An Internal Dialogue

which occurred about 3 minutes ago

 

I really should get some exercise this morning.

Ugh, I don’t want to.

No, I’m gonna do it. Where’s my t-shirt?

It’s too hot outside to sweat.

At least get an hour’s walk. SOMETHING!

Okay, I’ll go for a walk. I can’t do a full workout, I need new shoes, mine are terrible.

Know who doesn’t have good shoes? All those people in third world countries who still work out despite not having good shoes or equipment or a coach. That’s why they kick my ass.

Yeah, but they’re used to it. I’m used to having reasonable shoes.

So I’m saying I’m a pussy?

No, I just –

I just need better shoes.

Exactly.

Pussy.

said I would go for a walk!

Fine. But I and I both know it’s not going to be enough.

Oh well. It’s something.

Can I jog a few minutes in the middle? Like just three, that’s it. At least pretend like I’m trying?

FINE! Now will I leave me alone?

Where’d I go?

I asked me to leave me alone. I thought that was what I wanted.

At least acknowledge me when I’m speaking to me.

Fine. Go walk and jog.

Shit! If I’m gonna jog, I gotta put on underwear.

There are worse things in the world.

Oh yeah? Like what?

Give me a minute…

Time To Your First (Next) Million

Q: So how long will it take you to make your next million?

Response (note, not an answer): Million what? Steps? Blinks? Dollars?

My estimates, for the average middle-aged man like me (41 years old with kids, moderately active, lives in the suburbs), and ranked by time frame from shortest to longest.

5 days: 1,000,000 tree leaves seen. Estimate 1,000 leaves per tree (probably really low). And see 200 trees per day (maybe high for most guys, if they don’t go outside, but if they go for a walk or run like I did this morning, they’ll get there easy). The low on the # of leaves per tree counteracts the high on the # of trees seen. So we’ll go with 200,000 leaves per day. Pretty easy.

8.5 days: 1,000,000 tire rotations. My tire circumference is 23 inches, so that’s 72.22 inches per tire rotation. Estimating 1,000 miles per month of driving (fair for modern American life), is 33.33 miles / day. That’s 2,112,000 inches / day / tire, which is 29,244 rotations / day / tire, and at 4 tires per car, you’re looking at 116,976 rotations / day / car. This one was the funnest to work out the math.

31.6 days: 1,000,000 blinks. I counted 33 blinks in a minute. That would be 30,303 minutes to get to 1,000,000; but remember, we’re awake and blinking only 2/3 of the time, so I need to adjust that upwards by a factor of 3/2. That works out to be 31.57 days to get there. No, I don’t want to count them all.

46.3 days: 1,000,000 breaths. 15 in the minute I counted. I get more during exercise and fewer during sleep, probably, so let’s call this a reasonable middle. 66,667 minutes, 46.3 days.

125 days: 1,000,000 steps. It’s recommended to get 10,000 steps per day. I’m guessing most men don’t get that, even when they exercise. Lower-bounding this to 8,000. Thus it’s right around 4 months to get a million steps.

500 days: 1,000,000 wordsspoken. Estimating 2,000 words spoken per day. Not sure how I come up with that estimate, because the average person can speak 150 words / minute. Which would mean you’re only talking about 15 minutes a day, and if anyone is giving a speech, or presentation, or talking at church, or disciplining your kids, you’re probably talking for longer than that. Yet most people don’t talk that long day in and day out. So I’m throwing this in here because that seems a reasonable estimate. So a little over a year and a quarter to get this benchmark.

10 years: 1,000,000 dollars earned. So we’re assuming a mid-career professional, probably had a few promotions in the past 15 years, total compensation now is right around $100,000. Not out of line in today’s economy, so at that pace it takes a decade to earn your next million.

12.5 years: 1,000,000 dollars spent. Assume 80% spending rate and 20% for savings. If you consider social security as savings and 10% savings for retirement, that isn’t unreasonable.

383.6 years (tie): 1,000,000 orgasms viewed. Let’s assume that the average male watches some pornography every week. He’ll see a few male and a few female orgasms. Assuming 1 male and 3 female orgasms per scene, an average of 3 scenes per session, and an average of 4+ sessions per week, I’m estimating 50 orgasms viewed per week. That will take 20,000 weeks, or 140,000 days, which over 380 years.

383.6 years (tie): 1,000,000 handshakes. Considering maybe 30-35 at church, or an equal number at networking meetings during the week, or being introduced at work functions. Then I add in a few more for seeing a neighbor or two every few days. Overall I’m expecting 50 / week, same as orgasms viewed. It takes a while to get a million handshakes.

799 years: 1,000,000 pieces of junk mail received: These are the things you don’t want – dentist solicitation postcards, letters from the American Red Cross, packages from the school district with information about the rash that broke out in your kid’s grade last week. If we get 4 per day, 6 delivery days a week, that’s only 24 / week. Even longer.

6,393 years: 1,000,000 orgasms experienced: Assuming 1-2 sexual interactions each week with a partner and another 1-2 orgasms solo, that leads to an estimate of 3 orgasms per male per week. This will obviously be higher when you have a partner, lower when you don’t (or, maybe not?), so let’s keep that for our long-term estimate. That’s over 2.3 million days, which really adds up.

Extremely Bad Advice – Unluckily In Love

Dear SJ, I think I’ve fallen in love with my counselor. I’ve been seeing her for nearly a decade, every week, almost without fail. At first it was just because I was having so much anxiety over the economy (2008 and all), and then it was my kids’ birth, and then it was my dad’s death, and then it was losing my job, and then it was my wife having an affair. It seems like these things just keep coming at me, and throughout it all she’s been there, a comfort, a safe place, someone I can confide in and she’ll never judge me for how I’m thinking.

I want to tell her how much I love her. In fact, I think she loves me, too. She’s always smiling when I come to the door, and she never says I’m doing anything wrong, even when I was out of work and didn’t bother looking for a job for six months. She texts me every week a couple of happy quotes, on top of the messages to remind me of the session time, which has been set in stone for years, so I know she’s thinking about me too. I don’t want to miss out on a good thing, and if she’s for real, I’d would consider leaving my wife. If she’s not, I don’t know how I can face finding a new counselor for all the terrible crap I know is coming my way in the future. What should I do? LOVESICK IN LUBBOCK

Dear LOVESICK,

Well, it’s pretty clear that you’re in what you think is a tough situation. I don’t think so, because I’d never let myself get so far down in that pigsty that I felt I needed a counselor, anyway, but since you’re here, let’s get to it.

First, forget about your wife. It’s obvious that she’s not the one for you. She may have pooped out a couple of meatbags for half your DNA, but since she was willing to have an affair, that means she’s not as invested in the relationship as you need her to be. Regrets, shmegrets. If she really cared about you two things would never have happened.

One, you would never have felt the need to confide in a counselor in the first place. Well-adjusted adults do just fine baring their souls to their life-partners and listening sympathetically (or is it just pathetically?) in reciprocation. The fact that you did not get this from her and, consequently, needed to seek validation from a counselor indicates she is has not been, and will not be in the future, a good fit for you.

It’s clear she realized this long before you did. Thus the affair, which is #2 that wouldn’t have happened if she really cared about you. You couldn’t meet her needs, she probably tried to “open a dialogue” and you shot her down, so she went elsewhere. Surprised it took you this long to figure that out.

But back to your problem with the counselor. It’s also no surprise that this person who listened to your “issues” (frankly, I’ve never seen one a good weekend out at the lake can’t clear up) is now the one you think you should be with. See above, point one, and try to make sense of it all. I’ll give you a minute. I know it’s difficult to do logic problems of the “Since B then A” type with your Neander-skull, so here’s a hint: It’s because people who bare their souls to one another consider each other life-partners, and vice versa. You think she’s the one for you because she listened. It ain’t true, but it’s what you think.

So, we’ve taken care of the guilt you have about leaving your own wife, and identified that you believe you’ll be happier with your counselor. Why not go for it, right?

Well, I’m here to tell you that the era of simply declaring your love is long gone. These days, you need an obscenely extravagant gesture to get anything out of a woman. State’s Exhibit #1, the rise of the “Prom-Posal”, complete with self-indulgent live streams and blast replays to prove they have three more pubic hairs than their best friend or something. Ugh. Have I mentioned I hate society? But it’s what the world has degenerated into, so in order to win the game you must play by the rules.

Thus to get your counselor to agree to be with you, an obscenely extravagant gesture on your part is order. Forget spelling things out in food, or hiding in a cake, or hiring a band or something. Those have all been done before. And no, I’m not going to suggest you kidnap her or murder-suicide or anything illegal. (Long-time readers are spurting coffee onto their keyboards and shouting “WHAT?!?!?!” right now.) Those are too cliché. You need something unique.

So here’s what I suggest. First, buy the building where she rents office space. Over the next year, as other tenants’ leases renew, raise their rent to 10x the current amount. If they’re smart they’ll stop renting from you and move out. If they aren’t, hey, extra bank for you. Eventually all the rooms but hers will be empty. Offer to let her have the largest office for just the same rent as she was paying before. You can frame this as “A token of my appreciation for your loyalty.” She, having heard of the ridiculous increases in everyone else’s rent, will be so moved by your gratitude that she will accept immediately.

Then, when moving day comes, all you have to do is wait in the big empty office with a bottle of champagne and a dozen roses, and wearing nothing but a big shiny bow around your waist. She’ll get the hint and soon you two will be living happily ever after. Good luck. You’re gonna need it.

Impressions of the St. Louis Pen Show

Note – This is not a review. I have no qualifications to “review” something like a pen show, as this was my very first one ever. A review implies a value judgment; a “goodness” or “badness” to the experience. As I am in no way qualified to judge this, I’ll simply offer my impressions, rather than evaluation.

I don’t recall how I heard about the St. Louis Pen Show. Probably the radio. But the opportunity to see a unique slice of humanity intrigued me, so I went. Plus, I remembered a story from years back when the radio journalist had visited a high-end pen store, interacted with a “pen presenter”, and got to hold a $38,000 writing instrument. So in the hopes of uncovering some rare jewel of experience, I went to the St. Louis Pen Show on Saturday afternoon.

This is a 4 day event. Thursday through Sunday. There are exhibitors of vintage and current-production pens. There are fountain pens, ball-point pens, and probably other styles I can’t describe. The vast majority of visitors are older, white, and really, really know their stuff. The exhibitors are probably equally split between professionals (new sales of pens, paper, and accessories; restoration services; ancillary products) and hobbyists (those who collect and travel to shows just for the fun of it).

Pen_show_1
Ballroom 1 of 2

There are demonstrations and awards presentations. There are bargains to be had, and unique finds to be uncovered. I don’t know whether I would have adequately identified either.

I asked questions. I asked what makes the difference between a $200 pen and a $500 pen. Some answers are that the smaller quantity of original production, the more rare it will be now and therefore more valuable. Excellent versus marginal condition makes a difference. Original materials make a difference. One pen I was shown came from the 1930s, and the collector said it was obvious that it had never been used. Such pristine condition makes it much more valuable.

The highest-priced pen I actually held was for $1,400. It was over a hundred years old. It had an octagonal barrel made of pearl. Quite unique amongst the many options of materials, and the fact that it had held up so long also increased its value. There were cheap ones, too, fountain pens and ballpoints from $10 or $15 new, and some vintage ones from $15 to $30.

I learned that there are many different widths of nib for fountain pens. These can run from EF (extra fine) through to BBB (triple-broad). And that these sizes are not standard, so a “fine” from one maker might be in between the “extra fine” and “fine” of another.

Pen_show_2
Ballroom 2 of 2

I asked, “What’s the great advantage of a fountain pen over a ballpoint pen?” The answer was, “Well, with a ball-point pen you get at the store, you can have any color you want! As long as it’s black or blue. Maybe red.” Point being, with a fountain pen, you are not limited to just the few standard colors that fill the aisles at Staples. One vendor said he had 27 versions of black. And over 1,400 different colors available!

I learned that there are dozens of mechanisms for filling the inkwell. Classic designs included things like eye dropper fill, creating vacuum with a thumb, a “pressed-coin” bladder, and others. Modern include replaceable cartridges and some kind of screw-thingy that meant you could fill quickly and without mess.

I saw a lot of very fancy pens that looked more like jewelry or works of art than writing instruments. I learned that pens have often been one of the few male jewelry pieces, similar to a watch. While women may be able to wear rings, bracelets, necklaces, and earrings, men have been limited. Watches are one way they can express themselves or set themselves apart from others.

AP_Limited_Editions_1
AP Limited Editons (photo from aplimitededitions.com)

There’s an industry magazine, full color glossy paper, with news of the goings on within the high-end pen world and advertisements for the new fall line. Designers are crafting limited-edition runs of these pieces (maybe as few as 30 or so) in order to create a scarcity that elevates the price. These pens become a status symbol, not a tool. You do not give one of these to your neighbor for him to sign the pizza delivery receipt.

After about an hour, I got overwhelmed. I did not go in knowing what I was looking for, so I was flooded with too much information. If I’d been searching for a specific kind of pen, or a specific kind of ink, or an appraisal of a pen from my collection, I think I would have been able to handle a longer time there. Because I would have been focused, and not distracted by so much of the bright and shiny around. Maybe if I’d had time to step out of the exhibit hall for an hour and take a class, I would have had a break and been able to go for another round. Or, maybe, if I just knew little about what I was doing, I’d have appreciated it more.

I think I’ll go back next year. It was certainly unique. And at only $5 for admission, I can’t say I wasted my afternoon. On the contrary, it was money well spent.

In which I must now apologize to Chick Fil-A

I ate lunch at Chick Fil-A recently. I had a Cool Wrap. I was left unsatisfied. I called them out on it by apologizing to my stomach for having left it unsatisfied. I blamed it on the size of the wrap, as if Chick Fil-A must have done something wrong. And now I must apologize to them.

You see, it’s not Chick Fil-A. It’s virtually ALL of the wrap-serving establishments in the city (well, the suburbs) that are providing sub-standard product. In the past week I have eaten wraps at 3 different locations, and I can honestly say that I was dissatisfied with the wraps at a majority of them. They just don’t seem to be making them like they used to.

I wonder if it’s the suppliers. Perhaps “Big Flour” has started to constrict the supply of adequately-sized wraps, in order to squeeze higher profit margins out of their downstream customers. Did they intentionally design wraps with a slightly smaller diameter, just to save a few cents in production and shipping costs? Are they bumping up against tough quarterly returns and have to meet shareholder expectations by increasing their EBITDA a couple of points, and so they had to “sharpen their pencils” and find every kind of cost savings possible?

Maybe it’s even bigger than that. Is this perhaps a knock-on effect of the steel tariffs imposed by President Trump? Is there a wheat shortage in central Asia that I don’t know about? Perhaps last year’s futures market got hacked by some rogue trading bots, driving prices up and making them a killing, all the while artificially inflating the cost of raw materials delivered this year. That higher cost of production is now borne by me, the hungry consumer, when, in order to keep end-line prices the same, wrap producers were forced to trim a centimeter from the diameter, a millimeter from the depth.

Though maybe there is a bright side. I might be eating 20 fewer calories each time, which, I guess, could add up. But not if I compensate by buying that “Sharing Size” bag of peanut butter M&Ms (drool) and then hoarding it for myself. Hold on – I just got distracted. Let me correct.

I guess the end result is this: Chick Fil-A, I apologize. I insulted your integrity in assuming you were the ones making the wraps smaller to increase profits. I now understand you were simply a victim of economic forces out of your control. In the future, I will be slower to judge, and quicker to spin convoluted tales of nefarious suppliers and unconscionable profit-seekers, in order to maintain your good image. Best of luck.

I, Too, Must Apologize For Eating at Chick-Fil-A

It was Tuesday, around 1 pm. I had a morning networking meeting and then I worked at the library for a couple of hours. And I had a call scheduled for 2 pm, so I didn’t want to get distracted and miss it. How unprofessional would that be?

So, I walked over to the Chick-Fil-A next to the library. Not a bad walk. Yeah, it was hot, but not unbearable for the 2 minutes I was outside. Actually, I rather liked it. Got me a bit of a sweat which then felt great when I opened the door and re-entered modernity.

I stood at the counter and contemplated my options. Sandwich? Tenders? Nuggets? And then it hit me:

Cool Wrap.

Like, duh, could I have done anything different? The Ranch Cool Wraps are, in my memory, like the second-best thing ever made for fast food. #1 was Wendy’s pitas from the late 90’s, but since those have gone the way of the Dodo, I console myself with the fresh, multi-faceted goodness combination that is a Chick-Fil-A wrap.

“Cool Ranch combo, please”. Aww, yeah, deliciousness hitting my mouth soon.

I grab my drink and by the time I’m ready to sit at a booth, there’s a smiling, “My pleasure”-spouting employee with my tray. Score! I slide in, sip a bit of root beer, sample a few waffle fries, and then dig in, unwrapping one half of the log so I don’t accidentally-on-purpose ingest some wax paper.

I’ve ordered the Avocado Lime dressing. Not a bad choice. It adds some nuanced flavors to the creaminess, and as I dip I get the full effect: wheat wrap, lettuce, carrots, chicken, dressing. Not a bad way to spend a half-hour, if I do say so myself.

All too soon, though, I’m finished with the first half. Huh? That’s it? I wonder if, by some chance, my wrap was mis-cut, leading me to pick up the substantially smaller portion first. But, no, I look at the other and it’s just as paltry.

What the hell happened? It used to be that a Cool Ranch wrap was a full serving. Now it looks like it’s been cut down to 80% of its former size. Like Jim Carrey in Me, Myself, and Irene, you appreciate it for what it used to be, but these days it’s just not delivering like it’s supposed to.

So, I finished my wrap, waffle fries, and drink, gathered my trash, and left, my still-not-full stomach unsatisfied. And for that, I apologize.

I’m sorry, belly. I got your hopes up. I did not realize that the situation around me had changed so dramatically since the last time I partook of what used to be a delicious luncheon session. I won’t make the same mistake again. Next time – Waffle House.

Extremely Bad Advice – He Ain’t No Fortunate Son

Dear SJ:

My son is 34 years old. Recently he quit his job and moved in with his girlfriend. Now, I’m not certain, but I think they do a lot of drugs. Pot at least. There are a lot of pictures of them on Facebook with these dopey smiles and their eyes are half-closed. I’m not a prudish, naïve mom. I got drunk and smoked a few times in college. I recognize that there are people who have a legitimate need for release from the stress of life.

But if he’s not working, what kind of stress might he have? I think they’re getting by on her trust fund payouts – grandpa was loaded. So if it’s not about needing to work for money, and they don’t have any kids making them want to pull their hair out, what’s the deal? And how do I go about getting him on the right track? That trust fund won’t last forever, and when it’s gone they’re going to have no career, no prospects, and no way to pass a drug test. Which means they’ll probably want to move back in with me. And I absolutely REFUSE to take care of children again in my sixties. What should I do? – DISAPPOINTED BY DARREN

DEAR DISAPPOINTED: Well, what do you know? Something I’m familiar with. No, not the pot-headed loser or his equally worthless girlfriend. But the feeling of failure on your part when your children don’t measure up to your standards.

I get it. I’ve been there. Can you imagine my shame when my daughter almost brought home a B last semester in World History? And my son struck out thrice in last week’s double-header. If that isn’t enough for me to want to save the world from my seed by a couple of selective late-late-term abortions, I don’t know what is.

So I can sympathize with wanting better out of your progeny, because, like any self-serving modern American, you’ve completely abandoned the notion that people’s decisions reflect their own choices in life. Instead, you’ve bought into the perspective that if your kid screws up, it looks bad ON YOU.

Let’s be honest. You don’t give a flip about whether or not you’re going to have to support them if they move back in. You would in a heartbeat, because he is your son, after all. You’re really worried about your image if that happens – and rightly so. All the rest of us would judge you mercilessly behind your back while putting on a sympathetic mask when agreeing to your face that “sometimes they just need a little help.” And rightly so.

Therefore, what you need to do is to convince your son of the error of his ways. He’s over 30, so it really is time for him to grow up. But since he’s acting like a juvenile again, arguments and logic won’t work. They didn’t the first time around, why would they now? This time, you need to show him what it would be like in a few years if everyone pretended to be young and dumb and did young and dumb things.

And what are the things most young and dumb kids like to do most of all? Yep – pot and sex.

Now, since pot is mostly illegal, I’m not going to advise you to do that. You could live in one of the 40-plus states which haven’t gotten their acts together just yet. But sex? That’s all right, all right, all right in every jurisdiction.

I’m telling you, there’s quite a fetish industry for Grandma Porn. GILFs really are a thing. Google it and you’ll have at least half a dozen sites where you can submit your own amateur video. [If you need a partner, there’s this really cool new site called CraigsList Casual Encounters, check it out.] After you’ve made the cut, send your son a link with the subject line “You Want To Be Young And Stupid? So Do I”, and no other text. He’ll get the message.

While you’re at it, send that link over to me. I need a little more fodder for the spank bank 😉