Sunday, June 4, 2017

Book Review: Poundstone's Search for Human Happiness

I started reading humor in earnest about one week after the November 2016 election.

When I came across “The Totally Unscientific Study of the Search for Human Happiness” I hadn't heard about Paula's first book yet, but I was accustomed to hearing her on NPR's Wait, Wait, Don' Tell Me, where she'd advocate for the humane treatment of Twinkies or extol the virtues of the Apple Cinnamon Pop Tart. So I was really excited to get my hands on it. The book, not the Pop Tart.

I won't say that I couldn't put the book down – that would be lying. And besides it's such a pathetic cliché. But I will say that I read the book in record time. And one night, while I was lying on my back in bed, holding the book above me so that I could read it, I picked it right back up again after I dozed off and dropped it on my face. (Note to self, avoid reading hardcover books while lying on back.)

I enjoyed the variety of humor. There's plenty of the self-effacing cracks that you'd expect from a comedian / cat lady. There's also a spot light on the thoughtlessness / stupidity all of us face as we navigate our day-to-day existence. For example, she tells how she needed to sign up online for a class on computers for absolute beginners. And, my favorite, the mental slapstick during her meditation class. All this undergirded by a bizarre unique, out-of-the-box thought process.

There were sections that made me uncomfortable, though. I kept worrying that she would smash the Lamborghini (or that it would get vandalized or stolen) even as I entertained the notion that she had somehow gotten her publisher to reimburse her for the rental fee. And the first “Get Organized” chapter was draining because it hit so close to home. I still remember how tedious and dreadful it was for me to declutter my home office, even though it was more than ten years ago. Personally I think she should've kept the underwear with all the holes in it. I find that “holey” underwear is nice on a hot day. And with global warming, the summers won't be getting much cooler for at least the next dozen or so epochs.

This is one of the few books that I was able to read the Acknowledgments section to completion. In most books, it's a seemingly endless string of shout-outs. But Paula's gratitude is genuine, if, perhaps, swamped with relief over having completed the book. Yet I'm surprised that she did not thank her sixteen cats – they deserve to be acknowledged for not peeing on the computer keyboard, or for not highlighting the file and stepping on the Delete key, before Paula sent the manuscript to the publisher. Or maybe they did, and Paula had a backup copy.

Regardless of intention, I think the book serves just as well as a self-help book as it does entertainment. Obviously the humor provides immediate relief from the doldrums. But then for extended relief, you'll benefit from Paula's findings, three of which are that: 1. Happiness from a fancy car is fleeting; B. Getting a good night's sleep does wonders for your outlook; π. Striving to make others happy brings happiness to yourself. So the book is like that dual-action, 12-hour Mucinex – immediate and long-acting relief.



Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Wednesday Weigh-In 20170531

I've had this incredible urge to drink my homemade sports drink:
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 1/4 cup of white grape juice
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 10 or more ounces of water
I got the recipe from (I think) an issue of Men's Health magazine.

Waist = 41.25"
Height = 5' 9"

References:
  1. Wikipedia BMI page
  2. Tanita Scale with Body Fat monitor
  3. Javascript must be enabled to view the data.

Friday, May 19, 2017

VIMH: Comedy Routine -- "Dworkin"

VIMH stands for "Voices In My Head" -- a new feature in this blog.  Like the "Dream" posts, the content will be from an alternate reality -- day dreams.


All my life, I've had hundreds of significant thoughts every day. But lately my brain has been working overtime on elaborate monologues. Here's one in which I come out on stage to do a stand up comedy routine...

Thank you so much. How many of you have heard my routine before? Just clap if you have? [silence] Anyone? [more silence] Anyone at all? Ah ha, trick question! I actually don't have a routine. I just come out here on stage without any idea what of I'm about to say.
But before I launch into my non-routine, I have a sort of experiment I want to try. See, I used to be an engineer. But after about 25 years it occurred to me how boring it is. I'm still a bit of a gear head, though. I like data, finding patterns, making connections. Lately I'm into studying people named “Dworkin.”
Anyone out there named “Dworkin?” Yes, really? Okay, wow, that's great. Could you stand up please? [house lights gradually turn on] Both of you? Okay! This is exciting. Wow. Wait, hold on, are you female? Have you always been female? So you're married to a Dworkin? Or is that your brother or cousin? Or both? Maybe you married your cousin? Well, could be if you're from Kentucky...
Oh you married a Dworkin? Hmm, I'm not sure this will work. You know, I've never met a female Dworkin before. [looking them over appraisingly] Hmm. Ahh. Interesting. Could you move out into the aisle. I need to get a good look at you.
In the meantime, I'd like to point out to everyone how the house lights turned on. And I didn't even ask for that. That's wonderful. It means we have a great lighting crew here tonight. You know why they're great? They're paying attention, listening to the routine. Or non-routine. They could've just set a timer when I started my set and took a nap. But they didn't do that. They were listening. And then when I started in with the audience participation, they undimmed the lights. They didn't just click them on, blinding everyone. That would've sucked. No they were real artistic about it. [to the crew...] How many of you are there? Just blink the lights to show me. Three? Great. How many of you are male? Two? How many are female? Don't laugh. Ten years ago that would be a joke. Today it's a serious question, unless you're from North Carolina.
[Two Dworkins are standing in the aisle.] A good lighting crew goes unnoticed. A bad one can ruin your evening. Like the time I took my daughter to see her friend's ballet recital. I'm not a fan of ballet. And amateur ballet makes me anxious – I'm afraid someone's gonna fall. Or fart. Or fart after falling. My plan was to wait for the house lights to dim and then close my eyes. But they didn't dim. So if I closed my eyes, those girls on stage would see that I had my eyes closed. Maybe one would get upset and fall. Or fart. Even if I wanted to watch the performance like a normal fan, the glare from the lights was giving me a headache. Finally, after intermission, someone dimmed the lights.
[Two Dworkins are still standing in the aisle.] The point is, I'm not the only one working tonight. But I'm the one you're clapping for. Or heckling. The unseen performers that are here tonight are just as deserving of your adoration. There's the lighting crew. The folks doing audio; without them I'd be [moving lips as if talking] like an idiot. Security, too. They're out there, somewhere, packing a whole lot of heat, so don't get any ideas. Someone's got a finger on the thermostat too, making sure we're comfortable. And you wondered why you had to pay 30 bucks to get in. At least most of you paid. And I get only two dollars out of that.
So let's give our unsung heroes a round of applause.
[Two Dworkins are still standing in the aisle. Finally I notice them.] Hello there? What are you two doing standing there? Are your hemorrhoids giving you that much trouble? You do have tickets, don't you? Well then sit down! Otherwise I'll have to call Security.
Wait hold on. You 're not named “Dworkin” are you?

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

One of My Favorite TV Scenes

Thought you'd like to know, this is one of my favorite scenes from a current television series...


Sunday, April 30, 2017

Can't Get Here From There

Whenever I hear journalists discuss Syrian refugees, they usually mention how Turkey and Greece are overwhelmed by the huge number of people, followed by a plea for cities in Europe and USA and even Australia to allow more immigrants.  But I never hear about refugees going to the wealthy middle eastern states of Saudi Arabia (20.5), Qatar (73.7), Kuwait (29.3), UAE (40.4)1.  Why?  A busload of Syrians can travel from Aleppo to Riyadh in less than one day.

It makes me think the “Muslim Invasion Theory” is real.

Distance from Aleppo to Riyadh: 1570km (20.5)
Distance from Aleppo to New York City: 9000km (56.1)
Distance from Aleppo to Paris: 3145km (36.4)


1The numbers in parentheses are the GDPs per capita in thousands of US dollars of the respective countries, according to the World Bank: http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.PCAP.CD

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Wednesday Weigh-In 20170427

Okay, how do I not eat the ice cream, chips and Nutella before I go to bed?

Waist = 41.0"
Height = 5' 9"

References:
  1. Wikipedia BMI page
  2. Tanita Scale with Body Fat monitor
  3. Javascript must be enabled to view the data.