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The Fall of a Great Tree - October 2, 2014

Trees are one of the most fascinating living things, in my opinion. I think it’s the fact that they take so long to grow, and that they live to be so old that fascinates me most. I remember learning that paper came from trees when I was a child, and I was kind of shocked. It blew my mind that we, as humans, would cut down something as grand as a tree to make something as simple as a sheet of paper.

I’m not arguing about plant rights here, I’m just stating my feelings as a child, but I will say that even now my heart sinks a little bit whenever I see that a large tree has been cut down. Only a few years ago my childhood next door neighbors cut down their large tree. It was the largest in the neighborhood, probably three or four stories high. Truly majestic. I remember one time I ran away from home for a few hours and I set up a little camp underneath that low-hanging branches of that tree. That tree was a great tree, and the fall thereof was truly saddening, but it wasn’t my favorite tree.

Honey Locust.
My family had the best tree in the world. I’m not really sure what type of tree it was, but by the account of my mom, and from what I’ve been able to research on the internet, I believe it was a Honey Locust tree. Basically, it was the perfect tree. My brother and sister and I enjoyed many a summer afternoon lounging under that tree. Ask my brother of the slugs story, he’ll tell you of the adventures we had. It was also the perfect climbing tree. The most perfect I’ve ever climbed. I must have climbed it a thousand times as a child (I under-exaggerate, it was many more than that). I wanted to live in the tree. I’d even planned to build a tree house in order to do so. I had a little hatchet that one time I whacked into one of the dead branches on the tree, and I declared, That’s art! I should have taken a picture.

The Turtle Blimp. Is it hard to imagine a tree being this?
One of my sibling’s favorite games to play in that tree was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. We’d pretend that the tree was the Turtle Blimp. The one from the cartoon that the Turtles would fly around in. Well, we pretended that the top of the tree was the air balloon, and there were a few branches in the lower portion, that served as seats and glider. We’d bring our toy weapons up there with us. Usually I played as Leonardo with twin katanas, he’s my favorite. Sometimes I had to play as Donatello, though. Donatello was the mechanic in the group and sometimes the blimp needed to be repaired, and I was the only one of us brave enough to climb to the top of the tree to do so.

Branches are meant to be climbed.
The tree also served as a lookout tower for me. Sometimes I’d spend hours up there, looking around the neighborhood. I even had some cheep binoculars to use. I never really saw anything. There were the neighbors next door, but they were rarely outside, so there wasn’t much to see, and then I had two sets of backdoor neighbors, again, most of the time they were inside, so there wasn’t much to spy on. And my binoculars were far too weak to see through any windows. Still, I liked the idea of being on the lookout. I thought to myself that if my neighborhood came under attack, I’d climb up that tree with a rifle and defend my house.

As great as that tree was, we cut it down when I was in high school. We had gotten a pool, and the tree shed so many leaves that the pool looked like a swamp. My mom also told me that she feared the tree would fall on our house. That was her justification for cutting it down. I should have objected to cutting it down, but I didn’t. I just climbed it one last time for old time’s sake, and that was it. Truth be told part of me died with that tree. My youth died I suppose. I often reflect on that tree and wish I could climb it again as an adult. Maybe it wasn’t even as tall as I remember. Your perspective is so different when you’re an adult. Really it was barely taller than our house. Not even close to the three or four stories of our neighbor’s tree, but it was our tree. It was the tree I grew up in, and it’s gone and not coming back.

Encrypted Cell Phone Calls! - August 8, 2014

As I was listening to the radio on the way to work today there was a short segment about hacking in which some expert made a comment on how it was very easy to hack a cell phone signal and listen in on somebody’s call. He said, I quote, Knowing that someone with the right equipment a few hundred feet outside your house can listen in on your phone call is very disconcerting. Very disconcerting indeed! My whole life would totally be over if someone listened to some casual conversation that I had with one of my friends.

Unless your name is Jack Bauer I don’t think that there is any phone call that you would take on a personal cell phone that is so important that it needs to be encrypted. I mean I know there are business people that talk about important business stuff, and they probably have company phones, maybe encrypted, maybe not, but for your average every day consumer, if they are actually worried about someone listening in on a call, I think they might have bigger problems to worry about.

I mean seriously, who cares? I hear people talking on their phones all the time on the train. Sometimes they are juicy or otherwise intriguing conversations, but when all is said and done, I didn’t care enough to confront them about their conversations. Sure there could be some creepy stalker or something listening in on the woman of his dreams phone calls, but he’d have to be putting a lot of effort into doing this, and he’d be putting a lot of effort into something else creepy if that weren’t an option.

Basically, what I’m guessing is that we live in a world of paranoia, and the paranoia exists only because some corporation told us we should be paranoid so they can sell us another product.

Tent Cities for Working Professionals - July 25, 2014

From the moment I first heard of them, tent cities fascinated me. Basically a bunch of homeless people set up some tents in a field, and form a little city made of tents! Tent cities are so common in Seattle they actual number them: Tent City 1, Tent City 2, and so on. I wouldn’t be surprised to find that they have their own zip codes.

Tent City near Seattle, WA.
The idea of tent cities seems ideal to me. When you don’t have a family to take care of you may as well live as cheaply as possible, and so why not just live in a tent? You could use a gym for bathing and libraries or bars for relaxing. Heck, seems like a great way to save on rent.

The problem with tent cities is that they are populated by homeless, so, realistically, safety is a concern. What we need is tent cities for working professionals. You’d have to charge for it, of course, to weed out the leeches, but I’d like to see something where you just pay for a parking spot, with a small amount of land to set up a tent next to it, and everything else is left to your own devices. Maybe there is community showers and bathrooms, maybe not. The fee is what keeps dangerous people out. There should be some screening process, too, where you actually have to have a job to qualify, with an income over a certain amount.

Housing costs too much, and the problem with being homeless is that it’s illegal. This solution allows homelessness for those that choose that lifestyle. Leave the houses and the apartments to families. Single people should be free to live cheap. I’m always telling my coworkers I want to go homeless for a few months to save some money, and because I think it would be hilarious to be a homeless working professional, but tent cities seem a little more convenient. I’d totally do it!

Body Wash! - July 1, 2014

From birth to twenty years old I was using bar soap. It’s what my mom gave me to bathe with. Except for a brief stint with Zest, my mom’s preferred brand was Dove. I actually never liked using Dove bars. I felt they were for women. When I found myself out on my own I decided to try different brands of bar soap, but in the end they all seemed the same, so I went back to Dove. Then one day I discovered body wash. It was one of the most profound moments of my life.

One evening my roommate, Jared, said to me, I noticed you use bar soap. Okay? I thought, What of it? Yeah? I said. Well, he replied, have you ever considered using body wash? Was he serious? Did I actually hear him correctly? I had a hard enough time using a product called Dove Beauty Bars. Body wash seemed way too feminine for me. That seems a little femmy, I said. No, seriously, he replied, it really gives you a refreshing feeling. Think about it. You use bar soap, and it sort of gets on your body then rinses off, but body wash lathers your whole body up and really gives you that tingly clean feeling. He pressed the issue for days. I thought about it more and more.

Won’t wash away testosterone!
Then next time I went to the grocery store I sneaked up to the body wash bottles on the soap isle. I didn’t want anyone to see me looking at body wash. There are body washes marketed towards men. It’s all the same stuff, it’s just soap, but I wasn’t about to buy anything with flowers on the bottle. Old Spice is marketed towards men. I grabbed a bottle and looked at it in contemplation. On the back of the bottle the text claimed, Won’t wash away testosterone! That was all it took. I was convinced it was okay to buy this product. I also got a loofah. This was a little more difficult for me to do since there wasn’t a label on the bath sponge telling me it was okay for men to buy it, but I knew I needed it for the experience Jared had described.

The next morning I used body wash for the first time and I was hooked. Jared was absolutely right. Body wash was like heaven in the shower. The tingly clean feeling was there, and I knew I could never go back. Not only that, I wanted everyone in the world to know of the joy of body wash. I wanted to go door to door asking people if they were using bar soap to bathe with, and if they admitted that they were I wanted to tell them of body wash. I never did go door to door, but I proselytized the philosophy of body wash to another guy, Brett.

I wasn’t as eloquent as Jared when it came to convincing Brett to use body wash. In fact, it was incredibly awkward, Brett was crashing at my apartment for the night, and I just blurted out, Are you using bar soap to bathe with? He admitted that he was, and I responded with, Well you should consider body wash because soap goes on and soap comes off, but body wash gives you a tingly clean feeling. As awkward as that conversation was, he was convinced. Or maybe he was just humoring my awkwardness, because he persuaded me to drive him the grocery store right then so he could get some body wash. I did. And as we were browsing the soap isles I was like, Old Spice says it won’t wash away testosterone. He didn’t really care. He bought something with flowers on it, and that was sort of that. Or so I thought.

Brett was a drama student with a very vocal personality. He was also a story teller, and soon after this, the body wash story spread like a virus. Everyone I knew, heard of the body wash story. They’d come up to me and say, So, I hear you like body wash? And I would be like, Yeah, I do. Why do you ask? They’d say that Brett mentioned it to them. I thought it was a little weird that Brett was telling people about so small a thing, but it didn’t bother me.

I’m not sure how Brett was telling the story, but people would imitate his style of story telling to me and I inferred that it went something like this, And lo, Jack, came to me one day and said to me, Dude, you need to stop using bar soap, because soap goes on and soap comes off, but BODY WASH! And it seemed like that must have been the end of the story right there. No one mentioned to me the part about how body wash gives you a tingly clean feeling, they’d just end with saying BODY WASH! really loud. I honestly don’t remember screaming out the word body wash when I’d convinced him, but that’s how I’m told I said it.

Perhaps the most fascinating part is that people that I had never before met would come up to me on the street and say, but... BODY WASH! And I’d respond with, Yeah! Body wash! Have you tried it yet? I’d actually become famous in a small group of people. The small group of people that Brett knew. How they recognized me, I don’t know, but it was enough to give me a glimmer of fame, and I liked it. I didn’t even care that it was over such a silly thing. I never liked Adam Sandler or Jim Carrey, but I was beginning to empathize with them. Sure they play idiotic characters, but it doesn’t matter if you’re famous for something really deep and profound, being famous, being known by people you don’t know, is one of the greatest feelings in the world. I still use Old Spice body wash.

Categories: 2001-2011 College

You Might Have Hard Water - June 18, 2014

If you lived through the 90s you might remember the brand of soap Zest. Like any soap, they claimed to be the best, or at least that they had some advantage over other brands. The biggest claim they made was that Zest didn’t leave behind soap scum. You might recall the slogan, You’re not fully clean unless you’re Zestfully clean!

In one of their ad campaigns they claimed that if you weren’t feeling clean after a shower it might be because soap scum was still on your body, and that happens when you have hard water. So their commercials were like, If your soap won’t lather well and your skin feels dry after you’ve showered, you might have hard water. And so on. In fact, they offered a free test for hard water. You just had to call 1-800-HARD-WATER and they’d mail you the test. They showed you how to use it in the commercial. Basically it was a cardboard strip and you put it in the water, and if it turned brown, you had hard water.

My family never called the number, but Zest ended up sending the tests out all over the place in junk mail bundles. I’m not going to lie, my family was pretty excited about taking the test. We all gathered together in the bathroom for the occasion. The problem with our particular test was that it was already brown. We hadn’t even taken the test and we had hard water! Well, my mom figured maybe it would turn back to the original color, white, if we didn’t have hard water. I wasn’t so sure about that myself, but we put the test in the water anyway.

Sure enough, the strip didn’t change back to white. It stayed brown. My mom was convinced we had hard water, and she was all upset that our water softener wasn’t working. She was like, Why are we wasting all this energy and salt on a water softener that doesn’t work? And I was like, No, mom I think it works fine, I think it’s the test that isn’t working. She was all upset for days.

Quite frankly I knew that the water softener was working, because it only softened the water in the bathroom and not in the kitchen, and I could tell the difference. And quite frankly, I liked the hard water better. It seemed to me that hard water was more manly. I didn’t want no gentle, sissy, soft water. I wanted it strong, solid, firm, and hard. In the end, we decided to get Zest. It was fine. A pretty good soap actually.

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