Monday, April 23, 2018

Don't Throw (Gall)Stones

I think it was some Michael Pollan book that talked about analyzing people's carbon molecules and finding that most everyone is mostly made of corn. This finding gave me pause: not because I have anything against corn, in fact I love corn and you can't stop me, Michael Pollan, but because I am reasonably sure my family is made of potatoes. Well, the kids might be made of peanut butter, and DH is possibly hops-based, but I am definitely made of potatoes.

I love potatoes. I literally wept with happiness the first year I dug potatoes up out of my own garden. I was also very ill and a bit delirious with fever at the time, which may have affected my emotional state somewhat, but there really is something special about seeing those precious little nuggets peeking out of freshly-turned soil. And then peeking out of a pot or roasting pan. And then peeking up from my dinner plate. Nomnomnom.

In fact, I have an entire friendship that is founded upon a mutual love of potatoes. There are other things, too, like kids or native prairie conservation or whatever, but we are sure to include at least an honourary mention of potatoes in every conversation - praise be to them for bringing us together. On the other hand, I'm afraid I have had to cut some people out of my life entirely over their galling lack of respect for potatoes (they are so a real vegetable, Andrew). (Ugh, I'll bet that guy eats all the cauliflower.)

I like to imagine pie charts for things. Since I read whatever book that was about the corn, one of my ongoing mental pie charts is of where all my carbons have come from. Potatoes of course comprise a hefty slice, as does wheat (major sub-groups in descending order of occurrence: bread products, Triscuits, assorted baked goods, pie crust, pasta). Beef has been creeping steadily up the charts since we started buying freezers-full of it a few years ago (coincidentally, from my PFF - potato friend forever); and it seems to me that other fruits & vegetables (although potatoes are definitely vegetables, just worthy of their own category!); cheese; beans; oatmeal; sugar beets; and, yes, probably corn, make up a large majority of the rest.

That's not so bad, right? You can't judge me too harshly over my fondness for bread and potatoes - just think of all the horses I didn't eat!

But what's this mystery slice over here, you say? Oh drat, you've found my mental list of Things I've Probably Eaten My Bodyweight In, But Shouldn't Have. (Technically, sugar beets should be on this list, but it's my pie chart so I get to justify my behaviours slice it how I like.)

McDonald's is on this list, as are butter, bacon, those tiny KitKats I steal from the kids at Halloween, and the surprise contender, cream cheese frosting. But before I draw your eye to perhaps the most shameful entry on this list - yes, more shameful than several lifetimes' worth of cream cheese frosting - perhaps I could interest you in compiling your own mental pie chart? I mean, I'm pretty sure we're all in glass houses to some extent here...

I, Frecklepelt, hold the legitimate concern that I have consumed my own bodyweight in Cool Whip over the course of my life.

What can I say? I'm from Saskatchewan. Cool Whip is basically its own food group there.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Venus of Sigma

Venus was a mathematician.

Unfortunately, she has been remembered primarily for her looks. "Seriously," she is wont to say at parties, "you do one life drawing session in college to make ends meet..." At this point she trails off meaningfully - the joke tells itself, really - but women in particular tend to read a slightly bitter undertone into the telling. Men, on the other hand, are unable to grasp how this could possibly be construed as a bad thing, and thus interpret the subtle whiff of sombreness as... humility, maybe? Whatever it is, it is just so hot - 10/10 would totally hit that. She usually takes the ensuing pause in the chatter, where everyone awkwardly sips their drink and avoids eye contact, to make a quick exit. It's basically her only good line, and anyway she hates events like these.  

Ugh, and that Goddess of Love business - speaking of jokes! She was appointed to the Ministry of Human Affairs in a cabinet shuffle hastily conducted after yet another illicit deity-mortal "interaction" scandal. Ironically, she was assigned the post because she was the most studiously disinterested in humans of them all, i.e., voted least likely to take the "Human Affairs" title as a personal challenge. She wasn't even qualified, yet had such unprecedented success in simply avoiding the types of scandalous behaviours that her predecessors had engaged in that she was never relieved from the position, and that ridiculous moniker stuck. Some a-hole reporter from a right-wing rag coined it - she's usually a stickler for ethics but she made the tiniest (and arguably well-deserved) exception for that guy, and pulled some strings over at the Ministry of Human Health. A pox upon his ass, indeed. Literally.

She had done some groundbreaking work in geometry and algebra before joining the Ministry, but the credit went to her male colleagues. Mortals at that! It soured her on academia for a while, hence the ill-advised foray into government.

Uninterested in managing the emotional needs of humans, yet unable to secure a transfer to a department better suited to her skill set - or even an assistant, for Pete's sake! - she set about automating the process. I mean, when you think of the overwhelming emotional needs of humans, multiplied by their incredible ability to, well, multiply, it was only logical. (Which, by the way, she had also dabbled in during her undergrad; you will note her name isn't associated with her advances in that field, either.)

You are, of course, familiar with her system, although you can be forgiven for not previously having recognized it as a system per se - it would be like, as they say, a fish describing water. Let me assure you it was revolutionary at the time, given both that the branch of mathematics governing it hadn't been invented yet, and that it represented a rather substantial departure from the water the fish had been swimming in up to that point: everything used to rest on the tedious approaches of endless praying and sacrificing and other forms of personal appeal, but even with only a few hundred thousand humans kicking around at the time it was obvious that the model was unsustainable. Especially without even a single assistant...

So, with the kind of political will that can only occur in someone utterly disinterested in politics, she developed and implemented a new system. One so ruthlessly equitable (even if not what one might call "fair", depending on one's experience of it) and so unsusceptible to divine meddling that its practical appeal was irresistible; it was eventually applied to all other departments as well. Well, all but the Ministry of Human Sporting Events; guess you didn't pray hard enough last season, folks.

In this manner dis-employed, the various and variously long-overworked deities all cashed in their vacation millennia to catch up on sleep and neglected hobbies. (They received generous retirement packages as well, in case you're concerned about their welfare over the long term - it is government, after all.)

Oh, people kept burning livestock and so on for a while, but most of them have caught on by now that no amount of charred sheep is going to help you find love, luck, health, wealth, a bumper potato crop, a particular gender of fetus or even your car keys, anymore: it's all up to chance.
         

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Pep Talk

My eyebrows have been slowly eroding as I've aged. I've pencilled my (pale blonde) brows in for ages to make them less-invisible, but at the rate they've been disappearing I'm going to be free-styling a pair of surprised granny arches by the time I'm 45. That's how it all starts, you know: from the time you first free your brows from the bounds of reality it's a dangerously short slope to a poodle perm and white orthopaedic sneakers. Or so I've heard.

I look terrible in purple, so I decided to give one of these new-fangled eyelash-growing potions a try. Not on my eyelashes - my glasses already have the permanent appearance of a patio door in a daycare - but on my brows. In retrospect, I'm not entirely sure how I thought it was going to pan out. The stuff makes lashes longer, so what exactly did I think it was going to do with my brows? Offer tax incentives to lure them back from whatever more southerly climes they've migrated to?

I need longer eyebrows like I need more luxurious knuckle hair. What am I supposed to do with longer eyebrows, style them? Add brow trimming to the already exhaustive - and still sprouting anew! - list of personal grooming I'm expected to keep up with? There has got to be a better way to keep myself on this side of the support hose and Scotch mints crowd. If only there were administrative options for it...

* * *

"Listen up, people: we don't need the same personnel stretched thinner over more ground. What we need is to take the learnings from our gap analysis and do some strategic recruitment. I would like to see each of these roles filled within this quarter. In the meantime, we need to develop our team-building approaches and better our management strategies to improve retention - I want our turnover rates down at least 50% over the next year.

Folks, BROW & Co. cut too deep in the 90s - no matter if it was right or wrong, those pencil-thin margins were just a sign of the times, everyone was doing it - but it is clear we never fully recovered from that. We have a lot of work ahead of us if we want to maintain the growth we're trying to achieve now. From here on our goal is sleek and streamlined, appropriate for a company of our vintage and not a slave to the whims of fashion.

Together, I'm convinced we will be able to keep this old gal out of velour tracksuits for a long while yet. Keep up the good work everyone."

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Naturally Delicious

Most of my neighbours seem pretty decent: they cut their grass, they rumble their bins to the curb at not-unreasonable times of day, and their free-roaming cats only occasionally sneak into my house and surprise me on my couch. Not that I'm watching or anything, but in my humble opinion every one of them leaves their vehicles to "warm up" for far longer than is strictly necessary, and I also can't help but notice that *some* of them seem to produce an astounding amount of garbage each week, yet suspiciously little blue or green bin fodder. Plus I accidentally couldn't help seeing that *someone* hired a tree-removal company to cut down a perfectly healthy pin cherry tree last year, yet left a dead spruce standing in their front yard...

Anyway, like I was saying, perfectly normal and environmentally-conscious people whom I am definitely not watching and judging from my nice big kitchen window, which happens to face out over the street.

But the "new" guy next door? I am absolutely judging that guy. I have never spoken with him, but having lived next door to him for around 3 years now I like to think I've gotten to know enough about him - through an as-yet undefined method of neighbourly osmosis - that I am able to pass judgement on him, and that judgement is not favourable. In addition to leaving his car running too long and not sorting recyclables or compostables, he has never - not once - mowed his lawn, shoveled his snow, or walked his dog. (I only know the dog exists because I can hear it howling all day long.) Plus he orders So. Much. Take-out. that we've had more delivery drivers mistakenly come to our door with his food in the past 3 years than we have had delivery drivers delivering our own food to our door in the entire 11 years we've lived here. Who needs that much take-out?! Really, he only has himself (and maybe Skip the Dishes) to blame for my poor opinion of him.

People always say that karma will take care of things. Although I too wish the world was a more fair and just place than it is, sadly I have seen no evidence suggesting this karma business is anything more than wishful thinking. However, even I must admit that every so often a natural consequence of impeccable timing and proportion occurs, and I think we would be remiss if we did not take a moment to relish those happy coincidences. You can even call them karma if that makes you feel better about the world.

For instance, while it seems like everyone would rather forget this long, snowy winter, I will forever remember it fondly as the winter my lazy-ass neighbour got his car high-centered on the snow at the end of his driveway. I was cooking supper so I had an excellent view of the entire "karmic" comedy playing out: no amount of pushing or revving would get his little car over the entire winter's accumulation of snow. And what kind of homeowner would think to invest $20 on a shovel in a measly 3 years of homeownership? Not this guy! So he very laboriously dug his car out and cleared his entire 21.5 metre driveway (I measured) with a wee trunk-sized half-shovel.

Delicious.

To be clear, I've helped other neighbours get their cars unstuck in the past, but this was such a profoundly satisfying win for natural consequences that I kept right on cooking supper while I enjoyed the show. Our kitchen window so beautifully frames the sunsets that we usually call it Tom Thomson, but that night it was nothing less than Norman Rockwell.

For the record, new neighbour guy since bought himself a real shovel and has been shoveling his driveway shortly after each snowfall ever since that fateful night. I think his parents would be proud of my work. Now if I could only figure out how to get his car high-centered on the waist-high grass in his backyard...

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Beware the Unguarded Heart

I think it's the uncertainty of social media feedback that makes it so compelling. And it's not only that you don't know whether you are going to get Likes or hearts or whatever, it's also that even when you do get them, you don't know what the hell they mean.

Let's say you post something one day about the whole household having the flu, and Aunt Melba gives it a heart. Ideally she'd drop off some of her famous chicken soup to help out in a quaintly old-fashioned (i.e., meaningful) way, but she's 105 and lives in another town so that e-heart is all you've got to work with. Is Aunt Melba sending love to help us get over the flu, or does she love that we all have the flu, or is she just 105 and confused about the Facebook?

Unless it is well established that Aunt Melba is a crusty old bitch, I'd tend to assume she is sending love. But not every Like is so straightforward, and not every person seems to subscribe to the same social media philosophy. I, for instance, only press the heart button when I truly heart something - like, I pause each time and carefully consider, Do I really love this? Is this worthy of my love? - but other people are out there throwing hearts around like Oprah throws out cars: YOU get a heart, and YOU get a heart, and EVERYBODY GETS A HEART! (Cut this shit out, people - it's causing heart inflation and devaluing all the other hearts out there.)

Further-further confounding things is that we - messy humans - view everything through a self-centric lens, whether it's incoming or outgoing. Aunt Melba can intend whatever she wants with that heart, but I am going to interpret it however I am inclined to interpret it. Conversely, I can hit Like or heart or angry face with whatever muddled and endlessly variable rationale driving me in that moment, but all anyone gets out of it is an opaque little icon. Am I angry along with you at the injustice detailed in the article you shared, or angry at you for posting something I disagree with, or just an angry person in general and why are you even friends with me anyway? You get to be the judge and the jury - and yes, even the victim, if you wish.

I propose a classic yet classically onerous solution: crosswalk tables. I suspect we're going to need to perfect the Vulcan mind-meld in order to get sufficiently detailed personal classification matrices in place and cross-correlated, and I predict a lot of hurt feelings coming out of that process, but it will all be worth it to have a perfect, icon-based communication system in place on social media platforms. I mean, we could try using our words and stuff, but that would take up so much valuable Facebook time plus potentially mean having to interact with other humans in person or - heaven forbid - over the phone. Ew!

In the meantime I guess we're 100% stuck communicating using only Likes and hearts. So be sure to leave me a Like. Or not. Your choice. Regardless, I will definitely be racking my brains wondering why.

Like mice to a food lever with a random interval reward schedule, these are the days of our lives.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

All-dressed

There's a fine line between ripped jeans, and jeans that are ripped. I am familiar with this line because I can't seem to stop jamming my feet through my ripped jeans when I'm putting them on, and thus I own several pairs of jeans that are ripped.

I used to feel trendy and stylish in my ripped jeans, but now I just feel the accusatory gaze of the pasty blobs of thigh that sortof bulge out of the rips a little as if to say, Why don't you get out your sewing machine and patch this up, you slob? (Shut up, thigh. What do you know about my busy life?) You can classy up ripped jeans because the rips are intentional, and thus cool, but jeans that are ripped just drag everything down to their level. With jeans that are ripped, you might as well slap on the same holey grey sweatshirt every day and accept that you are now a person who has given up on their appearance. Thankfully, I work from home, that proud bastion of folks who have given up on their appearances, so it matters not whether my jeans are ripped or ripped.

Actually, that particular bastion might be a little too proud: I notice DH has started to compliment me every time I get dressed. It doesn't even matter what I'm wearing, just that I'm not wearing my de facto basement-office uniform (holey grey sweatshirt, jeans-that-are-ripped, and "comfy" [i.e., saggy old] bra). If I so much as put on a t-shirt and comb my hair he's like, "Wow, you look nice today, dear." One day last week I went as far as to wash my hair and put on a cardigan and he accused me of dressing up: "Did you have a lunch date or something?" I did, actually, but the fact that a shower and a cardigan seemed to bump me up several rungs of dressiness in his estimation really opened my eyes to just how far my standards have fallen since I left my old office job.

He even seemed slightly envious that I had "dressed up" for someone else, although he also gets a little envious that I turn on the heat in the house for guests and not for him so I wouldn't put much stock in that reaction. (Interesting note: I recently learned that normal room temperature is actually 21C, not 20C as I believed, so the lucky recipients of my house-heating beneficence have probably all still been chilly. Being a perpetually-warm person has its advantages I guess.) I admit I got a little defensive about my cardigan - dressed is clearly not the same as dressed up! - until I realized that his argument cut both ways: "Waaaait a minute - by that logic you come home after work every day and dress down for me!"

"But I don't want my work clothes to smell like cooking supper!"

"I don't want my cardigans to smell like that either!"

"Hm... okay, fair enough. Anyway, you look really nice today, dear. Hey, is it cold in here?"

"No. Go put on another sweater, you wuss."
  

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Putting the Sham in Shampoo

Studies have shown that people who are told their placebo is more expensive experience greater placebo effects.

Like, let that sink in for a minute. It is literally mind-boggling. I think most people would read that and think, What?! Surely that would never work on me. I am way too smart/sensible/whatever I tell myself to get through the day to fall for a price tag, let alone on a placebo!

I know I definitely had that reaction. And it was an easy thing to tell myself, given that I have never participated in any clinical trials for Parkinson's disease (... for instance). But then one day in the shower I realized: if I actually believed what my shampoo was telling me, I would not in a million years use the leftover suds to wash the ol' pits & bits.

Just think about all the things your shampoo promises you: thicker... fuller... shinier... for the love of Pete, enhanced curls? This thought now consumes my every shower. It's antithetical to every grooming objective I enforce from my eyebrows on down, and still my shower is stocked with mega bottles of salon product so ridiculously expensive that I secretly sniff my kids' hair - under the pretext of "Give mommy a hug!" - to make sure they're not using it. (Don't judge me - it's way out of their pay grade.)

I swear that this shampoo makes my head hair better, while at the same time having no discernible effects on, say, my leg hair.  

The shampoo conundrum haunts me because it's such a blatant example of my own dissonant beliefs, all wrapped up in a tidy mint-green bottle**: I have to look at the bottle every day and be angry at myself for spending so much money on it, yet I still manage to feel good about putting it in my hair, yet somehow completely neutral about allowing the magical suds to trickle down my ass crack, purportedly enhancing volume and curls all the way. The whole situation completely defies logic.

**Actually, it's a pair of bottles: I have the conditioner, too. Heaven help me, I let that trickle down as well.

**Aaaaactually, it's a quartet: I also have two bottles of matching product, but since I don't apply those - actively or passively - to the rest of my body, I seem to experience less internal struggle over their mystical claims.

Oh shit - I just realized something truly terrible. *checks knuckle hair* Okay, nevermind. No worse than usual.

My brain has a little battle with itself over this issue basically every time I have a shower, and each time reaches only a strained detente thanks to one tiny, hopeful nugget: the products smell really good.

Tiny, niggling brain voice: Like... $300 good?

Louder brain voice: STFU, brain. I'm sick of justifying everything to you.

Nose: OH MAN THIS SHIT SMELLS AMAZING AMIRITE?

All the brains: Aaaaaahhhhh...

Nose (quietly): Until tomorrow, you crazy bastards.