I Hear My Train A-Leavin…

That’s what I think to myself every time I see, pulling out of the CTA station, the last train that will get me to work on time. Pulling away to the bluesy chords and voice of Jimi Hendrix, his tune “I Hear my Train a Comin'” appropriated for the reverse situation. That’s what happened this morning; I had ran my ass off to get to the station, and I’d reached the point where I could first glimpse the station. The train was sitting there, and I knew if it had just arrived I could make it if I ran; however, it could also be about to leave, meaning if I ran for it I’d still be SOL but also outta breath and in pain (I’m pretty out of shape). As I was deciding, half-running anyway, it pulled away. No amount of cursing the conductor, the fickle gods of public transit, the Regional Transit Authority as a whole, or my own lazy ass would call that train back, much to my dismay. I had a good reason for being late though. A real interesting tidbit my Brother had remarked about in passing, just as I was about to leave. I had to hear the whole thing, and it goes something like this:

My Brother owns a building in Chicago, and one of his former tenants gave him some trouble. Specifically, he stopped paying rent. As he started the eviction proceedings, the tenant suspiciously tripped/fell in the building and started a personal injury lawsuit against my brother. Having worked with lawyers for a long time, I just want to say that legally this is all public record and there’s no confidential info here. The fall being suspicious is just my opinion, but it’s a fact that this guy refused to pay rent and thus screwed my brother out of a lot of money.

A month ago, this former tenant did something remarkable; he basically saved a guy’s life. A man was jogging out by the former tenant’s residence and he got attacked by two pit bulls. The former tenant heard his cry for help and ran out with a bat, trying to get the dogs off the guy and drive them away. Had he not done that, the jogger probably would have sustained even greater and probably fatal injuries; his injuries were almost fatal as it was. Here’s the Chicago Tribune article if you’re interested:


So this guy’s willing to risk his life to save a life, but snubs his lease. It reminds me of an episode of 30 Rock where Liz Lemon’s ex, who is a genuine sleazeball, saves the life of someone who fell on the subway tracks. He maintains his sleazeball qualities throughout the media attention, and yet he saved someone’s life. The movie Hero (the one with Dustin Hoffman, not Jet Li) is like this too; a not-so-wholesome guy runs in to a flaming plane wreck and saves dozens of people.

So when it really comes down to it, most everybody’s got a good side. It’s just odd to respect a person sort of piecemeal, respect the good and begrudge the bad; it’s all one person, one complex mishmash of personality. If you ask me, this is why a lot of people are content to stereotype and quickly pass judgment on others, because trying to understand each individual person is just too damn hard. Leave that to God, or whatever’s out there. All I know is I’ll keep withholding judgment about people until absolutely necessary, if at all, and focus on getting my ass out the door on time.

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Birthdays, Time Travel, and Other Challenges

It’s interesting where certain trains of thought can take you. A particularly interesting one came to me last night: I was lost, freezing off certain extremities and walking all over Lincoln Park looking for the bar where my friend was having his birthday. It occurred to me that Time Travel could solve this predicament. Now, let me preface this by saying that there are a lot of good reasons to not invent time travel. For instance, all time-travel movies predating invention would become cheesy once they have to measure up to the real thing, and every time you tried to watch them some nerd would spend the whole movie critiquing its inaccuracies and basically ruin the whole thing. On top of that, all time-travel movies created after invention would be either non-fiction/documentary and really boring, or they’d for cinematic effect exaggerate time travel to bombastic heights only to be ruined by nerds criticizing them for being unrealistic.

There are also plenty of good reasons to invent it anyway. One of those could be the complete elimination of winter birthdays and thus nullification of discomfort to certain extremities. How, you ask? Well, had I a time machine, I could delay by a few months a certain ‘twinkle’ from appearing in a certain ‘dad’s eye.’ The specifics would definitely be complicated, but at least my friend’s birthday would safely be in the Spring. That’s only if my time meddling doesn’t somehow go awry and cause a global atomic conflagration, plunging the world into nuclear winter. That would, ironically, make all birthdays winter birthdays. With all days thus being cold, it at least would force people, once they could no longer blame the cold, to come up with more creative excuses like “I’m taking care of my mutant sister” or “I can’t, I’m expected in the Thunderdome that day.”

However, no matter how relatively favorable a birthday becomes after such time meddling, there is one birthday rule that will remain constant. When you turn 21, you have a party at a bar with everyone you know, plus some people you don’t know who say they’re with your party to get an open bar wristband at the door. At 22, the strangers no longer attend, and some friends have other, perhaps college-graduation-related things, to do. At 23, and every year after until you turn 29, the number of people who come to your birthday decreases exponentially; at 29 there is mathematically less than one person attending your birthday, meaning you forget to celebrate it and let it pass without notice. After 21, it just gets harder and harder to be enthusiastic about aging. Next year, I can expect probably two people and my brother’s dog to come to my party, and I can’t guarantee they all will have a good time. Luckily everyone, including you, cares about turning 30, as 30 is realistically the last year you can be considered ‘young’ and you have one last chance to act accordingly. So for birthdays 22-29, having expectations for anything other than, say, board games and tepid conversation may be a stretch, but you can take solace in the fact that everyone else’s birthdays in that period will probably be equally lame.

2012 Challenge: Reading 100 Books Before an Overwhelming Number of People Act Like the World is Ending and Bring Society, and thus the Library, Grinding to a Halt (Reading 100 Books in 2012)

The last time I took on a reading challenge, it was not by choice. I was in 8th grade, and we were supposed to read as many books as we could during the year. Our teacher kept track of the number of books we read on a chart in the back of the classroom so we could measure up against our classmates. I confidently chose J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Silmarillion” as my first book, which if you don’t know is basically the complete history, mythology, and genealogy of the “Lord of the Rings” setting. I thought it would be awesome, and I thought wrong. Somehow, reading about the ancestors of every single Elf in Middle Earth turned out to be boring, and from every reading session I retained nothing. Yet I was stubbornly set on finishing this book and soldiered on. 3-4 months later and I had no stickers on the chart. Everyone else had at least like 6. The kids who used to knock me for trying hard now knocked me for being dumb. Never before or since have I been a negative statistical outlier; never had I been graphically, statistically represented as a dunce. After somehow reading half of it, I gave up on The Silmarillion and read other books; sadly, the gap would never be closed and I finished last.

I’ve decided today that I will redeem myself by reading 100 books this year. I’ve seen other bloggers taking on this challenge and I can think of no better form of redemption. I’ve read two already, which puts me about 15 books behind according to Goodreads. I’ll be posting reviews and impressions as I go, which may or may not be written before I read the book, whether or not I actually read the book, and/or be completely plagiarized. Feel free to follow along as Goodreads tracks my progress over on the right there.

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Adventures on the Internet

So today I decided to check out one of those random chat websites, http://omegle.com/. I can’t decide whether this was a good or bad decision. On the one hand, I spent hours and hours on it only to confirm that internet chat has not evolved since the advent of AOL back in like ’93. On the other hand, I think I made some strangers laugh, so it wasn’t all for naught. On the other other hand, it showed the dire state of historical and political knowledge among the users of that site, and thus probably the under-25 population in general, much to my dismay.

I found this out by using the “Spy Mode,” whereby one person poses a question and watches two strangers discuss it. I chose a very simple question: “Margaret Thatcher or Angela Merkel?” I didn’t think anyone would have a problem with this. For one thing, if you don’t have opinions about the two most powerful women since Catherine the Great, you should probably form them; for another, the terms of the comparison are left ambiguous, meaning they could be evaluated on anything from political acumen to overall hotness, or any combination thereof. Boy was I wrong. The discussions that arose fell into two categories; the chatting strangers either admitted ignorance of one or both of them and quit, or they traded obscenities until they got bored and left. And so I learned the hard way that people go on random chat sites for purposes far different from discussing influential female Heads of State.

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What People Really Use Siri For

So these commercials for the iPhone S have been all over the place. They show people making positive and productive use of the Siri voice-recognition technology. Something about the ads just doesn’t strike me as real. If they showed what people are really using it for, it would look something like this:

iPhone User: “Siri, who is the fairest iPhone user of all?”

iPhone User: “Siri, what are the penalties for tax evasion?”

iPhone User: “Siri, are these the droids I’m looking for?”

iPU: “Siri, add John to the shit list.”

iPU: “Siri, please tell the officer I was NOT drunking drive”

iPU: “Siri, find me a lawyer”

iPU: “Siri, change your voice to Christopher Walken”

iPU: “Siri, what countries do not extradite to the US?”

iPU: “Siri, am I in the Matrix?”

iPU: “Siri, activate gaydar”

iPU: “Siri, does this make me look fat?”

iPU: “Siri, find me a good Polish joke”

iPU: “Siri, get me the prefix code to that jerk John’s iPhone”

iPU at a party: “Siri, give me an indie band reference, I’m dying out here!”

iPU: “Siri, from now on refer to my ex as ‘The Beast'”

iPU: “Siri, activate self destruct”

iPU: “Siri, spell ‘I cup'”

iPU: “Siri, tell me everything you know about SkyNet, OR ELSE…”

I don’t have an iPhone S, or even a smartphone, but if I did I know I’d probably be saying a lot of the above to poor old Siri, and I imagine others do too…

26 and Already Reminiscing…

I had a thought today. Two, actually: the first was that I should start a blog. The second was “Damn how awesome is it to be a kid?” I mean, kids have limitless energy, limitless enthusiasm for basically everything, and they can find anything funny. Add to that the fact that a lot of times, there’s just no rhyme or reason to what kids find funny, and that’s funny in itself. It’s OK to be afraid of Christmas Trees and laugh hysterically at the Night Court opening theme – you don’t know from whence these things come, but you live the hell out of the moment and you don’t gotta explain yourself to anyone, as a kid.

Now, I’m still relatively young (don’t even try talking about getting old when you’re a 20-something, it’s just not gonna fly). I don’t know why the thought even popped in my head- it was probably part of some Scrubs-esque daydreamy train of thought. However, it brought back, clear as a bell, just one of those irrational childhood fixations that was just inexplicably awesome at the time, one which also had a deep life-lesson subversively mixed in to it. One involving Nuns; I’ll get to that in a minute.

So we used to have this old Mac, and one day we got a racing computer game called Vette (this was probably back in ’92 or ’93, way way back). For months, maybe years afterwords, I devoted hours and hours to tearing ass all over a virtual San Francisco, in a Corvette rendered all in 8-bit 3D glory. I was dodging cops, getting serious air time, and just crashing all over the place. Oh yes, and flattening (literally flattening) hapless pedestrians, laughing maniacally the whole time. My brother can confirm this. Sound familiar? This game had all the Grand Theft Auto mayhem that could be packed in to 3 floppy disks, many many years before it got big. And I enjoyed it to no end, irrationally and only as a kid can do.

This is significant to me because A. GTA games, and mayhem games like that, are almost nauseating to me now and totally unplayable; and (this is where the Nuns come in) B. I learned that impossible things existed- specifically, the impossibility of flattening an 8-bit Nun. Yes, there were Nuns walking around in that virtual San Franciso, and they were every bit as implacable as they are in real life. I would rev my Vette, bring it screamingly into the same bit of space occupied by a San Francisco Sister, and I’d see in my rearview mirror the impossible – the Nun, unflattened. I tried, believe me- I tried. I would go out of my way to collide with them, forfeit street races in progress, give the cops an edge in an in-progress pursuit, spend hours prowling the streets, looking for them; all to no avail. My attempts at flattening, they would have “nun” of it (couldn’t resist!). I have no doubt that some of the game’s programmers had a thoroughly and old-school Catholic upbringing, and I’m pretty sure they expected the literal Wrath of God to befall them should they include mortal nuns. And now that I think about it, misfortune did seem to follow any flattening attempt. But why include them in the first place? Now that’s a question for another day.

And so I absorbed a very important life lesson, the core of the Serenity prayer – there are things that just cannot be changed. I can’t say I understood it till much later though. So all throughout life, as we tear ass in our Vettes through the San Francisco of life, we encounter our own indomitable Nuns: understanding the Federal Budget, pondering the existence of God, trying to warn horror-movie protagonists of their impending doom, breaching the light speed barrier, etc. And, at least for me, it helps to deal with and make light of such things by lumping them all into the same category as faceless, immortal, pixellated Nuns.