Monday, November 8, 2010

Try This At Home

I had a great idea for a blog the other day. This didn’t surprise me. I have lots of great ideas.

I hear snorts of derision in the back, there. Well, prepare to be blown away with a sample idea. Are you ready? Are you sitting down?

Popcorn on the cob.

That's right. Have a seat. 

The problem I find is that I’m very rarely given the respect that I deserve. Also, sometimes I’m twenty years too late. Take my idea for revolutionizing reading on airplanes.

Go to any airport, and you’ll invariably find dozens of stores selling books and magazines. These stores capitalize on the fact that you’re trapped at the airport. And even if you only have a two hour flight, you’ll gladly buy an entire book because you have to do SOMETHING to drown out the roaring engines and crying babies, and you’re not going to watch the in-flight movie because you forgot to bring your headphones, of course, and you’re certainly not going to buy headphones on the plane for five dollars because c’mon, the principle of the thing, and you already went through the entire Skymall magazine the last time you were on a plane and you still don’t want that hot-dog toaster, and someone already filled in the Air Travel Magazine’s Sudoku puzzle in pen and it you don’t even like Sudoku puzzles but at least it would be something to take your mind off the fact that you’re in a big, flying aluminum tube traveling at hundreds of miles an hour through the sky, and so you may as well buy a damn book.

My idea changed all of that. Instead of buying books at the airport, rent ‘em. Two bucks a pop. You can return them when you land at your destination, or mail them in later.

Aside from the obvious logistical issues, there are two big problems with getting this off the ground. (No pun intended, except retroactively, yes there was.) One was that I don’t have the millions and millions of dollars necessary to set up a national book rental system like this. The other is that the Kindle killed it anyway. Why rent books when you can carry a thousand with you on the plane?

But the idea is sound. Rent books at the airport instead of buying ‘em. A great idea, decades ago.

But this new blog idea is different, because it can be done. And I actually want to do it, but I have too much work right now to handle. (i.e., once every week or so, I update this blog.) But I want to see this happen. I want SOMEONE to do it. I want to claim credit for it when someone else finally does.

The blog would be called “Your Blog Sucks.” Every day you’d click the “Next Blog” link on the top of every blogger site (like this one) and review whatever random blog it gives you based on your own personal preferences.

For example, I just pressed the button and it brought me to Captured Photon, which is some guy’s photo blog. The pictures on the site are amazing, and the guy is obviously a very talented photographer. But he’d automatically get points off for not incorporating video game reviews, which, as every knows, is the #1 reason to have a blog in the first place. So he’d get a B- at best.

So, yeah. Your Blog Sucks. Go do it.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Tips n' Tricks

Here’s to secret to writing online articles: Tangential anecdotes.

Consider the following example: A few months back, I was visiting my friend in New York. For the sake of anonymity, let’s call him James. (Actually, that’s his real name, but he doesn’t read this blog so it serves him right.)

James and I were shopping for various sundries at a Target in Midtown Manhattan. We were browsing down the aisle, and apparently my friend moved in front of a middle-aged man.

Now remember, this is New York. Did the man politely ask James to move? Did the man simply move around Jamie and continue on his way?

Nope. He chose to kick James, instead.

It was light, on the shin. So light you’d think it was an accident, but I watched it happen. The man deliberately kicked my friend on the shin and then walked away, as if nothing out of the ordinary had occurred. That kick is New York, to me. Where there should be politeness, or at least indifference, you get a kick in the shin instead.

But it brings me back to my original point, which is this: look how far down on the page we are! That was a good five paragraphs that didn’t have anything to do with my original point, and we’ve gotta be at least halfway done by now.

Another good thing to keep in mind when writing articles online is the audience’s short attention span. Due to a potent combination of video games, 30-second commercials, 5-minute web clips and Twitter, (which, incidentally, is my arch nemesis and a post in-and-of itself) the average member of our society now has the attention span of a hummingbird on speed. The key is to exploit this with shiny things

Another fun trick is to embed videos. This will make readers think that the entire article was about the embedded video, and if they watch it there's no reason to read all those annoying words. Watch me trick lazy readers by posting this:

Try it yourself! With these powerful tools, you can write your own rambling, nonsensical blog posts. Of course, you’d also have to take five minutes to register the space with a site like blogger or wordpress, and you probably don’t have the patience for that.  

Friday, September 3, 2010

Kitchen Utensils Are for the Weak. And For People Who Use Them.

My brother was visiting me for about a week, and we decided to put together dinner for a few friends. Unfortunately, I forgot that my brother knows how to cook.

I have very few recipes, but I’m fine with that. I don’t mind eating the same thing every day, so it balances out. For example, one of my breakfast recipes is cereal: I get out a bowl, add Cheerios, add milk, and serve cold. If I want to mix it up a bit, I’ll use Kix instead.

Same thing with dinner. I like tuna casserole, and I have a good recipe for tuna casserole, and so I typically eat tuna casserole for dinner. Sometimes I put in pepper, sometimes not. What can I say? I’m a wild and carefree spirit.

But my brother, intent on cooking, was not exactly impressed with my kitchen setup.

“What do you mean, you don’t have a large pot?” he said. I told him I had never needed a large pot in the past, and was there any way he could make do without it? “@&*%,” he said. 

Later he asked me where I kept my measuring spoons. I laughed and laughed.

But I’d gotten myself into this mess by inviting people over for dinner, and I had to fix it. So we bought a cheap pot from my local grocery store and made mashed potatoes. Of course, that meant buying potatoes, which is something else I’d never done before.

My Brother: “Should we get red or russet?”
Me: “I think we should stick with potatoes.”

I left my brother to his own devices as I coordinated with everyone else who was coming. They asked what they could bring over. I wanted to tell them to bring “the majority of the meal,” but instead I asked for side dishes. It seemed like a safe, vague thing to say.

All in all, everything went off without a hitch. And now I’m the proud owner of a new pot and a bunch of spices I’m never going to use again in a million years, unless I try to experiment, which I probably shouldn’t. Cayenne pepper goes with Cheerios, right?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

More Government Than You Can Shake a Stick At. (Which is a Lot of Government!)

            I’ve been on vacation for the past few weeks, which is a weird thing to say while you’re unemployed. But a friend of mine was getting married in Chicago, and once I was in Chicago, I figured I may as well visit a friend in DC. And once you’re in DC you HAVE to go to New York, right?
            I’ve been friends with my DC guy since grade school, and right now he’s the most grown-up person I know. He’d hate that, but them's the breaks. He’s married. He has a doorman. He has a stable job. He can’t tell me what it is.
            That, apparently, is the thing in DC. If you’re there, you definitely work for the government. Then there’s a hierarchy. People who can tell you exactly what they do are on the lowest rung. People who can tell you what department they’re in, but can’t tell you what they do, are the next level up. People who can’t tell you what department they work for are the next level after that, and people who lie about their department entirely are one step up. (Interestingly enough, the President is pretty low on this scale.)
            My friend is definitely lying to me. So is his wife, who works at a similar sort of job. They remind me of this. It’s all very exciting.
            Whatever it is he does, though, gets him some cool government hookups. He was able to get me some behind-the-scenes tours, and one of them was at The Supreme Court.
            I was nervous about entering the building—I may have an unpaid parking ticket in LA, and I was sure it’d set off some sort of alarm. But I risked it, and shockingly, I’m glad I did.
The Supreme Court focuses primarily on government and law, two topics that I find as interesting as peanut butter (the analogy only works if we assume it’s creamy peanut butter, of course). But I forgot to take into account my interest in pretending I’m a international superspy, which featured heavily on the tour, in my mind. All in all, we got into all sorts of crazy, behind-the-scenes places that I can’t really talk about because it’s all classified. (As far as you know.) (Superspy!)
Perhaps the best part of the tour, though, was what happened immediately AFTER the tour. Feeling all confident, I jaywalked right outside the Supreme Court. It was the most brazen moment of my life.
But as exciting as that tour was, my overall impression of DC is that there’s just too much government going on there. I asked people what there was to do, I got the same answers from everyone: There’s so much! There’s the White House, there’s the Pentagon, there’s the Capitol Building, the Supreme Court, etc.
I had to modify it: “I don’t want to learn anything. What is there to do?” That question stumped everyone I met.
            DC’s in on it, though. They know that they don’t have anything fun going on there, and so they try to trick people. Take the “National Mall.” Let’s just say that the food court was a little underwhelming. The “National Putt-Putt Mini Golf Course” was actually just a memorial for WWI vets.
            Although there was one more interesting, government-related activity worth mentioning, and that was watching the House of Representatives in session. 
The thing was, no other member of the House was listening to whatever the current speaker was saying. The other Honorable Congressmen were doing stuff that would have easily gotten you kicked out of class in high school—eating, talking, texting, etc.
After bringing it up to my tour guide (an admitted “Senate Snob,” which is a thing, apparently) my understanding is that these speakers speak simply to get their opinions on record. It doesn’t matter if people listen to them, because they can just refer to it later, if need be.  
I guess it's nice to reaffirm my apathetic political beliefs. Take that, America!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


As you may have read in my previous post, I recently took an ill-advised trip to Tijuana to take in the sights. The sights consisted primarily of broken-down cars, massive amounts of graffiti on every imaginable surface, more sombreros than you can shake a stick at (seven), and a plethora of unintelligible and/or Spanish road signs. (C’mon, Spanish. You can’t just throw question marks at sentences and let ‘em stick any which way.)

So my game-plan was to get out of Tijuana as fast as possible. But it turned out to be an interminably slow process. This simple but shocking sentence should clarify the situation: I no longer find LA traffic to be all that bad.

Here’s what happened. Traffic backed up about half a mile from the border. We're talking a traffic jam of apocalyptic proportions. We’d just sit there for ten minutes, scooch forward a couple inches, then sit for another twenty. There were vendors weaving through the cars, selling Mexican flags, bottles of water, cheap jewelry, food, and dozens of other things. It was like some bizarre bazaar. (Wordplay!) 

The hold-up was because the US Border Patrol was checking every car extremely thoroughly, looking for various contrabands. Narcotics were the thrust of the investigation, but I believe they also had their eyes out for drugs. I didn’t have either. I didn’t even have Advil so I could make a lame joke when they asked me if I was carrying any drugs across the border. I did have my passport, though, as well as my driver’s license. I thought I was fine.

So imagine my surprise when I realized I didn’t have my car’s registration. I have my theories as to where it went, but at the moment, I simply didn't have it.

Turns out they frown on that.

But let’s back up momentarily. About the same time I decided to leave Tijuana, nature came a’ calling. I decided that, instead of tracking down a parking spot, finding a friendly-looking store, using my extremely limited Spanish vocabulary in order to ask if I could use the bathroom (“May I please use your bathroom, por favor?”) getting into the inevitable mistranslation/ineffective attempt at an explanation/Blazing Saddles-esque street fight, spending the night in a Mexican prison, only to emerge the next day to discover that my car had been stripped of everything but its shell--I’d just hold it until I got back to the States.

But it took me an hour and a half in that traffic jam, just to make it to the border. An hour and a half of sitting in a car with nothing to do but think about how badly I needed to use the bathroom, por favor. An hour and a half of doing nothing but looking at people selling bottles of water—sometimes even splashing water on my windshield, trying to sell me a car wash.

A half hour into the wait, I was in emergency mode. After an hour, I was eyeing an empty bottle of iced tea I had in the car. This wasn’t just a passing notion. I was calculating angles and everything.

I have a low car, I was surrounded by large SUVs, and I was still technically in Mexico. I didn’t want to risk any potential shenanigans. “Avoid shenanigans in Mexico” as the saying goes. So by the time I got to the border, I was a little jumpy.

“License and registration,” said the guard.

“I don’t have it,” I replied, shimmying and shaking in an utterly suspicious manner. “Where’s the closest bathroom?”

The guard, for some reason, seemed suspicious. He sent me to a secondary inspection area, where I was happy to go to because he told me I’d be able to find bathrooms there. 

The secondary inspection area was a small parking lot, and I parked about twenty feet away from a bathroom. But the first (and seemingly only) rule of the Secondary Inspection Area was not to get out of the car until an officer speaks to you.

There was an SUV next to me. The two occupants, suspected of drug possession, were being put in handcuffs and led away while officers tore through their car with dogs. I was thrilled.

“Excuse me!” I said cheerfully to closest officer, who was actively doing his best to control a dog that looked slightly rabid. “Can I step out to use the bathroom?”

“Stay in the car," the office snarled. "We’ll get to you.” I eyed my iced tea bottle again.

Eventually, however, they did get to me. I was a nervous, jumpy wreck with no registration, and they eventually took me into “the office” (Cue dramatic music.) (No, not The Thundercats theme song. What’s wrong with you?)

I was told to put my hands on the steel counter and spread my legs. “Jumpy, aren’t you?” the officer said in surprise as he patted me down.

Eventually, however, I was allowed to use the bathroom. It took them over an hour to discover that I was not smuggling any drugs across the border—not even any Advil—but I didn’t care. I had a serious Stockholm syndrome relationship going on with these people, and they could do no wrong.

There were three other people in the office with me. One got a lecture and was let go. Another got arrested due to a warrant out in Michigan and was told he’d be released “eventually.” I was dealt with before the third. She kept asking me how many times I’d been there before, and seemed highly suspicious when I told her this was my first time.

But eventually, they did let me go. They recommended I track down the registration on my car, with which I wholeheartedly agreed. When I got back to my car, I saw that they’d searched it just as thoroughly as they’d searched the SUV next to me. I was going to ask them about cleaning bills, but I thought it might be best to leave well enough alone.

I’d started out the day thinking about taking a pleasant trip to Vegas. I ended up in Mexico, being detained by Border Patrol. There’s a lesson here. A lesson about sensibility. A lesson about planing ahead, making wise choices. And the lesson is this: When given an option, always choose Vegas.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Burying the Lede

The day started the same as any other, which meant I was seriously considering going to Las Vegas. It’s super close to Los Angeles, and you can get a nice hotel for practically free. (They recoup the money when their guests gamble in their casino, but I’m far too clever to fall for that. I always gamble in OTHER hotel’s casinos.)

Now granted, going to Vegas wasn’t necessarily the wisest idea. But I was feeling antsy. I’d recently applied for a bunch of jobs and I was just playing the waiting game. So my choice was either Vegas or San Diego. San Diego felt a little less adventurous, but it was only about two hours away, instead of Vegas’ five.

I decided to mix the two. I’d go to San Diego—but take my passport. After all, the border was only fifteen minutes away, and I’d never been to Mexico before. I could get my passport stamped. And anyway, I’d heard good things about Tijuana. Or at least, I’d heard things. They were probably good.

I did make an effort to do the San Diego thing. I went to Balboa Park, which is where San Diego keeps its touristy things like zoos and museums. But by going to places like these, I ran the risk of learning stuff. Far be it from me to do something educational.

So fifteen minutes later, I was crossing the border. Ask me how much fanfare there was! There was very little fanfare. I could have just as easily been crossing into Indiana. There was certainly no passport-stamping going on.

So it seems—and someone should probably look into this—all the street signs in Mexico are in Spanish. I got lost twenty seconds after I entered the country. The highway split, and I was left with two simple options: right or left. The highway signs were all Greek to me. (Except, again, they were Spanish.)

I chose left. "Always choose left in Mexico," as the saying goes. I pulled off the highway and actually did end up in Tijuana, which, if you ignore the graffiti on the buildings, the cracked, broken streets, the garbage piled on the side of the roads and the prostitutes lining the sidewalks, is still kinda a dump. I spent the majority of my time in Tijuana figuring out how to get out of Tijuana, which was no small feat—again, Spanish road signs.

Using my impeccable sense of direction (I know; I’m as surprised as you!) I made it to the road leading back into the US. Traffic backed up about half a mile from the border—and it took me well over an hour to make it that far.

When I finally made it to the border, they asked my license and registration. And I couldn’t find my registration.

And so, highly suspicious, border patrol was forced to detain me. For quite a while.

Please refer to the title of this post for more information on that last sentence. And tune in next time for part two: "How to Outwit Border Patrol!" (AKA "How to Wait Patiently at Border Patrol Until They Eventually Let You Go.")

Monday, June 21, 2010

"Things I Don't Understand" #3


Where does the saying "We'll cross that bridge when we come to it" come from? It means you'll overcome some future obstacle, but that would imply that the bridge WAS an obstacle, wouldn't it? The line should be "we'll ford that river when we come to it." Or maybe, "we'll cross that rickety bridge with the 500-foot fall to a raging river below when we come to it."

It's unclear. All I know is I have a sudden hankering to play Oregon Trail.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The top 10 Internet clichés we’d be better off without, in no particular numerical order:

4) “LOL cats.” I guess these are supposed to be cats that know enough Photoshop to slap text on a picture, are web-savvy enough to know how to upload those pictures to the internet, but haven’t quite grasped the English language. Maybe these cats aren’t stupid after all--they’re just foreigners.

“Rickrolling.” Why this is a thing, I don’t know. It’s a bait and switch—you pretend you’re linking to something interesting, but the link instead goes to a video of Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up.” People apparently find it hysterical, though it’s unclear why. Especially when there’s much better stuff out there.
2) Annoying “top 10” lists. It seems that every blogger eventually makes one of these dumb things, either because they’re too lazy to write original content or because they genuinely think people are interested in listening to them rant. Either way, it’s a practice that should be abolished.

10) Commercials that make fun of Internet acronyms. “People use ‘LOL’ all the time on the Internet—imagine how funny it would be if someone actually SPOKE this way!” It was mildly amusing the first time we saw this, (to be generous) but advertisers don’t seem to understand that it’s been done a bazillion times by now. It’s definitely time to lay this one to rest.

1) Internet memes. I think a couple items on this list technically ARE internet memes. But I don’t know what they are, and I don’t like them.

6) Twitter. I’m only going to say this once, but I’m going to say it loudly, so be sure to turn up your speaker volume when you read the next sentence. TWITTER IS POINTLESS. It serves only two purposes. One is to annoy your friends with constant facebook status updates, except that Twitter cleverly renamed them to “tweets” so no one will know the difference. The second is to allow marketers to sell to you. Gee, Walgreens all of a sudden has a Twitter feed? That’s not an accident.

But no one seems to realize this, and Twitter remains one of the internet’s biggest, most pointless fads. It will go the way of Friendster and Beanie Babies because it serves no practical purpose. ...Also I hate it.

3) Bing. I can’t say anything that this video doesn't say better. When you’ve finished watching it, search for it again on Bing. It’s oddly satisfying. 

5) The “You’ve won a free iPod!” girl. Spoiler alert: All you’ve actually won is identity theft.

8) Hasbro. Remember when they took away the incredibly popular facebook game, Scrabulous, and replaced it with their moderately popular board game, Scrabble? Their thought was that Scrabulous was ripping off their franchise, and so they’d better get control of it right away by releasing a bad facebook app. Good call, Hasbro! Instead of all that free publicity, it’s a much better idea to alienate your fan base.

9) Farmville. It’s a simplistic Sim City, where you annoy your facebook friends to help you build a farm, or rescue sheep, or whatever it is that goes on in this game. The worst part is that people seem to think that this is serious gaming, which is kind of like saying Marmaduke is serious literature. People actually go beyond the free version of the game and pay money to play it. If you’re going to do that, for god’s sake, try a Sim game first. It’ll cost you less in the long run and it’s a much, much better game.

I apologize for this list of awful. To make up for it, check out this chunk of internet awesomeness.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Mega-Man Strikes Again, Police Baffled

SNAKE MAN’S LAIR: Disaster struck Snake Man’s lair yesterday when Mega Man, notorious cannibal, broke into the beloved robot’s home, murdered him and stole his Search Snakes. It’s the fifth murder in as many weeks, and has baffled citizens and police alike.

“I just don’t understand it,” said a tearful Top Man. “Snake Man was a model citizen, a wonderful robot, and a friend. What kind of deranged madman would hunt him down and wear his snakes as a grisly trophy?”

Mega Man, (also known as “Rockman” in some circles) has already been implicated in the deaths of Gemini Man, Hard Man, Shadow Man and Magnet Man. Attempts to catch him have proven ineffective, and robots everywhere are terrified.

“I covered my entire lair in spikes,” said Needle Man. “Just spikes, everywhere. And I hide in my panic room every night. But he’s coming. I know he’s coming.”

Needle Man’s fears are not entirely unfounded. Magnet Man’s lair was filled with disappearing blocks, a defensive measure that cost millions of dollars to develop and implement. But Magnet Man was killed in his lair last week, and it’s feared that Mega Man may have gained the disappearing block technology for himself.

“But it’s Rush that worries us the most,” said a police spokesman, referring to Mega Man’s rabid, sidekick dog. “Used to be, a robot could protect his lair with large, random gaps in the floor, but Rush changed all that. Gaps are ineffectual against Mega Man and Rush. Completely ineffectual.”

Police are reaching out to the community for help. Anyone with information regarding the whereabouts of Mega Man, Rush, or the notorious Dr. Light, who is being sought in connection with the murders, should contact the police immediately.

For now, it appears that Mega Man’s horrific rampage will go unchecked.

Snake Man’s funeral will be held at the Wily Center at 12pm.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Too close for comfort

I sat in the small room, nervous, waiting for her. I’d been waiting for some time now, but the thought of leaving never crossed my mind. I was exactly where I was supposed to be.

She finally came in, looked at me, smiled. I smiled back. She dimmed the lights, closed the door. Her face was suddenly close to mine, too close for someone I’d just met five minutes earlier. But from the moment we saw each other, we knew this could end only one way.

She pulled off my glasses and broke the silence.

“Read the bottom line for me, will you? Without squinting.”

Thus began my recent experience at the eye doctor’s. I’ve always found those visits to be a strangely intimate experience. You’re in a small, dark room. It’s quiet. There's some serious eye contact going on; the doctor is all up in your business and/or grill. It’s weird. My time there is usually split into trying to a) listen to the doctor’s instructions, and b) not giggle like a madman.

So I only go by necessity: Either when my glasses have broken, or when I have to start judging road signs by context alone. This time it was the former, much to the relief of motorists everywhere.

Let me explain to all you pansy “low-grade prescription-wearers” out there. I really, really can’t see without my glasses. My friends like to test me by holding their fingers about a foot away from my face, and I usually have only the vaguest guess as to how many there are. (A fact that, I believe, some of my friends take unfair advantage of.)

In this case, though, it wasn’t that bad—the right stem snapped, but I was able to hold it together with scotch tape. “Like Harry Potter, but nerdier” was the look I was going for. I think I pulled it off.

My plan was to go into Lenscrafters, have them get the prescription off my current glasses and make me a new pair. But, as Life will tell you, nothing is ever that simple.

“Oh, we can’t make you a new pair of glasses without a visit to the eye doctor,” says the frustratingly cheerful saleswoman behind the counter. “It’s California law. Fortunately, we have a doctor on the premises. Can I make an appointment for you?”

At first the answer was no, on principal. But two minutes later, I came to the realization that my glasses were still broken. So I went back and made the appointment.

It wasn’t as much of an ordeal as it could have been, but I still hate going. I’m squeamish about anything going in my eyes (it’s the reason I don’t wear contacts). So I don’t particularly appreciate having puffs of air shot into them (for some reason, this is a real test) or having drops put in.

“Good survival instincts!” the doctor said, trying to pry my eyes open for the third time in an attempt to drop me. It was a valiant attempt at making the best of a bad situation. Because, no matter how much my brain insists, my eyes simply will not open if there are eye drops in the vicinity. “Not today, brain!” they scoff. “Do your worst!”

Ultimately, the doctor had to use brute force. I don’t blame her; it was the only realistic option.

The drops eventually made it into my eyes. Shockingly, I survived. Now I have new glasses, although they’re ridiculously small. So I need to exchange them for new ones, which I’m sure will be a process in and of itself. I just hope I can get that done without another doctor appointment. 

Sunday, May 16, 2010


Like Jane Goodall, I recently immersed myself in another society. I did it by taking a road trip with a couple people who are, technically, way cooler than I am. They have their own language and everything. In order to communicate, I was forced to adapt.

The trip was to San Francisco, a city known for its breathtaking scenery, its incredible bay, and someone named Bush Man, a guy who jumps out of bushes to scare tourists who then, I guess, pay him. He’s a local legend.

The idea to shirk my responsibilities for a couple days was inspired by JetBlue’s 10th anniversary sale. For two days, every ticket was only ten dollars, which meant every ticket was sold out. But still, I’d always wanted to see San Francisco, and the dream seemed tantalizingly close. So a couple friends and I decided to just rent a car and drive the thing. (To all my employed friends: Ha ha.)

With our iPods, GPSes and laptops all packed, we were ready to rough it for a few days. The drive from Los Angeles to San Francisco is about is about six hours if you go up highway 5, the boring way. It’s about nine hours if you take the Pacific Coast Highway, which hugs the California coast. We chose to take the PCH for a few hours, until we got lost and had to switch over to the 5. (And yes, we got lost despite our GPSes. Even the most experienced navigator would be hard pressed to make the same claim.)

With all those hours on the road, staring at more cows than you would expect California to have, my friends and I were forced to make conversation. And it soon became clear that I was out of my element. They were saying things like “stoked,” and “dawg.” They kept trying to bump my fist with theirs. It was unnerving.

I slowly came to understand their primitive yet beautiful language. Take this example of a Coolspeak sentence: I’m totally fiending some coffee. This means, “I currently have a strong desire for coffee.”

Another example: Man, I’m so cracked right now. That would roughly translate to: “I am tired and unable to focus.” (This also meant that it was my turn to drive, although that’s more of a contextual thing.)

One of the more peculiar words is “chill,” which roughly translates to “smurf,” which, as we all know, can be anything you want it to be. I’m digging this chill would be “I am enjoying my environment.” But you can also say those were some good chills. That would mean that you had a pleasant time during your previous activity.

But combining some of these ideas can lead to tricky situations. Dude, I’m stoked for this chill but I’m completely cracked—I’m seriously fiending some mad sleep right now, you hear me? Those types of sentences were hard to decipher. (Although in case you were wondering, the answer was “yes.”)

Despite the language barrier, the trip was great. We didn’t see Bush Man, unfortunately, but we did see Alcatraz, the Golden Gate Bridge, and even a couple forests—I had to explain what those were to my Los Angles friends when I got back. And the drive along the PCH is genuinely beautiful. Car commercial beautiful, even. Do it, if you get the chance. Dig those chills, dawg.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Job-Hunting at a Professional Level.

A question on the Coffee Bean employment application: “What makes you simply the best?”

My answer: “The ability to determine that this is the vaguest question in the world. Also, I can fly.”

I’m currently unemployed.

So goes the recession. I’ve been trying to drag myself out of the 10% unemployment rate in Los Angeles for a while, now. At first, I was looking to find employment in my field—on a TV show, ideally. Preferably in the writers’ room, working as a writer’s assistant. (For those who care, yes, those apostrophe placements are apparently accurate. I’m not sure why it works that way.)

In Hollywood, a writer’s assistant job is the Holy Grail for us aspiring TV writers. You’re a secretary, basically. You sit in the writers’ room and take notes. It has the disadvantage of, well, having to sit and take notes all day. But the advantage is hobnobbing with the writers. And maybe accidentally sneaking a joke or two of yours in there. And maybe the writers try to figure out where it came from, and maybe you say it was yours, and then maybe they hire you on full time. And then you become the showrunner, maybe, and then maybe Lifetime makes a movie about you and the breakneck speed with which you conquered Hollywood.

So there can be pros and cons. Unfortunately, those jobs aren’t only incredibly rare; they’re stab-your-neighbor competitive. I was barely able to find any job openings, let alone get an interview.

So I expanded my search to your typical Hollywood job. You know the classic image of a lowly assistant fetching coffee for his boss? I’d love one of those jobs. Answering phones, making coffee, organizing the file cabinet and so forth. Simple stuff, but in Hollywood, assistants are like stem cells—they can become anything. Lots of (basically every) producer, writer and director started as an assistant. And so, once again, these jobs are highly competitive. 

But I didn’t have any luck there, so I started looking at unpaid internships. Unpaid internships are the unpaid internships of Hollywood. You’re basically the same thing as an assistant, except with less responsibilities and no money. They are—you guessed it!— extremely competitive. There can be hundreds of applicants for the same non-paying job.

Now, I’ve gotten a few of these internships along the way. Each has been a great learning experience, but it turns out my landlord still wants rent every month. So I moved on to the Big Box stores. Target, Best Buy, Starbucks, Coffee Bean, etc.

The problem with applying to these places is that they make you fill out a long, boring questionnaire that’s designed to filter out the riff-raff. All the questions basically boil down to “will you steal from us?” but phrased in different ways. For example:

“While at work, you hear a fellow employee speaking disparagingly of your manager. This behavior:

a)     Is to be expected.
b)    Should be discouraged.
c)     Is a good opportunity to bond with your co-workers.
d)    Occurs in the workplace.

And so forth. There’s rarely a good answer, and I’m notoriously bad at these tests anyway. (The technical term is “red-flagged. Guess how I know that.)

The next step, unfortunately, is finding creative ways to make money. Thinking “out-of-the-box” in “new, creative ways.” Unfortunately, the only sort of ideas I seem to be able to come up with are “moderately illegal” and may land me in jail for “insurance fraud” and other “miscellaneous illegalities.”

I'd like avoid that. So, uh…let me know if you hear of any jobs, will ya?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

BOOM! Headshot.

The picture above is one of the two headshots I ended up with. It ain’t too shabby, if I do say so myself (although friends and family have, of course, vehemently disagreed.) And I’ll admit--it went through a professional “retouching” process to make it look better than it normally would. The results are impressive, especially when you consider that this was the original.

I had reservations about the entire process, as I mentioned in a previous post. I’d been told I was an actor, which was a fishy proposition from the get-go. But getting headshots was a whole other level of insanity. I was already part of the hordes of aspiring Hollywood writers infesting LA’s bars and coffee shops. Did I really want to add aspiring actor to the mix?

But ultimately, I decided to accept the very real risk that I was being a rube and just go with it. For a little variety, I brought a couple of my best-looking shirts (i.e. clean ones, with buttons).

So, at six o’clock on the dot, I took a deep breath and stepped into the studio. Seven faces stared questioningly back at me.

“Uh…hi,” I said, clutching my shirts closer for protection. No one said anything.

“I’m here for the…” Headshots? Photo shoot? Pictures? What could I say that would make me sound knowledgeable? Like I knew exactly what I was doing?

“…To get my…um…” 


“Oh, we’re having a crazy day,” said the receptionist, indicating the rest of the people in the room who were also waiting for headshots. “We’re running about an hour behind. Can you come back at seven?”

The last thing an indecisive person needs is another hour to think about it. But I came back. They were still behind, and so the shoot actually started somewhere around 7:30.

I told the photographer that I had no idea what I was doing, and he explained that there were basically three types of headshots: serious, grinning, and smiling. So we’d do some of each. The problem was the white undershirt I was wearing. It was too reflective, and it’d be distracting.

“Can you pull the shirt down and put an arm on the table, so you look relaxed?”

The answer was an unequivocal no, but I did my best. One arm was on the table in front of me—the other was desperately clutching my shirt, trying to pull it down.

“Great,” said my photographer as he took shot after shot. “That’s great. Very nice. Pull your shirt down.”

We took about 250 shots. The entire process took about a half hour, but at least ten of those minutes were spent struggling with my shirt. We boiled those shots down to the best two. No one seems to like the one I posted above, but I think it’s better than the other “grinning” version.

Interestingly enough, I did get a chance to ask the studio about my shady casting company. I asked if they’d ever heard of them, and to my surprise, they said they’d had. “They’re not a scam,” I was told. “They’re just not very good.”

Fortunately I have other options. There are a couple casting websites I can put my headshots on, and there are other agencies out there. So who knows? One day, you might see me on TV! In the background. Probably trying to pull my shirt down. 

Thursday, April 22, 2010

"Things I Don't Understand" #2


That's right. I'll have this conversation. 

Captain America's power comes from a "super-solider serum" that enhanced all of his physical abilities to the height of human potential. He's the "perfect" human. 

Spider Man, however, has SUPERhuman abilities. His strength, speed, reflexes, etc. are all superior to Captain America's by definition. So why on Earth do people think he'd go down?

...That is all.

Monday, April 19, 2010

So, I'm an actor now.

Yup. My meteoric rise to stardom happened over the weekend. Frankly, it was long overdue. I’ve been sitting in my room in Los Angeles for two years now, waiting patiently to be discovered. I thought it would be for my incredible whistling ability (true story!), but it turns out I had to answer a craigslist ad first.

I was doing my daily criagslist job search, which has never yielded me any actual jobs, but it’s quick and easy so I do it anyway. The closest I got to a paying job was, I think, getting scammed by BetSoft gaming. (I wrote them a script for a video game and they never paid me. I wanted to sue, but they’re a Canadian-based company, and dealing with international law sounded a little intense. It wasn’t that much money, so I let it go. Fortunately, I can have my petty revenge by mentioning them on this site. Mwahaha!)

Ahem. Anyway. I answered an ad from a casting company looking for extras. The fact was, I’d been living in LA for about two years, and I hadn’t once tried to be an actor. It was ridiculous.

So I called the number, made the appointment, and was kind of surprised when I realized I was going to go through with it. Because in all honesty, I’m not a huge fan of the camera. I’ve been on stage before, and I’ve even been on film. I was “Gannon Acolyte #4” in a web series once—or at least, my hand was, as it was the only part of my body that wasn’t completely covered by a brown robe. It was a nerve-wracking experience. (See picture below. I'm the hand in the top-right.)

I convinced myself thuswise: Extras, known as “background actors” when they’re trying and failing to be taken seriously, typically work in the background. I could sit in a café chair for a few hours while the real actors do their stuff in the foreground. No problem. All I’d need to do is look the part.

So, imagine my surprise when we auditionees were handed monologues to read. Oh-em-gee, I thought.

I debated running out of the office and forgetting the entire thing. I quickly thought through dramatic escape options, such as falling to the ground and faking vague stomach pain, or yelling “fire!” and running out. (Of course, to avoid the illegality of yelling “fire” in a public place, I’d need to start one first.)

But before I could put any of these fine plans into action, I’d already signed the sign-in sheet, and by then it seemed too late.

But all in all, it was actually a very easy process. I went in, I said hi, I read the little monologue, trying to emote as much as possible as improvise as little as possible. (“I thought doing it as a space alien really sold my character’s fear of relationships.”)

They gave me a number to call the next morning—which I did. Apparently, I did well. So well, in fact, that they think I could potentially handle a few speaking roles. (I’d be the guy who bumps into Nicholas Cage and mutters “excuse me,” or something.)

My feeling, however, is this: Any place that tells me I’m an actor is probably a scam. I’m doing my research on their organization as much as I can, but I haven’t been able to find very many red flags.

So, I might be getting headshots later today. Best case scenario, I get work as an extra. Worse case scenario, I get some really awesome facebook profile pictures. I guess it's a win-win.

I’ll keep you posted.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Yup. I Preed myself.

I recently got my first “smart phone,” by which I mean a phone that I'm not a little embarrassed to use in public. It's a Palm Pre. We’re talking a whole new level of obsessive email checking, here. I already can’t live without it.

I was trying to decide between the Palm Pre and an Android phone. Aside from my obvious concern that the Android phone might gain sentience and kill me in my sleep, I also didn’t like the “virtual keyboard”—typing on the screen itself. I’ve never been able to do that very well. I’m not really sure why. I don’t think my fingers are overly chubby, and I’ve been honing my hand-eye coordination by beating my brother at video games for years.

For whatever reason, virtual keyboards and I don’t get along. So I chose the Pre, with its physical keyboard. Now, granted, the thing is so tiny that it’s apparent it was designed with smurf users in mind, but I seem to be able to make do.

But the apps! (Short for “applications.” (Short for “programs that have little practical application but are fun and shiny.”)) I haven’t really delved too far into the Pre’s app store yet, but I’m certainly excited by the possibilities. First, it’s a way to get even more video games into my life, which is always a good thing. But they also provide a way for me to avoid doing math, which is even better.

You see, my math abilities are not quite as good as my virtual keyboarding abilities. I’ve come to accept it. It’s just a matter of developing other skills to compensate.

For example, let’s say I’m in a restaurant with a few friends, trying to calculate a 20% tip from a $87 bill. Instead of calculating the tip using traditional methods, I’ve developed the ability to leap through the nearest glass window, Jackie Chan style, and flee into the night. There’s minimal scarring involved, and you’d be surprised how effective it is.

But now, with the Pre, I have a whole new set of options. I can download a tip calculator and do my tipping right there at the table, which will save me a bundle on first aid kits. But why stop there? What if I want to calculate the cost of groceries without counting on my fingers? I can use the built-in calculator for that. If I want to get fancy, I can download a scientific calculator to figure out the cosine of any given angle, and then search Wikipedia to find out what, exactly, a "cosine" is. Right there, in the palm (ha) of my hand. It's pretty awesome.

So, until the Android phone wreaks its terrible vengeance upon me for choosing its competition, I’ll enjoy my Pre. 

Sunday, April 4, 2010

"Things I Don't Understand" #1

I'd like to introduce a new feature on this blog--"Things I Don't Understand." The posts will primarily be about things I do not understand, such as "dark chocolate" and "Scotland." But we'll take it slowly at first.


"I love this song so much I just have to shove someone to the ground!"

Nope. No dice.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

De train! De train!

Two years ago, I decided to move to LA from Chicago. If I learned anything from the experience, it’s this: Amtrak isn’t spelled with a “c.” Also, don’t take Amtrak.

My idea for taking the train was sound: I was traveling across the country—I might as well see the thing. Did I run the risk of being in an enclosed space for over 2 days? Sure. Did I compound that risk by not first locating where the bathrooms on the train were located? Undoubtedly. But it was a chance to do something unique, and like a fool, I took it.

My first clue that the trip would not be quite as I expected was when I boarded. Years of movie-watching had put a very specific image in my head. The men would all be fedora-wearing bankers. The women would all be smoking cigarettes from those absurdly long cigarette holders and wearing scarves, or shawls. (I’m fairly certain there’s no difference.) Teary-eyed couples would be waving at each other desperately as the train pulled its slow but inexorable way from the station.

What actually happened was I boarded the train and then we left. Not quite as dramatic as I’d have hoped. Yes, the seats reclined a lot further than usual. And yes, the train itself was more spacious. But with the amount of fanfare our departure had, I could have just as easily been taking it to the suburbs.

My second clue was that there were only two electrical outlets on the entire train. This was a major concern. “How many electrical outlets does your train have?” is a question I'd actually called up Amtrak to ask about. I had a laptop and a cell phone with me, and I was going to be on the train for 48 hours. Without those vital connections to modern day civilization (i.e. video games) I would be no better off than your everyday Mongolian cave dweller. To pass the time, I’d have to either craft my own games from materials I could scrounge from my surroundings, or talk to people. Neither option was likely.
But it was okay. Maybe my departure wasn’t super dramatic, but at least I was on my way. And if I had to wait a few hours for a charger, well, it wasn’t like I was going anywhere.

Then the train broke down in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

We, the passengers, weren’t really told what was happening. The train stopped in Albuquerque and it just didn’t start up again. And no offense to Albuquerque, but there’s nothing to do in Albuquerque. Not in their train station, at any rate.

Two hours later, we were on our way. It turned out that the engine had broken down. They do that sometimes, apparently. We got a freight engine called in from somewhere in New Mexico that was going to pull us the rest of the way. It would go ten miles an hour slower than the engine we were using before, but at least we’d be moving again.

My fourth clue that things were going wrong was when I woke up in the middle of the night with this realization: We weren’t moving. We hadn’t been moving in a while.

Frustrated, I tried to go back to sleep. Then I got clue number five. We were moving now, but we were moving backwards. Lovely.

We were scheduled to be in Los Angeles that morning. When I woke up, there was snow on the ground. (Snow is one of the classic signs that you’re not in LA.) 

So, remember that new freight engine? The one that was supposed to pull us the rest of the way? That one also broke, and now we were stranded in the middle of nowhere. Hundreds of miles away from Los Angles, we hadn’t even stopped in a station this time. We’d just stopped on the tracks.

One option was to get a third freight engine which would pull us even slower than the first one was going to, but Amtrak apparently decided to go the bus route. Four hundred miles outside of Los Angeles and hours after we’d stalled again, the passengers piled into Greyhound busses.

And so it was that, 58 hours after I left Chicago, I clambered off the bus at LA's Union Station. I managed to reclaim my luggage, though all the bags had been spread out randomly through the busses. One of the wheels had broken off an incredibly heavy bag I’d taken with, which at that point didn’t surprise me.

Amtrak’s motto: Enjoy the Journey. I guess they’re just trying to live up to their slogan by making sure the journey takes as long as possible. The upside is this: if Amtrak were an airline, they’d probably have charged me some sort of "extended service" fee.

Saturday, March 20, 2010


I wish playing with Legos was a socially acceptable activity for a 26-year-old.

Legos are awesome.

I know some of you fall into other camps. You got your Erector Set crew, you got your Lincoln Log crew. Some of you might even swear by K’nex, god help us.

But Legos can do anything. Get a green land piece, a wall, and four knights, and you got yourself a castle under siege. Add a few skeletons, and suddenly you have a horde of undead warriors attacking a human stronghold. Put parrots on the skeletons’ shoulders and now they’re pirate skeletons.

I used to do this all the time. I’d build huge, elaborate cities, where doors opened up to brick walls and astronauts fought dragons. Then I’d connect those cities to other cities, creating sprawling megalopolises. (Megalopoli?) When they invariably got destroyed (when my parents wanted their basement back, for example) all the pieces would get dumped into The Box.

The Box was—you guessed it—a box in which my brother and I stored all of our Legos. Every set we ever bought inevitably got dumped into The Box, and we had thousands of pieces. You want a red four-block? Check. A white single? No problem. One of those elusive double clear blocks? Sure thing. Or how about something a little more obscure? A flat, yellow two-fer? One of those pieces that has a hinge on it and, you know, kinda swings around so you can make walls move and stuff?

OK, so we didn’t have the greatest names for the pieces. Also, we didn’t have the best organization system. Sometimes it took over a half an hour of rooting through The Box to track down the one piece we needed. But we had faith. It was there, somewhere. The Box always came through.

But things, these days, have gotten worse. The state of the modern day Lego has declined dramatically.

Back in my day, (you whippersnappers) (that’s right), there were plenty of choices in the Lego aisle. Especially if you went to the bottom shelf—the expensive section. You had full-blown castles, with turrets and walls and everything. Or space stations, with see-through (futuristic!) pieces. Or a pirate town. A town.

But now, all Lego seems to sell are replicas of historic buildings, or ships. And half those ships are different size Millennium Falcons. It’s a fundamental shift in what Lego is supposed to be.

So listen here, Lego. Buildings are boring. (Tom Hanks proved it in Big.) I don’t care how accurately you can depict them. So are ships. If I wanted a model plane, I’d just buy a model plane at my local model plane store which doesn’t exist because no one likes model planes.

And don’t get me started on your movie-related Lego sets. If I wanted to see Block Indiana Jones fight off Block Nazis with a block-shaped whip, I’d just stick to dreaming about it like I normally do.

One day, I'd like to get married, have children. But how can I, in good conscience, bring a child into a world that doesn't have Lego castles? I'm not a monster.

So please, Lego. Get back to basics. More castles and pirates. Less Louvres and Millennium Falcons.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Walking is basically hiking, right?

I recently decided that I wanted to experience some nature. It had been a while. In Los Angeles, there are basically two types of “outdoorsy” things to experience: the ocean, and smog. I’m not a fan of either. Call me a perfectionist, but I like my nature to contain something green.

And so, like any experienced outdoorsman, my first stop was google. Los Angeles isn’t known for its hiking trails--by which I mean that I wasn’t familiar with any hiking trails in Los Angeles. So I searched “hiking in Los Angeles.” I was looking for something that might resemble trees, or even a forest.

In between checking my hotmail account, checking facebook, checking my gmail account, spending a few minutes on youtube, chatting on AIM, taking a break from all this internetting, and checking hotmail again, just in case, I managed to track down something which seemed promising. It was a hiking trail right off the highway that was rated “easy-to-moderate.”

I liked the fact that it was right off the highway—I wouldn’t have to walk too far to get to the trail once I got out of the car. Also, as much as I like nature in theory, I was well aware that the practice might be something far, far different. “Easy” sounded easy enough—but we’d see.

And so I hopped in the car and headed to the hill. As promised, it was right off the highway. As in, I got off the highway, pulled over to the right and there I was, in a small parking lot with a helpful sign informing me that parking was three dollars.

The fee seemed based on the honor system, as it was a simple box you stuck money into. I couldn't shake the image of angry park rangers emerging from the brush and towing my car while I was enjoying nature, though. So I stuck the few bills in the box and looked at the map next to it.

There wasn’t much to see on the map. Squiggly lines seemed to indicate trails, but there was nothing else to help me get a sense of scale. The squiggly lines could have led a mile down the trail or to Seattle, for all I knew.

Well, I came out to be adventurous, right? (Wrong. I was just looking for trees. See above.) So I figured, since I came all the way down the highway (17 minutes), I may as well see what’s up the dirt path.

It turns out, more dirt. Well, in all fairness, there were some greenish/brown shrubs in the distance, and one dead tree. But mostly it was hot sun, dry dirt and the roar of the highway.

That’s right—the view on top of the hill was actually overlooking the highway. I knew that the path was close to it, but I figured it would take me…I don’t know. Away from it. Not so much.

The trail continued. Stubborn, I trekked on, determined to find something green. Spoiler alert: I didn’t. I did manage to follow a “trail” that seemed to be created by road crew trucks. I also found more highway. But other than that, it felt as if I were simply walking through the desert. Which, in essence, I was.

All in all, my trip lasted about two hours. I didn’t find any trees, but I was proud of myself anyway. I hiked. Through a path that resembled a construction site overlooking a highway, but I hiked.

(By the way, if you ever find yourself on a “hike” through the desert, remember to bring water. I didn’t. It sucked.)

In the meantime, here’s a picture of everything I didn’t see:

Sunday, March 7, 2010

My PVB adventure.

Policy, as a concept, turns everyday, normal people like me and (I assume) you into unthinking, unfeeling automatons, capable only to spout their preprogrammed lines with no regard to context or common sense.

On a related note, I recently made a trip to the Parking Violations Bureau.

For the whys, see my previous post. Long story short, I stupidly underestimated the level of LA’s stupidity.

The PVB I went to is in a cramped little office that seems perpetually packed with customers. (Customers? Offenders? Lost souls?) When you come in, the first thing you do is take a number from a dispenser, like you’re in a deli from the ‘50s. I honestly didn’t know that people still used the take-a-number system. I thought that we had moved past such things with the advent of the “line,” but I was apparently mistaken.

I waited as patiently as I could, which is to say not very patiently at all. There were a few chairs available, but I didn’t feel especially inclined to sit next to the 90-year-old cowboy with a handlebar mustache who smelled like old cheese. I also didn’t really feel comfortable sitting next to the 300-pound woman in the back who kept stretching out her bubble gum with her hand, as if she was trying to see how far she could stretch it before it snapped. Then she crammed the entire thing back into her mouth to start the process over again.

So I started to pace. And as I paced, I ran through my battle plan.

“Always have a battle plan.” That’s my motto. Whether it’s arguing your way out of a ticket or shopping for groceries, always know the battle plan. And so I ran through the conversation as the numbers slowly ticked by.

ME: Hello, ma’am. I’d like to discuss this ticket to you.

(I hand her the ticket.)

AGENT: “It says here you parked in the red zone. Did you park in the red zone?”

ME: “Yes and no.”

AGENT: Oh? It sounds like this situation is more complex than it would first appear. I’m extremely interested in your side of the story.

ME: My pleasure. You see, I didn’t realize I had parked in the red zone. It was only an inch or so, maybe even less. And I was only in the zone for a moment or two. No harm was done, and in the future I’ll be certain to be more careful.

AGENT: I completely understand, sir. Let me tear this ticket up for you.

(She proceeds to tear up the ticket, and then burn the scraps.)

AGENT: Have a nice day.

This seemed like the most reasonable outcome, I assured myself. And so when my number came up, I walked up to the counter completely confident.

ME: Hello, ma’am. I’d like to discuss—

AGENT: Let’s see it.

(I slid the ticket beneath the bulletproof glass to her.

AGENT: It says here you parked in the red zone. Did you park in the red zone?

ME: Yes and no.

AGENT: So you admit guilt. That’s fifty-five dollars.

ME: No…I...

AGENT: Either you did or you didn’t. Were in your in the red zone?

ME: Technically yes, but—

AGENT: Cash or check? We don’t accept credit cards.

Thank you, government. Next time I’m just going to lie.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Parking Tickets: A Way of Life

I got a parking ticket a couple days ago, which means I had to plan a trip to my local Parking Violations Bureau. (Also known as the DMV for people like me who can’t tell the difference.)

Unfortunately, trips to the Bureau are no rare occurrence. I live in Los Angeles, where parking tickets are just a way of life. Although in this case, frankly, I deserved it. I had the audacity to park an inch into the red zone.

For those of you who think that the red zone would be a great name for an energy drink, you’d be right. But they’re also parts of the sidewalk that are painted red, to indicate that your friendly neighborhood parking enforcement agent will give you a ticket if you’re there for more than a two seconds. (The first second, of course, is your grace period.) I’ve heard reports of motorists who pull over to the red zone just to look up a number on their cell phone, and when they look up again, they have a ticket sitting on their windshield.

So these agents, despite their impressive levels of stealth, can be a bit overzealous. But it doesn’t help that red zones seem to be placed randomly on the sidewalk. There’s space for a couple cars to park, and then, for seemingly no reason at all, BAM. Red zone. Then a couple more feet of freedom—enough space to park a golf cart, if you really squeeze--then another red zone, and then a yellow zone (Yellow for fire hydrant. Red was taken.) (You still can’t park there.)

The zones are typically accompanied by signs that tell you where you can park, how long you can be there, and where to drop off your first born as collateral if you plan to be more than 15 minutes.

So why was I not careful, you say? Why did I not just read the sign, you ask? Those are foolish questions, and frankly I’m surprised you even asked them. Because it’s blatantly obvious that the signs were written by newly hatched sea creatures who have no understanding of the English language, much less what constitutes a permit-only parking area.

For example, if you cannot park on the street from 6-9 on Monday, I would expect the sign to read something along the lines of “No parking from 6-9 on Monday.” But bear in mind, that’s just ONE of the signs that are posted. Take a look at this typical Los Angeles parking sign:

For those of us who have yet to obtain their doctorate in traffic sciences, this can be extremely hard to decipher. No parking from 9-12—except the 12 is crossed out. Does it still count? Also, no parking from 8am to 6pm UNLESS it’s Saturday or Sunday or UNLESS you have a district number 18 permit. Does that mean that on Saturday or Sunday you CAN park from 8-6, or that you CAN’T park from 8-6, even on Saturday and Sunday? The top sign also limits parking for vehicles of a certain size. I hope you brought your tape measure.

No matter what you do, you’re breaking the law. And it’s enough to make any average, law-abiding citizen suddenly feel like a rebel. And we all know where that leads. First you’re parking illegally, and then you’re making illegal right turns. After that, shoplifting. Then hey, what’s a little arson?

Illegal parking is a gateway crime, and these signs are enablers.

But those of you paying attention will remember that I didn’t do any of this. All I did was park an inch in the red zone. Although in my defense, I had no malicious intent.

I simply wanted to run into my local Starbucks and to get my coffee fix for the day. I go at off-hours, and so there’s usually no line. But today there was an elderly woman who couldn’t seem to figure out what the difference was between a hazelnut coffee and a coffee with hazelnut. (Not that I blame her; I don’t understand half of what I order at Starbucks, myself. I just throw out buzzwords and see what sticks. “Half foam soy latte grande with cheese and extra whip and fries on the side.”)

So there she was, trying to decide if maybe she just wanted a tea instead, while I could feel myself getting more and more sluggish from caffeine withdrawal by the moment. She finally finished her order, and I was able to mumble mine (“chocolate latte caramel yogurt soy swirl banana bread.”) I got something caffeinated in a cup, though, and so all in all it was successful order.

And then I got the ticket. I’d been “red zoned.” It brought the grand total of my drink up to $60. Granted, it's not the most you’d ever spend on a single drink at Starbucks, but is still more than I was looking to pay.

My plan was to fight the ticket. After all, it was only an inch. I wasn’t harming anything. If you looked at it from the right angle, you couldn’t even tell I was in it at all. I would fight it, of course, and I would win.

Tune in next time to see how big of an idiot I was. Bring your tape measure.