Jul 30

So, this is how you do it. First, it rings. You don’t really have any part in this. It either rings or it doesn’t. Well, you can force somebody to call you. But then it takes away the whole surprise element of receiving the call in the first place, plus, you will seem pretty uncool. So back to my instructions. The phone rings. You pick up the receiver. My grandparents found this very difficult. They thought phones without a cord had an appearance akin to a walkie-talkie, and they answered it accordingly (HA HA, a-CORD-ingly, as in telephone cords, those things telephones had in my grandparents’ day before the dawn of cell phones). In other words they held the section that should be next to your ear as if it were the mouthpiece and talked into it. Nobody ever talked back. Don’t make this mistake; ensure you answer the phone in such a manner that some section of the phone lies in the vicinity of your ear. This will enhance your communicative success rate by at least 75%. After you place the phone in its proper place on the side of your head so that you can speak and listen, and so that it meets ergonomic requirements for head and neck comfort, you should produce a verbal utterance. “Hello” is commonly accepted. “Goodbye” is funnier. It’s also the standard usage according to Philip K. Dick’s science-fiction universe in “Counter-Clock World.” After saying hello, you may notice you like the sound of your voice and continue to talk. This is not proper phone etiquette. You instead wait for the caller to respond and express his or her justification for his or her call. Listen skeptically and judgmentally. There is usually some fault you can find with his or her answer. For example, if a “friend” is “just calling to say hello,” it is standard to follow with an accusation such as, “Well, you already said that!! Why are you still on the line?!” Then slam the phone down. But remember proper phone etiquette; make sure to say “goodbye” first. (Or “Hello,” if you like Philip K. Dick.) Another phone call excuse that should instantly put you on suspicious guard is a caller who is in any way friendly. A friendly caller is called a “solicitor.” He or she is not your friend. If your caller sounds friendly, slam the phone down as suggested above. Then change your number, change your name, and move to another city, preferably another state, and just to be safe, maybe another country. You might also want to change your haircolor. You may choose a brand that covers gray.

To subscribe to my free* pamphlet, “Answering the Phone Only Looks Easy,” please send your check or money order in the mail. And please send it to me. Not a solicitor. Solicitors are not your friends. But I am.

*Nothing is free in life. Get used to it.

–Troi out

Jul 16

Dear Readers,

These days, it’s not enough to have preferences, or to express them verbally. No, these days you don’t actually own your predilections until you’ve publicly proclaimed your preference via our society’s newest communicative modality, facebook. This phenomenon is reflected in the following conversation that has surely not been embellished as my readers have come to expect my fact-driven journalistic integrity as a cornerstone of my posts:

Me: Hey Ricardo, would you like my newest blog post, please?

Ricardo: Um, I do like it. I like it, Troi, it’s good.

Me: No, I mean “like” it. Click the “like” button. It’ll show up on facebook, and other people will “like” it too.

Ricardo: I don’t understand why I have to press a button to prove that I like your post.


The idea, I explained to Ricardo once I’d taken my medication and restored my sense of calm, is simple. People like to operate under the misconception that we’re unique beings. We create our very own unique facebook page, which looks uncannily like everybody else’s unique facebook page, and then we further establish our autonomy by identifying our unique sets of interests, which we demonstrate by liking those interests on our public facebook forum. We are disconcerted as we notice 5,357,922 other people, 5,357,921 of which are our facebook friends, share these same interests, so we keep clicking, sure that nobody else likes “losing their balance and falling over, but then getting back up again and looking around to make sure nobody noticed, and nobody did notice, so, like, cool!” but it turns out, damn it, that everybody has fallen over and nobody likes to be caught falling over, and maybe we should create a page about not falling over, and we can be the first to stand up straight and like it, too.

Ricardo: That doesn’t sound simple at all. Also, you talk too fast.

Let me put this another way. My old church pastor, Friedrich Nietzsche, used to preach about the idea of the herd mentality. The herd mentality comes from the root word “herd,” meaning, “Dude, I herd you were doing this, I like, totally want to do it too!” and the root word “mental,” as in, “Alright, man, but we’re, like, totally mental for trying this–it’s SO crazy, dude!” The herd mentality refers, then, to the idea that no matter how crazy a particular activity seems, people can be persuaded to participate in it if there are enough people already doing it. Ergo, (Yes! Cross off “using the word ‘ergo’ in a blog post” from my bucket list!) if one member of the human herd likes one of my previously undesirable blog posts, it follows that other humans will experience a higher likelihood of similarly tolerating the post.

Ricardo: Wait—-I don’t think Nietzsche was your church pastor—-

I didn’t hear Ricardo say this during our conversation, of course, as he said it over the phone and didn’t post it as a status update, our socially-accepted medium for stating one’s spontaneous thoughts, opinions, and rebuttals.

Since Ricardo has not yet liked my post, I arrive at the inevitable conclusion that he, and perhaps many of you, have not become fully acquainted with the practice of liking things, having previously engaged in the formerly acceptable practice of expressing your opinions in the form of a verbal comment. While I have not personally engaged in the practice of liking (I find it to be dull and derivative, whereas I find writing entire blog posts about it to be refreshing and fun!), I have witnessed others who are bonified experts at liking all sorts of things and can offer you a step-by-step guide of the process.

STEP 1: Find something you like.

STEP 2: Don’t say you like it! This is a classic newbie mistake. Instead, search for a small tab with an “F” near the thing that you like. This is the Facebook “like” button. This is what you use to convey your preference to others.

STEP 3: Place your hand, palm down, onto your mouse, move the pointer onto the facebook tab, and click so that you can show all of your friends what you like.

A typical question I get asked when I am traveling the globe, from NE Portland all the way to SW Portland, to train herd members in perfecting their facebook preferences, is what one should do when one likes something that does not have the designated preference-expressing facebook button available.

“I really like my piano,” one naive student said to me the other day, “How do I show that I like it?”

“No you don’t,” I explained. “Remember, if it’s not on facebook, it doesn’t exist.”

“But I really like my piano,” she insisted, “I feel strongly that I should be able to let people know I like it!”

I gave her an “F” —-and that doesn’t stand for “Facebook.” Some people just aren’t ready to embrace the communicative restrictions placed on us by technological advances.

So, Readers, I hope that you have appreciated your lesson, and if you have, don’t forget to show it by liking this post.

–Troi out

*My apologies to my good friend Ricardo, for having grossly altered our conversational exchange without obtaining his prior permission. If Ricardo would like to express any qualms regarding this matter, it is requested that he do so using established societal norms by writing of his displeasure on my wall.

Jul 14

Dear Readers,

Those of you who are fans of my earlier works, “Trying to charge my videocamera with my cell phone charger,” “Vacuuming up my cell phone charger,” and “Running over my Ray Ban sunglasses with my car,” will be thrilled to discover my latest installment, “Plugging my videocamera into my computer using the wrong cord.” Please note the following conversation that was, thankfully, overheard by none:

Troi: My computer isn’t recognizing my videocamera. I can’t import my video footage. This is the end of the world as we know it.

Friend: Did you plug it in using the firewire cable? That is the correct cable.

Troi: I used the first cable I could find that had an end that fits into the camera and another end that fits into the computer. This is how the pros do it.

Slightly Exasperated Friend (SEF): What does the cable look like?

Troi: It looks like a fork thingy.

SEF: That’s your problem. That’s a USB cable. You need the firewire cable—-the one that looks like a Y.

Troi (escalating into typically dramatic agitation): All of my cables look like forks! This is the end of the world as we know it!! How can I live if living is without a cable that looks like a —oh wait, here it is. This is the cable I need to plug in? Cool, thanks.

SEF: No problem. Except, you really need to learn the difference between a USB cable and a firewire cable. You call me about this same problem every week.

Later over dinner, as I profusely apologized for my weekly calls regarding the ambiguity of computer cables and my general inability to independently solve simple technical problems without a step-by-step tutorial from my friend, he assured me that, while I’m surely not the brightest crayon in the box (although everybody agrees I’m about as bright as a crayon), there are those crayons who didn’t even make it into the box. One such crayon grew increasingly frustrated a few years back as my friend told her that she needed to move her mouse to the designated link and click.

“It’s not working,” she bemoaned to my friend over the phone as he attempted long-distance technical assistance.

“Well, what are you doing?” he asked calmly, having developed extraordinary patience during similar interactions with me.

“I’m putting the mouse on the computer screen, and then I’m clicking, just like you said!” she replied, as she touched, not the mouse pointer, but her entire mouse to the screen.

I’m proud to report I’ve never done that.

The moral of this story is obvious, but if you’re not smart enough to identify the difference between a USB and a firewire cable, you might miss it. Allow me therefore to proclaim my moral plainly: If you want to appear smart, do not confess your brainless blunders on your public blog site.


–Troi out

Jul 11

Dear Readers,

“Excuse me Mister, in which aisle can I find the drinks that will simultaneously induce kidney, liver, and heart failure?”

For every five hundred reasonable coffee drinkers out there, there exists a hater who professes not to partake of this sweet caffeinated nectar. Of these outliers, some claim to appreciate the taste of tea, a pallid beverage made from soaking twigs or pine needles or whatever in hot water. While they appreciate the goodness of caffeine, tea drinkers are not to be entirely trusted. They have been known to exhibit suspicious behaviors such as drinking out of a miniature cup, raising their pinky daintily as they sip their anemic elixir, and consuming microscopic scones and miniature triangular-shaped egg salad sandwich wedges. One can only wonder what these tea drinkers are hiding behind that raised little finger.

While these tea drinkers are unusual, they are generally considered safe. Typically, tea drinkers make good friends. They demonstrate a remarkable ability to sit or stand in one spot without twitching for extended periods of time, they use a standard speech rate that doesn’t sound like a recording played in fast-forward mode, and best of all, they fall asleep at night, thus contributing to their pleasant demeanors.

While you need not fear the tea drinkers, Readers, you need to be aware of the dangers of those persons who drink neither our decadent staple known as coffee nor its diluted alternative known as tea. These persons belong to a third caffeinated category. They are known only by the name of energy drinkers.

Energy drinkers are a superhuman species that have evolved as their bodies have adapted to previously toxic levels of blood caffeine content (a 16 oz can of Red Bull contains 160 mg of caffeine) as well as the energizing and athletic-enhancing addition of the nonessential amino acid taurine. Energy drinkers are the rock stars of any party, outlasting even the most hard-core coffee drinkers. Due to their amped up nature, however, energy drinkers can be real monsters when crossed, and they’ll fully throttle you if you give them any red bull sh**.

While an energy drink is generally considered safe in limited quantities, some research indicates its blend of caffeine and taurine puts energy drinkers at risk for potentially harmful side effects related to changes in heart rate and blood pressure. For this reason, energy drinkers are encouraged to limit their intake to one drink a day. Combining their energy drink with alcohol (such as the ever popular red bull & vodka or the “jager bomb” –rock star energy drink mixed with jagermeister–) is also a poor idea, as it can lead to cardiovascular risk and shortness of breath, among other risks.

Remember, Readers, whether you’re a coffee, tea, or energy drinker, your pursuit of good caffeine is admirable. And don’t forget that regardless of which beverage you choose, you’re wrong, unless you choose coffee.

–Troi out