December 20, 2005

I wrote you a haiku and filled out a survey. Friends?

Please forgive me for my neglect. Pretty soon I'm not going to have any readers at all because I suck suck suck suck ass at posting lately. My bad. To make you feel better, I thought I'd write you a few haikus, which I have recently discovered I am very good (read: terrible) at.

First, a gentle introduction to my skills:

It's not as easy as it looks, and this is proof

You might think I joke
about my haiku writing
sucking, but I don't.

And now, for the main course: A walk down memory lane via haiku. We'll call this series "Portrait Series I: College Roommates '99-'03"

College roommate I (the bizarre one)

She said "You mind?" when
I caught her borrowing my
underwear. "Um, yeah."

College roommate II (the skanky one)

She said "So what?" when
I caught her borrowing my
date; she had me there.

College roommate III (the best one)

One time, high, we ate
a whole box of cereal
sitting cross-legged.

That's enough of that for today. I'm sure there's more to come, though. Just give me the holidays with my family to refill the bank of crazy people to haiku about and I'll be back with "Portrait Series II: Woe is My Gene Pool".

In yet another show of laziness, I am now going to repost a survey I filled out on MySpace because somehow these two mediums have been running together a lot lately as I've been preoccupied by the holiday season, craziness at work, craziness in my personal life, and doing some serious writing which I'm too shy to ever share here. That means you get whatever is left over, and based on what I've been giving you lately, you're probably trying to locate an expiration date on this carton. But let me assure you: I'm still good... I just need a little time to age properly. So hang in there, and I hope something I've left you with today makes you chuckle. In the end, I'm starting to think that's what it's all about.

On to the holiday survey -- Liz on Christmas in 28 questions:

1. Hot Chocolate or apple cider?
Coffee. Coffee should definitely be listed as an option here. Coffee is a holiday staple -- something like $4 bottles of champagne, Advil and candy cane particles in the bottom of my purse.

2. Turkey or Ham?
Whiskey-Crab Bisque, actually. Turkey is for thanksgiving and definitely not ham. Pigs eat their own doo and each other and whatnot and Im a vegetarian. Sorry its just not going to happen.

3. Do you get a Fake, real from a lot, or you cut it yourself christmas tree? Fake. Times two. With lights lights lights everywhere. And spray-pine scent. And cheesy ornaments, like my miniature Vibe (thanks, mom) and a little snowman I made in the third grade. Guess my parents didnt want to hang on to that one and now Im stuck with it.

4. Decorations on the outside of your house? This year? Yes. But they came at a price because on the klutz scale Im a 10. All you who know my story about knocking myself out and simultaneously flashing my neighbor while plugging in Christmas lights can have a good laugh now at my expense. The scar on my head is hardly noticeable.

5. Snowball fights or sledding?
Love and love. Unless the snowball fights are with Kyle McGee (resulted in a black eye) or any boys who throw at the head region or whitewash. Thats just bad manners. (But Im allowed to do both, just to be clear).

6. Do you enjoy going downtown shopping?
I love the mania. Suits me fine.

7. Favorite Christmas song? Easy. Last Christmas by Wham. Followed by O holy night sung by any lady with a big voice.

8. Worst Christmas Song? Anything by Celine Dion. That lady is an obnoxious waste of thinness.

9. How do you feel about Christmas movies? We have a close personal relationship.

10. When is it too early to start listening to Christmas music?
Um, never. Clearly. I usually take a hiatus through spring and then start round two right around groundhog day.

11. Carolers, do you or do you not watch and listen to them?
Definitely. Its best when theyre like 30 and drunk and its the middle of the night and theres 3 of them howling and slurring in the middle of the street, though. Those are my favorites.

12. What is your favorite thing to do at Christmas?
The new gift swap/hunt for a hideous tree/drink mimosas all day tradition with the girls is tied for the favorite position with my annual geek dinner/gingerbread house party with the nerd-squad from 8th grade. You know who you are And I love you and all the memories!

13. What is your favorite holiday smell? Car exhaust. Honestly, these questions kinda suck. What do you THINK my favorite holiday smell is? Christmas trees. Duh.

14. Favorite Christmas memory? The year my whole family decided to sing the 12 days of Christmas and it took us like an hour because everyone was tipsy and kept laughing and forgetting to sing and forgetting what day we were on and the FIIIVE GOOOLDENNN RIIIINNNGGGSS part took easily 3 minutes every time we sang it.

15. Favorite Part about winter? Looking at Christmas lights, singing xmas songs too loud in my car and not caring who sees me, being able to see your breath, waiting for snow, acting like a 6 year old moron when it finally snows, free candycanes EVERYWHERE, those ever-cheerful door-holding-bell-ringer-people

16. Worst part about winter? Every year when I slip on ice in public and take 3 friends, an ornamental tree and an old person down with me, being cold, having to dress sensibly, static, and the fact that its dark when I wake up followed by 4 hours of dim daylight and drizzle and then gets dark again somewhere around effing lunchtime.

17. How do reindeer fly? For once Im not going to B.S. you. I have no clue. Mexican food, maybe?

18. Do you like to give or recieve? Yes. Yes, I do.

19. Do you send holiday cards?
Call it paranoia, but I think my Mom might have written this quiz knowing I'd fill it out just to ask that question and make me feel guilty. She's a conniver, that one.

20. Ever kissed under mistletoe? Nope. Im turned off by cheesy fumbling predictable attempts at romance.

21. What goes on the top of your tree? My cat, usually.

22. Thoughts on Eggnog:

WHY? Its like the lunchmeat with the pimentos in it: a bad idea, but no one's saying anything. It's like the inventor is a member of the mafia or something. I am a little grossed out by the fact that youre basically drinking sweet, frothy raw eggs, but if you add alcohol to almost anything Im in, so I guess Im not really that offended when you get right down to it.

23. Certain person you want to kiss under mistletoe? Again why mistletoe? Totally arbitrary and boring and predictable. Id seriously rather kiss under a very full roosting pigeon or a fast-moving train.

24. Person who's throat you would like to shove the mistletoe down?Im more of a yeller than a beater. I prefer ascerbic comments muttered under my breath to actual acts of violence.

25. Favorite christmas movie? Mixed Nuts (act like you know) is tied with Christmas Vacation. Nice tree, kinda full, lotsa sap little sappy in here!! That theres an R.V. "THE BLEESSSSIINNNNGGGG!!" Who doesn't love that movie?

26. Best Holiday company party story:
I'm an optimist, so I'll say that its coming up this Wednesday. Im the crappiest bowler on the planet. The coworkers have no idea whats coming.

27. Think the holidays are overrated?
Absolutely. But so is Shaq, shopping and sleep, and Im still a big fan of all three. Sorry, it's true.

28. What do you want for Christmas?
Im pretty torn between Peace on Earth, one million dollars, a president with a higher IQ than mine and love at first sight. So I'll just leave this one blank, OK?

Best wishes this holiday season, whatever that means to you. Thanks for sticking with me. May the new year bring new friendships; the acceptance and embracing of solitude; and personal successes tempered by the compassion to share them with others. (Also, I wouldn't turn down Peace on Earth, one million dollars, a president with a higher IQ than mine or love at first sight.)


December 08, 2005

Is Christmas "Constitutional"?

As we enter the season best known for promulgating many an idealistic nicety including but not limited to "peace on earth" and "goodwill" and "joy" and whatnot, I am somehow not at all surprised to learn that we have found a way to continue to ruin everything -- even the holiday season -- by insisting on political correctness to a degree of complete insanity. I am referring to a slew of recent articles in major metropolitan newspapers, about a recent, very public, legal battle over the word "Christmas". Proof of this nonsense comes after my rant, which begins here:

Look, I call mid-Dec to early January the "holiday season" not because I'd be offended if specified Christmas or Kwanzaa or Hanukkah or the month of Bodhi, but because I recognize that different people do different things this time of year. I'm OK with that. I grew up knowing and celebrating this way. I like it. And even now, as a Christian (OOOoooh. Bet that's a bad word to some of you, huh? Well, to pre-empt the inevitable emails about this confession, I'd like to make it clear that I'm of the "golden rule" variety, and am not big on the "fire-and-brimstone" mentality, so take it easy, OK?), I observe more than one religion's celebration during this season with my diverse multitude of friends and family. I have decorated an admittedly pagan Christmas tree and sung carols about a baby born in a barn and lit the Minorah, too. Somehow I seem to navigate this apparent conflict of interest rather smoothly and with no objections from my conscience. Granted, I'm in the majority 77 percent of Americans who are Christian, which probably gives me a slanted perspective, as someone else's savior isn't being sung about in every mall I go to. I'll give you that. But really, that's not the issue here.

What I'm not cool with are people fighting major legal battles involving everyone from minimum-wage workers to worldwide corporations over some semantic bullshit like what we call those trees we stand in our living rooms and town squares and decorate with lights and balls and garlands to announce the arrival of the *whatever* season.

I am even more not OK with a credible news source wasting ink on this crap. I'm in the news business, and as each day goes by I am more and more disheartened by the steaming piles of garbage our journalists report on. TV is the WORST. Don't even get me started, because then we have to discuss why they're reporting it (which is a complex, painful, other topic) which is because it's newsworthy. You might object, but according to most standards, "newsworthy" it is: it's gotten lots of folks riled up and it's actually happening and there's lots of money and corporations and organizations involved and it's relevant to the season. Does the chicken proceed the egg or vice versa? All I know is the chicken lays the egg, so I guess if we start waving signs and calling stores and hiring lawyers and hollering at anyone who will listen, we can expect the egg to hatch and spread the word... but I digress, again.

::takes deep breath::

Here. See for yourself. Here's a good one. This article was followed by a slew of op-eds and followups including this funny Q & A session with a crazed right-winger.

Please, read with a sense of humor. I found that after reading the first article, I felt like I had stepped into the twilight zone or an inbred Christmas movie. It's like "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas" and "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" bred and gave birth to this mess. My favorite are some of the "sources" quotes. Here are a few:

* Reporter: "Given the fact that "Silent Night" and "Joy to the World" play endlessly in every store and that Santa Claus and trim-a-tree shops are everywhere, do you really believe that the holiday is endangered?"

* Wacko: "...About 95 percent of the people who are in your store are there for the birth of you-know-who."

* Lawyer: "What we are going to do is educate that it's OK to say `Merry Christmas,' Christmas is constitutional and in those egregious cases where there's blatant constitutional violations, we will litigate."

* Random lady: "No angels here!"

* President of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association: "This is about goodwill and glad tidings... let's get over it and get on with it."

Ever seen "Mixed Nuts"? You must. These people could all be characters right out of that movie. (Which is, by the way, one of the best holiday... er... Christmas movies of all time).

Happy *whatever*, everybody. Or not. I just don't really care, to be honest. Well, I mean, I do, but I'm just so very *over* it all. I don't even know what side I'm on. I just want it all to go the hell away. So, in the fitting spirit of irreverence, let's have a little laugh, shall we? I think it's become clear that we could all use one. Here's a Christmahaunakwanzika song or two just for you.


December 02, 2005

Food for thought... literally.

Let's spend Friday evening talking about the universe, as explained by food. OK? Super. Here goes:

"Fractal forms--complex shapes which look more or less the same at a wide variety of scale factors, are everywhere in nature. From the fluctuations in the cosmic microwave background radiation to the coastlines of continents, courses of rivers, clouds in the sky, branches of plants and veins in their leaves, blood vessels in the lung, and the shape of seashells and snowflakes, these fractal or self-similar patterns abound... some of the most pleasing patterns in geometric art exhibit exact or almost exact self-similarity. These are patterns which are composed of smaller copies of themselves ad infinitum, or at least until some limit where the similarity breaks down due to the granularity of the underlying material."

What does all this mean? Well, here's a visual, edible example. The Romanesco Broccolli/Cauliflower: This little bugger looks the same in super-zoom mode as it does to the naked eye. This is an example of a fractal form -- though they abound. What makes this really cool is that it is, in essence, a physical representation of a mathmatical equation -- a computation. What's crazy is that there are theories out there explaining the universe based on this computation; modern thinkers seem to like applying this computation to describe forms on our planet.

"It seems like the universe just wants to compute. Of course, there's a tendency for thinkers in every age to model the universe in terms of the predominant technology of the day. To the Pythagoreans, all was number and geometry. In Newton's time, the universe seemed an intricate clockwork mechanism. Later, in the age of steam, thermodynamics and heat death dominated models of the universe. Today, surrounded by computers evolving more rapidly than anything in natural history, what could be more natural than regarding the universe as a great automaton performing some kind of cosmic computation?

And yet, there may be some truth in that viewpoint, and insights to be had by pursuing it, just as earlier worldviews provided frameworks for further discoveries. Stephen Wolfram's A New Kind of Science and Rudy Rucker's forthcoming The Lifebox, the Seashell, and the Soul (excerpt) argue that many of the processes we see in nature are indeed computations."

Very cool. And from a social perspective, isn't it true that we're routinely both both enlightened and blinded by our own experiences, which are the parameters with which we define our own existance and response to our unique world? This is proof that even the most intelligent people on the planet have a difficult time seeing the view for the window.

Have a good weekend!