Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Don't judge a book by it's cover. Or title. Or genre for that matter.

I'm a book nerd. 

There I've said it. 

To all of my friends, this is not a newsflash.  I've been a book nerd my entire life.

I blame my mother.

She's a book nerd too.

When I was a University student, I got the most awesome job ever.  I started working part-time in a large format bookstore.  After almost 6 years, I had worked in every section of that store including kids, magazines, shipping/receiving, cash and entry level management.  It was awesome.  


Originally I got the job purely for the staff discount so I could actually afford the amount of books I purchased on a monthly basis.  I figured if I needed to work to pay for school, I may as well be dealing with something I enjoyed. 

Now, being a true book nerd, I am not a book snob.  I read everything.  When you work in a bookstore it behoves you to learn about the product you're selling.  You hear about all the popular books and authors all the time and are required to be familiar with them at a minimum.  If you've actually read them and have a first hand opinion, even better because many customers will listen to your recommendations and trust your judgement.

 As I mentioned, I'm not a book snob.  I really will read anything.  Although if anything it's more out of necessity.  That is because on average I read 2-3 books a week.  If I limited myself to a specific genre or topic I would have run out of books by now.  So there really isn't a genre that I haven't tackled at some point or another. 

What I noticed over the years of being an avid reader as well as working in a bookstore is that there are some deeply entrenched stereotypes about the readers of certain types of books.  It's sad because honestly anything that gets anybody reading could never be a bad thing.  And yes, there are some authors/topic/genres that are more interesting than others, but this is all a matter of opinion.  There is no such thing as a silly genre or a bad author.  You may think it's a bad book or a silly topic but somewhere out there, someone enjoyed it. 

Yet people judge you every day if you're seen reading certain types of books in public.

For example.  What do you think when you saw a 20-something woman on the train reading a romance novel? 

Self help book?

Philosophy book? 

Teen fiction?

Sci-fi/Fantasy?

Hard core business book?

The Bible?

All of these types of books have stereotypes that many people subscribe too.

Romance novel?  She obviously has no sex life.

Self help book? Oprah loving nutcase.

Philosophy?  Hippie university student.

Teen fiction?  Must be obsessed with Twilight.

Sci-fi/Fantasy?  No life, no friends, must play D&D in her spare time. 

Business book?  Corporate go-getter.

Don't even get me going on what we presume about people reading the bible or other religious books.

We jump to these conclusions and yet we know nothing about these people.

Personally I have read books in all these categories and more.  But nobody would think anything of it if they saw me reading historical fiction, a mystery novel or a biography.  Pretty narrow minded if you think about it.

So next time you see someone in public reading or browsing a section in your local library or bookstore, don't jump to conclusions.  Better yet, ask them how the book is.  You may surprise yourself.  'Cause the sad thing is?  Most people who read books in these genres are aware of the stereotypes and can guess what you're thinking.  Some even go so far as to be ashamed of it to a certain extent. 

So don't be a snob.  Read something that's outside of your comfort zone.  Ask someone about a book that they are reading that you would never read on your own.  You may surprise yourself. 

Read boldly my fellow book nerds. 

Cheers,

Ash

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Earworm: Or, Dear God why am I singing that song!

Last week I randomly caught myself humming Jingle Bells.

It's April.

I don't even really like Christmas.

It's called Earworm.

You know what I'm talking about.  That silly commercial jingle, the annoying pop song or even the last song you heard on the radio before getting out of your car. It gets stuck in your head and all of a sudden it's like a skipping record.  You find youself singing it over and over again.  Sometimes for a day, worst case scenario you're dealing with it for a week or more.

I'm so glad that there is an official term for this and that I'm not the only person this happens to.  'Cause it happens to me A LOT.

I'm a huge music fan.  My iPod has so many different varietieso music on it that most people are stunned.  Were talking Rock, Metal, Pop, Classic Country, Jazz, Classical, 60's Motown, 70's Rock, 80's Hair Bands, 90's Grunge, Broadway Showtunes and Disco.  Yes Disco.

I also work for a Marketing Consulting frim, so I tend to be very aware of commercials and advertisemens.

What makes it even worse is that I took music lessons for about 15 years and can play the paino by ear, which means that more often than not, I will remember a piece of music or lyics after having heard them once or twice.

Great skill to have as a musician, horrible for the person afflicted with earworm.

According to the theories, 98% of people have experienced earworm.  Women tend to experience it more often than men, and women tend to become more frustrated with it.

It also tends to be more common amongst people who have OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), which basically means I'm doomed to suffer from earworm for the rest of my life.  I have musical training, my gender and OCD all working against me. 

I've had 2 brutal experiences with Earworm that I will never forget.  These two experiences rise above all the others for the sheer length of the affliction as well as the annoyingness of the song.

1) In 2007 Kellogg's released a commercial for their new product "Vanilla Mini Wheats".  I sang that jingle every day for WEEKS.  It is the most annoying, cutsey tune in the world and by the end of it I was ready to write to Kellogg's just to tell them to go eff themselves. 

Now because I'm a sharing type of person here's the ad.



To this day, everytime I hear it I can't help but sing along.  Annoying isn't it?

2) In late 2008, The Discovery Channel released a promo with their new advertising campaign "I love the world."  It was a great ad, it incorporated many of the stars of the Discovery Channel's popular shows and wasn't annoying like the Mini-Wheats jingle but after over a month of singing it, I was about ready to loose my mind.  Luckily in this instance I was not alone, my mother and one of the girls I worked with ALSO had it stuck in their heads.  So although I wasn't suffering alone there were other people that just contributed to my agony.  It was a vicious circle.  I'd think it was finally out of my head, and the girl at work would walk by my desk humming it and the process would start all over again.



Whart are some songs you've had stuck in your head?

Cheers,

Ash

Boom-de-ya-da, Boom-de-yada, Boom-de-ya-da, Boom-de-ya-da!!

Real Life: Sometimes it needs an UNFRIEND button

Thanks to the wonders of social media, many of us can now claim to have hundreds of "friends". 

Facebook has united us with ex-coworkers, the chick from High School who didn't really know you to begin with, the guy you dated back in the day, the girl you sat next to in some random University course, the friend of a friend, your ex-boyfriends sister and the guy you had a crush on in 4th grade.  All of these people are now considered our "friends" but are by no means usually part of our active social circle.  And that's the difference.  There's real friends, and virtual friends.  I can guarantee that most of the people I just mentioned don't really know me at all.  And yet I've never felt the need to "unfriend" them. 



There's a little bit of guilt and stigma surrounding the concept of rejecting a persons freind request or unfriending them on Facebook.  And don't we all scan our friends list when we see our friend count has gone down to figure out who could have unfriended us??

But here's my question.  Social media aside, when do we unfriend in real life? And how do we do it?

Some time around the beginning of University, my social group changed dramatically.  I met hundreds of new people at University and my new job and slowly lost touch with most of the people I had grown up with.  Mostly this wasn't a bad thing.  Clinging to mediocre friendships just because you've known them since childhood isn't necessary.  We're not evaluated as human beings based on how many friends we have. 

During this time, I walked away from my best friend since the age of 4.  Why?  I realized that despite her being the closest person to me in the world, our friendship was toxic. 

I'm guessing that every one knows what I mean by toxic relationship.  This is the friend that doesn't put as much effort into the relationship as you, the one that is never really there when you need them or is only around when they need you. 

Now bear with me people, I'm about to get nerdy on you.

Back in the 20's  a British Anthropologist figured out that human beings can maintain somewhere between 100 and 230 stable social relationships.  He settled on the number 150 and it's been dubbed Dunbar's Number ever since.  So in theory, we should be able to maintain 150 relationships.  That actually seems a little high to me.  I totally agree that a person can only maintain a certain number of CLOSE friendships.  Now by close friendships, I mean people you talk to regularly and spend time with.  People who know you well and who you know in return.  And especially, people who are there for you during the good, the bad and the ugly.  These are close friendships.  The people who you would do everything from shop with to cry with, to get in trouble with all while laughing about it afterwards. 

How many of these true friends do we really have?  5? 10? or only 1?

How many of us truly appreciate what it means to have these kinds of friends?

And what happens when one of these friendships starts to turn toxic?  When do you unfriend in real life?

Let me lay down some scenarios for you.

You've know each other for years and have always been really close but the last few years you notice that  you're the one making all the effort to keep the relationship afloat.  You make sure to go to all her parties and gatherings, but she is always busy on the night of yours.  You are always there to help her move but when you get your own apartment she's not feeling well.  You are always friendly and polite around her other friends but she doesn't even want to be there when your other friends may be included.  She says she'd rather just spend time with the two of you, but always makes you come to her.  When she fights with her boyfriend or gets dumped she's more than willing to come crying to good 'ole you but when you end a serious relationship she gives you a pat on the shoulder and says you're being dramatic?  The one who only spends time with you when they're bored, need something or are currently between boyfriends.  I think we've all had this kind of friend at least once in our lives.  The one who simply takes from the friendship but never puts anything back in.

Know the friend I'm talking about?

When do we say enough is enough?

And how do you un-friend in real life? 

I think that if you're not getting what you need out of any relationship and it can't be fixed you should walk away.  Now depending on the history of the friendship and the level of toxicity, trying to talk to the person can't hurt.  I wouldn't want to think back on the end of a long friendship and never be comfortable with the fact that I didn't really try to do anything to fix it.  But then deep down, a lot of the time we know that these friendships can't be fixed.

So stop contacting them, unfriend them on facebook or level with them and explain why you don't want them to be part of your life anymore.  Whatever you're comfortable with.  But I say, don't try to stop the Titanic from sinking.  Make sure the lifeboats make it to shore ;)  Take the energy you've been putting into toxic relationships and let the people that really matter know how much you mean to them.
So to all my friends who I love with all my heart, you know where I am if you need me.  And better yet, I know where you are too.

Thank you for being my unbiological sisters.

xoxoxoxo

Love,

Ash

Some entertaining friendship quotes for your enjoyment.

"Best Friends:  They know how crazy you are and still choose to be see in public with you."

"My friends are the kind of friends that if my house was burning down, they'd be roasting marshmallows and hitting on the firemen."

"A friend will help you move your couch, a best friend will help you hide a body."

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

You vs. Your Pet: The Battle For Bathroom Privacy

Warning:  While not getting into biological specifics, I'm talking about the bathroom.  Deal with it.

Anyone who has children or pets knows that there is NO SUCH THING as privacy.  Now I knew this in a very general sense long before I ever got my cat, yet it never fails to surprise me exactly how much of my privacy I have given up.

For those of you who can't relate, let me outline a typical scenario.

You've just spent the last 45 minutes on public transit and stumble into your apartment with one thought on your mind.

OH MY GOD I HAVE TO PEE!!!!!


You practically kill yourself ripping off your coat and shoes while almost tripping over your pet who is thrilled that you are home but unsympathetic to your plight.  You dash into the bathroom and sit down.

*sigh*

Now everything is fine until you realize that your pet has followed you into the bathroom, and in the case of my cat, currently trying to climb into my lap.  Or better yet, has curled up in my pants.
 
Really dude?  I know you're happy to see me and have been alone all day but I'm not really in a position to cuddle you or provide chin scritches. 

Now this is a universal pet thing.  I've had friends tell me that their dog follows them to the bathroom all the time.  I've even been at a friends house and had their dog attempt to bond with me while I peed.  And God knows that cats don't care what you're doing....if they want attention, it is guaranteed to be at the most inopportune time EVER. 

I've been told the same thing about children.  There is no such thing as privacy or a closed door when it comes to children or pets.  Someone I know was complaining that she misses taking a nice relaxing bath.  That since she had kids, she just never gets the opportunity anymore.  Now me, being the single person that I am was like, "just run the bath while you're putting them in bed and by the time you're done the bath will be ready."  She honestly looked at me as if I was delusional and said that it was obvious I didn't have children under the age of 5. 

But children and pets aren't that different in respect to privacy.
Cat vs. Bathtub - The Aftermath

The fun thing about pets?  My cat doesn't care what I'm doing in the bathroom.  If I'm trying to pee, he's sitting in my pants.  If I'm brushing my teeth, he's sitting on top of my toilet tank watching me.  Taking a shower?  He's trying to launch himself through the shower curtain to attack what he doesn't realize is me on  the other side.  And bath time?  Well he used to sit on the ledge of the tub and play with the bubbles.  Key words, used to.  That was before the dumbass fell into the tub with me.  

Why is it that we put up with so much from our pets and children?  God knows if an adult tried to sit on my lap while I went pee we'd have a problem.  But kids and pets seem to be immune to all of our regular boundaries.  Although we may be temporarily caught off guard by what they're doing, I'm sure there's not a pet owner out there that wouldn't give their cat a good scratch behind the ear before removing them from their lap.  How can you be mad when all they want is some attention from their favourite person? 

Side Note:  Being the dork that I am, I actually googled this popular pet behavior and here are some of my favourite reasons why your pets may like to follow you into the bathroom:

1) It's a great opportunity for attention because you are pretty much a captive audience at that point.
2) They're trying to figure out why you're not using a litter box
3) You're their pack alpha and they are therefore interested in everything you do
4) Because you try to close the door behind you, they presume you MUST be doing something interesting

Honestly I think all of them are possible but the most likely, at least for cats, is that they want attention when you aren't necessarily in a position to give it to them, contrary little buggers that they are.

Cheers,

Ash