The Salad Bar

Worst bar: salad bar

The salad bar is the worst kind of bar.

How did they even get “bar” status in the first place? They have nothing in common with all the other “bars” out there. Most bars serve hard liquor and beer. Wine bars pour wine by the glass. Cocktail bars have hunky actors behind the counter spinning drink shakers, tossing bottles in the air, and groovy Caribbean theme songs. Sounds fun! Salad bars have wilted lettuce, stale croutons, and slime-covered sneeze-guards. Total Debbie Downer!

But what of the clientele? Is that where the similarities begin? Let’s investigate. Lots of “normal” bars attract a vibrant singles scene, where men and women of all types can meet someone they might consider dating or even sexting. The only things attracted to a salad bar are flies, maggots, and the occasional vegan. No one goes to a salad bar to flirt or find romance. You might find a hair in the olives or a booger on the sunflower seed scoop, but no love connection. Clearly, salad bars don’t appeal to the same crowd.

I’ve also noticed that the service is different at a salad bar compared to other bars. Most bars have a bartender, a knowledgable person who can prepare, serve, and effortlessly conduct the monetary transaction for your drink of choice. They are often personable and try to make your experience in their establishment as enjoyable as possible. At a salad bar, things are almost the opposite. No one greets you when you walk in the salad bar. No one knows your name.

From there, it is up to you to find the teetering stack of industrial-grade plates, pick the least dirty one out of the top three, and then belly up to the salad bar to serve yourself. Joy! But remember, you only have a few minutes to fill your plate with all that germ-infested goodness because the plate itself weighs close to 15 pounds and your untoned arm muscles will give out shortly. Once you’ve fingered every fruit and touched every tong, your plate is piled high and you sit down at your table. No waitstaff will ever come refill your water. No busser will ever clear your plate. In fact, if you are still hungry after that first trip, you take your dirty plate back to the salad bar and reinfect it with all your newfound fungi. The circle of life! When it comes time to settle up, you have to track down the one employee who knows how to use the cash register and regurgitate your order to them before you go outside and regurgitate the contents of your stomach. There are no winners at the salad bar. Only losers.

But maybe I’ve got this all wrong. What if we look toward the some other types of “bars” to better understand the salad bar? Dive bars are just a subset of the traditional alcohol-serving bar just with dirtier bathrooms and older, uglier customers. So I guess salad bars have a bit in common with them. Tapas bars serve food and no matter how much you eat you always leave hungry, so salad bars are similar in those ways. Cigar bars smell like rotting flesh inside so there is that. Is it conceivable the salad bar is included in the pantheon of bars for these coincidences?

After this exhaustive inquiry, my original thesis stands. The salad bar is the worst kind of bar. Don’t you agree?

At Length About Toenails

Toenails: Weirdest Body Part Ever

I am baffled by many parts of the human anatomy, but none more so than toenails. They are the strangest part of our bodies. There is nothing out of the ordinary about mine in particular, but the more I think about them, the less I understand.

First off, what are they made of? Translucent cockroach carapace? Albino lobster shell? It’s disgusting. It makes me feel 99% human and 1% insect or crustacean. I’ve heard they are made of dead skin cells which doesn’t make me any happier. I’m walking around with a petrified skin graveyard on each toe and that is supposed to seem natural?

And why do the tops of my toes deserve an exoskeleton but my sensetive nipples remain exposed to the world? I am fleshy “hamburger helper” everywhere else but my toes are covered in shatter-resistant Gorilla Glass™ like they use on iPhones. If toes are that fragile by design, why not just drop them altogether and go with a blunt-ended stump foot like the one that awesome field-goal kicker in the 1970s had?

Do you ever wonder why the toenails cover just the tips and tops of the toes? With all the Looney Tunes cartoons I’ve watched, I would guess humans have been dropping rocks and hammers on our feet for so long that we needed some extra protection down there. But if the body is going to go to all the trouble to grow a thick “skin shield” for your feet, the toenails we ended up with are pathetic. Shouldn’t we have a giant “footnail” that looks like a baseball catcher’s shoeguard? If the Acme Anvil Corporation stays in business and humans continue to evolve, I bet in a thousand years we’ll all be clipping our footnails.

Clipping Toenails

Speaking of clipping toenails, I have a confession to make. In the thirty years I’ve been in charge of trimming my own toenails, I still haven’t figured out how fast they grow. Do I need to trim every three weeks? Two weeks? Do they all grow at the same rate? The big toe seems to be an outlier, growing at cancerous levels, requiring constant monitoring and maintenance. The rest of my toes seem to only need attention once or twice a year. And, truthfully, the pinky toenail is a lot like Pluto. Its entire classification is in jeopardy. Let me put it this way: If a regular-sized toenail is like a hard hat for the toe, my pinky toenail looks more like a bald guy wearing a crystalline yarmulke.

So our toenails grow and we are all clueless about it. What do we do? We weave a special sheath for our feet to protect ourselves (and others) from our razor sharp, out-of-control toenails. Socks are a requirement for nearly every social occasion. Even if we wear shoes, we wear socks so we don’t accidentally destroy them like documents going through a paper shredder at tax-time. And in those rare times when we aren’t socially required to wear socks, the fear of injury or bodily harm dictates that we do anyway.

My wife is terrified my toenails will slice through a main artery in her legs when we sleep in the same bed at night. Apparently, she didn’t realize she married a velocirapter. In fact, this has become the only consistent trigger for recognizing when I am due for a trim. If she wakes up in a pool of blood and has gaping, knife-like cuts across on her shins, I know it is time for me to clip my toenails.

Context-aware Nicknames for Jack the Dog

A dog named Jack

It has almost been a year since my wife and I adopted Jack. Jack is a dog. Jack the dog is a Gordon setter, an active breed traditionally trained to hunt gamebirds. These days, the only thing he gets to hunt are tennis balls out of the brush in our backyard. But he seems to love it and we love watching him work.

Jack came to us with his name. When we found him at the local animal shelter he was already six years old, so we decided to keep the name and not disrupt his life even more by changing it. I will never forget the way he leaped into the back of our Forester on the day I took him home. He was eager for a new life even if he didn’t know exactly what it would entail.

Rachel and I had no idea what we were getting into, really. We had both had dogs growing up, had studied up on some different breeds that we thought would be a good fit for our home, and had watched countless episodes of Cesar Milan “the Dog Whisperer” on tv. But caring for a living being that can’t talk, needs to develop trust, and was abandoned by other people is different and a lot more real.

We had been to the shelter a few times looking for a dog that we could fall in love with. The day we saw Jack on the shelter website we got excited. He was very handsome and the shelter staff spoke highly of his demeanor. From our experience, we knew we had to act fast as he was likely to be adopted quickly–like within hours. Rachel got off work early and we rushed to the shelter to see and meet him.

The whole process of visiting dogs in a shelter and taking one home is insane. It happens so fast. Our paperwork was already on file that day so we were immediately able to go back to where the dogs are kept. We passed by nearly all the kennels with other dogs on our way to find Jack. Some dogs were frightened and curled up at the back of their kennels, remaining quiet, hoping to be left alone. Others were eager to meet a potential new friend and poked their noses and paws through the steel fence gate trying to make contact. A few were howling like mad, disrupting all thought and tranquility, reminding me that this was more like an asylum than an orphanage.

Finally, we found Jack laying quietly in his kennel. Despite the obvious mayhem around him, he had a zen-like meditative appearance. He came up to us when we put a treat out for him, but he did so calmly and on his terms. We said “Hi.” He laid down. Rachel and I looked at each other and I’m sure we both were thinking “How is he so well-behaved amidst this chaos?”

From there, we were allowed to take Jack out for a brief visit in a floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall concrete room for some one-on-one time. We threw a ball and he fetched it. His tail wagged. He would come when I called. It was magical.

After that, I asked if we could take him outside, on a leash, for a walk. There was a short path around the main shelter building for just such a thing. The staff member agreed and we leashed him up and out we went. He was mostly well-behaved on this 5 minute walk, eagerly pulling me to pick up the pace. He seemed perfect in our eyes.

So about 25 minutes after first meeting him we were signing the papers to permanently make him a family member. He really had no idea who we were and we had just this brief encounter and the word of the shelter staff to base our decision on. Again, it is insane. But you know what, we’ve made it work.

Over the last year, he taught us what we needed to know. And what he couldn’t teach us, we’ve tried our best to learn. He still has that same stoic personality. He is not a dog that craves affection. What we once saw as zen and monk-like, we now joke is more akin to an ex-con trying his best to keep his criminal past behind him. Overall, he has been better than we could have ever hoped and his quirks have becoming endearing to us rather than insufferable qualities.

Initially, I was not in love with the name Jack. It was so common, human, and short. But boy was I wrong. Jack is a great name for a dog. Not only does it work by itself, but coupled with my imagination and tendency to use nicknames, it has become the perfect springboard for my creative stylings. In an effort to catalog my lunacy, I present a list of context-aware nicknames I have used for Jack the dog.

Place or Context: Nickname

  • Automobile: Carjacker
  • Plane: Hijack
  • Boat: Captain Jack (Sparrow)
  • Whale Watching Tour: HumpJack (whale)
  • Train: AmJack
  • Casino: Blackjack
  • Alt Comedy Club: Jack Black
  • Watching a Kung-fu Movie: Jackie Chan
  • Quentin Tarantino’s House: Jackie Brown
  • Watching an 80’s movie: Jack to the Future
  • Eating tacos: Pepper Jack
  • Listening to a podcast: Headphone Jack

The First Sext

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The first sext was not erotic in the slightest. It was not sent at 2 am. It was not even a booty call.

The first sext was not a witty pick-up line beamed to space on a cellular network. It was not even transmitted over the Internet.

The first sext was not sent from a man to a woman or vice versa. It was definitely not the work of a horny politician with a sex addiction (although that would come much later).

Shockingly, the first sext did not include a picture of anyone’s genitalia. And despite their popularity nowadays, it was not accompanied by a naked bathroom selfie.

The first sext was delivered by hand, however it was not handwritten.

The first sext was incredibly concise and yet evoked a thousand salacious images.

While I don’t know the exact time or place, the first sext was most likely exchanged in a school from one giggling boy to another. And these boys were almost assuredly nerds. (When the first sext appeared, nerds were still mocked and not super cool Internet Zillionaires like nerds today.)

The first sext was a groundbreaking example of creative expression using the latest technology. The message itself took up nearly the entire screen on which it appeared. Most of these screens were solar powered, so the first sext was likely viewed in daylight or at least under the institutional glow of flourescent lighting.

The first sext did not realize it was a sext for many years, and later modestly stepped down, taking a back seat and letting the cocky new generations express themselves with no clue that it–sitting right back there behind them, fat and bald and wearing a Hypercolor t-shirt and loud green, yellow and red Cross Colours jeans–was the true Originator.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the first sext:

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Remembering the Shiny Disc Wars

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I confess I never used AOL. But there is no denying it was huge. It was a key gateway for a lot of people to access the Internet in the early days of its existence. Talk about a major A-OL.

The biggest reason it was so huge? They had this crazy idea to manufacture CDs by the millions (loaded with their installation software) and mail them to everyone in the US! Did you know there is a group of people who collect these discs now?

I just did some checking and found some mind-blowing stats showing just how big AOL was in its prime.

AOL mailed 660 million disks during this promotional deluge. Keep in mind the population of the US was around 260 million at the time. That is almost 3 discs per person, not just per household!

Now stay with me here, this is where it gets fun. I am saying that way before Netflix, AOL was shipping discs to every city, every street, and every person in the US. No wonder Netflix knew it could be done! They watched AOL do it for years.

At the height of its DVD service, Netflix had almost 20 million customers and 40-50 million discs in its catalog. AOL did it bigger. They had 26 million US customers and hundreds of millions of discs in circulation.

Don’t forget we also had the BMG Music and Columbia House mail-order music clubs around that time. You could get 12 music CDs for the price of one! So did AOL ship more discs than BMG and Columbia House too?

Digging around, it seems the music clubs (BMG and Columbia House) are estimated to have shipped over a billion CDs in their heyday. (Interestingly, I also read that they didn’t properly license the music they were selling until 2006. Ripping off the musician, no real shocker there.) So all told, they rivaled or perhaps surpassed AOL’s reach in terms of discs delivered.

With this info, it seems my old hunch about the post office is clear. In the late 90s, the mail carrier’s job was little more than transporting shiny discs from place to place.