Monday, February 28, 2011

Entry 132: Can't Catch Me, Hangover!

Headaches, upset stomach, bleary eyes, kicking fat girls out of your bed before they raid your fridge- nothing about a hangover is fun.  I've found that, while you can't always avoid the hangover, you can get a step ahead of it and evade it for a few hours.  Hangover-You will find and catch you, but if you add enough insanity to your morning routine you can keep him busy long enough to enjoy a few hours of fun.  And, since Regular-You, Depressive-You, and Reasonable-You are all wrapped up in the hangover, the You that is left to enjoy your morning is Manic-You, which is my favorite You of all.  You get all that?

Roses are red, Violets are blue, I'm schizophrenic and so am I.

The key when you first wake up is to sprint away from Hangover's icy-clutches with some immediate ridiculousness.  For me, this usually means creating an Olympic event out of the cat-put, which is similar to the shot-put except I fling my cat Ella towards the hamper instead of a 10 pound ball.  You may think this is cruel, but she's the one who sits by my bed and meows for hours on end until I wake up and put food in her dish.  And, since I was about to seal the deal with Elizabeth Hurley in my dream, you can imagine my frustration.  Don't worry, though- I think that Ella and I both get wrapped up in the majesty of Olympic competition and her hunger and my anger both turn to inspiration.  Especially with the theme music that I hear: please listen to the music in this video while looking at a few artistic recreations I made.  I think you'll understand how the nobility of the event supersedes any concerns of "safety" or "responsibility."  Think slow motion when you imagine my cat hurtling through the air.

 Yeah, drink that music in.  Let it fill you with grit and determination for a minute before you move on.  Oh yeah.  There it is.  



That's right- suck it, morning. 

By the time I've cartwheeled through the house to my coffee machine, Hangover is just waking up and starts looking for me in the bedroom.  But I'm not there!  Just a heap of clothes and a confused/hungry cat.  No, I'm singing loudly in my underwear and drinking coffee in my dining room.  

You know how a T-rex's vision is based on movement?  I think Hangover's vision is based on stillness.  As long as I keep doing crazy shit, the Hangover never seems to catch up to me.  This week I searched on Youtube for karaoke videos and found a bunch of Frank Sinatra songs.  I'm 27 now, so it's high time I learn all the words to "My Way," right?  Thought so.  Using a cigarette as a microphone and a coffee cup as my brandy glass, I gave an impromptu nightclub show in my dining room.  Pretty sure my thin walls do little to protect my neighbor's ears as they head to their cars in the morning. Oh well- free show for them and live audience for me!

Sometimes I get so into my singing that Hangover almost catches up with me.  As he brushes his cold hand along my spine, I feel a moment's panic and overcompensate with misdirection and erratic behavior. 

Sometimes it really takes some convincing before I can shake off Hangover and get back into my carefree, manic-to-goodness self.

Knowing my manic-energy is a finite resource, Hangover knows he can wait me out.  He watches my crescendo of crazy, but underestimates my reserves of still-drunk energy. 

Just when Hangover thinks I've finally exhausted myself, I take it to a whole new level.  Fun fact: when you're a good trumpet player who hasn't been playing regularly, you can play awesome for about 5 minutes until your lip gives out and you sound like 2 mice farting in a tin can. 

Hangover is, however, indeed correct.  I am running out of steam.  I've sang, conducted, cartwheeled, cat-putted, trumpeted, drank coffee, watched The Office on Hulu, smoked, and made some scramby eggs.  My manic tank is near empty and I generally throw everything left into one final shebang: this week?  An attempt to play a really high note on my trumpet.  An attempt to play a high note.  It doesn't go well.

Drained, exhausted, and now nearly passed out from my failed high-note attempts, Hangover finally catches up with me and claims victory.  As I lie on the ground, he bestows his evil gifts: upset stomach, tiredness, aching body, eye pain, and meningitis.  Okay, maybe not that last one.  It still sucks though, and usually lasts the better part of a day.  

There's only one way I know of to avoid Hangover: keep drinking.  That's right, like my dad says, "the only problem with drinking is when you stop."  The problem with this idea is that, the next day, Hangover is going to show up again.  With his crew.  And it's going to be worse. A lot. 

But hey- worry about tomorrow when it gets here!  Until then, crack a fresh Keystone, fire up Hulu, and tell Hangover he can go fuck himself!

Caleb "Did you hear it?  I hit a high C.  Did you hear it?  Did you? I heard it." Shreves

PS if you have not done so yet, go check out this video of me singing the national anthem.  I recorded myself in The Nerv's studio, then sang 5 harmony parts with myself.  This was definitely the product of a Hangover-avoidance morning! 

PPS Normally I don't ever go back and edit a post once it's out, but after re-reading this and really feeling inspired by "Chariots of Fire," I had to go back and add some flair to really help the reader get the majesty and dignity of the cat put event.  

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Entry 131: My Cat Might Have A Bit Of A Weight Problem

     Have I told you about my cat, Ella?  Also known as: Worms, Squirms, Squirmiss, Squirmelia Earhart, Worminator, Wormissimo, Ells Bells, or Cat?  I got her about 5 years ago, mostly to prove that I could keep living things alive after the great "sure I can take care of your plants while you're gone" fiasco of 2005. Given that she's currently alive, I'd say that I've redeemed myself.  And that plants are both lazy and self-indulgent.

     Due to some ongoing weight-management issues, Ella is a bit shy about having her picture taken and made me promise to leave her picture out of this post.  I reluctantly agreed, but thought that you readers deserved more and so I've put pictures of other cats as negative examples so you can get a clear picture of what Ella looks like:

She's African-American:

She's not this skinny:

And she's not this fat. 

     Ella was a very energetic and playful kitten.  When I cat-sat for my ex's very cool cat, the Adrian-Brody-esque "Toby", they would play together all day, every day.  Ella was in shape and lithe (real word, fyi) and one day even submitted to me this list of her favorite hobbies so I could use that information when buying her cat toys.

     However, something changed over the last couple of years. Ella has gotten a bit... rotund.  I didn't notice her fattening up because I see her everyday, but when I went to Iraq and my mom watched her I had an email that said:

When did Ella get so fat!? Yesterday she jumped down to the floor from the counter and the vibrations knocked a glass off the table.  Maybe it's time for a diet."

     Honestly I thought my mom was exaggerating.  Turns out the vet thought differently and recommended that I put her on a diet.  Well, a better diet, as I thought I had been putting her on a diet already.  Turns out my diet was, uh, quite generous.

     I didn't like the idea of facing Ella when she was hungry because she's very demanding and stubborn.  And who can resist cute cat faces when they ask if they can "haz cheeseburger?" Right?  I'm not made of stone you know.  But I've been doing my best to stick to her new diet because, in the end, a healthier cat is a happier cat.  What finally pushed me into taking action was when I found her old list of hobbies, now updated, under her bed. Quite sad:

     Ella is doing pretty good on her diet, though she's still a bit plump.  I did see her run (well, jog really) recently so I think things are improving.  There's a problem though: she's always hungry.  And, since she's always hungry, she assumes that every time I go somewhere in my house I'm headed for her food dish to refill her bowl.  I get up or walk around my house many times in a day, yet I only head into her room twice a day. 

     I can't figure out why she always thinks I'm headed for her food dish, because she's not an optimist.  She has to know that the odds of any particular trip of mine leading to her getting food are relatively low.  My theory is that she doesn't have the mental processing to determine, in 3-D space, where her food dish is in relation to the rest of the house.  Here's the actual layout of the house:

All dimensions approximate

     As you can see, it doesn't take a traffic flow-chart to determine that Ella's room is not the hub of this house.  Nevertheless, she assumes that any trip from one area to the area is inevitably part of a food-refilling mission.  So when I get up to go from, say the living room to the kitchen?  She sprints (well, waddle-sprints) into her room and waits for food.  If I go from the kitchen to my room?  She sprints to her dish.  It's the same for every time I get up from one room to do something in any other room.  I imagine she thinks of the house layout more along these lines:

    In a flash of brilliance, it struck me: this might be the key to her getting exercise!  All I have to do is feign a trip towards her room and she'll go sprinting in that direction.  When she doesn't get food she'll trot back to the living room and wait for my next trip.  Like I said, she's stubborn, so when I tried this last week I tricked her into a room-dash 18 times in a row before I got bored with it.  I'm shooting for about a dozen trips per day- so far she hasn't caught on to anything yet.  I got her pretty good this morning on my way to make breakfast:

     On the one hand, I'm using blatant trickery to tease my cat about her favorite pasttime: food.  On the other hand, she's finally getting the exercise that her vet says is good for her.  [I dated a girl like that?] I think this is a situation where everybody wins, right? 

Caleb "Yeah, I torture my cat." Shreves


Thursday, February 17, 2011

Entry 130: February Is National "I Hate Everything" Month

           Maybe those of you in warm, temperate climates (I hate you) don't understand the dreary misery that is winter in February, but let me assure you that months of gray clouds, ice & snow, and frigid temperatures start to wear on a person.  Some people feel the effects more than others (I hate anyone who isn't as badly affected as I am) because there are those, like me, who get to this point in the year and change into mean-spirited, cynical, rage-filled douches.  Here's a graph showing why February is the peak time for winter-suckassedness:

1. Dec-Jan.  Yes, there are many shitty days in front of you, but you haven't been worn down yet.  You carry over some of the excitement of the previous fall, and you get a few Holidays to distract yourself.

3. March -->  You've endured the worst of things, yet Spring is in sight.  You occasionally get days of semi-warmth and might even get a glimpse of the sun.  Yes, it does exist.  Also, baseball starts in April.

2. Feb.  Epicenter. Your spirits have been eroded by months of gray and cold.  You realized that you never even truly believed in Santa in the first place.  Your parents probably adopted you.  When you're at your weakest, you realize that there are still many, many days of shit-tastic suck-waddery ahead of you.  FML.

Yesterday I almost snapped at my own mother.  Since I try to live by the "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all" motto, I'm pretty silent in February.  Here is the conversation, plus my evil thoughts:

Mom: "blah blah blah"
Me: "Yeah, I'm okay.  Just a little grouchy from this weather I suppose."
Mom: "Well don't be grouchy! Go home and play with your cat and relax.  Don't be grouchy."
My thought: "Yeah, that helps, mom.  Why didn't I think of that?  I'll just go ahead and not be grouchy now.  Great advice."   

Instead I mumbled "I'll try that." 
Can't believe I almost snapped at my mother!

I don't know if I've shared this yet or not, but my 3 long-term relationships have all ended within a week of Valentine's Day.  Each breakup initiated by me.  Sad, I know, but in retrospect it was probably the best gift I could have ever given them.

Yes, my girlfriends were this hot.

I can't help it.  It's like I'm not me, and the real me has abdicated the throne until April and turned the reins over to a hating doucheweasel.  A doucheweasel who doesn't want to do anything, go anywhere, or see anybody.  You could ask the doucheweasel (DW) "Hey, DW, how would you like a million dollars?" and he would say, "F your money.  I hate you.  I hate money.  All money buys is shit that will ruin your life anyway.  The only thing worth buying with money is hammers to smash beautiful things. PS eat shit." Right?  Just hateful.

Possible depiction of a doucheweasel

The main object of my hatred the last few days is the Bird Lady who works near me and is the epitome of bitterness and spite.  I wrote about her and her evil sidekick here.  She has passed my work area several times today, and each time my urge to punch her bird-face as hard as I can rises.  She seriously, seriously, looks like a chicken.  She even sort of pecks her head forward and back, as if her eyes are on opposite sides of her head and she had problems with depth-perception.  Her mouth looks like she eats lemons all day, everyday.

 Picture this: 

Plus this:

And you'll pretty much have it. 

The other day at work I decided that I didn't care if she happened to be around and I did my impression of Bird Lady all the way down the hall.  I did the hen-walk, the head-bob, and occasionally let out a loud "BA-GAWK!" to signal my desire for corn feed.  Speaking of, I wonder if it's possible to leave a trail of chicken feed from her desk to a pit outside filled with sharpened stakes.

And it's not only just people and situations that can arouse my February-hate.  Sometimes it's more abstract than that.  For instance, two blog writers I know have recently gone on a few dates together and have been writing (charming) updates.  A picture on the gal's blog today was of some roses and a "guess who I got THESE from?" caption.  Cute, right?

Regular Caleb thinks: "Boy that's nice.  With all the craptastic stories of dating out there, it's sweet to see two people actually working out!  Plus, I like reading the guy's blog and he seems like a thoughtful and genuinely decent guy.  He deserves some good luck!"

However, Douche-weasel thinks: "Gay.  Lame.  Nothing says 'I don't know you well enough to get you something thoughtful' like roses."

Now that's not nice.  I don't really want to think these things, but I just become a douche-factory that manufactures douchery and exports it to everywhere.

So if I seem mean, or I don't want to talk to you, or I set your house on fire, know that I'll be back to my old self in April and ready to help build you a new house.

Caleb "I don't feel like putting anything here." Shreves

Friday, February 11, 2011

Entry 129: Valentine's Day Special!

               In honor of this most sacred holiday (I'm referring to Steak & BJ Day, of course) I wanted to share with you one of my all-time favorite stories.  It's a true story about my dad when he was in second grade and ridiculed by every other student and his evil demon-skank of a teacher.  While the story is a bit dramatic, it's 100% true.  Seriously.  Here goes!

               My dad sighed as he laid his head down on his arms.  The other kids in his Second grade class were giggling excitedly as they rushed up and down the rows of desks, depositing handmade Valentines Day cards in each person’s handmade Valentines Day card reception box.  Each person, that is, except my dad.



               “Georgie-Porgie!” kids would call him mockingly, with not only the consent of the teacher but often with her outright encouragement.   School had become a nightmare for my dad, with each day bringing new torments and new types of embarrassment.  Just that day during recess a telling event had occurred: after a moth had flown in his ear and he couldn’t get it out he asked his teacher if he could go to see the nurse.  He asked this privately, not wanting the attention- and subsequent ridiculing- of his classmates, but the teacher gleefully announced to the other children that “poor Georgie” had gotten a bug stuck in his ear and had to go to the nurse now. 


                 “Isn’t that funny, kids?” she asked, and glared spitefully at my dad.  There was no rationale or reason for the unrelenting terror she inflicted on my father each day, as he was mostly a quiet and polite little boy.  He was also the only student in the class that she treated this way.

Picture of a happy class. *not pictured: dad

                Dad had spent the night before this Valentine’s Day party as he spent most nights; crying and pleading with his parents to remove him from his daily nightmare.  His farm-wife mother and workaholic father were not completely unsympathetic or uncaring, but they also did little to help- either because they thought he was exaggerating or because they felt that there was nothing that they really could do. So he sat with his head down, on Valentines day, with tears in his eyes trying not to attract the attention of any classmates lest they decide that enough time had passed since their last torture administration and they turned their cruel scorn back to him once again.

Grandma and Grandpa may or may not have had pink flamingos.


                 As he sat in his desk with his head down while other students were gleefully exchanging Valentines, my dad looked up to see a girl from his class shyly approaching his desk.  He watched in wonder as she hesitantly dropped a Valentine into his homemade box.  Making the Valentine box was an assignment that he had been required to complete, but he certainly hadn’t made it with any thought or hopes of actually receiving a Valentine; the class mockery of him was complete and total with no ally or potential friend to be found.

I imagine this to be my dad, giddy at the thought of a true Valentine

              So, in shock, he slowly drew the card out of the box and began peeling back the hand-tied ribbon that kept it closed.  His eyes brightened as he pulled the card out of the envelope and he saw a generic “Valentine’s Day” written on the front with glitter.  When he opened the card he saw a handwritten message, which looked like this:

My rendering of dad's Valentine

Let me transcribe this for you:

I hate you.  U stink.  P. U. 

Ouch!  What kind of evil, twisted girl would do something like this?  Dad doesn't remember the name of the girl who gave him this Valentine, but I'm pretty sure that I've dated her daughters.

Dad started escaping everyday life by watching TV all the time at home.  Since this was years ago and they were poor, one of the only shows on TV was the televangelist Billy Graham.  Dad ordered one of the free bibles from TV and began begging Jesus to save him from having to go to the same school the following year.

This might actually be Robert Duvall 

             Believe it or not, 2 weeks before the start of the next school year the district re-zoned and my dad got to go to a different school.  A happy place, filled with great teachers and wonderful classmates.  My alma mater, as a matter of fact (I finally brought some real class to the place).

Pretty sure this was my elementary school

                  Luckily, my dad moved past this experience and harbors no ill-will towards demon-teacher or any of the hell-spawn minions that infested his second grade class.  Pretty big of him, I'd say.  He even went on to be homecoming king in high school!  Yes, he was cooler than I was.  Suck it.

So remember, no matter how shitty you think your Valentine's day is going, it could always be worse!

Happy S&BJ Day!

I couldn't find my dad's homecoming picture, so here is the next best thing. 

Caleb "say hello to ya motha for me!" Shreves

Monday, February 7, 2011

Entry 128: Wasps F*cked Up My LSAT

My friend Steve from The LSAT blog has a weekly feature where people write in a "diary" of their LSAT experiences.  He asked me to write one, which I was happy to do.  I realized, though, that this story had to be shared and I have adapted it for this post.  Here goes!

I hate wasps. They are literally the crappiest of all God's creatures. I have thrown babies and old women out of the way as I run shrieking from a single wasp.  I'm a grown man who has gone skydiving, yet I'm afraid of wasps.  Weird.  Here is a chart to give you an idea of where wasps fit in the kingdom of life:

I set aside a little area in my house for full practice tests every Saturday.  It was a calm and peaceful area, surrounded on three walls by 6 foot windows.  A room that had never, ever seen a single wasp.  Until my first practice test.

During my first PT I glanced up at my analog watch to see how I was doing on time and I felt something hit my head and fall off.  I looked on the table and there it was- Waspzilla.  Staring at me.  Almost like he had a message, but his only communication was a slight twitch of his antennae. I freaked out, mashed him with my "10 official LSAT" book, and finished the test with shaking hands.  I gave myself an extra 1 minute to compensate, but I still did lower than average on that particular section.

Everyone laughed when I told them this story, and thought it was strange that a single wasp would attack me on the day of my first full PT. Well, the next Saturday rolled around and guess what?  Another test, another wasp.  True story.  This one was in the window and harder to see, but I'm sure he was looking at me just like the first one. Dumbfounded, I ran to my garage to get one of my (many) cans of Raid and sprayed him down.  Then I checked to see if the corpse of last week's wasp was still around, just to make sure I wasn't dealing with a zombie-wasp.  Nope- there it was.  2 separate wasps.  This was getting weird.


I won't over-dramatize the next 6 weeks, but I promise you that there was a single wasp somewhere in my test room every Saturday for 6 weeks. At first it was frightening, then hilarious, and finally I became suspicious that it had to more than a mere coincidence.  What was the message?  What was the universe trying to tell me?  As test day approached I received a lot of messages on Facebook from people wondering what the wasps were going to do for the big day.  Obviously I wasn't going to be home taking a practice test that Saturday so if they were going to make their move it would have to be Friday night.  I spoke on the phone about this to a lady-friend the Friday night before the test and made a decision:

"If I score a 180, I'm going to renounce my wasp-hating forever and never kill another wasp.  If I score below my 170 average, I'm going to redouble my efforts to slaughter them mercilessly."

As my friend laughed, I swear to everything sacred that a wasp flew at my face.  RIGHT at my face.  I have a witness to this, as the girl I was talking to heard me throw the phone down, scream, run around, and then tell her all about it.  It was at this point that things went from "coincidentally creepy" to "downright f*cking supernatural."  In my 2 years living at my house, I had probably only ever seen 2 wasps other than my LSAT wasps.  I just don't allow them around.  I spray my entire house, yard, and windows down with several cans of Raid at least twice a year.  Statistically it just wasn't possible for me to see a single wasp every week for 2 months.  No way. Though every wasp so far had stared at me or attacked me, I began to see this whole thing as a sign that my test was going to go great.

I took the test and felt very wasp-confident.  My preparation had included over 25 full PTs, many other sections done individually, analysis of every question ever missed, online resources (shout-out to Steve's blog!), and timed tests done under exact test-day procedures.  I left the test as confident as I had ever been.  I realistically expected around my average of 170, but hoped for a game-day boost to 175+.  Four weeks later I received my score... 161.

Son-of-a-b*tching wasps!!

Let me clarify: after studying diligently for months and raising my average to the 98% level, my actual score was as bad as the very first test I took.  With no explanation (well, no explanation that didn't involve supernatural wasps).

I think I hid my disappointment so well because it was hidden beneath a massive layer of genuine shock.  I didn't want to complain and say my score was bad- it wasn't- but it sucked because it surely didn't reflect all of my hard work.  So I vowed to retake it.  Wasps be damned.

I spent the time between October and December with a much lighter study schedule.  I knew I had it already; I just had to sharpen the edges and practice some of the newer tests.  The greatest day of my LSAT career came when I took PT 54 and missed 3.  A 179 (180 is perfect).  And that, ladies and gentlemen, included an extra 5th section from another test where I didn't miss any!  I was on a roll and had no idea why I was scoring so high on PTs.  Then it hit me- I had taken every PT since October somewhere besides my wasp den at home.  What?  Couldn't be.  What the heck was going on here?

I took the test in December, still wasp-free, and scored a 171.  That's right about my average, which is great, and certainly enough to be competitive at top schools.  But now I'm done... no more studying, no more PTs.  And you know what?  I miss it.  I miss the drive, the focus, and the self-efficacy you gain by watching your scores steadily improve.

The study tips that Steve puts on his site are spot-on.   If you read through other diaries and some of Steve's articles you can find the nuts-and-bolts of effective studying.  I could tell you tips like "do a logic game or two every day" but I feel like I would just be re-hashing old advice.  What I can offer you is the wisdom imparted to me from the world's nastiest creatures.

When I got my 161 I was shocked and couldn't come up with a non-wasp explanation.  I was ashamed, disheartened, and defensive.  I felt like I had let myself- and my friends and family- down. I had failed. Then it hit me: I was basing my opinion of myself on my test score.  I was becoming my LSAT score.  One of the simplest of life's lessons had eluded me and I was equating my self-worth with some stupid test.  Some thing outside of myself. This sudden realization helped me let go of the need to be perfect, de-stress, and take LSAT studying on my terms.  My last 3 PTs before the December test were 170, 175, and 179.  I even finished one logic game in under 4 minutes. And, more importantly, I had more fun.

Maybe this is what the wasps were telling me.  Maybe they were guru-wasps that were letting me know that it was my efforts, not my test score, that were a reflection on me.  That, in the end, the LSAT was more for me than for any law school.

Or maybe they just didn't know where I was hiding and I'm going to have to kill them all.

Either way, I'm buying this shirt: 

Remember: if you see any wasps, smash 'em and tell them "CALEB SAYS HI MOTHER F*CKER!"

Caleb "Wasp-killer" Shreves