Category Archives: Random life

What the millennials can teach us

Today in conversations overheard on the street.

A mom and her 18/20 yr daughter walking behind me on the street. Madrid, Spain. They are speaking English.

Mom: I thought I heard you come in at 2:30am last night.

Daughter: I really needed to pee and didn’t want to do it on the street.

Mom: Your friends pee on the street?

Daughter: Yeah.

Mom: Even girls?

Daughter: Sure, mom. What else are they going to do? If you gotta go, you gotta go.

The wisdom of the younguns.

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A theory on assholes

The other day an asshole in a blue BMW couldn’t wait at the round about and zipped past us with his middle finger stuck out of his window. Not to be outdone, we responded with our middle fingers too. He then slowed down to a crawl, you know, to teach us a lesson. To show us the agony he must have experienced when he was behind us. To demonstrate the full extent of his assholishness. (If that’s not a word, I don’t care. You know what I mean).

I guess he forgot he was in a hurry.

My first thought was to follow him, find out where he lives, and test my death glare on him. But then I decided that stalking isn’t really my thing. Plus my death glare doesn’t guarantee death—at least not yet. Which is unfortunate in this case.

My second thought was – WTF is wrong with people? Why are there so many assholes running around? Assholes that shoot beautiful animals because they can pay someone to allow it; assholes that call immigrants rapists because they can pay someone to broadcast it; assholes that drive blue BMWs because… well, because they can pay to drive a BMW.

And then it dawned on me that there is a connection between the amount of money a douchecanoe has, the amount of power he* holds, and the level of assholishness he possesses. That isn’t to say that all rich people are assholes — but it is to say that the majority of assholes are definitely rich. Or, as in the case of ISIS, horny and drunk on power.

So now that you know what makes an asshole – watch out when you win that lottery. You don’t want to add to the ever-expanding pool of assholes.

* Yes, I am aware that women can be assholes too. But it’s my blog and I’ll use a he if I want to.

What-America-can-teach-others series: Part I

If you are expecting a highbrow narrative about freedom and democracy, you are reading the wrong blog (plus I’m not certain America’s earned the right to teach that***).

If you are expecting some wholesome land-of-entrepreneurs-and-visionaries bragging – again, wrong blog.

But if you are looking for a petty but brutal deconstruction of what drives me completely aghast while living abroad – welcome. You are in the right place.

(1) We start with double dipping. Really, Europe? You haven’t yet learned that ingesting someone else’s saliva with hummus doesn’t a good middle-eastern dip make?

(2) The planning. Not uniquely American thing for sure, but people? Don’t you think informing a presenter of what’s required of them earlier rather than later would make for a better presentation? R-e-s-p-o-n-d to my email with at least a few details. Soon. Now preferably. I cannot read your mind, you know.

(3) Please wash your hands after going to the bathroom. Just. Please.

(4) Those swimming caps have to go.

Part II is coming up sometime in the future.

If you need me, I’ll be at my desk obsessively refreshing e-mail in hopes that I am wrong about the above-mentioned #2.

*** Fox News aficionados: you now definitely know you are reading the wrong blog.

Sleep, where art thou?

When I cannot sleep, I do one or two of the following:

  1. I listen to the sounds of my dog licking Mr. Me’s forehead while Mr. Me produces a racket that can only be described as angry Mt Vesuvius meeting Eyjafjallajökull (for the record Mt. Vesuvius is angry because it cannot either pronounce or remember Eyjafjallajökull’s name and how else could two volcanoes be friends? On unrelated note, it turns out Eyjafjallajökull has a neighbor named Katla so what the hell, Iceland? You couldn’t come up with an easier name for Katla’s next of kin?)
  1. I turn from one side to another testing which one of my shoulders goes numb faster.
  1. I live the internal struggle of sending all sleep to hell and peeking into my phone to check on my Facebook likes.
  1. I write up stories and paint pictures in my head. And sometimes I come up with something good. Something like this:

An Opportunity

Or like this:

The Big BangThis last one doesn’t have a name yet (DO NOT SAY BASEBALL).

  1. I suffer extreme sleep-envy towards Mr. Me and I fight the desire to wake him up to tell him about my day.
  1. I finally fall asleep.

Dogs vs Humans: a superiority study

Although most of the data for this study comes from observing my dog in his natural habitat, a.k.a. my house, I’ll go ahead and claim that it’s representative. Because it’s my blog. And because I have far more important things to do than study other dogs. Like write this post, for instance.

But I digress.

Over the course of the last six-and-a-half years that we’ve been sharing the house with Pushkin, our Maltese and a namesake Screen Shot 2015-01-29 at 6.01.33 PMof a Russian literary giant, I’ve discovered that dogs outweigh humans on superiority scale by a wide margin. (Unless, due to his name, our dog has been channeling the said giant which will make this entire study null and void).

My reasons for thinking that dogs are superior to humans are as follows (and I am sure that once you read through them you will agree with my conclusions):

  1. Dogs know how to convince humans that pooping merits a reward. Pushkin has been getting a biscuit after each walk ever since he learned that his bathroom includes all of the outdoors as opposed to a limited square footage of the indoors. When was the last time you’ve treated yourself to a sweet delight after visiting a toilet? Clearly dogs are ahead of us in matters of celebration of the most mundane of daily actions.
  1. Dogs know that a bed is yet another place where they can take a snooze or retire for the night. Occupying the middle of the bed assures they get enough space from the pesky humans who mistakenly think they are the primary owners of the bed. Pushkin has been allowed into our bed since he turned one even though I protested it tirelessly. But Mr. Me — who normally spends at least a year in front of a supermarket shelf considering all expiry dates before picking the latest one he can find and who never touches a piece of fruit unless its skin looks as perfect as if it’s been painted by Floris Van Dyck – insisted. He had no issues with hosting traces of, first, all of Miami, and now all of Madrid in our bed. You think if another human relieved himself outside, sniffed urine-covered corners, and licked himself, Mr. Me would allow him even close to our sleeping quarters, let alone our bed? Not in a million years. So another superiority contest goes to dogs.
  1. And then there is the snoring. By humans, not dogs. When Mr. Me snores, my most effective solution is to kick him. This shuts him up but usually only for a few minutes after which he begins to snore again. Sometimes we spend the whole night going through this routine and in the morning I am in such a foul mood that approaching me holds the same amount of risk as, say, teasing a hungry shark. Pushkin’s method, though, seems to be more effective. At the first sounds of snoring, Pushkin climbs onto Mr. Me’s pillow, gets comfortable, and begins to lick Mr. Me’s forehead. Since licking of the face is where Mr. Me draws the line of intimacy with our dog, the licking wakes him up and stops the snoring. If he starts again, Pushkin either licks him again or relocates to lie on his chest or his head. In the end one of these approaches works its magic and I get a good night sleep.

See? Dogs are superior beings and I just proved it to you. You are welcome.

Things-I-don’t-understand-but-feel-ridiculous-to-ask-about series: winter attire

This series deserves its own blog, if not its own Internet. Because there are so many things I don’t understand but feel ridiculous asking about. Like quantum physics, for instance. It fascinates me to no end, I love reading about how it can explain everything from cosmos to bad luck, and yet whenever I get to the part where the writer attempts to clarify its most basic concepts, my brain decides to take an extended nap like the one induced by Kazakhstan’s mysterious sleeping illness.

Not from the same category but equally as puzzling is American football. Mr. Me has tried to enlighten me every year for the past 20+ and I still don’t get it. So a game that takes an hour yet lasts three-and-a-half, causes a human stampede every five seconds, and uses an oval object, which it stubbornly dubs a ball despite its obvious non ball-y shape, can actually qualify as sport? And be interesting to watch?

The latest, though, in this series is the phenomenon I’ve been observing the last three winters in Madrid, Spain. With temperatures hovering anywhere between 0C and 13C (about 33-55F) and everyone around wearing either pants, tights, leggings, or some other piece of clothing that covers the legs, little boys of 3 to 5 years of age are outside in shorts and socks. Yep. I am seeing this:

Winter shorts

And I am dying to know why. But until now I’ve stopped myself from accosting their fur-coat-clad mothers.

Because, obviously, I have far too many manners.

Just in time for Thanksgiving: pet peeves and snide gratitude

In the spirit of Thanksgiving – the holiday where many American families get together to devour a carcass of a dead bird and sneer behind the backs of relatives they didn’t want to see – I’d like to offer some snide gratitude. What is snide gratitude, you ask? And how can the words snide and gratitude even go together in the first place?

Glad you were wondering.

I am defining snide gratitude™ (note: trademarked as of today) as the gratitude you feel for learning about things you actually never wanted to learn. But since you’ve learned about them, you now know to stay the hell away from them and, thus, in the spirit of our times of personal growth and Tony Robbins, you are expressing gratitude.

Now that we got that tricky definition out of the way, I’d like to share the three things I am “grateful” to have encountered in my life:

Going to a club to interact with people. Unless it’s the kind of club where most patrons are out on the dance floor, you’ll probably find yourself trying to converse with your friends while sustaining both eardrum and vocal cords damage simultaneously. If you cannot hear the words leaving your own mouth, what makes you think you can maintain a conversation? And how much fun can you actually have sipping a drink worth two pairs of shoes, wistfully looking at people who – unlike you – have summoned enough courage to dance, and occasionally exchanging grunt-like sounds with your companions? Seriously. Take me to a Starbucks anytime. Even if I cannot tolerate their coffee, I can at least tell you about it.

People who think their opinion matters to you even though it totally doesn’t. Because you either barely know them or you don’t know them at all and only occasionally interacted with them on social media. Still they believe they are well within their rights to ask you questions about your choices and then express their opinion about those choices in a manner worthy of Simon Cowell, Dr. Phil, and Deepak Chopra combined.

“I am sorry you feel this way” apology. This is just some first class passive-aggressive bullshit right there. Anyone who delivers this kind of apology even once deserves to have their Thanksgiving flight diverted to Russia where they can spend the holiday – and the rest of their life — dancing to the new, famous tune “Go hard like Vladimir Putin”. Yes. It’s real.

Enjoy:

Writing While… Part VII – writing your first draft

There are varying opinions out there on first drafts. Some say write it and ignore all inclination to give away your computer because what you are writing is complete and utter crap. Others say that you should donate your computer as soon as possible because a shitty first draft is just another sign from God that you are not really a writer and never will be. I tend to belong in the first category although I am keeping the emails of those interested in a free computer in a special file (if you’d like your name in that file, please send $1000 towards S&H).

Kidding. (Not about S&H).

My first drafts begin to struggle for air as soon as they are born. They also hiccup a lot. And they stink. In most direct and indirect of senses.

But at the same time they are the only existing proof that I didn’t just spend several hours on Facebook watching a bird feed a cat and listening to John Oliver discuss Scottish independence (really, a unicorn for an official animal? Do you know unicorns aren’t real, Scotland?). The first drafts are also the proof that I have most likely stayed away from Trader Joe’s chocolate raspberry sticks. (Unless they are missing in which case I’ve devoured them and I cannot remember).

So the best part about first drafts is that I feel a sense of accomplishment. I feel like I’ve done something with my time. I feel this:

Screen Shot 2014-09-17 at 9.32.09 PM

And because I like to feel this, I never re-read that first draft right away. I leave it for the next day.

That’s when I start feeling this:

Screen Shot 2014-09-17 at 9.34.08 PM

I don’t stay feeling like this for a long time. Because, you know, my eyes begin to hurt. So I progress to the next phase of either this:

Screen Shot 2014-09-18 at 10.21.44 AM

Or this:

Screen Shot 2014-09-18 at 10.24.13 AM

After I am done with napping and eating, I visit Facebook and send off a message to my writing buddies. Because procrastinating together is a thing. After we chat enough for FB to refuse to pull up  chats from fifteen minutes ago claiming the thread is too long, we make plans to get together to write. Because fuck FB chat. We could do that in person and with a well-made cafe con leche.

By then I am feeling much better. I am feeling like I can do this. I am feeling this:

Screen Shot 2014-09-18 at 10.36.01 AM

That’s my editing face. So that you know.

Humanity… err, are you there?

This month of August hasn’t exactly been the kind of month that makes you sit back and think: Yeah, you know, humanity’s got it. We’ll pull through in the end. We’ll stop killing each other, hating each other, destroying the environment, and we’ll go back to watching cat videos, shopping at co-ops, and discussing the latest twerking by Miley Cyrus.

Nope. Instead this month of August brought us this:

  • Isis (and not the Goddess kind)
  • Hamas
  • Ferguson
  • Russia
  • Robin Williams
  • The guy who uses the beach as if it were his personal ashtray
  • The woman who was about to wash her feet in the Jacuzzi I was using at the time

I mean, seriously? What ginormous amounts of decency do you have to lack to actually think that a Jacuzzi is there for you to wash your dirty feet? Especially since there is a shower literally a step away especially for that?

And then there was this:

IMG_2028

And this:

IMG_8849

To be fair these billboards have probably been up the entire year. And to be even more fair, I saw these in South Florida, a part of the world known as Vanity-Central where having a Barbie body, a Rolls Royce, and apparently a better sex life trumps all other aspirations.

But still, huh?

How are we supposed to set the world straight and stop everything that’s horrible when we throw cigarette butts into the ocean while spending a fortune on lifting our butts?

I’d like this August to be over please.

Name that file (and not in a creepy way)

I would like to begin by stating that I don’t buy Russian children. I don’t buy any children, in fact. And I am pointing this out in an event that a certain Carbonite Customer Service Representative is reading this post. Or if the FBI is already on the case.

Several days ago my Carbonite and the files it was supposed to have been backing had a disagreement. That resulted in the revolving beach ball on my screen—the same beach ball that appears whenever my Mac thinks it’s gone Windows and gets stuck. The beach ball situation lasted for a few days at which point I decided to contact the customer service support.

After I described the issue to a very helpful agent, she asked if she could take control of my computer to see what’s going on. I always hate when they ask that. Not because I am paranoid about someone I never met taking over my computer by Internet magic. But because I am concerned they might think I am paranoid about it. So I usually launch into a huge effort to prove that I am not. And that I am totally cool with it. And that I trust them. And that, really, they can have a key to my house and come over any time to fix my computer without me even being there.

So after giving the customer service agent access along with my house alarm code, my social security number, and the account information on all my investments, I sat back and stared at the little arrow that was my mouse, moving around now entirely on its own. All was going according to plan until the agent clicked on the finder and started looking for Carbonite files. And there it was, staring right at me – and probably right at that agent. A file name that should have never been born.

RussianChildrenMarket.txt

I began to hyperventilate and break into a Bikram-yoga-worthy sweat simultaneously. Where the fuck did this file come from? I couldn’t remember naming it, making it, or even knowing what was inside. If I could take control of my mouse without arousing suspicion that I was some sort of sick pedophile or child trafficker, I would have. But I sat there paralyzed with fear that my friendly customer service agent was now suspecting me of horrendous deeds and maybe even speaking to the authorities as she fixes my back up system.

That paralysis lasted for the next twenty minutes as she worked on fixing whatever needed to be fixed and I worked on getting my mouth back into a working condition so that I could offer a somewhat coherent explanation to the police that was probably now on its way to my house. When I finally got the control of my mouse back, I immediately opened the offensive file and discovered that it had a list of Russia-based publishers of children’s books. Since several years ago I wrote four bi-lingual picture books, it was only fitting that I should have a list of publishers to sell them to.

What wasn’t fitting was the name of that file. So, people, watch your file names. Because sometimes technology is here to make us look like assholes (except for when it’s here to expose assholes such as racists, homophobes, and dick-pic-sending douchebags).