Thursday, September 29, 2005

Starving for Attention

September is finally reaching its end. This is good news for me, who, due to recent wedding expenditures, has found myself in a virtual state of poverty. Okay, this might be a slight exaggeration, as I do have my most basic of needs met. But, when it comes to grocery shopping, September has been an exercise in restraint. Quite literally, I have limited myself to buying only bread and milk this month (that’s right, not even Mountain Dew!). One time I did splurge and buy some pepperoni and French bread to make homemade pizza, but other than that, I have limited myself to what’s on the shelf, save for the milk and bread.

In many ways, this has done me some good. I am finally eating food that has been stockpiled in my cupboards for months and, in some cases, for years. No, I’m not kidding. Such choice items include Ramen Noodles, a plethora of breakfast cereals, and, as I happen to be having for lunch today, Fiddle Faddle®.

I have also basked much in the generosity of family and friends. It turns out a starving child is ten times more likely to visit his parents, or so I have gathered. Thanks to the generosity of these fine people, I have had the pleasure of dining on everything from Belgian waffles to soft-shell tacos to chicken strips to General Tao’s chicken. Not so bad for a month of economic struggle. Why, I’ve even discovered (thanks to a donation from my mother) that albacore tuna is like steak compared to the tuna I have always eaten. Thanks, Mom!

As I prepare to move out of my apartment, I’m sure I’ll be glad to have used up much of the food that resides here. I just wish I were more excited about eating it. Denied the fresh ingredients that could literally and figuratively spice up my culinary lifestyle, I am reduced to eating pre-packaged products once purchased for the sake of ease, but often overlooked for something more scrumptious, whether homemade or (in my more affluent days) dining out.

Oh well. Here’s to better times. I’d give an official toast, but all I have is water. Sorry.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

An Amazing Night for Television

Just a reminder, tonight is the debut of The Amazing Race (it's on CBS @ 9pm on the coasts, 8pm Central and Mountain). It is one of the only television shows I would strongly recommend, and I urge anyone and everyone who has not seen it to sample its wares before crossing it off your list. I realize "reality" TV is not for everyone. It seems to carry a stigma that is not altogether unjustified. I dare say The Amazing Race is an exception.

There isn't much more I can do. The choice is now in your hands, gentle readers. I hope you will make the right decision.

Thank you.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Going Postal

Although I recently reported that everything was going incredibly smoothly when it comes to wedding plans, Melanie and I have finally had our first snafu. Not that it was something horrible, but it was the first thing to be even somewhat problematic. Believe me, I’m not trying to complain. I couldn’t be happier with the way everything is turning out. Or at least not that much happier. But, to fill you in, here’s the shamelessly long story:

As most of you probably know, the United States Postal Service has machines that “read” most of the envelopes that come through their system. This impressive bit of technology allows the separating of mail to be, at least to a large extent, fully automated. Because this has proved such a valuable time saver for the USPS, anyone wanting to mail a sqaure envelope—a shape that alludes the technological prowess of the mail-reading machines—is subsequently punished by paying an extra twelve cents per parcel. Melanie and I were already aware of this extra cost when we ordered our wedding announcements. We knew they would cost $.49 a piece to be mailed. But, to be honest, we were more than happy to pay the extra postage when the company that printed our announcements told us we could have the post office do the actual stamping for us. Rather than spending several hours affixing the stamps ourselves, we could take our announcements en masse to a local post office and be done with it. We were overjoyed.

Come last Tuesday morning, Melanie and I take our stockpile of announcements to the local PO. After waiting in line for several minutes, we reach the counter and gleefully deposit our box of envelopes before the USPS employee, asking him to please stamp and mail the contents thereof. The man working the counter then informs us that, contrary to what we may have heard, the post office is not able to handle such requests. We can either buy the stamps and put them on ourselves, or we can drive down the road to a printing store that, for a nominal fee, will stamp them and mail them for us. Having basked in the mentality that we were about to be done with the whole affair, Melanie and I promptly decide it is worth the extra cost to have the print shop do our dirty work. Somewhat disgruntled but ever full of hope, we drive down the road.

When we arrived at Printing Express, I once again heaved the box into my manly arms and, with my beautiful fiancée in tow, proceeded into the store. Much to our dismay, the woman working the counter tells us that Printing Express is not able to handle such requests. She does inform us, however, that we can drive down the road to the post office and, for no fee whatsoever, have them stamp and mail our announcements for us. Understandably frustrated, Melanie and I return to the car, where Melanie proceeds to call the company that had originally printed our announcements. She explains the situation and asks if a particular post office must be patronized in order to have our needs met. The woman on the phone tells us of her own first-hand experience with a post office that both stamped and mailed her invitations, and, in a miraculous twist of fate, she tells us the location—about a mile due east of where we are sitting.

We quickly drive to our next location and position ourselves in the unsettlingly long queue. After a dozen minutes or so, we finally reach the counter. Not wanting to provide the postal representative any ammo with which to decline us, we politely request (rather than ask) that she handstamp and mail our box of wedding announcements. Like the man at the original post office, she is quick to inform us that this is not an option, but that we can most certainly use this opportunity to buy the stamps that, at our own convenience, we can adhere manually. Standing fast, we assure her that we had been told the post office could handle our handstamping request. Caving under our pressure, the woman concedes that she can handstamp our announcements, but, in what seemed a bit of improv on her part, she informs us that the Post Master General has limited such handstamping to twenty envelopes per customer. If we really want them to do this, she says, we will have to go through the line over and over until we are finished. Not wanting to be outdone, I promptly take my position back in line while Melanie waits for our first twenty letters to be processed.

Is all well that ends well? Far from it. By the term “handstamping,” Melanie and I had understood that the postal employee could use an actual rubber stamp to quickly imprint a “postage paid” label on our announcements. As it turns out, in order to handstamp an envelope, the postal employee must place an individual piece of mail on her scale, type the zip code to which it is being mailed into the computer, enter some other information, and then wait for the computer to print out a sticker that gets placed on the envelope. She must do this one unit at a time, regardless of matching zip codes or any other similarities. Needless to say, we quickly learned that an abundance of time could be saved by purchasing the stamps and doing it ourselves. In the end, they had won. We forfeit.

Is the story over? Not quite. By the time we had reconciled to doing the stamping ourselves, we were fully aware that $.49 stamps did not even exist. In order to obtain the proper postage, Melanie and I would be forced to buy nearly 200 $.48 stamps and the same number of $.01 stamps. Our stamping efforts would be doubled, but forgoing the handstamping “service” offered via the post office would still be well worth our time. What we didn’t realize (until it was too late) is that self-adhesive $.01 stamps are also non-existent. So, having already made the decision and ordered the stamps, we find out that we’ll also have to tear each $.01 stamp from its perforated stronghold and taste of its bitter poison in order make it stick. Our loss, it turns out, was more brutal than we had imagined.

I think Melanie is quite right in supposing that the non-availability of $.49 stamps is a postal conspiracy. As the post office is fully aware that square envelopes require this exact amount of postage, and as wedding announcements are likely to compose a large amount of USPS business now that electronic communication is all the fad, how can it be that $.49 stamps do not exist? Interestingly, Melanie and I had three different postal employees at two different locations try to sell us on buying $.60 stamps, “just to avoid the hassle of putting two stamps on every invitation.” From what they said, it seems a lot of people do this, and I’m not surprised. Had we known the $.01 stamps were rip-and-lick, we very well may have purchased the $.60 stamps ourselves. Anytime anyone does this, of course, it brings in an extra $.11 per invitation for the post office, which would certainly add up to a decent amount of revenue at year’s end. But I suppose it’s just like every other establishment, whether a bakery or a dress shop—if you know someone’s buying something for a wedding, there is no such thing as price gouging.

Monday, September 19, 2005

License and Registration ... and a Tuxedo

The wedding is just over a month away, and things have continued to go smoothly. With a few minor exceptions, all of the invitations have been stuffed and sealed. I picked up my ring on Saturday; it seems to fit well enough, and people are doing their best to assure me it doesn’t look too feminine on my delicate hands. This has been a long-held phobia of mine, but I think it will pass. Moving on, Melanie and I have even found what we hope will soon be our apartment. Despite its tiny kitchen, we both felt charmed by it. And it’s got a gas fireplace, which I’ve never seen in an apartment before—at least not in an apartment of the caliber for which our income will allow. With winter just around the corner, what could be more romantically perfect for a pair of newlyweds?

Despite nearing completion, there are some wedding-preparation technicalities that must be overcome. We’ll have to acquire a marriage license, which seems nothing more than a way for the government to gouge an already-financially-strapped couple out of fifty bucks. And we also need to finalize our wedding registry, which should be finished but could probably use a once-over to be safe. Aside from that, the only semi-major thing to do is get me a tuxedo. As of yet, I have no idea what style I will be going for, but it will presumably bear some purple in it somewhere. I also need to decide whether or not I should shave any of my facial hair. As an aspiring professor, I don a full (though hopefully not sloppy) beard. Though no one, including my lovely fiancée, is asking me to shave, I wonder if the clean-cut look isn’t more appropriate for a wedding. Then again, as it’s been a number of years since I’ve gone without a beard, such a move runs the risk of making me look goofy. And that would just be a distraction. A goatee is probably a fair compromise, but I haven’t decided.

In my academic life, I have two tests this week. I’m not looking forward to either, but Latin should be a lot worse than Greek. For anyone who knows these languages, or who knows my usual gripes about them, this may come as a surprise. But it’s all about the teacher, and my Latin professor is incredibly more demanding. My Greek teacher, on the other hand, is planning to give us most of the vocabulary we’ll need for the test. While translating is much more than an act of matching Greek words to English words, this should, as far as tests go, make it incredibly easy. I’d be feeling pretty good about getting these tests behind me if it weren’t for the 20-page paper that’s yet to come. If I don’t get started on that soon, I’ll be hating life. That’s not how a boy in love should feel when he’s about to get married. And so we must move on. Until then…

Wednesday, September 14, 2005


Life is going very well. Sure, I’m as busy as it gets, but everything in my life is a blessing. If I ever stop to whine, I try hard to remember this fact. The things I tend to complain about are also the things that make me an incredibly lucky person. Getting an education, preparing for marriage, organizing, cleaning and otherwise dealing with the components of having a place to live. Where do I get off being ungrateful?

Yes, there is much to keep me busy, and I miss writing my blogs and reading books at leisure, and so far I don’t feel like I have either the time or the money to take guitar lessons like I had hoped for, but I am well. I dare say I am at an all-time high when it comes to spirituality, academia, and love. In some instances this may be a sad thing to admit, for I am surely a novice in many, many respects. But it’s onward and upward, and the evidence of this just keeps pouring in.

As clichéd as it may sound, there isn’t a day that goes by that I am not grateful for my family. This is not hyperbole. This is not just a convenient way to express the deep appreciation that I feel for all of them. I literally don’t think a day goes by that I don’t spend some time in solemn gratitude for them. I hope I treat them accordingly. Sadly, I know I fail at times. I hope they will be quick to forgive me.

With the attitude of gratitude abounding in this post, I will now share with you some of the most delightful happenings of recent weeks.
  • Melanie and I got our wedding invitations back from the printers, as well as our engagement photos. They all look absolutely perfect. Everything we have done to prepare for the wedding has gone as smooth as fondant. Let’s hope it stays that way!
  • Mountain Dew was recently on sale. Two-dollars for a twelve-pack. How lovely!
  • The new Mental Floss magazine showed up recently. For those who aren’t familiar with this fine periodical, which is probably almost all of you, I highly suggest checking it out. It is a bimonthly publication that revels in interesting facts and trivia. I cannot imagine anyone who enjoys the art of thinking not liking this magazine. It is written in a fairly whimsical style and includes such interesting articles as “The 20 Most Annoying People in History” and “The 5 Shocking Origins of National Anthems.” They give you interesting tidbits on everything from foreign countries and classic works of literature to the Muppets and Colonel Sanders. Check it out today!
  • Speaking of having fun with your brain, I was completely blown away by an optical illusion found on the Skytopia website. The illusion is called the “Checker Shadow Illusion,” and I promise you will be astounded if you put it to the test. To whet your appetite, the image is that of a black (well, dark gray) and white (well, very light gray) checkerboard. A green cylinder sits in the corner of the checkerboard, casting a diagonal shadow across the board. Well, it turns out that the “white” squares in the shadow are actually the same color as the “dark” squares lying outside the shadow, but there is no way you can even begin to believe it! They look VASTLY different, and I simply could not buy into it until I tested the image myself (by saving it on my hard drive, going into an image editing program, cutting the “white” square out and dragging it right up to the “black” square—lo and behold, they ARE the same color!) Don’t be lazy, people, at least look into this. The illusion is located about halfway down the page. If you go the page (click here to go), simply begin scrolling down the page. The page will go from having a green background to having a blue background. When it finally turns green again, that is exactly where you should find the illusion. It’s unbelievable. Go now! (Also of note, check out the Rotating Snakes.)
  • I have just discovered the comedy of Eugene Mirman. Quite funny stuff, but incredibly vulgar and profane at times. So far, I have mostly just watched his videos, which can be found here. One of the funniest vids is the “Swift Boat Video.” It makes light of the whole Kerry-Bush Vietnam controversy, and aside from a couple of mild profanities, it is safe for all ages. Check this one out if nothing else. Otherwise, if you get offended easily—or perhaps at all—steer clear of most everything else on this site! If you enjoy the recommended video and are desperate for more, I’ll do my best to point you to other “clean” ones. Just let me know.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Happy Anniversary to Me

One year ago today, my blog was born. Only a select few of you will remember that, in its original incarnation, this blog was titled Follow the Bouncing Ball…, and it appeared in the jet black format that you see here today. (Don’t worry, things will return to normal with my next post, but today is a day for nostalgia.) Now here we are, 84 posts later, and like a bad sitcom, I’m going to pass off a stroll down memory lane as a brand new post. Hope you enjoy.

September 2004

Initially predicted to be “little more than a passing obsession, and not a long one at that,” Benjamin debuts Follow the Bouncing Ball…. Despite his family being fully aware of its existence, it is not until the third post—a brief overview of the annual state fair (where “we smelled the stench of livestock that, at next year's fair, will again make an appearance, this time in the form of $4 corn dogs and slathered over hot scones to be sold as Navajo Tacos”)—that anyone comments. This gets the ball rolling, but in less than two weeks, that ball becomes the orange sucking phenomenon that it is today. Benjamin lightens up not only the color scheme of his blog, but his persona as well, becoming the ever-effervescent Benny K. Sucking on Oranges is officially here.

October 2004 – January 2005

Benny K continues to focus his posts on the worlds of school and work. On occasion, he waxes intellectual, with posts such as “You Speak, Therefore I Am,” “Good Will Hunting,” “Addiction,” and “Beating Around the Bushnell.” Entertainment news, items of consumer interest, and personal idiosyncrasies also make their random appearances.

February – March 2005

Day-to-day observations and anecdotes become a larger part of Sucking on Oranges. Despite a modest response, the post “To Pee or Not to Pee” becomes an instant classic, showcasing Benny K’s “talent” for eloquently expounding upon the mundane facets of everyday life. “Fairies and Bunnies and Eggs – Oh My!” becomes the most comment-laden post in Sucking on Oranges history. In late March, Benny K’s first spin-off blog, Orange Theology, makes its debut.

April – May 2005

Sucking on Oranges reaches its zenith with a sudden onslaught of regular not-obligated-due-to-familial-ties readers. “Sandman on Strike?”, the sad recounting of a near-sleepless night, becomes another favorite, while readers’ comments gain some of their highest numbers ever (“Name That Tune” and “Quizzical Existentialism” being two of only three posts ever to break into the double-digits). On May 19th, Benny K’s other spin-off blog, In the Key of Orange, makes its debut.

June – August 2005

Despite a surge in posting for June and August (twenty posts between them!), summertime does not prove the most fruitful for Benny K’s writing. Many posts consist of memes, links to other websites and blogs, photographs, and brief announcements. Nevertheless, the occasional post still provides what is hopefully a humorous snippet from Benny K’s life, whether it's getting a haircut, being ripped off by Triple-A baseball, the certainty of getting a bad seat at the movie theater, literally not getting what you ordered, or using maps to get lost. Philosophical rants include discussions on whether or not one should disclose past acts of infidelity and the ethics of pirating music.

September 2005

Benny K uses his one-year anniversary to shamelessly promote himself, insulting his loyal readership with a barrage of “been there, done that” information. Will they ever forgive him?

But in all seriousness, folks, it’s been a good year. Thanks to all of you who read this blog, whether you’re a regular or not, whether you’ve ever commented or not. I’ve stumbled upon a lot of great personalities, and a lot of great personalities have stumbled upon me (and, for some reason, hung around). Thanks for that. I’ve enjoyed the company, and I hope it will continue long into the future.


Friday, September 02, 2005

No, I Most Certainly Am Not Ready for Some Football

I have a confession to make. I’m not into sports. Occasionally, I like going to sporting events, but only as a social event or for nostalgia’s sake, such as summertime baseball games. I would never consider it worth my time and effort to go to a game that wasn’t easily accessible. Even if someone gave me free Super Bowl tickets, and for some reason I couldn’t sell them, I wouldn’t make an overwhelming effort to go. I wouldn’t pay to travel for it, and I wouldn’t really want to deal with getting to the stadium, which would surely be a horrific project in-and-of itself. I’m not saying I wouldn’t go if I could easily get there. And, truth be known, in this unlikely instance I probably would make an effort, only because it would be such an incredibly rare opportunity that I’d feel obligated to go. But I wouldn’t be all that excited for it outside of the bragging rights. In fact, if I won lifetime Super Bowl tickets I’d be even less excited, given that I wouldn’t really want to bother going more than once and the bragging rights would quickly wear off.

But the real point of this post is this: the college football season is kicking off tonight, and it’s already a pain. Kickoff is set for 6pm, which means a good square mile around the campus is congested by 4pm. For someone attempting to drive their fiancée to a 4:30 class, this can be very frustrating. Roads get closed down, lanes get backed up, parking spots disappear which then escalates the problem. Even a drive-by drop-off becomes horribly inconvenient. Yeah, yeah, I know the school makes more off of football than it does tuition, but do we really feel zero obligation to help a student actually be able to get to class? I dread going back to pick my fiancée up.

I must admit, however, that the football game did provide me some baffling amusement. Posted outside the stadium parking lot, which is reserved for students during non-event hours, was a sign that read:

“No General Parking Permits Only.”

Hmmm. The way I see it, you should be pretty safe parking there no matter what. No one in their right mind can claim this statement is anything other than ambiguous. I don’t see how “no” and “only” are supposed to work together in this sentence. Unless they’re saying that only general parking permits are restricted. Like if a sign said, “No Dogs Only,” it could mean that any other animal was permitted. Right? Somehow I don’t think this is what the stadium is getting at, but who knows. Not I, said the pig.