Sunday, February 27, 2005

Mi Viaje a España, Capítulo Uno: Pasó Mucho Tiempo en el Aeropuerto de Filadélfia

It is an unfortunate fact of life that, sometimes, negative experiences can overshadow more positive ones. I, however, refuse to let that happen for this trip. Nonetheless, purely because it constitutes an amusing set of stories upon which I am sure I will later reflect and laugh, my first blog entry about my trip to Spain is entitled, “I Spent a Lot of Time in the Philadelphia Airport.”

Philadelphia is a U.S. Airways hub. Which is convenient, I suppose, because it’s an international airport. My flight arrangements took me from D.C. to Philadelphia, to connect to a flight which went directly from Philadelphia to Madrid. At least that was the plan.

Of course, it didn’t quite work out that way.

The Problem. I started getting nervous early in the trip, seeing as we were still boarding the D.C.-to-Philadelphia flight at the scheduled departure time. But seeing as the flight literally takes less than 40 minutes, I told myself that worrying was senseless. It’s one of the shortest jaunts ever. In fact, it’s so short, it’s really quite retarded that it runs at all.

I had just finished my handing the remains of my complimentary drink to the flight attendant when the pilot announced that we had entered Philadelphia airspace and would be landing soon. I sat back and began, once again, to plot my agenda for the few precious days that would be spending in Europe...

... and some forty minutes later, we still had not landed.

We were literally circling Philadelphia airspace. No one is quite sure why, because the pilot never did come back to tell us why, so long after having informed us that our touchdown was imminent, we still had not begun a descent. We later came to find out that Philadelphia had experienced a “weather situation,” meaning there was some precipitation (snow) which caused a substantial backup in airplanes trying to taxi toward a gate. Even after hitting ground, we were spending way too much time sitting on the tarmac.

Silver Lining 1. The flight was disproportionately populated with people connecting to international flights. There was, in fact, a group of Parisian high school kids on our flight looking to return to Paris. The American couple sitting in front of me was trying to make its way to Munich; so was the cute little older German couple behind me. The two American women across the aisle from me were heading to the Netherlands and to London; in front of them were two young ladies also seeking to make it Madrid. None of us were comfortable with our rapidly diminishing – and in some cases completely lost – buffer time between our flights. But the Americans were cool people, so we were chatting, sharing our misery, bonding over our unfortunate circumstances... while waiting for the opportunity to bolt to our connecting flights.

Frantic Calls. The second the pilot permitted us to use our cell phones – before we completed the taxi to a gate, because we as yet hadn’t been assigned one – a bunch of us promptly telephoned any 800 number for U.S. Airways we could find to tell them that we were this close to our connecting flights, and to please hold them for us because clearly there would be a bunch of us who were unable to make the connection due to these weather problems. We were met with chilly receptions at best; they couldn’t guarantee holding the flight for us. (None of us were really sure why.)

I don't know about anyone else, but neither I nor the other two passengers heading toward Madrid made it to our connecting flight that day.

We went back to the ticketing agent, and I got myself a standby seat on the same flight departing the next day. Which sucked, since my friend Elizabeth and I had taken separate flights for the purpose of meeting up there. Losing a day meant that much less time for us to see the city together.

Silver Lining 2. U.S. Airways gave us vouchers for “distressed passenger” rates at local hotels. I ended up at a Quality Inn in Lester, Pennsylvania (because it was the only place that had a shuttle so we didn’t have to shell out for transportation to the lodging place). (The “reduced” rate was $70 per night. I don’t know about you, but a double room at a Quality Inn in Lester, Pennsylvania really doesn’t seem to be worth seventy freakin’ bucks.)

Lester, Pennsylvania is what no one would call a traveller's paradise. In fact, it's fucking boring as all get out. It's not even near Philadelphia, such that if I wanted to spend some time in a real city it would cost me some $40 in cab fare to get into the city.

Figuring I had nothing better to do, I took a random chance and turned to another "distressed passenger" beside me, innocent as you please, and asked, “Dude, you wanna just split a room?” Drew is a cute college kid, literally 19 years old. (I didn't know this at the time, I swear.) We spent the night chatting a bit, had some food at a divey bar behind the hotel, then made our way back to the airport the following morning. Okay, yeah, I only really asked him to share the room because he’s cute (and to save at least some dinero). We spent the entire next day after checkout at the airport together because, well, again, we had nothing better to do and it could have cost way too much to make our way into the city to do anything fun. But he was a nice guy and I told him to keep in touch.


The return trip wasn’t much better. After leaving Madrid on time, I returned to find (eventually) that my connecting flight from Philadelphia to D.C. had been delayed a few hours, then eventually cancelled completely. By this point there were no decent hotels left in the area that had any reasonable rates, and I sure as heck wasn’t going to pay $150 for a room to tide me over for the return flight the next morning. It was, frankly, cheaper to catch a regional rail from the airport into Center City, then take an Amtrak ($48) back to the city myself. Basically I completely blew off my return flight in favor of trucking it myself.

Silver Lining 3. Being fucked over by the airline has a way of creating bonding experiences between random passengers. (Well, I guess at least among those who don't lose their head and explode at everyone.) During this second Philadelphia travail, I met a very nice young woman whom I found out lives literally a block from me. Together we found our way from the airport to the train station on the cheap, got our train tickets, and even had "dinner" at the bar in 30th Street Station while waiting for our train to depart. (Aside: The bartender was pretty cute as well.) On the track waiting for the train to pull up, we met another would-be airline passenger who lives part-time in D.C. and part-time St. Croix. The three of us chatted briefly and I invited myself to visit him for a free place to crash. We exchanged cards for that purpose. I hope he realizes that I was not kidding at all about crashing his place in the Virgin Islands.

The flying was the worst part. The visit itself was much better, and will be the subject of my next installment.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

And the Oscar Goes To....

Okay, this post doesn't have anything to do with my trip to Spain. But this entry is more timely so I thought I'd go ahead and post it now.

While channel surfing in my room in Spain, I came across this report from BBC World and watched with interest. According to the article, in the seventy-seven-year history of the Academy Awards, some 300 or so nominations have been handed out, but only 13 or 14 of them went to black people. Obviously, the overwhelming number of those nominations went to white people. When Denzel Washington and Halle Berry both won "Best Actor" awards in 2002 -- signaling the first time in history both "best" awards when to black actors, and the first time ever the award went to a black woman -- the media proclaimed a shift in attitudes toward recognition of black Hollywood. The BBC article, like many others, notes that "while some think this year’s nominations may finally reflect a more diverse Hollywood, not everyone is convinced."

I don't know about the BBC World definition of "diverse," but recognizing black achievement at the Oscars shouldn't earn Hollywood the accolade of fully "diverse" just yet. No disrespect toward any of the truly talented black performers, filmmakers, and other behind-the-scenes black talent in Hollywood, who in fact truly deserve the awards for which they are nominated and for which they receive their awards, but America, before proclaiming any of its prominent institutions truly "diverse" in terms of adequate representation of minorities, needs to start looking beyond black and white.

In its 77-year history, only a small handful of Asian Americans have won Oscar awards. Among them are Miyoshi Umeki (Best Supporting Actress, Sayonara, 1957) and Haing S. Ngor (Best Supporting Actor, The Killing Fields, 1984). In addition, James Wong Howe, nominated multiple times, won for best cinematographer in both 1955 (The Rose Tattoo) and in 1963 (Hud). Where's the cry for "diversity" with respect to Asian-American Hollywood? Black actors/filmmakers/Hollywood types (rightfully) applaud the greater representation of black talent at the awards; why does no one notice that diversity in the United States encompasses so much more?

No Asian actor has ever won a "Best Actor" award (male or female) in the history of the Oscars. Ain't no diversity if the Asian population in this country isn't represented.

"But," you protest, "there aren't that many Asian actors out there! How do expect them to win if they barely exist?"

If you actually said that, then you've actually pinpointed the problem with Hollywood: In the same way that black actors were historically marginalized in early Hollywood, Asian actors are in the same boat now. Where blacks used to be consistently relegated to acting roles such as slaves or waiters/busboys, Asian actors are stuck in roles that involve their mastery of the martial arts. (Infuriatingly often, by the way, even this stereotype is being taken away from Asians, because lately white people have been able to better the ancient Eastern masters of the crafts. Witness The Last Samurai -- whose title character appears to be a white guy who kicks Asian ass at an ancient Asian craft.) Either that, or they run Chinese restaurants in some broken English faux-Eastern accent. (See my previous brief post about this phenomenon.)

Asians seldom take lead roles which aren't race-specific. I mean, obviously if you're casting a movie about the ancient kings of Europe, you can't cast an Asian in the role of King Phillip II. But where the race of the main characters isn't terribly important to the plot, and could be filled by anyone of any race or ethnicity, Asian actors are almost never tapped to fill the roles. In fact, the very first movie to feature Asian characters as title characters was Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, starring John Cho and Kal Penn. (Kal Penn is of Asian Indian extraction; his name birth name of Kalpen Modi was Anglicized, probably at the insistence of Hollywood types.) Even Chinatown, a movie whose title suggests an Asian flair or theme, doesn't contain almost any Asians at all in speaking roles.

True, there have been blips on the Hollywood radar as resepcts Asian actors and Asian-themed movies. In 1993, The Joy Luck Club hit the screen with a majority Asian cast. Then, in 2002, we got Better Luck Tomorrow. Aside from those two, though, Asian Americans weren't well represented in mainstream American cinema. Worse, even when Asian characters were cast in Hollywood history, they were played by white guys in yellowface, complete with buck teeth and faux accents. See, for example, Mickey Rooney's shameful performance as "Mr. Yunioshi," Holly Golightly's cranky and irritable upstairs neighbor, in 1961's Breakfast at Tiffany's ("Miss Go-Right-ree! I going to cow poreess!"). Even in Sayonara, a man named "Nakamura," a kabuki dancer, is played by none other than Richardo Montalban -- he of Fantasy Island fame, and clearly someone who is not of Asian descent! As it currently stands, it seems to me that when I want to see Asians or Asian-Americans in the movies, I have to look to more "independent" releases (such as Bend It Like Beckham, Monsoon Wedding, Hero (which is a Chinese movie that somehow has Quentin Tarantino's name prominently attached to it, even though Tarantino really had absolutely no hand in its creation) and House of Flying Daggers. I have to frequent web sites like this one.

Of course, this subject is closer to my heart because I'm Asian-American. I haven't done the research, so I don't know how many Hispanic/Latino actors and actresses out there have been represented at the Awards, nor how many truly Hispanic-themed movies have hit it big as Hollywood blockbusters. Hollywood's been a white man's world for a long time. The same goes for any identifiable minority group in the United States who deserves recognition and notice as an integral and important part of this tapestry of the country. Only when more of us are better and more fully represented can we truly proclaim that Hollywood has succeeded in its recognition of the "diversity" of the industry.

But in the end, the problem is the same. Hollywood was and is busy patting itself on the back in the name of "diversity" for finally giving some black actors the recognition they deserve. Measuring themselves by a black-versus-white yardstick, sure, progress has been made. But there's got to be a more representative yardstick out there that needs to be used to recalibrate the assessments.

Friday, February 25, 2005

El Regreso

Okay, I'm back. And I'm exhausted. So I don't feel like blogging about my trip just yet. But rest assured, there is much to be said, many stories to be told. And since I seem to have a consistent readership of, oh, six people, I think you guys can wait just a little bit to hear about my fabulous and exciting adventures and observations. ¡Hasta pronto!

Thursday, February 17, 2005


Shoot me. Shoot me now.

Vacation, All I Ever Wanted

In about 17 hours I am on a plane en route to Madrid. I'm so excited it's beyond description. I love European travel, and, poor soul that I am, I can't afford to go anywhere near as often as I'd like. So far I've only hit Paris and Rome, adding Madrid this week. I know it's de rigeur now to check out other, less "touristy" destinations like Turkey, Istanbul, Hungary, and Albania, but I'm spoiled that way -- I'm a big city boy, so I'd rather hit more international destinations than the little secret gems at this point in my life. Perhaps at some other point in my life, when the beauty and simplicity of a countryside might excite me more (not that it's not a great thing now), I might try more out-of-the-way destinations. But for now, I'm sticking with the bigger cities.

Oh, and I just found out tonight that Madrid is actually the setting for this movie which I thoroughly enjoyed when I saw it. It's on my amazon wishlist, by the way, in case any of you happens to want to get it for me. Unfortunately, the fact that the movie is set in Madrid just hit me tonight, so I wasn't able to go out and rent it again to try to recapture the flavor. But I do commend the movie to you out there, because it was quite enjoyable.

One last thing: If, by whatever strange sets of flukes, these vacation plans end up anything like my last set of vacation plans, someone please shoot me. Even if you have to travel from random various parts of the country to do it, please, come by, and shoot me. Even though it's illegal to own or carry a gun in the District of Columbia.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Oooo.... Shiny.....

Q: Did you hear the one about the kid with ADHD?
A: Let's go ride our bikes!

Today I was doing my usual blog reading by routinely and systematically going through my bookmarked blogs. Just to check for updates and whatnot, see what's new and exciting in blogland, yadda yadda yadda.

In due course, I got to Sam's blog. I read a bit of it when I got distracted by something pretty on my desk. ("Oooo... prettttty...."). You may know that feeling of random distraction, when your mind wanders to other, infinitely less important things. Or, in the alternative, you may actually have some semblance of an attenion span. Which I obviously do not.

But I digress. Point being, I had gotten part way down Sam's latest post -- about Valentine's Days past -- before the evil sirens of pretty shiny things diverted my attention. My screen was at a point on Sam's page which was past the title bar ("Reversed and Remanded"), as well as the title of the most recent entry.

Of course, if you checked the link just now, probably realize that Sam and I have chosen the exact same Blogspot template for our blogs, such that even our fonts are identical.

So much so, that when I first turned back to my computer screen just now, I looked at the words to the entry and thought to myself, "When did I blog about Valentine's Day? I thought I deliberately avoided that topic!" I won't even tell you how long it was before I finally realized that the blog I was looking at wasn't actually mine.

Oh, my short attention span cracks me up. Hahahah -- Look, a quarter!

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Helpful Hint

Dennis!'s helpful hint of the day:

IF you find yourself working late in your office and everyone else appears to have gone home and you find yourself thinking, "Gosh, no one's here, I can do [insert generally embarrassing activity, like sing out loud, or surf for porn, or strip down to your skivvies] if I want to,"

THEN the proper response is to JUST SAY NO and go home. (Then do your embarrassing stuff there, in the privacy of your own home.)

Not that I have any first-hand knowledge of the application of this rule, of course.

Fit to be Tied

I hate to admit it, but I'm kind of addicted to "Celebrity Fit Club" on VH1. It's one of the stupidest shows I've seen in ages, but whenever I surf around VH1 and it's on (which is surprisingly frequently), I end up stopping and watching it.

In a nutshell, "Fit Club" grabs eight "celebrities" -- we do use that term loosely -- who are overweight and tries to whip them into shape. Some of these people don't look fat per se, but I guess they could stand to lose some weight. Only one or two of them look so obese that it's unhealthy. Others just look pleasantly large. But I digress.

I'd say it's a good show... but it's not really. Anyway, it's more fun to bitch.

. Ant. He's the "host" of this show. He's an alumnus of two seasons of "Last Comic Standing" and, quite frankly, he's insanely annoying. He reminds of the character "Anthony" from "Sex and the City" -- Charlotte's wedding planner. Yes, they're both annoying. He wasn't funny on "Comic," and he's not funny now. And there's some substantial irony to be found in the fact that Ant himself ain't all that skinny himself. Perhaps he should be taking part in the Fit Club events.

. Ralphie May. Speaking of "Last Comic Standing," Ralphie was the runner-up on the first season. He wasn't funny then. I'm so happy Dat Phan won. Ralphie's jokes were just all about "I'm a big fat guy, what do you want?" After a while it got boring. But I have to give Ralphie credit for his "Fit Club" appearance. He's one of the "clearly obese" people I mentioned above. And yet he in fact seems determined to lose some weight. And he's making a point of saying that he's doing it to serve as an example to others out there. He "ran" for about a mile in one episode, and he commented "There are guys out there who weigh less than me who don't think they can run a mile. I hope I'm showing them that if I can do it, they can." That's pretty cool.

. Judge Mablean. Uh... who? Apparently, she's the judge on "Divorce Court." Yeah. She's annoying because she's such a bitch. Everyone hates her. Because she's not just outspoken and opinionated, but she's outspoken, opinionated, and abrasive. And that's annoying. Apparently this week someone tries to tell her how annoying she is, and she responds, "Unfortunately most of America don't like a strong black woman." Okay, bitch, it's not about you being a strong black woman. It's about you being a ruthless PERSON. Believe me, if you were a white man who talked the same way you do, you'd still be annoying as sin.

. Wendy Kaufman. Apparently, the Snapple chick. She's funny and all, but a little over the top. She still manages to keep a decent disposition, though, so hey.

. Mia Tyler. "Plus" size model. Why would a woman whose career is based on being a large woman go on a show about losing weight? She's also got a big time 'TUDE. Others would love the fact that she snapped at the "panel" that tells them what to do... I didn't find that fun at all.

. Kim Coles. From "Living Single." Personally, I think she's a fine woman, extra pounds and all, but what do I know? At least she laughs and stuff. Laughter is key.

... okay, and I don't care about the other "celebrities."

More important than the "celebrities," though, is the panel of hosts, who direct the weight loss regimens of these stars. Just a quick shout-out: Am I crazy when I say that I think Dr. Katz is hot? Like, yow. Too bad he never seems to have a reason to take his shirt off.

Okay, this post was lame. But I can't sleep. But I'll go try now.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Personal Finances 101

Every so often things happen that remind me not so subtly that there is no earthly reason other than the mere passage of time that I should be considered an adult competent to handle my own finances. This is my way of saying that I'm a complete idiot who should not be trusted to take care of an income and expenses at the same time.

I usually have a pattern of some sort set up. Because I get paid every other Friday, my routine usually is:

1. Receive paycheck. (My office is so small we haven't bothered to set up a direct deposit system. No biggie, if you ask me.)

2. Deposit paycheck.

3. Knowing that the check will take at least a few days to clear (usually by the Tuesday following), use online banking to schedule some bill payments for the Friday following. Because I generally know how much is going to get paid out, I know how much is left of the paycheck, and thus how much I can spend on discretionary stuff. [But see caveat below.]

4. Cycle repeats itself for the next pay day.

So basically, my money schedule is an alternating set of Fridays: deposit on one Friday, pay bills the next Friday, deposit more on the next Friday, pay more bills on the following Friday.

This process makes some sense, no? Well, it could make sense to someone with half a brain -- that is, to someone other than me.

First, my great system frequently fails to take into account auto-debits which I have set up on my account. For some reason it ALWAYS slips my mind that a good chunk of change is accounted for every two weeks in the form of a mortgage payment, and even worse, that condo fees, student loan payments, and insurance premiums get deducted (annoyingly, on different days) once a month. So when I budget how much I have that I can spend, I somehow forget that even though I can see how much I'm spending by writing checks, I consistently forget how much I'm spending in the form of letting others take my money from me.

But the coup-de-grace is what happened to me over the first two weeks of February. I am, in fact, a space case.

So, plan worked as usual, paid off some bills on Friday, received new paycheck the following Friday. Except this time, instead of telling my bank to write out some checks the following Friday, I somehow managed to tell it to send out checks that same day. Thankfully, the bank did so without waiting for the check to completely clear (thus preventing overdraft charges), but it left me almost completely without any funds at all for the next two weeks. Projecting forward, after the following Friday (the non-pay day), my checking account would contain fifteen cents. Cents.

Reviewing my bills and payment histories today, I found out exactly what I did wrong. See, I stress over high-interest credit cards. I hate when I spend so much that I can't pay off the balance on the day-to-day usage ones. So after I had paid a chunk of change to two cards in the last pay period, I forgot that I had made those payments, and paid still more to them the very next week. The original game plan had been to pay them down over the course of a few months. Instead, I accidentally paid them down over two weeks.

And, of course, I didn't really have the money to pay it down that fast. Uh... oops. Talk about dipping into my savings prematurely.

Oh, and because the two payments both were made during the same billing cycle and didn't zero out the credit card, I still have a minimum payment due for next month, even though I never intended to pay as much as I did for this past month. Grrrr.

Thankfully, I had been planning on using my tax refund money to pay down credit card debt anyway. So I finished my taxes this weekend, and expect a decent refund to hit my savings account soon, effectively bringing back what I accidentally spent on paying down these cards. I guess, in a way, I pretty much borrowed against my own tax refund. By accident.

My saving grace is, at least when I screw up this badly, I do so close enough to tax time that a magical buffer appears, giving me access to a sudden "windfall" to make up for my stupidity.

Return of the Native

After two hours on the phone with Dell tech support, I seem to finally have my computer back. Yay! It has now survived fear of complete death, fear of keyboard malfunction, and fear of mouse malfunction, all at the same time. Now I just have to be sure I back up my email regularly, since it's really the only super-important thing on this drive now.

It's nice being able to surf around at home.

I'm still thinking about the laptop, though, even though I don't really have the $1,000 to drop like that.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Vicious Cycle

[Warning: This post is kind of a downer. However, a less depressing new post appears just under this one, if you want to just scroll down and skip this one.]

Over the holidays, my best friend from high school called me just to say Hi. I had been unable to make it back to see my family, but he had. He asked me if there was anything I wanted him to get me from the islands. I told him I like those "Men of Hawai'i" calendars that have hot local men in tropical locales around the state. He told me he'd look for one and send it to me.

He IM'd me a week ago. "I never did get you that calendar, did I?" he asked.

"No, you didn't, but 'sokay. I'll just get an eye candy calendar from here," I told him. "Right now my wall is graced by some Chinese chick because some Chinese restaurant threw in a wall calendar last time I was too lazy to cook."

"Well, I'll look for one for you."

Suddenly I realized what he was saying. "You're going back?" I asked. The close proximity between his last visit and this one couldn't possibly bode well.

"Yeah," he replied. "My grandma's still in the hospital, and they don't think she's going to make it much longer."

"I'm so sorry," I responded.

I lose the power of speech when people start talking about death and grieving, because it's never clear what I'm supposed to say. The words which leap to mind always sound like they came out of a Hallmark card (they probably did) and thus sound cliched, forced, and insincere (no matter how sincerely I really mean them). I've been known to decline to sign condolences cards for co-workers whose suffered a loss in the family because I simply don't know what to write, and just signing my name looks retarded.

I tried to comfort him, but I don't do well with death and grieving issues. I think because my family doesn't tend to outwardly show emotion much, I coasted through much of my childhood at least mildly detached from intimate familial connections. We don't express our emotions well; to this day I think it's been a substantial hinderance to my social life, both romantically and otherwise. Besides, it's difficult to comfort someone over IMs.

My friend's family is substantially different from mine. They are outwardly affectionate, including hugs and kisses, joking with each other, and the frequent use of the phrase "I love you." Being in the presence of that family, you can feel the love all around. During the many instances when I would visit after school or on weekends, there was no shortage of supply -- I was accepted as part of the family as much as anyone else.

So when my friend was hurting, I was hurting, even though I never did know his grandmother at all.

Eventually the IM moved on to other, lighter topics, but of course the big looming elephant in the room was the impending death of my friend's grandmother.

He called me today. His voice cracking, he told me that his grandmother had, in fact, passed away this morning. He thought it would be a nice gesture if I sent a card to his parents. Because at some point I had considered them as much my parents as my own biological parents, I knew he was right.

"And you?" I asked. "How are you holding up?"

Which was a stupid question, of course, seeing as he was already audibly on the verge of tears. "Not too well."

"I'm so sorry...." Again, words failed me.

We chatted for a few more minutes before he had to be with his family.

Even though it's all just part of that "circle of life" thingee (what did I saw about the cliches?), it still sucks the pain that death causes, even when the deceased has lived a long and wonderful life.

I'm really lucky that no one all that close to me has passed away in the decades I've existed on this planet, but that day will come. Will I be prepared? I don't know. Will I have made peace with the demons that haunt some of my relationships? Knowing my stupid, stubborn pride, I doubt it.

I wish there were a way to make this all easier -- for my friend, for me when the time comes, for everyone else -- but there isn't one.

And man, this was one rambling post.

Compound Problems

My computer cancer has metastasized.*

What used to be a cute little message saying "Dude, your slave drive[**] is dead," is now full-on stopping my system from working. Instead of politely informing me that my drive should be replaced and then proceeding to boot from the right drive, now I get a message that says "Man, that drive is whacked! Press DEL to run setup, bitch!"***

Of course, when I hit DEL, I get to the "setup" screen, which does me no good whatsoever, because I have no clue what settings need to be changed in there, if any.

I suppose I could (and should) just bite the bullet and yank the damn drive out of my machine, but I've been getting home after dark lately, and it's hard to do something like that when there's little to no good lighting in my living room. My living room is comparatively dark because I still haven't fixed my kitchen lighting fixture yet, and the floor lamp which used to illuminate my living room now has to do double duty for kitchen and living room.

Oh, in the meantime, I'm told that I can't update the virus definitions on my machine anymore, because my "subscription" to Norton Antivirus has run out. Renewing my subscription will cost $25. Upgrading my antivirus software altogether will cost some $30. Hmmm. What a racket. I'd like to just go ahead and upgrade, but that software will be useless to me if I do decide to replace my system altogether, and go with new laptop (with some virus protection already installed). It would look so cute on my computer table, and the lack of the tower would make the thing look so much less cluttered.

Decisions, decisions.

* Props to me: I wasn't sure how to spell this word, so I guessed, and when I checked, I found that I was right.

** The phrase "slave drive" -- the other drive being called the "master drive" -- both perturbs me and makes me giggle at the same time. The former reaction beacuse of the racial implications; the latter because of the kinky sexual ones.

*** Okay, it didn't actually say "bitch."

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Pop Pop Pop

Okay, the coolest. Site. Ever.

Okay, maybe not "ever," but definitely a fun timekiller. Although I know I prefer the real thing to this point-and-click thing.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Sexy Chicky-poo

I feel like an old fuddy-duddy for saying it, but that Sue Johanson chick on the Oxygen network (on a Canadian show called "Sunday Night Sex Talk") is scary. Not because she's some Dr. Ruth wannabe, but she's so woefully malinformed that I can no longer watch her program without fearing for her viewers.

First, my introduction to Ms. Johanson. One night I was hanging out with my friend Elizabeth in her apartment. Elizabeth has a shorter attention span than I do; indeed, her channel surfing skills broke all stereotypes about men hogging the remote control. I was full from dinner (and therefore tired), so I just let her surf around.

Eventually, she stopped on Ms. Johanson's show and kept it there for a pretty long time. (Clearly, she knew something I didn't know.) Ms. Johanson kept going on and on and on about statistics related to how bad it is to smoke while pregnant, reading statistic after statistic regarding tobacco and pregnancy. I had no idea why Elizabeth was so interested in this; I just half-listened while I spaced out from a bit of food coma (we had just had dinner).

My ears perked up when Ms. Johanson finished her rant on smoking, concluding with: "That's my plug... that's my butt plug for the night."

I sat up, looked over at Elizabeth, and, incredulous, mouthed, "Did she just say 'butt plug'?"

Indeed, she had. This was my introduction to Dr. Johanson. Yes, she's an old woman talking open and happily about sex with no shame about it. But Johanson is nowhere near as cute as Dr. Ruth. In an interview once, she played up her "old lady" status by commenting that she didn't want the world to think she was some "sexy chicky-poo". This made me laugh.

I caught her again a few months later, while staying with a friend in Richmond. It was at this point that I decided that she had no idea what she was talking about.

Example #1: Relatively innocuous, but still exhibiting a clear lack of imagination, which to my mind is essential for a "sex therapist," especially when it comes to questions of technique. A caller (I think it was a straight woman) asked about anal intercourse and requested some suggestions for other positions to make it easier or more enjoyable. Ms. Johanson whipped out a set of wooden stick figures (those things creep me out, by the way) and began to position them as a way of demonstrating how to achieve back-door action: the caller could bend forward over a couch, she explained (while demonstrating with the freaky stick-dolls) or the caller could get on all fours (again, positioning the figures accordingly). Then she stopped. And she actually said, "Well I think that's really about it... your options are fairly limited with that request...."

Man, this woman has never ever seen any gay porn in her life. Gay men in porn videos know how to fuck. And they do it in 10,001 different positions. In an overwhelming number of these instances, it does not involve anyone bending over a couch. The fact that she could only come up with two examples of how to accept rear entry, Ms. Johanson let down this particular caller who was seeking advice on how to enhance that aspect of her sex life.

Example #2: Downright dangerous. A caller -- I think it was a male -- called to discuss "rimming." Basically, his question boiled down to what dangers are inherent in the practice, and whether he should be careful when engaging in the act. Ms. Johanson's response: In a nutshell, HIV if there's blood-to-bodily fluid contact, and that's about it. Then she broke for a commercial.

"Hel-LO!" I protested. "Hepatitis! Which should the first thing that pops into the mind of a sex therapist when rimming is mentioned!"

Sure enough, Ms. Johanson supplemented her earlier response by mentioning hepatitis upon her return from commercial break. I'm wondering what producer came running up to the stage to correct of her this error.

I don't know if the show is live or not, but if the caller didn't switch the channel right after receiving his answer, he missed out on some valuable information. If the show's not live and the calls are tape-recorded, then that's just worse, because there's little chance that he heard the real answer after he hung up with her.

Anyway, all I'm saying is, if you're going to hold yourself out as an expert, you need to know your shit down cold.

Monday, February 07, 2005

No More Z:

My Z: drive is, apparently, dead.

To give it the due it deserves, it should never have really lived to begin with. I harvested it from an old machine when I purchased my current system. It used to have all the software on it to run its own machine, but I hijacked it for use as an internal backup drive...

only it wasn't really a "backup" in the classic sense of the word, since, well, I stored my data on it and nowhere else. It was a "data" drive, really, so that I didn't have to clog up my main hard drive with data when it could be used to house actual software stuff.

I had noticed an issue with my Z drive a long time ago. For some reason, my computer would strain to find certain files on there. Eventually I hunted down the problem, which was identified to me as a "disk allocation error" or something like that. Having no clue what it meant, I looked it up, and it provided no help to me whatsoever. The error was usually located in Win95 machines, and I was running WinXP, so they had no advice for me whatsoever in terms of how to fix it. So I gave up trying to fix it....

until one day this week when I turned on my computer and got a full-screen error message that gave some complex details, most of which I ignored, until I got to the bottom line at the bottom of the screen: "Internal hard drive flawed. Recommend backup and replace." No provision for reformatting the thing. No provision for just rebooting the machine and all will be all right. Basically my machine was telling me to give up the ghost. It was the cyber equivalent of "He's dead, Jim."

Thankfully, I had seen this coming, so I whipped out my handy-dandy set of CD-RWs. Each of these suckers holds 700 MB of data, so I started backup up like crazy. After finally pulling all my photos onto CDs (most vacation photos -- get your minds out of the gutter!), I started to work on my documents...

except that the folder had gone missing. It had vanished. Completely. Victim, I think, to whatever malicious hardware error was otherwise consuming my drive. This disappointed me greatly, because there was much of importance in my documents drive. Not only were my resumes stored in there, but several letters which I knew I would need the addresses to again. (For example, letters to every single bar association to which I belong -- since I have to notify them if I ever move or change jobs.) The other "official" correspondence I can forget about -- like the letter I wrote to the landlord when I moved out of my last apartment four years ago -- but what I truly will mourn...

My creative writing documents were also wiped out. I had written one particularly decent 8-page short story which, to date, represents my pride and joy in terms of creative writing achievement. (Okay, truth be told, it's not so much "creative writing" as it is a colorful rendering of what my diary could possibly have looked like over a particular 7-month period in my life, but still, no one reading it would have needed to know it was a true story....)* I think I have a backup here in the office, but I'm scared to look. And even if I do, it might be an older version without some general touchups that I did on occasion.

Similarly, I lost several short plays that I had begun but never finished. I had stored them on my computer with the thought that seeing them again would spur me to continue them; they're now gone and I must start them again from scratch (if I even remember the subject matter and my rough outline of the plot, which I don't have written down anywhere). In addition, one small file I had -- entitled "Story Ideas" -- had enumerated several ideas for short stories which I had not even begun but which I had already begun mulling thoughts for. Those creative sparks are now also extinguished.

All I have left now to exercise my creative writing is this blog. And I think you'll agree, I'm certainly no Hemingway.

* ... although I am impressed with some of the entries on this blog. I wish I could write better more consistently.

Friday, February 04, 2005

I'm a Creep

This is the website that someone (I forget who) steered me to, which led to my sudden desire to learn to play the guitar. I so totally want to learn to play this song... and try to sing it. Sensitive ears beware!

Is it just me, or does the first "you're so very special" sound terribly dubbed?

Although this site has inspired me to try my hand at guitar, it has not similarly inspired me to take up computer stick-figure animation.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005


I recently found out that someone reached my site by searching for "Goofus and Gallant," that Highlights for Kids strip that I mentioned in an earlier post (which later led to my shameful confession that I am a flower thief).

Reproducing that search (just for fun), I found this excellent article on how the mighty fall. So I thought I'd share.

Is there nothing sacred in this world anymore?

¿Cómo se dice...?

So I had enough U.S. Airways frequent flier miles that I felt the need to burn them up in light of their second bankruptcy filing. I sure as heck didn't want to be holding the bag for a free trip to Europe on a defunct airline. So I chose Madrid, Spain. I'm heading there in a few weeks. My first choice would have been Barcelona, but the flights were booked solid. So I'm flying into Madrid and catching a train from there for a few days in Barcelona, followed by a return train to Madrid for the flight home. (Wish me luck with that!)

I took Spanish in college and have a decent working proficiency of the language. I'm better at reading it than anything else -- speaking and listening give me headaches and I stumble for the right words or can't follow someone who speaks waaaaay too fast and in colloquialisms. That happens when you're taught a foreign language in a classroom: You learn to speak formally, but no one you will ever meet actually speaks as formally.

Last night I pulled out the travel guides I had purchased and began to make preliminary inquiries about accommodations for my stay. Not wanting to be the "ugly American" who assumes that everyone should speak English, I pulled out my Spanish skills [the urge to use a "z" instead of an "s" there was overwhelming, but I resisted] and conducted my two-sentence inquiry in Spanish. Because it was in Spanish, I kept it short and simple. Some might even say curt. But it was meant to get the message across: "Looking for a room. Here are the dates. How much are they? Can I make a reservation?"

Two have written back already.

One asks, in Spanish, for the time of my arrival and for a credit card number.

The other informed me that they are, unfortunately, filled for the dates I requested. And they told me so in English.

I feel sorry for the people I'm about to inflict myself upon that I can't even string together a coherent sentence asking about room availability without screaming that I don't really speak Spanish worth a damn. Me at dinnertime: "Uh .... that ... please."