N-Stage Facebook

I'm ashamed to admit it, but I'm on Facebook. I think it was the post Christmas coma, induced by excessive food and football, that made me susceptible to the virulence of this internet illness. It's been four months since I was infected with Facebook but I fear my case may be terminal. I outline here the progression of my illness as a cautionary tale so that you may avoid a similar fate.

As first, Facebook seems harmless enough -- nothing more than a simple way to re-connect with old friends. It's almost like a game, remembering people that you once knew but were too busy to really keep in touch with. Soon, you're "friends" with all your old college roommates, neighbors, and ward members. You're thrilled! Compiling your acquaintances from the last several years can give you anywhere from 50-100 friends. You had no idea you were so popular ... but apparently you are awesome.

It's this initial realization of e-awesomeness that gets things rolling. Once your Facebook roster is full, the fever becomes hard set, and you start looking through your friends' friends and photos of people you don't know at all. When you run into real people, you ask, "Are you on Facebook?" And then you realized that you're already "friends".

At this point, you realize that you've become septic, because you're actually talking about Facebook in the real world. It even gets so bad that when people ask you how so-and-so is doing, you repeat things that you learned by reading so-and-so's wall -- not by actually talking to them. That's when I realized that I have N-stage Facebook, a chronic condition that can be ameliorated but never cured.

If you can get past the hypnotizing allure of having 100's of "friends", you realize that Facebook is such a strange phenomenon. It boggles the mind that millions and millions of people are documenting their lives in this huge online forum. The sheer weirdness of the thing really hit me during a spate of friend's updating their relationship status' in the last few weeks. People breaking up and getting together all over the place. Am I the only one that thinks this is really weird?


Irony Redux

The day that I canceled-my-credit-cards-just-hours-before-my-wallet-was-returned had even more ironic surprises for me. That morning, out of concern for the lost wallet and identity theft (or at least having to explain to some credit card company employee that I did not, in fact, buy a go cart, a goat, 20 inch rims for my Honda, or whatever it is that identity thieves buy), I woke up early, earlier than that night's sleep should have allowed. Given my fatigue, I threw a warm can of Dr. Pepper from the pantry into the freezer's ice bin. The goal was rapid cooling, so that when I left for work, the can would be prepped for the mid-commute consumption. I was well aware of the potential consequences.

In case you have never frozen your favorite canned and carbonated beverage, let me explain the physics* involved. First Fact: Water is magic. It expands when it freezes. This expansion is what makes ice float. Second Fact: The main ingredient of any soft drink is water. Q.E.D: when you freeze a can of soda, the can will expand. Since the contents are already under the pressure of carbonation...viola, the can may well explode in an icy inferno.

I know this. I've done this. I've gleefully watched it happen to the unsuspecting. I specifically told myself, when I put the can in the freezer, that I needed to remove it before I left for work, or the consequences would be dire.

Imagine my shock and self loathing, then, when I was greeted with the following site when I returned home that night:

Yes, gentle reader. I am an idiot. What you see is indeed frozen Dr. Pepper sprayed everywhere. And I mean EVERY-WHERE: in the gears of the ice maker, all over the frozen vegetables, and the ice cream in the door. As you can see, the poor ice maker took the brunt of it.

And this is what happened to the can:

To be honest, the whole situation was so hilarious that I couldn't even be mad, even though it took probably half an hour to chisel frozen soft drink from my freezer walls. Why wasn't I mad? First: I knew better, and remembered that I knew better, but forgot anyway. And second, how can you be mad at physics? The outcome was inevitable. It's like being mad at gravity. There's no point. And, look at what happened to the can! Isn't that COOL?

*Yes, I oversimplified. If you can endure some nerdiness, here's some thought into exactly what happened with the can.


At first, I was surprised that the can exploded quite so violently and stuck to the walls. I mean, if you freeze a bottle of water, it doesn't explode, it just distends. The key, I think, lies in the combination of sweeteners and carbonation in the soda. The sweeteners lower the freezing point of the water, just like anti-freeze. This means that the can must cool below 32 degrees before much expansion will occur. Most freezers are at 0 F or colder, so no big deal there. What this means, though, is that the liquid is super cold when the can ruptures. When the can finally does rupture from expansion, the carbon dioxide that is dissolved in the water (the carbonation) quickly "boils" out of the water. The CO2 is very anxious to escape because of the additional pressure of expansion. It is this rapid release of gas that sprays the soda everywhere. Finally, as the C02 evaporates, it takes energy with it, leaving the soda even colder than it was in the can. This means that the soda hits the freezer walls as a nearly frozen slush, explaining the artful and rock hard Dr. Pepper all over the freezer.



Ever have a string of bad luck? You know, those times when the fates combine and life just gets weird? Now, I'm not talking about truly bad stuff -- that kind of stuff is just hard. What I'm talking about are the random things that are equal parts irritant and divine humor.

My latest bought started last Tuesday at work. Being last to leave, it was up to me to lock up. I had just armed the door when I realized that my wallet was still on the desk. The alarm system gives you a minute from the time its armed until the door needs to be locked. For that minute, it beeps incessantly like a movie bomb, which really added to the suspense as I rushed back to get the wallet. But I made it! Door locked and wallet retrieved, all without the security guards dispatched.

Several hours later though, I couldn't find the wallet I'd pseudo-heroically retrieved. I didn't think much of it, since wallets usually go AWOL for a few hours at a time, all the time. But Wednesday morning, wallet still missing, I began to wonder if I had imagined the scene from the day before. At work, I still couldn't find the wallet, and after two hours of searching, I decided to face facts that somewhere in the 10 feet from the door and the car, I'd lost it. Resigning myself to fate, I made the call to cancel my cards, and realized that for the next 3 to 5 days, I'd be trying to survive without plastic.

On the phone with the banks, I had this surreal sense that my wallet would be returned only if I canceled my cards. You may think I'm a pessimist, but I'd prefer to think that I have a highly developed sense of irony. Well, my ironic sense was completed vindicated when, less than two hours later, some random guy walked in off the street with my wallet. Contents completely intact.

Oh well, such is life. I guess I'll have to remember how to write a check.

A question to my readers. Should I have given some cash or other reward to the person that returned my wallet? What would you have done?

Why I Live Here

I sometimes wonder why I live in Utah. There are lots of things I don't really like about it: extreme conservatism, poor education funding, night life that shuts down at 10:00, gun nuts, urban sprawl, being part of the religious majority which seems at times to abuse its power, and, well, Utah county in general.

But then, there are times when I remember why it is that I do live here. Yesterday was one of those days. Even though the high was going to be in the 60s, I woke up at 7:00, left at 8:00, and by 9:00 was snowboarding on that famous Utah powder. It was phenomenal -- a cloudless sky, no lift lines, and well groomed runs. And just two days before, on April 10th, I enjoyed one of the BEST powder days all season (and there have been a LOT of good ones this year.)

I love to live in a place that has real seasons, instead of just varying degrees of rain and heat. Partially, I think it comes from growing up in Idaho, where the culture is, at times, still very tied to the land and farming. Don't get me wrong, I didn't grow up on a farm, I grew up in a suburb, but I went to high school with the children of farmers. My friends took a week off of school in the fall for the potato harvest and moved irrigation pipe in the summer. Life for them is inextricably tied to the seasons. Spring for planting, summer for growing, fall for harvest, and winter, well, winter is for snow.

Without the snow, everything else grinds to a halt. At church, we fasted for snow and talked solemnly about the prospect of a wet winter. And I think that's why I tolerate winter, because it's essential. Though I dislike the short days, long nights, and cold as much as anyone, I have to appreciate it. And, if winter really is so important, then I might as well enjoy it.


The Cleaning ... uh .... Person

I work in an office of all men. We are all heterosexual, but we're also well mannered. It's not at all like scout camp. There's no farting, scratching, belching, or jokes about such. We do have a problem, though. We can't keep a cleaning lady for more than a month. Oh, excuse me ... cleaning person. (It just so happens that all our janitorial services have been provided by women.)

We're nice to the cleaning lady. We don't make big messes, we say hi, and we don't make outrageous demands at all. The worse thing she'd ever have to clean up is the chili that someone exploded all over the microwave (wasn't me!) That's why I don't understand why we're on our third cleaning lady in as many months.

The last time I recall a similar track record in driving people away would be the Sunday School instructors of my youth. In that case, however, I completely understand why we went through all those instructors. In fact, I'd say that one of our goals WAS to drive away the teacher. The collective efforts of four or five 12 year old boys at misbehavior would overwhelm Mother Theresa herself. Summarily deposited at a classroom by our parents, we thought we were prisoners of war. The instructors probably thought the same.

The key to most Sunday School insurgency was to "go to the bathroom":

A twelve year old can play outside for hours without any personal evacuations, but sit them down in front of a chalkboard with scripture references, and either his bladder will shrink to the size of a peanut, or he'll say he thirsts like man trapped in the Sahara for weeks. If you make the mistake of letting him out of the classroom, chaos may well ensue. His friends will clamor for similar release, which he'll try to facilitate by ringing the "5 minutes remaining" bell. If this fails, don't be surprised if he runs outside, darting past the window to the delight of his still incarcerated mates. If caught, he'll convince you to detour past the drinking fountain. Don't fall for this trap, his goal is to return to the classroom -- fully laden with cheeks full of water, ammunition for his next attempt at chaos.

I could go on, but sufficeth to say we were terrible. Don't worry, I've no doubt that I'll get my chance to teach Sunday School someday, and justice will be served. I just wonder what we did make the cleaning lady abandon us every few weeks.