Tool Time

tool timeThe message comes at 9 p.m. on a Tuesday night.

Collin: Are you free tomorrow evening?

I pause. Are you free? Can mean lots of things. Of course, it can mean “Do you want to get a drink” or “Let me buy you dinner for being awesome.” However, it can also mean “Can you help me remove a wasp nest?” or “I need help dumping a very heavy sack in the river. No questions asked.”

Also, it’s 9 p.m. on a Tuesday, and almost no good messages come at 9 p.m. on a Tuesday.

Could you give me a hand with something?

With what?

I need to put something together.

Put something together? I look around me. I’m lounging on the couch, utilizing all three pillows. A cat is sleeping on my back, I have a warm glass of milk, and I am wearing a floral-printed Yukata. I don’t exactly feel like a “put something together” kind of guy. But then I remember that Collin has spent his summer feeding and cleaning up the poop of my cat, the B Monster. I relent.

Sure, I’ll see you at 6.

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The Thirty Minute Detective

Vltava in fogA morning run can be beautiful and it can be awful. And usually, I know which after just a few steps. There are times I chug down the river, feeling strong, healthy, and solid. Sometimes it’s so good that I feel like an actual athlete, with real muscles and all. Men nod at me, women notice me, and when they do I flash a little calf.

It’s during these wonderful runs that mind and body meld together. My mind goes to a story I’m editing or one I’m writing, and I slip into this place with ease. My body goes on autopilot and my brain reworks or brainstorms. We work as a perfect unit and I become a meditative running Yogi. It is beautiful.

But sometimes, sometimes, running is an agonizing experience. After just a couple of steps I can tell that not only are my mind and body not working together, but that my entire body is not one whole body. My limbs, lungs, and core break into separate rebel insurgency factions and fight against each other. My legs seemingly forget how to work and I stumble and stagger. This stumbling gait is enhanced by a shaky panting that should alert bystanders to call the emergency medical authorities. This is all topped off with my arms swinging like confused possums.

It’s during these awful runs that I need a hobby. This hobby only has to remain a hobby for about thirty minutes. Its main goal is to distract my head and body, tricking them to work together while keeping me from a fall into traffic or the river.

Sometimes I’ll bird watch, count slugs and snails, or squash leaves. Other times I’ll count cyclists, people wearing spandex, or just practice my obnoxious operatic baritone. And sometimes I just work with what Prague gives me. The Vltava River is a central active point in Prague, there are several stories hidden in its discarded items, garbage, and bodily fluids. I try to notice them and put together the story; I sometimes feel like a thirty minute detective.

If that detective is insane.

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Carb Envy

chlebíčky

All hail chlebíčky!

There’s not much to do in departmental meetings. There are charts and discussions and the furrowing of brows and rolled up sleeves. But there’s just not much to do. Most meetings, I have found, usually take place because we haven’t had a meeting in a while and we either want to talk about what we have done, what we haven’t been doing, or what we’re planning to do.

Oh, and in September, the university holds meetings the way Elmer Fudd holds wabbit hunts.

One positive is that there are usually treats and refreshments at these meetings. So if there’s a meeting, we usually stave off our hunger all morning and gorge on cookies, cakes, sausages, or chlebíčky.*

The quality of refreshments and treats is upgraded when we are celebrating a special occasion. Today we are celebrating three name days.** So there are cakes and chlebíčky as far as the starving mid-level academic can see.

And I am in hell.

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Shut the Door

shut the door pleaseA few weeks ago I took part in the 3 Day Novel Contest. The gist was that I had to write a novel (around 100 double-spaced pages) in three days. All entrants started at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, August 30th, and had to finish by 11:59 p.m. on Monday, September 1st.

If this sounds like a ridiculous goal to you, then it probably suggests that you understand setting timed goals with reasonable attainability. It sounded ridiculous to me as well, and when I registered, I reveled in this ridiculousness. I planned and outlined. But as August 30th approached I realized that the time for reveling was coming to an end and the time to sit down and do the work was fast approaching.

The strategy. I set a goal for thirty single-spaced pages per day. So this broke down to three three-hour writing sessions per day, each one resulting in ten single-spaced typed pages. So, three days work would yield about 90 single-spaced typed pages and therefore about 130 double-spaced pages. In other words, my goal: a novel.

Perfect.

In theory.

And then the contest started.

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The Middle-Aged Metrosexual

MetrosexualMy moment of clarity comes as I use the word lotion as a verb in two different conversations about my morning routine. It just came out, as though it were a natural thing to say. I lotion right after my shower. I even mention the brand. Oh, Dove Deep Care Body Milk is the best. I don’t add what I’m thinking, something out of a commercial: It’s like a vacation for my nipples.

There’s no going back. I admit that I am not the same man who once used toothpaste as underarm deodorant.

I am a middle-aged metrosexual.

OK, there’s a difference between a metrosexual and a middle-aged metrosexual. At least there is in my head, where I work nonstop to rationalize things.

There are many adjectives and phrases we might use to define a metrosexual. So in the interests of concision, here’s Google’s definition:

A heterosexual urban man who enjoys shopping, fashion, and similar interests traditionally associated with women or homosexual men.

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Chubby Love

Hi there

Hi there

Last week I read an article which stated that chubby men typically last longer and have fewer issues with premature ejaculation than slimmer men. Now, this is just one reason to date chubby men, but there are many, many more.

And not just chubby men, but chubby women, too.

It’s time to get the word out about chubby love. And it’s about time Mr. Slim and Mrs. Trim get knocked off their sexy pedestals simply because they metabolize faster or have better genes. Oh sure, they look better on the beach and they breathe more quietly, but let’s look at the reasons you should be dating chubby people.

In the first place, slim people barely eat. Further, they obsess about how much they’re eating and make annoying comments like: “You probably shouldn’t put butter in that.”

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A List of Lists

list lsit listOK, Internet. You give me lots to cherish – cats, stoned koala bears, and pictures of Jennifer Lawrence. You cooperate with Saturday night’s ‘Where are they now?’ searches. You bring me movies, books, and music.

Like many of your users, I love me a good list. Life hacks and aging celebrities enrich my lunch break like cookies. But it’s gotten a little ridiculous. I understand that you need to suit our ever shortening attention spans, but don’t you think you’ve run out of lists?

I don’t like arguing with you, Internet, but here’s a list of lists that are getting on my nerves. If you could cut down, I promise to watch a cat ride a koala. Or whatever you come up with next.

10 ways…

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Title Fight

TitlesSitting in a meeting in a Czech university when you don’t have a PhD feels like the academic equivalent of being welcomed to the adult’s table. We get introduced to all of our colleagues with PhDs as though we are meeting them for the first time. In reality, we have bought them shots at a bar, consoled them after bad breakups, and stolen olives for them at the departmental Christmas party.

Still, the tone of the introductions is such that we meager ones should stand in awe of these people, for they have a title that we do not. A PhD. And, as I sit there, mentally cradling my Masters Degree, I wonder where this obsession started.

The Czechs love their titles, so this is far from an isolated case of title entitlement. When a PhD is introduced to students at a conference or a symposium, sometimes the non-PhD holder on the dais will be forgotten altogether. It’s not just the PhDs, either. Nearly every title a Czech person enjoys surrounds his name like a barricade of academic sandbags. They are on business cards, front doors, and mailboxes. On all of my documents, pay, and student assessment sheets, I am Damien Galeone Mgr BA. I am introduced as Magister Galeone. Sometimes, it can be rather bulky.

Doktor Profesor Milan Novak Phd PhDr DPD MD Mgr Ing BS STUD

My doctor’s nurses refer to him as Pane Doktor – Mr. Doctor.

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My Advice to Jennifer Lawrence

Russian dating siteDear Jennifer

Big fan. Well, to be fair, I’ve only seen Silver Linings Playbook, but still, you were great. And I love that Bradley Cooper. He’s Jewish, isn’t he? Wikipedia says he’s Irish and Italian, but he’s got those Semitic good looks and he grew up in Jenkintown. My mom had a cheese shop there. Great tuna melts. Anyway, I digress.

OK, so a couple of pictures of your boobs ended up on the internet. It’s an enormous invasion of privacy,  embarrassing, and a total betrayal of trust, but really, it’s not such a big deal. Boobs are boobs. Everyone has seen boobs, and almost half of the world has imagined yours, so just try not to be so upset. These things happen. Hell, at least you’re not Jude Law. Shrinkage is real.

It’s time like these that I thank a pretend deity that I’m not famous, cause that’s really the X factor isn’t it? I mean, of course there’s the fact that you are gorgeous and I’m a chubby middle-aged white dude. But like most people, I’m a Nobody and therefore nobody else cares to snap pictures of us frolicking around with the cat in our underwear to a good Zeppelin tune. For example.

I’m so insignificant that I don’t appear in a video singing Happy, nor one of me getting ice water dumped on my head. Oh, I have one book out there, and the 89 people who bought it might be cheesed off that I’m dancing around in my undies rather than working on my narrative style, but otherwise, nobody would really care.

Still, despite your fame, you’re no different from the rest of us and once in a while that enzyme that separates rational thought from horny idiocy gets blurred. Everyone has done something dumb in that moment of extreme arousal: sent a picture, had a picture taken, written a sext message that made them physically cringe…after. For example.

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Getting Stuff Done

deskFor the last week I’ve been avoiding my office as though it inhabits walkers. This is because my desk looks like Chernobyl shortly after their “unplanned radiation experiment.” A few days ago, I peeked in and appraised the disaster area. Clothes. Papers. Books. Pens. Wires. Coffee mugs. You name it, it was cluttering my desk. So, like anyone else, I ran back into the living room, downloaded an episode of Morse and made a frozen pizza.

But then, finally, when I knew I couldn’t put it off any longer, I rolled up my sleeves and Googled: How to organize your desk.

As a composition teacher, I spend a lot of time helping students manage time, outline, or organize their work. But this post is about getting things done, not preparing. So as I sit here writing this post, instead of organizing my desk, I don’t feel like a composition teacher. In fact, my advice is going to come off as counterintuitive to almost anything I teach.

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