Archive for September, 2005

Paradigm sleep

September 29th, 2005 Comments off

Every once in a while when I’m falling asleep, just before I actually doze off, I have a sort of deja vu sensation. My eyes will be closed, the room is dark, and there’s no sound except the air conditioner. The situation is what one would expect when falling asleep. The feeling I get is that I’m not actually at my apartment in Madison, but back in Franklin in my old bedroom. The one my sister has now.

My mind is convinced that that’s where I am. Even when I initially open my eyes I feel like I’m someplace else. If I keep my eyes closed I can actually envision things around my old room, and believe that they should be there when I open them. My old dresser will be in the corner, red desk up against the window, bookshelf at my feet, and my nightstand to my back, with its Green Bay Packer lamp on top. I have to adjust for just a tiny bit before I realize where I truly am.

It’s not a bad thing, it’s just strange. It’s not something indicative of a desire to return to that room, just my mind calling attention to the fact that I’ve been through this routine for the past 23 years.

I’ve done the same thing at hotels, and I’ve been in plenty of those this year. Instead of thinking I’m home in my bed, I think that I’m in another hotel, one more familiar to me than the one I’m falling asleep in. It’s as if there’s some subconscious trigger in my head that indicates I’m falling asleep in someplace other than “home” and sends my thoughts to the surroundings of other hotels. When I realize I’m having one of these deja vu experiences, I will play along. I often switch my mental surroundings to a place I’m more fond of, someplace I’ve been many times and my presence at this location carries a pleasurable feeling. Usually this is Disney World. Of course.

I’ll be laying in bed at an All Star resort, with buzzing air conditioners from the rows of rooms that flank me. I’ll hear an occasional shout from a child, door bouncing off the security latch as someone goes for ice, or the roar that is toilet flushes from adjacent rooms at Disney resorts. It’s an instant transport to someplace I’d rather be. A mental paradigm shift.

Many nights, I get more thinking done in the 15 minutes it takes to doze off than I did all day. I never remember what I was thinking about the next morning. Maybe I’ll have a lingering sensation of having a good idea and the general topic of the idea, but never the specific notion. If I had a mental notebook to carry around I’d be 50% more intelligent. Or maybe I am 50% more intelligent than I think I am, but never remember it. In any case, I think that’s justification enough to warrant sleeping at work. Just as long as I wake up before I forget my thoughts.

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38 in Madison, 67 in Milwaukee

September 12th, 2005 No comments

I love the Food Network, I really do. I watch so much of it that Tivo grabs more shows from that channel than any other. I can watch reruns of some shows and like it because I pick up on things I hadn’t seen the last time I saw them. I like the shows where they travel around and show you food in other places. I even watch some of their cooking contests. I really love Good Eats. You can’t do much better than a show like that.

But on the other hand, one thing that I’ve noticed, maybe due to the span of years I’ve watched the network, is how much overlap the shows contain. It must be tough to get a show with a good premise, entertaining host and correct content but never progress into anything difficult. It always seems like shows want to make things easy for you and simplify your life. I have no problem with that, but once you hit show 200 of Emeril, you kind of want him to kick up the skill level a notch or two.

Cooking shows began as a way to make cuisine available to the masses. Julia Child can obviously be considered the matriarch of this movement. In her day, doing anything other than Swanson dinners or pot roast and mashed potatoes was complicated. It was ok for her to keep it simple. Her show forged a path for other shows that made cooking more accessible. The Frugal Gourmet, Jacques Pepin, Paul Prudhomme and even Cooking With Caprial were all foundations that indirectly built the Food Network. Let’s not forget Discovery’s Great Chefs, which provided quite a few afternoons of entertainment after school.

But now that I’ve watched so much Food TV, I’m getting tired of hearing the same old thing over and over. I know how to peel garlic, I know that a sub sandwich is called a hoagie, bomber or any number of other things. I don’t need to be shown that again. It’s time for the Food Network to dig in deep and bring out a show that takes simplifying cuisine and tosses it aside. Do a reality show of a real New York kitchen and keep the editing to a minimum. Have Emeril not talk down to his audience for once, and have him speak intelligently (if possible) instead. Why not a show about specific techniques for doing things? How to cut, how to use professional kitchen equipment, how to butcher your own cow.

Maybe I’ve just gotten to the point where the shows aren’t as entertaining because they all seem to rehash what another show has said. I still like to watch them, but I look them more for ideas on what to make moreso than how to do anything. I guess that’s why Alton Brown’s show intrigues me so much. He always goes in-depth into his show’s topics and then does variations on it. It’s never just a straight “here’s a recipe” sort of deal.

Let’s take Rachel Ray and have her go fancy places and review them. Let’s not always go to the best little shop aruond the corner to get food for under $4.99 and brag about it. What about a show on 4 star restaurants and why they are worth each star? A “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” for cuisine, if you will. How about a show specifically about drinks. They don’t have to be alcoholic, although I’d be partial to that. It could be how to make drinks with a certain spirit each week. What’s in each mixer, how to pour them, where they came from. I’m sure there’d be an audience for that. Find someone with some enthusiasm for wine and booze and throw in some good visuals and useful information and you have a series worth a few dozen episodes. Why hasn’t a Food Network show really devoted one episode to drinks anyway?

I know I started off saying I love the Food Network, and I mean that. I just think it’s time they branch out a bit and realize some of their most frequent viewers have hit the stage where shows seem to have the same information. It’s like a car factory. Each car that comes out is still relatively the same as the car before it, but each has been modified just a bit to fit a particular taste.

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A Travelin’ man

September 11th, 2005 No comments

I really can’t stand people. Yeah, I said that, I really can’t stand people. They don’t have to be doing anything, they just have to be people. Some people don’t like tall people, others don’t like stupid people, but I just don’t like people. I have an overall dislike of people in general. They bother me. They get in my way. They smell. However, if I had to direct my distaste for people at any one subcategory of people, I think I would have to pick travelers.

I’m in the middle of my 16th trip this year (for work, add in the pleasure trips and I’d be at 19). This entitles me to some level of snobbiness. Don’t you think? If not, consider it self-entitled snobbiness. When you’re on the road and all you want to do is get to your destination so you can watch tv for a few minutes then get to sleep, it’s difficult to not be frustrated by the travelers surrounding you.

There is a wide spectrum of travelers, with one end being the pure leisure traveler (usually a family or newlywed couple) and the other being the suit-wearing Blackberry toting businessman. One might think that the family is more irritating than the businessman, but that’s not accurate. They actually bother me equally, but in different ways.

Families have children. Children like to cry. Crying on a plane bothers me and everyone else on it. There’s no reason to take your infant on a plane unless you have some drastic situation that requires flight. Even then, consider driving instead, just to help keep me sane. When you get your children on the plane, do not give them toys that make noise. You can give them toys, but make sure I can’t hear those toys. I’ve been on a flight or two with loud toys that bothered the heck outta me. I was too far away to let them know I didn’t appreciate it. I’ve been on a flight where a lady couldn’t calm down her child for the duration of our 8 hour trip to Hawaii. It was seriously 45 minutes of crying, followed by 30 minutes of sleeping for the entire flight. I wanted to throw something at them, but decided against that.

The next category of traveler I dislike is old people. They usually take forever to do whatever they’re trying to do, and I can usually do the same thing 10 times quicker. Boarding the plane is quite the challenge for them. They never have any idea where to find the seat letters or row numbers: “Oh Fran, how can we tell where to sit? There’s no labels on the rows.” Yep, airlines haven’t figured out that they need to label the seats yet and old man river just figured that out for them. Instead, airlines expect you to be able to count the rows as you head towards the back of the plane (cause let’s face it, that’s where they’re sitting) and find your seat that way. It often takes a flight attendant to help them find their seat. Once they get to their row, the fiasco of finding overhead space begins. They literally don’t have the strength to lift their vintage 1955 American Tourister bags above their heads, so someone else has to help. Getting off the plane takes just as must assistance.

What’s really ironic is right now I can hear someone playing a slot machine video game as if everyone wants to hear when they hit the jackpot. I certainly don’t, but maybe the rest of the passengers do. Maybe an announcement and a vote would help to determine if it needs muting or not.

Going further up the spectrum are non-frequent business travelers. They think they know what they’re up to and play it off as if the jet all over the country on a regular basis. In reality, last year they went to a conference in Orlando about self-realization and leadership and now they’re headed to the peanut association’s annual seminar to lobby for designating peanut butter as a dairy product. Or maybe they are Mary-Kay sales-ladies off to Dallas for their convention at the Courtyard Market Center – that happened once. They all run around in their pretty little skirts and heels with pink bags filled with perfume and makeup as if anyone cared or really wanted to buy that in the first place. These are the ones that put their oversize purses in the overhead bins and look dumfounded when there’s nowhere to put their rollerbag afterwards. They end up having to planeside check their bag and have no clue what that’s all about. Because I’m already seated and watching this occur, I have the pain of knowing that doing all this just takes makes it longer before we get pushed back and underway. And again, let me remind you that all I want to do is get to my hotel and sleep.

Now we reach the far-end of the spectrum. The elite, frequent business traveler. I’d like to say they take the cake as far as bothersomeness, but I’m really not sure. I can’t stand the salesman subclass of this group. They’re usually overweight by about 50 pounds and dressed in Dockers and some sort of ugly plaid shirt. It’s great to see them in first class, thinking they’ve somehow made it in life and their success in hawking pipe elbows will continue to reap them rewards. These people don’t really need any of the gadgets they have, but what else would they compete with in their pissing matches? If you don’t have a Blackberry and a Bluetooth headset, you really haven’t made it. Or that’s what they want you to think.

Blackberries get a special focus of my despise. You always see these tools walking around the airport or sitting on the plane before takeoff with a headset on and their Blackberry out. They don’t need to be on the phone, but then they might appear unimportant. They don’t need to be emailing, but then they don’t look like the biggest douchebag ever. When they leave a voicemail, the message isn’t intended for the person they called, but moreso directed anyone within 50 feet of where they’re sitting. Somehow one becomes important by yelling out voicemail messages so everyone can hear. “Yeah, John, nice weekend. Great game of golf – too bad we didn’t see you out there. Maybe after you hit the numbers on the Acme account we can go out for a celebratory round.” isn’t the type of message I want on my phone. I don’t want to hear someone leave it for someone else either.

Once on the plane, a whole new situation comes into play. I’ve been flying up front on most of my flights as of recent, and this is actually the first one in a month where I’m not up front. I definitely don’t like it. When you’re in a row of two or three people on a plane, you have to worry about bathroom breaks, arm rest possession, and a person’s ability to sleep without snoring. Then you have to find out what you’re going to do for the flight. Do you get out your laptop and shoot off emails, or just relax with a magazine and your mp3 player. When you take the relaxing route, you sometimes run into the situation of having to come up with small talk with the jerk next to you who really likes a different magazine completely unrelated to the one you’re currently reading. Then you get into finding out where he works and why he’s headed where he is. I don’t care to do this. Leave me alone. On the other hand, if you were to get out your laptop and do some work, you have people constantly looking over your shoulder or to their side at what you are doing. I hate it. Mind your own business. I don’t spy on you, you don’t spy on me. If I wanted your assistance or for you to even see it, I would slide the computer over and show you. Sure, it’s cramped quarters and one can’t expect complete privacy, but there’s a line to be drawn when the guy next to you pretty much does nothing but watch you type.

That’s what’s been going on while I’ve been typing this, and I hope he read it. This same guy has now gotten up twice for bathroom breaks, each taking a questionable amount of time. He had his mp3 player out and on before we even took off indicating he hasn’t really flown much. A few minutes ago he pulled out his cell phone to apparently check his voicemail? I understand that doing so probably won’t make the plane crash, but it’s not like they have a rule against using your phone for no good reason at all. Maybe he wanted to check on Joe’s golf game and see how his wife’s convention went. She sells Tupperware, you know.

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