Monday, February 27, 2006

It's All About the Money

I had a strange dream last night. It involved money -- specifically my money -- so it freaked me out a little.

I dreamt that I logged on to my bank account and found that both my savings and my checking account were completely depleted. Empty. Balance: zero (squared). I had no money to my name. In my dream, I hunted down the source of the error: a payment that I had intended to send out for $100 somehow got recorded as $21,000. Really. Uh, lemme tell ya, I don't have that much money to my name. (I still remember the one time when I did actually have a check for a very large sum of money made out to me in my hands. Then the mean people at the mortgage company made me endorse the back of it and hand it over to them.)

Needless to say, the first chance after waking up I logged back on to the Internets to double-check on the status of my account. I didn't want to find that I had somehow or another been strangely prescient in my dream; and if I was, I planned to (a) freak out about my psychic abilities; and (b) call the bank pronto.

Thankfully, there was still money in my accounts.

Not that my accounts were still error-free.

Among the many, many things you don't ever want to see as an entry on your bank account statement is "TRANSACTION CANCELLED DUE TO LOW BALANCE." Immediately following that entry is another one you don't particularly welcome: the entry telling you that they've charged you a fee for that cancellation.

See, I have an intricate yet perfectly-timed system for paying bills on line. My paychecks get deposited on pay day to my savings account. After the funds clear in two to three days, I transfer the money to my checking account. A day after that, I instruct my bank to send out a huge slew of checks (or however they get money to other institutions; I don't care as long as it gets there) to my various bloodsuckers creditors. As long as the value of the checks I send doesn't exceed the amount I've transferred, I'm good to go. As a safeguard, I also have in place that system where they take money from my savings in the event you my fingers write checks my checking account can't cash (for another additional fee, of course).

Mind you, I've been doing this for years. It works great. Online banking rules. You don't have to write all these checks by hand; you don't have to take care of those dumb return envelopes or make sure that the return address appears properly in the window; you don't have to deal with those snide reminders that "The Post Office will not deliver mail without the proper postage" (duh!).

For some reason, this past time, I managed to ask the bank to transfer funds -- funds required for these payments to go out properly -- FROM my checking TO my savings. Needless to say, of course, there's no money in the checking to transfer to the savings. So, of course, the computer system (in its infinite wisdom) automatically transferred funds from my savings account -- at additional cost to me -- for the purposes of executing this screwed-up transfer. Yep: the bank took money from my savings account and put it in my checking acount so that my checking account would have sufficient funds... to transfer to my savings account. There's a very O. Henry quality to that logic.

Apparently my bank also is set to transfer a small amount ($25.00) from my checking to my savings every month. The type of accounts I have requires me to do this. This transfer is the amount that was cancelled (for a small service fee!) because after transferring that mammoth amount to my savings (after taking it from my savings) there was nothing more to transfer on top of that. Urg.

Well everything seems to be straightened out now. Thankfully, none of the creditors had posted my payments yet, so nothing "bounced" again. I just transferred the money back to my checking again, and everything (save for two service fees) should be right with my money again.

Oh the joys of being a responsible adult with bills to pay.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Lyang Nyan

Two years ago on this date More Than My Luggage debuted in this space. It ain't much, but it's fun for me to write, and it's nice to know there are people out there who read this and actually enjoy it.

If you're reading this, thanks. And be sure to leave a comment.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

What's My Age Again?

Lately I feel like I'm stuck in some strange limbo. Actually, I've felt like this for a long time, which is odd given the subject matter of this odd limbo. I think I've always been an "old soul"; classic youthful pecadillos weren't ever my thing, and I never did undertake those "youthful indiscretions" that I often hear others talking about.

Attending a birthday celebration this weekend for a friend of mine at an Adams Morgan bar, I noticed how the event quickly focused almost solely on the alcohol. Now don't get me wrong, I'm all about the hooch, and as adults we've pretty much earned the right to imbibe what we want to in this patronizing, paternalistic country. But when the birthday girl's busy doing shots of Jaeger on top of her beers and then having to get walked home... well, really, how old am I? And is it strange that this happening to adults, practicing lawyers among them? Shouldn't we have learned by now to moderate our alcohol intake? (For the record, I didn't have that much and woke up hangover-free the next day. In my own bed.*)

Oddly enough, with my other set of friends, I flip the other way. I'm the immature one. The one who still laughs at wildly inappropriate jokes; the one who finds adventure in strange and different things. Once I suggested going to a "Quiet Party" that was somewhat popular at the time. (At "Quiet Parties," you're not allowed the speak. You exchange notes all night. I hear it's an interesting experience. Never made it because none of my friends wanted to go.) I also once suggested "Dining the Dark," where you pay for the privilege of meeting people you can't see, because you're led blindfolded into a dark room at which time you're served food you can't see. You have be adventurous enough both to eat what you can't see, and to talk to others at your table (whom you also can't see) about it. Again, this idea got no takers.

That's me in a nutshell: responsible (coughcoughahem) attorney by day, random strange person by night. This is why I never do well at any of those Myers Briggs tests: I can answer any question either way just based on my whims.

This is also why finding a long-term dating companion is well-nigh impossible.

* Not that I didn't try for an alternate circumstance. At a straight bar. Yeah.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Dead Giveaway

I realized recently that one of the reasons I hate to clean my apartment is that there's so much stuff that needs to be thrown out, and I simply don't have the heart to do so. Even completely defective items tend to make their home in my home; if I paid money for it, I want the product, dammit, even if it doesn't work.

Last night I finally began the process of instituting a purge on some of my more useless gadgets. On reflection, though, I decided that some of the still-functioning (and even one not-so-functioning) product may find decent homes elsewhere. (The dead DVD player, the archaic old computer from which I had already harvested the hard drive, and a dead VCR, however, will make their way to a trash bin very very soon.) So where else does a boy with things to give away turn? You got it: Craigslist.

I decided to give away:

(1) a bathroom lighting fixture. I replaced it with another one, but since the old one works fine, I didn't want to junk heap it.

(2) a cheap-ass digital camera. Seriously, it's so ghetto it doesn't even have a "preview picture" function. In that way, it's really no different at all from a 35mm camera, though I guess you don't need to pay to develop your crappy-ass pictures. Oh, I also don't know how much memory it holds on its own, but there's no room in it for any SD card or other external memory storage device.

(3) a wireless router. I swear, it doesn't work. I said as much in my ad! I set it up in my apartment, and my laptop -- a mere three inches from the antenna -- wouldn't pick up the signal. This despite the fact that my laptop will happily latch on to the signal coming from some neighbor named "Mike." But I figured if someone wanted to fiddle with it, more power to them. I wash my hands of it.

I posted the above ads just before and after midnight. As of 9:00 the next morning, I had received close to 80 emails. This includes emails wanting the wireless router (which I specifically said doesn't work!). CLers can be desperate, I guess. I mean, I expected someone would still be interested in these crappy stuff (okay, well, the light fixture really isn't all that crappy), but for people to be clamoring for them... wow. Two or three people actually wrote mini-essays on why they wanted the camera: one was a photojournalist who needed it for a work (if snapping photos is your career, you're gonna want a real camera, dude); another was a grad student in need of digital photos of something or another (I forget what, but it sounded legit), or wanted it for a charity. (Unfortunately, the charity ones came too late or I seriously would have considered them before giving them away to some random person.)

In any event, all these items left my hands within 48 hours after I clicked "Post" on CL. Hopefully the router won't become someone else's grand paper weight.

I wonder whether there's any interest out there in a dead DVD player, a dead VCR, and an archaic old computer shell with no hard drive.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Quirky Much?

Some time ago, Blueberry Pie tagged me with the meme that I've been ruminating on. The meme itself is simple. It's the answers that always get to me.

Meme: List five "weird habits" about yourself, then tag five other bloggers to do the same thing. Here's my list:

1. I talk to myself. I have seriously been known to carry on entire conversations with myself. Sometimes I laugh -- sometimes out loud in public places -- at my own silly responses to myself. Other times I actually chastise myself for being stupid enough to even think certain things. I provide checks and balances for myself this way. I could write entire dialogs which are, in reality, monologues. (Why are those two words spelled differently? That's just weird.)

2. I make strange noises -- out loud -- when I'm frustrated or annoyed. It started as "grrrr," which slowly evolved to an annoyed "aaaaarrrrr," which turned into a pirate-like "aaaaarh!" (sometimes i'll even toss in the "matey!"), and at some point this noise further (d)evolved into something sounding like "raaaah-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba." I have no idea where those last syllables came from. But it's fun to make that sound, so it kinda diffuses the stress that led to it, because I will laugh at myself for making that stupid noise.

3. I am absolutely awful when it comes to laundry. I'll do it only when I run out clothes (usually dress shirts for work). Then even when it's done, I'm terrible and hanging them back up or otherwise returning them to a spot properly designated for clean clothes. Frequently, my laundry basket is actually being used to house clean clothes while the dirty ones accumulate in a pile in my bathroom.

4. I still sleep with two of my stuffed animals. Well, at least they're still sitting on the bed. Sometimes I talk to them. And they talk back. This is only slightly different from #1, but in a material way.

5. I develop silly little schoolgirl crushes very quickly. There used to be a time when they were really awful, because I would also get upset when I realized the object of my crush didn't return the feeling. Now I just recognize them as stupid little crushes, never act on them, and let them run their course. This is particularly helpful when I develop silly little crushes on straight boys.

Full disclosure: There are probably much weirder things in my life worth sharing, but I'm just too lazy to think of them now. Hey, maybe that's a #6: I am lazy as all get out. But then #3 pretty much adequately demonstrates that too, doesn't it?

I'm supposed to tag five people for this meme, but I just don't feel like it (laziness again?), so I won't. But don't let that stop you from playing along now that you've read this.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Reveal Yourself!

On February 11, someone found this blog by searching for "Dennis Spain." S/he then proceeded to spend close to two hours poking around this site, touching upon some 59 pages.

Not that this is a problem, but...

If this is you and you're a friend of mine, reveal yourself now!

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

February 14, Redux

Sorry for the double-post, but I just saw this on Modigli's blog and figured it was a fun thing to post, so:

Your Candy Heart Says "Cutie Pie"

You always seem to have a hot date, even though you never try to meet anyone.
A total charmer, you have a natural appeal that keeps you in high demand.

Your ideal Valentine's Day date: multiple dates with multiple people

Your flirting style: 100% natural

What turns you off: serious relationship talks

Why you're hot: you're totally addicting

If only they knew how totally wrong they are.

February 14

I wanted to come up with some cheesy, schmaltzy post about love on Valentine's Day, but I'm just unable.

How about this: Not that anyone cares, but I've pulled my profile off of Well, at least I think I have. I've asked them to, but when I log in, I can still see it, which makes me doubt.

I took advantage of their three-day free trial offer once recently and sent off a spate of "winks" just for fun. One guy told me he wasn't interested. Unfortunately, that was a guy I had met before. Oh well. I'm hoping he just somehow doesn't realize that I'm the guy from the brunch.

In the end, just way too expensive for it to be realistically worth it to have a profile up at all. When I first signed up, any paying member could send an email, and the recipient could read and respond to it after that. Now, a paying member sends an email, and the recipient must also pay to read it and respond. I know I'm not willing to shell out that kind of dough, so I may as well remove myself from that particular search engine.

Oh, and one more random point of interest: While on this day we tend to talk about "Cupid's Arrow" and blah blah blah, it's funny that the word "cupidity" is defined as "excessive greed with respect to material wealth." Food for thought.

Happy Valentine's Day.

Monday, February 13, 2006

On Theft and Racial Stereotyping

The one bad thing that did happen to me during my recent 48-hour trip to Los Angeles: I had my man-bag stolen. It contained, among other things, a digital camera and probably a little over $100 in cash. (My wallet and cell phone were still in my pockets.)

Somehow I can't help thinking of a grander significance to this event.

My family and I (there were 15 of us around two tables) were just winding down dinner when I pulled out my camera and snapped a few shots, then tucked the camera back into the bag, which was at my feet. Our table was near the entrance to the restaurant, and it was a fairly wide-open area with no real reservation/reception area to speak of. There was also one of those coin-operated games right by the front door, where you operated a claw to grab stuffed animals and hope the claw doesn't drop them before it reaches the escape hatch.

I actually saw the thief. The one guy I noticed most was, for whatever reason, a tall guy wearing a white oversized sports jersey, some bling around his neck, and a red baseball cap turned backwards. I believe he was latino. For some reason, I was turning around to observe the door often, and saw him there for a few minutes.

I honestly thought nothing of him. At one point he made his way over to that dorky stuffed-animal game and I remember thinking how funny it was that that machine was so attractive. (We had watched a guy with his kids playing with it before dinner started too.) I did not think "This guy looks sketchy" or "This guy looks like a thug" or even "What the hell is a latino guy doing in a Vietnamese restaurant (where the menus aren't even in English)?"

Perhaps this was my (first) mistake.

Before I knew it, I noticed the guy go running out the door. A buddy of his also hightailed it out at the same time. I didn't see my man-bag in his hand. Only about a minute later did I notice it was no longer on the floor: It was far too late for me to even dream of recovering it.

This guy had somehow or another managed to make his way pretty damn close to me and my cousin (sitting next to me), reach down to the floor, and get my man-bag away from me. How I did not sense or notice his presence or the movement of my bag still baffles me. How this could have happened with fifteen pairs eyes at the table -- not to mention restaurant staff and other patrons -- flabbergasts me. And how someone can come up with the unmitigated gall to even attempt to pull that off in those circumstances chills me. Would he have been willing to confront me if I had noticed? Would he have pulled out a weapon of some sort if I had put up some resistance? We'll never know.

But the larger ramifications of the event still haunt me in odd ways.

If this were some Jean Valjean who was really down on his luck and desperate, perhaps it would be easier for me to understand his motivations. But he looked like he had everything he really needed; either he just wanted more, or theft was fun for him.

Of course, I was a fool for not paying attention to my surroundings, and, frankly, for ignoring the fact that I had seen him loitering in the entranceway without making an effort to kick my bag further under the table or to loop the strap under a leg of my chair. I suppose waaaaaay deep down inside I thought something was in fact amiss, given the number of times I made eye contact with this guy before he pulled off his stunt.

And then there's the broader implications still. This guy was latino. I refuse to say that all latinos are crooks or anything, but a part of me will probably always carry that with me now. This guy is now "The latino guy who stole my camera from right under me". And then I can't help thinking how he does himself and his entire race a disservice that way. As a latino man, he should probably by now realize that stereotypes do not work in his favor in this country. Sure, he's just one individual, but when he goes around stealing -- even once -- does that at all help the reputation of latino men, at least in my eyes?

Contrast, for example, his background to mine. Outside of gang-related activity, Asians don't have much of a reputation for hooliganism or otherwise running outside of the law. If I were to go about committing crimes, I'm going to guess that most of the rest of the American population wouldn't leap to a larger conclusion about Asian men in general.

But this guy was latino, and he does have that stigma attached to him. So even if someone (like me) were to approach him as a completely blank slate without racial bias, his actions could tilt them toward believing the stereotypes. Why would you do stuff like that which can only further hurt the reputation of everyone who shares your skin tone and/or background?

In the end, of course, there are no answers, only questions which I cannot possibly wrap my feeble mind around. I am confident that I will not be generalizing this one experience to all latino men -- I live in an area with far too many latinos around for me to start fearing them all now.

At the same time, like other victims of crimes perpetuated by stereotyped ethnic minorities, I will always carry a memory of this incident. I hope and resolve that it won't bleed into my life in any way that matters.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

The Balance of Two Evils

Andrew Clark: What do they [your parents] do to you?
Allison Reynolds: They ignore me.

-- The Breakfast Club (1985)

I recently had a conversation with my friend Mark about some mutual friend we had whom we both had lost touch with. Thing is, neither of us so much "lost touch" with her so much as we no longer really cared to keep her company. Since that conversation I've come to realize that that decision -- the conscious decision to just stop making efforts to keep in someone's company -- more than once in my life. (Most prominent example here.)

Which is when I got to thinking: is there a difference between "hating" someone (or even "really disliking" someone), and just no longer really caring about them?

It seems that objectively, there is an actual difference between "just losing touch" and having a full-on falling-out. But for the person whose being involuntarily "dumped," does that make much of a difference?

Dee, for example, still doesn't really realize what happened between us that caused me to decide to stop really including her in my life. She's never inquired and I've never bothered to fill her in. As far as I can tell, she doesn't know whether my decision is based upon a one-time (and one-sided) falling-out, or whether we just drifted apart. Does this make a functional difference to her?


Joanne and I pretty much suffered from a similar fate. We were friends in high school and through a little of college, but eventually -- at least the way I characterize it -- we drifted apart. We weren't that interested in keeping up with each other's lives anymore. We just gradually stopped calling, stopped writing or exchanging emails, and even stopped the once-a-year holiday card exchange. Even though I've been in one place for over 10 years now, she hasn't seen the need to inform me when she moves to a new city. (Even when that new city is Alexandria, Virginia, just outside of DC.) And I don't fault her for that.

Mark does keep in touch with her, though, and the real truth of the matter is that she feels about me the same way I feel about Dee -- there are certain characteristics of mine that she doesn't care for, and these don't outweigh any of the pros of keeping in touch with me. Hm, is this a karmic payback, or just the way life goes? (Is there even a difference between the two?)

Does this distinction make a difference for me? It kinda does, if for no other reason than I'm one of those people who just likes to be liked. Even though I know you can't please all of the people all of the time, it distresses me when I think that people -- particularly people I've shared some really good times with as friends -- actually don't like me anymore, as opposed to just drifted away from me. (Though it's getting easier and easier for me to put aside the "need-to-be-liked" mentality and just ask that people accept me for who and how I am.)

But is that just me? Perhaps in Dee's mind, she and I have "just drifted apart," and she's perfectly okay with that, the same was as I am okay with my former relationship with Joanne. Or perhaps Dee knows that there was actually a precipitating event (though she can't place her finger on it); if she does, does this change anything about her perception of our former relationship?

Someone once said something to the effect of "It's better to be talked about badly, than to not be talked about at all." It's kind a turn of "there's no such thing as bad publicity." Is the same true for situations like the one I'm rambling about? Is it better to be thought of and disliked, or to not be thought of at all?

Sunday, February 05, 2006

The Ties That Bind

Some things I picked up from this quick weekend jaunt to Los Angeles to see the 'rents (and others):

- Expect the worst. If for no other reason than, when it doesn't come to pass, what you get instead is a surprisingly pleasant time.

- My family has some deep-seated animosities toward the spouses of some of my cousins. I mean DEEEEP. Yikes.

- My Uncle Tim has a strange dynamic in his family: you can tell he really cares for them, but hot damn, he can be a dictator.

- I'm sooooo glad my mom and my Uncle Randy have mended their rift. It's nice to see them together again.

- What my family considers "fun" and what I consider "fun" differ wildly.

- My cousin (in the 7th grade) has some fascinating reading material. I picked some random young adult book I found in the car (because we weren't doing anything and I was bored) and couldn't put the book down. Well, that's also because I wanted to finish it before I left town again, and it's 260 pages. Even with young adult books, I'm not a very fast reader.

- "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)", a song I originally heard on the Flood album by They Might Be Giants (1990), is actually a cover of the same song by The Four Lads from 1953. Which is a little disappointing for me, because I though that song was just so wonderfully characteristic of TMBG's quirkiness, but it apparently wasn't unique. Ah well.

- I feel kinda bad now for those times I went to Los Angeles and didn't tell anyone in my family I was going. Mostly it was because I didn't want to feel obligated to call my relatives in the area, and besides, I had plans with friends that would have made carving out time for family difficult. But just the same, I feel bad for thinking bad things about why I didn't want to hang out with them.

Oh, and here's a photo of the infamous pool. If you see anyone in it, please tell me immediately, because I'm told that my cousin Bob asked Brandon to leave (politely, I hope). If he's still there, we'll have to have Bob come back and, well, ask again.

Thursday, February 02, 2006


I'm participating in an online poetry "reading" organized by Reya. Unfortunately, I am neither the deep, sensitive soul nor the literary connoisseur, so my entry seems rather banal. But it's fun, and rather astute.

the boys i mean are not refined, by e.e. cummings

the boys i mean are not refined
they go with girls who buck and bite
they do not give a fuck for luck
they hump them thirteen times a night

one hangs a hat upon her tit
one carves a cross on her behind
they do not give a shit for wit
the boys i mean are not refined

they come with girls who bite and buck
who cannot read and cannot write
who laugh like they would fall apart
and masturbate with dynamite

the boys i mean are not refined
they cannot chat of that and this
they do not give a fart for art
they kill like you would take a piss

they speak whatever's on their mind
they do whatever's in their pants
the boys i mean are not refined
they shake the mountains when they dance

Photo Op

I've had blogger-block lately. It's awful. I sit there at my computer and type away only to discard the product as crap, not even blogworthy (and we all know I've put up some pretty bad stuff here).

So I'm taking still more days off from everything this month. Tomorrow (early morning) I head out to LA to see some family for the weekend. Originally it was to be Las Vegas, but that plan got nixed becuase Super Bowl fans everywhere seem to have booked up the city solid.

My parents, whom I have not seen in several years (it seems) will be there and will undoubtedly yell at me for whatever (I'm fat, I've got bad breath, I packed too much, I packed too little, my nose is running/stuffed, my hair looks stupid, my clothes are wrinkly, blah blah blah) and I will undoubtedly grin and bear it, as I always seem to. The uncle we're staying with (I do so wish I could credibly assert the need to stay in a hotel) I've never really gotten along well with, even though there's a thawing out in progress lately.* And his son is only about twelve or something, and I have nothing in common with him.

But this is also the house with the infamous Brandon pool. I plan to take a few pictures just to see how they turn out on my camera, just to see if I can spot the hoodie. Wish me luck.

Yeah, I'm looking forward to this trip. Uh huh.

* By the way, as an update to that post about "Letting Go," my mother and her brother Randy have, for the past several months now (more or less since my grandmother's passing) actually been speaking to each other, and on pleasant terms. I find this both astounding and wonderful at the same time. I'm proud that my mother, despite all the years between them, is capable of FINALLY letting go of whatever grudge existed between them, swallow her pride (she has an inordinately strong sense of pride) and "let go."