What To Do For Valentine’s Day


With the upcoming Valentine’s Day it’s worth reviewing some proper romantic gestures. Before attempting a romantic gesture check with your physician and stretch all major muscle groups. Also have your otolith examined. While there are few ear bones whose health is really necessary for romantic gesturing how often have you ever called off work because of an otolith appointment? Exactly and now you’ll never be happy again until you have. I’m sorry. Check on some minor muscle groups if that helps you feel better.

And to preface the rest of this: don’t listen to me for romantic gesture advice. I’m the sort of person who checks book stores to see if they have a new history of the containerized cargo industry because then I might own three books about it. I once gave my love a video game file for a present. In my defense, it was for Roller Coaster Tycoon 3, a game my love describes as “as good as we can hope for since they never ported Roller Coaster Tycoon 2 to the Mac”. It was a pretty good roller coaster too.

Romantic gestures are fundamentally simple. Think of the person you want to gesture at. Don’t wave! You haven’t checked that they’re not in a spot where you might hit them in the face by accident. There’s not a good time to hit a romantic partner in the face, but the immediate run-up to Valentine’s Day is a bad one. It sends the mixed messages of “I like how your body feels and wish to feel it more often and, indeed, right now” with “swiftly, and without your even suspecting my intentions”. Why so swift? “Because I have to get back to reading this thing on the Internet”? Your partner knows better. The Internet is the place we spend all our time and attention reading things, none of which is important.

Anyway, think of your partner. Now think of a thing your partner enjoys. Now think of a way to do a lot of that thing. Not too much! Having some restraint is important, especially if you’re, like me, a guy. The normal failure mode for guy thinking is to take something pleasant and then do so much of it that somebody weeps. That’s fine if we’re talking about contests where you drink mustard until someone’s tongue shrivels up and falls off. It’s not all right if we’re talking about giving your partner so many roses that it explodes, scattering the faint scent of good wishes over the entire Eastside. This will leave the roads all slick and make the evening commute an impossible mess. So if you do want to go ahead and destroy a loved one’s house with excessively many roses do it when Valentine’s Day in on a weekend so the evening rush doesn’t take the brunt of the chaos.

It doesn’t have to be complicated. For example, think of a movie you and your loved one have seen together. Then get that on some shiny disc. This lets you remember how you enjoyed being together watching a movie like this. And since you’ve already seen the movie you aren’t going to have to make the time to watch the shiny disc. Which is good since nobody’s had the time to watch a movie since 2009. The bookshelves are starting to groan under the weight of still-wrapped copies of The Tale of Desperaux and whatever else you have fond unchecked memories of. The point when they collapse will be excessive and someone may weep, so I guess that satisfies the need to do something guy-ish with the holiday after all.

Warning! One time I tried this, picking a bunch of used DVDs for movies we’d seen. My concept was that since these were experiences my love and I had already had it was only fitting that they be used discs. Do you get it? I had to explain this in a two-hour presentation using charts and a guest speaker and it got from my love the romantic statement that my argument that this was a romantic gesture was logically valid without making any statement about whether it was sound. It would’ve had greater impact if I had made pretend roller coasters out of them.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index dropped nine points, nine points mind you, because everybody realized they forgot it was open-mike poetry night and got a little panicky while trying to work out a reaction.

93

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That Moving Spirit


I had something remarkable happen. A friend asked me to help him move. I see this as a big deal. It’s not like I even own a truck. I’d never own a truck. If you own a truck you have to deal with a never-ending string of people asking for help moving. They’re not even people you know in the slightest. Travel sometime to a place where strangers gather, so far as anybody gathers anymore. A mall food court, or a town hall meeting, or a stunt organized by the radio station. You’ll encounter folks going up to strangers and saying, “Do you own a truck you could help me move with?”

But as a truck-less person the question has a different connotation. Someone would ask me to help them move just because they think I might be a tall guy who can probably hoist stuff. And they’re right. Even for a tall guy I’m pretty good at hoisting stuff and lugging it around. This is because I used to be a tall, fat guy, and I had to build up some serious hoisting and lugging muscles just to stand up and waddle over to lunch. I’ve lost most of that weight. You’d be surprised what you can throw in the dumpster behind a Shop-Rite before they catch you. But I’ve kept most of my hoisting and lugging muscles.

Really I kind of hope for chances to show off my hoisting and lugging prowess. But it’s awkward just asking people, “Can I help you move this weekend?” It has connotations of your hoping to get rid of them. They’ll let you ask once or twice, and then decide they’re never going to move, just to spite you. And just walking down the street, holding a cardboard banker’s box full of books is no way to go, because a cardboard banker’s box full of books weighs two and a half times what Mars’s moon Phobos does, and the cardboard will tear and they’ll all drop on your foot, denting some of the books. You have to just wait for an offer to lug stuff around.

Yes, this does sound like the kind of thing standard-issue guys would do. And yes, it’s a good rule of thumb that “stuff guys do should never be done by decent people”. Granted. But I’m not talking about lugging stuff around until somebody weeps. I’m just talking about, you know, here are some masses of things, and they could be somewhere else, and I am the kind of guy who can make that happen.

So I was glad to be asked, and to be able to say yes. But the really thrilling thing is that the question came from a friend of my love’s. He and I had gotten to be friendly, yes, but what we mostly had in common was knowing my love. We had some things to talk about, like how he beats me handily every time we play pool, and how I could beat him handily when we play pinball yet somehow do not, but we didn’t have any serious connection. And now we do.

Asking someone to help you move when there’s not truck ownership involved shows you think the friendship has reached a higher level. It marks the falling-away of a certain guardedness and reserve. Someone who’s asked you to help them move is saying, “I trust you to not freak out when you see how I arrange stuff in the moving van all the wrong way. It’s like, do we even recognize the same principles of spatial reasoning? No we do not but I believe you are a person who can accept that and not turn this into a quarrel, unlike some people we could name but won’t, like D----.” This is meaningful stuff.

This is also important to me because it signifies my forming a new real friendship. Most of my social circle is made of Internet friends. Internet friends are much like real friends, except that your Internet friends have a built-in excuse for not being able to help you move, and you’ll eventually break up with your Internet friends in a shockingly bitter fight that starts over which of you better exemplifies the ideals of the “Mane Six” characters on My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. I like my Internet friends, the ones who are left after I told them I don’t ever want to hear about any of the characters on My Little Pony. I feel a little dirty every time I encounter the phrase “Mane Six”. But getting to this fresh level of friendship with someone in real life is a wonder.

I hope the new place has an elevator.

Statistics, um, November Already


November 2014 was, according to WordPress’s statistics, a pretty good month for readership around here. It wasn’t as overwhelmingly popular as October, but the month wasn’t accidentally juiced attention from Kinks fans directed over from kindakinks.net. “The Secret Life of Ray Davies” is still popular, mind, and even got more readers than my astounding facts about Turbo page, but it’s not even in the top twenty for November.

While the number of unique views dropped — from 1,389 in October to 1,164 in November — this is still a pretty big increase from September (827) and marks two months in a row with more than a thousand readers. The number of unique visitors dropped from 895 to 676, but again, that really reflects the Kinks fans not noticing me this month; views per visitor, for example, rose from October’s 1.55 back to 1.72, which is about what I’d had in September (1.77) and August (1.85).

Also I noticed that I had a full thirty-day stretch of at least twenty views each day, which I don’t believe has happened before. I feel nervous about doing something that screws up that streak. I start the month standing at 11,242 page views all-time, which is a nice round number to somebody, I’m sure, somewhere.

The most popular articles this month — each with 26 or more views; I’d meant to just list the top ten but there was a three-way tie for tenth — turned out to be:

And now for the most popular thing I do: list countries. The countries sending me the most readers in November were the United States (1,014), Australia (25), The United Kingdom (23), the Netherlands (15), and then a bunch of countries that don’t work “the” into the name. Sending only one reader each were Belgium, Finland, France, Kuwait, New Zealand, the Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Singapore, and Spain. Singapore’s the only one that was a single-reader country last month, and that was also a single-reader country on my mathematics blog, so I’m wondering what the problem is over there. Guys? We’re cool, right?

India, meanwhile, after a catastrophic drop from eight down to one reader between September and October, recovered tolerably by sending me three readers. Per capita, yes, I’m still doing better with Austria, Argentina, and Singapore, but this is the readership I’ve got.

Search terms that brought people here for some reason include: what did charlie chaplin have to say to george melies, how to write in words 44,928,923, towering inferno theme morse code, things to argue about, and demolition derby pinball. I hope you’ve all found what you were looking for.

Some Ways That I Act Like A Guy


I don’t participate in most traditional guy behaviors. This is because most traditional guy behaviors are bottomlessly terrible. The generic formula for making a guy behavior is to find something which might be interesting or exciting and do so much of it that it’s awful, which is how we get hot-sauce-drinking-contests, World War I, soccer riots, and pieces of furniture set on fire and shoved into the streets. Guys are pretty much the male dolphins of civilized society, which is why we shouldn’t have anything to do with them. But there are some guy behaviors which are not terrible to the point of cruelty, and I partake in some of them.

The commonest is bringing in the groceries. It’s very important that I bring the groceries inside with as few trips as possible. My love is amused to see how I’ll hang shopping bags all the way up and down my arms, and maybe loop a couple around my legs, and hang two or three lighter bags from each ear, and if I could get away with it I’d hold one in my mouth too. Sometimes I’ve bought an unnecessary Chapstik or roll of Necco wafers so I could stuff them in my nose just so I can bring in more stuff on the one trip. The saddest thing I can do is get up to the door and realize I’m surrounded by a protective layer of grocery bags reaching up to the second-floor windows, because that means I have to set something down to fit through the door, which I forgot to open so I have to kick it in and repair the frame afterwards. But, boy, if I can get it all in in one trip and fall over into a titanic sprawling mass of packs of frozen French fries and cans of condensed milk that roll through the dining room, into the living room, and come to a rest under our pet rabbit, whose ears are perked up to full attention over this collapse, then I am happy.

Less common but at least as satisfying is hardware stores. I feel a wonderful sense of place when I’m in a hardware store, for whatever reason, and I would let my father mention here how hilarious this is except when I asked him to write something about it he started laughing hysterically and he’s barely stopped to take breaths, much less to get his composure enough to write anything, since, and it’s been eighteen days now. I am not your traditionally handy person. Would you believe that I have attempted to change a flat tire and, after having got the car jacked up not nearly enough to do this but finding myself unable to either lift it higher or let it get back to the ground again, I’ve abandoned my car in the intersection where the flat tire became un-ignorable and taken the bus home, on three separate occasions? Sure you would, and it doesn’t even matter that nothing all that much like this has never happened to me, because it makes too much sense that this is the sort of thing that should, and you know that too.

But set me in a hardware store, where I have absolutely no business being and no ability to identify anything past “this is probably not a wrench”, and I feel this wonderful inner peace. I think it’s the sense of a world of potential all organized into little grey boxes of metal and plastic parts, surrounded by tools that for some reason aren’t in alphabetical order. Or it’s getting to occasionally overhear people talking about “joists”. I’m not sure what a joist is but I know they are subjects of legitimate discussion when in hardware stores, and that reassures me. Life may be chaos and a struggle for comprehension, but for a little while, there’s cylinders of steel or iron or aluminum of something and gaskets of some kind of plastic or whatnot, and people walking around casually hefting things that are probably not wrenches and they have plans to make joists of things and maybe fix the doorframe. It’s perfect.

You know, I suspect I’d be happier if I could get the groceries in without any trips, but I haven’t worked out the details of that just yet.

Maybe Guys Just Grimace Themselves Clean?


I don’t go in for most stereotypically guy behaviors, because they’re nearly all terrible, based on finding a thing and doing so much of it that someone is made to weep. Pretty much the only guy behaviors I’ll hew to are bringing all the bags of groceries in from the car in a single trip, and feeling like I should spend more time in auto parts stores. I can just look up what kind of windshield wiper blades my car takes one more time.

But I did get a pack of Dial For Men, because we kind of needed soap sometime in the none too distant future, and it’s kind of delightful how they went and took a product that in principle anybody might use (“soap”) and tried to target it more towards my immediate gender. The key elements, as best I can tell:

  1. It’s got “For Men” imprinted in the bar of soap, so as to scare off any women-types with fancy ideas of washing their hands.
  2. It’s got little hand-grippy inset bars embedded on the side so as to look more like some kind of silly gadget people stare at in the kinds of action/science-fiction movies where you kind of hope you don’t recognize any of the actors because you’d feel bad for them having to appear in this kind of movie.
  3. It’s grey, so it looks that little bit more like you dropped it in the muddy snow outside.
  4. Instead of vaguely smelling like flowers or strawberries or cream, they’ve made it smell just generally less pleasant, to match the important guy trait of wanting to smell not quite pleasant.

Oh, yes, the other bit thing they did was give upon selling it, because it was on clearance for $1.58 for three bars. Apparently, Dial-type men don’t use soap, and goodness knows if they’re even into water. They just let the auto parts store smear them with some kind of wax and call that clean. And it’s not a very nice-smelling wax either.

Not Since I Pried The Stuck Window Open


I don’t truck much with stereotypical guy behavior. Mostly that’s because the stereotypical guy behavior is to select something that could be done and to then do so much of it that someone breaks down in tears. Thus we get bad-movie marathons, hazing, nuclear brinksmanship, pun cascades, contests to drink the entire bottle of hot sauce in one gulp, comments sections, World War I, middle school, and other deeply problematic parts of society. I don’t need that.

However, I admit that I do too have to carry all the groceries in with one load or know the reason why. (It’s because we have three twelve-packs of soda cans.) Also I spent a lot of Sunday staple-gunning tar paper to wood, and feel much more confident that I could go into Home Depot, stride down the aisles as if I knew what I was looking for, and just buy anything at all I looked at and even have the clerk ring it up by saying “So, whadda I owe ya for that anyway?” It’s a heady feeling.