Monday, November 28, 2005

Gift It Up, Yo.

Alright now, pay attention lads and lasses - this one's important.

Every once in awhile I check the stats on this web page to see if you're downloading the available mp3 (sometimes), if you're clicking on the "Reading", "Listening To", and "Watching" links, and then purchasing the linked-to goods thereby getting me a whopping $0.0004 referral from Amazon (nope), and to see which posts you're reading in general (lots o' different ones.)

Among the most read posts? The Mnah Mnah one where I posted the "lyrics" to that tune along with a link to the Muppet skit that inspired it; the Foul Mood Thursday post which contained the answers to the two Hapland games I linked to once upon a time; and (God knows why) Pass The Pesto where I bitch about how bad my day was before getting all sappy and un-Ericlike and reminding people that many of the things we take for granted are really the reason for much of the joy in our lives. Then, I go off on some ridiculous tangent about what I'm cooking for dinner and essentially ruin the post, but that's neither here nor there.

I'm not sure why the Pass the Pesto post is as popular as it is. Perhaps it strikes a chord with some of you or, more likely, it turns up as a top result when one does a Google search for "bad writing." Whatever the case, what I wrote in the post still rings true. Much of what I would classify as "problems" in my life are really things that many people in less fortunate circumstances than my own would be grateful to have.

It is with these people in mind that I write today's post. Today, I'm going to ignore the fact that I hate sales pitches and actually make one for Gift It Up - Boston's Alternative Gift Fair. Huh? What? Glad you asked. Gift It Up is a one-day-only event happening this Saturday (December 3rd) from 11 AM to 4 PM at the Arlington Street Church on the corner of Arlington and Boylston Streets in the beautiful Back Bay. At the event, you'll find a slew of fantastic non-profit organizations that could really use your support (financial and otherwise), as well as be reminded that the holidays are not all about the sometimes ridiculously excessive commercialism that abounds when they come around. At the fair, you can learn about the participating organizations and then make donations in honor/in the name of friends, family and loved ones. Upon giving, you'll receive a customized card detailing the gift, which you can then present to whomever it was you were buying for. Further, there will be raffles for some nifty prizes (massages, Newbury St. hair styling, yoga classes, dinner for two, etc...) and some good food to boot.

My appeal to you today is simply to go to the gift fair and participate. Lots of folks (my roommate being one of them) put in many long hours organizing it, largely to help others less fortunate enjoy the type of holiday season (and way of life) which we so often take for granted. The least we could do is show up. Live outside of Boston or simply can't make it to the fair? Go to the website and click on the "Participate Now" link. You can purchase your gift online through Paypal.

Guys - do it for your women and prepare to get lucky. Ladies - do it for your men and prepare to be wined, dined, and shown off all over town. Children - do it for your parents and prove to them they did a bang-up job in raising you. Parents - do it for your children and teach them the true meaning of the holidays - love, peace and goodwill towards all.

Help a little. Help a lot. Just help. Gift It Up, Yo.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Turkey & Soda Pop

Quick check in to say Happy Thanksgiving to everyone. Any big plans? I for one am headed to nearby Quincy to celebrate at my brother and sister-in-law's house with the rest of the immediate family. Dinner is at 2:00, a fact for which I am quite grateful, as it gives me the rest of the day to sleep off the turkey induced slumber.

In preparation for tomorrow's feast I'm stealing a page out of Sean's book and tuning up my taste buds with holiday flavored sodas from the Jones Soda Company. I've already cracked open the Turkey and Gravy flavor and, truth be told, it tasted nothing like turkey and gravy. It was more like liquefied Sweet N' Low with a touch of caramel. Not bad... but not all that good either. Tonight? I think I'm in the mood for Brussels Sprout with Prosciutto. I'll let you know how it goes.

I'll also mention that tomorrow night at 8:00 the holiday classic A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving will air on ABC. Now, of all the Charlie Brown specials this one was probably my least favorite (except for that egregiously bad one in the 80's which featured the Peanuts gang in a breakdancing competition. Just terrible. Talk about scarring one's youth...) The Thanksgiving episode features little dialogue, a shaky plot line, and, as far as I can remember, not a single adult with a trumpet like voice. Still, it's Charlie Brown for God's sake. You really can't go wrong. Money scene in this one? Franklin sitting on - and falling through - a broken chaise lounge (Snoopy broke it in a fight at the beginning of the show) placed at the table due to a shortage of chairs. Gets me absolutely every time. This special, like virtually all of them, also features an excellent soundtrack from the Vince Guaraldi trio which, as luck would have it, you can now buy in stores. As a Thanksgiving gift, here is the theme song to tomorrow night's show to get you in the holiday mood. Enjoy, and Happy Thanksgiving to you all.

Download: Thanksgiving Theme

Monday, November 21, 2005

Plop, Plop, Fizz, Fizz

When I was in high school I (briefly) dated a girl who wouldn't open a door unless she had a piece of tissue paper in between her hand and the doorknob. Needless to say, I was unaware of this little personality quirk before I started dating her. The first time I saw her do it, I thought nothing of it. The second time I saw her do it, I raised an eyebrow. On that instance she rifled through her purse to find Kleenex, realized she didn't have any, then played coy and asked me to be a gentleman and hold the door for a lady. When I grumbled, she accused me of being both "uncouth and unchivalrous." All was not lost however, as a few days later I got to return the favor and accuse her of being "nuts" when she pulled the act a 3rd time. When I asked her why she felt the need to open doors with a piece of paper she matter of factly said, "Oh, you didn't know? I'm kind of a germ freak." No, m'am, I didn't know. I thought you were just a prude. I feel so much better knowing it's because you have "What About Bob?" size psychological issues.

To be fair, her fears were somewhat warranted. This poor girl seemed to always have a cold, and I guess if you're the type of person who is particularly susceptible to the dreaded rhinovirus, you'll try anything. However, the reason I mentioned her at all has to do with the fact that in addition to always having a cold, she always seemed to expect one as well. I don't think there's any question that a person can think themselves sick. Psychosomatic illness abounds in our society. Hell, I'm even guilty of it myself. If, when growing up, I didn't want to go to school I could convince myself that I was indeed ill. Did you brush your teeth, Eric? No - my head is pounding. Want some breakfast? Nuh uh... my stomach's rolling. My mother - a nurse - was having none of this, of course, and I ended up going to school nine times out of ten. But on some occasions, I was able to work myself up into enough of a frenzy that I thought a doctor's visit might not be a bad idea. My mother just made sure it was the folks at the schools problem.

Nowadays it's a bit of a different story. I can count on one hand the number of colds I've gotten over the past ten years. And, not unlike my former girlfriend, I had to work hard to get that way. For years (also on the advice of my beloved mother - I'm such a mama's boy, eh?) I've been singing the praises of echinacea. At the first sign of a cold, I'd start popping the pills. When friends started exhibiting symptoms, I'd virtually shove it down their throats (much to their disgust, I'm sure.) Every morning I make sure to have a tall glass of orange juice along with vitamins c, e, calcium and a multivitamin. I drink lots of black, green and white teas, and I keep my nose hairs clean and trim. OK, so the last part was an exaggeration. Nose hairs have nothing to do with a cold. I DO trim them though... really.... let's just move on.

My mindset had become such that I was a bit of an immune system snob (i.e. mine is better than yours, you weak little vermin.) If I noticed the first tingles of a cold, I knew the proper action to take to make sure it didn't progress into anything substantial (Cold-Eeze works wonders, friends. Take it and follow the directions to the letter.) Echinacea also had much to do with this, but, I think, so did a positive mindset. I'm well if I think I'm well, etc.. Go away cold, you have no business invading my body! Be gone! And it went - often enough that I think it would be a little to irresponsible to call it coincidence. Why, for example, did my roommate and half of my friends and coworkers suffer through colds these past three weeks, and I not even suffer barely a sniffle? Got me. The only thing that separates me from them is the fact that I'm a kickass superhero that doesn't feel as if he's going to get a cold.

There IS a point to this rambling little post though, and it goes back to the whole "You're ill if you think you're ill, and you're well if you think you're well" bit. This morning, I received this article
from a friend who clearly felt like bursting a bubble. (Thanks Josh. Want to spit in my tea next?) Later in the day, on separate occasions, two coworkers with no knowledge of the article said to me, "Do you have a cold? You sound stuffy?" Well.... no, but I might as well now that you mentioned it. Thanks. (I thought about sneezing on their keyboards to confirm their suspicions, but opted not to.) Still later, I noticed a few of the students at the school where I work wearing those SARS like masks that cover your mouth and nose (Japanese custom - they wear them not to avoid being infected with a cold themselves, but to avoid passing their cold onto other people - at least I think.) Now, as I write this my head is pounding and I feel like I could sleep for an age and a day. Seriously.

What have I learned? Well, my friends suck for one. Two, my mental well-being really does contribute to my physical, despite how much I may want to try and convince myself otherwise. Three, I am NOT ill, dammit. I just have a slightly stuffy nose and a bit of a headache. And four, maybe my old girlfriend was on to something. There are a lot of germs flying about, you know. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to pop an echinacea. Screw the naysayers.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Ho (sigh) Hum

Tell you what, friends and neighbors, I am BORED.

Actually, no, that's not true. But it was an emphatic opening statement.

Rather, and perhaps more unfortunate, I am boring (note the lack of capitalization.) Why? Because I can't think of a blessed thing going on around me that you would want to read about. True, I'm assuming (probably incorrectly so) that I know what you like to read, and further true, maybe I'm making this whole argument up. Maybe, in my never ending quest to find reasons to be self-loathing, I convince myself that I'm boring when all I really am is BLOCKED (note the capitalization.) Really. I could write about anything from the weather to my workplace and you'd be interested if I wrote it properly. Maybe I'm just stuck for a way to write it? Eh... No.... Weather is boring (it's raining outside right now), and work is much the same. I did server maintenance today and hooked up a DVD drive. See?

I've been suffering from this problem for days, as you know doubt have noticed by the lack of posts. I returned to work from a week long vacation to find.... nothing much. Because half of my co-workers were on vacation at the same time very few problems popped up. So, rather thankfully, I have not had to run around like the proverbial chicken sans head. Unfortunately however, that gives me precious little to pass on to you.

Oh, there are scandals and gossip aplenty, let me tell you. I could use this space to go on a rampage, talking about people that irritate me, and things I feel are stupid. And no, I'm not quite sure I'm above all that, but lots of the people involved in all those things read this blog - and much to everyone's chagrin I'm not about to publicly bash anyone here. No no, I'm too spiritual for all that. Heh. Restraint of pen it is. (And no - you can't privately e-mail me looking for the juicy bits... The giblets, as it were, if you feel like sticking with the chicken motif.)

But now I'm just babbling without restraint, desperately trying to find some cohesive thread I can pull and sew this post together with. Really, I just wanted to check in and let you know I was still alive. Truth is I'm not bored. I'm quite content actually. Things are pretty nifty, if uneventful, in Ericland. But stay tuned. Sooner or later, something is bound to slap me back into shape, and, with any luck, I'll figure out a way to write about it. Toodles.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Vacationers Log: 11/10/05 - Snip, Snip

The problem with promising to report back in every so often during a vacation is that there's not all that much to report. I mean really, do you want to read a post describing me reading a book?

"Oh, and then on page 26 he actually had the gall to use the word "fab." I mean, can you imagine?"

Didn't think so. Trust me, I've spent an inordinate amount of time trying to think of ways to make things like an oil change sound exciting. At some point however, I had to throw up my hands and say, "Excitement be damned. It is what it is. Just write it down."

Actually, I said no such thing but you get the idea.... My vacation has been spent doing stuff like laundry, surfing (the Internet), reading, watching DVD's, listening to tons of music, getting the aforementioned oil change, cleaning, etc... In otherwords boring, blah, stuff. But, that's O.K. In fact, it's more than O.K. It's EXACTLY what I was looking for. Relaxation - pure and simple.

Granted, all this dullness has been punctuated by brief yet sharp periods of excitement. And I do mean sharp. A little explanation is in order, I guess...

The other day I was checking my e-mail and I get a message from my friend Greg and it was like, "So dude, Paula just gave birth to our second kid," and I was like, "Nuh uh," and he was like "Yeah huh," and I was like, "Oh, no she di'int," and he was like, "Oh yeah, she did," and I was like, "Word. What was it, like, a boy or a girl?" and he was like, "A boy, yo. Named him David," and I was like, "Oh no you DI'int!", and he was like, "Fuh real," and I was like, "Congrats! Big up to the little man!" and he was like, "Thanks. The bris goin' down on Thursday. You there?", and I was like, "Whateva....."

Understand, Greg & I go way back. We were roommates for four years in college, and beyond. I was his best man when he got married, and I fully expect him to be one of my groomsmen (best man spot is reserved for my brother) when I take the plunge - which, at the rate I'm going, will take place when I'm 72 (sorry Mom & Dad.) Basically, we know each other pretty well. So, not only can we speak to each other like that and get away with it - we can fully understand each other as well. It's just a shame it didn't actually go down that way (see? Told you I was searching for ways to spice up this post.) Actually, his message simply said, "Hey Eric - We would like to invite you to the bris. It's Thursday at 9:30 am. Let me know if you can make it. I gather from your blog that your on vacation right now." Translation: Bris is at 9:30 on Thursday. You'd better be there because I know you have nothing else to do.

In my response, I tried to convey my excitement and enthusiasm over the birth of his new baby boy, and indicate my willingness.... nay, my
desire to attend the bris. Behind the scenes, however, I had more than a few misgivings. A bris, for those unfamiliar with the term, is the Jewish ceremonial circumcision. The tradition dates back to biblical times and the story of Abraham. Long story short, God ordered Abraham, at the ripe old age of 99, to circumcise himself - with a rock - and then all of his household and his slaves as an everlasting covenant in their flesh. The tradition has remained to this day, and virtually all males born into the Jewish faith (hell, virtually all newborn males of whatever faith) have the process done. Having grown up in a predominantly Jewish area, I had always known this. I'd also been to my fair share of Jewish weddings, bar mitzvahs, bat mitzvahs, seder's, etc... I'd never been to a bris, however, and I had no idea what to expect.

I would submit that most guys, even those who've gone through the process themselves, aren't comfortable with the idea of skin being clipped off a penis. I'm no exception. I could only imagine the worst. The rabbi would perform the procedure with a hunting knife. Blood, and lots of it, would be everywhere. The child would be scarred for life (literally and figuratively), and so would those in attendance - all in the name of ceremony and tradition. Yikes.

Thankfully, I was (not surprisingly) way off the mark. The ceremony started with prayers in Hebrew, followed by the rabbi placing the baby in a ceremonial chair, picking him up and handing him to the grandfather, who then uttered a few prayers himself, and gave the baby back to his father. Both father and mother read still more prayers with the baby in their arms, before giving him back to the rabbi who laid the child on the table, got him a little inebriated through a wine soaked cotton ball, and then performed the circumcision. The whole ceremony took no longer than twenty minutes, and most of that time was used to explain the significance behind all the prayers and the circumcision itself. The actual cut? If you blinked you'd have missed it. Before the rabbi removed the foreskin (with medical scissors - not a hunting knife) he invited those who wanted to, to leave the room. I had the unenviable position of not being able to, having been designated as "the picture taker" by one of the grandparents. So, not only did I get to see the actual circumcision take place, I was viewing it through a zoom lens. When it was all said and done, the parents read another "Parents Prayer" in both Hebrew and English which was both heartfelt and extremely meaningful.

And so, the little fella got snipped, and is now no worse for wear. As for myself, my initial reservations proved a little selfish and unfounded. Once I was able to get over what exactly was being done (which, thankfully, didn't take long), I found the ceremony both poignant and touching. The family shed tears of sorrow for those members who were no longer with them (and whom the baby was also named after), but they also shed tears of joy for the little guy himself, as he was welcomed into the world by a host of loving parents, grandparents, family and friends. And really, that's what the ceremony was all about - to announce the arrival of David Robert, to say hello, and introduce him to his new community of faith, family and love. I feel privileged to have been a part of it. In fact, the whole thing was pretty fab if you ask me.

To Greg, Paula, Ana & David: Mazel tav!

Monday, November 07, 2005

Vacationers Log: 11/07/05

Woken up at 10:45 this morning (yes, I slept until 10:45 AM. No, I'm not proud of this) by my boss, who is not on vacation, and who was in a panic because her printer wouldn't print. Thought it must have something to do with "whatever it was I was doing to it on Friday" (showing her, at her request, how to change a toner cartridge in the unlikely event it ran out while I was gone. Note to self: learn how to give more absorbing and captivating toner cartridge replacement presentations.) Asked boss if she had tried resetting the printer by turning it off and then back on again. After a brief pause was told, "Ohhhh yeah. THAT did it."

Moved into kitchen where I immediately threw on pot of coffee. Sat down, and wrote three pages of longhand while consuming said coffee which subsequently turned out to be rather weak. This is why I normally drink tea. More difficult to screw up, and it's better for me. Finished writing and then checked my e-mail. One message from Yahoo Music letting me know about the new albums they now have available on their service. One message from my friend Chris, who wanted to share with me a funny and interesting link (which I will probably make available on a links post at a later date), one message from another friend Brian, just shooting the shite, like friends often do, and one message from Madeline Mason telling me to "increase the size of my manhood" (and yes, I was as uncomfortable writing that as you are reading it. Perhaps more so. Something about the word manhood.....)

After bleaching eyes, spend about twenty minutes sitting at the table thinking of all the things I need to do while on vacation:

1) Go grocery shopping.
2) Do laundry.
3) Throw down quick patch on the curb by the side of the house so I can pull into the makeshift driveway during snowstorms.
4) Remove brush, overgrowth, and nail-studded wooden planks by the side of the house to create the aforementioned makeshift driveway.
5) Finish studying up on personal finance.
6) Write a blog post.
7) Get my hair cut (excuse me....
8) Clean my room.
9) Watch Groundhog Day and report back to Andrew and Wynne. Be prepared to analyze and discuss. Pop Quiz may follow.
10) Fix life by end of week.

Get up and shower, and sing loudly while doing so. I can do this. No one is around to hear the potential eardrum piercing bursts of sound. Make decision while toweling dry to screw the mental list I've just created, telling myself I'm on vacation and therefore should not be creating work to replace that which I've specifically taken a vacation to get away from.

Get in the car and go grocery shopping anyway because, while technically work, is also necessary if I want to avoid dying of malnutrition. Go to Whole Foods and eat some of their prepared foods for lunch (Mexican Casserole and Dominican beef and potatoes. Delicious.) Finish lunch and start shopping in earnest, buying organic produce, free trade tea, etc.... Try to convince myself while doing this that I'm not a hippie and that I do use underarm deodorant. Am convinced thoroughly when I go through the checkout and pay a king's ransom for the two bags of groceries I've accumulated, realizing that no hippie would have paid this much for apples and root beer. Share the land, baby. Share the land. Am pleasantly surprised to run into the downstairs neighbor, who is there to eat lunch as well before heading off for another appointment. Talk amiably with her before the cashier loudly "ahems" and I sign the loan documents for said groceries.

Drive from Whole Foods to Trader Joe's which isn't nearly as interesting, but is much cheaper.

Scoot down Memorial Drive and thoroughly enjoy the picture perfect skyline view before I take a left and cross over Boston town and drive for about ten minutes before coming back home. Put away the frozen foods first, then everything else.

Feel proud for having accomplished something today - lasts for about ten minutes before I get a call from a coworker at a former job, calling to catch up and blah, blah, blah. Feign interest. Later realize I should be paying more attention. Try listening for a change and am pleasantly surprised at the results. Manage to have a pleasant end to the conversation, and find myself glad to have connected with a friend with whom I hadn't spoken in awhile.

Start writing blog post. While writing, resolve to update the blog throughout vacation because it just makes for
SUCH enthralling reading. Waffle back on forth on that one before realizing I like doing it, so it will continue.

End blog post. Say goodbye and tell everyone I'll see them real soon.

Friday, November 04, 2005


Alright - close your eyes. Deep breath in....... then........ exhaaaaaaale.

Heh. Reminds me of my smoking days, but I just did that little breathing exercise. T'was a symbolic gesture, don't you know. It's exactly 3:30 right now, and I am officially 1 1/2 hours away from vacation. Huzzah!!! Yeah, I said it. I'm at work and typing a blog post. The day before a vacation should be spent in preparation of the real thing - you know, just to make sure you're ready and all. I must say, few things are as exciting as knowing you are only moments away from not having to show up to work for a week. Wouldn't you agree? My mind is full to bursting with various ideas on what to do with the time, and the one that seems to be trumping all the others right now is....... nothing.

I'm one of those people who always forgets that there's vacation there to be taken. As a result, every October (regardless of employer), either my boss or the Human Resources rep comes waddling along, utters a big sigh, and says, "Lookee here, son. We need to talk about your vacation." This October was no exception, and when I found out how much time I had left (13 days), I let out a surprised little "Yip!" Trouble with this attitude is I rarely plan anything to do with the time, so I rather hurriedly look for things that sound like fun. As you may recall, the last vacation I took, my pops and I took a rather spur of the moment three day trip to down-east Maine. Good times. This time around, though, I'm staying local, if only because I'm fairly certain I'll be traveling to Houston in February (and thereby contradicting everything I just wrote) and it would do to save some cash in anticipation of that little jaunt. Plus, Boston is such a kick-ass city one can always find something to do on a moment's notice. So, I figure I'll enjoy what's already around me rather than go someplace else searching for it. Tonight is a good example, actually - the posse is heading out to see a yet to be determined film (my vote is for Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang although the other options sound half-decent.)

I still have a little bit to go before I get there though, and I feel like there's still a shitload left to do. My desk is a mess (it's an IT thing. Show me an IT person with a clean desk and I'll show you a person you need to fire), but I feel like I should at least shuffle the papers and computer parts a little so they at least
look neat. Why this urge to clean things up before I take a week off? Got me. I mean, for God's sake, I share a basement office with two bus drivers who also use the place as a locker room. Cleanliness is not a high priority. I guess it's just my little effort to convince myself things will be calm and orderly when I return. They won't be, but one can always put on a good front. Hell, for the past five years I've managed to sucker people into thinking I can fix computers. Maybe I can sucker myself into thinking I'll have nothing to do a week from Monday. So, off I go to shuffle desk items, write "Out Of Office" replies and leave voicemail greetings saying, "If this is an emergency, please call (insert unknowing dupe here) at extension XXXX."

I will back in a couple of days (maybe sooner) with tales of my exploits and a progess report on the breathing exercises.
And if you're really bored.. check out this listing of good quotations by famous people. Perfect for any e-mail signature or yearbook quote. My favorite?
"People demand freedom of speech to make up for the freedom of thought which they avoid."
- Soren Aabye Kierkegaard (1813-1855)
No idea who the hell that guy is, but he utters a mean quote. Later folks.