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The glass and what we expect of it

February 25, 2014

Pardon me while I get philosophical for a moment.

You know that old chestnut that says people who see the glass as half-empty are pessimists, and people who see it as half-full are optimists? It doesn’t make sense.

Lookit, the only way you’d see the glass as half-empty is if you expected it to be full of water. As if the glass’s natural state is fullness of water. Then you look at the glass and say, “Ah, I see the problem here. There’s only half the water there should be in this glass.” To look at the glass in that way actually reveals a sort of ridiculously optimistic sense of entitlement. There should be water in every glass — and not just some water, but all the way to the top water.

Meanwhile, calling the glass half-full means you expected nothing. Not even humble water. That’s optimism?

Certainly the half-full folks seem like more “positive” people — emphasizing as they do the “yay, water!” part — whereas the half-empty people seem quick to notice, dwell on, and complain about what they didn’t get. But that’s the disappointment that comes from some warped hope that life will always hand you bonus stuff. It’s a bitter kind of optimism, but it is optimism.

Which leads me to think: Optimism is for suckers. Be a realist instead. Don’t expect good things to happen to you. Face reality, let go of your disappointments, and try to make your life what you want it to be. In other words, fill up your own damn glass.

Things I’ve learned: Vol. 2

February 20, 2014

I started out calling this kind of post “What I learned this week,” but it’s obvious I’m not going to keep up with it on anything like a weekly basis, so I’m changing it to just “Things I’ve learned.” Anyway, here are some of the things.

1. Wait, hold the phone. Pumpernickel means “goblin farts“??
(h/t to awesome podcast Good Job Brain)

2. You know how animals have scientific Latin names? Like, the eastern lowland gorilla is “Gorilla beringei graueri,” for example? Well, for some reason, the western lowland gorilla’s scientific name is “Gorilla gorilla gorilla.” Which is just fun to say!


I learned this at the zoo

3. Lemurs sometimes have “stink fights
(h/t to awesome podcast How to Do Everything)

4. Heating mercury thiocyanate basically shows you what a hellmouth would look like

5. Somebody in Portland changed a bunch of “STOP” signs to “POOP” signs. If you don’t laugh at that, you are way too mature for me.

Promises, promises

September 10, 2013

So I got this fortune cookie the other day.


Pretty bold. On the one hand, I’m pleased to see fortune cookies stepping up their game in the actually-predicting-the-future sense. (Nothing I hate more than an advice cookie.) On the other hand… this might be a bit of an over-promise.

Of course, note that it doesn’t say WHEN my dearest wish will come true. So I guess that leaves me anxiously awaiting the onset of my magic powers for the rest of my life. Thanks, cookie.

Signs of the future

June 12, 2013

Future sidewalk sign

This is a sign that I pass on my way to my kid’s school. Every time I drive by it — even though I’ve now seen it hundreds of times — I am struck by how odd it is. Who is this announcement for? When will the promised sidewalk come to fruition? WHY ARE YOU TEASING ME, SIGN?

I know there’s probably a logical reason for it, probably something to do with land use laws and easements, but I like how absurd it seems. I’d like to go around planting signs like that — in my front yard: FUTURE FLOWER BED. Or in my office: FUTURE ORGANIZED DESK.

But what it really makes me think of is all the books I haven’t written yet. I get ideas for books all the time, but I have no notion of when I’ll get around to writing them, if ever. But still, they take up a little space in my brain that I sometimes visit. And when I go there, now I can picture a little yellow sign: FUTURE STORY.

What. Birds? What.

June 4, 2013

So this happened yesterday, in my office building:

bird office

Bird in the building. There’s a bird in the building.


bird office

Did you doubt me? Seriously.

Is it me? First they take to the elevators, now they’ve made their way into the building. I do not like where this is going.

Elevator Pigeon!

April 2, 2013

OK, so here’s what happened. I was on my way back to my office from lunch. I parked in my usual spot in the multilevel parking structure near my building, then went to take the elevator down from the ninth floor to get over to my building.

I rounded the corner to get to the elevators and saw THIS:


Just this fluffed-up, angry-looking pigeon. Just squatting there, directly in front of the elevator doors.

I should point out here that I have a kind of phobia about birds. Here is a picture of me posing with a tourist-prop toucan in Mexico some years ago.


Note the nervous smile and the safe distance between me and bird.

That’s about the bravest bird-related thing I’ve ever done.

So, naturally, when I saw this mean-looking pigeon guarding the elevator door, I veered immediately to the other set of doors and pushed the button over there, hoping I would be able to skitter away without upsetting him.

And of course, which elevator car do you think arrived? Yup, that one.


There was no question of me stepping around the bird and getting on the elevator. I briefly imagined my embarrassment if someone else came walking up and noticed me not getting on the waiting elevator and then realized it was because I was afraid of a pigeon, but that was quickly dismissed when I imagined the onslaught of flappy wings and pointy talons that could ensue if I approached the pigeon. Nope, nuh-uh. Not happening.

But then… THEN? The pigeon took a step toward the open doors.

Just checking things out, very casual. But enough for the doors to sense his presence. The doors began to close, then opened again. He took another step closer, the doors stayed open, but now the “you’re taking too long” buzzer started going off. And just as if this had spurred him into action, the pigeon…



 I. Am. Dying! I can’t believe it. He got on. The doors closed. I stood there frozen.

For a split second I felt relieved, like, well, that’s not ideal, but at least he’s gone and I can call another elevator. But then I realized — THE PIGEON CAN’T PUSH THE BUTTONS! So he’s just sitting there, still on the ninth floor, and if I push the button again the doors will open and he might be MAD that he got trapped in there and come out screeching.

So I scooted down the stairs to the eighth floor and got on the elevator there. Which is where it occurred to me that soon, someone will call an elevator and THAT car will open and they’ll start to step in only to see a pigeon in there and basically I’m dying laughing at the mental image even though it’s mean to laugh at something that would scare the crap out of me, if it happened to me.

Pigeon on the elevator. Wow.

What I learned this week: Vol. 1

January 17, 2013

An occasional series on random things I found out.

There’s a robot called Vomiting Larry.

“Jenga” (as in the game) comes from the Swahili for “to build.”

There aren’t many words for business-related things in Russian, so they just use English words with a Russian accent.
(check the 5:30 minute mark)

There is an island in Mexico full of extremely creepy old dolls.

While exploring North America, Lewis and Clark left a trail of mercury via… well, their poop.

Most of these fun facts culled from two of my favorite podcasts: How to Do Everything and Good Job, Brain. Highly recommended.