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Friday, November 30, 2007

Public Displays of Affection

Most of the time, I get my ideas for what to write about directly from the morning paper. My morning paper of choice is the Chicago RedEye, mostly because I live in Chicago and it's also free. The paper is pretty much just all of the popular stories from the Chicago Tribune (the RedEye's parent newspaper), and reading through everything but the sports and clubs/bars/annoying-music sections takes me about 10-15 minutes.

The focal story on the cover is about PDA (the kissing kind, not your damned PalmPilot kind) - and the sidebar invites readers to respond to: "Do you think PDA is OK? If so, what types are acceptable? And where?" So here are some of my thoughts on the subject.

I think that PDA is completely fine, in theory. I mean, call me a nerd, but I take the term at its completely-literal meaning. Public displays of affection are just that, basically "letting everyone know how you feel." Everyone seems to have decided that PDA only refers to one particular type of affection and a limited list of display options. I'll address the common denominator first.

You have love/lust for someone and don't want to hold back in public. Fine. I really don't care, and I think it's fine at pretty much all levels. From hand-holding to humping, whatever you want to do, you do it. As long as the recipient is willing, of course. I'm perfectly comfortable being on the same train as a man who's dry-humping a woman while he licks her face and also tenderly holds her hand - I'd just prefer it if she actually wanted these things done to/with her. My guidelines are that it's all good - but it's up to the PA-displayers to make sure that what they're doing doesn't violate any actual laws.

Frankly, the public indecency laws need to be abolished. We shouldn't be allowed to dictate what is "decent" and arrest those who don't follow the code. If that's truly acceptable, then I want Fergie to be deemed "indecent" due to her song "My Humps" and have her locked up for life, if not given the death penalty for corrupting the minds of preteen girls nationwide.

The last question asks where it's acceptable, and the answer is right there in front of your face. "In public." If it's being done in a location that is not public property, I find it wrong to consider it a "public display of affection." People can argue that the 'public' refers to "the general public being able to see it", but I see it as the guideline itself.

For example, a Walgreens is not a public place. It's open TO the public, but the business owner reserves the right to refuse service for whatever reason. You are a guest in that person's establishment - it is not public space wherein you can do whatever you want. The CTA, however, is a form of public transportation and I think that PDA is acceptable there.

So in conclusion, PDA is acceptable to me at any legal level in any public place. In the words of my newest role model Scott Adams, "But of course, there are obvious exceptions." One such exception is my parents. I am not comfortable with THEIR public displays of affection, in any venue or at any level. I'm also not very comfortable with PDAs made by anyone grotesque or ancient. Sorry, but if I'm barely comfortable looking at you, I'm certainly not going to feel comfortable looking at you while you're doing anything of that nature. Abe Vigoda could be tonguelocked with Heidi Klum - I'm still not going to find it pleasant. However, my comfort levels have nothing to do with things being OK or acceptable.

Lastly, I just want to touch upon the common misconception that all PDA involves this love/lust concept. Affection is based on "affect" and refers to ANY feeling or emotion. Crying on a park bench is a public display of affection. Screaming really loud when someone scares you in the park is a public display of affection. Even two screeching girls reminiscing on the street about how long it's been since they've had a martini-induced night of debauchery would constitute as a public display of affection.

Start limiting one, and you'd have to start limiting all of them.

Just remember - even though you should accept it, that doesn't mean you should always be comfortable with it. You just can't punish them because you aren't comfortable with it.

(The RedEye article online)

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Thursday, November 29, 2007

CTA - Chicago Transit by Aaron?

I was in a particularly chatty mood last night while on my way home. Perhaps it was the thrill of being anywhere other than work. Yes, that's probably it. Anyway, I got off the train to transfer to my bus route home (#44) and only saw a bus at the #8 loading station. A few seconds went by, and I noticed the lights on the bus there flashing "Wallace/Racine", which is what a #44 bus would say. So just as I peek my head out to see if this is truly a #44, it pulls out. Of course.

And yes, it was a #44 bus. Which meant waiting for the next one with the five other people who just got fooled the same way. We all started chatting about how annoying it is when the bus gets ready to leave, pulls into the different area to pick someone else up, and fools everyone else who wants to rush and get on before it leaves but can't find it because it's in the wrong spot.

Another one pulled up about two minutes later, and of course then sat there at the station for ten minutes or so. Luckily, an odd train of thought entered my head when I was talking to one of my regular Bus Ladies (I don't know their names, they're just ladies who often ride the same buses as me) and said, "Well, either way, I'm sure going to miss it come January."

You see, due to idiocy at practically every level of government going up from the city level that's supposed to fund it's damned public transportation, in January we have yet another huge Doomsday planned. They'll be cutting service for over sixty different bus lines. Our #44 is slated for death. And that's when the idea struck me:

How profitable would it be to buy an old CTA bus and run it along one of the deceased routes?

I haven't had time to sit down and do any math yet, so figures will all be estimated and probably way off. But the office is quiet, I'm not yet on the clock, and I'm interested in figuring this out.

Let's say that a reasonable estimated figure to purchase an old bus is $25,000. I'm guessing that new ones are upwards of $70,000 - but these are old, probably outdated models that clunk and have over 150,000 miles or so on them. And yes, I'd pick one that at least runs.

So I pick one of the routes that got shut down and was populated enough to guarantee at least 3/4 capacity at all times (especially with all the people waiting since I run maybe once an hour or so with one damned bus all by myself for the entire route). I can only charge cash, since CTA cards would do me no good, but I'd keep things at the $2/ride mark - even if Doomsday would increase cash fares to like $3. The discount is because it would encourage riders and apologize for not being able to give transfers to the real CTA.

So let's say the average bus can hold, also on average, 40 people (when not crammed in like sardines).

So waiting at the start point, I get between 50-75% capacity before pulling out. That's about 25 people, which is $50. Let's also give a lowball estimate of how many stops are on the route - I'll go with about 40, since I'd pick a small route to start - and assume that a minimum of 2 people on average get on at each stop. I'm guessing most stops would be much more than 2, but with empty stops in-between let's go with 2 for now as an average. That's $4 per stop, which is $80 for the route by the end. Everyone's cleared out, raise back to 50-75% again, and repeat.

To go through all 40 stops would be about 35 minutes, plus another 10 minutes to wait and fill up before the reverse side. Altogether each run in one direction nets $130 for 45 minutes, or about $175/hr. Run the bus for an 8-hour day and that's $1,400 a day. I don't know how much gasoline would cost for a bus, but with a higher quality of gas or the larger tank capacity, let's assume it's about $200/day. That's still $1,200 profit every day.

At $1,200 profit a day, it would take 3 weeks to have made back the seed money.

Give it another 3 weeks and that's enough profit to purchase a second bus and hire another driver, which would probably result in only 2 weeks combined (considering a salary is now being paid) to make the profits to purchase another bus. And so on.

In theory, with estimated and probably-wrong numbers, I'm turning a profit in less than a month just by purchasing an old bus and doing what the CTA is supposed to do - transport the citizens of Chicago with authority.

Go ahead and tell me which of my numbers are wrong - it won't make much difference to me. The whole thing is just a mildly-irrational idea anyway.

After all, it's not like I know how to drive - let alone drive a bus. I just thought that the point needed to be made.

Read more!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Blackwater Steroids

There's a lawsuit going on against Blackwater, this private company serving as security guards in Iraq, where we are still at war. If you read into the article, the lawsuit is about charging the company with war crimes, wrongful death, assault, negligent hiring and emotional distress (to the families of Iraqis killed by Blackwater). Unfortunately, the title and main focal point of the article is the allegation that a quarter of the Blackwater security guards are using steroids.

Really - THAT'S the issue on the table here? Steroid use?

I'm frankly getting a little sick and tired of all the hubbub over steroid usage by people. Even if used for non-medicinal purposes, I don't see why steroid use is getting all of this attention. We've all heard about what it does and the effects of the increased testosterone and muscle growth. So what's the problem here? No seriously, what's the problem??

Their main purpose in Iraq is serving as security guards, protecting American citizens. In a place where there's a war going on. The lead attorney in the case, Susan Burke, says she thinks that "there is a whole corporate culture there that essentially rewards the use of excessive force -- shooting first, asking questions later." Did the dictionary and all my encyclopaedias suddenly change the meanings of "security guards" or "war"? I can't help but remember growing up with the knowledge that security guards use force to keep people and places secure. They shoot first and ask questions later. Otherwise, the things they're protecting get attacked and they get fired. I'm buffaloed as to why the lead attorney is basically saying "there is a whole corporate culture that essentially rewards employees doing their jobs effectively."

Seriously, Blackwater's major claim to fame (other than lawsuits) is that during four years of this War in Iraq, none of their protectees have been killed. That's a 100% success rate. Honestly, how can you argue with a 100% success rate? This is no half-assed "win some, lose some" company you're dealing with - this is a "win all, never lose!" company.

Do you know which security guards DON'T have a 100% success rate? The frickin' Secret Service! Of course, they've been in business a lot longer - but they only have a small handful of protectees at a time.

Am I saying that President Kennedy might not have been shot and killed if there were a few more steroid-using members on the force? Hard to say. Keener eye-muscles might have led to identifying the potential shooter (or shooters, if you're a conspiracy nut) and subsequent beatdown and death of said person(s).

What gets me even more irate is that this is a WAR ZONE, not the motherloving Olympics! While we can penalize a biathlete for using steroids and claim it's unfair towards those idiots who ski and shoot things with their own exercise and training alone (even though we also penalize them for using debilitating drugs like marijuana that gives the others an advantage), why are we penalizing security guards in a war zone? Are the Iraqi troops complaining because it's harder to kill Americans with these guards all buffed up with enhancement drugs?

If there's one guy you want on a 'roid rage, it's the guy with a gun who's protecting your ass from terrorists.

That's certainly who I'd hire if I were an idiot who decided to travel to Iraq in the middle of a war. Wouldn't you?

(The article that sparked this rant)

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007


I'm waiting for my friend to come in to work to find out if she's still sick and miserable. If she is, that generally means good things for me. I know, it's a sick and twisted thing to secretly desire misery on your friends, but we've been noticing a pattern and we're still testing its consistency.

Whenever I'm having a good day, bad things happen to my friends.
Whenever I'm having a bad day, good things happen to my friends.

We're still figuring out if my days control her luck or her days control my luck, but it's a very odd coincidence that we superstitiously feel might not be coincidence at all. I can only see things from my perspective, and vice-versa for her.

All I know is that on the day that I got a promotion/raise, she had a day that was so horrible, she seriously wanted to quit. Then on the day that I wanted to celebrate the event, my friends (plural, so I think I'm affecting them more than they affect me) were totally miserable over something they wanted being sold out and unavailable, and then we got into a minor car accident while trying to get home from the restaurant. Later, on a day where I was feeling particularly stressed out and miserable, she wound up getting a raise. She got to go home on time to celebrate, and I wound up staying two hours late to finish my insane projects.

The whole thing just awkwardly reeks of this notion of "soulmates" - in that two people are connected on some subconscious level. Most people think of soulmates as a positive thing - that both have the same emotions and brain wavelengths and whatnot in direct correlation with each other. I am overjoyed by something, and my soulmate would be equally overjoyed. And so forth.

I think the same thing can exist with negative correlation instead of positive. That instead of luck and emotions and trends being equal, they run opposite one another. I would attempt to coin the term "anti-soulmate", but it's not like it's the opposite of a soulmate. I think the opposite of a soulmate would be a hooker. It's just a different flavor of soulmate, like a flavor of ice cream that you really can't stand or would make you nauseous (think brussel sprouts mixed with squid). You can't deny that it is indeed ice cream, but it serves only to irritate you rather than soothe you with a sweet chilly treat.

In the end, the waiting was pointless. My friend stayed home sick today. Probably feeling miserable, but also possibly enjoying a relaxing day of sleep instead of being awake and miserable.

I'm guessing it's the latter, judging by the insanely stressful and annoying day mine has become... What a mean soulmate! Read more!

Monday, November 26, 2007


Everyone's probably heard stories about folk who watch Dateline or some other show that features diseases and, due to hypochondria or some other mental connection, decide that they in fact have it. I am NOT one of those folk. However, there's a new disease being talked about on the internet and the news that I believe I'm suffering from.

Phantom Cell Phone.

Now normally I'd clump this up in the category of diseases that we made up, like ADD, to explain some new and disturbing trend that we'd prefer to blame on genetics or fate instead of things like bad parenting. Parents would probably prefer to hear that their son has Attention Deficit Disorder and that's why he won't sit still and do schoolwork or focus on tasks for more than ten minutes at a time, rather than hear that their son won't pay attention to things because they've spoiled him with a lack of physical discipline. I'm pretty sure that the trend of ADD went on the rise just as parents were being told that spanking children is wrong and the whole child abuse thing took over. I'm not saying correlation means causation - I'm just saying it's pretty frickin' coincidental.

This PCP, however, explains a lot and makes actual biological sense. The whole disease is basically that carrying your Blackberry or other cell phone device in your pocket, doing its little vibration thing, over the years becomes like a part of your body. I'm not being zen and calling your phone "an extension of yourself" - I'm saying the brain apparently designates neurons and synapses strictly to that area of leg to specifically pick up on these vibrations. And, just like phantom limb for amputees, these neurons keep firing away even when your phone is off or not even in your pocket.

That little tingle, now being called "phantom buzz", is what drives people like me crazy. What's worse is when your phone is IN your pocket and you THINK it's going off and you check it and there's nothing there. No calls, no messages. Just you looking like an idiot, holding your phone.

My point is that I was feeling this and experiencing these symptoms long before I ever heard there was a new disease made up to explain it. Which makes it more real to me than ADD ever will. And I'm sure people will exclaim that ADD is a real disease and not just made up by drug companies to sell pills that do very little to treat something that already didn't really exist. Maybe their kid is one of the .1% who actually DOES have what would be called ADD and at a serious and real level. I think we should create a new disease for THAT and the REAL sufferers and finally drop this whole ADD loophole for kids who just don't want to pay attention.

I'd continue further, but my phone is ringing.

Oh crap. Never mind.

(Phantom Cell Phone article)

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Fewer Illegal Immigrant Mortgages

Yet another story to illustrate the dreadful state our country is in. Not only are we apparently letting illegal immigrants buy homes with mortgages from American banks - we have banks COMPLAINING that less illegal immigrants are turning to them to aid in their continued criminal presence in our country!

This story apparently all starts with the ITIN (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number), invented by the IRS back in 1996. The ITIN was designed so that foreign investors and immigrants (both legal and illegal) could pay taxes. Okay, at this point I'm a little torn that the IRS, a federal institution, would do something that could potentially identify illegal immigrants. Of course, I also know that the IRS, a federal institution, just wants money to come in, and if it means taking some money from illegal immigrants' pockets in the unfortunate duration before they can be arrested and deported, I guess I can't see much harm in that.

The problem started a few years later when banks began accepting those taxpayer numbers for loan applications rather than a social security number. This opened the door for illegal immigrants to apply for loans and buy houses. You can make the argument that banks "only accept applications from those with steady jobs and a proven track record of paying bills on time" - but I'll just argue right back that hiring illegals and renting to them are crimes and these employers and landlords should be punished. Not only are they helping illegal immigrants remain in our country, but they're apparently also responsible for having the loan applications of these criminals approved.

I think that if we can punish landlords for renting to illegal immigrants, we should certainly be able to punish banks for issuing the mortgage loans that similarly allow illegal immigrants to continue breaking the law by being in our country. "It's a little nonsensical for banks to be making loans to people to buy houses they have no legal right to live in. Banks should not be in the business of subverting federal immigration laws," said Ira Mehlman, spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform.

So what other arguments will banks make to justify loaning our legal-citizen monies to criminals?

Illegal immigrants are less likely to make delinquent payments.

Recent figures show ITIN mortgages have a .75 percent delinquency rate -- payments 60 to 90 days late -- according to the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals. By comparison, 1 percent of payments on prime mortgages are more than 90 days late, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. Sub-prime mortgages do much worse, with a 9.3 percent delinquency rate.

No offense, but it's hard to trust a study of this nature making this kind of argument if the research is being presented by the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals. Am I saying they're lying? Of course not. I'm just saying that it raises my eyebrow a little.

I'm glad to read that at least ONE politician is seeing the problem with this system and is doing something about it. Rep. John Doolittle (R-Calif.) introduced a bill earlier this year that would require banks to use Social Security numbers to issue mortgages for a lender's primary home, but it has not gone up for a vote yet. This is certainly legislation I can get behind.

The article takes another turn for the worse in my mind due to yet another example of a reporter with knowledge of an illegal immigrant that results only in a catchy element of a story rather than an arrest and deportation.

Rodrigo -- a resident of Chicago's Southwest Side who declined to use his last name because he fears being deported -- doubts he would take the plunge now. A dozen years after he sneaked across the border from Mexico with little more than a change of clothes and $20, Rodrigo used an ITIN mortgage in 2005 to buy a two-story home. He relished the thrill of signing his closing papers and receiving the keys.

That right there is enough evidence of the crime to warrant an arrest in MY book. So why is Rodrigo probably still illegally living in his ill-gotten house instead of being sent back to Mexico with little more than a change of clothes and $20 as a big fat "Return to Sender"? I honestly don't know. But the reporter had the capability to make that happen, and failed. For now, he proudly shows off his home, which sits on a quiet, tree-lined street. In his daughters' room, painted orange and scattered with stuffed toys, the girls jump on their beds. That means that this reporter has BEEN to the location and could easily lead federal agents to this place and take Rodrigo and send him back to Mexico!

Why isn't this happening???

We all have the power to help enforce our immigration laws. We can all call the hotlines and file the reports with the ICE. We have the power, and it's time we started using it.


(The rest of the article)

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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Lost? Ask the Gas Pump!

This is a very interesting new technology that will be made available throughout the country starting next month. Rather, the technology itself isn't very new, but the placement and application of it is quite remarkable. It's one that makes you stop and think, "Why hasn't anyone done this before?"

Google Maps will soon be located on gas pumps. You can get directions to landmarks, hotels, restaurants or hospitals. You can even print out those directions before heading back out on your way - now sure of where you're going and how you're going to get there.

The pumps, made by Gilbarco Veeder-Root, will include an Internet connection. The Google Map feature will be available (in color!) on a small screen located on the pump. So far, the technology being used is simply a scrolling menu through various categories and choosing pre-selected destinations. Think of it more as a very-helpful travel guide of sorts. In the future, Gilbarco Veeder-Root hopes to include the ability to enter in an address to get directions, making the feature genuinely invaluable. For now, if you're lost on your way to the party, you'd better hope you know of a local landmark located nearby and hope for the best.

This is mostly geared towards travelers and road-trippers who might be looking for a place to crash for the night, grab a bite to eat, find the Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota or possibly just to reattach a severed thumb. I'm hoping that "local landmarks" includes the nearest highway - which is what my mind envisions a lot of lost vacationers would want to know, and would be more likely to ask a gas pump than a human being.

Which brings me to the question: Is this un-manly?

After all, we've all grown up with the supposedly-antiquated notion that "real men don't pull over and ask for directions" - admitting that you are lost is like admitting defeat in the great game of Manliness. So does this count? Is the fact that you're not pulling over specifically for directions (since you're probably in need of gas anyway with your low-mileage manly vehicle), and it's not like you're ASKING for directions. That implies an element of speech, and very loosely implies you're expecting a verbal response which would mean you're asking a human. Will the Man Code be violated if, while filling up the Manmobile, you test out some new technology by verifying the correct route to your hotel (which you of course already know, but you want to see if the GAS PUMP knows as well) and maybe printing out the results as proof that you were indeed right about the route that needs to be taken and you weren't lost after all?

Let me know what you think about the manliness of pump-based mapping and whether or not it breaks the Man Code about pulling over to ask for directions.

And don't forget to vote at the top of this page, if you like what you've been reading here at my BlogSpot.

(The article about the 3,500 advanced gas pumps coming out next month)

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Monday, November 05, 2007

Letter to RedEye: Double Dose!

It's been a while since I wrote anything to the RedEye, and longer still since they've published anything I've sent. So this morning, after a large bit of network trouble here at the office, I managed to shoot them a double-dose of ranting. The first letter is in response to an article about the Boomerang Generation being the new wave - students returning home from college to mooch off their parents.

Boomerang Generation: New Ways to Fail

The whole notion of the Boomerang Generation is just another brick in the wall of coddling children separating them from the real world to which they should be properly contributing. I read in a study that humans are the most immature animals on the planet - in the sense that it takes our young nineteen years on average until they are able to contribute enough back to the society that has been supporting it through childhood. Think about that for a second - on average, it takes our children nineteen years until they can give back more to society than they are taking and become full-fledged adults.

And now we're letting them stay sheltered even more? Where is the outcry of older generations to put these whippersnappers in their place with stories of how far they'd advanced "by your age" and been married with a job and supporting two kids of their own and whatnot? "Five miles uphill both ways in the snow" and so forth! I'm all for the notion of letting children be children, but at some point, you have to cut the umbilical cord - and keep it cut. Maybe this isn't about children being a boomerang generation, but about parents not coping with their Empty Nest Syndrome.

My parents had the right idea, strangely enough. Two days after I moved to college, before I'd even finished unpacking my things, my parents threw out my bed back home. The message was clear: "The cord is cut. You're in the real world now." I love them for doing that, because I have my own place, my own job, my own bills and maybe someday my own family as well.

Aaron Samuels, 24, Bridgeport

This second letter is in response to their article about how people really can't trust the CTA, who just got bailed out yet again, meaning no Doomsday Plan needs to be enacted until . . . oh, a few more weeks. And the Doomsday Scare will resume anew. So here's my response, which I've been thinking about for WEEKS.

Lack of Trust for the CTA

My problem with the CTA isn't about the constant whining for more financial support and then further whining upon receiving "not enough" financial support. My problem is about the lack of follow-through. Here's a random analogy that may or may not shed light on my concerns:

A pie shop sells apple pies. But they realize their apple stock is running low and they won't be getting any deliveries in for a while. Frantically, they start discussing pears. They invest money on methods to quickly obtain pears, debate over the price difference, research recipes for pear pies, perform taste tests and do market research to see if people can handle pear pies, advertising new pear pies due to lack of apples, and after an entire month of this nonsense - a truckload of apples comes in and apple piemaking resumes and nobody does anything about pears until a few weeks later when the apples are running low again.

I'd just like to know how much money went into purchasing ad space to warn people about the Doomsday plan, how much went into planning the Doomsday plan out in the first place, how much was spent on wages for people handing out fliers about Doomsday or putting up notices in stations and on buses instead of their regular jobs and how much was spent on all of the pamphlets and fliers and signs themselves. The worst part is that even though they got their money, that means all of the money spent warning about Doomsday was a waste because the plan was never used and the money just creates a further drain that speeds up the next Doomsday when it all repeats.

At some point, you just have to DEMAND that they have a little follow-through, so maybe they can finally fix the problem and stop wasting all this extra money in the meantime. I hate the thought of paying extra money, but I hate the thought of WASTING money a whole lot more.

Aaron Samuels, 24, Bridgeport

Actually, I just got an e-mail back from Kyla at Going Public in response to my CTA letter!

Hi Aaron:
Good points, and spoken like someone with a true business mind. Good analogy. I will try and get this into reader letters, but we may have to trim a bit for space. Thanks so much, and have a great rest of the week!


So it's not only shocking to get a reply TEN MINUTES after I sent these off, but such a positive one at that! I was flabbergasted to read "Good analogy." Seriously. I chuckled at the notion that I have a true business mind. Strange how everyone mistakes "common sense" for a "good business mind".

Well, if they print anything, I'll let you know (and make it bold here)! Read more!

Friday, November 02, 2007

NaNoWriMo - Day 1

This year may not be my year either.

Last year, I was only part-time and I still couldn't manage the drive to get much further than 3,000 words or so. The year before that I was unemployed and was pretty much using copy/paste on old IM conversations from my past and STILL couldn't make an honest 50,000 by the end of the month. This year - I'm a full-time salaried employee who often stays later than he should.

It doesn't bode well.

Anyway, here's pretty much what I have done on Day 1 - though it's just a modified version of an old beginning to something that never even made it to a middle.

A Day in the Rut of AaronBSam (Working Title)

Phase 1

It's always between 4 and 5am that my day truly starts. There's always something rousing me from sleep, peaceful or otherwise - forcing me to verify that it is indeed not time to get out of bed, but rather to do more tossing and turning as the minutes tick by as the hour of true awakening draws nearer. At some point, sleep prevails, which is followed seemingly instantly by the sound of droning. My radio is constantly set on a gospel station - which usually results in waking up to angry men yelling about how I'll be going to hell or yelling about how I should believe in Jesus. It's not something you can easily sleep through. Also, the volume is turned up rather high - to ensure that it’s something not easily slept through.

But it will always be something you can easily smack with your hand as you fumble for a snooze button.

5:30am; 5:37am; 5:44am; sometimes it even reaches 5:51am. I love a clock-radio that snoozes in 7-minute intervals. While most of the world enjoys the finite nature of waking up to an alarm set to the 5-minute or 10-minute break, I think there’s something to be said for odd times. That’s too much of a “beginning” for me, and it’s like giving myself the option of when I choose to start my day. If that were the case, my answer would almost always be “later.” That is why I enjoy waking up at an odd time to a morning that feels as though it is already in progress. I also love having a clock that's set 12 minutes fast - even though the fact that I always look at it and re-calculate the correct time kind of defeats the purpose. You're supposed to set a timepiece fast so you'll see it, think it's the correct time, and then arrive at places early (or less late) because you think it's later than it actually is. With me and my clock, it's fast and I always recalculate to compensate. But in that recalculation, I'm THINKING and AWARE of the time, which is reminder enough to not be late.

I don't need cheap tricks and lies - I just need constant honest reminders.

Once awake, my day almost begins. I get out of bed, put on my Lazy Clothes (an official outfit worn at home, always when alone, where nobody will care about my fashion/comfort except myself), and select an outfit for the day. I lay them out in the living room on a chair, and apply fabric freshener, whether it's necessary or not. I do laundry much more often than I used to - once every week or every other week - but old habits die hard, and change is almost always a bad thing. Once they're placed on the chair and have been given exactly five sprays with the fabric freshener, I head back to the bedroom, remove the Lazy Clothes once more, and turn on an episode of downloaded TV while I sit in bed and watch. When our area finally had Comcast service offered to us, I’m sure that a lot of families got cable TV and the cable high-speed internet. I figured, “Why pay for both when the internet gives me access to the cable TV shows and more?” So thanks to some choice downloading, I’m more addicted to the TV than ever. Downloaded shows don’t have commercials, either. Between 6:12am and 6:22am on the clock (so between 6am and 6:10am), I pause whatever I'm watching and take my shower.

That's about 15 minutes on average, depending on whether or not I'm using conditioner.

Some days, I find myself wishing that I were able to take time and relax and enjoy myself during periods like shower-time. It’s not about my schedule – I can alter that whenever I want in order to get the same result of an end-time – it’s about my lack of ability to really relax. These are some of the thoughts running through my head while in the shower – often leading to the lack of relaxation in and of itself. I emerge from the shower and towel off, and then put on my Lazy Clothes once more to retreat back to the bedroom to finish air-drying while watching the rest of the show. Rather, it’s not that I’m air-drying, I’m just wearing a different form of a towel. At 6:32am on the clock (6:20am real time), I shuffle off to the living room and retrieve my clothes for the day, then dress while still watching downloaded TV. I’ve got the art of finishing a show as I head out the door down to a science. I would probably call it the science of teeveetimendology. At 6:35am on the computer clock (which varies between 3 and 5 minutes fast, depending on how much I’ve given it to do in the past few days) I grab my daily items out of my Bucket (where all necessary items should go - you never lose things if you constantly keep them in one place and one place alone) and pocket them. I’m a firm believer in the Bucket system, and advocate it to friends, who remind me that I am a socially-inept nerd. I remind them that the term “nerd” practically by definition implies that I’m socially-inept. Removal of my 7-Day CTA pass from the wallet takes place as I put both in the left pocket. My ID Badge, keys and cell phone go in the right pocket. I go and open the door to see the temperature and decide whether to wear my sweatshirt, coat, or neither. Today it seems to be about 45-degrees outside, so I grab my sweatshirt and load those pockets. Digital camera goes in the left pocket (if it’s not still lurking there) and my iPod goes in the right pocket. Lastly, I do a final check. Left pocket, right pocket. I go to my computer, log off of Yahoo, set my away message on AIM, and then set the thermostat to its lowest point (no sense in heating an empty apartment). On sweatshirt/coat days, I check the status of my pocket paper towel to see if it needs replacing. You wouldn't believe how many times a day a well-timed nose-blow will improve your breathing situation.

Head out the door and lock it, then off to the bus stop.

(To be continued.) Read more!