30 July, 2007

ADD (or ADHD) is a bunch of rubbish... but I think I suffer from it

Of course this is one of the most diagnosed disorders both in children and adults. Actually I have no data to back that up, and I am way too fucking lazy (due to my short attention span, no doubt) to go to Wikipedia and provide you with some real data. So I'm just going to trudge forward completely full of shit. Also, I am thinking that maybe I will put a "y" on the end of everythingy that I write today. Or not everything, but a bunch of randomy kinds of stuff because I seem to be inadvertently doing it anyway, so might as well makey the most of it.

So why do I have the least self-discipline of anyone I know? I say I'm gonna eat better, but then I get the pepperoni pizza. I say I am going to focus at work, but now here I am writing my blog. At least I am using proper capitalization for my blog entry - I deserve at least some credit for that. But what the fuck?

I am starting to wonder if maybe it is because I only sleep 5-6 hours a night... because I slept 8 hours on Thursday night, and I was quite productive on Friday. Go figure. But that would require some discipline if I wanted to test that theory out over a longer period of time.
I don't even have the concentration to finish this blog entry. I am right in the middle of something that is probably very important and

29 July, 2007

Rain, bees, or both?

This morning I woke up to the sound of bees again. And my first thought was "That's it! I am out of here!". The landlord clearly didn't do the spraying, and the bees are still fucking around eating through my walls, getting ready to start coming in from every orifice available, and I will be devoured by them. And I decided that I would immediately get up and start looking for a place to live.

Then I looked out the window, and noticed that it is raining. So it's rain and not bees this time. Or maybe it's rain AND bees. Who the fuck knows.

But either way, I looked around on Craigslist a bit because this once again got me feeling like $7499 a month is too much to be paying for rent. Don't you think? So there's not a whole lot out there that looked interesting to me, sadly. I then looked at roommate options since the other possibility is to have someone move in with me. That would be good because I would not have to move, and could stay in this cool location - but I would give something up.

For example, I would not be sitting and writing this blog while completely naked.

27 July, 2007

My worst nightmare

I am trying to think about how to write this one. I could create suspense and then give you the big story. Or I could do it like Jeopardy, and say something like:

A: Red Beans and Rice

Q: What is the staple food of indiginous people living in villages outside of Machupichu?
I'm gonna just tell the story chronologically, while leaving out some details that will ruin my story.

So, the other day, not really sure which day it was, I went to bed, or maybe I woke up, I don't know. But it was when I was in bed. I heard rain. And I thought, "Hm... I guess it's raining". This happened a couple of times. Then this morning, or maybe yesterday morning, I heard rain again. It was strange because when I left for work, the ground was not wet, so it seemed peculiar. But it is one of those things you forget.

This morning, I wake up and I hear rain. And I get out of bed, and open the blinds, and see that it is sunny outside. Okay. I'm half asleep so it doesn't really register and I go about my morning business. It's a beautiful day outside I can see. As I am getting dressed, I come back to my bedroom, and I am putting away some laundry in my sock drawer.

And I hear rain.

And then I realize...

(get ready for Bob's Worst Nightmare... it's coming right now)

(are you ready for it?)

It's not rain.

It's bees.

Yellow jackets.

Probably thousands of them.

In the wall.

How do I know this?

Because last week, I had a friend over. I don't even remember who it was, but we went out on the back porch and noticed that there were a large number of yellow jackets flying to a nest that looked like it was up against the side of the house - though we didn't really inspect because we didn't want to get too close. I mentioned it to the landlord and he was supposed to deal with it. But he forgot. Because he "has a one track mind" (he used those words).

So it is looking, or should I say, sounding like they are not ON the house, but IN the house. This is a serious issue. He says he's gonna spray the hole where they enter, and then block it up. But what I want to know is will this kill them, or will they retreat further into the house. And start coming out of places like plug outlets, ceiling lights, air vents. Because if that happens, I will be sleeping on someone's couch right up until the moment that I find a new place to live.

See, I have beephobia. Yes it is true. I have an irrational fear of bees. Actually, it has improved in the past 5 years or so, as have a lot of things in my life. I used to be terrified to the point of breaking a sweat if there was a bee in the room. Now I just moan and complain a little bit, so I think it is improvement. But I am not sure what I will do if this HIVE of yellow jackets begins egressing into my living space (and as a footnote, I will acknowledge that yellow jackets are NOT bees, they are wasps, and they are actually far more dangerous and tenacious than any bee).

Mark, the landlord, doesn't seem too worried. And I guess this does not surprise me since the bees will not be in HIS living space.

What are they doing in there anyway that sounds like rain? Are they eating the wood? Are they moving around little pebbles? Are they mating? I have no fucking clue. And I don't like it one bit.

26 July, 2007

My thoughts about pizza

The subtitle of this blog should be "50 Ways to Avoid Working on the Report I Need To Write". But we can forget about that for a moment.

So I've rambled about this quite a bit here and there, but I don't think I've blogged about it ever, so here we go.

The pizza in Seattle sucks (*). The asterisk, as employed here, indicates that there exceptions to that statement which I will reveal in a few moments after I bitch and complain first. So, first of all, I think the the problem in Seattle is that pizza chains seem to carry a lot of weight. There are a lot of them. Domino's, Pizza Slut, Round Table, Romio's, Jet City, Papa Murphy's, Pagliacci's, and the list probably goes on. And everyone seems to love them. They are not good. The only exception, and it doesn't even deserve an asterisk, hence maybe I should just give it a "&" or a "$" as some type of sub-special case, is Pagliacci, which, if you need to go to a chain, go there.

That's issue 1.

Then comes the infusion of California pseudo-pizza rubbish and artsy cuisine that deserves a name other than pizza. Here, I refer to such places as California Pizza Kitchen, and then all the Faux Italian places like Tutta Bella and the place at U-Village that I can't remember. So these places are not bad pizza. But they are not really pizza. And also they serve tiny, thin pizzas at high prices. And they focus around obnoxious toppings like artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomato, pulvarized wolf spleen, and various other shit that doesn't belong on pizza. Like gorgonzola cheese. It's almost like they are saying "What shit can we throw on this so that people who really like pizza will be offended". I think I am going to make my own fancy-schmancy pizza restaurant, and here will be the toppings I will offer to all the yuppified California, health-infused, new-age, scum:

petrified shaved larynx, dandelion, earwax ringlets, mackerel, soup (yes, just pour an entire can of your favorite soup on the pizza), fungal toenail, yeti scrotum, maple leaf, and my favorite "drainiculus" (**). Note the use of the asterisk again. In this case, the double asterisk indicates that there will be a definition of the term immediately below.

** drainiculus is the various soppy, aged, rotting, organic matter that accumulates in the drain catch of your kitchen sink if you keep piling up and semi-rinsing dirty dishes for, say, 3-5 weeks. it is unclear at this time whether this topping will be offered as vegetarian or not, since theoretically speaking, EVERYTHING becomes vegetarian if left to degrade long enough.

Back on task, though. So for me, you see, pizza is not about "seeing, and being seen". It's not a trendy thing where I go and pick at one or two slivers of kalamata and pomegranate with white sauce. For me, being from Boston, pizza is a STAPLE food. You people from Seattle must know what staple foods are, right? I think examples for you would be salmon. But that's another story that I'll save. Back to pizza. Staple foods have certain properties. 1) they are good. 2) they are inexpensive. 3) you can find them everywhere. 4) people eat large amounts of them. 5) there is no 5.

So, having come from Boston, where every town has it's own "House of Pizza" which is usually either Greek or Italian, and every one of these places is great in its own special way, I am rather annoyed with the offerings here in Seattle.

Here comes the time where I will get back to my first asterisk. As a footnote, I should mention that I dated a girl in college, who was not only 4 foot 11 inches tall, which is odd enough, but she referred to an asterisk as an "askee". I don't even know what she meant. Maybe she meant ASCII like the character code? She could have called it the "star" and I would have forgiven that. But what the fuck is "Askee"? How do you even get that? And she wasn't saying it to be cute either. We won't mention her name here. She had some other funny things like that which I cannot remember. (apparently this was important enough to me that I felt the need to blog about it again in spring of 2008... hm).

Anyway here comes the second asterisk - the moment you've been waiting for!

* There IS good pizza in Seattle. But you need to really look hard for it!

1. The best pizza place I have found in Seattle, of course, is Piecora's at Madison and Pike. This is authentic New York style pizza. They have authentic New York decor. The atmosphere is slightly New York, in that the people who work there are a bit more aggro than you would normally find in a Seattle establishment. But it's great pizza, and it's not insanely priced. And they are very CONSISTENTLY GOOD, which is another thing that cannot possibly be overrated.

2. The second best pizza place deserves a few asterisks next to its name because I am not sure I can really give it this status anymore. It is called "A New York Pizza Place". I am certain that the "A" in front of the name is to get it at the front of the Yellow Pages listing for pizza. Pretty clever, but a little foofy. So when I moved to Seattle in 1999, this was my favorite pizza place. It had completely authentic and extremely valuable New York sports memorabilia, and it was owned by a completely authentic New Yorker. Prices were not bad, and quality was consistent. Unfortunately, something happened. In maybe 2002 or so, owner decided to sell the business and move to Europe. Good for him. Bad for New York Pizza place. He sold it to a guy from Arizona. And the prices went up. And the quality control went down. And all the authentic memorabilia is replaced by shit you could by in the posters section of Fred Meyer. Cheesy, no pun intended, and ironic since their pizza is now often not so much. They still have the *capacity* to make a top-rate pizza. But they don't always assemble with proper amount of cheese (i.e. cost cutting) and they almost ALWAYS undercook their pizza, which is mind-boggling to me - how can you do this? How fucking difficult is it to look at the pizza, and say "It's ALMOST done. I better leave it in there another minute or two so that it will be perfect and my customer will be happy". But no. Furthermore, they reduced their hours so that they're not open every day and NEVER open for lunch. If you're still reading this then you're about to hear the best part - so if you read this part, send me a message and give me a kudo for having mucho cojones. I almost got in a FIGHT with the Arizonan owner like 4 years ago! It was great!. I had been getting angrier and angrier because first their large cheese was 11 dollars. Then 12 dollars. Then 14 dollars. And I think it's like fucking 16 dollars now or something. So I asked the guy "how come your prices have gone up so much?". So he starts telling me this whole story about how the best cheese is on the East Coast, and he needs to have it shipped out here, and that it is so expensive. Then he tells me that the entire cost of the pizza is the cheese. Dough, negligible. Sauce, nada. The cost is the cheese. So, then, genius that he is, he says "cheese has gone up like 75 cents a pound in the last year or so". And I, having worked at a pizza place, know that a large cheese pizza probably gets between 0.5 to 0.75 pounds of cheese. That, doing the math, is between 35-50 cents, approximately. And I say to him (because I am smart), if cheese went up like 50 cents a pizza, why did you increase your prices by 2-3 dollars? At this point, he says "listen, do you have a problem?". And it sort of started to escalate from there, and my friend I was with at the time had to tell me to drop it.

I take my pizza VERY seriously.

The Arizonan sweetheart also apparently owns the Fremont Classic now as well, so you might want to avoid that place too :)

3. Talarico's in West Seattle is not bad. They have karaoke, which can be amusing, and they serve VERY LARGE, reasonably priced, New York Style pizza until late at night. Not a bad idea if you're in West Seattle, or if you are in the mood to sing karaoke.

4. I forget the name for sure, but Mamma's or Mama something's on Pike or Pine in Capitol Hill is also decent.

Beyond that. Fuck Seattle and your fucking shitty ass overpriced pizza. And that's all I've got to say about that shit! If you want good pizza for free, come over my house and bring me an offering of appreciation and I will abide.

20 July, 2007

Harry Potter

The Harry Potter phenomenon is one of those things that force me to reflect back on my attitudes and my behavior and realize that maybe I am not always right. Damn. I don't like to say that.

But it's true…

So what year did the first Harry Potter book ship? There's a trivia question for you. I may or may not know the answer already, but I wanna see how sharp you are. Plus it gives you an excuse to write to me and seem VERY smart and clever, or at least full of useless information. Suffice it to say that ever since shortly after the series began, various friends said to me "Oh Bob, have you read Harry Potter? Oh, but you really must read it. I think you'll really like it!". To this, I said "Bah. I am not reading a stupid children's book.

When I was at UW, one of my colleagues really started on me, and was constantly giving me the "you don't know what you're missing" line. But what he didn't realize is that the "you-don't-know-what-you're-missing" line struck a nerve from my childhood. See, when I was growing up, my Dad always used to try to get me to eat sweet potatoes and I would never eat them. I would refuse. And he would say "How can you not like them?! You don't know what you're missing!". And the mere utterance of that phrase solidified in my mind the fact that I would NEVER eat sweet potatoes as long as I lived. That, unfortunately, was the extent of my rebelliousness as a child.

So this colleague - we'll refer to him as "Josh" for the purposes of this blog (as well as because his name actually *was* Josh) always pushed me on the Harry Potter. And he and I are both guitarists, and have always had a little bit of a musical rivalry going that stemmed both from mutual appreciation as well as fundamental differences in our approach to music performance and composition. This rivalry made the similarity to the "Sweet-Potato-incident" (it will from here on be referred to as the SPi) particularly strong, and thus my resolve to not ever read Harry Potter (or see the bleeding films) even greater.


Right around the time I finished my degree, and went through one or two other major changes in my life, I got into a mindset of "well, maybe I should lose some of the rigidity I have had about some things that I had previously held as absolutes". And one of these was regarding Harry Potter. If the whole world, young and old, thinks it's the greatest thing, am I a) a rebel, to be commended for my steadfast avoidance of cheesy pop culture, or b) a stubborn dumb-ass for not being open-minded enough to find out for myself what I think of it.

So. Within 3 months, I was through the first 3 books. And of course I loved them. In fact, I would be so bold as to say that the third Harry Potter book (which was released on July 8th, 1999) was among the BEST BOOKS I HAVE EVER READ! In fact, there was a particular moment in the book where the events that transpired threw me for such surprise, that I needed to stop reading, and sit in silence staring into space contemplating what I had just read. The mark of a truly great writer is when you are SO SURE you are being led down a particular path, and then you are wrong. But just to do that alone CAN be formulaic. J.K. Rowling manages to always do this trickery in a novel (no pun intended) way.

Read the 4th book. Saw the first 4 movies. blah blah. I didn't really like the movies because I felt like they were merely "Headline News" versions of the books with all of the interesting subtleties left out.

Right now I am about to finish the 5th book. And this one has been very exciting because it is my first ever audio book. I decided to listen to it on MP3. And this is so amazing, I recommend it to everyone. It makes reading an entirely different experience. I love driving to work, or going to the gym, while having a story told to me. And what made this special among the Harry Potter series is that the audio book is the original British version, which does not have the Americanized nouns and dialects. And I have to say it is much better.

I know I sound really positive here, and those of you who know me will know that this is uncharacteristic since I am such a cynic, but I can't get over how much I like being lost in that world. Maybe it's another form of escapism :)

At any rate. That's my ramble on that subject.

Oh, and by the way. I’ve been eating sweet potatoes for years.

Welcome to the World of Warcrack

A topic that has been close to my heart for the last year or so revolves around the issue of gaming addiction. This is a very real phenomenon, and sadly, I see too many examples of it even in my immediate circle of friends. I could say a lot about it, but for starters, I should tell my story.

I'll make it as short as possible.

In November of 2005, after much resistance, I agreed to check out WoW because friends had told me it was "the greatest thing ever". They'd been doing beta for months prior. So I tried, and of course, I liked the game since there is so much to do and it is such an engrossing world.

But the importance of WoW progressively increased in my life, and I soon began to design my life and behaviors around playing and would feel practically out of control if playing were not possible. I got a better computer to improve performance. I got a better internet connection. I spent hours reading online about strategy and debating in newsgroups about the best way to play the game. Even got involved in massive "flame wars" on game and non-game related issues, as I tried to "police" the WoW community of racists, sexists, homophobics, and generally juvenile people. It was becoming an all-encompassing world for me.

I was a graduate student, and grew progressively less productive in the lab, since I was a) losing lots of sleep (playing late nights), and b) thinking more about WoW during the day than my actual work. It was an easy escape.

It impacted my friendships. It impacted my relationship significantly. If something was wrong with the server, or the internet, or my computer, I would become REALLY mad and emotional, and maybe even have a fit, or get in an argument with my girlfriend. It was pretty bad, and yet I didn't see it objectively at all. For awhile, she got into WoW too, and we tried playing together, but I was pretty self-absorbed in-game (and I guess, in-world as well) and I wasn't patient with her. Didn't want to wait for her to collect her herbs, or explore. Just wanted to do my own thing... in a way the game became a nasty exaggerated microcosm of the conflicts in the relationship. So that was bad.

Had a group of friends with whom I pretty much only discussed WoW and those friends became the preferred group since I could indulge in the fantasy world. And we talked about little else. I didn't realize that my non-gaming friends were worried and withdrawing from me.

Finally after about 10 months, including a few weeks of super-marathon playing (all nighters and all), I had a bizarre repercussion... I started getting really severe cramp in one of my calf muscles. It would cramp up so tight that I could barely walk until I stretched it out. I have always been into fitness, and running, and weight-training, and health, so this was odd to me. A friend who was a medical student at school told me to have it checked out, and I found out that I had a DVT - deep vein thrombosis. A blood clot in my calf muscle! Usually this happens from from people either being obese, or from taking long transcontinental flights. When they asked me these questions about air travel, a bell went off in my head, and I knew what it was. I had sat for SO LONG day after day playing computer games, that I had caused myself to develop a medical condition!

This was a bit scary and required some simple, but drastic medical adjustments to resolve it. But it was also embarrassing and a bit humiliating. It sort of served as a wake-up call, but it was only gradual. The bigger wake-up call was when my girlfriend gave me an ultimatum - "limit yourself to an hour a day. or leave".

That had an interesting impact. If you can only play an hour a day, you can't really do most of the things that people in WoW do - long quests and missions, or exploring far away places that require travel time. Or making commitments to play with a group. So my whole gaming behavior changed. I became a total solo player who just camped out towns and killed other players. It was kind of pathetic, but kept me to the 1 hour time limit. The interesting thing was that this limit on playing time caused me to gradually become less interested in playing. I started to realize how lame it was to sit there and click a button and watch the pixels on my screen change color. Started to realize that the auction house in WoW is not a real business. Started to realize that we're all just sitting there avoiding life.

Another contributing factor to getting out of the game, strangely enough, for me, was using Ventrilo - an audio tool for conversing with players. Many people I had only ever played with by typing. When I tried out the audio thing and could suddenly hear these people - I somehow started to feel how pathetic I was being. Not sure why - but I just felt like suddenly this "warrior" I've been playing with is actually a neglectful 36 year old mother of 3 from Texas who doesn't seem all that enlightened, and I realize consciously that she should maybe be parenting or setting some type of example for her kids rather than playing WoW 16 hours a day... it's easy for me to be righteous though, since I was doing the same - I realize the hypocrisy.

When I finally stopped playing, I really stopped. And for a long time, I was dreaming in WoW - both before stopping and after stopping - I had become so engrossed that I would often DREAM in my character. How odd is that?

Whenever life got difficult, or challenging, or lonely, I would always have the urge to play again, just like a drug. But so far I have resisted. One time I played for a half-hour at a friend's house a couple of months ago. I am happy to say that it did not make me want to play again. I gave my character away to an acquaintance, which made me feel "safer".

People always say the only thing worse than an addict is a self-righteous recovering addict. I guess that's me. But my life is better KNOWING that I won't turn to escapism (at least in that variety) as a means of coping. I feel that things have been much better for me.

I see a few of my friends who are in deep pits of gaming addiction, and I try to talk to them about it but they aren't yet ready to alter their behavior either because they cannot, or because they don't see it as something requiring addressing. But it makes me sad to watch potentially creative and productive individuals (including myself) piss away their lives feeding a virtual world that doesn't contain any *real* experiences that you can hold in your hand.

That's how the story starts.

I guess it wasn't so short of a story. Happy to provide any more detail if people care to ask about it.

16 July, 2007

Why I will not say h***t

If you look at my favorite movie list, you will see that I refer to "The Huckabees Movie". That might sound odd. In fact, whenever I say I liked that movie, people always respond with "Oh, you mean I _____ Huckabees"? And I say, "No, I mean the Huckabees Movie".

Strange, right?

Well, there's a reason behind it. I am unwilling and/or unable to say that I _____ anything. It kills me to even type H***T because it's almost like I am saying it. And I also realize that if I typed a "<" and a "3" that I would convey the same message. The problem is that this is just too much hipspeak for me to handle.

There are other words that I can't say either. For instance, there's another word for "drinks" that are alcohol, and are not beer or wine. I can't say that word, but I will give you a hint - it sounds a lot like "cockatiel". Why do people call "drinks" by this stupid name It's obnoxious. And part of the reason that I want to move to Canada. Because I'm sure nobody says that shit up there.