A Smarter Facebook

I am, by nature, only a somewhat lazy person.  I say ‘somewhat lazy’ because there are a few key laziness signs that I do exhibit, though I am on the whole a fairly motivated and active person.  I don’t pick up or clean my apartment as often as I should, though I do occasionally do a full cleaning when the grime gets too thick.  I haven’t yet taken the time to figure out what I want to do with the rest of my life, though I do try to broaden my skill set with outside classes and my current job.  I haven’t gotten a book published yet, but I have at least finished one (crappy, mostly unedited) novel.  So I’m not a complete bum.

However, one of the things I don’t do is constantly check whether or not my old acquaintances and friends are on facebook.  Fortunately for the half-lazies like me, there are new programs that take care of this.  Somehow, that wonderful sphere of technology has broadened yet again.  Some lovely algorithm is out there every day, comparing my friends to each other.  When some of my friends (I’m not sure how many) are also friends with the same person, it pops up this little ‘People You May Know’ box tot he right of the main page.  How wonderful!  Now I can friend all those semi-acquaintances I’d almost been able to put out of my head!  Pretty soon, that random guy you saw in the train last Tuesday will automatically pop up for stalking on facebook since you did (if accidentally) make eye contact.  That totally counts as a friend-worthy experience.

My First Gruit

For those of you that know what a gruit is….well, you’re probably snobby beer connoisseurs or other types of freaks. For the rest of you, I have a bit of an explanation. It’s a type of beer that mostly isn’t made anymore, and ale seasoned with an herb mixture. Typically the gruit mix takes the place of hops, though some gruits used to use hops in small quantities.

I’m not a big fan of lots of hops. Call me crazy, but the bitter flavor just isn’t really my thing. I do tend to like the darker porters and stouts, but that’s probably for the sweetness of their malts. So when I was at dinner at the Cambridge Brewing Company last night trying to pick a beer, the description with ‘no hops’ was attractive to me. Plus from the description, it looked…really good. Flavorings like licorice and wild rosemary are personal favorites of mine in food – how could they not be good in beer?

My dinner companions of that evening would not agree with me, but I found it really enjoyable.  it was almost like a beer/herb tea combination.  I know the very idea might make some of you feel yacky,  but at the end of the meal it really cleansed the palate.  I thought to myself, “If I can ever find it again, I’m going to try it again”.

After further research, this might not be such a good idea.  I went home and fell asleep quicking with a pretty bad headache.  According to wikipedia, the herbs in a traditional (mine from last night included)  gruit contain substances that are mildly or moderately narcotic.  While I may or may not have been suffering from those effects, at least one of the ingredients probably caused my need to hit the sack.  Wild rosemary, or Marsh Labrador Tea, is not really rosemary at all – in fact, the plant has toxic compounds called turpenes.  It’s like the stuff in turpentine, and it makes you aggressive even in small quantities.  There are even worse symptoms if you ingest more than a little.  According to wikipedia, “The mere smell of the plant may cause headache to some people.”  Hm.  Information I could’ve used before drinking the beer.

The Snoopy Sno Cone Machine

I recently read the new biography of Charles Schultz (aka ‘Sparky’) by David Michaelis called Schultz and Peanuts. It’s an interesting enough read, full of little details you didn’t know about this troubled man. It has also made me realize that I’m a complete hypochondriac. Or whatever the psychological equivalent is when you take on the characteristics and possible mental twinges of the person’s biography you are reading.

Let me explain further. Schultz felt completely alienated from all his peers at high school. That’s so me. He felt awkward and alone in normal social situations and covered it by acting dumb. Yep, that’s me, if dumb = goofy. He was completely unable to approach girls. That’s me, if you replace girls with boys. He didn’t get along with his family, preferring to draw by himself. Oh yeah, that’s me, if drawing is writing or anything else that requires my undivided attention. He got bad grades to prove his dumbness. That’s not really me, but it could be? He turned his funny little strip (actually, it really wasn’t funny – it was mostly sad and mean, but for some reason people still liked it.) into a commercial empire. I sold out to the big-business world of educational endowments, which is practically the same thing, right? He was distant and not affectionate towards his kids. I don’t even HAVE any. He cheated on both his wives A LOT and was a generally needy only-child brat. Ok, I may be needy, but I hope I’m not that bad.

I guess what the book did was really opened my eyes further to the commercialism and fantasy around me. I was never really a big fan of Peanuts (do you italicize a comic strip?). snoopymachine.jpgI didn’t watch the specials, I didn’t really enjoy that particular comic in the Sunday paper, and I didn’t even see A Charlie Brown Christmas until my high school soccer team got me the video. I always felt sorry for poor Charlie, and mad at Lucy, and though Snoopy was fun, it was generally an unfortunate strip. I do, however, remember the Snoopy Sno Cone Machine. It was coveted, though offhand I can’t really remember why, or even where I saw the first one. I just knew I wanted it without knowing why, or thinking about the reasons behind it.

I guess that’s what I got from this biography most of all. It wasn’t a bad book. It really sought to portray the truth behind an adored man who was secretive about his personal life. It showed his flaws honestly, and some of the rougher spots of his personality that abraded those closest to him. But it also showed the kindnesses he bestowed, the way he brought joys to other’s lives, the talent he strived to use, and the nature of his personal drive. He was a great man, if not a good one, who changed the world through something he was good at. And that’s nothing to scoff at, despite my tendency to scoff.

At the same time, a part of those changes went in directions I’m completely disrespectful of. For what good reason could I want a Sno Cone Machine? It would probably be a rare treat for my parents to let me use it. Was it the respect of my peers I was after? Or some commercial ideal of greatness? Or something more elusive, some unfulfilled wish that I think the Machine will fill? Is my longing just the same as Sparky’s quest for love, and am I just as foolishly confident I will never find it?