Monday, January 31, 2005

Red Wire, White Wire, Little Fire, Big Fire

I am not an electrician.

My kitchen lighting fixture has been a problem in recent months. It's a ceiling fixture consisting of two incandescent bulbs covered by a (rather delightful) glass cover; frankly, it's a pretty standard overhead light for a boring white kitchen. But seeing as my adjacent living room has no overhead lighting fixture of its own, I like to use the kitchen light to supplement the one floor lamp in the living room.

A few months ago, I was changing a bulb in the kitchen when I noticed that the screw-in device that holds the glass cover in place was perilously shaky. Furthermore, no amount of turning on the nut below would sufficiently tighten the cover in its place. Fearful that leaving it "good enough" would result in a shattered glass globe -- and with my luck, it would do so while I was right underneath it -- I opted to leave the glass cover off of the fixture completely. Charming, I know, but definitely less dangerous.

I finally made it to Home Depot a few weeks ago and picked up a replacement fixture for the ceiling. I had to pick a slightly different style, partly because I wanted a change and partly because they didn't have the same model I was trying to replace. Having scanned the instructions on how to install the device while still at the store, I was confident that it wasn't that difficult to do this myself. My diminuitive height aside, I figured the actual act of wiring and installing the device -- especially since I was replacing a working fixture, not running the cable to create a whole new project -- wouldn't be all too difficult.

Of course, I was wrong.

I knew there would be a problem when I couldn't even successfully remove the existing light fixture without putting myself in peril. Having only found two accessible screws -- which I thereby assumed were the points of contact with the ceiling -- I removed them, expecting to be able to gently remove the light fixture afterward.

No such luck. Having removed the screws, the fixture stayed put. I tried gently to nudge it down, but it appears to have been stuck in place from years of ceiling-hanging. Unwilling to take hammer to the unit, I left it the way it was, unsure of what to do next.

Eventually the laws of gravity made my next move for me; the light fixture fell from the ceiling. Thankfully, it was not as bad as it sounds, for the wires were still connected, and prevented the fixture from crashing to the floor. The wrinkle, however, is that this occurred some three hours after I undid the screws.

This was contrary to my master plan; I had, after all, started the project in the afternoon so I could benefit from the natural light making its way through my windows. By now the sun had well nigh set; save for some residual glows over the tops of my neighbor's houses, I had no natural light to work by. Grudgingly, I moved my floor lamp across the room; it would now have to serve double duty.

The old light fixture only had two wires coming out of it, a black and a white. As such, the color coding scheme was easy: black to black, white to white. Hell, I could have done that. But, of course, nothing is ever easy for me.

The new light fixture had three wires sticking out of it: a black, a white, and a naked copper wire. Great. I fished around the ceiling hole and found a third wire there, too: a red one. Okay, I thought to myself, how does this work? Black to black, white to white, red to copper?

Not wanting to be an idiot about it, I consulted the instructions, which, unfortunately, provided no assistance. Black to black, it told me, white to white, and... green to copper. What? Suddenly all too many options were running through my head. There is no green wire anywhere. Is green the same as red? Or is the whole thing so messed up now I need to consult a professional? Should I be scared? It's a fucking light fixture fer cryinoutloud!

Eventually I thought common sense would dictate what goes where. Note to self: in the world of electrical engineering, Dennis! does not possess would could otherwise be called "common sense." But I connected black to black -- slighting zapping myself in the process -- white to white, and copper to red. Mildly satisfied, I ensured that the light switch was set to off, and I screwed a bulb in.

It glowed.

I looked again at the light switch: Off.

The bulb was still glowing.


In a fit of utter stupidity, I tried switching the light switch to "on." I figured if I did that, then turned it back off again, perhaps the light would start obeying the switch. Yeah, that's what goes on in my head.

I flipped the switch and promptly heard an all-too-familiar and freaky buzz followed by a light *snap*. I had blown a fuse. In the bathroom as well as in the kitchen.

After a full-on fight with my circuit breaker (which for some reason would not turn back on, with me panicking about the state of my frozen meats), I got the circuit working again. The lights, however, remained a no-go.

Now I'm calling around to home improvement stores to ask them which wires go where. Because if this apartment catches fire, I'll be very unhappy. Luckily, I also purchased a fire extinguisher when I bought the light fixture at the Home Depot. It's meant for kitchen fires, but hey, a fire's a fire.

Did I mention I also bought a new light fixture for my bathroom too?

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Safe, Legal, and Never

Hilary Rodham Clinton gave a speech on the on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade about a week ago outlining her views on abortion. TheSlate has a great article on the importance of Ms. Clinton's speech and its significance with respect to re-shaping the democratic position on abortion rights.

While I've always understood the passion of pro-life people, I've never been swayed by their arguments. Whether legal or not, some women, at some point in their lives, may for a variety of circumstances need to terminate a pregnancy. They need access to clean, sterile environments for this procedure. Making abortions illegal would drive such procedures back into back alleys and storage lockers, with inept and ill-trained "doctors" killing women instead of safely ending a pregnancy.

I don't advocate for abortion; no credible pro-choice person does. That is, no pro-choice person goes around flippantly declaring that "abortions are great!" and "hey, everyone should have one if given a chance!" Far from it. Pro-choice people, as much as anyone else, don't want widespread abortions. We want it there as an option, preferably at the end of the list of all kinds of other options given to a woman facing unplanned pregnancy.

I can't abide by pro-life advocates who show gruesome photos of aborted fetuses accompanied by chants of "that's a baby." That's not the point. An appropriate counter-picture -- which I remember seeing about a decade ago but not recently -- would be a dark alley with a discarded wire hanger with the caption "We won't go back." (If you want to gross people out in the same shock-jock fashion as the fetus picture, the pro-choice poster should possibly include a picture of a woman, spread-eagled and dead, with copious amounts of blood around her.)

The biggest unpersuasive argument I've seen from pro-lifers are those signs that say "I regret my abortion." Frankly, big whoop. Who cares that you made a mistake with your choice? I regret many of my life choices all the time. Does that mean I should start a drive to criminalize everything I've regretted in my past? If I decided that going to law school was a colossal mistake, should I start a drive to shut down all law schools? If I decided that I attended the wrong college, should I start a national drive to make attending that school illegal? Since when does your regret of your legal choice provide a basis for national policy criminalizing the act?

Finally, the religious right can't have it both ways. Not only do they abhor the option of abortion, they also abhor contraception. They resist efforts to distribute condoms in high schools as if kids won't have sex if they aren't given condoms. They disdain methods like the "morning after" pill which prevents conceptions in the event of unprotected sex. So basically the right sends the message that they want to prevent people from taking steps to prevent the conception of a fetus, and then won't let them terminate the pregnancy when it results. Strangely enough, though, no one seems to have a problem with Viagra and other erectile dysfunction drugs being legal, covered by insurance, and heck, advertised during prime time television.

I continue to support a woman's right to choose, as well as a full panoply of contraception options for women, and for men. Everyone should have the full gamut of choices in this regard.

Thursday, January 27, 2005


For your consideration: The 34 Scandals for George W. Bush from

I'd say more, but there doesn't seem to be a lot left to say. Well, except that now Maggie Gallagher appears to have joined the ranks of Armstrong Williams as noted in item #24.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Shake that Milk

IM between me and Lora:

my milkshake brings the boys to the yard, and they're like, "it's better than yours," damn right, it's better than yours, i'd teach you, but i'd have to charge

have you lost your mind?




just doing my little bit o' evil for the day by popping the most annoying song ever into your head.


[my roommate] loves that song.


Monday, January 24, 2005

Less Than Zero Sum Game Show

So I was watching this new game show on Comedy Central recently, Distraction. The idea of this show is you get asked trivia questions as usual, except that you have to endure other "distracting" things while answering them, like putting clothespins on your face or getting whacked upside the head by glass vases. It looks kind of fun, except one thing that troubled me.

The game starts with four players. After each round, one player gets eliminated until one player is left. He's the "winner," except that he must earn his prize by answering still more trivia questions. On the episode I saw, the guy won a car. Except that before he got to take it home, he needed to answer some trivia questions. If he got any question wrong, certain things would happen to his car, like the windshield would be sledgehammered, or paint would be poured all over the roof of the car.

My question is: Why would you want to win that? Are these people completely dense? Once you win the car, you're open to tax liability on the value of the car. The MSRP of the car is considered income to you; suddenly you owe a little more in taxes because your income is that much higher. This only gets compounded when your car is now no longer really driveable. If the windshield is shattered (which it was when this poor sap didn't know the answer to some really easy question), because now not only do you have to pay taxes on your brand new car, you have to pay to tow it and replace the windshield before taking it home. Oh, this guy also got another question wrong, resulting in paint all over the roof. That's detail work. Still more cha-ching. If he had gotten one more question wrong, his headlights would have been shattered.

Seems like a net loss for appearing on the game show, if you ask me.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Email Exchange

The following emails were exchanged between me and my friend Lora.

Lora: [to me and several others]
Because we've been talking about where to go for happy hours, I am attaching to this email an Excel spreadsheet with all the happy hour specials in town, on which I have marked the ones most convenient to us given where we work.
[nb: No spreadsheet was attached.]

Lora: [a few minutes later]
Oops, I forgot to attach the spreadsheet that I worked so hard on.
[Spreadsheet attached.]

Me: [to Lora]
Huh huh... huh huh huh.... You said "hard on." Heh heh heh.

Thanks, Beavis.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Reach Out, Touch Faith

Tonight's entry is inspired by tonight's episode of Joan of Arcadia. I like the show, if for no other reason than it's thought-provoking. I'm not a religious person, so the whole "I talk to God" aspect of it isn't what draws me to it; rather, the show fascinates me because it shows the interconnectedness of life and life events. Whether inspired by some grand design or not, it's possible to take away all kinds of life lessons by being just a little more observant of your surroundings and the relationships between Acts One and Two.

On Joan, Joan's mother is an art teacher in the local high school. One of her students had a pet hamster who died; as a project for the art class, the student had the hamster shellacked and replaced it in the cage with a pithy epitath. It was rather gaudy, frankly, but Joan's mother permitted Hamster Girl to display it as her own work.

Another girl in the class objected to the hamster work. Calling it "disrepectful to life," she found it offensive. Joan's mother told her she was entitled to her own opinion on it, but in the end it was Hamster Girl's artwork. Objecting Girl eventually told her parents about it; her parents called the principal about it; the principal demanded that Joan's mother remove the offending display. Joan's mother refused, leading to a showdown with the parents. Objecting Girl eventually dropped Art Class, feeling as though she "didn't belong in The Club," as long as she refused to be like the rest of the class and call a dead hamster "art."

At the end of the episode, Joan's mother has an epiphany about how closed-minded she was about the feelings of Objecting Girl. She (Joan's mother) described herself as "on a mission," having decided she was "right," and didn't even listen to or respect the opinion of Objecting Girl. She eventually even apologized to Objecting Girl, but the damage was done: Objecting Girl still refused to return to Art Class.

I was disappointed by this ending.

I feel like Joan's mother was being waaaay too spineless in this situation. It's one thing to be sensitive to religious beliefs, it's another to allow religious beliefs to run tyrannically over beliefs that it doesn't agree with. I think W. and his ilk are well on their way there, which is why this ending left me so wildly unsatisfied.

Objecting Girl had every right to her own opinion. She didn't like the dead hamster. She didn't think it was art; she found it fundamentally disrepectful to life. But she didn't have to impose her will upon the whole of the rest of the class. If she didn't like it, she didn't have to look at it. Fact is, she's going to be faced with a lot of objectionable things in her lifetime. She really needs to learn to get used to it and not take things like that so personally.

By capitulating to Objecting Girl, Joan's mother sent the clear signal that if you make just the slightest bit of noise and cloak it in a religious belief, you can easily have your way. There's very little difference between what Objecting Girl did tonight and the Taliban's finding centuries-old Buddha statues offensive and thus worthy of destruction.

I have some personal bias as respects this particular fact situation too. A woman in my life (that's as vague as it comes, isn't it?) is a deeply religious woman whose religious beliefs render slews of innocuous everyday things offensive. As a result, being in her presence is an exceedingly trying task at times. You can't say simple things like "Oh my god," without receiving a withering glare at the use of the word so flippantly. You can't clink your glasses together when making some kind of toast because that ritual (allegedly) has its origins in a pagan ritual involving scaring off evil spirits. All these things add up, and in the end what it means is one cannot just live life normally, for fear of offending, when she's around.

See, to me, religion is a deeply personal affair. Your god is not my god, and never will be. Even if we attend the same church, yours is not mine. Any relationship you have with your god should not affect me. I should not have to live my life any differently because your god disagrees with my life. If you believe in some sort of Second Coming, or Judgment Day, worry about living your own life in accordance with your beliefs, and -- within some reasonable limits, of course -- leave me to my life.

The corollary to the above is that if you do feel the need to impose your religion upon me -- either by demanding the removal of an offending dead hamster work or by preventing me from raising my glass to someone else's glass at dinner -- you need to seriously re-evaluate your relationship with your Higher Power. When I was a kid, I was always told that the bullies were the ones with the least sense of self-worth, which is why they felt the need to pick on those smaller and weaker than they were. It made up for their insecurities; it made them feel good to exercise their power over others. The same applies for religious zealots who insist on imposing their belief structure on others. If you have a strong, committed, and happy relationship with your Maker as you define Him, why should you care what anyone else thinks?

This is the sum total of my beef against B*sh 43 and his "evangelical" base which purports to legislate morality into the United States. Those of us who dare to live life differently from the way they interpret their Bible deserve our rights whittled away to nothing. They're right; we're wrong -- all based on nothing but their own interpretation of a book written thousands of years ago and of wildly varying interpretations. Get over it. You keep your god, I'll keep mine (or my lack of one), and we can all just get along if we agree to disagree on all kinds of social issues, including whether homosexuality is a sin, or whether safe abortions should be available to women, or whether contraception should passed out in school, or whether my kid says the friggin' Pledge of Allegiance without the "Under God" in it, whether evolution should be promoted or dismissed in schools, and whether needle exchanges should be implemented.

To sum up:

1. Lighten up and thicken your skin. If your religion mandates that you take offense at things that don't comport with your worldview, you will spend your entire life noticing the tiny, trifling awful things which offend you. You'll spend so much time being offended you'll have a much harder time finding happiness.

2. Mind your own frigging business. Others can take care of themselves. It's not your job to worry about the salvation of other people. They may not even want or need to saved in the way you think they should be. Religion is different things to different people. That's what makes this country great.

3. Think hard about yourself. If your own personal belief in your god isn't enough to get you through the day, such that you have to go about imposing your religious will on others, I submit that your faith in your religion isn't as strong as you want to believe it is.

Whew. It feels fantastic to get that off my chest.

Funniest. Porn moment. Ever.

Okay, I had to share this. What better way to share than with a bunch of strangers? Not that porn films -- gay or straight -- are the bastion of highbrow dialog and plot development, but it's just so much more amusing when they seem to try to develop some semblance of a plot -- and fail miserably.

Despite the fact that the subject matter of this post is very explicit, I'm going to try to clean up the language a bit -- if only because the post becomes so much funnier as a result.

** DISCLAIMER: If you are offended by hard-core pornography, PLEASE stop reading now. If you are offended by gay sex acts, just stop reading this blog anyway. **

I'm just going to skip over the whole question of how I came to be watching a gay porn video to begin with, because that would just be too weird. I mean, seriously.

The movie begins as such movies usually do: light "plot" development followed by a random reason for two guys to get it on. We watch the first sex scene to (er...) "conclusion," and the scene fades to black.

The second scene starts up. What usually happens at this point is further light "plot" development, followed by still more hard-core homo-sex. But the intro to Scene II is priceless.

The scene starts -- starts! -- with a close-up of, well, a young man's hindquarter privates. And I don't just mean the hindquarter privates that are visible on every man wearing a thong on Miami Beach. I mean you can see the endpoint of this guy's digestive system.

And there's a set of fingers playing around near there.

The view then expands to a full-screen shot, where we get a more full idea of exactly what's happening here. Buttboy is (obviously) bottomless and sitting on the couch with one leg over the couch's back, exposing his poop chute. A "friend" of his is sitting next time him, playing with his, er, back door.

Some very, very brief dialog ensues:

"Pretty satisfied, Gordon?" Buttboy asks.

"It's fuckin' gorgeous," Friend says. "Are you going to let me [perform obscene acts of homosexual sex with] it?"

Buttboy's face contorts to absolute horror at this suggestion, and he pulls his legs back together with alarming alacrity. "No!" he declares. "No, I'm not going to let you [perform obscene acts of homosexual sex with] it!" (He is still bottomless as he utters this.)

He continues, "We're friends, and that would complicate our friendship!"

I gotta tell ya, if you're going to draw a line to describe where something would adversely complicate your friendship, my personal opinion is that letting your friend digitally explore your rectal area would be well past that line.

But maybe I'm just a prude.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

How Much Do I Love My Brother?

The last time I saw my brother David was probably two years ago -- the last time I made the time to fly back home. It's been too long. Kin should not be separated for that long if they can at all help it.

I spent MLK weekend with my brother and his wife during their visit to NYC. [Aside: Can I give a shout-out to those Chinatown buses? Cheap and convenient, I tell ya!] Seeing as my brother had never been to The City before, we did all the touristy stuff for his benefit: Wall Street, Ground Zero, Statue of Liberty, Little Italy, Chinatown, The Empire State Building, the Metropolitan Museum of Art. We even managed to get in a brunch at the Serendipity Cafe, a destination inspired by the eponymous movie. (Okay, so Serendipity Cafe was my idea.)

Most startling to me during this visit... I realized just how much I love and miss my brother. Does absence truly make the heart grow fonder? Since I left home after high school, I generally haven't looked back at my family as something to go back to. But we all grow and change -- myself and my brother included. And the strength of my feelings toward my big bro caught even me by surprise.

I've taken some time to compose a brief list of the stuff I enjoyed most about my brother's visit -- the stuff I miss most about being with him.

1. Laughter. There is no end to amount we laugh when we're together. We laugh with each other; we laugh at each other. But in the end, it all amounts to the fact that we truly enjoy each others' company.

As we were walking around Battery Park trying to find our way to the Liberty Island Ferry, we passed some street vendors hawking their wares, including "designer" handbags, scarves and earmuffs. Closer to the boat were some more legitimate businesses: caricature artists. We watched for a bit as one artist worked his magic with his model sitting right in front of him.

"Man," David commented, perhaps a bit too loudly. "Don't look now, but that drawing looks nothing like him!" He drew a few askance glares from other passers-by, until one of them started laughing.

As we continued walking, we realized the angle of the drawing vis-a-vis the model had perfectly obscured the fact that the artist was actually drawing the model on the half of his page that was perfectly obscured by his head. The rendering that my brother was commenting on was the model's girlfriend, obviously having been drawn slightly earlier.

I burst out laughing at David, who took his lumps well. "Whew. I was going to tell the guy he needed to demand his money back."

2. Patience. David somehow inherited all the patience in the family. To put it mildly, his wife can be extremely annoying at times. And yet David is able to put up with her much better than I possibly ever could. Being with him allows me to endure more, if only because I don't want to be the "bad guy" who reaches his snapping point first.

3. Laughter. I take my licks too, trust me.

On the Liberty Island Ferry, my brother went out to the deck to take pictures of Lady Liberty with his digital camera, the best angles being from the boat. Keep in mind, this past weekend was exceedingly cold in The City; the temperature wasn't helped by the fact that we were on a moving boat.

He asked me to take a shot of her with him, so I took the camera and started trying to frame the shot. Problem is, for some strange reason I couldn't get the camera to zoom back in from where my brother had set it. It was basically completely impossible for me to frame the Statue in any shot with my brother, because what was basically his GINORMOUS HEAD kept taking up the entirety of the shot. That combined with my struggles to keep my balance on the deck of a moving boat -- have I mentioned it's a moving boat we're on? -- sent my brother into fits of hysterics. Literally, tears started streaming down his face. (Of course, having a wet face can't possibly be pleasant in near freezing temperatures, but he put up with it well.)

I called him "Ginormous Head" for the remainder of my visit.

4. Genorosity. Despite the fact that he had spent quite a good deal more to make it to NYC than I did -- I paid $35 for a round-trip bus ticket -- my brother insisted on paying for almost all our meals out. We literally had to fight to toss our credit cards onto the bill trays, then argue with the waiter over which card to accept over the other. I think a part of him still views me as the younger brother, and he the older, bearing some level of responsibility for me. It's sweet, in a perverse sort of way.

5. Laughter. We laugh with and at each other. A lot. Our parents actually miss that about us; I think it warms their hearts to see the two of us poking fun of each other.

Early on after I arrived in New York, we were walking around the South Street Seaport area when , having just crossed the street, I literally almost fell flat on my face at the curb -- over what appears to have been a large packet of air. My brother, of course, laughed loudly and uproariously over my klutziness. I was flabbergasted myself.

A few blocks later, the large pocket of air tracked us down for an encore performance -- this time landing in front of my brother. The sheer irony of the situation caused us both to double over in the bitter winter cold with laughter.

6. Laughter. Okay, I have to toss in one more for the heck of it.

On the 86th floor observation deck of the Empire State Building, my brother and I managed to bust into inappropriate giggles. All it took was for me to mention my fear of heights. To wit, while looking over the edge of the platform, I muttered, "Man, I can feel my fear of heights."

David started giggling, so I knew he knew what I meant. So I elaborated: "You know, that tingly feeling right there in your balls."

My brother lost it. His wife, of course, just couldn't quite understand.

I love pushing it when my brother hits the edge like this. "Don't even try to deny that you're feeling it too, man. You know you are."

"I don't think so!" David responds, still choking on his laughter. "It's worse," he mutters under his breath.

"Worse?" I pounce. "Oooh, I get it. You don't have that tingly sensation in your balls. You're in full-on retreat mode! We're talking major reversion back to the body cavity!"

It was at this point that the SIL put a kaibosh on this conversation. But we kept giggling the rest of the time on the observation deck.


In a strange way, I sort of wish my brother hadn't brought his wife with him on this trip. I love her dearly, but she can be really annoying; moreover, her constant presence meant I didn't truly get all that much bonding time with my brother which I sometimes wish I had.

But in the end, despite the fact that I had been to NYC many many times in the past, and done far more exciting and interesting things in previous trips, I have to say that this particular trip was the best one ever.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Back on Track

Sort of. Spent the weekend in NYC with my bro and his wife. It was a great time. Also hung out with Jon one evening and had a great time. Oy, lychee martinis.

I don't have time to update this blog about this trip right now, but, as Jon's latest post suggests, I did take the time to write out some of my thoughts, which hopefully will make their way to these electronic pages soon.

I hope everyone had a good weekend!

Friday, January 14, 2005

Flower Power

In a previous post, I posited that I had generally strived to be Gallant (rather than Goofus). I realize now that this is probably part of the source of my liberal bent -- Be nice to others! Think not only of yourself! -- so perhaps the indoctrination of children into the democratic party starts quite young.

Anyway, I mentioned a set of flowers and asked the readers of this blog whether you thought I was the kind of person who would (a) find a set of flowers and take them back to my office, or (b) buy a set of flowers then forget them at the post office.

Well, I'm happy to report the actual events of this past Tuesday.

I did actually have a box I needed to mail to Mark, containing a set of gifts constituting his Christmas and birthday gifts. I was in fact bored at work, so I decided to go take a walk to the post office to get the box shipped off.

I made it to the post office to use the self-serve machine.

And it was there that I found a set of flowers sitting on top of the postage ATM. After doing a good amount of looking around to make sure the original owner wasn't coming back, I made off with the flowers.

In my defense, it's not like the owner was going to come back for them. I had spent a pretty good amount of time at the postage ATM myself. If he didn't notice his flowers were missing while I was at the machine, he wasn't going to notice. And then by the time he did notice, someone else would have stolen taken them.

T. was very happy with them, though she did look at me funny when I presented them to her. I don't know why, but she looked at me with a suspicious twinkle in her eye. "What are these for?" she asked.

"Because I love you!" I said, grinning wildly. Which is funny, coming from me, to a married woman.

"No, seriously," she said. Apparently, it's really not like me at all to randomly purchase flowers for her, or for the office. Well, I guess she's right on that score.

I explained to her where I found them and she laughed. "Wow, these are nice ones too," she surmised. "Not the cheap kind. And the florist is generally pretty expensive to begin with."

I did kind of feel bad for the poor sap who forgot the flowers in the post office. Hopefully they weren't "Honey-I'm-so-sorry-we-fought-last-night-I-was-wrong
-I'm-always-wrong-let's-please-have-sex-tonight" flowers or something. Anyway, I felt so bad, I decided to try to step into his shoes, which is why my blog entry now has two points of view on it. I'm the bastard I call the thief at the end of Scenario Two.

To those of you who are disappointed at the thought that I'm some kind of flower thief... sorry. And I don't do it often. And I only do it with clearly abandoned property. Except one time when I tried to pick up a quarter on the floor at the foot of a bridge in San Antonio. Turns out it was pretty much cemented into the ground to psych out cheap idiots like me. I was embarrassed.

I'm Skeeved Out

Okay, I know this didn't even involve me, but I'm totally grossed out just from having read this entry. Like, ew. (I'm changing names to "protect"... oh heck, I'm just changing names because I feel like it.)

On a blog I read from time to time, the blogger (I'll call him "Joe") posted, somewhat in passing, that he planning on spending travelling this weekend. He named the city to which he was travelling. (Let's call the city "Missoula.")

Among the comments to his post was this:

So, exactly where does [Joe] hang out when he comes to [Missoula] for some fun? Maybe [name redacted -- notice the use of the third person here] can meet [Joe] for some fun? Hmmm? Maybe?

Joe's a good-enough looking gay guy, I guess. His picture is on his blog. But man, this is just nasty. I should also point out that, if you follow the link to the commenter's own blog, he boasts of his seven-year relationship with his boyfriend.

If I were Joe, I'd be even more skeeved out that I am now. Sounds pervy, doesn't it? I'm still "ew"-ing.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Dear Abby

This was sent to my mailbox recently without attribution. If the original author happens to stumble across this, great job.


My husband has a long record of money problems. He runs up huge credit card bills and at the end of the month, and if I try to pay them off, he shouts at me, saying I am stealing his money. He says pay the minimum and let our kids worry about the rest, but already we can hardly keep up with the interest.

Also, he has been so arrogant and abusive toward our neighbors that most of them no longer speak to us. The few that do are an odd bunch, to whom he has been giving a lot of expensive gifts, running up our bills even more.

He has even gotten religious in a big way, although I don't quite understand it. One week he hangs out with Catholics and the next with people who say the Pope is the Anti-Christ!

And now he has been going to the gym an awful lot and is into wearing uniforms and cowboy outfits, and I hate to think what that means.

Finally, the last straw. He's demanding that before anyone can be in the same room with him, they must sign a loyalty oath.

It's just so horribly creepy! Can you help?

Signed, Lost in DC

Dear Lost:

Stop whining, Laura. You can divorce the jerk any time you want. The rest of us are stuck with the asshole for four more years!

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Wonder Woman

This is good, because I did so love Lynda Carter in the Wonder Woman series.

wonder woman
You are Wonder Woman. Egads. You are a man hater,
and you are a man magnet. You must be
destroyed, for you are a walking oxymoron. No
man can have you. You crazy amazon. All
super-heroes stay clear of you because they
want to keep their man-hood, and you'll likely
steal it away from them.

Which Superhero Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Death Becomes Me

According to this site, I will die in January 2052, at age 78. The most probable cause of my death with be heart attack.

How depressing.

Goofus or Gallant?

Remember Highlights for Children? That magazine played such a role in my growing up. It was always in my doctor's office (and I, being a sickly child, was always in the doctor's office), and I would read it cover to cover. My favorite part was definitely the Hidden Pictures games, but I also distinctly remember the "Goofus and Gallant" pages.

Remember those? "Goofus and Gallant," wherein a prissy-looking, clean-cut little boy wearing a sweater (named "Gallant") would be depicted doing all kinds of nicey-nice-nice things while some thug kid (sporting a striped long-sleeved shirt, a crown (WTF?) and freckles) named "Goofus" would basically be a jerk. It even came with captions! "Goofus hoards his Halloween candy." -- "Gallant shares his candy with other children." It sounds a bit heavy-handed now, but back then (being the prissy wannabe that I was) I knew I wanted to be more like Gallant. Frankly, I now think it might be because I wanted the sweater, even though I grew up in Hawai'i, where sweaters are about as common as northern caribou.

Anyway, something happened this afternoon. I'm about to describe two opposing points of view. Your job, Dear Commenter, should you choose to accept it, is to guess which point of view below is actually mine.

Scenario One

My friend Mark's birthday is coming up soon. As is my wont, I wait until now to send him gifts, looping his Christmas and birthday gifts into one large gift. (Truly, though, it's also a way for me to delay purchasing anything for him until I get a gift from him -- he has been known in the past to spend less than I do on gifts, and sometimes this results in some awkwardness.) So I spent a little time last night putting together his box and today, after lunch, I made my way to the post office to mail it.

My local post office -- hallelujah! -- has a self-serve postage area. You can take your box, weigh it, purchase postage, and drop it off all without talking to a single human being and having to stand in that interminable line. It's kinda like a postage ATM. I was excited to put this service to use.

I'm going to skim across the whole thing about mailing the box now, because it's simply irrelevant (but the process was pretty darn cool). I will say this: As I'm getting ready to leave the machine, I notice that, sitting on top of the postage ATM is a wrapped set of flowers. Obviously they're from the florist next door. I take at peek at them -- a lovely red/pink set of tulip-like bulbs, their stalks oddly (if consistently) oddly skewed to a strange angle. Quite pretty. I sniff. Wonderful smell.

I take a quick look around the post office. I don't really know what I'm looking for, but I look around anyway, flowers in hand. Basically, I want to telegraph the message, Do these flowers belong to anyone? Because if no one claims them, I'm about to walk off with them....

No one responds to my efforts. This is my cue.

I return to my office and present them to T., who is quite surprised by them. "What's this for?" she asks. "I love you!" I respond.

Scenario Two

There's not a lot for me to do in the office this afternoon. I finished the project I was working on early this morning and my boss has it now. Frankly, there's no other active project for me to be working on, so I'm kinda goofing off right around now.

So I have this package here I need to send to Mark. His birthday/Christmas gifts are in there. The Christmas gifts are, of course, wildly late, but the birthday gifts should arrive just about on time. Of course, there is absolutely no difference between his Christmas gifts versus his birthday gifts, so whatever. I decided, rather than ask T. to go to the post office for me (because I'm not doing anything here anyway), I decided I would take a walk and do it myself.

It's a beautiful day today -- it's about 48 degrees outside, which temperature I find delightful. So I took my time walking to the post office, which is literally a block away. Instead of walking straight the post office, I circle the block first, box in hand.

As I approach the post office in the final approach -- please fasten your seat belts and prepare for landing -- I notice the flower shop next door to the post office. T. has an affinity for flowers in the office; she thinks it pretties the place up. And she's right; it's much more warming to walk into our tiny little waiting area when it's spruced up with some flowers than when it's all pain and dull. T. usually gets a fresh set every Monday morning on her way in to work. I know it's only Tuesday today, but like I said, I'm bored, so I stop into the florist.

After spending about five minutes looking around and inhaling deeply, I pick out a set of flowers that I think would look pretty in the jade-green vase in our waiting area. I think they're tulips, just because they have elongated bulbs, but that's all I know. I'm sure the florist tried to tell me what they were, but frankly, I'm not paying attention. I just want the flowers.

Flowers in one hand, box under the other arm, I make my way to the post office. Thankfully, there is no line at the self-serve postage line, so I put my box down on the scale and start to work. The postage ATM is easy to use, but at some point, of course, I need to insert a credit card. The flowers are in my right hand -- and my wallet is in my right pocket -- so I put the flowers on top of the machine, grab my wallet, and complete the transaction.

I think you know where this is going. I am a flake.

I put the postage on the box, pop it into the cool "put your package here" slot, and exit the post office, happy with another errand done. Suddenly conscious of the amount of time I've spent out of the office, I decide I should get back to the office relatively quickly...

... until I arrive at the corner, when I suddenly get the feeling I'm forgetting something, and that my hands should be occupied somehow. Oh shit, I think. The flowers.

Keep in mind, these were nice flowers. The half dozen I got literally cost $12 (before tax). It's not something I'm just going to blow off.

I turn and power walk back to the post office. Pulling open the door, I already know I'm too late.

My flowers are gone.

A quick scan of the post office reveals that no one there is holding on to them. Apparently someone who either finished his transaction with the teller or who needed to use the automated devices saw them and made off with them. The bastard!


Only one of these two scenarios actually occurred. Can you guess which one? Am I a total space case, or am I a flower thief? (Not that I can't be both.)

Compare and Contrast

I just had to steal this from Christian Grantham:

Dan Rather, CBS News Anchor
- given documents he thought were true
- failed to thoroughly investigate the facts
- reported documents to the American people as true to make his case
- when confronted with the facts, stonewalled, apologized and launched an investigation

number of Americans dead: 0

resigned as CBS News Anchor while cohorts were firedGeorge W. Bush, President of the United States

George W. Bush, President of the United States
- given documents he thought were true
- failed to thoroughly investigate the facts
- reported documents to the American people as true to make his case
- when confronted with the facts, continued to report untruth, stonewalled an investigation, and later admitted to "miscalculations"

number of Americans dead: over 1100

given four more years as President of the United States while cohorts were honored with medals and promotions

Monday, January 10, 2005

It's Up to You, New York New York

My brother called out of the blue last week. He and his wife wanted a vacation, so they're going to New York. I was actually a little surprised when he asked if I would be able to take some time off to head up there to see them. (I don't know why I was surprised, I just kinda was.)

So on Saturday morning, I'm hitching one of those ghetto cheap Chinatown buses (which by now are pretty much a misnomer, as they don't just go "Chinatown to Chinatown" anymore) to see my bro for the first time in maybe two years.

I'm kind of excited. My brother and I don't have a close relationship as most people would define it. But our family is just that way -- we don't openly express emotion, so we basically just guess and assume feelings from actions. So I'm really looking forward to seeing him again just to hang out with him and (somewhat wierd) wife for the weekend just because it's good to get together with the blood relations more often than I do.

Of course, we're not staying in the same hotel. I didn't want to sleep in the same room as them. That would be kinda skeevy. So I ended up leafing through a gay guide I had a long time ago and located a (relatively) cheap B&B on 14th Street. By "(relatively) cheap," I'm talking $80-99 a night (good thing I'm only staying for two nights), and this is with a shared bath. But hey, it's New York in the city, and I think if I can deal with gym showers, I can deal with shared bath facilities in a B&B.

I feel like my brother will be a bit exhausted by this trip. He's not the big-city type. (It's a wonder we sprang forth from the same womb.) He actually detests big cities. He also claims he doesn't like what living in a big city "does" to people -- along of the lines of numbing them from rudeness, and thereby becoming rude themselves. But his wife loves The City, and he tends to give her everything she wants (I can't imagine how their income supports this), so Big Apple, here we come. I imagine he will hate this trip -- he will be dissatisfied by the subway system (especially the smells), the hustle of the street, the honking of the cabs, and the 'tude of people in general. I, on the other hand, just love that stuff.

My plan is to spend the days doing all the typical touristy stuff with them (Statue of Liberty, World Trade Center, probably Ground Zero), then splitting from them after dinner so I can do my thang. It is New York City, after all.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Conversation Snippets

Two related, one not:

Conversation #1: Between me and Elizabeth, about a party we attended which was primarily attended by gay men.

Me: By the way, speaking of, Jim thought we were "together."
Elizabeth: ... But you're gay.
Me: Yeah, I really don't think you need to remind me of that.

Conversation #2: Between me and the aforementioned Jim.

Me: By the way, Elizabeth found it terribly amusing that you thought we were "together."
Jim: But I couldn't tell! Like there were times you had your arm around her....
Me: As I recall, the first thing I said to you all night was, "I'm trying to decide if that mirror makes me look fat."

Conversation #3: Okay, it's not really a conversation.

Scene: I'm at a 7-11 at 1:00 a.m. Having been at a party, I'm strangely craving a hot dog. I've paid for it and have just finished putting some condiments on it when I walk by the cashier again, who by this point has some obviously drunk gay men in line.

Drunk Gay Man [upon seeing my hot dog; talking to his friend but probably unaware the he was talking loud enough for me to hear]: See, I would never put that kind of shit into my body.
[7-11 clerk puts a pack of cigarettes in front of D.G.M.]
Me: ... says the guy who has clearly just filled up on the empty calories of alcohol, and has just purchased the most addictive carcinogen legally available in the United States.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

I'm So Not Your Type

Not once, but twice, I've been virtually hit on by someone who publically proclaims that they don't really find me attractive.

Let me explain.

For those of you who aren't familiar with it, a quick-and-dirty lesson on how, online dating service extraordinaire, works: You post a profile, and you browse others' profiles (for free). You can send, still for free, a "wink" -- the virtual equivalent of just saying "Hi there" -- to anyone on the system. However, a "wink" is really insufficient to establish any kind of communication. In order to send emails to your fellow, thus being able to actually convey information like, oh, a meeting time and place, you must pay a fee.

When setting up your profile, you get to fill out several different fields, none of which is particularly relevant to this post, except for one section entitled "About My Date." This section basically is where you describe the ideal characteristics of the person you want to date. This section includes the physical (height, weight, hair color, eye color, body type, ethnicity, etc.) and the not physical (smoker or not, education level, income level, dogs or cats, wants kids or not).

Obviously, you are also encouraged to post a photo (or two, or ten) of yourself.

I've had a profile up for a while, just for shits and giggles. My picture is in my profile. And I self-identify as "Asian."

From time to time, I get random "winks" from people. Which is flattering, I guess. Once I even winked the guy back, but he apparently wasn't willing to pony up the money to actually contact me, so that one died in the water. (Me, I figured if he winked me first, he should pony up the cash to send the email.)

I've received two "winks" in the past few weeks that leave me scratching my head. Both of these people -- whose profiles seemed nice enough -- had one glaring problem with their descriptions of themselves... or, rather, what they would like of me, their potential date: Both of these people explicitly described their ideal date as "White/Caucasian."

Top left side of profile: Not insignificant face shot of me. Five lines into my profile (wherein I describe myself): "My ethnicity: Asian." I am pretty freaking clearly not "White/Caucasian."

One guy's profile went even further than that little tick box. In two different places in his profile, he said that "Blond, blue eyed guys really turn [him] on." Uh, hello! To his credit, he did say after that "... but if that's not you, no biggie." Okay, well, it's definitely not me.

I can't help thinking that this is idiocy. Match gives you a long list of options when it comes to describing your date-of-choice. Among those options is "Any." Or, you can check off more than one "ethnicity" that you fancy. So when you make the conscious effort to publicly proclaim on a dating site that you want to date white guys (with no indication that you think non-white guys are good too), why should I respond to your wink?

Let's put it this way: If you knew your friend was exclusively into African-American men and you had a single friend who was white, would you ever make the effort to set them up on a blind date? No, because your friend's preference is clear to you. That's just what I'm saying with respect to these online profiles. You've declared your preference. And you've taken me out of your realm of interest.

Some of my friends disagree with me when I say this. They think that if someone sends me a "wink," clearly they're interested, whether or not they've indicated so in their profile. "You can have a preference," they argue, "but that doesn't mean that they're exclusively attracted to guys who don't look like you." Fair enough. But, to my mind, any date that results from this kind of a match-up would be fatally flawed at inception: I'd know from the get-go that I'm not the "ideal" date. I'd already know that I'm not what melts this guy's butter. And I know myself well enough to know that if we got together, I would spend the entire time wondering if he's busy scanning the room looking for a good-looking white guy instead of focusing on me, a/k/a the guy upon whom he settled for the evening. Who wants to start a date with that kind of handicap? To the point, who wants to be the guy your date "settles" for? "Couldn't find the white guy I was looking for; lemme give you a shot. For now." Please! Even I, with no overflow of self-esteem, am not going to go for that one.

My Match profile states that my date can be of any ethnicity. Sometimes when I randomly surf through others' profiles, the first thing I look at is what they're looking for. If the "ethnicity" box doesn't say "Any" or contain "Asian," that's a kaibosh right there. I'm not going to waste my time on trying to chat up someone who already says he's not interested. (Hey, at least I play by the same rules I hold other people to. Well, in a sort of twisted way.)

If you truly find more than one ethnicity dateable, say so on your profile before you indicate an interest in someone who doesn't match that preference.

And if you "wink" someone first, it might be a good idea to be willing to spend the money to send an email in the event that your target actually wants to meet you too.

What Kind of Girl am I?

Okay, okay, I had to do this. It just looked fun.

You're like me! The intelligent loner. You're shy
at times but friendly, and you are never weak
and always independent. You are incredibly
intelligent (wise beyond your years) and have a
talent for many things (sports, music, art).
You have a kind and warm personality and enjoy
the simple things. Like hanging out with
friends and watching movies at home. But you're
sometimes quiet nature makes you a bit of an
outcast and a mystery to people. No matter how
pretty you are or smart or athletic, you just
can't seem to break into the crowd and be
noticed. Don't worry, try to be more outgoing
and speak out when you have more to say. Don't
hide behind your books and sports and computer,
get out there and get noticed. You also have
deep desires in life and feel vunerable and
alone at times. Don't feel sad either, What
helps me to express feelings and dreams that I
can't say to people, is through my writting.
Maybe you should try.

What kind of girl are you? (with pix!)
brought to you by Quizilla

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Paranoia Paranoia Everybody's Coming to Get Me, or Get Over Yourself!

My friend Mark is insanely paranoid.

Example No. 1: Mark is on the cutting of all electronic technology, and frequently chides me for not being on said cutting edge. Once, he basically bullied me into downloading some kind of encryption service to overlay my email server so that incoming and outgoing emails were attached to some key so that no one else could intercept and read them except me. Yeah, because people really are hacking into my system to learn things like when I'm having dinner with Mira or how my travel flight plans were cancelled a few days ago.

Example No. 2: I recently sent Mark -- among others, via BCC -- an email about a nonprofit group I'm involved in, asking them to shop through our web site as a way of raising some money. His response? An email back to me to the effect of: "Please verify that this is from you. What is your sister-in-law's name?"

Man, I swear, this guy is starting sound like Dale Gribble from "King of the Hill" -- everything carries with a fear of invasion of privacy and invidious stalking. I understand his caution against identity theft. I get quite a few emails which appear to be from legitimate banking institutions asking me to "log into my account" to "verify" certain things. I prefer to shred my credit card cash advance checks rather than just toss them. And I never leave my social security number unguarded. However, there's a limit to my paranoia.

A part of me still inwardly screams at Mark "Get over yourself! You're not that important!"

Monday, January 03, 2005

Headlessness, Revisited

Remember my office mate S.W., who amazed me by assuming I was straight?

My parents have yet to figure this out about me too. I know, it's shocking, and I know I should just sit them down and tell them by now, but they remain completely clueless. It's kinda sad.

My dad called the other day and mentioned that he and mom are considering coming out this way for a visit. My parents are also the type who are way too cheap to spring for a hotel if they can fenagle a crashpad, even if the crashpad is in a tiny little junior one-bedroom (read: my place). I told him he had to be sure to give me advance notice before they booked a ticket: I do have a life; I have an overnight guest scheduled to crash here in about a week, and I may decide to go away at some point in February as well.

My dad's response to my admonition: "What, you have to make sure to hide the evidence of your girlfriend?"

I rolled my eyes and let it slide. I think everyone who even remotely knows me -- including aunts, uncles, and cousins -- can tell I'm gay... except for the two people whose DNA contributed to my creation.

Missed the Bouquet

So I had dinner with Elizabeth on New Year's Eve. Given that we had failed to make it on our vacation, I figured the least we could do was get together for dinner to celebrate the new year, whether or not we made it to midnight.

We decided to splurge and order a bottle of wine. Keep in mind, I am not a wine connoisseur. Usually when called upon to order a bottle of wine, the most important thing for me (after red or white) is the price, not the year, or country of origin, or other accoutrements of a good wine.

Elizabeth picked the wine: a $29 bottle labelled as a mid-bodied, slightly fruity white. Sounded fine.

The bottle arrived at the table, and it came time to do that "sample" thing they do at restaurants, where they pour a small bit of the wine into a glass and allow you to taste it before it's poured in earnest. Honestly, I don't know what you're supposed to be looking for when you take this taste test. Personally, I suppose it's just meant to be to make sure that it's not vinegar. I know you're supposed to swirl red wine (to open up the body) but it's less important to do so with whites.

For some reason, the waiter poured the taste test glass for me. Not quite knowing what to do, I swirled it around just a bit, took a quick smell off the top, and sipped. "Mmm, tasty."

After the waiter left, Elizabeth politely informed me that white wines have no "bouquet", and as such, should not be sniffed when tasted.

My response: Whatever.

As I said, I have no idea what I'm doing when I taste the wine before the pour. I fake it. The sniff was a reflex action, and frankly, it also helps to decide whether or not the wine has gone past its time.

I'm not big on the pretentions of wine tasting. All I know is if it tastes good or not. I can enjoy a $10 bottle as well as a $90 bottle if the $10 is tasty. Who cares whether I should have sniffed or not?

In My Life

There are places I remember
All my life, though some have changed,
Some forever not for better;
Some have gone and some remain.

All these places had their moments.
With lovers and friends I still can recall.
Some are dead and some are living.

In my life, I've loved them all.

But of all these friends and lovers
There is no one compares with you.
And these memories lose their meaning
When I think of love as something new.

Though I know I'll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I'll often stop and think about them.

In my life, I love you more.

No I know I'll never lose affection.
For people and things that went before,
I know I'll often stop and think about them.

In my life, I love you more.

In my life, I love you more.

-- The Beatles, Rubber Soul (1965)

Sorry, this song just got stuck in my head, so I thought I'd go ahead and stick it in yours. This is possibly one of my favorite songs of all time.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Happy New Year (again)

So the party I went to last night was pretty fun. Lots of interesting people. Just hanging out. Drinking a little. I'm understating.

Let's just say that missing my trip wasn't that big a deal after this party. What a way to spend the first few hours of the new year.