Monday, June 13, 2005

Did the earth move for you?

According to my girlfriend and to the media, an earthquake struck Southern California yesterday morning. Apparently it was a magnitude 5.6 with an epicenter near Palm Springs, which, being only 100 miles or so from where I was at the time, seems like it would be something I would have noticed. I tend to be sensitive to seismic activity, or at least sometimes I perceive a shaking sensation when sitting still. (In fact, it has happened three times just while typing this paragraph. I suppose it could be an inner ear problem, but I don't think it's just in my mind; having lived my entire life in this area, I know what it feels like when the ground shakes.)

Despite the reports, I felt nothing at the specified time. I was outdoors, and standing on sand, so that makes it easy to dismiss my normal abilities as keen enough to pick up on it.

However, when I got back home later in the day, I started to be suspicious of the news stories. Caltech may have advanced instruments for gauging these things, but I have my own method for determining building-jolting events: On a shelf in my bedroom there's well over 25 Simpsons toy figures (I shan't refer to them as "action figures" to play on the obvious irony, nor call them "dolls" because I have never held a tea party with them), most of which are free-standing on the oak wood, just waiting for some vibration to disrupt tentative dance with gravity. (Some are anchored in playsets; those are purely ornamental, like the hot dogs at the Quickie Mart. They serve little scientific purpose.) I have witnessed, for example, Otto, with that plastic guitar around his neck, take a header (as though he were "blotto") from me merely walking too stridently across the bedroom. Because I don't dust often enough, when some of the figures topple there's always the less dusty footprints left behind even when they are stood back up. And not one of the figures had so much as even shifted slightly in position. I must believe that a quake of any significance would send Vacation Smithers (in Hawaiian shirt and holding a brown plastic suitcase) on a trip for which he hadn't packed.

I don't mean to suggest that my beloved girlfriend had hallucinated the whole thing. I mean, she is gracious enough to love a grown man with toys displayed in his bedroom (although not crazy enough to allow said toys to be displayed in the living room); I am not stupid enough to refute anything she says with such conviction. I am not incredulous regarding the scientists' claims that something happened. And from a conspiracy standpoint, the government might have faked the moon landing decades ago, but I doubted they had any hand in making a bunch of Southern Californians… well, not terribly concerned, but believing something occurred that didn't. Still, the evidence failed to support the declaration that there had been an earthquake.

I seemed to be experiencing something of a dilemma. Well, for the thirty seconds or so before I moved on to thinking about something else. Then today I realized what reconciled the claims with the evidence. I recalled my girlfriend noted the event felt like the building swayed back and forth. Therein lied the answer.

"Quake" means to shake or tremble. It brings to mind a certain violence, or at least panic-causing motion. That does not fit with the "swaying" description. Ergo, the problem is with the ubiquity of applying the term "earthquake" to any activity resulting from the shifting of tectonic plates; the event was something, but if it didn't put Professor Frink and his beaker on his back, it wasn't an "earthquake."

What was it then? Here I must acknowledge my lack of scientific background and, more important, my general laziness, and not tread into areas I don't belong. I shall leave that up to the geologists and, ultimately, to the marketing folks (no doubt involving focus groups at some point) to come up with a new designation for such seismic activities. I think, however, that if it involves "dance" in some way it will score well in the coveted 18 – 34 demographic. "Mother Earth Slow Jam" may do well in the urban market. Just throwing those out there; as I said, it's not my bailiwick.

I'm not sure what my bailiwick is, exactly, but thus far in my life it has not involved creating trendy names for natural non-disasters.

Here's where the obvious wrap-up would be: "That would test the bounds of my girlfriend's love just a little too much." However, in reality, she'd probably be happy if I explored such a path; anything to get me out of my dead-end job. So if anyone needs a consultant for unnecessary terminology, let me know. And if anyone in the media needs verification of whether a seismic event was really an "earthquake" or just the ground asking us to get our collective groove on, feel free to contact me. Groundskeeper Willy and Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel wait in my facilities—er, bedroom—ever-vigilant.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Something to explain most of my problems

Computers suck.

Okay, I suppose mentioning that I have made a living for the past nine years in what is ostensibly the "Information Technology" field lends some creedence to the assertion above. Or completely undermines it. Or both. However, the greatest frustrations stem from these silly amalgamations of circuits and disks and little 1's and 0's--or rather, from the unrealistic expectations built around them.

So the next time you're encountering some technological malady, remember the explanation is simple.

All I know is this: We were not meant to live this way.

[We now return you to your regularly scheduled existence, already in progress.]

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Streetcorner love

Overheard on the walk home, while waiting on a street corner for the light to change:

Young woman #1: "…But you guys fight all the time."
Young woman #2 (pushing a stroller): "Yeah, but the sex is great." [YW#2's tone turns wistfully playful, slurring her words ever-so-slightly, as if re-living a post-coital moment right there.] "I mean… it's like… it's like movie sex, you know?"

Note: I was clearly standing within earshot; she was rather proud of this, obviously. The light turns green and we three start across the street.

YW#1: "Well, no, I wouldn't know."
YW#2: "It's like…"

At this point we reached the other corner and our paths diverged, but there was a tiny bit more of YW#2's explanation I overheard. However, let's instead shift to what I thought at that moment:
Um, it's simulated, and performed in front of cameras and a crew, then edited so it fades to black before it gets to the good part?

Okay, now let's pick up that very tail of her explanation:
YW#2: "…passionate."

Oh, passionate sex! Egad, who ever heard of such a thing? Isn't it supposed to just be a perfunctory act that merely achieves the continuation of the species? If I didn't have such respect for others' right to lead their lives as they see fit—or rather, if I gave a crap—I would have reversed course and given her a good talking to. Yes, indeedy, a good talking to. However, I needed to get home because I had to pee.

During that last block's distance to the door of my building, while I ignored my bladder, I did start to ponder whether my girlfriend and I really had a sufficiently passionate sex life. I mean, I certainly thought we did, but then, we don't fight very much. Could we simply be deluding ourselves? Could we possibly have great sex merely because we loved each other, without screaming at each other the rest of the time, and without it occurring in front of a crew (at least as far as I'm allowed to admit here)? Was the fact that we actually enjoyed each other's company when we had our clothes on preclude us from getting the most out of when we didn't have clothes on? Did the fact we don't go around fondly reminiscing our escapades while strangers could hear indicate we had nothing to fondly reminisce?

Hold on. She was identified as "young," right? In fact, by my estimation, she would need a fake ID to get in a bar. I know I was completely stupid at that age (less stupid than I am now, at least).

And let's not overlook the fact she was pushing a stroller. That's the key: Clearly she was not having this "movie sex" with the father of her child.



Perhaps the out-of-context remarks of strangers should be ignored out of hand, but isn't it more fun to dismiss her implicit formula for great sex by concocting this elaborate scenario of an ignorant slut, who gets knocked up, pops out the kid and then immediately starts sleeping around, thereby making her someone who should not be used as a gauge for anything?

In any case, crisis averted.

And for those of you who need all the loose ends tied up: Yes, I did make it home and to the restroom without wetting myself. (I really don't thank my parents often enough for potty training me all those many years ago.)