Friday, July 25, 2008

"There is no reciprocity. Men love women, women love children, children love hamsters." -Alice Thomas Ellis

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Eucalyptus and Harmony

Liz let me borrow her "Eucalyptus and Harmony"-scented Febreze. My first reaction: What does "Harmony" smell like?

Just because it's a noun doesn't mean it smells like anything. It's not like "meatloaf", or "fresh baked cookies", or..."eucalyptus". Harmony is not a scent. Some genius in the marketing department over at Febreze decided that if they put the word 'harmony' on their packaging, it would draw stressed-out Americans in. What perhaps they didn't realize, though, was that they might sell more Febreze with the scent 'harmony' just because curious minds want to know what in God's name 'harmony' actually smells like.

When I'm at the grocery store, looking for cereal, or Febreze, or whatever else, I tend to get easily overwhelmed. Yes, the grocery store can be a source of stress for me. There are so many options for basically the same thing. How do you choose? They all have similar, if not equal, prices, ingredients, etc. But, there are about 400 options for breakfast cereals. Not so many on the Febreze isle, but still. There's lots of variety there, in size and shape of container, as well as about 30 different scents to choose from. So, if I'm walking down the Febreze isle, and staring (as I do) for a few minutes at the array of choices before me, which one am I going to pick? Here's the process I can picture myself taking (as I've done it many times before -- usually without 'harmony'):

I read each individual scent name, and imagine what that might smell like, and how it will change the atmosphere and aroma of my living space, which will soon be receiving a dousing of the stuff. As I'm scanning, I get to "Eucalyptus and Harmony". I stop. I shift my stance. I put a hand to my head, and I think aloud, "What the hell does 'harmony' smell like?!" A customer down the isle (who is equally indecisive and has been staring down the hand soap section for a while) overhears my distressed conversation with the Febreze section and walks over. He picks up the Febreze in question, reads the label, and says to me, "That's bizarre. I didn't think 'harmony' smelled like anything!" Now, I start thinking to myself, so it's not just me. This guy has never smelled 'harmony' before either. Maybe what we think we have experienced as 'harmony' really isn't 'harmony'. Maybe what we thought we were experiencing as harmony is something else entirely, and 'true harmony' has a pleasant and potent smell! The only way to truly know what my life will be like once it smells of 'harmony'? Buy the product! Spritz it in my bedroom, in my living room, kitchen and anywhere else I want to feel 'harmonious'! Rinse and repeat.

It's truly baffling how easy I am for marketing execs to get "into bed with", for lack of a better phrase at this moment. This has got to say something about my personality, right? I am indecisive, yet adventurous; willing to try new things; curious; open-minded,...easily persuaded. Just from that one trip to the Febreze isle in the grocery store, I've learned so much about my own personality. Those guys over at Febreze are good....real good.

Monday, July 21, 2008

"I've changed my mind about them...I don't think they're going to be historically bad anymore."

...says an AL executive about the Baltimore Orioles, during an interview on "The Colbert Report".

Thursday, July 17th, 2008

Another year, another MKS, Inc. I/O Kick-off Event at Camden Yards in Baltimore, MD.
This year, I brought along "The Nicks" (later to be accidentally - in a drunken outburst, or maybe not - changed to "The Dicks") - Nick Haynor and Nick "Kittens" Smith came along to keep me company and enjoy the day with me and my dad and employees of the InterOperability division of MKS. We boarded the bus at about 12 o'clock in the afternoon to head up to Baltimore's gorgeous inner harbor for lunch and to hang out until the game, which began at 7:05 that evening. The bus ride included two coolers full of cold sodas, water and beer, a cardboard box full of individual packages of chips, and 20 soon-to-be-rowdy, excited to have the day off work employees of my dad, my dad, myself, "the Nicks", and Caitlin (GMU student, daughter of Rick - friend and co-worker of Dad).

When we arrived at the inner harbor, the four of us (myself, Caitlin, and "the Nicks") strolled around a bit along the water, siked ourselves up to get a dragon-shaped paddleboat after lunch to spend our afternoon in, and found our way to the M&S Grill for lunch with the MKS crew. After a delicious, yet hot, outdoor lunch with friendly conversation going around the table, we headed out to fetch our dragon boat. When we got to the boathouse, we read the disappointing news: Dragon boats, 3 Adults, 1 Child max. Seeing as how there were 4 of us adults, we skipped the dragon boat and headed for ESPN Zone, where we'd hang for the majority of our down-time prior to the game.

We bought a card to play games with, and Nick and I left Kittens and Caitlin at the air hockey table to go find some beer. When we had finally navigated past the 3 closed bars to find the only one that was open, we learned that they had a very nice beer selection. We each ordered a 25 oz. mug of Magic Hat #9, and headed proudly back upstairs, with our heavy, 6 lb glass mugs of beer. Kittens and Caitlin had strayed from the air hockey table, so we had to search for them a little. We played all sorts of games, from the wave-runner (4-person) race to virtual ping-pong, to hockey, to white water rafting, to basketball. When we'd run out of points on the card (used to play the games), we moved to the bar to finish those beers, and on to the next activity.

We didn't have much time left before our suite opened at the stadium, so we walked across the street to do some shopping, and in the meantime, got assaulted by an "almost homeless" couple. They asked us to buy them a soda and sandwich to share from the McDonald's around the corner. We walked and talked with them for a while, and then realizing that there was no McDonald's in sight, I gave them $8 and said "good luck".
We did our shopping at Filene's Basement and headed back towards the harbor to meet up with Rick and Wendy, to walk to the stadium.

The Orioles played the Detroit Tigers at 7:05. We got to the suite at about 5:45, and watched the Tigers warm up, much to Kittens' delight (he is a big Detroit fan). The suite was packed with appetizers and drinks when we got there, later to be replaced by a buffet dinner including crabcakes, sliders, and shrimp (which weren't discovered until we were leaving). In the box to the right of us, there was a group of people (probably in their 30s) who dared their friend Dave to walk down through the stands to an older (as in 70's or 80's maybe) woman who was sitting alone and keeping score. When he went down and starting talking to her, Dave's friends in the suite beside us began heckling: "Gimme a D - D!, Gimme an A - A!, Gimme a V - V!, Gimme an E- E! What's that spell? Dave!" Dave won the bet...I think. The team's mascot, Oriole bird made an appearance in the next box over; the box with Dave and his friends. It was a great game which ended poorly for the O's, as the Tigers took the lead in the 6th and the Orioles just couldn't make it back. Final score 6-5, Detroit. Towards the end of the game, in a nice touch, a tray of chocolates was brought to our seats to give us a sweet ending to our meal and day.

We boarded the bus again post game, to head back to the office, and the Hyatt hotel, where Wendy was having a slumber party in her room for all the girls at the game. The Nicks and I went home.

It was a great day, a fun escape from the monotony of the middle of the week, and a good opportunity to catch up with old friends and new.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

(Unintentionally) Crashing an Engagement Party

After much debate about which "light-eating" type restaurant we would be patrons of Sunday evening, Andrew and I ended up at Star Thai in Fair Lakes for dinner. **Note: not as "light" as we'd planned** What we didn't realize until we walked through the doors and were greeted by super-friendly Asians was that we had just stumbled into "cute-white-guy" Brian's and "didn't-catch-her-name-Thai-girl"'s engagement party, and that we were the only others (outside the wedding party) who would be dining there that night. In addition to the crowd of Thai people and Brian, there was a live musician (also Thai) performing American love songs of the 70s, 80s and 90s...and "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," to his "fake-back-up band" synthesizer which was blasting out of an amplifier at his feet.

The place was quite a scene. As Andrew put it, "This is like 'My Big Fat Greek Wedding', except more like 'My Little Skinny Thai Wedding'." The Thais were showing off engagement gifts and taking photos of every second so that later in life they could forget they'd ever taken them. Brian looked overwhelmed and a bit terrified. Inevitably, his fiancee would be recapping, in a frame-by-frame account, the night for him on their drive home and probably continue once they had arrived home that evening. Andrew and I recapped the brief piece of what we'd seen of it on our drive home, and it didn't make for bad dinner conversation either.

This morning, I woke up with Rod Stewart's "Have I Told You Lately" stuck in my head, playing like a broken record in my mind. Only, all I could picture was that little Thai man from the night before belting it into the microphone in English-with-a-Thai-accent, while his "band" played back-up. I'll never be able to hear it the same way again.

Monday, July 14, 2008



From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Mamihlapinatapai (sometimes spelled mamihlapinatapei) is a word from the Yaghan language of Tierra del Fuego, listed in The Guinness Book of World Records as the "most succinct word", and is considered one of the hardest words to translate.

It describes a look shared by two people with each wishing that the other will initiate something that both desire but which neither one wants to start. This could perhaps be translated more succinctly as "eye-contact implying 'after you...'". A more literal approximation is "ending up mutually at a loss as to what to do about each other".

The word consists of prefix ma(m)- reflexive/passive (second m before roots beginning with a vowel), root ihlapi (hl pronounced as /ɬ/, though in Yahgan it has also been described as similar to sl) which means to be at a loss as to what to do next, followed by stative suffix -n- and achievement suffix -at(a), and finally dual -apai, which in composition with ma(m)- has a reciprocal sense.


This is why I love language.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Road Rage by Radio

Have you ever listened to a song and felt as though the singer were singing about recent events in your life, or exactly how you feel, like you can relate to what they're saying at that moment perfectly?

This morning, during my commute, the song "Natural Woman" came on the radio, and I was listening, and I mean really listening to what Aretha Franklin was saying through her song. It was drizzling a little outside when the song began,

Looking out on the morning rain,
I used to feel so uninspired.
And when I knew I had to face another day,
Lord, it made me feel so tired.

So far, she's captured my precise mood. This is the point where I start singing along.

Before the day I met you,
Life was so unkind,
But you're the key to my peace of mind,
Cause you make me feel, you make me feel, you make me feel like a natural woman!

By this point, I'm so completely absorbed in the song and my own singing that I have no clue who "you" are that makes me (or Aretha) feel like a natural woman, but damn it, I do. And I feel great!

When the song ends, the DJ starts talking about the history of something or other, and then about the weather, and then, with no warning whatsoever, he breaks that beautiful moment of zen that is running through this natural woman when he hits me with the next song on his playlist: "She Hates Me" by Puddle of Mudd.

Now, nothing against Puddle of Mudd, and nothing against the song (it happens to be one of my favorites, if I'm in the right mind-set), but come ON.
I should become a disk jockey. I could take the position at that radio station after Mr. "Good-Mood-Killer" gets laid off for making happy people feel like shit. And then I could devote my life's work to NOT destroying normal peoples' lives by killing the incredible vibes they get from good, happy, inspirational, life-changing music which is only so because I've played it through radio waves for them to hear as they sit in bumper-to-bumper traffic in their own personal "American Idol" audition room, where they're their own judge and they're moving on to Hollywood!

On the other side of my driver's side window, inside that blue Prius, there was probably a man glaring at my gas-guzzling SUV, judging me for killing "his" precious environment before reminding himself that it's ok, because he's voting for Barack Obama, and that once Obama wins, global warming and all of our country's environmental and economic problems will somehow magically disappear. That guy; that angry, disillusioned Democrat in his little hybrid vehicle, which despite the fact that he thinks is helping the environment, it's still doing the same thing that my big ass SUV is (just on a smaller scale); I'll bet he was pretty siked when "She Hates Me" started playing. I'll bet he was singing along by the third line, and shooting me glares while he screamed at the windows between he and I, "She fucking hates me!"

And you know what? He's absolutely right. I do. So thanks, Mr. "Good-Mood-Killer" DJ guy. You've just sparked a bit of road rage, which although not acted upon, could've ended badly if I were a pure Republican with a shotgun on my passenger seat.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Playing Black and White

College Essay (Sept 2004)

The warm rays from the spotlight are filtering down through the dust particles to brush my right arm, cheek and ear. I can feel the suddenness of the pupil of my right eye contracting when the bright light reaches it. Room quiet, heart pulsing, and adrenaline rushing, my hands float up toward the black lacquer encased instrument. My arms tense as I bravely take the upbeat and bring my hands down violently to make my first note. The audience shudders at the unexpected burst of sound coming from the stage. My fingers dance over the black and white ivory keys, taking unexpected turns and leaping over one another. They play this game each time I sit on this flat black bench; a race to the finish. Pulling my entire body with them, my hands run up and down the eighty-eight keys to hammer the strings, which only I can see clearly. My heart beats out the tempo of the music, giving my foot no need to tap. Instead, it takes a different path from beneath the bench, emphasizing the importance of certain sounds.

With each sound, the notes become sensory memories evoked within me and my audience. A series of chords come crashing down the keyboard and flash a brief vision of my mother’s near fatal brain aneurism, when, as the chords, my life came crashing down around me. My mind flickers to times of hope, prayer and family unity that I experienced during those four long months and my eyes tear up. Each audience member has his own memoir which comes to mind at one particular sound that my hands methodically and rhythmically create.

The music continues to move forward, and although my hands never slow down, the violent thrusts with which my body moved before have become gentle, gliding phrases of soft, peaceful melodies and harmonies. Again, a memory is awakened. I am lying on my back in the grass, just as the sun has fallen from the sky. Staring up at the infinite number of stars in the universe, this easy feeling rushes through me as the faithful canine friend beside me has fallen asleep. I close my eyes and breathe in deeply, taking in the aroma of fresh cut grass and pollen of springtime. When I open my eyes again, the smell dissipates, and I am back in the spotlight, dancing for the entire world to see on my stage.

Suddenly, the tone changes again, and my left hand leaps blindly, risking hitting a wrong note, but sets down firmly upon the correct keys. The many hours of practice spent at this very spot have prepared me for that leap today. My mind wanders to my short-lived career as a campaign manager for a friend who was running for secretary of the student government at my elementary school. Instead of a speech, I wrote a song about her, and sang it a capella in front of the entire student body. As I return to the piano, my stomach muscles remain tense from reliving that nervousness, and the corners of my mouth creep up towards my eyes at the fond memory. The audience feels the nervous shock of it, as the piece draws to a close. My hands roll off of the keys one last time in a circular motion. Silence begins to steal back into the room as my hands descend into my lap, but the audience tries to catch the sounds before they wisp away like a thin fog. In a moment, the room is on its feet, hands waving in the air, and a resounding “thanks” is given from the applause which responds to my performance.

I stand up, and my black dress slinks down as it hangs from my shoulders towards my feet, the folds changing direction. I slowly move one foot behind the other and bend from the waist, acknowledging the “thanks” with a simple “you’re welcome”. Hearing the gratitude in their closed lips and open arms, I silently make thanks of my own to my parents for enticing me to attend my first piano lesson, and buying me the piano which has become my favorite listener. I awake from the daydream to find myself in my own living room, sitting at my own piano, with an audience of stars listening and twinkling outside the bay windows.

Some Days You're the Bug, Some Days You're the Windshield

Beginning Thursday, June 26, 2008 through Monday July 1, I house/dog-sat for a co-worker at Updata (her name is Karen). The house was about 20 min North of Leesburg, in a fairly new neighborhood, of mostly farmland - very flat, large empty spaces, etc. Karen has three bichon-frises. I took on this responsibility knowing that I'd be alone in this house for 3 nights and 4 days, and that I wouldn't be seeing much of my friends or family in that time.

Thursday morning, I got up, packed a bag and went to work. When I got to work, I realized that I'd forgotten my cell phone charger at home, so decided that I would drive home to get it before heading out to Karen's house that night. I left work that evening at the usual time, met Dad for a sushi dinner, drove back home to get my charger and then began the hour and a half trip out to Karen and Chris' house. I fed the dogs, got myself acquainted with the house, put on my pajamas, locked up for the night, and got comfy. Then, I called Karen to let her know that everything was good and to tell her the progress that the workers had made on the deck they are installing behind their house. Karen asked me to take some dog treats outside, just to make sure that the dogs were using their dog-door, which opened onto the brand new decking. The dogs had never used this deck before, so Karen was unsure whether they would know how and be comfortable with using it. So, I slipped on my flip-flops and walked out the garage door with some treats, around the side of the house and onto the new decking. I tried to get the dogs to come out through the dog door, but they were scared. I pulled one of the dogs through the door, by force, to show him that it was safe. After that, he was gleefully running in and out of the door, as if to show off his new "trick". The other two remained inside. I walked back around the house, got one of the dogs from inside, and tried to show her from outside that she could get back in through the dog door. She got back in, and stayed there. I stayed outside.

I had locked the garage door behind me when I walked outside with the treats. Now, I was locked out, in my pajamas, at 10:30 at night, in a place I didn't know, with no cell phone, no car keys,...nothing. I looked around the neighborhood for a house with lights on, but there was none. So I walked to the nearest neighbor's house and knocked on the front door. I woke up Nazima and her two sons, who were 14 and 11 years old. I told them the situation, and asked if they had Karen's cell phone number, but the people in this neighborhood are not friendly with each other. They didn't have Karen's phone number. Nazima sent the boys back to the house with me to look for an open door or window, and to see if her 11-year old could fit through the dog-door at Karen's house. He didn't, and there were no open doors or windows. We walked back to Nazima's house, where I used the phone to call a locksmith. The locksmith told me he'd be there in 25 minutes. Three hours later, he was still not there, and as we found out later, had no intention of ever coming. Dad came out and waited with me for the locksmith, and finally, when we had given up, he took me back to his house to sleep for what was left of the night, so that we could handle this in the morning.

The following morning, I got up and called my office. Heather (the receptionist) gave me Karen's cell phone number. I told Heather I wouldn't be in on time, and explained the situation, and then I called Karen. I told Karen what had happened, and had her call her dog-walker, who had a key, thinking she could let me back into the house. The dog-walker did not answer the phone. Plan B: Karen called her friend Stacy, who had a spare house key, but was on vacation. Stacy's mother was staying at her house, and would give me the key if I stopped by. Dad drove me out to Stacy's house, where her mother, Dory, gave me the spare key, following which Dad drove me back to Karen's house and I was able to get into the house. By this time, it was nearly 12:30pm. Dad had missed his morning appointments to help me, and I was very late for work.

I showered, got dressed, met the dog-walker, who showed up at about 1:00. I got to work by 2, to lots of laughter from those who hadn't needed my help that day, and lots of annoyance from those who had. I will never live this one down at the office nor with my dad, who had been my life-saver once again.

Some first night, huh? The rest of the weekend was relatively less eventful, and went much smoother.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Music & Lyrics

Here are some lyrics that I'm working on putting some music to. I wrote this a little over a year ago, but the music is just starting to come now. Maybe by the end of this summer, I'll be able to post the whole thing, music and lyrics.

This one's called
"Where did the nothingness go?"

Years and years,
meaningless chit-chat over coffee and cake
It meant so much, even though it was nothing
It gave us hope, companionship, made us think we were "normal" kids
Since we had nothing real to say.

There is too much to say
We keep it bottled up because
If it is audible, it will be real.
Things we never wanted to see,
didn't expect, or maybe we did.

She was just 18.
Went off to college with big dreams
Found alcohol, drugs to fill her empty, lonely heart
Jumped off a bridge when they weren't killing her fast enough.

There is too much to say
We keep it in because
Once we speak it, it will be real.
Things we never wanted to see,
didn't expect, or maybe we did.

After 30 years of marriage,
2 children born and raised,
3 houses made homes, and they can't go on.
They separate, a family torn apart.

Father moves away,
Son avoids it all
Mother is angry, hates a man she's claimed to love for so long
Daughter is broken, unhappy, alone.

There is too much to say
We keep it all inside
We don't want it to be real.
Things we never wanted to see,
didn't expect, or maybe we did.

We wake up, another day, go to work, go to class, go back to bed.
Someone else had different thoughts for this day, has been scheming.
Thinks by hurting someone else, he can hurt less himself.
But, it's not a "hot potato" game.
Pain is a parasite that spreads, grows, consumes.

There is too much to say
We keep it within ourselves,
to hold back reality, to stop the truth from being true.
Things we never wanted to see,
didn't expect, or maybe we did.

Where did the nothingness go?