Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Guest Post

I am proud to say that I have received my first request for a guest post on my blog.

He came to me looking for a platform on which he could speak his mind, and not be judged. At first I told him this blog is not meant for that. But then I started thinking... I suppose I do use this blog as a place to speak my mind. It's just that my mind doesn't really contain thoughts that can be interpreted past their surface meaning; you say lack of intelligence, I say the uncanny ability to simplify for universal understanding. I also don't mind being judged, in fact I prefer it, because judgments are what strangers of the internet can use to build up an image of who they think I am (how's that for farcical).

So, after some deliberation, I decided to let him write here. This might be "my" most serious post yet, so buckle up.


I'll start off by saying thanks to Jeremy for letting me write here. I've known him for a long time now, almost 8 years. He has always been understanding of my need to communicate and my inability to do so in other forms. Sometimes it's as if I'm speaking a different language...Anyways, thanks, Jeremy.

I'll try to keep this short, because I'm sure no one wants to hear me howl on and on about my life. This is just a glimpse.

For as long as I can remember, I've been held back. Inside my own home, I am not free to express myself. When we have guests over, my attempts at socializing are curbedWhen the doorbell rings, I yell with excitement, "the guests are here!" but I am told to shut up. I get scolded when I attempt to greet the guests or even when I eat the food. I just want to be a part of the occasion. Even when I am able to get outside for a walk, into the expanse and freedom of the great outdoors, something restricts my free will, restrains me, as if I am tightly tethered around the neck. For example, I love animals. When I'm out walking, all I want to do is interact with them, maybe coax a squirrel down from the branches. Apparently I'm barking up the wrong tree, as this desire is held at bay by that ever-restricting tether. Sometimes it's as if I'm choking...

I'm even repressed sexually. Despite an unfortunate procedure in my youth, I have urges like anyone else. Why must I be yanked back? It's unfortunate that I have come to the point where I have to sniff out inanimate objects on which to carry out my sexual impulses.

I have a bone to pick, I'll be right back.                        

Ok, I'm back. 

I don't mean to sound desperate here. I have learned to appreciate life even when it is ruff. As I get older, lounging around the house for most of the day, taking frequent naps in the sun, becomes more enjoyable. One of the others I live with often has me fetch a ball to play with, but it gets tiring as I have never had the hands to catch or return his tosses. Yet, I find myself mesmerized by the ball, and I play this game, with no paws, beyond the point of exhaustion.

This was just a snapshot of what it is to live my life. I don't want to ruin the image of this blog that Jeremy has worked so hard to cultivate. By the way, great job Jeremy, it definitely earns my stamp of approval:
Don't be depressed after reading this, just appreciate your free will, and don't take it for granted. Some of us live life on a leash.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Some fountains aren't for drinking

The drinking fountain is the only water-bearing fountain specifically constructed to allow for human consumption. It is also the most poorly engineered fountain in existence.

This is my testimony:

The majority of drinking fountains are incorrectly pressurized. Shouldn't that be one of the major checkpoints on the factory worker's list? Low water pressure is perhaps most common. There is something immensely frustrating about being very thirsty but not being able to take in the desired volume per gulp. It reminds me of a particular moment from my childhood, of enthusiastically puncturing a Capri Sun with a tiny yellow straw, only to be thwarted by immense sucking but maddeningly tiny squirts of liquid. A face-full of Pacific Cooler caused by rage-driven pouch squeezing is a landmark moment of my youth. Besides all that, there is often barely enough pressure to even force the water into a drinkable arch. This requires one to get dangerously close to the spout (the second any part of that thing touches your face it's game over), as well as to make a face similar to that of someone attempting to kiss a duck.

Over-pressurized fountains cause a very different problem. Again, I'm reminded of my childhood, this time of playing with the backyard hose and its various attachments. I loved to spray things (anything, including neighboring cats or any unsuspecting siblings), but I could never quite figure out the attachment with the stream-type feature. I still don't understand why "mist" was even an option. What good is "mist" when you are trying to spray a flock of geese flying 50 feet overhead? Anyways, I am pretty sure the drinking fountain factory workers also have not mastered this skill, and have put some fountains on the "mist" setting permanently. They should be on "streamline." If I wanted a face wash, I'd do so in the sink.

You never know what you're going to get when you bend over to indulge in an unfamiliar drinking fountain. If and when you happen upon unfortunate water pressure, you will most likely either get squirted in the face or make the ducky drinking face at an inappropriate height. If you are experienced, you know to push the button first, assess the situation, then go in for a drink.

Even then, the temperature of the water cannot be predicted until it's too late to turn back. There's something about warm water from a drinking fountain that is much more revolting than warm water from a cup. I can't help but imagine it's the splash-back from the last person that has somehow fallen back into the spout.

I also have qualms with the way some drinking fountains are installed. I understand that children get thirsty, but they need to learn they can't always have everything they want. That was a joke (kind of), but it is based on something serious - is it really necessary to install drinking fountains 4 feet up from the ground? I don't think I've ever seen these being used, by adults or children. In fact, I remember one instance of a parent actually lifting their kid up to drink from the higher one - what a waste.

I also don't understand why drinking fountains are often installed what seems like inches apart from each other. What is the purpose of this? Why not have a little buffer zone? I feel like I'm at a watering hole in a drought-stricken Savannah, being forced to drink dangerously close to animals of other species, perhaps even predators who want to eat me. Ok that one's a little weird, but I think I've made my point.

You may think spending so much effort analyzing the engineering flaws of drinking fountains is a waste of time. It is. However, by doing so, I have managed to learn how to pick out fountains to avoid just by looking at them. How about that for a skill. Today is your lucky day, because I am going to share a couple of the warning signs.

Firstly, button placement. Any fountain that's button is located directly on top of its spout is questionable. These are the fountains that look as if they were constructed and installed in 1963, and they usually have disastrously low water pressure and lukewarm water at best. I can only assume they are filled with mold. Avoid them. Opt for fountains with buttons on the front or sides.

Also, a loud fountain is usually a good fountain. The decibel level of a fountain is negatively correlated with its water temperature. This is science. A fountain that seems to be churning, even rumbling, will provide fresh, ice cold product, usually at a manageable water pressure. I can't explain it, I'm not an engineer. All I know is, find a good fountain by following the noise. 

Following these two rules, but mainly paying attention to each drinking experience, will lend you the skills necessary to avoid the many flaws of drinking fountains.

"The more satisfying your public drinking life, the better life is in general."
                   -Anonymous blogger   

Saturday, May 5, 2012

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Let's say you work in a library. You're not a librarian, though. Your entire job is to read - all day, every day.

Like many other jobs, you work Monday through Friday, 9-5, and have an hour for lunch each day.

Soon, you will become very good at reading. You will be able to do so at a 800 word-per-minute rate (considered significantly above average for literate adults). At that rate, and assuming the average book contains 64,000 words (according to Amazon's text stats feature), it would take you 80 minutes to finish one book. That means, in a 7 hour day, you could read approximately 5 and 1/4 books. Not too shabby. If this is your job for your entire adult life, let's say age 18 to 80 (death is really the only excuse to retire when your job is to read), you can accomplish a staggering 84,630 books (and half of one more - shame you die before finishing, but so goes the math) in your lifetime. You would be the definition of "book smart." Right?

The Library of Congress in Washington D.C. (and Virginia - it's so big it needs two states) is the biggest library in the world. It has 34.5 million cataloged books. So, if you were a stellar employee there, reading every minute of every 7 hour weekday of your life, never getting on Facebook or writing in your blog about books, you would get through 84,630/34,500,000 - 1/408th - 0.2% - of all the books in the library. You would absorb 0.2% of the available knowledge after a lifelong career. Talk about disappointing.

Let's consider a more unrealistic scenario - ok an impossible scenario - just for the sake of my argument (which I'll get to eventually, I promise). If you read for every second of every day of your entire life, from birth to death, at 800 WPM and at 64,000 words per book, you could get through about 525,949 books in your lifetime. As an employee at the Library of Congress, your career looks only slightly better, at a meager 1.5% of all books completed - no Pulitzer Prize-worthy feat. It would take 66 lifetimes of non-stop reading to complete the entire collection at this one library.

OK, I know you've been waiting. Argument time. Ready?

Libraries are awesome.

I know, groundbreaking. But really...


Prague, Czech Republic

Rio De Janeiro, Brazil

Stockholm, Sweden

New Haven, CT

Ottawa, Ontario

Mexico City, Mexico

Toronto, Ontario

Some of the 838 miles of shelving at the Library of Congress. I guess you need that much when you're housing 151.8 million items.

There are just so many books out there! Have you ever wandered through a library and just browsed? I swear, there's a book for EVERY topic. Every topic you can think of, someone has written about it. And I wonder, if you pick a book at random, how many people have actually read it, cover to cover? There have to be some published books that have NEVER been read cover to cover! The author of said book slaved away for months, even years, writing, just to have it sit on a library shelf somewhere and collect dust. Sucks for the author, but pretty cool to think about.

Maybe you don't think all this is so amusing, but that's fine. This is about my child-like fascination with simple things. It makes life fun, you should try it.

It's cool to me that, in a society that has shifted so drastically away from books, and towards electronic media, we still have libraries. And people still go there. However, if I ever see someone reading from their Kindle in a library I might freak out.

Ironically enough, I'm writing this at a library. I came here to grade exams. I thought the library would be a place conducive to grading exams, but it turns out to be conducive to writing about libraries. Figures.

There's even cool libraries in Utah! Yes I spend time here, and yes I walk around creepily snapping pictures on my phone. This corridor alone would take you 67 years to read. I did the math. Just kidding. But I've gotta be close.

 This is where I'm sitting, right now. How could you sit here and not write about books. Sometimes I try to take artistic photos. Believe me, this is one of my better ones.