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Service Engine NOW

If someone tells you to do something “soon,” how likely are you actually going to get to it sooner rather than later?  Not very.  Soon gives you free range to interpret its meaning in your own way, because everyone knows that soon means different things to different people.  I may say that I’ll be going to the store soon, meaning within the next few days, while you may be thinking within the next half hour.  It’s all relative.  That’s why I think that the “service engine soon” light needs an overhaul. That’s why I propose that there should be three service engine lights, sort of like a stop light.

A picture of an engine that lights up green: Everything is hunkey dorey and you can continue driving your car no worries.

A picture of an engine that lights up yellow: All is not as it should be, and you need to address the car’s maintenance “soon.” Refill the wiper fluid, change a burned out light bulb, change an oxygen sensor that really does nothing, or get an oil change since it’s been 3,000 or 5,000 miles.  Things that won’t make your car fall apart on the highway at that instant but should be taken care of “soon.”

Then, there would be a picture of an engine that lights up red. This is panic mode: your radiator has sprung a leak, cylinder 3 is not firing, a squirrel has chewed through an important wire, your car is running so lean that you’re about to throw a rod, your transmission is five seconds from falling out of the bottom of the car; basically, your car is F’d and you better do something immediately.

The current system lacks urgency and is characterized by excessive ambiguity. Service engine soon?  Sure thing, I’ll get around to that next month.


August 11, 2010 Posted by | opinion, writing | , | Leave a comment

Just You, Me, and this Beat

My foot leaves the last step and hits the floor.  I peer through the darkness and the flashing lights and the silhouettes.  The bass pounds my chest and I feel the push and pull like ocean waves.  The groove weaves in and out; it feels alive like a snake slithering in between and around my arms and legs, luring me to the floor.

I sip my drink, watching the crowd from a table along the wall.  I reach the last sip and as I finish, I become aware of the liquor loosening my muscles and my mind; I don’t have a care in the world but I know there’s only one reason I came here tonight and she’s somewhere in this club.

The song ends and the another begins.

Enter the dance floor.  Weave through dancers.  The noise surrounds my body and I surrender.  My body begins to move and sway in perfect unison with the beat.  My head swivels right, then left, then up, then down.  My arms fall limp and then flay back into motion without skipping one note.  My legs undulate separately from my arms, and it almost feels as if my limbs have minds of their own.  As the song changes tempo, so do I.  The speakers scream and I scream back in nonverbal pandemonium.

I’m no longer in control of myself; the beat is my drug.  The beat overtakes my senses.  The beat is my pupeteer and I am its marionette.  I’ve lost my inhibitions and it feels great.  I throw my hands up in the air and shout Hey Oh, Gotta Let Go…

Suddenly, I notice you. Long black hair.  Tight body.  Sun Kissed Skin So Hot It Melts my Popsicle.  I watch from the corner of my eye as the crowd seethes around us.  You dance harder.  Oh My Gosh.

Before the song ends, I smile; you don’t move like the others.  You don’t wind.  You don’t grind.  You don’t beg for attention.  Your body language speaks a new dimension of tension.  You’re not an average girl, you’re a glowing pearl.

The song speeds up and I blink the sweat from my eyes.

I See You Watchin’ Me, You See Me Watchin’ You.  I know You Think You’re Cooler Than Me, but I know better and I won’t Just Stand here and Watch you Burn.  I know you’re on fire and I’m the only one who can put you out.

I slip through the floor and weave closer to you.  I can feel your aura mix with mine and the sparks begin to fly.

Side to side, back to back, face to face we dance but I can tell you haven’t let me in yet.  One song goes by.  You smile and laugh, I can tell you’re having fun and so am I.  Two songs go by.  You bite your lip and dip your head down just enough to cover your eyes but I can tell you’re looking at me. Three, then four, then five but still we dance separate.  Six songs go by but still I don’t give up; I can’t.

Lucky number seven comes on and finally you Call on Me.

Your body presses against mine and we move together as one; dip low, slow raise, groove left, groove right, always follow the beat.  I feel you as you feel me as we share in our wild form ecstasy.

No words to say, all else away, the way we shine is just divine.

Suddenly, you break away and flip your hair back to clear your face and smile.  I haven’t put you out at all and I see that no one could; you’re gorgeous.

Without a word, you leave me all alone.  The beat feels different with you gone.  I’ve had the best and now I’m missing what we never had.

Tick Tick Tick Tick On The Watch Life’s Too Short For us To Stop…

Outside, I let the cool air brush my cheek.  Maybe I Need Some Rehab.  Or Maybe I Just Need Some Sleep…

July 30, 2010 Posted by | entertainment, music, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

When Will the World Stand Still?

Somewhere along the way,life began moving faster than the speed of light.  Built gradually through the ages, the unstoppable machine named progress, a modern day manifest destiny into the brave, unknown future of science has picked up speed in the Information Age.

In today’s day and age, everything moves rapidly and no excuse, much less “the dog ate my Request for Proposal,” stands a chance.  Why didn’t you back it up on a flash drive?  Why didn’t you print out multiple copies?  Why didn’t you finish and hand it in before you went home with it?  The word, “excuse,” will soon be excised from the dictionary.

Food has become “fast food,” lunch hours have transformed into a run to the closest Jimmy Johns. Packages are shipped and received the same day, or even within hours.  Snail mail remains only as a formality.  Moore’s law asserts that technology, essentially, becomes twice as fast every two years. Amazon reports more E-book sales than ink and paper book sales.

Life is moving faster and faster on less and less.  Sleep is no longer a requirement.  In the same way coffee, the speed drug of the last generation has given way to energy drinks riddled with taurine, caffeine, so will energy drinks be superseded by the next wave of the newest wonder fix of the modern world. These latest and greatest energy booster enable us to ramp up productivity while simultaneously destroying capability.

Aches and pains are no longer a reason to worry, but simply one more than a reason to visit the pharmacy.  Pills, the band aids of today allow us to mask what ails us and continue living life unchanged. Sleeplessness is cured by a small blue pill, inability is cured by a small blue pill, depression is cured by a multicolored pill, what was once an excuse to put a book down and play soccer is now cured by an orange pill containing Dextroamphetamine and Amphetamine. There is no longer any reason to slow down, take it easy, or fall victim to inconveniences.

But, eventually, all “good” things must come to an end. Snowballs rolling down hills eventually either collide with trees or come to a rest. Rome eventually fell.  Airplanes must eventually land…  For now.

But is this what we really want?  To continue at the speed of light until there is no possible way to become any stronger, better, or faster?

Usain Bolt set new records of 9.58 seconds and 19.19 seconds for the 100 and 200 meter dashes, respectively. There must be some point of perfection where it is physically impossible to go faster.  But, to be honest, when that point comes, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if the Olympic Games began a Bio-Olympics league and allowed artificial blood, artificially augmented limbs, and literal lungs of steel.

What do you think?

July 28, 2010 Posted by | musings, writing | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Dentist, AKA Twenty Minutes of Hell

Twice a year I receive a letter in the mail that I fear more than any bill, credit card statement, or even student loan statement.  Okay, maybe not that last one.

That letter, which is actually a post card filled out by me, is a dentist summons, and arrives in January and July of each year, without fail.  Twice yearly, I am forced by insurance and parents, to call and schedule an appointment with my most hated of professional hygiene services.  One year I managed to skip out once, but that didn’t last long.  It’s a shame that all the brushing, flossing, and Listerine in the world can’t save me from the dentist.

Curiously, I actually like the people who work at the dentist’s office, especially the receptionists.  They are funny (one cracked a great joke about my step mother and won a place in my heart), nice, polite, and somehow always remember my name every time I come in, which is something I would never be able to do.  Names float freely in one ear and out the other in, on average, about ten seconds, and sadly, I am not exaggerating that fact.  They even have a large fish tank with some intriguing fish and magazines to read in the waiting lounge.

However, that is all the love I have for this clean, florescent lit, sterile, modern dungeon.

When my name is called, I am entering about twenty minutes to a half hour of dental punishment.  And then there was the time when I had my wisdom teeth removed; I won’t get started on that memory.

The first act of business is updating X-Rays.  A large machine that looks similar to a projector is pointed into my cheek, and an L-shaped piece of material covered in plastic tarp wrap is positioned in my mouth for several X-Rays.  It tastes horrible, is extremely uncomfortable, and if your tongue unintentionally moves it, or the technician doesn’t like the take, the X-Ray is done again.

Once X-Rays are done, my chair is lowered, tilted backwards, and that large, very annoying light is directed to beam directly into my face.  For the past two visits, I have had the same exact room; I know this because this particular room has a poster over one of the florescent light panels of what looks like either a cranberry or current bush covered in snow and with a blue sky in the background.  Sometimes, the technician tries to make small talk, usually centered around how I am doing/liking/studying/etc. at Michigan State University, which would be fine under normal circumstances, but when they are poking around in my mouth, it makes holding conversation pointedly awkward.

During my last visit, the technician was mercifully silent, something I was indeed thankful for.

So, down to the nitty gritty.  First, some type of needle/scalpel/tool is pressed in between the roots of my teeth and my gums, once in the outside and once in the inside, of every. single. one of my 32 teeth.  The higher the number, the worse the shape of your mouth.  I score nothing higher than a 3 and am complimented on the healthiness of my gums.  Thank you, I reply.

With that test out of the way, the technician starts the worst part of the visit: she begins to scrape my teeth with a metal hook, which looks just like this little guy: (It’s relevant and worth mentioning that the google image below was captioned “Tool of Satan.”

Just looking at the image above makes me shudder and sends cold shivers down my spine.

So, with gusto, my technician begins scraping away while I keep my mouth patiently open, wondering how in the world it scratching my teeth with a metal hook could ever be considered a good idea.  Occasionally, the metal torture device pokes my gums, which hurts, and the technician sprays water on my gums, then uses a sucker straw to clear away the water-blood mixture so she can continue on with her grisly work.

After scraping all of my 32 teeth, inside and outside, she sets her terrible tools down on the table and asks me what flavor of polish I would like.  The choices are: bubblegum, raspberry, orange, or mint.  I figured out, a few visits ago, that the correct answer is mint, every time.  There is no polish that “tastes” good.  It all tastes like artificially flavored sand grains, and nothing will change that fact.  Mint is simply the least offending “flavor.”

The polishing part is done with a tool that has an end that spins around and sounds like a slightly less powerful air ratchet.  The polish is applied to the end of this dentist ratchet, and then, just like a mini floor polisher, all of my teeth, once again inside and outside, are polished.  In between refillings, I can’t help but close my mouth and crunch the polish grains between my teeth.  Without fail, my face contorts, conveying to no one in particular, a look of complete disgust.

After all of my teeth are covered in the revolting polish, I am given a “mercy” cup of water to swish around and spit in the bowl that sits next to the dentist chair.  At this moment, I am able to sneak a small smile, because the worst that the dentist has to throw is now over.

After a few minutes, the head dentist arrives and starts to poke around in my mouth.  He usually wears a small headlamp, as if he is going to go Spelunking after his day at the office.  His hand is practiced and deft as he sticks his hook into the crowns of my teeth, then wiggles the tool, presumably to check for the presence of a cavity; I have none.  My little brother, Jonathan (age 10?), on the other hand, has several fillings and several cavities already.

Once he is done with the top set of teeth, he calls out, “top looks good!” and repeats the same phrase when he has finished with the bottom, just replacing the word, “top,” with “bottom.”

After he leaves, the technician offers me a goody bag filled with floss, toothpaste, and a crappy toothbrush all of which I do not, will never, and have never used.  I don’t know why I still accept them, it’s just habit by this point, left over from when I was a kid and loved getting goody bags.

In the last step of my visit, I leave the room and proceed through the corridor to the desk, where I fill out the post card that will arrive at my house in exactly six months time.  With goody bag in hand, I leaving the dentist’s office, I call out “thank you, have a good day,” throw the bag in the back seat, crank Country music, and speed out of the parking lot, happy to not have to return to the torture dungeon for another half year.

July 22, 2010 Posted by | dislikes, writing | , , , , , | Leave a comment

What Happens When I Drink Coffee at Work?

I don’t drink coffee often.  I don’t drink it for fun, or for dessert, or because I get the shakes and a headache if I don’t.  I drink it for one reason: to stay awake and get energized.  I can count the number of times I’ve drank coffee this summer on two, or maybe one hand.

So, with the aforementioned preface in place, I found myself in the awkward position at work yesterday of feeling my eyelids droop, and my head slowly start to tilt backwards.  I assume it’s safe to say we’ve all been there at some point in time?

So, I get up, walk to the Keurig coffee machine, pick out a random packet from the eight boxes available, and start it up.

Returning to my desk, I take a sip, then another, then another.  Gradually, with sip after sip, I finish the cup.  Though I don’t drink coffee often, I do enjoy the aroma and taste.

A few minutes pass, and I become gradually aware of a strange, foreign feeling in my body.

Suddenly, I notice the God of Thunder demo (which is far faster paced than the regular version), by Kiss (courtesy of Derrick Pettelle), start pumping through my headphones.

All at once I can feel the power of the caffeine coursing through my veins and my heartbeat starting to race.  Checking to make sure no one is looking at me, I rock the air guitar along with Ace Frehley and stick out my tongue in imitation of Gene.  Rock on.

I don’t feel like I’m sitting at my desk in Lansing, Michigan anymore.  It feels like I’m racing a bright, cherry red Formula One Ferrari at the head of a pack through breakneck speeds in the Monaco, France race.

The office building suddenly begins to shake, and small pieces of wall in front of me start to peel away and fly past my head.  A particularly large chunk hits my monitor and bounces, smashing into the whiteboard behind me.  As I watch the deteriorating wall, I can see the oceanside on one side and the city buildings on the other through cracks and holes.  My keyboard starts to undergo a transformation, becoming a steering wheel with the black horse logo at the center.  My damaged monitor rolls down my desk and jumps onto my head, morphing into a red helmet with the Italian flag on the right side.  My office chair molds around me into the cockpit of the Formula One car.  The entire office quakes once more and then everything falls away, leaving me looking down the track of a real, live Formula One race.

Powerful engines whir and whine all around me.  Tires screech as cars scream around corners.  The scenes blur in my peripherals.  The smell of melting rubber, exhaust fumes, and sweat invade my nostrils, and the blanketing heat presses in on my suit.

My heart is in my throat, but I swallow and push it back down, grip the steering wheel with white knuckles, and jam the accelerator.

Right!  My head whips left and then to the right as I hit a successive right, then left turn.  Ted’s driving school never prepared me for this, but today I feel like a natural born racer.

Straightaway!  In my mirror I can see cars behind me fan out and start to creep up on my sides.  I glance back in front of me.

The finish line is up ahead!

The close second reaches my rear tire; I drift slightly left, then back to the right, edging him towards the wall.

500 feet!

A car on my left tries to make a break for the lead.

400 feet!

The car to my left reaches the center line of my car.  I can see the helmet of the driver and the reflection of the sun in his helmet shield.

300 feet!

I straighten the wheel and move back towards the center.  It’s no use attacking one and letting the other take the lead.

200 feet!

The car on the left noses forward ever so slightly.  The car on the right falls back.

100 feet!

If this were the Fast and the Furious, this would be the moment where I would hit the red nitrous button and secure the win, blue flames shooting from my tailpipe.

50 feet!

40 feet!

30 feet!

20 feet!

10 feet!!!

I drive a Ferrari; I don’t need nitrous.  I win the race by inches.  Cheers erupt into my helmet microphone.  I ease off the gas and raise my right fist in celebration.

My car presently sits, retired in the Ferrari store in Rome, Italy.

I don’t drink coffee often, but when I do, I prefer French Roast…

July 21, 2010 Posted by | writing | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Europe Memoire Excerpt – Paris

My first impression of Paris Charles De Gaulle Airport is intriguing, to say the least.

Soldiers dressed in camouflage fatigues stroll back and forth through the airport lobby in groups of threes, casually glancing from left, to center, to right, with nary an expression change from the blank poker face that easily disguises their true thoughts.  These men and women walk with machine guns at the ready, tips angled down, and I can’t help but imagine if this is so as to discourage accidental deaths in case someone’s index finger slips from its ‘at the ready’ poise and falls upon the trigger; I wonder whether these guns come equipped with safety switches.  I Sneak another glance and decide that they do not…

Later on, at the Eiffel Tower I pretended to snap a picture of my friend, zoomed past his head, and captured these guys; berets and guns do indeed make an intimidating combination when you’re two feet away.

Hopping onto a bus, I pay 12 Euros, we take off, merge onto the freeway, and I am Paris-bound.

Exhausted, I slouch back in my seat near the rear of the bus and gaze out the window.  The road is inhabited mostly by small cars, with the occasional small truck, all of which, I discover as I lean into the window and stare into the cabins of passing cars, are almost exclusively stick shifts.  There are also quite a few large busses, like the one I’m taking, whose mirrors remind me of antennae and make the busses themselves look like just like giant, wheeled caterpillars.  Motorcycles and scooters zoom and zip respectively between cars and busses, claiming the middle of the two freeway lanes as home.  I spot a blue 1970s style Ford Mustang going the opposite direction and smile.  I think back fondly on my years of owning two manual transmission Mustangs and my current possession: a Kawasaki motorcycle, and smile.  Paris looks to be just the place for me.

July 20, 2010 Posted by | writing | , , , | Leave a comment

Warm Summer Nights. Delicious

After doing nothing for the entire day today, I decided that I would get up and actually do something with my day.

After securing a bicycle from Urbano, I set out into the warm, humid July evening.

Pedaling down Coolige, I turn into Huntington Woods and continue deeper into the city, smiling and waving at pedestrians.  There are quite a few couples of all ages out walking in tandem, living life in the present and enjoying each others’ company.

Riding down Ludlow, I look up, and for the first time in my ride, actually take in the beauty of the night.

Tree branches reach towards opposite sides of the road, coming together in the center to form an arch of arboreal welcome.  Rackham Golf Course stretches the length of the road to my left, full of rolling, neatly kempt green hills and spotted by the occasional circular sand trap.  Trees dot the expanse of the course, and I can see those closest to the fence swaying back and forth in the teasing summer zephyrs, waving like friends as I pass through a school hallway.

Peering through a break in the tree line, I can see blue sky and clouds tinged gold and pink.

I pump a few more times and lean back in my seat towards the left a little, putting weight on my right foot and listen to the spinning click of the bicycle chain.

The air around me holds a different quality than normal.  It’s almost as if there are thousands of gold bars buried just a few millimeters beneath the ground, their incandescent glow trickling up into the world above and generating a warm, golden ambiance.

Everything melts away and I am simply existing in the moment, not a thing on my mind, not a worry in sight, and not a destination in mind.  My nostrils are filled with the mild dusk air, my skin sings in the breeze, my ears are filled with the buzzing drone of Cicadas.  This is summer.  I can’t help but smile as I pedal lightly through the street.  I wish that I could stay in this moment forever.

July 19, 2010 Posted by | writing | , , | 2 Comments