goodness, life

Hidden talent

I’m more awesome than I thought I was.

I grew up with an oddly-shaped couch, and have apparently grown emotionally attached to it.  Teacher Roommate and I locked horns on this issue in late November while Diminutive Roommate attempted to mediate.  I didn’t realize how much I wanted to keep the couch until Teacher Roommate started pushing to get rid of it, and she pushed pretty hard.  I got defensive.  I said I didn’t want to get rid of it.  She said it was dirty and the upholstery on the cushion was in bad shape (true).  I agreed, and said that was fixable.  She said she was willing to just replace it.  I said that wasn’t a reasonable option, because that would mean I would have to buy a new couch at the next place I lived whenever that was.

And on and on.

bird's eye view

Eventually we decided that the couch cushion should be recovered and the rest of the couch steam cleaned.  I looked up pricing on getting the whole couch reupholstered and after a few $900 estimates (minimum), I started asking about slip covers: same price (which is absurd).  I stalled.  I sat on the couch day after day in December wondering what would happen to my comfy childhood heirloom.  A friend from the kung fu studio came over.  I mentioned my conundrum, and he said something surprising: he had reupholstered an entire couch of his own, without any professional training or assistance of any kind.  He had a look at the couch.  We decided that recovering just the cushion wouldn’t be too hard.  It could be done.  I had the time and energy.  I had just learned how to sew in order to make myself a cape (which is turning out pretty Renn Faire-ish).  All I needed was the ambition to take on a project that felt overwhelming due to my inexperience.

So I did it.  And now it’s done.  I’m pretty proud of myself for this one.  I was doubtful that I could do this on my own.  I’m feeling pretty slick about it.  It even has a zipper on it!

amateur win!

It’s looser than I want, but tough shit.  I’m not fixing it.  It’s done, and I’m happy enough with it.  Now all I need to do is get the rest of it steam cleaned, and this couch might have some new life breathed into it after all…

goodness, martial arts

Word of the day: atlatl

find the face on the left half

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: The ancient Maya were amazing.  What an incredible culture.  Just super cool.  I love their writing style in particular: so many animal faces and allowance for creativity.

They weren’t the only ones to figure out how to use an atlatl.  Pronounce every letter: atlatl.  It’s a spear throwing device that basically ads another joint to your arm to allow a small spear to be thrown farther, and a whole lot faster than is normally humanly possible.  This device was used at some point in every continent except Africa for a long-ass time.

the last thing you see before you die

Aside from being an amazing way for an otherwise unarmed person to kill a fucking mastodon, atlatls are amazing because they’re still used today, all the time!  And people don’t even know that they’re doing it!  You can even buy one on Amazon.  It’s an arm extender called ‘Launchit!’ to allow dog owners to throw a ball farther, more easily.  And its design rooted in something the ancient Maya used to kill jaguars.  Awesome.

"c'mon, lady, just pick up the ancient weapon, mimic your long-dead ancestors, and throw the fucking ball."

goodness, life

Art, or stupid?

It’s time for the age-old question: Is it art, or a huge waste of time?

Some spiders can make silk.  Beautiful, naturally golden-yellow silk, which can be harvested, then woven into clothing that will never be worn, due to their rarity.  Eighty people worked for seven years to collect enough raw silk material from these amazing (and totally spooky-looking) spiders to create this beautiful/pointless scarf.


I love art.  I love that as soon as humans mastered their own survival and realized they had free time on their hands, they started to create for the sake of creating.  Creativity, the search for beauty, is what distinguishes us from most of the animal kingdom, the ultimate display of social maturity within a species.  And yet… what if every artist was working on finding alternate sources energy instead?  What a productive, drab little world we would live in.  I have to conclude that (most) art is worthwhile.

goodness, nerd

This is a real thing

It’s a Zebroid.  Or a Zorse.  Either way, it’s a real thing, and has been for quite some time.  Apparently people have been breeding horses with zebras since the 1800’s.  WTF, GUYS.  It looks awesome, but… seriously.

shittiest photoshop job, or coolest hybrid animal?

lookit his little mowhawk!! bitchin

badness, work

Too many bossy bosses

My boss at Office Job, who we’ll call Little Mole Boss for her previously explained propensity to close her eyes for long periods of time while talking, is, by and large, a good boss.  Most of the time she is considerate of others, generous with her time, and a hard worker.  She takes time every morning when she comes in to say hello to everyone, ask us how our weekends were, etc.  If someone calls in sick, she seems genuinely concerned, and never complains about their absence.  Overall, an excellent boss who makes my experience at work pretty stress-free, especially compared to other bosses I’ve had.

I’ve noticed, however, that she feels free to interrupt us, her subordinates, while we speak, even if one of us is answering a question she asked.  One of my bosses at Karate Job (we’ll call him Frantic Boss) has a similar problem: He’s so high-energy that when the person he’s talking to finds a spot during his frantic monologue to put her two cents in, he won’t look her in the face while she talks, and once she’s finished talking, he’ll say something like, “That’s an excellent point.  So what I was saying was…”  It’s like he’s just waiting for his turn to talk instead of listening.  He interrupts people mid-sentence with phrases like, “I totally understand where you’re coming from,” as if his commiseration is enough reason to stop talking.  I’ve seen him do this to several people including his boss, the owner of the karate school.

I really dislike when people interrupt each other.  Interrupting someone is a socially semi-acceptable way to say, “Stop talking.  Whatever you’re about to say, it’s not as interesting/important/pertinent as when I’m about to say, so just save yourself the trouble and shut up.”
Or, somewhat more absurdly, “I feel clairvoyant around you.  Your predictability so bores me that I can’t help but attempt to force you to shush by verbally bulldozing you.”

It’s so rude!  People who do this drive me nuts.  Since I’ve noticed this in my bosses, I’ve been keeping an eye on myself, and I realize I do this sometimes at home while chatting with the roomies.  If we’re talking about something funny or whatever, the conversation goes more quickly and talking over each other is only slightly more acceptable.  Still, I’m going to be more vigilant about this.  I like hearing them talk, they’re fun and smart.

So now I get to hop up on my high horse and point out how I think my bosses could improve:

1. Be willing to conduct an uncomfortable/negative discussion in a professional manner.
Karate bosses are actually really good at this, which is great.  Little Mole Boss cannot do this at all.  She got so uncomfortable once when we were talking about some nasty emails flying around within an organization we assist in running, that she put her head down on the table we were sitting at, and left it there for a solid minute or so while my two coworkers attempted to sound comforting while hiding the amusement in their voices.  She just wanted to disappear, which made me want to disappear.  Not a good leadership technique.

2. Listen to your subordinates.
Naturally, there is an implied “without interrupting” at the end of that sentence, but I’ve already gone over that.  Really, the point is that my karate bosses do not take criticism or suggestions from their subordinates well at all.  In fact, our opinions get out-right ignored, even though our bosses spend almost no time talking to our clients and students.  They sit in their ivory tower and make sweeping changes to the curriculum and policies on a monthly basis, regardless of what their subordinates say.  It’s a shame because we would be an excellent resource for them, and because it demoralizes us.

3. Acknowledge your short-comings.  Learn to depend upon your subordinates for their strengths.
This must be a tough one.  As a boss, I would imagine I would feel like I was the best at most things.  How else would I have gotten where I was?  Little Mole Boss is technologically somewhat inept, considering that she’s in her 70’s, and her generation lacks the constant exposure to computers, etc.  So when the prospect of online interaction with our clientele came up, she was against it.  When I suggested an iPhone app for a huge event we host with several thousand people, she shot it down.  When it was time to send out holiday cards, she asked me to find something affordable and religiously neutral.  When I sent her a dozen cards with price points, she responded with one card twice as expensive, and ignored my suggestions to use something more cost-effective, thereby rendering my efforts pointless.

Being a boss can’t be easy, I understand that.  I’m not sure what kind of boss I’d be.  It sounds lonely.

badness, nerd

Fewer mistakes, less embarrassment

i'm so disappointed

I’m a bit of a grammar snob, so when people make  mistakes like using “less” instead of “fewer,” I always notice, and it always bothers me.  It makes the person sound lazy or ignorant (or stupid), especially when (if I feel comfortable correcting them) they can’t tell why they’re wrong, even when I point it out.

I was shocked to discover my mom was, until recently, one of these people.  She majored in English, and I had to explain to her when it was appropriate to use “less” or “fewer.”  I figured, maybe this is a more wide-spread problem than I thought, perhaps because when you say you want more of something there’s just one way to say it: MORE, but when you want not-more, you have to think.  So let’s break it down:

Fewer is used when talking about individual items (cans of soda, grains of sand, etc.).  The easy way to remember this is to see if you can apply numbers to it: five cans of soda, six grains of sand.

Less is used when talking about amounts (water, sand, etc.).  Numbers cannot be applied to these.  Would it make sense to say, “I want six sands, please.”  No, no.


Few = individual items
“I want a can of soda.”
“Just one?  How about six cans?”
“No, I want fewer than that.  Just one, in fact.”

Less = amounts
“How much soda do you want?”
“Just a bit.  Less than I had last time.”

Think of it this way: If a waiter asks, “How many waters do you guys want?” he’s really saying, “How many cups of water do you guys want.”  He’s just being a lazy idiot.  The answer is always “fewer,” because he’s talking about something you can count.

Something like a liquid can’t be divided and counted without changing it somehow (like pouring it into cups or freezing it into cubes); that’s a sure sign that you’re dealing with an amount, and you should use “less” when talking about diminishing it.  Individual items (like ice cubes, sugar cubes, grains of sand, etc.) should be diminished using “fewer.”

Quiz time!  Which is correct?

a) I would like less coffee.
b) I would like fewer coffees.
c) I would like less coffees.
d) I would like fewer coffee.

If you said A and B, you’re correct!  If you said anything else, reread this post until you get it, or message me and I’ll help you understand how this works.  It’s a simple way to get a handle on a part of the English language every native speaker should have mastered by adulthood.  Alas…