Thursday, December 3, 2009

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Get happy

I have an assassin snail. His only purpose is to kill and eat all the other little invertebrates in my tiny shrimp tank. He is supposed to do this with vigor--his kind hunts in packs and violently sucks out the soft bodies of their prey, leaving only pristine shells behind.

Instead, my snail has tried to kill himself three times. Of course, it could be more, but these are the incidents I've witnessed so far as I've sat in front of the tank on suicide watch. First attempt: He tried to drown himself. I found him three feet away from the tank on my bookshelf, dry and upside down. Second attempt: He tried to climb into the filter. Third and ongoing attempt: He is refusing food. Twice I have placed a victim snail in front of, beside, and on him, but he just slithers away, sullenly, not even bothering to wave the tube on his head at it.

Snail, on a bad day. If you look carefully, you can see he is in the fetal position.

Maybe we should have known when we picked him out at the store. He kept climbing high up on the glass and then suddenly letting go and tumbling into the rocks at the bottom of his tank. We thought he was doing slapstick, but it's clear now, his wife took the kids, he lost his job, and he's balding.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Running: controlled falling

I recently got a pair of Vibram Five Fingers Sprints, shoes that are supposed to help me run faster and in a way that softens the impact on my knees. I got them mainly because they make my feet look like a gecko's:

Photo: Lewis & Clark College.

The New York Times discusses the value of barefoot running in this week's Sunday Magazine. The verdict is that any benefits are specious, which to me sounds like the same scientific reasoning that questions the value of things like losing weight through diet and exercise, breast feeding, and trees. I'll call it the science of inconvenience.

In fact, running (barefoot, since presumably shoes came after fire) probably developed out of our need (desire) to eat meat. Over time, instead of climbing up trees, Homo erectus acquired the endurance needed to outpace the scavengers, run down prey, and eventually keep up with the other big hunters (e.g. cheetahs: 65/mph). Like our ancient ancestors, I started on four legs but eventually learned to run on two towards tasty things.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Brand names

I'm not one to buy on the basis of brand names. Remember when Guess jeans were big? They were sixty bucks, even in kid's sizes, and so you saved up and finally got a pair and wore them on the first day of school only to learn that everyone else was wearing the same thing but had gotten them for half price at TJ Maxx. That's what buying for the brand is all about. It's just an expensive way to feel better about yourself, and it's always anticlimactic.

That said, there are a few brands I can't help but love.

Neal's Yard Dairy. The three types of cheddar I have tried so far are so good, I have eaten entire wedges of each in a sitting. And the Stilton makes me cry. Neal's Yard is sort of a "Best Of" cheese conglomerate--they buy the tastiest cheeses from small farms around the British Isles and sell them, thus keeping those dairies alive whilst delivering cheeses you might otherwise have to travel to find to your nearest Whole Foods. Do they give tours? Because I'm going to go there and write about it and give it the publicity it deserves.

Nau Clothing. Their stuff works like no other outdoor clothing and it's all recycled/recyclable. I put on a tank top and a thin windbreaker and headed out into the tundra that is Lake Tahoe and stayed toasty warm. I wore the same thing and climbed a mountain in what turned out to be 85 degree weather and didn't break a sweat. Nau clothing is made by magical fairies.

Talenti Gelato. The caramel cookie is the best store-bought frozen dessert I have ever had. I have some in my freezer right now, so I'm going to stop writing now and go stuff my face.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


I designed a t-shirt a while back to make me laugh. I also needed something for the gym that was not college-wear, which as everyone knows is an open invitation for pick-up lines about mascots and "so-and-so, did you know him"? After my shirt elicited pleasant reactions from strangers, I decided to take Mantees public and now there are just a few left taking up space in my closet.

My questionable marketing pitch based on empirical evidence: They're a huge hit at comic book conventions and with babies who are potty training. Available at City Cyclops and the Cartoon Art Museum here in San Francisco.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Looking for a good play?

When I was a student on a stint abroad in the most expensive college town ever (Oxford), despite the fact it meant another meal of bread and cheese, I saw a lot of plays. I saw at least a couple a week, snuck into shows at intermission, and stole a bunch of David Hare scripts from the library. It came close to an obsession--one that I've tucked away (uncomfortably) in recent years.

Given a little bit of free time, I could easily fall into this habit again. Fortunately, a friend of mine is a theater critic, and I have gotten to experience a few exciting ones sitting next to her.

My favorite playwright this moment is Martin McDonagh, who wrote The Pillowman, The Lonesome West, and the Lieutenant of Inishmore, among others. The fact that he struggled and putzed around and then one day simply decided to write a play (and turned out amazing ones in rapid succession) makes me love him and his work all the more. I will check his scripts out from the library this time.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Everything in its place

Somehow it has gotten to the point that we only care about animals that fit in a sandwich. The Mangalica pig, for example, was down to about 200, but farmers in Spain and Hungary have bred enough so that the richest among us can start eating them again. I am sure the pigs are tasty but so apparently is the much more endangered Giant Armadillo. I think it is fair to say, something has gone wrong when the lot of an entire species depends entirely on saavy restaurant marketing.

The question that explains everything:

What are you afraid of?

Whatever fears a person carries inside are the root of every horrible act he or she inflicts on other people, including but not limited to: lying, criticizing without supporting, stealing credit, going beserk in a traffic jam, excluding someone, sabotaging someone eles's opportunity, suggesting a makeover, hitting, complaining about an otherwise lovely evening, divulging secrets, yelling, cutting in line, assuming, and so on.

Yes, sometimes people who do these things are just oblivious of other people. Then again, people who are that self-centered are that way for a reason (see above).

If you are afraid, do not to try to make others more afraid than you. It is tiring.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Stress observation

Why do people react with, "Don't just stand there. Do something?" It seems like it should be, "Stand there. Don't just do something."

I'm going to just stand here now for a while.