poof, you're gone. You don't remember your life, you don't have anymore thoughts. The End. Stop reading this for fifteen seconds, and try to imagine it. Scary, huh? I don't know how atheists can stomach the thought of death. If I didn't believe in eternal life, I'd have to believe in reincarnation. Living then dying and ceasing to exist is far too pointless for me to embrace.

Well, that was way deeper than what I originally intended. Oops. Here, this should help.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Crappy Poem of the Day #008

My room is a mess.
I think I'll have a cigar.
Clean it tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Crappy Poem of the Day #007

Joss Whedon's hilariously witty.
His shows almost never are shitty.
With nerds they're replete,
But his nerds are so sweet,
And his actresses so often pretty.