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September, 2013:

34 Things

In honor of my 34th trip around the sun, I thought I’d share 34 things about me you may not have known.

1. My favorite color is blue. My signature color is pink.

Ignite Phoenix After Hours #3 - photo by Devon Christopher Adams

Ignite Phoenix After Hours #3 – photo by Devon Christopher Adams

2. The only adrenaline rush adventure I won’t do again is ride in a hot air balloon. I rode in one once and had a strong urge to jump out when we were about 100 feet off the ground.

3. I won’t answer my phone when I’m naked unless I’m OK with the person calling seeing me naked.

4. I will buy a lottery ticket if the jackpot is at least $200 million.

5. I’m not Jewish, but I love the phrase “mazel tov.”

6. My favorite flower is the stargazer lily.

7. I know pi out to 10 decimal places (3.1415926535…).

8. I don’t have a green thumb. Don’t give me a houseplant because I will ignore it until it dies.

9. I am an existentialist.

10. I can and will untie your shoelaces with my toes.

11. It’s a sign of affection if I address you by first and middle name. The middle name I use for you may or may not be your legal middle name.

12. I don’t use my real name when ordering coffee.

Photo by Devon Christopher Adams for Phoenix Comicon

Photo by Devon Christopher Adams for Phoenix Comicon

13. My childhood babysitter gave me the nickname “Snicklefritz.”

14. My current cartoon alter ego is Vanellope von Schweetz from Wreck It Ralph. My previous one was Mike Wazowski from Monsters, Inc.

15. I love British words like “spinster.”

16. Sometimes I speak with a British accent for no reason, and I’ll still claim to be from California.

17. If I warn you that I’m going to bite you, I will really bite you if you keep doing whatever you’re doing that’s annoying me.

18. I can’t stand having anything between my toes so I can’t wear flip flops or toe socks.

19. I hate valets. I don’t like letting strangers drive my car.

20. I failed my depth perception test. It’s funny to watch me try to parallel park.

21. I need to know your personality to find you attractive. That’s why I tend not to have crushes on celebrities – they’re just pretty faces because I don’t know what they’re like in real life.

22. I can’t guarantee I’ll shower every day.

23. I am a Starfleet captain – and yes I earned it. (Don’t ask me how, just accept it.) When I wear my Starfleet uniform in public (yes, it’s a uniform, not a costume), I expect to be addressed as “Captain” by those who know what it means.

24. Given the choice, I prefer to be called “sir” over “ma’am” and “Doctor” over “Miss.”

25. I’ve had 3 concussions. I’m sure that explains a lot. My head is so dented my friend calls it “the skate park.”

26. My all-time favorite flavor of ice cream is vanilla.

27. I’ve had 14 body piercings. I’m currently down to 2.

28. I’d tattoo the bottoms of my feet a la Alan Rickman in Blow Dry if I wouldn’t walk it off.

29. Don’t feel bad if I don’t like your child. I hate 99.9% of all children.

30. I love the way I look when I sit “Indian style” but it’s really uncomfortable.

31. I strive to have all my Christmas shopping done before Thanksgiving.

32. Two of my biggest pet peeves are being late and getting lost.

33. I don’t like bacon maple doughnuts. I like bacon and I like maple bars, but not the combination of the two.

34. Despite all evidence to the contrary, I’m an introvert.

Minimalism and Gift Giving

When I decided to pursue my minimalism project this year, one of first questions I had was about giving and receiving gifts from others. As a general rule, I like to give people practical gifts – things they’ll use and enjoy. I don’t believe in dust collectors, so much so that I haven’t been able to figure out what kind of shwag to get for my law firm because I don’t believe in giving people useless crap. In terms of giving gifts, I often give people consumables like gift cards to places they like to go out to eat.

Project 365 #49: 180211 Never Too Late by comedy_nose from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Project 365 #49: 180211 Never Too Late by comedy_nose from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

When it comes to receiving gifts, I’m a big believer in writing a list. I’ve been writing a birthday list that turns into my Christmas list every year since I was probably 10. I will tell you exactly what I want – including the size, color, and a link to where you can buy it. I have a t-shirt registry at Brand X Custom T-shirts where I’ve pre-designed the shirts I want and all a person has to do is call them to execute the order. And I ask for mostly practical stuff – I’m that person who will ask Santa for underwear and postage stamps. I also like to ask for experiential gifts. I’ve regularly asked to go on adventures since I was 15 – like flying an airplane and taking a hot air balloon ride – instead of getting tangible gifts. This year I’m asking for trapeze lessons and a gift certificate for my masseur.

(Yes, for sake of full-disclosure I ask for stuff I just want. I’m pretty sure I don’t need a new Starfleet uniform, but I really want Uhura’s dress from the new Star Trek movies.)

The challenge I run into is with people who don’t shop from the list. If I didn’t put something on the list, more often than not, I’m not going to like it. I’ll appreciate the gesture, of course, but historically I’d put it on the shelf in my closet for 6 months before giving it away to charity. Something in my brain says I should hold onto it for a period of time even though I don’t want it, I’m not going to use it, and it’s only going to take space. For this holiday season I’m giving myself permission to immediately give away any gift that does not enhance my life. It can enhance someone else’s instead of collecting dust.

A friend made a good suggestion that if someone doesn’t know what I want but they want to give something, they can always give a gift to charity. I  guarantee you will make me smile by taking whatever money you were thinking about spending on me and giving it to the Arizona Basset Hound Rescue, Arizona Women in Tune, or the Phoenix Innovation Foundation.

One thing I’m not sure about is how to communicate the fact that I’m trying to be more of a minimalist to others. I think when people know that you’re not into stuff that they’ll be more likely to think about getting you’re a gift card to your favorite lunch place or coffee shop, movie or concert tickets, or asking what you would like. I’m not an ultra-100-possessions minimalist, but at the same time, I’ll tell you what’s on my list or give you suggestions if you ask me.

The Sky’s Not Falling – It’s Just Raining

So it’s raining in Phoenix. To the rest of the world, the fact that it’s raining is no big deal, but here it is headline news. Headline news. And I’m not talking about flood damage or people needing to be rescued – just the fact that it’s raining is big news around here. Just like we take pictures of temperature readings when it’s really hot and really cold, people in Phoenix are posting pictures of puddles! Seriously!

I rain! by Devon Christopher Adams, used with permission

I rain! by Devon Christopher Adams, used with permission

Why is it big news when it rains in Phoenix? It doesn’t happen here very often, but a lot of us are transplants from places like Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. It snows there! I lived in Oregon for almost six years. When it rains there we don’t even get out umbrellas, we just pop our hoods up and keep walking. I think it’s so funny that people who spent decades living in weather won’t go outside if it’s sprinkling once they move here.

Since we have so many transplants in Arizona, it’s very strange that people seem to forget how to drive in the rain once they move here. There seems to be two types of rainy day drivers – those who keep speeding and are risk of hydroplaning at any moment and those who drive less than 5 mph. True story: I was the third car back at a light during a rain storm and it took three light cycles to get through the intersection because the people in front of wouldn’t move.

Whatever happened to “ease off the gas but keep driving?” I will give Phoenix drivers some leeway because they don’t use the street paint here that shines through water so it can be really hard to see you lane lines. I prefer not to drive on the freeway during the rain, but if I’m on a six-lane street and there are only a handful of cars on the road, I think we can maneuver around each other safely enough.

The one legitimate quibble about Phoenix and rain is the flooding. Now, I’m not talking about the morons who need to be rescued because their car floated off when they drove through a flooded street. (Enjoy that $20,000 helicopter bill.) I’m talking about the fact that our city was constructed without any thoughts about rain so it floods literally five minutes after it starts raining. We all know it doesn’t rain much in the desert, but we have monsoons. A lot of the time when it rains, it pours. The rain falls so hard I regularly walk around the house to make sure the skylights are holding.

So what are the take-home lessons:

  • Don’t freak out because it’s raining. You know how to drive in this stuff.
  • If you’ve forgotten how to drive in the rain, stay off the road.
  • If you can’t see the road, it’s too deep to drive through the water.
  • If the fact that it’s raining is the highlight of your day, you need a hobby. Unless you’re a storm chaser – then be careful out there.

What’s the Answer to Homelessness?

I regularly work out by riding my bike along the canals in Phoenix. They’re well-maintained and there are often underpasses so we don’t have to worry about being hit by cars. A lot of bikers, walkers, and runners use them.

Last Day of Summer...is finally over... by Ms. Phoenix from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Last Day of Summer…is finally over… by Ms. Phoenix from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

So there’s one section of a canal I regular ride that I call “the homeless section” because a large handful of homeless people make their camps near the canal. They rarely camp along the canal itself, but I see them when I ride by. I generally don’t have a problem with the homeless people along the canal. They keep to themselves and don’t cause any problems for people who ride, walk, and run along the canal. The one homeless man who sleeps in the underpass near my house packs up his camp at first light and rarely leaves any trash behind. I only time I have a problem is when there’s a safety issue.

The recent rains have led some of them to seek shelter in the underpass and I understand why they do that. When they do this, they can create a safety problem because the underpasses are barely wide enough to allow a service vehicle to drive through it. When 4-5 homeless people set up their camp in there, the remaining area is so narrow that two cyclists can’t pass each other without a high risk of colliding.

There were a number of remnants of homeless camps in the tunnels. No idea why these clothes were abandoned by Matt Mechtley from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

There were a number of remnants of homeless camps in the tunnels. No idea why these clothes were abandoned by Matt Mechtley from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

As I was on my way home on a ride last week, I saw some of the homeless people who had camped overnight in the underpass rolling their carts out of the tunnel. I thought they were just packing up to get on with their day, but when I got into the tunnel, I came face-to-face with a police SUV that was making all the homeless people clear out. I thanked the officers because, unlike the homeless man who is up at the break of dawn, this group of people were sleeping and hanging out in the underpass during the height of the morning workout crowd which was putting the homeless at risk of being hit by cyclists or other people crashing into each other.

But this situation made me think, “What’s the answer?” How should we address homelessness in the community? There are homeless shelters but they may be full or individuals may have mental health or addiction problems that prevent them from adhering to the shelters’ rules. And there may be people who want to live on the streets when they consider their options. The answers aren’t easy or obvious.

It makes me very sad when I hear about homeless veterans. They have put their lives on the line for us and I hope we have programs in place to take care of those who want to help themselves. One of the veterans’ shelters is at risk of closing unless they raise $56,310. Serah Blain has dedicated her life to achieving this goal. She is voluntarily living on the streets of Phoenix to raise awareness of this problem and she said will keep living on the streets until they raise enough to keep the shelter open.

What’s the answer to homelessness? I don’t know. But it’s a problem that’s not going away. And it’s a problem that needs to be addressed at a higher level to prevent people from being homeless to begin with instead of waiting for people to be in such dire straits before we decide it’s a problem.