Saturday, January 15, 2011

All Grown Up?

Welp, I'm back safe and sound back in old Chi-town. Back in my apartment, back on campus, and back to "normal" life, or whatever the post-abroad equivalent of that could be. I've been told that I'll get Romesick at some point in the very near future, if I'm not already. So far so good on that front for me, but as things start dialing up, the chance for me to pine for the past will only become easier. Chicago winters are brutal, and when it gets cold and after I've worked for eight hours a night for three days on the newspaper and have an essay to write, I don't want to go down to pick up my Thai food, let alone go adventuring or make an effort to hang out with people. And keeping up with the fast-paced lifestyle of Rome is one thing I'm counting on to keep the Romesickness at bay.

The newspaper starts tomorrow night, and I'm now the head editor with two assistants instead of me and another co-editor for an editor-in-chief who simultaneously doubles as an ass who thinks everyone else is wrong and my roommate. School starts again Tuesday. Rent is due soon. And weirdly enough, all this isn't complaining about any of it. Instead, all this hitting me has just made me feel adult-ish. I only have a year and a half before graduation, I know a couple people who were just in college who are getting married and pregnant (in that order), and I semi should sort of come up with some sort of inkling of what to do come next May.

But by God, I won't let it get me yet.

That's part of the reason I came up with last week's list. I'm a somewhat sedentary individual by nature, but I got a glimpse of the active lifestyle while abroad, and I won't let myself forget that. So I'm going to try hard to make sure I get out and treat Chicago like a vacation - experience as much as I can, go places I haven't been, and do it with friends.

And on that note, here is this week's radio playlist. It was my first show back since early August, and it definitely showed, but all part of getting into the swing of things. I wanted this to be a longer post, but I was kind of tired after watching Steve Wiebe from "King of Kong" try to break the world record in Donkey Kong, and am running a little late to my Super Mario Bros. burlesque show.


John Legend and the Roots - Our Generation (The Hope of the World)
BOAT - We Want It! We Want It!
The Dandy Warhols - All the Money Or The Simple Life Honey
Dogs Die in Hot Cars - Lounger
Tokyo Police Club - Your English Is Good
Presidents of the United States of America - Sharpen Up Those Fangs
Neutral Milk Hotel - Holland 1945
The Asteroids Galaxy Tour - Around the Bend
CAKE - Jolene
The Apples in Stereo - Dream About The Future
Skybox - Light
The Specials - Pressure Drop
Hollerado - Juliette
Rotary Downs - Wild Pink In Super 8
Flobots - Handlebars


List update:

14: Learned to play "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" and "Fuck You" by Cee Lo Green on the ukulele (2/10)
19: Added lots of songs after a radio show (10085/18000)

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Best Laid Plans...

I thought I had it all figured out, I really did. I thought I could outsmart the internet.

No, not even something as silly as that*. I was merely trying to predict the internet.

*The internet has Wikipedia, the source for 95% of my knowledge, so auto-win there.

You see, on January 5th, I was standing upon not one, but two precipes. Precipi. Two things. Fuck you.

Anyway, I had two milestones in my sights: I was four people away from 50 followers, and the next day would be my one-year blog anniversary. And by damn, if I was going to reach one, I was going to reach the other, and have a glorious blog post about it as well. First, to push my readership up a notch, I not only dusted off a winning blog post that I had been semi-working on for more than six months, but also did the whorey POST ON EVERY SINGLE GROUP EVER ON TWENTY SOMETHING BLOGGERS thing (which, I'll be real, I've done a couple times). Then I brainstormed all sorts of different and momentous posts for my one year, and came up with some decent enough stuff.

Then I waited.

And waited.

And waited.

I, being in Hawaii, didn't have tons of time to write a bunch, in part because I finally bought a ukulele and was jamming on it until the wee hours of the morning, so I was kind of putting off writing it until I got magical number 50. And, though I did in fact reach it (and am at 51 at last check), it didn't happen until super early on the 7th.

I got greedy, and I paid the price.

So, to mark all of these things, I decided to take a couple days to work on a little something that I'm sure many of you bloggers have no doubt come upon before:

100 Goals in 1001 Days

The Mission: Complete 101 preset tasks in a period of 1001 days.

The Criteria: Tasks must be specific (i.e. no ambiguity in the wording) with a result that is either measurable or clearly defined. Tasks must also be realistic and stretching (i.e. represent some amount of work on my part).

Why 1001 Days? Many people have created lists in the past - frequently simple goals such as New Year's resolutions. The key to beating procrastination is to set a deadline that is realistic. 1001 Days (about 2.75 years) is a better period of time than a year, because it allows you several seasons to complete the tasks, which is better for organizing and timing some tasks such as overseas trips or outdoor activities.

My first ever post was one about New Year's Resolutions, nearly all of which failed miserably. So this year I wanted to do something a little different. By giving myself a list of things that I wanted to do, a long time frame to accomplish it, and a blog with which I can record what I do, when I do it, I can take small steps improve myself without tons of pressure and a small degree of accountability. I maintain the right to change any of these, mainly because I'm in college and 20 and shit can change quickly and unpredictably. I will not, however, change any of them to be easier to accomplish.

Today is Monday, January 10, 2011, giving me until October 7, 2013 to accomplish the following 101 things:


1. Go abroad again
2. Go to Mardi Gras
3. Go on a road trip
4. Go to a place in the U.S. that I had never visited before
5. Plan a dream trip somewhere, complete with research and logistics


6. Go to Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo
7. See all the major museums in Chicago (0/5)
8. Shedd, Science and Industry, Art Institute, Contemporary Art, Adler, Chicago History, Field
9. Be in Chinatown for the Chinese New Year
10. See a show at the Chicago Theater
11. Go to the Skydeck at the Sears (NOT WILLIS) Tower
12. Go to the Chicago Outdoor Film Festival
13. Ride the CTA holiday train


14. Learn to play 10 songs on the ukulele (0/10)
15. Learn to play 10 songs on the bass (0/10)
16. Learn to play 10 songs on the piano (0/10)
17. Set aside half an hour every day to play/practice music
18. See an orchestra perform
19. Reach 18,000 songs on my iTunes library (9,887/18,000)


20. Establish a workout plan, and stick to it for 3 months straight (0/3)
21. Take a martial arts class
22. Floss every day for a month
23. Brush 3x a day for two weeks
24. Go to bed before 11pm for one week


25. See a midnight showing of Rocky Horror Picture Show
26. Take a photography class/make an effort to learn the basics
27. Watch all of the Best Picture nominated films each year
2011 – (0/10)
2012 – (0/10)
2013 – (0/10)
28. Attend 2 live improv performances (0/2)
29. Attend 3 plays (0/3)
30. Sneak into a movie
31. Go to 10 concerts (0/10)
32. Watch every Pixar movie in the span of one month (0/11 – as of Sat, Jan. 8)


33. Finish writing about my time abroad
34. Update layout of my blog twice (0/2)
35. Blog every day for a week 3 times (0/3)
36. Have someone guest post
37. Reach 100 followers (50/100)


38. Take a cooking class
39. Make a pie from scratch
40. Finally try Kansas City’s own Boulevard Beer
41. Be able to make my dad’s chili sans recipe
42. Invent 3 recipes (0/3)
43. Go out to a nice restaurant by myself
44. Eat only homemade meals for an entire week
45. Make a pitcher of sangria
46. Make sushi
47. Be a vegetarian for one week
48. Make gnocchi from scratch
49. Eat the following types of food: Italian, Thai, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Indian, Ethiopian, French, Vietnamese, Greek, Mexican, Cajun, Barbecue


50. Graduate college
51. Attend grad school OR be in a job within my preferred profession OR partake in a youthful “search for self”
52. Get a library card
53. Read at least one book a month
54. Write at least 6 articles for another newspaper section (0/6)
55. Write 5 (real, snail mail) letters to 5 people who have changed my life (0/5)
56. Plan an outing/trip (day or otherwise) with each sibling (0/2)
57. Send 5 “just because” gifts (0/5)
58. Volunteer 6 times (0/6)
59. Stand up for myself in a meaningful way
60. Finish a New York Times crossword puzzle without cheating
61. Re-read 5 books that were childhood favorites (0/5)
62. Be able to name every U.S. President in order
63. Build something (like with tools and whatnot)
64. Keep the sink dish-free for 1 week
65. Plan and/or throw a party
66. Learn how to change a tire
67. Attend a service in a Lutheran church in Chicago
68. Make out in/otherwise defile somewhere random/scandalous/unusual
69. Meditate/reflect for 15 minutes per day for a week
70. See a Blackhawks, Bulls, Bears, White Sox, Cubs, Royals, Chiefs, and Nebraska game
71. Be known by name at my local comic book store


72. Perform something in front of a live audience (stand-up, reading, music, etc)
73. Carry a thoughts journal with me to write down ideas
74. Keep a list/book of inspirational, funny, or otherwise meaningful quotes
75. Write 4 works of fiction that I am proud of (0/4)


76. Go fishing
77. Go camping
78. Drive to the middle of nowhere to look at stars
79. Watch the sun rise and set in the same day
80. Go scuba diving
81. Hike up a mountain


82. Wear a moustache for a full day
83. Make a wish at 11:11 on 11/11/11
84. Flesh out a full and comprehensive Zombie Apocalypse plan for Chicago residence
85. Make a mix CD and leave it somewhere for someone random to find
86. Play laser tag
87. Leave a huge tip for a waiter/waitress (at least 60% of the bill)
88. Sing at a karaoke bar
89. Pay for a stranger’s meal or drink


90. Do not watch TV for 24 (pre-decided) hours 5 times (0/5)
91. Do not go online for 24 (pre-decided) hours 5 times (0/5)
92. Add information to 5 Wikipedia articles (0/5)
93. Turn off cell phone for an entire 24-hour period

94. Get through 50% of this list
95. Get through 75% of this list
96. Donate $3 per every goal not met
97. Set aside $5 per every goal met for a future trip
98. Re-read the list every day
99. Blog about each goal reached, with progress reports
100.Write myself a letter to be opened at the end of the 1001 days
101.Make another 101 in 1001 list

I will tack little updates onto random posts here and there, and will use this original post as my "official list" until I do a full progress report in a month or three. If there is now a countdown timer thing somewhere on the right hand side of this page, then I've finally figured out how to imbed said bit of code on my page.

If anyone has any suggestions or want to help (like, say, paying for a trip somewhere...) or want to start one of your own, the comments box is always open. For now, I need to pack up to leave for Chicago/continue learning the chords of today's Nostalgia Music Monday song on my ukulele...

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Why, It's About 5 O'Clock, Why Do You Ask?

For millennia, facial hair has been celebrated as not only a practical face warmer, fashion statement, and distinguishing feature in police reports and romance novels alike, but also as a personal reflection of character. Sure, some males simply grow one to be "ironic" or to stand out, but those aren't the true men of the fuzz. Here on Soft Nonsense, I've decided to break down the different types of beards, mustaches, etc for not only your viewing and reading pleasure, but also for your education and (in some cases) warning. I will not be covering the generic "beard," "moustache," "goatee," or "sideburns, "as they are all too widespread and general to be truly classified. Instead, I shall hone in on a few, clearly distinguishable styles.


The Handlebar
Also known as: The Fancypants, The Waxy 'Stache, The Curly Q, The "MMMMINDEED"

One of the more iconic styles of facial hair, generally rocked only by those over 50, college kids who think they're cool, or 1970's relief pitchers. Automatically gives wearer increased credibility on whatever they're talking about, an air of classiness as well as wealthiness (with a smidge of eccentricity), and a much higher degree of hilarity. Possible supervilliany is also approximately doubled in likelihood.

Examples: Snidely Whiplash, Rollie Fingers, Salvador Dali, Mario


The Soul Patch
Also known as: The Douche Spot, The Beatnick Beard, Flava Sava

Originally popularized by jazz musicians, this style has been adopted near-universally by douches all over the country, if not world. Seems to make the statement "I'm too cool and hip to be bothered to shave ALL of my face." If paired with shaved head, combines powers to become the Super Douche, whose mighty douche powers include a heightened sense of self-importance, a tightening of their "Tap-Out" t-shirts, and the random appearance of unreadable tribal writing on the skin.

Examples: Howie Mandell, stereotypical beret'd poets, That One Guy (you know who I'm talking about)


The Five O'Clock Shadow
Also known as: The Badass, The Heartthrob, The "I'm Too Damn Busy To Shave," The Shmeh

This beard is sometimes the hardest to classify. In the entertainment business, the Shadow often designates a hardcore action hero or "tough boy" romantic interest. In real life, however, it's often a tell-tale sign of someone who simply doesn't have the drive to take five minutes to shave his face (this guy). But don't kid yourselves ladies: you know that, for whatever reason, a man looking fine with some bristle is worth the tickle.

Examples: Indiana Jones (and most Harrison Ford roles), David Beckham, George Clooney, that sexy musician that you would totally have a love child with without divulging his secret publicly


The Pencil
Also Known As: The Pedo, The Creeper

A facial configuration that has, thankfully, fallen out of vogue slowly but steadily for the last few decades in all but the most devoted NAMBLA members. He could, potentially, be a smooth operator with just enough sexual machismo to pull off even the most ridiculous of facial hair choices, or at best someone goofy enough to not care (see: The Handlebar). But for your own good, if a man approaches you sporting this 'stache variation, back away slowly. Just don't turn your back on him.

Examples: Erol Flynn, Westley from Princess Bride (sorry, 80's/90's kids), John Waters, seemingly every movie star from the 1950's, that neighbor whose waking sleep cycle seems to operate from 11pm to 10am, then again at 4pm to 4:15pm for a nude walk through his home


The Rap Industry Standard
Also Known As: The Kanye, Poser Goat

If you've seen any music videos (those moving picture songs you find on YouTube), you've likely seen this bad boy a few dozen times. This shallow goatee/chinstrap combo is the preferred grooming style of a number of artists, actors, and douches for all races has taken popular culture by storm. Can it be to hip hop what the goatee/sideburn combo was to country music? Only time will tell (though it is at least what the Trash 'Stache is to Pedro).

Examples: The Grammy's


The Fu Manchu
Also Known As: The Hogan, The Sensei

The common denominator of those who decide upon The Fu Man (or, conversely, the FU, Man!) is that they are - or fancy themselves to be - a Badass (capital B). As likely as it is that it is not the case, the 5% of the time that they are, in fact, as badass as their facial hair claims they are will make you rue the day you fucked with the Fu Man.

Examples: Worf, Toki Wartooth, the majority of the Hell's Angels, Ra's al Ghul, Fu Manchu, Christopher Lee (while playing Fu Manchu), that one guy from Kill Bill 2, Ming the Merciless, the 'roided out douchebag at the gym


The Toothbrush
Also Known As: The Hitler

Maybe he's a Charlie Chaplain enthusiast. But probably not.

Examples: Hitler. And also Hitler. Probably Brad Pitt once. But mostly Hitler.


Mutton Chops
Also Known As: The Scot, The Wild Dog, The Fan, The Van Buren

A style that can be traced back centuries was long the signifier of class and status now generally signifies drunken men from the British Isles (and I'll let you decide which is better). Legend has it that the longer the hair is and the more parallel (paralleler?) it is to the ground, the more ki power the wearer can wield. Moustache attachment optional.

Examples: Sabretooth, that one guy from your history textbook who said something about the Supreme Court or something, soccer hooligans


The Federation Standard
Also Known As: The Spock, the Cosplay

This pointy/swoopy sideburn variation is popular to a very small demographic of facial hair enthusiasts. For you ladies, those who rock it are a special breed: namely huge nerdwads with no lives. If you see this, stay away. Or jump on his sweet, sweet nerd bod and get it on with him to the sound of the Firefly theme song stuck on repeat.

Examples: Vulcans, my next Halloween costume


And yes, Shannon, this was the facial hair post I promised you back in, like, April.

Monday, January 3, 2011


I am currently on (yet another) family vacation to Hawaii (man - getting so old sitting in the sun on a cloudless, 80-degree day), and just came back from cashing in one of my Christmas gifts: a massage. And, because I'm, well, me, instead of appreciating the quiet calming ocean sounds and being calm and collected while a midget Hawaiian man beat his fists into me, I did what any logical human with a penis is oft to do, and thought about sex.

So here, for your reading pleasure, is

14 Reasons Why Getting a Massage is Like Having Rough, Possibly Bondage-Related Intercourse*

1. Lots of lube required, often (but not completely) in non-traditionally sexual ways.
2. Some hair and limb pulling needed to get into the best position.
3. An enduring sense that
4. Never being quite sure whether you've taken too much clothing off or not enough.
5. Special outfits to wear.
6. Light, but firm, grabbing of the neck is required.
7. Following all instructions, including laying with your head buried in a pillow, is a must. However, if things get too intense, you need to speak up, or things might go downhill quick.
8. Frankly, sometimes rougher = better.
9. Usually some kind of knot is involved.
10. Blindfolding sometimes helps set the mood.
11. A refrain of "just relax" of repeated...often.
12. Showering afterwards isn't required, but strongly encouraged.
13. Amateurs are pretty good, but sometimes you just need a professional to rub you the right way.
14. You know when you hear "deep-tissue," a jolt of exhilaration as wella s a small bit of fear should shoot up your spine.

Unfortunately, I wasn't feeling as mind-blowingly creative as usual when I came up with the title, so prize goes to whoever can come up with a better (read: more deviant) one.

*I assume. Because hey, I'm not a huge fan of leather, and a pair of handcuffs, some whipped cream, a gag, and a small Yorkshire Terrier hardly count as BDSM.

And for this week's Nostalgic Music Monday:


I wasn't sure when the best time to do this post was going to be. Like I said last post, I'm back in the States now, and I've been figuring out how best to wrap it all up. It starts at Thanksgiving, but I didn't do a Thanksgiving post because I was busy and I thought it was too soon for a wrap-up post. Then I wanted to do it the last week of school, but I had a crap-ton of work, complete lack of sleep, and a final couple of days in which I was, shall we say, not at my writing peak due to certain ingested substances. Then I wanted to do it after school was out, but then a trip to Cairo happened. Then I wanted to do it when I got back to Chicago, but I had forgotten my charger in Rome. Finally, I wanted to do it in KC, but I've been sick and out of it the last few days, plus the whole Christmas thing.

It's going to be a long one, touching on little things that have happened in the last month. But hey, I figure I owe you guys the equivalent of a short novella anyway, so hope you'll bear with me.


Like I said, I was pretty bogged down with homework around Thanksgiving, and most of my friends had already made plans for break. I had been asking around for awhile to see if anyone wanted to go to Florence/Pisa with me for a couple days, but no luck. So while it was one of the four weekends I didn't travel anywhere (no exaggeration), the few friends that remained in Rome with me had to figure out what to do on the most holy of holies. An effort, of course, spearheaded by yours truly.

We had been in Europe for going on three months, and while we were surrounded by Americans, had still been forcibly cut off from a good deal of American culture. I couldn't make it to last year's family Thanksgiving celebration, and I was sure as shit not going to be simply ignoring the fact that America's greatest feast of feasts had come up on my Italian calendar (as ringraziamento, but translates well enough for me). So, in what now seems like the easiest, most obvious decision of all time, we decided we would treat ourselves to an authentic, fancy, Italian meal.

Be jealous.

Per il antipasto: a mixed cheese plate.

I feel my friend's face really captures our rapture.

Per gli tre primi piatti:


Mushroom and cheese ravioli

Penne pasta

Per gli segundi piatti:


Chicken with peppers

Eggplant parmesan

Plus, let's face it: it wouldn't be an Italian celebration without some lovely (cheap) vino:

Or two.

For America.

We were pleased.


Then, the rest of the semester sped by. My life was spent shuffling sleepily between the library, various end of the year gatherings for my school, and - admittedly - bars in downtown Rome. My wardrobe was alternately dressy going out stuff or pajamas (I wore slippers to class a few more times than I care to admit to. Like all of the times.). I'd blog about my (first) last night in Rome, but it mostly was made up of drinking copious amounts of drinking (highlights: doing my first (four) jagerbombs, chocolate shots, and absinthe) and drunkenly stumbling around ruins with my friends until our bus came to pick us up at our school at 6am to take us to the airport, and would make for poor story telling. Then I went to Cairo for a few days, partied on the Nile, rode camels in the Sahara to the Great Pyramids, and all that. Flew back to Rome, hugged the Colosseum and ordered pizza for the last time, stood under the Sistine Chapel, went through a gigantic Christmas market, and then spent 10 hours the next day on an airplane, reading and hearing things in Italian for the last time.

Then it was over.

Don't worry, I'm going to continue to tell some of my abroad stories, for both our benefits. But that's not what this post is about. Instead, it's just the ending of it all.


This last semester was, in short, life changing. I was told before I left that my time there would change everything and be the time of your life. And, while it wasn't like I scoffed at the prospect, I couldn't haven't imagined how true it was. Trying to put how much of an effect studying abroad had on me into words is likely impossible, likely because I don't even know yet. I don't think it's even hit me that there's a distinct possibility that I won't wake up tomorrow back in my bed in Rome. But it's easy for me to forget that there were a good eight months before I ever left, and a lot of things happened to me in that time as well.

So here, for your reading pleasure, are my favorite memories from the last year:

Germans buying us hapless, lost American shots of sour apple schnapps.

The opportunity to be a DJ at Chicago's own Lollapalooza.

Bonding over shitty movies including, but not limited to, Troll 2, Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus, and Jolly Roger: Massacre at Pirate's Cove.

Roman pizza - they cut it with scissors and sold it by the pound. Need I say more?

Hawaiian sunsets.

2 euro gyros in Athens.

A cold pint alongside a heaping helping of fish and chips in a London pub.

Getting to celebrate a new friend's 21st birthday party on the Nile.

Dried mangos.

Shark Week cake.

Having two last nights in Rome: one to say goodbye to the people I met, one to say goodbye to the city I grew to love.

Belgium's big six: waffles, chocolate, french fries, lace, beer, and mussels.

Sharing sangria in a bar in Barcelona frequented by Hemingway, Dali, and Picasso.

Fancy sandwiches made with roommates during summer lunch breaks.

Being taught by some of the greatest professors I've ever, or will ever, have the privilege to have (Dutch papal knight? Author and Hemingway scholar? Italian Clinton administration staffer?)

Alitalia Airlines, who serve free wine on EVERY flight.

Two words: Gelato Cake.

Wine festivals in small Italian villages.

Grecian nights. Because, unlike some of my companions, I could actually remember most of what happened those nights.

The kronor - Swedish currency with a 10 to 1 conversion rate. There's just something empowering about withdrawing 1000 of something from an ATM and not really caring.

Gondolas in Venice.

My band, the TVA, for rocking as hard as it ever did.

The Secret Bakery.

Giant Nerf gun fights with my brother after the entire family got one for Christmas.

The support of my friends and family when life got hard.


An incomplete list to be sure. But I've been semi-working on this post for roughly a week now, and it's pretty boring so I'll end it now.

Thanks for being great readers and commenters (though I had my first unsubscriber yesterday, apparently). Though I have and always will hold that I write for me, your feedback and support makes it all that much better.

Best of luck in 2011, now I have to start working on a post right now if I want to get it up by the end of January...