Year: 2014 Page 1 of 4

Six Things or Whatever from 2014

Alright, 2014 is practically over. Pondering that fact earlier this week, I knew I wanted to write something, but I couldn’t decide what. I considered writing a list of my 12 favorite (or least favorite) books I read this year, but writing a bunch of book reviews sounded too exhausting. The idea of simply writing “GOOD RIDDANCE” in bold, 128-point font struck me as appealing, but I eventually backed down, feeling I owed myself a slightly more substantial piece of writing.

This is what I ended up settling on: a list of six things, or whatever, from 2014. It’s not exactly six things that happened to me this year, nor is it six things I enjoyed. It’s just six things. Or whatever.

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hedonic treadmill

“I’ve disabled the hedonic treadmill!” he declared, and actually lived happily ever after.

The New Real World

The New Real World

My friend T lives in the Seattle area. He plays Magic and is quick to respond to bullshit with biting wit. Another friend, H, loves her whiskey, owns many guns, and has an adorable Lab named Annie Lou.

These two people are my friends. I’ve also never met them face-to-face, in what many would consider the “real world”. I know them–and have since I was in high school–thanks to Kingdom of Loathing, where we’re members of the same in-game social “clan”. We’ve never drunk beer together, sure[1], but I’ve typed a lot of words into clan chat over the years, and they have too. We know each other better than I know many in-person acquaintances.

Using the word “friend” to describe relationships that have never seen so much as a handshake might seem strange. Some might scoff at it, saying that my generation of technology-addicted Millennials is just fooling itself, and that we’re living in an increasingly isolated, asocial world. These criticisms are part of an even broader argument: that the internet and “real life” are two non-overlapping spheres, and that activities in the former are somehow less valuable, less meaningful, or less real than activities in the latter.

You know what? It’s almost 2015. It’s time to accept that the internet is real life.

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Putting Lipstick on Pigs

Putting Lipstick on Pigs

Here’s what you need to know about me: I love putting lipstick on pigs.

It was about four years ago when I was first introduced to Tara Gilesbie’s My Immortal. If you’ve never heard of it, allow me to clue you in. My Immortal is widely considered the worst piece of fanfiction ever written. Ostensibly set in the Harry Potter universe, it follows Ebony Dark’ness Dementia Raven Way, an anti-establishment vampire witch, as she adventures at Hogwarts and uncovers dark forces at work.  At least, that’s what the summary would sound like if the fanfiction were actually any good. A more honest synopsis is “she wears such gothic clothes and looks so hot and goes to a million My Chemical Romance concerts and has to seduce Voldemort and everyone loves her”.

It’s so bad. I thought I was ready for its level of badness when I began reading it, but I was wrong. I don’t think anyone can be prepared for its level of badness. My Immortal is an affront to decency. It’s abhorrent.

Which is why, as soon as I’d finished reading it, I wanted nothing more than to put it on my Kindle.

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Spencer wearing too-tight pants

Tight Pants

Dear world:

I apologize for the tightness of my pants during my junior year of college.

It was a mistake.

Spencer wearing too-tight pantsPlease forgive me.

 Photo by Johanna Santana. Thanks, Joey!

Moab in HDR

Last month, R and I took a vacation to Moab. I had just started exploring HDR photography, so I was eager to try it out on some of Utah’s dramatic landscapes.

Here are a few of the shots I snagged:

Love Poem

She was a Chem major, of reactions fond
Physics was his prime distraction
She saw their love as the strongest bond
He saw two bodies’ attraction

Making Out

Making Out

Making out comic

Also known as putting your face on someone else’s face. Repeatedly.

Dino’s

Everyone knows there’s only one place in South Walk to get a grilled cheese, and it’s Dino’s. This is beyond question.

Time and again, fast-food cheeseries like Melteez or Cheese Palace have tried to gain a foothold in South Walk. Every year or two, you’ll see an ambitious uptowner in a fancy suit wandering the Walk’s dingy alleyways, his eager eyes scanning for a future home for the franchise so temptingly teased in the documents he clutches. The people, he’ll convince himself, want something classier. He’ll think in phrases like “uptown grilled cheese at a downtown pricepoint” and “family dining experience”. The really oblivious ones will even start construction.

But they will fail. They all fail, because nothing can beat Dino’s grilled cheese.

The only sign for Dino’s is a screen-printed cling on the front door. You’d miss it if you didn’t know where you were going, but, of course, everyone knows where Dino’s is. It’s said that South Walk babies settle for mama’s milk only until their legs can take them to Dino’s door. The lettering is blocky and unprofessional and starting to peel in some spots, but it serves its purpose, marking the portal to the stuffy dining room and the best melts you’ll ever taste.

“Meltz the Way You Want ‘Em”—that’s the Melteez slogan. Step up to the counter and you’ll be faced with a staggering list of options, and if the chipper, cap-wearing youth behind the counter sees you squinting at the menu, they’ll immediately recite them for you: classic American, Monterey, Pepper Jack, Provolone, Havarti, Cheddar, Mozzarella, Dubliner, Brie, Blue, Feta, Chevre, Gruyere, Cream, Camembert, and Spray, and that’s not including the seasonal specials. It’s all imitation, of course, since no franchise is going to waste its money on actual dairy when there’s a shortage, and there’s always a shortage.

Then, once you’ve selected a cheese, it’s on to Round Two: deciding what to wrap it in. Your choices, as the youth will declare—a flicker of pained exasperation behind their bright eyes–are white, wheat, rye, pumpernickel, sourdough, seven-grain, eight-grain, buttermilk biscuit, New York bagel, Montreal bagel, pita, naan, tortilla (corn or flour), flatbread, noodle buns, rice buns, and, for the guests with dietary needs, lettuce leaves. Melteez corporate is reportedly still trying to devise a way to keep disheartened guests from walking out the door at first sight of the options.

At Dino’s, there’s one item on the menu: grilled cheese. He makes it with buttermilk bread and real cheddar cheese—shredded, not sliced, so it melts better. You tell Dino’s nephew behind the register how many you want, and Dino expertly grabs exactly enough slices of bread, dresses them each with cheese and a shake of his seasoning mix, and in one swift move—fwip fwip fwip—spreads butter, real butter, on them all before dropping them on the hot grill. Three minutes later, the bell rings, Dino’s booming voice shouts, “ORDER UP!” over the kitchen’s sizzle, and Bennie hands you your tray.

It’s prompt. Unpretentious. Polite in the economical, just-enough, keep-your-distance way. And when you bite into that sandwich, you immediately understand why, for all its 288 bread and artificial cheese combinations, Melteez will never hold a candle to Dino’s.

The butter, rich and indulgent, hits you first, setting a silky stage for the act to follow. Crispy toast crackles as your teeth pierce the bread. The inside is still soft and spongy, and it tastes sweet, with the slightest hint of tartness to keep it from cloying. Your jaws, still closing, hit the hot cheese, which oozes most satisfyingly onto your tongue, and as soon as the tang of cheddar—real cheddar, shortages be damned—meets your palate, Dino’s secret blend of seasonings appears as well, an aromatic glitter wrapped in fat and dairy.

It is, quite simply, heaven. And so is the next bite, and the next, until your sandwiches are gone and you recline, spent, basking in a sort of hazy afterglow.

Doesn’t matter that in the blistering South Walk summer, Dino’s only relief is a rattling box fan and green plastic glasses of ice water. Doesn’t matter that Bennie only remembers to wipe down the crumb-covered linoleum tables once or twice a day. Nowhere in the city—hell, nowhere in the world—can beat Dino’s for grilled cheese, and you can take that to your grave.

Utah Liquor Laws

Utah Liquor Laws


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