Dec 31, 2006

On Gift Cards

I sometimes wonder about the recent proliferation of gift cards as an acceptable form of gifting. Where, exactly, does it lie in the food chain of presents? The cash gift is, of course, at the bottom - it's either the gift from the generous aunt or uncle or grandparent that believes that you'd know best what you want, and should buy it yourself, or it's the hasty gift from the friend who forgot about your birthday until approximately ten minutes ago. Normal gifts fall higher up, more or less, depending on how personalized the gift is. College apparel? Not so high. Book relating to inside joke or personal experience with letter written inside to the receiver? Much higher.
So, the gift card. One one hand, it's probably better than cash - at least the giver thought about where you frequently shop, and/or where you'll soon spend money. On the other hand, if they're giving you essentially money, then wouldn't it be more considerate just to hand you the money and let you use it where you most need it? But what if the point of the gift card is that you won't utilize the money to buy groceries? What if the point is that the money has already been spent at the GAP, and you now have the choice of exactly which luxury to squander it on? Perhaps the real meaning of the gift card is for you to not feel guilty about spending money somewhere where you wouldn't normally spend it.
It has, after all, already been spent.

Dec 22, 2006

On Tea

I had a bad dream last night. I had (somehow) programmed together a world where the seasons actually changed (this was a main design feature), yielding ice that formed and melted, temperatures that changed, differing day lengths - the works. I was extremely proud of myself.
The people who lived in my world weren't quite so happy. Instead of it being the idyllic, peaceful community I had envisioned, things began to go awry. There were attacks, killings. Eventually, even the cops cracked under the pressure of their charges being murdered, one by one, and began to perceive everyone as a threat, slaughtering indiscriminantly as well.
Every time a murderer hunted, I was there, watching him stalk his prey ruthlessly, and I wondered what was wrong with my world, that people had to do such things.
Every time someone snapped, I was there, watching their mind and their body as two separate incarnations of themself, and watching the former convince the latter to do terrible things.
And every time an innocent person had a gun pointed at them and the trigger pulled, I was there, looking out through their eyes, wondering why it had to be me, and sobbing at the unfairness of it all.
Finally, it was spring. The ice was melting. The last few inhabitants of the town were either dead or dying, having shot each other in a horrific encounter only moments earlier, and the air was once again silent, save only for a piteous moan from one of the wounded, and the flowing, gushing sound of the small, newly thawed waterfall.
I woke, yes, with a start, and lay in bed for a few minutes, clutching my comforter, which wasn't living up to its name nearly as much as I needed at that moment. There was no one nearby to hold me, nothing to give me solace from my own mind.
I looked at the time - it was 6:23 am. My mother had to be awake, at least, by now - she had to be at work at something like 7:30. I went downstairs, and while in the sink lay a used mug, by the stove waited the rest of the pot of tea my mother had made.
She had left for work already, so the tea was mine - I poured myself a cup, and sat down at the computer, ready to record the unsung fate of my ethereal world.

Dec 20, 2006

On Returning Home

You're not surprised by the things that you expect when you return home after a long time. For example, walking into my house, and putting my backpack and guitar down seemed perfectly normal - I've done that hundreds of times after school.
But the doorknobs...the doorknobs threw me off. At Penn the doorknobs are all either handles or large globe-like constructions. The doorknobs at home are round, small, and flat. Also, my dogs smell (expectedly) faintly of dog, although I think that after less than 24 hours, I'm already used to the smell again.
It's the small things that get you - when you're not thinking about something and then it's different. I realized this when I reached into our cabinet for a bowl, and the big bowl and the small bowls and the plates were all exactly how I'd left them - but how easy would it have been for them to be different? I would have been completely derailed. Like when I reached into the kitchen drawer for a slip of paper from the pad that was usually there, but was now expended, the cardboard backing long since disposed of.
But still, when I look around and see the remnants of the paper on the kitchen table, the pages folded open to the crossword and sudoku puzzles, and a few scattered squeaky toys on the floor for my dogs, and the pot with the dregs of the tea from this morning idling in the kitchen, I realized that, thankfully, some things never change.

Dec 17, 2006

On Simultaneousness

There's something about the word "simultaneously" that conjures up an impression of immense skill. The implication that not only can one do something, but can do it twice at the same time is staggering: eat two sandwiches...simultaneously! Bounce two basketballs...simultaneously! Write a paper and talk on the phone...simultaneously! Play two trumpets...simultaneously! Anyone who can do two things that require a reasonable amount of skill simultaneously can pretty much boast that not only do they have an amount of skill equal to the two combined, but can actually multiply the two skill levels together, and put that on their resume. I'd hire them.

On Sitting

I can't just sit. I have to sit in some strange, contorted position, else I feel uncomfortable. For example, on a couch, I typically sit sideways across the arms. I was just reading a book for an extended period of time on a couch, and while I started out sitting upright, I went through gradual phases and ended up swiveled around 180 degrees so that my feet were dangling over the back somewhere, and my head was next to one of the armrests.
Same thing with chairs - just "sitting" is so bland. I have to sit cross-legged or cross one leg over the other, or at least cross my feet.
The same thing happens with laying down. If I'm trying to go to sleep, I can't just lay on my back with my arms by my side and my legs straight out. I always feel somewhat dead when I do that.
You can learn a lot about someone by how they sit. There are the open leg sitters: those ones who always look like they're leaning forward, their arms resting on their somewhat spread apart legs, doing something (anything) intently. Then there are those who will put their arms on the seat back of anyone who's close by. That always somewhat unnerves me: did they sit by me on purpose so they could do that? What if I wanted to do that myself? I can't lean back now - that would result in contact between my neck and their arm - completely awkward.
There are, of course, those who don't sit. They just won't: "Oh, do you want to sit down?" - "No thanks, I'm fine", even though they're not going anywhere. It's as though they want to make sure they can manage a quick escape, should the situation require it.
Arms are troublesome appendages; they always get in the way when sitting, especially if there's nothing to be done with them. If there's no food, no coffee, no tea, no hand to hold, no video game to play...what do you do with them? They just awkwardly idle about - there should, instead, be some sort of way to retract your arms when they're not in use, or, conversely, some accepted social practice of ways to link your arms the person sitting next to you in these types of situations. Instead, people check their cell phones, play with their keys...anything to keep their arms busy.