Posts tagged lists
Posts tagged lists
September is National Bourbon Heritage Month, celebrating America’s native spirit. If you’re not a bourbon drinker, here is a primer to help you decide where to start, ranked from best to worst.
1792: Fine-tasting, but you’ll pay for the privilege. This is a must for the man who knows what he wants and is willing to spend extra for it.
Woodford: Exquisite, and surprisingly light for bourbon. Not quite the experience that 1792 offers, but more affordable and easier to find.
Knob Creek: Some mash men swear by Knob Creek, but I think it’s overrated (and accordingly, overpriced). My current theory is that the easy-to-spot label is what makes it so popular in bars, especially the loud ones where your communication with the barkeep is reduced to pointing and gesticulation.
Maker’s Mark: Perhaps the most famous bourbon in America, this bourbon is strictly for cocktails. Save the better bottles for when you’re looking for a finger of the straight stuff, and use the Maker’s Mark in your Old Fashioned.
Jim Beam Black: Oh, seriously. Now you’re not even trying.
It all started, as it usually does, on Facebook.
First, I saw Casey tell Rebecca how excited she was about her wedding. I went to college with both Casey and Rebecca, so this wasn’t too surprising, even though Casey and Rebecca did not actually meet in college.
But then, Casey noted how much she likes the wedding invitations, which were done by Stephanie. Stephanie did not go to college with us, but I do know Stephanie because she’s John’s wife. I went to high school with John.
When I remarked on all of this, Stephanie responded by remarking on her own shock to see Jonathan (who is not John) in my profile picture. I went to college with Jon (not John), but Stephanie knows him (Jon, not John) from working together in Madison, Wisconsin.
It was at about this point that my brain exploded out my ears.
The world can be an incredibly tiny place. By and large, this kind of serendipity is a source of enormous fun, but it can also be an opportunity for reflection. And you all know how much I love shoehorning philosophical reflection into every available opportunity, so here’s some thoughts:
1. Don’t gossip. Ever.
Regardless of whether or not it’s wrong to talk about people behind their backs, it’s unquestionably stupid. After having an experience like the one described above, it’s kind of hard to doubt that the nasty things we say will get to the people about whom they were said.
2. Introduce your friends to each other.
We deliberately choose our friends, the people who enhance our lives and enhance our favorite part of ourselves. These people tend to have a lot in common, and our own friendships with them can only be improved by allowing the opportunity to befriend each other.
3. Use the internet for positive expression.
There’s plenty of talk about the dangers of using social media to speak negatively or as a proxy for real human interaction. Perhaps not enough is said about what social media can do that old-fashioned chats over coffee cannot. Were it not for Facebook, my rolodex of life might never have revealed its own interconnectedness. Whatever the perils may be of over-expression and touch screen-based comity, that kind of serendipity is usually a good thing.
Friday Morning: Eyestrain (Me)
I woke up at 4:30 in the morning in Chicago. I had attended a work event the night before, and I was scheduled to take a redeye flight back to LA to attend my reunion. Sleeping on the flight was difficult, so instead I read the second half of Steve Martin’s novel On Beauty, which in addition to ostensibly being about beauty (as well as being about a being who is about beauty), is also really good.
After spending four hours riding a $10 million aircraft and reading under the light of a forty-eight-cent light bulb, the Los Angeles sunlight was pretty blinding. This immediately complicated the task of reading the text messages on my phone, which were supposed to lead me to my friend Mike, whom I was giving a ride. Unable to read my phone, I left the terminal to try to find him in baggage claim. When he did not appear to be there, I called him, only to discover he was still inside. I tried to get back near the gates while he made his way out. We eventually found each other after the better part of an hour.
If you’re having trouble imagining this, please refer to this scene from Scrubs. This is a plausible comparison because a) I was happy to see Mike, and b) he’s a doctor.
The ride to our college from the airport did nothing to help the eye strain I was developing because I had left my sunglasses in my luggage, and conversations with Mike invariably lead to an alternation between eye-widening glares and grimacing squints. By the time we got to our destination, I’m pretty sure I was legally blind.
Friday Evening: Hanover #1 (Me)
When playing beer pong, you drink whenever the other guys sink a ball. This means that in any given match, the winners will end up drinking less than the losers. Over time, however, this process reverses itself, since drinking less than the other guy in a series of matches will still add up. Unlike the losers, the winners keep drinking. Thus, if your goal is to drink as little as possible, your strategy should be to lose quickly, so that you only have to drink for one round.
The worst thing that could happen is repeatedly winning at the last minute, after your opponents have forced you to drink almost all of your cups.
This happened to my friend Alex and me. Mind you, it wasn’t my plan to lose. I’m just bad at enough at beer pong that I looked exactly someone who was throwing the game without trying to look like throwing the game. Matched with Alex’s ability, we managed to win several times, but always very slowly.
We didn’t win, which is fine. I just wish we hadn’t done so well.
Saturday Morning: Scraped Knees (Me)
If there was a symbolic totem that summarized the full experience of my reunion, it was the Bouncy Castle Obstacle Course.
That’s right. You heard me: Bouncy Castle Obstacle Course.
Recent college graduates reliving their glory days, especially those who went to school in Southern California, are not unlike four-year-olds. We like having fun with our friends. We like hanging out in out bathing suits all day. We like running around in the sun. We like doing all of the above while getting sprayed with a hose.
The difference is that we turn the activities into mildly tipsy relay races.
So it was with the Bouncy Castle Obstacle Course. In a series of tag-off relays, I and a dozen other deliriously elated twenty-somethings ran the plastic gauntlet for what felt like hours. We were having so much fun that I did not realize I had completely torn up the skin on my knees until late that evening on the dance floor.
But we’ll get to that.
Saturday Afternoon: Whiplash (Me)
Eventually, we decided that relay races were not elaborate enough. So someone pulled out some tarpaulin and laid it down a grassy slope, soaked the tarps with dish soap, and shot them with the hose. This was to be home plate in a game of Sloshball.
Sloshball is a combination of kickball, a slip-and-slide, and Calvinball (a game where you make up the rules as you go). Unlike most base-running games, in Sloshball, sliding into home is mandatory. On one such run, I took the slip with a little too much momentum and scraped up the grass. The grass, being the resentful sort, got back at me by hitting the back of my head with the ground.
I’ve had limited turning radius in my neck ever since. Fortunately, this entry goes down as whiplash and not a concussion, because I’ve suffered no other consequences from the hit. Besides a little pain when trying to turn my head, I’ve been completely banana noisewater flickersnish.
Saturday Afternoon: Sunburn (Me + Others)
Did you read the last two? Good. Enough said.
Saturday Evening: Hangover #2 (Others)
Quick biology lesson: a hangover is caused by a number of coincident factors producing the effect of ill feeling. Alcohol is essentially a toxin, so obviously the more of it you put in your body, the worse you’ll feel. It’s also diarrheic, which means alcohol will dehydrate you, robbing your body of vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes, not to mention the water itself.
So if you want to exacerbate a hangover, a good way to do so would be to combine drinking with sweaty, aerobic activity. Dancing in a hot room works well.
Now if you’re looking for a real kick-you-between-the-eyes, make-you-wanna-die-while-you-cry-to-momma kind of headsplitter, add in a game of Point and Shoot.
The rules are simple. The bartender pours shots of all types: fuzzy navels, duck farts, and for good measure, the occasional aptly named Brain Damage. Some points at you. You shoot one back. Stir to the rhythm of some thumping dubstep. Repeat.
Follow in the morning with a severe aversion to light and a newfound interest in pitiful sobbing.
Early Sunday Morning: Banged-Up Knee & Lacerated Back (Others)
I wasn’t there for this one, as I had gone to bed after tending to a few of the recipients of Hangover #2. But from what I hear, there was a fight on the roof. I don’t know exactly what happened, except that the next morning at breakfast, I saw two lifelong friends both looking ashen, one with a limp, the other with bandage wrapped around his torso, and they weren’t making eye contact.
Sunday Morning: Nostalgia (Me + Others)
For me, college was a time spent learning to better understand myself, and not coincidentally, it was also when I met some of my favorite people in the world.
I saw many of those people this weekend, and the fresh reminder of their sheer awesomeness, and the sad, seldom frequency with which we see each other, caused severe twinges of nostalgia.
The word “nostalgia” comes from ancient Greek, roughly meaning “the return of a familiar pain.” Among the other injuries it dished out, my reunion took its pound of flesh by reminding me of the distance that exists between me and so many of the people in my life whom I love. And yet, like all nostalgia, this pain contained hints of both regret and hope.
Relationships strain when they stretch, but they only break when we let them. As I nurse my various wounds, I reflect on the bonds in my life that, as my friends scatter once again, are pulled tight. I promise to keep them as sturdy as I can, and maybe, when the music from Saturday night’s party fades, I’ll reach out to those bonds and strum them to the tune of old, familiar songs.
Of all the reasons I love my sibling co-bloggers, near the top of the list has to be the ways they make me laugh. Each of them is really, really good at it, in very different ways.
What they have in common, though, is an appreciation for shared pop-culture references. There’s at least one television show that puts each of my siblings and me into mutual stitches.
To demonstrate, here are quotes from four TV characters who, while not necessarily the favorite of either of us, neatly sums up what makes the show so darn funny.
Molly: Dr. Doofenshmirtz from Phineas & Ferb
The Doof is a mad scientist. These work best if read in a comical German accent with lots of voice-cracking.
“Behold, the Meltinator 65000! It has a melting capacity of 7! That’s on a scale from 1 to 5, so that’s a big number.”
“That sounded like screaming children. But it’s not my birthday…”
“I promise to hurt you the right way: with cartoonish physical violence and elaborate traps made out of strange things I bought over the internet.”
Going over his notes: “Ok. Here, I wrote “big laundry” and I don’t even remember what the reason was. I guess I assumed I’d remember, like it was some big genius idea… Big laundry, BIG LAUNDRY! It’s crazy, I’m a crazy person.”
To Perry the Platypus: “I swear, of all the aquatic mammals I hang out with, you are by far the most uncooperative.”
Joe: Sterling Archer from Archer
In case you didn’t know, Archer is a secret agent and all-around terrible person.
At a computer terminal: “Holy $#!&, our security is atrocious. Seriously, it’s really bad. Password. Hmm, password. How about ‘Guest?’ [It works.] No way. It can’t be. Jesus Christ, that is just… Baby Town frolics.”
Talking about the competition: “O.D.I.N. doesn’t beat Sterling Archer! Only Sterling Archer beats… um…”
“I didn’t invent the turtleneck, Lana. But I was the first to see its potential as a tactical garment. The Tactical Turtleneck, Lana. The Tactleneck!”
On the realism of action-movie tropes: “[Climbs on top of a moving train] This is going to be awe— $#!&! AHHHH! The dust! It’s like being shot in the eyes by a glitter gun! [Puts on night vision goggles] There, that ought to do it. Okay, let’s try this aga— [Gets blinded by the lights of a passing train] AAARGH! SH!&! My retinas are seared like tuna steaks!!! ALL I WANT IS TO FIGHT ON TOP OF A TRAIN! IS THAT TOO MUCH TO ASK?!”
On fairness: “That’s just great. She gets dinner and Dixieland and laid. And I get mosquitoes and no beer and not laid. How could this get any—[An alligator surfaces and growls] LET ME FINISH… worse. You ruined it. You ruined the moment.”
Brittany: Kenneth Ellen Parcell from 30 Rock
Kenneth is a page at NBC Studios. He’s… quaint. And possibly immortal.
“My pig went crazy! She bit off my nut sack… that I kept tied around my belt to feed the squirrels.”
“Miss Lemon, are you okay? Whoo! You smell like when the Stone Mountain tire fire joined up with the corpse fire, and then swept through the downtown manure district. It was our fault for letting those high schoolers dance at their prom.”
“Mr. Baker wants to do everything for himself. I feel about as useless as a mom’s college degree.”
Attempting seduction: “I like your top. I’m a real good sex person. I do it all the different ways.”
“Mr. Donaghy, I know you said only to interrupt you if it was very important, but Tishawnda from Time Warner Cable is on the phone, and she’s offering three free months of Showtime, but we have to act now!”
Andrew: Janitor from Scrubs
Janitor is a janitor, a borderline sociopath, and played by a world-class improv performer.
“I think it’s time you learned the real me. Here we go. I’m not… like normal people. I don’t have superpowers, but I’m working on it. For instance, watch me move this pen. … It worked at home. I don’t know. Maybe my table’s slanted. Uh, anyway. In my spare time, I also enjoy stuffing animals. Usually with other animals. For instance, a badger will hold five squirrels. A squirrel will hold most of a cat. A mouse will hold a shrew and a vole. You get it… the circle of life. I have broken the sound barrier, but you must never ask me how. I don’t believe in the moon. I think it’s just the back of the sun.”
“Once you got somebody’s driver’s license and a urine sample, you can get just about anything. …How did you flunk 8th grade gym?”
“When I was in high school I was a volunteer janitor at the Hoboken Zoo. And one night I was out plucking peacock feathers to sell for pens when I noticed Gary the gorilla making the sign for food. I gave him my Danish. He gave the sign for “thank you”. Those were the only two signs that Gary knew. Except for boobs. He liked ‘em big and hairy. So, eventually Gary, I’m sorry to say, died of lung cancer. For that I blame myself, because I used to share my smokes with him. But he also piqued my interest in signing, and in his memory I took my first signing class. [Someone asks, “Is any of that true?”] Someone would have to read it back to me.”
Gentlemen: it’s true. It took me a long time, but finally, after years of trial and error, I’ve finally figured out how to wear a dress shirt.
I don’t want you to suffer my fate, of spending years feeling awkward and ill-fit, so here are the simple rules for your finest sartorial experience.
1. Get. Measured.
Note. The. Punctuation. I cannot stress this enough. You don’t buy shoes with an estimated size. You don’t just hope that those pants will fit. Why not hold your shirts to the same standard?
You need two measurements: collar, and sleeve length. If you’re like me, you might not find a lot of shirts that match your size exactly. Don’t settle quickly; in the long run, you’ll be glad you bought a shirt that looks and feels good. But if you have to settle…
2. Try the shirt on the right way.
Remember: dress shirts serve multiple functions. For formal occasions, you’ll have the collar closed with a tie. For nights at the bar, the collar will be open. Be sure to try the collar both ways.
Closed: After buttoning the collar, confirm you can slide at least one finger between your neck and the shirt. Also make sure you can’t easily fit three fingers.
Open: This is about aesthetics. Check in a mirror to make sure of two things:
a) The wings of the collar don’t sag or fly off in random directions.
b) When you open the top button, you don’t show an excessive amount of man cleavage. This way, you won’t show a whole canvas of undershirt or chest, and you won’t end up looking like some sort of discotheque-trawling creeper.
3. Two words: woven, opaque.
I’m a sweaty guy. Like, really sweaty. I’m disgusting myself just thinking about it. And I get especially sweaty when dressed up. Which, for me, is about 90% of the time. So I spend about 90% of my life sweaty.
Recently, I learned there was something I could do about it. Simply put, there’s a difference between knit and woven fabrics. Woven fabrics “breathe,” which means you sweat less when wearing them. Most dress shirts are woven, but most t-shirts are knit. So when you wear a t-shirt under a dress shirt, you sweat more.
Now, your standard classy guy will tell you that an undershirt is a necessity for two reasons: to avoid sweat stains and to prevent what I call “chest hair shadow.” But if you wear a sufficiently opaque woven shirt, you can avoid chest hair and skin tone showing through the shirt, while also staying much cooler.
Speaking of undershirts…
4. If you must wear an undershirt, wear the right kind.
You’re not Superman shedding your suit to fight Lex Luthor. Your underclothes are meant to stay under your clothes and not be seen. So invest in two sets of undershirts, both crew neck and v-neck. Wear crew shirts for when you’ll have a tie on, and v-necks when the collar will be open. You’ll look much better.
Not as good as Superman, but still.
5. Use collar stays.
Have you ever bought a new shirt and wondered what those little spear things are in the wings of your collar? They’re called stays, and they make the collar of your shirt stay in the right shape. Use them. You’ll look awesome.
Just remember to remove them before ironing/sending your shirt to the cleaners, or you’ll get unattractive stay-shaped indentations in your collar.
6. Know the collar type that suits you.
Believe it or not, different collars have names. Your shoulders, your neck, and generally your build mean that different collars will look better or worse on you.
The main three types of collars in American dress shirts are point, spread, and button-down or Oxford collars. Try all three, and see which looks best on you. The standard point collar is generally your best bet. The Oxford collar tends to be more casual, and the spread collar is usually more formal, designed to accommodate a tie with a large knot or thick fabric.
7. Use French cuffs and cufflinks.
‘Cuz they make you look badass. But be sure to wear a jacket. You’re not Gordon Gecko.
A summoning charm. Like its counterpart the Accio spell, Achio calls items to the spellcaster. Unlike Accio, this spell is unlimited in its range. Also unlike Accio, upon arrival, the item will complain about its trip, and how the caster doesn’t come to visit often enough.
A cutting charm that only works on craft paper and model planes.
A dueling charm that causes one’s opponent to violently regurgitate their medication.
The legendary fourth Unforgivable Curse. This spell causes the recipient to pop the collar of their robe, apply enormous amounts of hair product, and use the first sentence of conversation to mention the amount of gold they have in Gringotts. There is no known counterspell.
A defense charm. When confronted by attackers, the caster can conjure a bottle of really bad tequila to gain confidence.
Love Potion Number 8
The unsuccessful predecessor to Love Potion Number 9. This potion was invented by Potions Master Severus Snape while he was a student at Hogwarts. Unlike Love Potion Number 9, which famously makes the drinker fall in love with the potion’s brewer, Love Potion Number 8 makes the drinker fall in love with the brewer’s mortal enemy. It is only known to have been used once.
Taking that last lesson to heart, I’m giving Brittany and Molly an early Christmas present. It’s what they’ve always wanted: a penguin butler. See next post.
Recently, a number of people have asked me to teach them to tie a bowtie. I’ve never understood the stigma that surrounds this accessory. Putting on a bowtie is not as hard as everyone makes it out to be. For convenience, I’ve decided to post the simple steps I follow to tie my own bowtie.
See how easy that is?
It’s tough out there. If you’re reading this blog, chances are you’re young, which means it’s even tougher. The unemployment rate among those under 25 is several times higher than it is for everyone else. Many find it hard to hold on to hope.
Luckily, there are some tools at your disposal. These three tools won’t guarantee you a job, but I’ve seen them work consistently.
1. Get Representation
If you’ve spent any time looking for work online, at some point you’ve probably asked yourself, “Where are all the good jobs?”
The answer is simple: they’re not there.
Of course, that doesn’t mean the good jobs don’t exist, it just means you can’t find them by searching Craigslist. The best way I know to beat this trap is to get representation.
Just about every industry has placement firms that provide employers with a selection of qualified applicants. Often, these firms are the only source an employer will use to find their best candidate.
Thankfully, even though it’s hard to get a job, it’s much easier to get representation. Find the people who provide this service in your field, and apply to be their client.
For instance, I work in private education. If you want to teach at a private school, your best bet is to get representation with Carney Sandoe & Associates. They only charge $45 a year, and they take seniors in college who have never taught a day in their lives.
2. Get on LinkedIn
In considering your candidacy, the first thing an employer will do is read your resume. Much has been written about resumes, and I’m not going to wade into that here.
The second thing a potential employer will do is Google you. You need to make sure they can find you. I don’t care about Facebook. I don’t care about Twitter. I don’t even care about Tumblr (gasp!). I do care about LinkedIn. More than ever, professionals need to control their Google footprint. You want your LinkedIn profile to be one of your first hits.
In fact, the Google algorithm has already been trained to head to LinkedIn. When someone searches for a person and a profession, Google will give LinkedIn as a primary result 90% of the time. Try this out yourself by searching a name and a profession, e.g. “Bob Johnson Engineer,” or “Rebecca Smith Lawyer.” What do you always see in the first few hits?
Exactly. So, if there’s someone else out there with your name and your profession, they are going to own that search on LinkedIn. Unless you have a profile too, you’re going to look unimportant and unaccomplished.
Don’t believe me? I went to Claremont McKenna College, I work in fundraising, and I live in California. That should be specific enough for a search, right?
Wrong. There is both a Greg Gallagher in California who is a very successful fundraiser, and also a famous Greg Gallagher who went to Claremont McKenna. Carve your niche.
3. Get a Handle on Your Comparative Advantage
Comparative Advantage is a principle in economics that says, simply put, the world works optimally when everyone focuses on what they do best. Normally, it’s used in reference to national economies, but I’ve found it to be true for individuals as well.
Think about it this way: of all your skills, which do you think has the best chance of getting you hired? Admittedly, this is a complicated question because different industries have differing levels of competition, and there are virtually no jobs nowadays that only require one skill.
Still, for the purpose of argument, if you had to pick only one thing on which you were judged, what would you choose? Whatever it is, that is your comparative advantage, the part of yourself where you shine most brightly. Apply to jobs where this skill is important, and you will drastically improve your chances.
“But what if I don’t like that job?” you might ask. I would politely remind you that people tend to stink at knowing what makes them happy. I’m going to say that again, just so I can link to an even more compelling article: people don’t know what makes them happy. Stop trying to guesswhat job you’d like. You know what job you’d like? You’d like a job you do well. Find that job.
That last part is the beginning of a much larger topic, but that’s for another time.