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03/01 Direct Link
One of the advantages of not being cool is feeling no pressure to "play it cool."

If you invite me to your party, I'm not going to say "let me check my schedule and I'll get back to you." I know my schedule is empty, and I'm going to tell you I'm too busy to come because I hate parties.

If a girl gives me her phone number, I'm not going to do the "wait three days" thing to make myself seem busy and mysterious. I won't call her at all because I'm shy and damaged and a poor conversationalist.

03/02 Direct Link
Twelve years ago I won the Happy Trails Granola contest. Since then, every day I've received a bag full of granola bars.

I am willing to sell or trade. What gets me are the homeless orphans who want me to just give them one. Hey, kids, I earned these.

Yesterday Jesus appeared to me in a cloud. "Dude, what the fuck, man," he said, "you gotta share up those bars."

"Get lost, Jesus," I said. "Shouldn't you be throwing lightning bolts at gay marriage?"

Burrrrn! I tried to high-five the homeless kids, but I guess they didn't get it.

03/03 Direct Link
I've set up a filter in Gmail to automatically delete any message with "Fwd:" in the subject line. I probably miss some real messages, but it's worth it for not having to read the same twelve Steven Wright jokes that have been circulating since the early nineties.

Because of this filter I had to find out from my uncle that my father has started forwarding joke e-mails to everyone in his address book. I didn't want to believe it at first. My father is a good man. A respected man. He has no reason to walk that dark path.

03/04 Direct Link
Looking in my "deleted" folder was a painful revelation. All the usual suspects were there: "Every proverb came from the middle ages," "Ten reasons men are better than women," and... what's this? An attached WMV file of a sneezing panda cub? The shame.

"Dad," I said. "You have to stop."

He was hurt.

"You think I don't know these things are dumb? The jokes aren't the point. It's a way to reach out to people and maybe start a conversation. You may know about computers, but you have a lot to learn about people."

[This has been "Internet Frasier."]

03/05 Direct Link
We never had a really proper winter this year. Ideally we would have had several straight weeks of blizzards, and people would have been forced to stay indoors and grimly look out the window. They'd reach for their coffee, reflect on their shortcomings, and form strategies to improve their lives and repair shattered relationships.

What I'm saying is that I'm in favor of long periods of mandatory introspection. We didn't get that this year, and the feeling around town is light and cheerful. I distrust pre-spring happiness, even in myself, and I feel it will come to no good.

03/06 Direct Link
Given the chance, I would gladly give up my physical body and consciousness if I could raise the level of human happiness by %0.001. You might say I don't need to do such a drastic thing and maybe I can help people to become more considerate and thoughtful by walking around handing out chocobars or leaflets with friendly sayings, but my deliberate attempts to be helpful have backfired in the past.

[OK, that's what I wrote. Let's not edit it. Let's say maybe I'm feeling a bit bummed. Let's say I'm hoping my death will mean something to someone.]

03/07 Direct Link
It can be useful to just close your eyes and start typing. Sometimes the result is disturbingly weird and morbid like yesterday, and other times a really wonderful and innovative cereal commercial comes out.

(I'm lying. It's always, always terrible.)

Nothing I wrote yesterday was technically inaccurate, I just think that transcribing your inner monologue isn't really "writing". I should hold myself to a higher standard. With a little effort and a rhyming dictionary I could have turned yesterday's entry into a really funny X-rated limerick, and once again the world has lost out because I couldn't be bothered.

03/08 Direct Link
"Hey! Hey! Rrrrruff! It's dog o'clock, and a good dog-morning to you all. Here is the dog news..."

"Hey! Shut up! Ow-ouuu!"

"It's chilly out there, so expect cold pavement for your morning walkies. If any of you dogs have little dog boots, this is the morning to wear them."

"Hey! You suck, news-hound! Heeey!"

"Up next: the Boston terrier from across the fence with a recipe for those tasty bits of garbage you find on the sidewalk."

We have long, noisy dog arguments every goddamn morning. When I make up dialogue for them it's less annoying.

03/09 Direct Link
One of the problems that comes with being good at avoiding stress is that when you eventually find yourself in a stressful situation, you don't know how to deal with it.

Today a large pile of work suddenly appeared on my desk. My breathing became shallow and my heart raced. What was happening?

I was one minor inconvenience away from a full-blown freakout. If my printer had jammed or my computer had frozen, you would have seen some ferocious fireworks, let me tell you.

(I probably would have just thrown my pencil on the ground, if we're being serious.)

03/10 Direct Link
When I was in second grade, a cute girl named Melissa didn't know what to write for my monthly peer evaluation, so she wrote "Science Freak" and drew some nice pictures of beakers and test tubes. I wasn't good at or especially enthusiastic about science, but I wore glasses and studied a lot, which was enough for her.

Reviewing her evaluation at my desk, I started to wonder if maybe she had seen some hidden scientific potential in me. I took it pretty seriously, especially because most kids practiced vocabulary words or drew pictures of their pets on the forms.

03/11 Direct Link
Unlike Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny is not a factory-owning job creator. For a candy distribution scheme as large as his, that bunny must have the backing of an ideologically-motivated foreign government. He enters the homeland illegally through the unsecured Mexican border, or perhaps "our president" just gives him a guest visa.

Here comes PYOTR COTTONTAIL,
Hopping down the krolik trail,
He knows our economy's distress.

He'll bring chocolate to your Dad,
Straight from dear old Stalingrad,
Hooking him on government largess!

[Fox News "kidz club" exercise: which other holiday figures are tools of the socialist propaganda machine?]

03/12 Direct Link
Changes to The Official Steamed Dumpling Style Guide:

* Section 2.3, Capitalization of Seasons. Since seasons are considered demigods in the SD pantheon (Appendix B) their names are capitalized, but it is no longer encouraged when the season is used as an adjective.

e.g.
"Ah, beautiful Spring is here!"
-but-
"We took a pleasant spring walk."

* Section 8, Unorthodox Use of Commas, has been completely rewritten.

* Section 15, Anachronisms in Goofy Holiday Songs, is new to this edition.

* Appendix C, Enduring Beatings Due to Having a Personal Style Guide, has been revised and greatly expanded based on the author's personal experience.

03/13 Direct Link
"Keep your stupid mouth shut" is one lesson I have yet to fully learn.

I am already as quiet as a fish. My weakness is not in cracking wise or spreading gossip, but simply in revealing more about about a situation than I should.

In order to make it easier for myself, I should stop paying attention to everything. If I were so self-absorbed that I didn't notice anything that wasn't happening directly to me, I'd only be able to say "I dunno" to everyone. That way I'd get a reputation as "the dumb guy" instead of "the beanspiller."

03/14 Direct Link
Predictably, vegan blogs are flipping a shit over the new Harvard study about red and processed meat. I've never seen so many supposedly compassionate people so thrilled about a possible increased risk of death for their friends.

Coworkers have given me looks of dread, as if they are awaiting an obnoxious lecture.

I get it, you guys. I do things that may or may not be bad for me based on certain studies too. I defend doing them with muddled rationales of mixed effectiveness. We all do that. None of us can or really want to live forever, after all.

03/15 Direct Link
With the best of intentions, people tell me to "get out there and meet people."

I don't hate people, but I do hate meeting them. It's awful. The handshakes, the small talk, the best foot forward. It's stressful. Let's be ourselves. Let's admit we don't really clean our bathrooms as often as we should. Let's admit we should be making out right now, and FYI I have a weird jaw condition that causes my mouth to lock up after too much making out. If that's a dealbreaker for you just say so and my feelings won't be hurt. Come on.

03/16 Direct Link
Called upon to dance, I do so dutifully, with a serious expression of concentration on my face. Observers note significantly more verticality to my "moves" than the average dancer. This is because what I'm really doing is jumping up and down, and accompanying the jumping with rhythmic arm movements. Any savage can dance, but it takes a man to jump.

In a movie I saw once, a character was described as having seemingly "rented his body for the weekend," and that is how I feel when I dance. Still, it's extremely fun. That's why I can get away with it.

03/17 Direct Link
I need to idealize something to be happy. I tried art but that got me nowhere, then I tried love and that got me worse than nowhere.

I turned to idealizing scientists. Here indeed is the nobility of mankind. Here are people who have devoted themselves to reason and pursuit of Truth. That's something good and pure, right?

The problem is that I see scientists every day at work, and many of them are weird and kind of crazy. I mean, I wouldn't trust some of these people to hold my sandwich, and now I am leaning heavily towards nihilism.

03/18 Direct Link
It took me three years to figure this out: if you live downtown, St. Patrick's Day is good for indoor projects. I can see the parade from my window, and that is good enough for me.

The first year I went out and was bear-hugged by a very drunk and sweaty college student who looked me in the eyes and told me "everything is going to be alright."

The second year a very drunk thirteen-year-old took a swing at me.

The third year a very drunk man tried to spit on me, and cried when he missed.

03/19 Direct Link
I refuse to participate!

Refuse refuse refuse refuse refuse refuse refuse refuse refuse refuse refuse refuse refuse refuse refuse refuse refuse refuse refuse refuse refuse refuse refuse refuse refuse refuse refuse refuse refuse refuse refuse refuse refuse refuse refuse refuse refuse refuse refuse refuse refuse refuse refuse refuse refuse refuse refuse refuse refuse refuse refuse refuse refuse refuse refuse refuse refuse refuse refuse refuse refuse refuse refuse refuse refuse refuse refuse refuse refuse refuse refuse refuse refuse refuse refuse refuse refuse refuse refuse refuse!

(*wipes away a single manly tear*)

Yeah. That felt good. That took a lot of courage.

03/20 Direct Link
With the best of intentions, people tell me to get out there and buy a cool jacket and grow one of those ridiculous little circle beards.

We live in a relatively safe society, they tell me, and that extra element of danger would improve my image.

What this would actually do is add an extra element of dorkiness, which is the last thing I need. I haven't had a haircut in months, so my style is "big friendly sheep with glasses," which suits me perfectly. The fact that it is not currently a popular "look" is society's problem, not mine.

03/21 Direct Link
When you're sitting across the table from a lady who is wearing makeup and jewelry and clothes with colors that match so that the whole thing comes together into a sort of... ensemble, you start thinking, "How did she figure all this out? She must really have her life together. God, I'm completely out of my element here..."

After a few seconds of this you're so intimidated you can barely stop yourself from falling out of your chair, and she casually lets it slip she'd like a slice of cake, and you're hardly in a position to refuse, are you?

03/22 Direct Link
After I'd watched her eat her twelve-dollar slice of cake, we walked to the park for the concert. While the orchestra was warming up she began listing the various crazy conspiracy theories she believed, and I made a mental note to keep things with her at an "acquaintance" level or lower.

She put my arm around her shoulder, and I squinted at the sky, pretending to identify birds.

My arm shot up.

"Wow, look at that one!" I said, pointing to a birdless patch of sky.

"Where? I don't see..."

"Aah, you just missed him... he just flew away."

03/23 Direct Link
Now that Spring is here some of our younger members will be experiencing the awakening of strange new feelings. They're inevitably going to write about them, and to that end the time is right for

STEAMED DUMPLING'S
GUIDE TO BETTER EROTICA


The first point I want to make is that when writing about sex it is important to "show, don't tell." For example:

Mary fucked the lemon.

Is crude and amateurish. By comparison:

Mary put whipped cream on the grapefruit and really went to town on it.

That sensual frisson you just experienced? It's the difference between showing and telling.

03/24 Direct Link
[page two]

Inexperienced writers are understandably unsure how to deal with anatomical terms. When first seeing a lime, a truck driver character probably wouldn't say:

Whoa, check out the exocarp on that one.

But the writer may feel uncomfortable using "peel," the less polite term. In this case I would say the writer either needs to get over herself or have the narrator point out that the lime is "zesty" and be done with it.

Whether you choose to use clinical terms (*cough*prude*cough*) or their more slangy variants, the important point is to be consistent in your writing.

03/25 Direct Link
[page three - I could seriously do this all month]

Plot? Yeah, nobody reads these things for the plot. Just have your characters get down to business every other page or so and you're a success.

Hungrily eyeing the bulging stem of the minneola, Mary knew it was ready for some hot and juicy action.

"I once dated pint of kumquats," she said, "but they had nothing on you."

They got down to business, and how!

THE END.

[With the understanding that this is a judgment-free zone, I have written this guide with my own admittedly unusual tastes in mind.]

03/26 Direct Link
There's a really good blog which keeps us informed about news and events in the Albany region. Once in a while they'll host meetups in a local bar.

I had thought about being sociable and joining them, but after looking at photos of the last one I saw that the only attendees are scruffy insufferable hipsters with their vintage blazers over indie band T-shirts and attractive young women who think they're cool. I wouldn't fit in. If I were there, I'd probably just sit in the corner getting drunk and loathing them, and I can do that at home.

03/27 Direct Link
I'm turning thirty-three soon, and I feel strangely obligated to give out advice. If you read my advice and you're younger than I am, though, you'll roll your eyes and say it doesn't apply to you, and if you're older than I am you'll say "Oh, did you just realize that? I figured that out a long time ago."

Maybe the point is I'm old enough to realize that nobody wants my advice.

(There's also the fact that I'm the same guy who just brought you three days of fruit porn, which might, I understand, tarnish my credibility somewhat.)

03/28 Direct Link
Reading things written by certain women can be puzzling because the spectrum of emotions they experience is so much wider than ours. I recognize about three points on the line between "happy" and "sad," so when anyone strays from this vocabulary she's lost me. It's like someone trying to explain the flavor of snozberries, or the difference between "teal" and "green."

How is 51% of our population able to function while experiencing weird emotional chimeras like "a happy-but-jealous nostalgia"?

(Sometimes I think I'm depressed when I'm really just thirsty, so a limited emotional range isn't always wonderful, either.)

03/29 Direct Link
Shelley is angry about something -- that's all I know. Only she and Ian know the whole story, and he would rather not talk about it. She scowled at me in the drug store and didn't laugh when I said "Don't say hello, Shelley," so you know it must be pretty bad.

I told Ian I would probably just stay the hell away from her for a while to avoid making it worse. He said wow, that was his strategy too, so he's going to bring over some beer and we're going to spend the weekend hiding from his angry girlfriend.

03/30 Direct Link
There were two little girls in front of us on the sidewalk as we walked home from the grocery store. A guy with his adorable fluffy dog walked by, and they turned to one another.

"Fuckin' A, see that puppy?" said the first one.

The second one nodded.

"Fuckin' A."

I was probably having a thought about innocence or modern parenting or the conflicting expectations imposed upon young ladies in our society, but then the first one made fun of my reusable shopping bag (which has a big flower on it). We crossed the street to get away from them.

03/31 Direct Link
I tell Ian I need to finish up my 100 words for March, and he's curious. I show him what I've written so far, and mostly he is politely supportive.

Ian says he's going to recommend this site to his friends.

"When they have trouble spelling a certain word I'm going to advise them to come here and practice writing it one hundred times a day for a whole month," he says. "After that they'll never spell it incorrectly again."

Wow. I've said it before: Ian is a genius. I pat him on the head and get him another beer.