The Great Smokeout

We had a problem with our neighbors: smoking. It's a non-smoking building, so we had the right to complain. I've never lived in a building like this, but when the person downstairs from us fired up a cigarette, it was not a subtle smell. With no exaggeration, I can tell you that it smelled as if the person was sitting next to me on my couch smoking a cigarette. My bedroom smelled like a 90's bar. We complained (to them personally several times, then managment) and they stopped smoking. There was a bit of a language barrier so it took a week or so, but they stopped in the end. But now they've taken to cooking at 2am. It's the oddest thing. My bedroom smells like a Chinese restaurant. I doubt they're doing it intentionally to get back at me, but if they are, well played. It's not like I can complain about someone's cooking late at night.

People Here Understand Me Better

I moved to Chicago about three weeks ago. A lot has changed. One of them — people understand me better. I used to pop into Starbucks at 7th Ave and Grove street a couple times a week to pick up a large iced coffee on my way to work. I always order a "Venti iced coffee" (I speak their silly coffee language when I have to), and then I wait until they say "sweetened or unsweetened." I drink my hot coffee without sugar, but I like the milkshake quality of sweetened iced coffee. But, since I'm a Midwesterner at my core, I'm compelled to fill every vacant moment in my speech with "Uhhhhh." So when they ask, in spite of myself, I always say, "Uhhhh, sweetened." I never once got a sweetened coffee in New York. All they ever heard was "Uhhhhnsweetened." But here, it hasn't been an issue.

The Great Thing About Kids

There are a lot of great things about having kids, I'm sure, but the one I'm enjoying most right now is that I can wear my old shirts that have stains. That one button-down with the grease stain on the side from carrying a box of pizza like a football? It's back in the mix. Any shirt I put on will end up with drool and strange spit-up on it. There's no point in fighting it. Embrace the stains. Another great thing about having a kid? If I stay out too late at the bar and look like I've been run over by taxi the next day I have a built in excuse: "The kid had a rough night." Sure, they think I'm telling them that my child didn't sleep well the night before, but that kid always sleeps great; I'm referring to my fantasy football team "The Kid" losing their asses in the late game while I stay up and watch.

iPhone Gone Phishing

I’ve received several phishing texts the last few days. A text from a number in Ohio or Florida arrives telling me that my lost iPhone has been found, and that I should go to iCloud and login to get it back. It provides a helpful iCloudish-looking link, but it’s not a real iCloud link; it sends you to a mockup of the iCloud site that collects your username and password and then steals your contact list, forwards the same text to them, and then does I’m-not-sure-what-with the reminder of your personal info on iCloud. Maybe the people behind the phishing attack look for incriminating photos or emails and then blackmail you. Since the text came to me, I’d guess that one of my friends received it and had their contact list that i was on stolen. But I haven’t heard from whoever fell for it. Is it you? Perhaps there’s something you’d like to get off your chest?

Captcha: Human vs. Robot

It’s surprising things don’t break more often on the internet. After all, it’s made of billions of lines of code and run on computers around the world. Things should go wrong a lot more often. Though I suppose they do and I don’t always hear about it. One thing that went awry decades ago was the creation of Captcha, a tool website developers use to ensure that humans are interacting with their websites, as opposed to malignant bots bent on global destruction. Captcha is at best an inelegant solution to this problem, but that’s not what bothers me—what I hate most is that I can’t tell the difference between a 0 and an O or an I and a 1. So, for example, the Captcha “IR0NY” would drive me insane. And besides, if the robots ever do rise, I hope we’re working on a better defense than Captcha.

Jersey Shore Air Guitar

I saw a band at the Jersey Shore on a recent holiday weekend at a bar that was described to me as "where the locals hangout." I don't remember their name, but I remember that below their name on their banner it said, "Rock and Roll with Fiber." They were okay. I didn't refuse to sign the email list their drummer handed me, but I did give him my Yahoo address. Their guitar player was very good, but unfortunately for him, our friend Jen turned out to be a much better air guitar player. She received a lot of attention from men with backwards, upside-down visors on their heads during her solo. I was happy for her, though I had to wonder what they guitar player, who was standing only a couple feet away from her, thought about all the attention she was getting.

Cyclist Crackdown

There's a crackdown on cyclists this week in New York. Police are lining up by the Citibike racks near Penn Station and along the Avenue bisected by bike lanes and grabbing red light runners. Literally grabbing them. They run alongside for a few steps and then bear hug them. I've never been given a ticket for running a red light, and I run them all the time. Not blindly, that's idiotic, but I'll stop or slow down enough to see if any cars or bikes or pedestrians are coming, and if the coast is clear I'll ride through. I'm not sure what kind of lunatic would stand and wait at a red light for no reason. Today, as as social experiment, I counted how many red lights I went through on my way to work. Seven. That's a safe average. Considering I've done that every work day for years you think I'd get caught. I haven't, but I know a lot of people who have been. One thing they all have in common? They're young women or very small men. Here's my hypothesis. Police, while they're supposed to protect and serve and all that, all have a primary objective: Self preservation. So when they're told to go out and issue tickets for something stupid, who are are they going to go after — small people who don't present much of a threat, or tall 200-pound bearded men? Now if my hypothesis is true, then I have an unfair advantage when it comes to life as a cyclist, but what should I do to level the playing field? Turn myself in to the police? Offer to pay part of the tickets of my friends? I think instead I'll try to buy cyclists who get arrested a drink. It's not much, but if all of us big cyclists try to do it, it'll snowball to the point where we definitely create at least a few small drunken cyclists.

Passion for Dishwashing

I was looking into some freelance copywriting work for a company that has restaurants in airports, so I did five minutes of research on their site. I lost track of how many times they used the word "passion." It was built into every aspect of their brand from their core principles (1. Passion 2. Integrity 3. Something else) to their website map. Most of their job openings were for dishwashers. Maybe a few link cooks. It reminded me of the book The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway. There's a scene where the protagonist Jake discusses the passion of certain bullfighters with his fellow aficionados. They agree this new bullfighter has the passion lacking in so many others. Bullfighters lack passion. These are guys who go into a tiny ring to battle a huge bull by waving around a tablecloth and fondue fork. And experts on the topic agree that some of them lack passion. I've never once worried about the passion level of the dishwasher. And more, I hope they don't have passion for washing dishes. That would be sad. I hope they see dishwashing as first step towards a real passion. And I hope whatever their passion is, it's not creating a brand position that demands so much passion of such meaningless tasks.