Thursday, August 11

50 Signs Of My Apocalypse.

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I'm going to lay myself out on the table here, in the hopes that you do so as well.

It's no secret that I have anxiety. Sure, some might call it "A paranoid cocktail with an OCD chaser", but I don't consider it to be a problem. Everyone has rituals, habits and quirks that they use to make their lives more understandable and easy to handle. As it turns out, I have a lot more of them than most.

So, I decided to compile a list of 50 of these quirks in an attempt to have people (including the Missus) know me a little better. Honestly, not even the Missus herself knows some of these things that I do every day to ward off bad luck and unforeseen disaster. There's no question that everyone who reads this list shares at least some of these quirks with me. Who knows, maybe you'll learn something about yourself. And away we go.

Bathroom Behavior.

1. If I enter a public restroom while someone else is vacating the premises, I will pretend to wash my hands and leave. I will not share a public restroom with anyone, and I will return later when it's empty. I'm a big boy, I can hold it.

2. When the coast is finally clear to enter a public restroom, I will use a stall regardless of what business I need to conduct. Urinals are a joke, and should not be used by anyone.

3. I will never use a handicapped stall, for fear that a handicapped gentleman will arrive during that time. If I were to exit a handicapped stall to find a wheelchaired man tapping his watch, I'll jump out the nearest window, slicing my wrists with the broken glass on the way down.

4. If someone enters the restroom while I'm conducting business, I will wait in the stall until that person leaves before I exit. My entrances and exits to restrooms must be done in secret, as to avoid any conversations and eye-contact.

5. In my bathroom at home, I'm constantly timing myself on the lengths of certain duties. For example, I can only spend 90 seconds combing and styling my hair, and I need to have my clothing on and straightened out in under a minute. This sometimes explains my appearance when I arrive to work.

6. While washing my hair, I count the number of times I run my fingers through it. While lathering and rinsing, I make sure that the left and right sides of my head receive an equal amount. This stems back to when I would literally fall asleep while washing my hair, awaking to realize that I had been doing it for ten minutes.

7. In the shower, I clean myself one body part at a time. For example, I'll lather and rinse my left arm before moving on to the right, and so on. Covering your entire body with soap all at once is foolish and dangerous. If your house started on fire, it would take that much longer to get out of the shower.

8. I clean both of my ears at the same time. I take two cotton swabs at once, and it does the job in half the time.

9. When I shave, I always follow a pattern. I do the left side of my face, then the right, followed by my neck area, and finishing with the chin. If I were to start at a different spot, I'd probably forget to shave half of my face.

10. In my own bathroom, I will create as much cover noise as possible for myself. This usually means turning on the water and making sure the fan is running. Until recently, I had a radio that I would turn on as well. I am by no means "noisy" in the bathroom, but I just can't take that chance.

11. I sometimes attempt to time my urination with the flushing of the toilet. If I'm not done by the time the toilet is done flushing, I'll flush it again. I only do this sometimes, mind you.

Food & Drink.

12. I always eat French fries in pairs of 2 and 4 of the same length. If a fry doesn't have a "partner" of matching length, I won't eat it. It doesn't count if you bite a larger fry to match lengths with the smaller one, either. You have to have standards.

13. I will eat all bite-sized candies (M&M's, Milk Duds) in multiples of 2. That way, I have an even amount of candy on both sides of my mouth. An even mouth is a happy mouth. That being said, I am very patient with my chocolate, allowing it to slowly melt and disintegrate in my mouth. A chewed piece of chocolate is a wasted piece of chocolate.

14. Concerning containers of various "spreads" (butter, peanut butter, cheese spread, etc.), the levels in the containers must be level and flat at all times. When using a knife (or dipping a cracker, in the case of the cheese spread), you must always be working at flattening and even-ing out the surface. My wife insists on dipping her cracker right in the middle of the cheese spread, leaving an inch-deep gouge that takes about two sleeves worth of cracker eating to smooth out. I usually end up eating way more crackers than I want to because of this.

15. Different foods on a plate can never touch, plain and simple. Each item of food must remain separate at all times, no mixing allowed. I always eat my food one item at a time, as well. I refuse to switch around and pick at everything on my plate at once. I used to never drink any liquids until after my meal was finished, but that's one quirk that's actually starting to leave me.

16. When I'm seated at a booth or table in a restaurant, the first thing that I do is clear everything off of the table, and organize it along the table side nearest to a wall. This means that I take the condiments and whatnot, organizing them along the wall, in order of height. I also organize the sugar packets and coffee creamer, although I never use them and don't drink coffee.

17. At a dining establishment, I must be seated where I can easily see everyone around me. This rule also applies to school, work or any public place. The thought of someone looking at me when I can't look at them is unbearable.

18. At a dining establishment, I cannot be seated in the open. A booth in the corner is ideal for me, as far away from everyone as possible. I always need to sit on the "inside", too. A dinner surrounded by strangers is not my idea of a good time. I need to find an establishment where they seat you and your friends in a phone booth or something secluded by curtains.

19. When I'm handling my drink, I make sure to always place it back on the table in its original location. When a drink sits for a certain amount of time, it leaves a ring of condensation on the table. I always make sure to set the drink exactly back on the original ring, as to not leave any additional rings.

20. I cannot stand condensation whatsoever. I will handle a drink along the rim with my fingertips, as to not get my hands wet while holding it. I sometimes wipe the entire glass off with a napkin. Wet hands does not a happy Ryan make.

On The Road.

21. I like to determine the square number on license plates. For example, if the car in front of my has a plate that says "CDP-489", I'll add the three numbers together (21), and then add the sum (3). I do this with most groups of numbers, but mainly when I'm on the road. Helps my concentration.

22. One of the most annoying habits for myself is this: I always have to manually check to see if the directionals and lights are off. My directionals and lights are controlled by the same knob on my steering wheel, and I constantly (maybe 10 times during the 8.5 mile drive to work) have to jiggle the knob and make sure the lights aren't on. Even though directionals make that horrid clicking noise, and my entire dash illuminates when the lights are on, I'm just never convinced. This is without question something that even annoys the hell out of me, and I'm taking baby steps to knock it off.

23. When I'm heading to or from my car, the first thing I do is select the next key that I will need to use. If I'm leaving my car, I get my house or office key ready; if I'm going to my car, I get my car key ready. I will walk to my destination with that key poised in my hands, rather than select it when I get to my destination. I don't like to fumble with the keychain when it's time to unlock something.

24. When I take a corner, I always look in the back to make sure nothing fell over or off the seat. I do this even if there's nothing in the backseat. My Wife always asks, "What are you looking at back there?"

25. I cannot drive or ride in a car with the doors unlocked. The locks are there for a reason, please use them. I lock my car doors immediately after getting into or out of it, and I make sure that my passengers do the same. I sometimes travel with up to 100 cd's in my car, and I don't like to share with strangers. Also, when I was a kid, I almost fell out of the door of an unlocked truck. My Dad grabbed me by the shirt at the last second, saving me from flying out of the moving vehicle.

26. I don't like to alter the temperature of my heating and cooling vents. When I'm in control, it's either all or nothing. I don't turn the dial towards the middle or anything, attempting to find my "ideal" climate. It's either freeze or sweat, on or off. When I get cold, I shut everything off. When I get hot again, I crank the air full blast.

27. When I drive, I constantly look in my compartments to make sure I have everything I need. Wallet? Check. Phone? Check? Sunglasses? Check. So on and so forth. I'll do this multiple times over the course of a drive. Forgetting something sucks, and I try to do that as seldom as possible.

28. Okay, this is another weird "counting" one. The volume level on my car stereo must be either on or "touching" a number that is a multiple of 5. For example, I can listen to the stereo on a volume level of 49, 50, 51, 54, 55 or 56, but NOT 52, 53, 57, 58 etc. If it's not on or touching a multiple of 5, it won't do. Besides, my ears don't know the difference between 51 and 52, but my brain does.

Around The House.

29. The Missus hates this, but I always have to fashion little piles out of the stacks of mail she refuses to throw away. In about a weeks time, the kitchen table or island will be overrun with junk mail or things she doesn't know what to do with. Once I pile these things up to appear less messy, she instantly needs to know where I put everything, insisting that everything was "right where she wanted it". I bought a writing desk for the sole purpose of setting my mail on it, true story.

30. In the bedroom, I can't sleep on the side of the bed closest to the door. Me and the Missus refer to this location as the "Murder Side", and she's more brave than I. If the boogeyman comes in and decides to viscerate the Missus, I'll have ample time to put on some pants and jump 'oot the window. For several years when I was younger, my bed faced away from the door, so I couldn't see who was there. This led me to sleeping upside-down until it was re-positioned.

31. I have a little rule when it comes to my possessions. If it's not expensive, for decoration or part of a collection, I'm throwing it away. About two times a year I will throw out hundreds of dollars of merchandise, simply because I can't store it anywhere and it no longer serves a purpose to me.

32. The front door must be locked immediately after entering or exiting the house. End of story.

33. I plow through remote control batteries pretty quickly by frequently checking the "flashback" button. For some reason, I think that the TV will forget what channels I'm currently toggling back and forth, so I have to keep tabs on it. I'll flip back for no reason other than the reassurance that it's still there.

At The Workplace.

34. The first thing I do when I get in my office every morning is to clean the mess that the cleaning crew made the night before. Little things, like moving the trash can up against the wall, and straightening out the phone cord for eight minutes before I can use it. I don't even log into my computer until everything is right were it's supposed to be. I always set my wallet, keys and whatnot in the same exact place, exactly parallel to the stereo. Don't these janitors carry T-squares with them?

35. When I write in cursive, I dot the I's and cross the T's immediately. I don't wait until I'm done writing out the word. I don't want to forget, and I hate cursive anyways.

36. I use MS Word every day, regardless of if I'm at work or doing freelance stuff. The newer versions of Word have green and red underlines, signifying an error in grammar or spelling. I correct these instantly, refusing to have any marks on my work in progress. Even if I know that the underline is an incorrect assessment by Word, I'll still get rid of it, as the unnecessary marks are enough to make me saw Bill Gate's hands off.

37. When I'm in between typing things, or waiting for something to load, I always wait with my fingers on the home row. This makes no sense, because I never use the home row as a starting point. It's merely a place to rest my hands before I start pecking with four fingers again.

38. I live and die by the Post-It Note. At the end of every day, my trash can has anywhere from 20-60 discarded Post-Its in it. If something does not have a Post-It Note on it, I'll put an unnecessary on on it, such as "File" or "Done". Papers without notes on them are worthless and strange to me.

Out And About.

39. When I pick up a newspaper, I never take the first one off of the stack. I take a fresh one from the middle of the pile. I also do this with magazines, straws and items at the grocery store. When I'm leafing through a magazine at a store, and decide to buy it, I will pick out a new one from the back of the rack, discarding the one that I was just looking at. I don't like the idea of anyone looking at a particular magazine before I do, including myself.

40. I have a habit of holding my breath in certain situations. I normally hold my breath when I drive past a cemetery, and I sometimes hold my breath during an elevator ride. When I pass a stranger in a public place, I hold my breath because I don't want to smell him or her. There used to be a cemetery near where I used to live that was about a mile long. I would almost pass out when I drove past it.

41. At a record store, I have to view every album in a particular section, even if I already find what I'm looking for. Regardless if I have no intention of purchasing another album, I have to see everything that the store has in stock. My wife despises this.

42. When I purchase a CD, the first thing that I do when I open it is to straighten out the disk in the case. I do this even if I remove the disk immediately afterwards. All of the CD's in my collection are straightened in the cases. One time, I borrowed a bunch of albums to a friend, and as a joke, he returned them to me with all the disks in the wrong cases. We never spoke again.

43. Every CD in my collection is alphabetized, and all of the clothes in my closet are organized by style and color. If my belongings weren't organized this way, I would certainly lose something forever.

Me, Myself & I.

44. Symmetry is a must with me. If I scratch my right arm, I have to scratch my left are in the same place. If I accidentally hurt myself, I have to hurt myself equally on the opposite side of my body. I once poked myself in the left eye, and meticulously poked the other eye to level out the blindness.

45. I cannot touch certain types of material. Sponges and foam have the worst textures on earth, and I refuse to touch them, as they make my brain cry.

46. I double and triple-check everything. I've gone over this list 30 times already.

47. I tongue my fillings constantly, just to make sure that they are still in there. I have six fillings, and I stick my tongue in them about 20 times a day, from left to right inside my mouth. No doubt this is wearing them down much faster than a normal person would.

48. I cannot be sitting on the back of my shirt. I have to make sure that it's not tucked under me on the chair, and I continuously check to make sure that it's properly fanned out. Wrinkles suck.
49. When I was younger, I was afraid to go to sleep, so I would read all of the books on my bookshelf several times over in an attempt to stay awake. When I got sick of reading the books, I would go through them and count every single letter. To this day, I count letters in words when I'm sick of actually "reading" them. I enjoy words, and I feel that breaking them down to their basic element gives you a better understanding of them. I'm also a complete basket case.

50. It goes without saying that everything and everything must be facing the same direction as their counterparts. This rule goes for all of my possessions and everything in my home. There is absolutely no room for individuality under my roof.

There we are. I feel cleansed and revitalized.

So, what are your quirks? What do you do that nobody else does? What do you do that I already do? You'd be amazed at how many people do this crap every single day, in an effort to maintain some sort of order and dominance in their lives. Again, I don't consider this a hindrance, because it doesn't make my life any more difficult or easy to live. Indeed, there are some people out there who really DO have anxiety and OCD issues, and it takes them several hours to do simple tasks. I'm not there yet, but you have to have goals. I'm glad that I shared this with you.

Are you?


Monday, August 8

That Was A Washboard Break.

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If you were to take a passing glance at my weekend, it wouldn’t appear too special. However, a closer inspection will reveal a run-of-the-mill weekend sprinkled with insane coincidence, staggeringly poor luck and strange new experiences. Permit me to explain.

I picked up the Missus from work on Friday afternoon, where the main topic of the drive was Gabriel. If you’re not aware of who Gabe is, you should really visit this page more often. He’s one of the two cats that share living space with me. He’s quite a rare cat, in that he acts like a dog. Very loyal, very intelligent and very well-behaved. One thing about him that reminds me of myself is his crippling anxiety. He’s incredibly aware of his surroundings, and reacts accordingly. When we first brought him home to meet with Tinker (our other cat), she didn’t appreciate his company. She bit and hissed, and Gabe wanted nothing more than to make friends with his new roommate. This rejection hurt him, and he took to chewing all the fur off of his paws. Eventually, they grew to like each other, and the fur chewing stopped. Any tiny change in atmosphere will be met with a reaction from Gabe.

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The past couple weeks have been very hot here in Sun Prairie, so we’ve been sleeping with the bedroom door open. Our apartment has a heating/cooling unit in the living room instead of a thermostat throughout, so it’s unbearable to sleep with the door shut when it’s 95 degrees out. With the door open, the cats have free reign to disturb us all night. In an attempt to keep them away from us while we try to sleep, we gently remove them from the bed, clap our hands, and spray them with a squirt bottle if it gets too ridiculous.

This troubles Gabe. Poor, sweet, innocent Gabe.

When we sleep with the door shut, he forgets that we exist, and doesn’t try to bother us. But if we’re out in the open like this, and he’s not allowed to be near us, he feels very rejected and acts out. His “acting out” of choice recently has been urinating in the Missus’ bathtub. Every other day for the week and a half we slept with the door open, we’ve woken up to cat whiz in the tub.

After careful deliberation and fact-checking, we determined that his acting out was one of two things. Either he was angry about the door, or he had a Urinary Tract Infection. The symptoms for the UTI didn’t match his behavior, so we decided to sleep with the door shut again for a few days, bear the heat and see if he knocked it off. More on that later.

We were too tired and lazy to cook dinner on Friday evening, so we decided to head out to Benvenuto's, everyone’s favorite Italian chain eatery. We expected a standard dinner, void of conversation concerning work and feline urine, and we got it.

Sort of.

First off, we were seated at a table in the dead-center of the place. If there’s one thing I can’t stand more than a table (when there’s an empty booth), it’s not being able to keep an eye on everyone else in the room. The idea that there are people behind me, looking at me and watching me eat, is unacceptable. I need a booth or table in a corner or I will ask to be moved, which is exactly what we did. Freshly seated in the corner now, I ordered the spinach and cheese ravioli, which was a dish that I had never ordered at this place. Normally, I’m not down with new selections, but I’ve been on a ravioli kick over the last few weeks, and I had to check out their wears.

A minute later, the Missus spilled her drink all over the table. Our quiet corner sanctuary was now abuzz with waitresses and turned heads. I nervously jittered, twisting my napkin into a knot until everyone went away. Eventually, our food showed up and we settled back into quiet desolation.

My ravioli tasted great, although the Missus stated that it looked different from the identical dish that she normally orders. We figured they started making it differently, and stopped analyzing it after a while.

At least, until we got the check, and saw “SPNCH/CHCKN RVOLI” on the slip.

What I thought was minced Portobello mushrooms was actually chicken, and I ate an entire plate of it.

I know what you’re thinking. “How can you eat a plate of chicken and not realize it?” Well, it was encased and hidden in ravioli, it tasted like absolutely nothing and I hadn’t had chicken in at least three years. Bear in mind, Benvenuto’s was the same place I got accidentally hammered last year, so they are certainly masters of slight of hand.

I started to get sick, and we instantly left.

Driving home, I kept sinking, my body rejecting the foreign objects I’ve just inserted into it. When a body goes without meat for years, it has serious problems when it’s suddenly introduced in large quantities. I felt like crap warmed over, and spent the rest of the night in the bathroom and on the couch. I called my Mom for sympathy, and played Mario Golf on the GBA until I fell asleep. I’d write a stern letter to Benvenuto’s if their bread bowls weren’t so fantastic. I'll eat there again.

Waking up on Saturday morning, I felt much better, having expelled most of the chicken the night before. I had planned on going to a co-workers house to try my hand at home brewing. This guy’s been moonshining in his garage for years now, and I was looking forward to becoming his beer apprentice. Things didn’t pan out this week, so we decided to do it some other time. Trust me, if I ever DO go brewing, I’ll take pictures and tell you all about it, provided I don’t go blind.

With the day to ourselves, me and the Missus decided to go shopping and take in a movie. The Missus needed to find some shoes for the upcoming Jenkel/Jenkel wedding in two weeks. She didn’t find anything that she wanted, but we picked up a few items nonetheless. She got some eye shadow and the first three Harry Potter books, completing her collection. She’s previously read all six of these books front to back, and I’m convinced that she’ll kill me once she’s finished, certain that she’ll have nothing better to do and nothing to live for. At least she’s busy with something, and she’s enjoying the series. I don’t read most fiction, let alone Harry Potter, but if the Missus says it’s good, it must be good. She’s a trusted critic of high-end literature, so I’ll take her word for it.

I picked up a couple of CD’s for myself:

Beck – Guero
Sufjan Stevens – Come on Feel the Illinoise (With Superman Cover!)

I’ll give you a review of those once I’ve listened to them a few times.

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As I was leafing through the albums in the Borders on the east side of Madison, I saw someone that looked familiar to me. As I continued to look him over, I realized that it was none other than Mr. Justin Perkins, Wisconsin rock star extraordinaire. Mr. Perkins is not only responsible for the Yesterday’s Kids & the Obsoletes (check my links), but he also produced the debut album for a certain Mediocre at Best band. The whisper around the campfire is that he was responsible for producing the greatest Wisconsin ska/punk album of all time. Band members have not yet commented on this claim.

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We chatted for a few seconds, and he told me that he was actually moving to Madison to work at a local studio. Sounds good to me. We parted ways, and I was happy to run into someone that I actually wanted to run into.

Next, we headed to the movies. We decided to see March of the Penguins, because the Missus loves penguins, and I love the soothing tone of Morgan Freeman. It’s a win-win situation. The movie was good, remarkably inspiring at times, but forgettable as the days go on. The community behavior of Emperor penguins is downright amazing, but the film wasn’t comprehensive or varied enough to produce much of a lasting effect. It’s good, but not recommended over anything else. I should note, however, that I ate a bag of Kit-Kat Bites at the theater and they were fantastic. There must have been eight candy bars worth of chocolate in that bag.

2 Tickets @ $8.25 each = $16.50
1 Medium buttered popcorn = $4.75
1 Medium Sierra Mist soda = $3.75
1 Bag of Kit-Kat bites = $3.75
1 Bag of Rolo bites = $3.75
Grand Total = $32.50

The movie was 75 minutes long. Do the math, and you’ll figure out why the box office is slumping right now. We went home and again watched TV until we fell asleep.

We got up early for a Sunday, probably around 10 or so. We wanted to get to the Veridian Homes Design Studio by noon so we could see the drawing for the new house. They were giving away either a $210,000 home or $100,000 cash, along with about a hundred other prizes. We sat under a tent with about two hundred others, waiting to see if we’d win anything. We, of course, did not. This did inspire us, however, to start looking around again for new places to move.

Every few months or so, we start the house hunt again, looking for townhouses or condos to upgrade to. Some of the places we looked at were beautiful and spacious. We toured a condo in Sun Prairie that was over 3,200 square feet, four bedrooms, three bathrooms and a $129 per month condo fee for $210,000. This is a wee bit out of our price range (by about 200 grand), but man, it was beautiful. Maybe this time next year, when we have a few more debts paid off. That being said, we saw a few places that were in our price range, but weren’t big enough for our tastes. Something’s going to have to give eventually, and it’s going to be my wallet.

Speaking of wallets, thanks to the approval of the 2005 Wisconsin state budget, I got a 94 cent-per-hour raise. That makes me happy.

Also during the day, we headed out to the small town of Waunakee, a surrounding neighborhood of Madison that we had yet to visit. This means that we have pretty much spent the day in every surrounding area now, eating grilled cheeses along the way. “Grilled Cheese America” might be a far-off dream, but “Grilled Cheese Wisconsin” has been going on for years now.

This particular grilled cheese was purchased at “Brian’s on Baker Street”, a renovated old school supper club with gambling machines and whatnot. The place was huge, clean and inviting. The sandwich was three slices of cheddar on sourdough, complimented nicely with sweet mayonnaise that I specially ordered. Thumbs-up were given all around, and we headed back home.

(Screw the mustard museum, I need to start a mayonnaise museum.)

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There was a two-hour Arrested Development marathon on last night, with another two-hour marathon to follow this Friday. WATCH IT! We enjoyed most of the Fox programming and retired to the bedroom, closing the door behind us.

Since we went back to closing the door, Gabe has yet to whiz in the tub. Stupid cat; I’m glad he’s better.