Saturday, January 26, 2008

Baby Names

My esteemed co-worker (yes, the one with the imaginary friends) is due to deliver a (non-imaginary) baby girl in the coming weeks (or days!). There is a delivery date poll in progress in the lab. The person who comes the closest to guessing the actual birth date wins.

Originally, the winner was slated to receive naming rights for the child. Co-worker vigorously denies ever having signed off on this prize, but it was written quite clearly on the lab white board:

Winner gets naming rights.

After great protest on Co-worker's part, the award has been downgraded to nicknaming rights.

The due date is February 13, but my guess is this coming Sunday, February 3. I've got this gut feeling that Baby Pigskin is going to make her grand appearance on Super Bowl Sunday. (No joke: if her husband wins, he's going to name the baby: Mega-Godzilla.)

I'm open to other suggestions for great baby nicknames.

Poll Results: Be it resolved...

Thank you to everyone who participated in the recent Land of Yajeev survey.

Readers were asked, "What is (are) your New Year Resolution(s)"?

Perhaps the results were unfairly skewed by the subject matter of a few of my recent posts, but the resolution most often selected was the classic: "Lose weight." I wish I could offer some helpful tips (other than the big 2: diet and exercise) for successful weight loss to the 40% of respondents who have so resolved. I'm afraid that any sure-fire weight-loss strategies I could propose would involve diet pills or limb removal, both of which should be approved by your personal physician.* I just hope that when you have succeeded in becoming lighter and fitter, you will remember all the good times we've had at the Land of Yajeev and you don't go off in search of a slimmer, sexier blogger.

33% of those surveyed resolved to "Visit the Land of Yajeev more often", and 25% hoped to "Comment at the Land of Yajeev more often." With readers' overwhelming commitment to become more involved in the blog, the Land of Yajeev may soon surpass the popularity of MySpace and Facebook. Before long, this site will be your hub for social networking, video sharing, scientific literature browsing, web searching, and instant messaging. Think of all the merchandising and ad revenues...

I'd like to think of this site as a sort of online support group for mishappers and recovering mishappers (such as the 33% of survey respondents who resolved to "Suffer fewer mishaps"). My blog is largely a repository for the mishaps I suffer. I write about my own misfortunes and misadventures so that others may learn from my experiences and avoid replicating the innumerable errors of my ways (for a highly abbreviated selection of yajeev misphaps, click here or here or here or here).

A third of my readers resolved to develop their critical thinking skills, hand-eye coodination, spatial reasoning, and patience in the coming year. That is, they resolved to "Play more video games".

Apparently, most survey respondents are satisfied with their smoking and television habits. Only one individual committed to "Quit smoking" (as far as resolutions go, it's an oldie but goodie). Similarly, just one person resolved to "Watch less tv", and nobody opted to"Watch more tv" in the coming year (which is shocking, considering the recent premiere of The Moment of Truth).

Good luck to all who have resolved, especially those who have resolved to visit and comment at the Land of Yajeev more often.


* This website is for educational purposes only. Information found within should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical conditions.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

I can't believe it's not buttered.

After reading my previous post, in which I mentioned my recent discovery of donuts and chocolate chip cookies being made to taste even better when slathered with butter, despite my explicit request not to inquire, Sara has in fact asked:

"[H]ow can one NOT ask how you know this?? I'm intrigued."
It's quite simple, actually.

Monday morning: I got a late start. Didn't have time to eat breakfast at home. Once I got to lab, I initiated some experiments. When I had a few minutes of down time during a sample incubation, I stopped at the snack bar in my building's lobby and purchased a bagel, and I picked up a butter packet. I brought the bagel and spread to my desk, buttered my bagel, and partook of all the buttery bagelly goodness.

I readied to return to my bench for lab work but was troubled by the excess butter remaining in the packet. Of course, I was raised not to waste food, so I rummaged through my lunch for something that else that could be buttered (after all, I was sure there were starving children in the Third World clamoring for half-empty butter packets such as the one I nearly discarded). I rejected mandarin oranges, carrot sticks, Diet Pepsi Jazz, and leftover shrimp as unbutterable (though that designation, after my subsequent discoveries, is certainly eligible for review). The only remaining item was a chocolate donut.

I removed the donut from my lunch bag and turned it in my hands, mulling over the butterability of this baked good. Better judgment nearly got the best of me as I was at first reluctant to add fat to fat and amass unnecessary calories. However, I recalled that calorie is just another word for energy. And, heck, I could use all the energy I could get (for an alternate interpretation to caloric impact, click here).

I threw caution to the wind and scraped out the remaining butter from the packet and spread it onto my chocolate donut.

The result: rich, creamy, buttery, chocolatey, artery-hardening ecstasy. The end result was far greater than the sum of the parts (i.e. if I had eaten donut and butter a la carte).

Tuesday morning: again running late, again purchased bagel with butter. This time, as I spread the butter on the bagel, I took care to spread more sparingly than the day before. I finished the bagel and repeated would could turn into a diet-devastating habit. This time, the most butterable items in my lunch were chocolate chip cookies. Delectable.

As Avery and Chad have both mentioned in the comments of my previous post, it seems that everything tastes good with butter. I may have to employ the rigors of the scientific method to the testing and verifying of this hypothesis.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Healthy eating

Please, don't ask me how I know this (especially given the contents of my previous post), but donuts and chocolate chip cookies can both be made to taste even better by buttering them.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The weight is over

It’s no secret: I struggle with my weight. I’ve never been completely sedentary, but the facts are that I love to eat and I do not like to move. This is a bad combination. Despite semi-regular racketballing with my roommate and resisting third helpings in the school cafeteria, I gained nearly 50 fifty pounds when I was in college. Then I got married, and the weight gain slowed, but in the course of four years, I managed to accrue an additional 20 pounds. That’s 70 pounds in seven years, and to be honest, it’s shocking to see these numbers on the screen in front of me. Continuing at this rate, I’d be a blimp before too long.

About two years ago, my doctor urged me to seriously consider losing a "few" pounds. I decided then to make a concerted effort towards this end. My initial progress was slow, but steady. Watson and I began going on more frequent and longer walks together, and walking on the treadmill became a more regular activity. I resisted after-dinner snacks and packed healthier lunches. I even, to my wife’s disgust, drank V8. In the course of one and a half years, I lost 15 pounds, slow and steady.

Before yesterday, my most recent visit to the doctor was in the spring of 2007. At this appointment, he told me that he thought I should be making more rapid progress. He said that he’d like to see me again in six months and that he hoped I would have lost a certain amount of weight by then. He encouraged me to eat less still and to push myself to exercise a little more. I told him I’d try.

I didn’t. Life took over… searching for a job and planning our future, family vacations, illness and death in the family, holidays, preparing to graduate, must-see tv, blogging… I allowed one thing after another to take center stage in my life and neglected my commitment to improved health. I know that these are all excuses and that there will always be excuses to avoid transforming my personal health habits. And yet, I allowed these circumstances to consume me to the extent that I let slip most of the habits I had been developing which allowed me to lose the 15 pounds over the previous 500 days. I ate more and treadmilled less, and soon into this season, I realized that I wasn’t making progress in weight loss and began to mentally deny that I was even trying to lose weight. I ceased stepping on the scale and became willingly oblivious to any fluctuations in girthiness or poundage. The only healthy lifestyle change that persisted was my daily walks with Watson.

Yesterday, I returned to the doctor for a scheduled follow-up appointment. I had not weighed myself in several months, so I did not know what to expect when I stepped on the scale. I feared the worse: that I had regained the weight I had fought to lose in the previous 18 months.

“Please step on the scale,” the nurse checking me in requested. In order to register the lowest possible weight, I had taken care to use the restroom an hour before my appointment, I was sure to wear as light-weight clothing as the weather permitted, and I did not have any needless items in my pockets (like keys, wallet, loose change, pens, post-it notes, pocket fuzz) weighing me down.

I stepped on the scale, anticipating the worst.

Fortunately, this scale had a digital readout, so there was none of the excruciating shifting of the bars on the manual models (pictured, right). Either I carry my weight well or nurses are routinely flattering, because whenever I’m weighed on one of the manual scales, the nurses always presuppose a weight far too low and have to keep shifting the sliding bars upwards; I usually end up grabbing the blocks myself to set them in the ballpark range to hasten the conclusion of the painful carnival guess-my-weight procedure. I digress. More on the pros and cons of different styles of physician scales in a future titillating post.

My eyes were closed when I mounted the scale (which, considering my track record for coordination, was probably not such a great idea). Having avoided even stepping near a scale (much less on one) for the past 150 or so days, I was sure that I had gained forty pounds. When I opened my eyes, I was pleasantly surprised to see the result on the LED screen: my weight had not changed since my last visit six months ago. My tonnage was exactly the same as it had been the previous time I stood on the scale. Given my pre-weigh-in glass-half-empty predictions, I accepted this as a major victory: I hadn’t gained any weight!

My doctor did not see these results in the same glorious light. He was concerned with my stagnated weight-loss progress. “Why haven’t we lost any more weight?” he asked me (as if he (a veritable beanpole) and I (a veritable bundle of beanpoles) were part of some fat-burning team).

“Ummm,” I began. “I guess I’ve been under a lot of stress” (clearly not enough stress to keep me from blogging). I added, pathetically, “But at least I didn’t gain any weight.”

He was not pleased with the status quo. “What are we going to do?” he asked.

My enthusiasm drained. I stared and shrugged. “I dunno.”

“I’d like to prescribe a weight-loss medication,” he told me.

“Diet pills?” I asked. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Commercials for Dexatrim and Trimspa flashed through my mind: this was an institution which I had no desire to buy into or endorse.

My doctor eased my mind. He explained that this was a short-term intervention to stimulate weight loss that needed to be accompanied by a serious attempt at diet and exercise. The medication would increase my metabolic rate and curb my appetite. “We’d see you lose maybe ten pounds in a month,” he added. Ten pounds in a single month!? Suddenly, the unpleasant images of over-the-counter diet pills, improved diet, and an expanded exercise regimen were replaced by images of a svelte, slimmer yajeev.

I accepted his encouragement* to give this medication a short-term try. He wrote the script, and I drove home to tell my wife about the great news: “Honey, I haven’t gained any weight, and my doctor prescribed diet pills!” I paused. “So, what’s for dinner?”

We ate dinner. To celebrate my upcoming guaranteed weight loss, I had an extra helping of spaghetti. I was filled with a new enthusiasm and hunger (for life). I was going to lose weight. After dinner, I ate a cookie, and a couple hours later, I ate a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios (the box says they’re good for my heart!).

Before we went to sleep, my wife and I watched an episode of 24 on DVD on my computer in bed. My wife had made homemade banana chips and brought a few to munch on while we watched the show. Fresh out of the oven, they smelled and looked delicious. Watson agreed. While the wife popped banana chips into her mouth, she told a pathetically longing, sad-eyed Watson: “No, honey. These are too hot for you.”

I mentioned that I would like a banana chip. She repeated herself, this time to me, “No, honey. These are too hot for you.” I, of course, assumed she was joking. I waited for her to hand me a warm, delicious, homemade banana chip.

When no banana chip my way came, I turned to her and said, “Really, I’d like a banana chip, please.”

“I ate them all,” she told me.


“I ate them.”

“But I said that I wanted one.”

“I’m just helping you out. You’re going on a diet.”

“I am not going on a diet,” I emphasized. “I’m going on diet pills.”

She set me straight, reminding me that successful weight loss would involve diet pills in conjunction with diet and exercise. She’s right. I committed to watch my diet. Already this morning on my way to work, I watched myself eat a bacon, egg, and cheese bagel from McDonalds.

I’m a pound-shedding success story weighting to happen.

* In truth, I have not yet decided whether or not to use the weight-loss medication.

Doctor's scale imaged accessed at here.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Don't(.) Blog this.

Something strange has transpired between my in-laws and myself. Somewhere over the course of the recent holiday and funeral season, a deep distrust has developed whereby my family-in-law seems to fear (correctly?) that I lie in wait for bloggable moments. Now, whenever anyone says something amusing, remotely funny, embarrassing, shocking, upsetting, or mundane, they immediately turn to me, eyes shifting, and suspiciously utter, "Don't blog that."

At which point, I lie and say that I'm just jotting a grocery list, not a blog idea. Sheesh.

One exception to my in-laws' recalcitrance toward my blogging at their self-perceived expense is my father-in-law's strong desire for me to post a picture of his head with the Wendy's wig superimposed where his hair (if he had any--see related comment by Peppy Lady here) would be. I'm afraid this image, beautiful as it would surely be, will have to wait for me to hone my Photoshop skills.

My in-laws are probably reading this post, wishing they'd said "Don't blog that" after they said "Don't blog that."

They should know that I only blog about those I love (with the possible exception of this).

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Mourners say the darndest things

There is an untamable mystical force which courses within my veins that impels me to utter words generally recognized as inappropriate at the most inopportune moments. Such utterances (yes, multiple occasions of social ineptitude) occurred last Thursday at the viewing of my grandmother-in-law.

To set the stage, there were two periods of time on Thursday where friends and family could come to pay their last respects: 2-4pm and 6-8pm. In the intervening time, our family went out to eat at a local Italian restaurant. An elderly gentleman employed by the funeral home opened the door for us as we returned at 5:45pm, a full fifteen minutes before the viewing was to resume. Fully fed and momentarily forgetful of the gravity of the present occasion, I whispered to the man holding the door, “Is Grandma still here?”

To which the man deftly replied, cupping his free hand to his ear, “What?!”

Unflappable, I determined to have my joke heard and appreciated. “Is Grandma still here?!” I replied in my loudest inside voice. “She hasn’t gotten up and left yet, has she?” I asked loudly, hoping to make crystal clear the fact that I was playing the funny man.

“What?!” he shouted more loudly than the first time. I braced to repeat myself a second time but looked from the man’s flummoxed visage to the rear of the facility where a group of three mourners had already gathered near Grandma’s body a quarter hour before visitation was to officially begin. They stood staring at me, mouths gaping, clearly aghast at my ill-conceived attempt at levity.

My (even louder) recovery effort was unsuccessful: “I said, ‘Is it still cold outside?!’” I looked around to see if I had fooled any of the mourners. I had not; they stood before me in suspended animation, their faces betraying disbelief. The man at the door looked at me like I had just asked the dumbest possible question and replied, “Yes, it’s still cold outside.”

I walked inside and toward the three ladies who had heard my insensitive confabulation with the gentleman at the entrance, hoping to smooth over my insensitivity with more sensitive funeral-appropriate conversation. They had been talking amongst themselves, awaiting the arrival of the receiving line. As I approached them, the ladies politely feigned forgetfulness and acted as though I had never asked about Grandma’s whereabouts. They tearfully introduced themselves to me.

Mid-introduction, one of the trio said to the other two, “I just can’t stop crying.”

One of the other two replied with helpful advice: “Tilt your head back. That helps me control the tears.”

Not missing a beat, I immediately quipped, “Nah, that’s just for nosebleeds.” I waited for the laughter; there was none. Jaws dropped again. I could see the three minds working in unison, wondering, “Who is this guy? Is he actually related?” My wife’s embarrassed and apologetic smile confirmed that I was indeed related (thanks to her agreement to be bound to me in holy matrimony, if not wedded bliss). I politely excused myself. I had inflicted enough psychological damage on these poor souls. If I could not control the words coming out of my mouth, the least I could do was distribute them more broadly across the wider spectrum of attendees so as not to cause maximal insult to any single person or family.

I am not the only one, however, to have spoken in a manner unbefitting of a funeral parlor. Earlier in the day, during the first session, a pair of pleasant older ladies arrived to pay their final respects. One of the ladies (the more lucid of the two) introduced the other (the older—and peppier—of the two—she was 87) to Grandma’s family members. “…and this is her son-in-law,” the lucid lady said to the peppy lady, gesturing toward my father-in-law.

The peppy lady’s eyes lit up, and she thrust her cane in the air as she shuffled closer to my father-in-law. “You’re the son-in-law!?” she exclaimed in awe.

“Yes. I’m—” he began.

Why,” she interrupted, overcome by the figure towering in front of her (her four-foot-something frame was dwarfed by his six feet and change), “you’ve lost your hair!”

He was stunned—he had in fact lost his hair some time ago. He seemed not to know how to reply. Frankly, even I, quick-witted blogger, would have been speechless.

“That’s okay!” she promptly shouted, demonstratively. “I like men without hair.” She paused, raised her cane in the air again, and blurted, “Heck! I like men!” Instantly, the once melancholy crowd surrounding the son-in-law and the 87-year-old man-ophile burst into raucous laughter. Lucid Lady politely ushered Peppy Lady to another corner of the funeral home not yet tainted by the sounds of her advances on younger men.

The viewing hours drew to a close, and as Grandma’s family prepared to leave, a couple slipped inside. “Are you here for the visitation?” the funeral director asked the bundled man and woman.

“No,” the man replied, deadpan. “We’re just coming in from the cold.” There was a long, awkward pause, after which the man clarified, “I was joking. We’re here for the viewing.”

The joke, it turned out, was on him. The funeral director did not laugh. “I’m sorry, sir, the viewing hours are over,” he replied, also deadpan. Another awkward silence transpired between the two. “But that’s ok. You can visit with the family for a few moments.”

After these final visitors had left, the funeral director sat on the parlor couch and waited patiently for our family to gather our belongings. I sat in a chair next to him. Out of morbid curiosity, I asked him, “How does one decide to become a funeral director?” He explained that he had known that this was what he wanted to do with his life ever since he was in the third grade. Also in the third grade, he added, he had determined that he would marry his grade school sweetheart. He accomplished both of his goals: he’s now a funeral director married to his third-grade girlfriend for thirty-plus years.

He mentioned that in addition to the funeral business, he had also always wanted to go into the restaurant industry. “Couldn’t you combine the two?” I asked, reviving the spark of humor I had unsuccessfully initiated earlier in the day.

“No,” he answered. If he knew I was joking, he didn’t let on.

“You know, you could have the dining room over there by the…” I gestured toward the room next to the main viewing area, my voice trailing off into the distance.

“No, that wouldn’t work. You can’t combine the two.” He set me straight.

“Sure, okay,” I conceded.

Rest in peace, Grandma (1928-2008).

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Fine, art.

Probably fifteen years ago, I walked into an art museum, and the first painting I saw was an approximately 3 x 6 foot canvas painted solid red. No lines, no designs, no other colors: nothing but red.

It looked a little something like this:

I have long bemoaned the fact that this monochromatic quadrilateral was considered art. Fifteen years later, of all the pieces of artwork I have ever seen in person at a museum, the red parallelogram is the single piece that I remember most vividly and with the greatest emotion.

OK, artist wins.

Images on right and left accessed from Wikipedia
Image in middle recreated from memory
Musings about what qualifies as art inspired by Mike

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Television n' stuff

I had lunch with an old friend a week before Christmas. I asked him if he had finished his Christmas shopping. He said that he had.

He asked me if I had completed mine. Turns out that my shopping list this year was pretty short, I told him, as the wife and I had decided to sponsor a child in Africa instead of buying each other presents (we're so great). I explained that we’re also hoping to sell our house and move this spring, so we’re trying to downsize our possession collection. And besides, I added, we’ve become too bogged down with stuff: books, movies, video games...

His incredulous reply: “Stuff is the best.”

I thought about it, and he’s right. Stuff is great. I just wish I could figure out how to take it with me.

I spoke with another friend a few nights ago. Several months earlier I told him that we were considering discontinuing our cable television service. He was shocked (he gasped when I told him). During our most recent conversation, he described several of the things he’d been or would be watching (he was most excited about the New Years Day outdoor NHL hockey game in which Pittsburgh defeated Buffalo in a shootout and the family-friendly series Cheaters).

After describing these in some detail, he paused to take a breath and exclaimed: “Television is awesome!”

These two are true friends, reminding me of what’s important in this world, what my true priorities should be: material encumbrances and passive audio-visual stimulation.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Three tips for relationship preservation in the New Year

Here's some unsolicited advice for Land of Yajeev readers to usher in the new year.

  1. If you find yourself sitting with a group at a breakfast (or lunch or dinner) table and your spouse is discussing the recent home improvement projects he or she has recently undertaken without your assistance and he or she comments on the extensive effort and time invested in said projects... do not reply by saying, "Actually, it didn't take you that long," even if you meant to minimize the inconvenience rendered by his or her work and not to minimize his or her effort.
  2. If you find yourself sitting with a group at a dinner (or breakfast or lunch) table and your spouse is retelling a humorous story or a joke that you may have heard once before... do not show off your impressive memory by interrupting said story or joke and reciting the punch line of the story or joke in question.
  3. If you find yourself at a card table and you are playing euchre with your spouse against his or her parents and you have a really crummy hand and your team has already lost two of the five available tricks in the given round of said euchre game ... do not inspire false hope in your spouse by saying you are sure to pick up the last three tricks without making it abundantly clear that you are using the literary device known in some circles as sarcasm.
Follow these words of wisdom and you will go far... at the very least, you will find yourself far, far from the living in the doghouse or sleeping on the sofa.