Category Archives: Funny

The Horror of Outlying Data

A week and a half ago, I set a PR, and it’s caused nothing but anxiety.

Specifically, I ran my typical “short” training run (a 5K), and did it in 25:54. That’s 15 seconds faster than my previous fastest 5K time. Yay?

Then, because I can make anything negative, I started analyzing. The run was phone-timed and -measured, which can certainly be wrong, so my first thought was that the time was wrong this time too. It was also a full minute faster than any 5K run I’d done this year, which is suspicious—I’m still getting into running shape but time improvements have been happening in dribs and drabs rather than big chunks. And my previous best took place in a race rather than training, and I’m normally a lot faster in races. Adrenaline, you know.

But I reviewed the route the phone measured, and it didn’t seem terribly wrong. Moreover, the run felt fast, at least for me.

So I’m willing to accept, at least tentatively, that that’s my 5K time now.

But then the bigger, more fundamental anxiety kicked in. Because I’ve run now 4 times since then, and I haven’t come close to that pace. So now I’m wondering: Is the magic gone forever? Have I peaked, and now I’m just going to have to desperately chase that one pathetic moment of borderline competence forever, even though it continues sliding further and further away?

There may be legitimate excuses. One of the runs was a long one, so I wasn’t pushing the pace. Another took place in 90+ degree heat, and I did it with the interval training feature (AKA chases) of Zombies, Run! on, so it’s not really a pure comparison. Most amusingly, one of the runs featured a bit where I tripped on rough ground and fell, only I almost recovered and it took me about seventeen steps to actually hit the ground. Even before the fall I was pre-exhausted and not trying to push the pace, so I’m OK with that one.

But still… It would be nice to have some supporting data to back up my first-ever sub-26-minute 5K. Or a certificate. Maybe a nice quiche, even. Something to make me feel like this is something I can actually do.

World, get on that.

 

 

 

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Bambi’s Revenge

This tale begins in 2009. That was the year I visited the Grand Canyon, and, in addition to clapping my eyes on some of the most majestic vistas ever created by nature, I also had the pleasure of witnessing possibly the best warning sign ever created.

It instructed all park visitors not to attempt to approach deer they might see because—and these words have stuck with me—”Deer hooves are sharp like swords.”

Angry deer

angry deer?” by w3nkman, licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

I was living in Chicago, where deer were a rare sight, so I have rarely had to apply the information I learned from that sign. But in Ohio, they’re much less so.

I’ve spotted deer three or four times while I’ve been living here. I like seeing deer—they’re pretty animals and all. But every time I’ve seen them, it has been approaching the duck hours and I’ve been on the bike paths.

Now, I’ve waxed rhapsodic about the local bike paths before, and I stand by both the wax and the rhapsody. But there’s one thing I may not have mentioned that has become relevant to the waxody: The paths don’t really occupy much space. They’re a few feet of pavement, with a few feet of grass on either side, and then woods.

So, when there’s a deer on the path, if you want to get past it, you’ve got two options: Either you can approach it or you can wait in a ruminant standoff until the deer scampers off.

Every time this happens, my quasi-rational fear* of samurai deer emerges. I have always chosen the ruminant standoff approach. I’ll attempt to make comforting noises, trying to translate “Hello, Mr. and/or Mrs. Deer, I think you’re a wonderful creature but I need to get to the other side of where you are and I’d appreciate it if you’d step off the path so I could be certain I could do that without being decapitated by your katana hooves, not that you would do that, but I’ve heard that it’s possible” into Cervinae.**

There’s also, of course, the quasi-rational fear that a startled deer might inadvertently—or perhaps advertently—barrel into me, which would hurt a fair amount. But mostly, I’m concerned about the swords.

Is this a concern that I need to have? It’s hard to say.

The internet has reports about moose attacks, killer chickens, vexatious kangaroos, herds of sheep, and Canada geese (which are not a surprise—they’re nasty buggers). Also, this article thinks your bike route is adjacent to a meth lab, because needless fearmongering is a thing our society is good at.

But none of these reports are terribly, how do you say, authoritative, so I’m left wondering about whether Bambi is out there, planning revenge for the money-grubbing Bambi II, and the even worse Bambi on Ice, and for forcing him to make that frankly horrifying turn as Sam Carmichael in the film version of Mamma Mia. And, of course, this:

Some may say, “Be brave.” But I’m a coward. And so, from here on out, whenever I see a deer, I’m going to assume it’s after human blood.


* My quasi-rational fear is rather odd for my new town. Most of the people here are terrified of tornadoes. It kind of makes sense: In 1974, there was a really serious tornado that fairly devastated the town. But what doesn’t make sense is that everything now is a tornado, even if it’s just a light drizzle that is later discovered to be caused by a lawn sprinkler, or a cloud that blocks out the sun for a couple of seconds. I shudder to think how people will feel about the eclipse in August.

** Deer language. Druids can choose it as one of their starting languages, while other classes may learn it by spending twelve months if they have an intelligence of 12 or higher.

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Mushroom Risotto: A Cautionary Tale

I’ve been working, in the past few years theoretically and since moving to Ohio in particular, to expand my cooking repertoire.

It is somewhat easier now, since I work in a library, and every couple weeks I go downstairs and check out a new cookbook. And there have been some successes that I’ll be adding to my rotation.

And then there’s mushroom risotto.

It seemed like a good idea at the time. The recipe seemed well within my abilities, and the ingredients seemed to be like they’d taste good together.

The first problem: Risotto is a pain in the ass to make.

There’s a lot of chopping and cooking before the risotto, which is a bit annoying but not the worst thing that’s ever happened. But then you add the risotto, which isn’t actually risotto at this point—just “arborio rice,” which is a polite way to say “petrified Satan’s droppings.”

Then you add a little bit of liquid and stir. For, like two hours.

And then, when that liquid is absorbed, you add more liquid and continue to stir. And you repeat this, and continue repeating it, and then continue repeating it, for a total of about 37 hours.

Seriously. I was watching Netflix on my phone and ran out of Law & Order to binge. I had to turn to The Ranch to avoid going mad from the rhythmic clanging of wooden spoon against pot, after which I yearned for the clanging of metal pot against my skull.

Mushroom Risotto
How delicious does that look? If your answer was, “Not very,” you are right. It looks like something that came out of a cat’s front end and back end simultaneously.

But even things that don’t look good might taste okay. So after two full Netflix series of prep, how does it actually taste?

It tastes like slightly chewy goo, with just a hint of mucilage and a soupcon of mush. The flavor is nothing but texture, and there’s not even much of that. You chew it, and eventually it goes down your throat, but you won’t ever be certain when the transition from “chewing” to “having swallowed” takes place.

It’s also vegan. You could tell that from approximately three hundred miles away.

To sum up: Don’t make mushroom risotto. It will make you sad.

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Photos from Ohio

I feel like I’ve made a reasonably comfortable transition to my new home, for the most part.

But the parts outside of that most part are the funny ones. And fortunately, just for you, I’ve documented many of them. So view these and experience the life that is me:

Tree jailAs part of local initiatives aimed at being “tough on crime,” several miscreant trees have been imprisoned in the past year. This is a community that refuses to allow tree-on-tree crime to take root.

Horrifying bunny cakesThey literally made this cake out of a bunny, which they first compressed into a plastic bunny-shaped mask that stares into your soul, plaintively asking “Why would you do such a thing?”

Drinking vinegar

This is the most disgusting thing I’ve seen here, and I’ve seen a 2-pound, 8-ounce jar of “pickled rope bologna” that had a sticky film and had developed suction sticking it to the shelf. No, seriously.Pickled rope bologna

Pac-Man Skill CraneI could cope if this were just a Pac-Man–themed skill crane machine, even though there’s absolutely nothing in Pac-Man that connects to the skill crane mechanic, or even any attempt at incorporating Pac-Man branding apart from the name panel. But the fact that the prizes are all pastel-colored sheep is really messing with my head. Was “shepherd” Pac-Man’s original career before he quit the rat race to subsist on dots and hunt psychedelic ghosts? Is Pac-Man Scottish? Those are the only possibilities I see.

Corner Cone sign

Yellow Springs is sort of the local hippie enclave outside the big local military base. It’s the kind of place where businesses simultaneously sell ice cream and rent bikes. (The ice cream is good, at least.)

By all accounts, my new bank is really good. But grammar isn’t its jam. (Also, they believe my first name is “First Name,” which is how I’d like to be addressed from here on out.)

Henry David Thorough's shack, or a facsimile.This shack is noteworthy for one of three reasons. It might be Henry David Thoreau’s shack, or it might be a replica of Henry David Thoreau’s shack, or I might have my story completely and utterly wrong.

Karen Knotts show poster

This is the kind of place where you can be famous for being the daughter of Don Knotts. She’s like an extremely rural version of Dannii Minogue.

PizzadillaNo. Just… no.

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Fat Boy Big Wall, Juvenile Offender

One not-terribly-interesting change that I’ve experienced since moving to Ohio involves recycling.

In Chicago, recycling bins were always pretty readily accessible, even though the buildings where I lived didn’t always provide them. Here, they are less so.

However, there is a recycling center that’s not too inconvenient: It’s basically down the street from the good grocery store (there’s another one that’s very close to where I live, but it’s a bit sketchy, and it makes pretty clear that produce is not its jam) so I’m in the area at least once a week.

I went there for the first time last weekend, and it went… well…

It’s the weather’s fault, really. I decided to walk there, rather than bike, because it had been raining all morning and wet roads will get you nicely moist, even if it’s not raining.

There is an attendant at the recycling center, and going there on foot really, really, really messed with his head.

He was obviously suspicious when I came in. That really kicked up when I was finished dropping off my stuff, which is slightly my fault. I had another errand to run, which was across the street from the grocery store. So instead of walking out the typical entrance and exit, I tried to go through the back of the recycling center. I didn’t, as there was both a rather rusty fence blocking the path (which could have been jumped) and a more-significant-than-I-realized highway with no good crossing, except the main one that I already knew about (which led me to turn back.)

This unauthorized exploration was simply too much for the attendant, and he had to confront me.

I explained my slight awkwardness, that I was new in the area and had never been there and wanted to see if it was possible to cut across to the bank (which was my other errand, even though I neglected to mention it earlier. My apologies).

“You can’t go through that way,” he informed me quite needlessly.

“I see that now,” I said.

“You just get out of jail?” he demanded.

Wait, what?

One more bit of local geography you’ll need to fully understand the story: Across the street from the recycling center in the other direction from the bank is the local juvenile detention center.

So, the attendant was very confident that I just gotten out of there. No, not “gotten out of there.” The tone of voice which which he asked if I had just gotten out of jail suggested he thought that I had escaped, and that he was about to score himself a bounty.

Because the first thing a 41-year-old does upon escaping from juvie is take some recycling in.

(Also, to keep it OCR related: I happened to be wearing a Spartan finisher t-shirt from last year’s Citi Field sprint at the time. Perhaps those are as readily available at juvenile hall as they are at Citi Field, which raises some questions about Mets fans that I’m sure Phillies fans would be happy to exploit, if they knew how to read.)

I assured him that I was not actually a criminal, but he wasn’t going to give up on his opportunity for Justice™ that easily. “Then why are you on foot?”

“Because I walked here” was my fairly obvious response. Looking back, I think his inquiry was more high-minded and philosophical—as in, “Why didn’t you drive?” As in, “driving is the only possible way to move between two points.”

Which suggests pretty strongly that, despite working at a recycling center, he hadn’t quite considered the implications of his work in the broader environmentalist context.

He demanded to know where I had walked from. I told him, and he informed me that it wasn’t possible to do so. I reminded him about the off-road trail that brought me nearly halfway, and the ample sidewalks on the other half of the trip.

The attendant did not believe me. But he also wasn’t accustomed to having someone respond to him as if they were saying logical things. It threw him, and he couldn’t come up with any more lines of inquisition, and I was free to go. I mean, that’s what he was thinking, even though we both knew that he had no authority to hold me there, and I was only staying around because it amused me. He didn’t say anything to me, but just sort of shook his head and backed away murmuring about how confusing the whole situation was.

I hope he’s happy… he single-handedly put another junior felon back on the streets

 

 

 

 

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The Feral Elliptical Machine

I feel like I’ve made a reasonably successful transition to Ohio, but I am still capable of being surprised by many of the things I see.

For example, this:

Feral elliptical machine in the park

What we have here is an elliptical machine in the wild. While wild ellipticals (apparatibus ellipticis ferox) do exist, they are extraordinarily rare outside of their range (primarily along the eastern seaboard from northern Georgia to southern Maine, but particularly common in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Long Island). As a result, I formed the conclusion that it was, in fact, a domestic elliptical (apparatibus ellipticis mansueti) that had escaped or (cruelly) been released by its owner.

My hunch was confirmed when I approached the machine. Wild ellipticals are often hostile, but this specimen welcomed my approach and even nuzzled my face in a friendly manner.

Me approaching the feral elliptical.

Sadly, the elliptical had been wounded, though whether it was the result of an injury suffered in the wild or abuse from its owner, I cannot say for certain.

The elliptical's injury.

However, I like to believe that any injuries were relatively non-traumatic, as the machine exhibited no fear of me. In fact, after a sufficient introduction, the machine even consented to allow me to ride it.

Riding the Feral Elliptical

Sadly, I was not able to provide the forever home that this elliptical deserves, as my apartment has a strict no-pets policy and the local animal control agency refused any responsibility for elliptical machines of this nature.

So I bound its wounds as effectively as I could, gave it a handful of batteries and plugs, and sent it on its way with all the best thoughts I could muster.

The next time I passed that spot, it had left, but I believe it had everything it needed to have a delightful life, as it was in a pleasant park with ready access to forests, fields, water, and electrical outlets. The alternative is simply too horrifying to contemplate, because elliptical prostitutes never live happy lives.

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How To Not Be Creepy Working Out at a Playground

Playgrounds shouldn’t be just for kids. They typically* have things like steel bars in various configurations that are good for pull-ups and laches and dips and rows and miscellaneous things that can be tough to replicate at home.

However, that’s not the world in which we live. Playgrounds are for kids, and using them as an adult can raise suspicion, even when that usage is as innocent as a workout. And I get it: We should want to protect kids from people who wish to do them harm. But I’d like to be able to get some monkey bar work in myself.**

So how can you use these public, taxpayer-funded facilities without seeming or feeling like the kind of person who needs a mustache and a corner shrub to peer through at all times? I’ve assembled some suggestions. Use your common sense before applying them and don’t be creepy!

  • Go when kids aren’t there. This is the approach I’ve been using so far in Ohio, and it’s worked well; the playground that’s near to me is both not terribly exciting and not particularly convenient to extensive residential area. (There’s one neighborhood around it, but it’s bounded on one side by a county fairground, across the street by a greenway, and a third side has a school and then fields.) So, while I’ve seen kids using it, there’s never been any potential conflict.
  • Get in/get out. By that I mean: Most of your workout doesn’t involve the bars. So go there, do your bar work quick, and then go elsewhere—like the middle of the field—for the rest of your workout. Also, maybe make sure you’re facing out (rather than toward the rest of the play structure) while you’re working. And wear a shirt. Don’t be this guy:
  • Bring a kid of your own. Or a neighbor’s kid. Or a random one you find on the street. I’m not here to judge that kind of morality. However, this can be tricky, even if you do it totally legal-like: if you bring a kid, you’ll be expected to keep an eye on it, which might get you some appalled looks if you spend too many minutes on your toe-to-bars.
  • Wear a uniform. Certain people in our society are above question. If you dress as a police officer, a firefighter, or a soldier, you will automatically be protected against any accusations of creepiness because you’re a hero. (Maybe our culture ought to have a bit more nuanced relationship with the idea of those professions.)
  • Be a juggler. Jugglers can work pull-ups into their act. Jugglers can work anything into their act. Unfortunately, this might not be enough to make you appear not to be creepy. And if you are deemed acceptable by community standards, you’ll need to develop 30 to 60 minutes of kid-friendly patter in order to keep the show going.
  • Wear a badge. I’m thinking one of those “Hi, my name is,” stickers you can put on your shirt, and then you can write in “Someone who isn’t creepy.” Although if you don’t have any of those stickers available, you could carry a sign, write it in Sharpie on your forehead, or safety-pin a note to your shirt. I’m sure any of those will work okay.

On second thought… maybe just move to a place where they have grown-up playgrounds. I’m not sure how effectively these techniques will keep you out of jail.


* No, not always. When I was in Chicago, there actually seemed to be a movement to rip out playground equipment and replace it with these weird cord-based structures. I have no idea why; they didn’t look like they would be particularly fun or particularly safe.

** I was going to say “innocent monkey bar work in,” but that makes the phrase so much more creepy, no?

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