I Like To Moob It, Moob It

I awoke to find this article in my Facebook feed this morning:

http://www.queerty.com/what-real-men-look-like-in-underwear-ads-20130919/

When I see articles like this, articles calling bullshit on the media and how it treats men’s bodies, I pretty much always think two things, in this order:

1. “Mwahaha, it’s about time men were made to feel self-conscious, the way that we women have been made to feel self-conscious since FOREVER.”

2. “Dude, dick move. The answer is that no one should be made to crappy. Not for everyone to feel crappy.”

As I looked through the article above, I started to understand how (almost) every guy on Earth feels when he looks at women and compares them to women he sees on TV. I thought “yeah, models are lovely, but those other guys? They look like nice guys. And I really, sincerely don’t care that they’re not all cut and musclely.”

Guys, we’re not just saying that we don’t care if you have a little moob happening. We really, sincerely don’t care. We just want you to act right, be nice to us, call when you say you’re going to call, not play with your phone at the dinner table, and talk to us. At the end of the day, we would rather you watch a movie with us than be like “sorry, babe, have to go put in 4 hours at the gym.”

Yep, 6-packs are hot, but so are dudes who will share a 6-pack with you while the two of you play video games.

Me vs. Dirt, Part 1

There is something about having sore shoulder muscles that can make one feel especially broken, like you’ve been in a car wreck or had a bad turn at one of the bungie jumping things they have at big malls. Luckily, I do not feel all broken today because I was in a car wreck. I feel broken because I went toe to toe went mother nature yesterday and she won the battle.

I tried this once before, a couple of years ago, only to find that I just don’t weigh enough to get a shovel through unbroken ground. My boyfriend at the time ended up having pity on me and (after I bitched at him outright) busted both beds out in about 20 minutes of anger-filled digging. Now that my irises have gotten totally out of control and I’ve decided that monkey grass just looks like weeds, it’s time to expand.

“I’ll get a little tiller! That will make it easy!”

OK, it didn’t make the process easy. It just made the process POSSIBLE. That poor tiller jumped around, hopping about until I mastered some sort of technique, ripping through 70 years of weeds, bush roots, and some broken glass from when the front window got smashed while the house sat on the market for nine months. It only clogged once, choking on weeds and too-wet dirt until the blades locked up, a burning electrical smell began, and I was forced to unplug the tiller and clean it out with a pair of pruning shears and a long fork-like tool that I’m guessing is for cutting roots. The new bed is roughly 27 square feet and needs to be about 4-6 inches deep.

Then it was time to remove mother earth’s dirt and get a flat bottom on the beds. Far as I know, “the way” to do this is do get down and scrape at the bottom with a flat-edged shovel. Thing is, that job is almost completely fueled by body weight and upper body strength, aka “two things I’m not so great with.” After half an hour of scraping and shoveling out dirt, I was done. A steady stream of sweat was pouring out of my work gloves, and sweat was running into my eyes. It was only 11:00, and I was exhausted.

When I woke up to pee at 3am this morning, every muscle in my back screamed. In an effort to turn this into a leg-muscle game (a game I can win), I’m going to get a hoe after work. Dig it in, pull with legs, repeat. Mother nature will not win this one. We will not be calling in the mothers and boyfriends. It’s you and me, dirt, and I’m moving these damned irises.

I have resolved to spend an hour and a half out there each night after work, considering this my gym time, until the new bed is finished and planted and the old beds are de-monkey-grassed and mulched.

Roots

I have always thought myself good at nesting. No, obsessive about nesting. Moving around a lot as a kid turned me into one of those people who can’t go to bed after moving into a new place until at least the bedroom is put together. Pictures don’t have to be on the walls, but things do have to be put away and the room has to be box-free. I want to wake up knowing that I’m home and not having the scary “where AM I?” feeling, only to realize that where I am is my new home.

With that said, after over 5 years in my house, some rooms still feel unfinished. The living room has mocked me for years: at first, it just wasn’t a priority. Then, there wasn’t much I could do because there was no money. Now, there’s money, but I can’t seem to find the motivation to pull the trigger.

I shopped for a couch for 4 months. Leather is good with cat claws and cat hair, but leather is expensive. A good leather couch will stand up to cat claws, but should I (as a still-single lady) really think about spending 3 grand on a couch I may get rid of if I move in with someone? And who says I even need a stupid couch anyway? When did I start letting Martha Stewart-esque rules of middle-class living dictate how I should live?

I’d been thinking that not having a comfy living room was the reason I didn’t have people over more often. Then I thought “hell, if they came over, there would be nothing to do. And I hope they like salad cause I can’t cook anything.” My house is just built for single life, top to bottom, as I have never been one who “entertains.” Entertaining makes me nervous, and all of my friends have comfy living rooms. I have learned to cook a few things, but they’re all vegetarian. It’s hard to lure friends to your house with the promise of butternut squash on a bed of quinoa.

After buying a nice area rug and moving around some furniture, I called a temporary truce with the couch situation and spent the couch money on something I actually DO care about: an Xbox and a giant TV. Every time I think about that couch, it feels like a symbol. It makes me feel encumbered, as though I’d finally own something big enough that I couldn’t just pick up and go if someone offered me a job in Europe or something.

This is completely silly, though. I have two cats, a piano, a number of huge pieces of furniture, a room full of clothing…and A HOUSE. I have put down roots despite myself. Some of the roots are even literal: if Google Street View was more on the ball, it would show a year-by-year progression of my front flower beds, getting bigger and more colorful as I got older and started caring about things like watering plants and when one should split irises. In the fall, I will add “tiller” to my list of possessions. I have jumped the shark.

Still, I wonder if the lack of couch makes my house unwelcoming to visitors. If it makes my house seem like one of those houses where no one really lives and you shouldn’t touch anything. Asking someone if your house feels welcoming is a bit like asking someone if your house smells like cat pee: people will grade on the curve to spare your feelings, but only your mother will say “well, it’s more the poop that’s an issue…”

I bought an automatic cat box to fix the poop smell.

Maybe there’s a reason why mom keeps asking if I’ve found a nice couch.

Adventures in Cat Poo, Part 273

All of this was well and good when I just had one cat. Puss and I had settled into a reasonably agreeable system: get some decent yet cheap non-clumping cat litter and dump the entire box once a week. OK, it was horrible for the environment, but don’t tell Greenpeace. I mean, we’d had some dalliances with me trying to teach him to use the toilet, but he was too old by the time I was brave enough to try (aka “living in a place with no carpet”) and I eventually gave up after having my bathmat violated multiple times. Yes, I got rid of the bathmat. Gross.

Then Sterling joined the family. Between the old cat peeing a lot and the young cat pooping a lot, my house slowly descended into “too scared to have people over because I suspect it smells like pee in here” territory. I tried the toilet training thing again, to no avail. Sterling was oblivious to the toilet rim because ti was 6 inches about eye level Puss’s aim was so bad he just ended up peeing on the floor a lot.

Enter technology. And Googling. And reading tons of reviews. And then, the Cat Genie.

Cat Genie looks like the result of a littler box and a toilet having a kid: it’s filled with washable plastic beads and gets robotically scooped and rinsed every time the cat uses it. A scoop comes down and puts the poo down a chute, then the bowl fills with sanitizing solution, drains, and hot air dries everything to be ready for another use. The whole process takes about half an hour. The water comes from putting a splitter on either the laundry or toilet line and the waste goes down either the washing machine “out” pipe or goes into the toilet bowl. Since my litter box room is in the laundry room / half bath, I figured that this would be perfect and hooked that sucker up to the laundry line.

But would the boys USE it?

The plan: keep the old box available, but stop cleaning it. According to Cat Genie’s copious literature, eventually the standoff will end when one of the cats breaks down and tries the Genie. Prefering a clean but spooky box to a safe but gross one, the cats will switch. In theory.

After two days of noticing paw prints in the plastic beads but no waste, there was a tiny victory. I awoke to find poo in the Genie. Praise all around, and a cleaning cycle! (The Genie has an auto function that runs 10 minutes after the cat uses it, but you’re told to leave the Genie on “manual start” at first so you can monitor the cats’ progress.)

And so, readers, here we go again. Another attempt at a life that does not involve a box of poop sitting in my home. Say a prayer.

YouTube Video of a cleaning cycle:

Term Papers for Algernon

I have just finished writing my first paper for an online psychology class I’m taking, and I’ve had a couple of rather unsettling realizations. The assignment was to pick a topic from current events and then relate it back to some concept from psychology. I ended up writing my paper about the kerfuffle that happened after the Microsoft presentation at the E3 conference, relating it to concepts of mimicry and conformity. In the interest of staying on-topic, I’ll spare you the contents of my paper and get to why I found this assignment a little more daunting than a page-long paper for an online, non-credited, if-you-fail-this-it-totally-doesn’t-matter class really ought to be.

Current Events?
I am a bad American. I don’t watch the news regularly or read the paper. Granted, I have subscriptions to both The Atlantic and Psychology Today, but The Atlantic is largely geared toward shit-stirring issues like gender equality or neo-conservativism and Psychology Today consists mainly of puffy pop-psychology about how to spot a sociopath or toxic friend. Legitimate science : Vogue :: Psychology Today : Cosmo.

I used to listen to NPR’s hourly newscasts, but those quickly because incredibly depressing. It seems like everybody (NPR not included) is either sexing up the news to make it more entertaining or participating in not-so-subtle axe grinding. Thus, I walk away, figuring that the really big stories will show up in conversation or Facebook feeds. Hell, at least I found out about the tornadoes in Oklahoma. It’s not that I don’t read; it’s just that I prefer to spend my reading time reading books about psychology. That is, whenever I’m not being expected to read a textbook about C# or Oracle. Look, at least I’m not on the treadmill reading about Kardashians or looking through magazines for things I can want to buy. Right?

Combining Ideas?
I think working online is breaking my brain, and being a web developer isn’t helping too much, either. When this assignment asked me to take one idea (the current event) and apply other ideas to it (the psychology concepts), my brain locked up for a while. It felt like I was asking it to do something that I hadn’t done since 2000, and that may be true. Sure, I’ve been in school almost non-stop since I graduated with that business degree in 2000, but it’s been a different KIND of school. Art school rarely requires paper writing and, when it does, the bar is set pretty low. You’re not asked to come up with scholarly English, you’re asked to come up with something remotely coherent. The bar in web development school is even lower: the two papers I’ve been asked to write in the entire Associate Degree program have both been a page or less (double spaced!) and the expectation has been to simply say anything that makes any sort of sense and is at least spelled like English 90% of the time.

Fancy talky words?
In daily life, I write a lot. I type A LOT. But almost every bit of that writing consists of email, IMs or instructional training blogs. That is to say, almost everything that I ever write is presented in the plainest, basest form possible. Fancy words and metaphors wouldn’t suit me in most cases. In most cases, I’m sending someone a numbered list of steps on how to do something. Click here, right-click here. It puts forth an idea, but everything is stated as simply as possible. Complex ideas are presented WITH PICTURES. Have I resorted to the 21st century equivalent of cave painting?

I think this may be why I haven’t been writing as much lately, and this is probably exactly why I need to be writing more. I’m losing the ability to explain complex thoughts through English. The idea I’m trying to convey is right there in front of me, yet I can’t find the words to express it. It makes me feel like Charlie from Flowers for Algernon, witnessing a slow decline before attempting to return to my job as a janitor. There are parts of me that are scared of going to grad school because I have forgotten how to combine complex ideas into term papers. I fear that I would be there, surrounded by scholarly types, and all I would be able to muster would be bulleted lists and paragraphs that fell short of making any kind of sense or point. An oral exam would degenerate into arm waving and multiple uses of the phrase “ya know?” (Not that I’m going to grad school any time soon, but it’s still on the table somewhere underneath the more urgent tasks of bill paying, lawn mowing and showing up to work each day.)

So, here I am, telling you that I’m going to try and write more, if only for my own sake. I can’t go back to being a janitor.

The Szechuan and the Ecstasy

“Hey, I think you’re eating my food.””Huh? No, this is Szechuan.””You sure?””Screw it. Let’s just share both of them.”

This, ladies and gentlemen, is how it began. We tried ordering from a new place, only to be completely confounded as to whose food was whose once the food arrived. I ordered fried tofu with vegetables, and Chris ordered tofu Szechuan style. The two items that were delvered were fried tofu with celery and carrots, and non-fried tofu with peas and peppers. But which was which?

Step One: Google It.

Inconclusive. The only thing the internet could agree on was that Szechuan is spicy. As for which vegetables should or shouldn’t accompany the tofu, who knew? American Chinese food itself is an invention of time and regional tastes. Hell, fortune cookies are actually Japanese. (Enterprising Chinese restaurants took over the idea of the cookie during WWII when Japanese people were rounded up and put into camps. Lemons into lemonade, y’all.)

Step Two: Call the restaurant.

By the time Google had settled nothing, the trash talk had already begun and it had already been decided that the loser of what was now a bet would pay for the next order of Chinese food and owe the winner a 10-minute massage (8 minutes normal, 2 minutes “fun places”). This was serious.

“The tofu in your Szechuan…is that fried? I see…” (Chris is smiling at me with what I call his “shit starting” face as he interrogates the lady whose job is to take orders and think that we are insane.)

“And does that come with carrots and celery? Ah, ok, thank you.”

He is grinning at me as though I have lost the bet, but he has forgotten what happened an hour ago: namely that it took 10 minutes to place the order because the woman on the phone couldn’t understand him. The “z as in zebra” part of his address had to be repeated 3 times.

“Dude, she’s going to say yes to whatever you ask her as long as she thinks it’ll result in an order! You were totally leading the witness! The only conclusive solution is to table the issue until we order food from there again.”

We are both hard-headed people who like Chinese food. We ordered from the same place 3 days later. I order something with shrimp so as to avoid dual-tofu dish confusion.

The scene:

“Thus Spake Zarathustra” has been brought up on Spotify. As the epic tympani plays, BOM-BOM-BOM-BOM, the lids are removed. Slowly, dramatically, Chris’s arms are raised overhead in a pose of victory as a dish of fried tofu, carrots and celery mocks me deliciously from its position on the coffee table. I fall to the floor in slow motion, dramatically placing the back of my hand to my forehead in a pose of ultimate failure.

“Nooooooo!!!!” I wail from my position on the floor.”Yesssss! Szechuaaaaan!!!” Chris says, still walking around the living room like a victorious Rocky Balboa.

BOM-BOM-BOM-BOM.

Loud and Compressed

There’s something about modern pop music. Something that makes me feel little stifled, a little claustrophobic, a little tense, and a little pissed off. I’m not speaking in a figurative sense, as though some rap lyric finally got the better of me and I angrily switched the radio over to NPR in a fit of “I am SO TOO OLD for this” rage. It’s a feeling that came to me at a stop light at Dickerson and Trinity, making me wonder where all this came from and whether it’s ever going to go away. The feeling is the same one that I had while watching The Hobbit at the Hollywood 27: it felt like everything was right there in my face, making me anxious, like a first person shooter game or a cooperative play game with vertical split screen. Your peripheral vision is gone because everything is so close. Everything is bigger, faster, louder. More and more, quickly and impatiently demanding your attention.

If I hadn’t seen so many people on the internet complaining about The Hobbit’s shallow depth of field, I’d have thought I imagined the whole thing. I’d have thought it was just me, the shallow field being a side effect of shooting a movie with the intent to make cool 3D rather than a cool movie.

I can’t explain the music. In class and lessons, we were always taught that the notes you don’t play are just as important as the ones you play. I’m not so naive as to think that the work of Pitbull and Pink should subscribe to the same rules of subtlety as Mozart, but to say something like “well, that’s pop music, so whatever” is a complete cop out. It’s still music, right? There is a certain level of artistry involved in crafting a pop song, right? It’s still pretentious as fuck to imply that Mozart is somehow automatically better than Pink, right? I am a flag-waving student of the art school idea of “it’s not better, it’s just different.”

So why then does nearly every song on the radio wish to fill every possible void with SOUND, compressed SOUND, until there’s no room around the SOUND? It frustrates me, and it turns all of pop music into one note as each artist tries to yell louder, rock harder and party Bacardier than the one that came before. I have sat in traffic nervously picking at my fingers because whatever is coming through my speakers is making me anxious for no damn reason.

All of this makes me wonder if this is some kind of symptom of life in 2013. Life where we are all so inundated with everything all the time that there’s no dynamic contrast. We’re all so busy and everything’s so loud. I just wonder where it stops.