Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Carbon Monoxide

It's a well known fact that carbon monoxide is colorless, tasteless and odorless, as well as deadly. This lack of features is precisely what makes it so dangerous... there is no way to sense the slow seeping of carbon monoxide without the modern technology of a CO detector (or, failing that, the proverbial coal mine canary.)

What you might not have known is that when a carbon monoxide detector goes off in your house, while you can't smell the carbon monoxide, you will immediately smell the scent of your own fear. What does it smell like? As the alarm rings in your ears, you would swear that the pungent odor of your fear is exactly like the odor carbon monoxide would have, if it had any at all.

Friday, June 25, 2010

What's in a Name? (Part 2)

Last week I was volunteering with a project called Lose the Training Wheels, as a bike spotter. Their were about 15 of us volunteers, working together for a week. We had about thirty minutes of downtime between sessions. Almost none of us knew each other at the start of the week, but we developed the sort of easy break-room relationships that come with any project like this. We'd chat about sports scores, or colleges, or how well our riders were learning. Sometimes, we'd kick around a soccer ball or shoot some hoops.

But that's not what this post is about. Here, I mean to ponder the following phenomenon.

There was another Matt in the group. A Matthew, rather than a Mattathias, but we were both going by Matt. This caused the standard confusion on the first day ("Matt, you'll be working with Nathan... Oh shoot, there are two Matts.) This is fairly common, but what happened next is interesting.

The other Matt, it was clear, felt an instant connection because of our shared name. For the rest of the week, when he came in, the first thing he'd do was greet me with a "How's it going, Matt?" and a wide grin. During breaks, he'd come over to talk. Besides the name and the interest in volunteering, we didn't have much in common, but that didn't seem to matter to him.

Matt was friendly with everyone, but obviously felt that there was significance to our fellow Matt-hood. I don't think I felt it nearly so strongly as he did, perhaps because being a Mattathias has always made me feel different from other Matts, especially Matthews.

So what is it then, that makes a shared name feel like a shared nature?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

What time is it?

I have a life-long animosity for alarm clocks.

This first became apparent when I was in first grade, and had to be up in time to get to school by Eight AM (I had been in an afternoon kindergarten class, blissfully free until 12:30.) I ignored my alarm clock completely, making my mother come time and time again to call, wheedle, and threaten me out of bed. When words alone did not suffice, she moved on to diplomacy by other means: tickling, dragging, repeated threats of ice cubes (I cannot recall whether these threats ever became reality, but from the force they carried I think they must have, at least once.)

Things did not improve with middle school.

When I entered ninth grade, however, I also entered the world of early morning seminary, a Mormon religious institution designed to provide students with scriptural instruction at an hour when they were most in need of reminders about charity. The upshot of this was that my alarm clock was now set two hours earlier, and I couldn't count on my mother to be awake in time to remind me.

Fortunately, pajamas were acceptable dress in my seminary class, so I didn't have to rouse myself too early.

I got better at heeding the alarm, but as my 70% seminary attendance freshman year attests, not much better.

It was not until my senior year that I discovered the snooze button. I couldn't use it much before class (my alarm was set at 5:45 AM, and I could hit the snooze once, leaving it to call again at 5:55, and still get to seminary in time) but I would often return home and set another alarm for 7:15, sometimes hitting the snooze twice, sometimes three times, and thus surfacing to grab breakfast and rush out the door only sometime between 7:30 and 7:45.

It didn't help that I lived in a basement, in a room natural light rarely dared to enter.

These recollections come to my mind because the conflict between man and alarm clock has begun anew for me: This past week, my alarm has been set to 7:50 am. I have hit the snooze once, twice, three times, four, five, once a sixth. Other days, I turn the alarm off, but still don't rise from the bed. Today, I arose at 8:30... only to return and sleep another hour.

I don't know whether I'll ever learn to listen to an alarm clock. I hope that someday, I can learn to greet the day early, even without one, as I do on a camping trip.

Really, I think many of my everyday struggles would disappear if I lived in a tent.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Why do I procrastinate? (Part 2)

I've noticed an interesting phenomenon in the past couple of years.

I spend a large amount of my time coming up with ideas for things to do. I have long lists of these things, of projects I want to work on and finish. I am fairly certain that I could work all day on these projects, and still have ideas left over.

And yet on an equally regular basis, I find myself telling myself that I have "nothing to do". Grasping for something to keep my attention, I will check my e-mail four to five times a day, check and re-check my favorite blogs, spend hours on facebook (I waste time off the internet as well, by staring at walls or sitting idle).

How do I reconcile the tremendous amount of things worth doing with my frequent claim that I have nothing to do? Clearly, I am lying to myself on a regular basis. But how do I break through this mental trap of idleness and keep myself engaged in things that matter?