Monday, December 31, 2007


In 2008 I will turn 41 years old, and will in no way be able to duck adulthood any longer. As such, I make the following resolutions in the interest of becoming a responsible, productive member of society:

  • I will endeavor to convince the English to stop spelling "orangutan" with a hyphen.
  • I will use the indefinite article "an" before all words beginning with the letter "h."
  • I will never end a sentence with a preposition.
  • I will lose ten pounds by exhaling twice as often as I inhale.
  • I will always tip exactly fifteen percent of the bill (before taxes).
  • I will learn to sign my name with my left hand.

Several years ago I resolved to double my weight, and then lose it all, in the course of the year. I didn't succeed. I am much more sanguine this time.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Friday, November 23, 2007

Now I Get It

I keep hearing "Ikea this" and "Ikea that" and I think, what the hell. It's just another store. People are such suckers. But, boy, I am as much a sucker as the rest of them. From the meatballs to the self-service furniture bins, I am a convert. For less than $250 we treated ourselves to an early Christmas. We came home with a Poang armchair and an area rug for the living room, four DVD bins, and lunch (actually, we ate lunch there). I put the chair together in the time it took me to make a cup of tea, and it is comfortably cushioning my ass right now.

The missus and I were joking about the "socialism for capitalists" approach. The restaurant has signs that explain why you need to bus your own table. You see, if you take care of some things yourself, and everyone pitches in, then you can pay less money for your lunch. And if you go and get your own furniture off the shelf, we can charge you less for that, too. Cooperation can actually bring the price down.

We also had the brilliant idea of combination grown-up/kids birthday parties at Ikea. Imagine if little Susie was invited to her BFF's party at Ikea? The kids can go play in Smålland and the grown-ups can take a lap through the store, then everyone can have meatballs, chicken fingers and mac and cheese for lunch. And you can finish the day up busing your own tables. Now that's something to be thankful for, comrades.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Five Things That Aren't About Me

I've often thought of doing one of those "100 Things About Me" posts, but I just don't think I'm that interesting. And I hate the way most people fill them out:
87. I like dogs.
88. Except my sister's dog.
89. Which isn't to say I don't like my sister.
90. It's just that her dog smells.
91. Like, really bad.
You get the point.

So, instead, I thought of five things I think are important to remember. Aphorisms, if you will.
1. The satisfaction you get out of something is in direct proportion to the effort you put into it.
2. "Talent" is the ability to find enjoyment in something difficult.
3. God (if there is one) doesn't want us to answer only to God; God wants us to take care of each other.
4. It's "its" if it belongs to it, but it's "it's" if it is.
5. Laugh and the world laughs with you, but fart and you sleep on the couch.

That's it. Have a great day.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

An Indulgence on this Rainy Day

I would like to post something, but I haven't got any news to relate, I haven't had any particularly aggravating episodes recently, and I've only heard one good joke, which I cannot (and would not) reproduce here because it is insulting to every branch of my heritage. Furthermore, I am trying to spend more time at work actually working, and less in idle distraction. So, I am reproducing a wonderful short essay by one of my favorite writers. Follow the instructions below carefully, and the world will at once become a more sane and comforting place. (I stole the essay from

A Nice Cup of Tea
By George Orwell
Evening Standard, 12 January 1946.

If you look up 'tea' in the first cookery book that comes to hand you will probably find that it is unmentioned; or at most you will find a few lines of sketchy instructions which give no ruling on several of the most important points.

This is curious, not only because tea is one of the main stays of civilization in this country, as well as in Eire, Australia and New Zealand, but because the best manner of making it is the subject of violent disputes.

When I look through my own recipe for the perfect cup of tea, I find no fewer than eleven outstanding points. On perhaps two of them there would be pretty general agreement, but at least four others are acutely controversial. Here are my own eleven rules, every one of which I regard as golden:

* First of all, one should use Indian or Ceylonese tea. China tea has virtues which are not to be despised nowadays — it is economical, and one can drink it without milk — but there is not much stimulation in it. One does not feel wiser, braver or more optimistic after drinking it. Anyone who has used that comforting phrase 'a nice cup of tea' invariably means Indian tea.

* Secondly, tea should be made in small quantities — that is, in a teapot. Tea out of an urn is always tasteless, while army tea, made in a cauldron, tastes of grease and whitewash. The teapot should be made of china or earthenware. Silver or Britanniaware teapots produce inferior tea and enamel pots are worse; though curiously enough a pewter teapot (a rarity nowadays) is not so bad.

* Thirdly, the pot should be warmed beforehand. This is better done by placing it on the hob than by the usual method of swilling it out with hot water.

* Fourthly, the tea should be strong. For a pot holding a quart, if you are going to fill it nearly to the brim, six heaped teaspoons would be about right. In a time of rationing, this is not an idea that can be realized on every day of the week, but I maintain that one strong cup of tea is better than twenty weak ones. All true tea lovers not only like their tea strong, but like it a little stronger with each year that passes — a fact which is recognized in the extra ration issued to old-age pensioners.

* Fifthly, the tea should be put straight into the pot. No strainers, muslin bags or other devices to imprison the tea. In some countries teapots are fitted with little dangling baskets under the spout to catch the stray leaves, which are supposed to be harmful. Actually one can swallow tea-leaves in considerable quantities without ill effect, and if the tea is not loose in the pot it never infuses properly.

* Sixthly, one should take the teapot to the kettle and not the other way about. The water should be actually boiling at the moment of impact, which means that one should keep it on the flame while one pours. Some people add that one should only use water that has been freshly brought to the boil, but I have never noticed that it makes any difference.

* Seventhly, after making the tea, one should stir it, or better, give the pot a good shake, afterwards allowing the leaves to settle.

* Eighthly, one should drink out of a good breakfast cup — that is, the cylindrical type of cup, not the flat, shallow type. The breakfast cup holds more, and with the other kind one's tea is always half cold before one has well started on it.

* Ninthly, one should pour the cream off the milk before using it for tea. Milk that is too creamy always gives tea a sickly taste.

* Tenthly, one should pour tea into the cup first. This is one of the most controversial points of all; indeed in every family in Britain there are probably two schools of thought on the subject. The milk-first school can bring forward some fairly strong arguments, but I maintain that my own argument is unanswerable. This is that, by putting the tea in first and stirring as one pours, one can exactly regulate the amount of milk whereas one is liable to put in too much milk if one does it the other way round.

* Lastly, tea — unless one is drinking it in the Russian style — should be drunk without sugar. I know very well that I am in a minority here. But still, how can you call yourself a true tealover if you destroy the flavour of your tea by putting sugar in it? It would be equally reasonable to put in pepper or salt. Tea is meant to be bitter, just as beer is meant to be bitter. If you sweeten it, you are no longer tasting the tea, you are merely tasting the sugar; you could make a very similar drink by dissolving sugar in plain hot water.

Some people would answer that they don't like tea in itself, that they only drink it in order to be warmed and stimulated, and they need sugar to take the taste away. To those misguided people I would say: Try drinking tea without sugar for, say, a fortnight and it is very unlikely that you will ever want to ruin your tea by sweetening it again.

These are not the only controversial points to arise in connexion with tea drinking, but they are sufficient to show how subtilized the whole business has become. There is also the mysterious social etiquette surrounding the teapot (why is it considered vulgar to drink out of your saucer, for instance?) and much might be written about the subsidiary uses of tealeaves, such as telling fortunes, predicting the arrival of visitors, feeding rabbits, healing burns and sweeping the carpet. It is worth paying attention to such details as warming the pot and using water that is really boiling, so as to make quite sure of wringing out of one's ration the twenty good, strong cups of that two ounces, properly handled, ought to represent.

(taken from The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell, Volume 3, 1943-45, Penguin ISBN, 0-14-00-3153-7)

Friday, October 26, 2007

Psycho Thriller, q'est-ce que c'est?

Tonight I tried to get my "spooky" on by taking the missus to see Thirty Days of Night (N.B. I can't bring myself to type 30 Days of Night because you don't use numerals at the beginning of a sentence. Did you know N.B. is Latin for nota bene? That translates to "not important.") Anyway, I guess when it comes to horror films, I have a problem with the willing suspension of disbelief. Blood and guts stuff just does not creep me out. I was the kind of kid who would poke at road kill with a stick, and I was first in line to get my dissecting frog. I got an A+ in that. I once made the annual trip to the abattoir my grandfather brought his pigs to, and I was let down that we didn't get to go inside. I thought it was going to be like when my Dad brought us to the automatic car wash, where we walked alongside the car as it went through. In goes the pig, out comes the sausage, and every step in between. I don't particularly want to inflict harm on anything, but I am certainly not going to have nightmares about a simulated beheading.

I've always been more receptive to psychological thrills. Things that are out of place and unusual; things that should seem safe, but in unsafe settings. Like waking up in the middle of the night to the sound of a child's voice when you know there are no children in the house. The Blair Witch Project was the big fright several years back, but most of that was hysteria. Sobbing and screaming and "oh my God you guys I'm so scared" doesn't do anything but annoy me. But the one thing that totally wigged me in that movie (and even thinking about it now sends a chill up my scalp) was the scene toward the end when they were in the house and the lights were going on and off and the camera was flying all over the place. The chaos was just more of the same, but then for one brief moment you see one of the "film makers" just standing there, facing the wall, kind of slumped over. It was a real subtle tie-in to the back story about the house they were in, and the subtlety and evocativeness worked perfectly.

Thirty Days was like that. Lots of blood and guts, but almost too much chaos to be scary. Lisa and I agreed that when it did work was when it was subtle and evocative. One of our favorite creepy scenes was at the very beginning of the film. The "messenger" character is crossing the frozen tundra, with a large ship off in the distance. The shot pans out as he makes his way to the town, across the ice. That sense of misplacement, of the contradiction of there being nothing unusual about a man walking across the snow, but not this man in this snow, made the scene spooky. But then I get back to that suspension of disbelief thing. The premise of the film is that the town gets completely shut off from the rest of the world for 30 days because the sun goes down. Half the population makes a mad dash for the highway and the airport as the sun is setting for a month. But, uhm, the sun goes down every night here in Boston, and the last time I checked, planes fly in and out of Logan all night long. Airports and planes have these things called "lights." And then when Josh "not Keanu Reeves" Hartnett makes his "we live here because we're the only ones who can" speech it was feeling a little too Northern Exposure meets Buffy for my tastes.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Barney Frank Frank Frank, Barney Frank Frank Frank

I don't know why that sounds so funny to me. It sounds like something I would chant with Scurvyann and the missus.

Friday night there was a dinner for the political science department at my school. It is the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the department; kind of an independence day celebration, since the poli sci department was originally part of the history and government department. To us academics that's significant, since history is usually considered part of the humanities, while poli sci is a social science. But that isn't particularly interesting, and it is only peripherally related to Barney Frank.

Congressman Frank was the keynote speaker at the dinner. I was surprised by how...well...frank he was. At one point he was talking about the perception that politicians are really sneaky about raising money. He said, "You know, now that I'm committee chair, especially of a money committee," (Frank is chair of the financial services committee)"here's my fund raising pitch:" {holds out left hand}.

Another excellent point he made was the intrinsically political nature of Congress. In reference to the Terry Schiavo case, he said, "If you want a problem solved without politics getting involved, don't refer it to 535 politicians."

Most of his comments, though, were about the positive aspects of partisanship. The parties in America do have a purpose. They connect people to their government. The parties are how the average citizen gets involved, and people who participate in local parties are part of an intelligent, informed debate. On the other hand, people who do nothing but listen to talk radio or read political blogs that reinforce their own opinions don't do much of anything. In fact, they probably don't even vote. If all the people who listen to Howie and Rush and read the Huffington Post and the Daily Kos got off their asses and out from behind their monitors and attended a town Democratic or Republican meeting there would be no doubt whose hands the government was in.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Sometimes I type like Homer Simpson talks

Sax-a-ma-phone. Here is a brief list of some of my most common typos. They're fun to say out loud:


Carry on.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Quick Rant (One of Many)

Citizens Bank - Not Your Typical Bank

Well, you can't fault them for a lack of truth in advertising. What should tip you off that this place is a giant repository of sub-par intelligence and utter contempt for customers is the fact that they can't even be bothered to use correct grammar in their name. Is it a citizen's bank, or perhaps several citizens' bank? No. It's Citizens Bank. Don't even get the idea that you have some kind of ownership or stake in this place - it ain't your bank, it's ours, and we'll do what we like with it.

The missus and I moved six weeks ago. Shortly after settling in to the new place, I sat down with the phone and called the Bank that is not of or for Citizens to provide my new contact information. I got the usual voice mail menu. I started pressing buttons. I got nowhere. In a fit of pique I started hitting the 0 button until I heard a ringing tone. After a few more minutes on hold I finally had someone on the other end. I went through several minutes of slowly spelling my new address, and wrapped up the call. If your typical bank is staffed by competent professionals, than yes, Citizens is (are?) definitely atypical.

Two weeks later I get a bank statement. It's got my new address on it. Yay! It's got someone else's name and account information on it. Booo! I guess they figure, what the hell, one citizen is pretty much like any other, right?

I tossed the statement aside and decided to be patient and see if my statement showed up. But I lost track of things and suddenly it was the middle of October and I haven't seen a bank statement since August. So this morning I call the bank. Once again, my only hope of addressing the problem I have is to hold down the 0 key until the automated voice says (with a hint of pre-recorded exasperation), "Please hold while we transfer you to an operator." I swear I could hear someone mutter "Troublemaker" under their breath.

Next I found myself on the line with "Dewey." Dewey seemed really confused, poor guy. He had my new information, but then, he didn't. It was correct on one screen, but not on another. I slowly (very slowly) spelled everything again, and got off the phone with him with a sinking feeling of resignation in my gut. Something tells me I am not going to see a bank statement any time soon.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Political Symbols in Fiction: A Comparative Examination

Very academic title, that. In fact, I have always wanted to write about the characterization of politics in novels, but that is something left to a graduate student in literature, political science, although there are undoubtedly ample opportunities for cross-disciplinary work like this. While the academic literature in political science, works such as The American Voter, The New American Voter, Citizen Politics and Party Systems and Electoral Systems, provide facts from which we can draw inferences, works of fiction like Edwin O'Connor's The Last Hurrah contain as much truth about how political systems work. We can take all the cross-tabulations, typologies, and indices from the former and connect them to characters, actions and motivations in the latter.

There are four novels that I read in pairs, which would form a nice core of political fiction. The first two have a personal point of view, and would (in the academic parlance of political science) be from the rationalist perspective. The books are not deliberately or ostensibly political; they are both the stories of men at the point of middle age. The second two are books written deliberately as comments on American politics and, in fact, address the same essential question.

The first two are George Orwell's Coming Up For Air and Sinclair Lewis' Babbitt. These books work very well side-by-side, and are particularly good in comparing British and American culture. They are both set in that period of nervous energy between the First and Second World Wars, although Coming Up For Air occurs much closer to the war and uses the building expectations of conflict as a central theme. Both books have as their protagonists anti-heroes, both named George. (In fact, they have the same initials: George Bowling and George Babbitt.) These portrayals of men in the midst of a rapidly and violently changing world present real and believable depictions of anomie and alienation at the human level.

The second two books are Philip Roth's The Plot Against America and another Sinclair Lewis novel, It Can't Happen Here. These two form an obvious pair for comparison, (at least one review I read of Roth's book referred to Lewis's) as they are both "alternate histories" that examine the question of how far America was pushed toward fascism as a result of the Great Depression and the conflicts in Europe. The Lewis novel is not one of his best; the characters are a bit stock and the last third of the novel seems as though it were rushed to a conclusion. Lewis was an unreformed alcoholic, and several of his books have this problem. He would lose patience with himself and his creations and finish just for the sake of finishing. The Roth novel is, in my opinion, excellent. Some critics have complained that the historical scenario he paints is far-fetched and shows a poor opinion of the American public, especially rural America. History, however, has borne out more than one far-fetched scenario, and the American public only deserves the generosity it displays. In a country where a group of people (no matter how small) can make a practice of showing up at military funerals with signs saying "God Hates Fags" we need to admit we can expect the worst.

It was a pair of incidents from these second novels that gave me the idea (and the title) for this entry. In both books, the protagonists are having a hard time understanding the appeal of the charismatic political leaders who are vying for power. (In Roth's book that character is Charles Lindbergh, running for president against FDR on a "Stay Out of War in Europe" platform.) The pivotal episode for each, which allows them to see the grasp these men have on their audience -- if not succumb to it -- is a rally at Madison Square Garden. The similarities between the two episodes are striking and enlightening. One interesting difference is the perspective of the protagonists in each novel. Lewis has his hero attend the speech in person, while Roth's listens to the speech on the radio. Otherwise, the effect and the outcome are quite similar. Both stories show how appeals to emotion outweigh appeals to reason in the political arena. This is an important lesson more acutely and accurately conveyed in a novel than a textbook.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Lazy, lazy, lazy. Lazy all around.

(The missus has Flashdance on in the other room, and Lady Lady Lady started playing just as I typed this.)

I was going to write a letter to the Globe, but I haven't had a chance to sit down and compose something nice and organized and well thought out, so I am just going to rant quickly in here. I am never surprised when Jeff Jacoby's op-ed pieces in the Globe piss me off. The guy is just the paper's token conservative and it is almost guaranteed that whatever issue is at the top of the news during any given week, he will be spouting the (Republican) party line.

Yesterday, though, his piece was odious more for its lack of effort than anything else. He decided to jump on the Obama-bashing wagon because of the flap over the Senator's decision not to wear a flag pin on his lapel like every other lock-stepping automaton. Barack's statement was (and Jacoby quoted him) "I noticed people wearing a lapel pin and not acting very patriotic." Jacoby then spends six paragraphs excoriating Obama for daring to utter disparaging words about all the wonderful, patriotic Americans who wear lapel pins. Jacoby's vision of America (like Ann Coulter's) is one where we all go along. If a symbol can stand in for a sentiment, then by God you better have the symbol on your chest like everyone else, and don't dare question the sincerity of anyone sporting the same symbol.

The most aggravating thing is that Jacoby, a graduate of the BU School of Law, would make such a logically fallacious argument and use it for the basis of an entire column. It's insulting. Does he think that the readers of the Boston Globe aren't intelligent enough to know the difference between Obama saying some people who wear pins might be misrepresenting themselves and all people who wear pins are misrepresenting themselves? Of course it's completely unverifiable but I would be willing to bet any amount of money that, had John McCain or Rudolph Guiliani made the exact same statement, Jacoby would have broken out his Roget's and found every synonym for brave he could (and made some up) and written ten paragraphs about it.

But I'm one to talk; I was going to write to the Globe but I blahrrgd about it instead. I'm too lazy to send a letter out.

P.S. Has Ann Coulter completely lost her mind, or is she just so worried that she's gone a month without making the front page of CNN that she had to say something completely ridiculous?

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

"You've never been anywhere, have you ahss-hole?"

Death is a strange and difficult thing to deal with for everyone. One perspective I recall reading is that death is the only supernatural event with which everyone has experience. We all lose someone at some point in our lives; we all have to come to grips with a life, a soul, leaving forever.

I've been fortunate in that I really haven't had too much loss in my life. My parents and siblings are all still alive. I even have one surviving grandparent, which is remarkable for a forty-year-old. My family just celebrated my paternal grandmother's ninetieth birthday two weeks ago. My only experience with the unexpected loss of a close family member was the sudden death of my aunt at the age of fifty.

Last week, though, my close friend's father passed away. Adam and I have known each other since we were fifteen, and I spent a lot of time at his house. His father was a friend to me, too. In fact both his parents were. I always felt that they were the kind of people who were a phone call away if I ever needed them. They were nice enough to open their house to our band and let us rehearse there for years, and made us feel welcome every single time we showed up.

Freeman was a teacher and a raconteur, and he loved the sound of his own voice - but with good reason. He was the most successful debate coach Melrose High School ever had (and ever will have), and had a love of American history that infected those around him (at least it did me). He also had a bizarre, absurdist side that came, I think, from not being afraid to be unusual or conspicuous. Every group of friends has "in" jokes; sayings, quotes from movies, Freudian slips that came out at just the right time. The jokes among me and my band mates, who were exposed to Freem on a regular basis, are filled with "Freem-isms." After dinner one night, Sally announced that she had made coffee jell-o for dessert. I'd never had coffee jell-o (I didn't even know it came in that flavor) and said as much. Freem looked at me as if I had just said "Really, the Pope isn't a Methodist?" and exclaimed "Never had coffee jell-o? You've never been anywhere, have you ahss-hole!?" He was forever calling me an ahss-hole and a horse's ahss and (my personal favorite) a touch-hole. And always with a great, big smile on his face. Probably the strangest Freem-ism was a complete non sequitur. We were eating pizza and somebody mentioned Taco Bell. Freem was finishing off a bite of pepperoni (his favorite) and with a big grin on his face said, "Taco Bell, mon! My brudder been down dere." !? Whatever he meant, it's a mystery he has taken to his grave.

When I got the news that Freeman had passed away, I was stunned. I hadn't seen him in almost a year, and the last time I saw him he was in relatively good health and spirits. He had had his share of health troubles, but it seemed like things were turning around. But this year wasn't a good one for him, and there were more setbacks than advances. In one sense, I was glad that I had a memory of him frozen in my mind from better times; but that seems almost unfair. The people who meant the most to him had helped him right up to the end, and they couldn't replace the reality with a softened version of the past. He got sick. He got sicker. And he died.

I didn't know what to expect at the wake. To me, this seemed like such an untimely and unfair loss. A man, perhaps old and ill, but still vital, was "suddenly" gone. In my universe, Freem was there one minute, calling me a "horse's ahss" and telling raunchy stories, and gone the next. But when I talked to his sons they told me no, this was expected. Yes, he was still himself right up to the day he died, but he was tired. I got the impression that he went out on his own terms. And at the memorial service the next day, Adam gave the most touching and eloquent eulogy I have ever heard, with equal measures of remorse, respect, irreverence and humor. After that, I heard a story about Freeman's last day from Cal and Adam and it all started to feel like less of a sudden departure.

There are a lot of things I'll miss about Freeman Frank, and I am sure I won't miss him even half as much as his family, but his life was whole and complete. So, really, nothing is "gone." Freem was there, and is there, and will always be there. And I'll always be a horse's ahss.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Some comments that I've heard recently that can only be described as stupid:

Listening to NPR this morning (I know, I'm turning into a stereotype, but 'BZ has too many frikken commercials), there was a story about Donald Rumsfeld being named to a fellowship at the Hoover Institute at Stanford. Several faculty and students started a petition expressing their dissatisfaction with the choice. After all, Donald Rumsfeld is the primary architect of what will have to go down in American history as the first big blunder of the 21st century. And even the people in his own administration are attributing the failure of the war in Iraq to his misjudgements. But do you know why the faculty and students are protesting his appointment? Because liberals are intolerant and dismissive of alternative opinions, according to Greg Lukianoff and Roger Kimball.

In class last night, we were discussing states where the government had no authority outside of the capital city. One of the students actually said, "isn't that just like the situation in Harlem, New York?" ??!! Watch a little too much Law and Order lately, pal?

This morning, the train was crowded - quelle surprise - and a man who got on felt it was just too unfair for him to have to deal with this. He leaned up against a pole with his rather large posterior right in the face on a woman sitting in one of the seats. She said, "Excuse me!," and he replied "Snooty Bitch!" I was stunned, and just stared at him (he was right in front of me). I'm always shocked that people can make it to adulthood with such ignorant attitudes. He noticed me staring at him and said, "Well, she is a snotty bitch."

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


...I was in a coma for seven months...

...I was thinking of joining the priesthood and went to a seminary, but earthly temptations proved too much to withstand...

...I spent most of my time doing utterly boring and mundane things that have no business being blarrgghhed about.

One of these statements is a fact, or what a philosopher would call an objective consensus on a fundamental reality. I'll let you decide which one.

In the meantime I will tell you that it is also a fact that I have a Master's degree in public policy and am now officially a PhD student. I will probably take my comprehensive exams next fall and submit a dissertation proposal, at which point I will be a doctoral candidate, or what is referred to as ABD (all but dissertation). This will be a step up from my usual state of ADD, ADHD and ASSHOLE.

Lisa and I are in new digs closer to the center of JP. The apartment is beautiful, newly renovated and wonderfully spacious. The only drawback is a lack of closet space. All our dirty little secrets are out in the open, like the fact that we own no less than seven guitars, two amps, a drum kit, a keyboard and enough assorted percussion instruments to do a live version of Don't Stop 'til You Get Enough. I think we even have a Vibra-Slap. Dirty.

I was talking with somebody about how clothes are an extension of the image you want to project, and we agreed that your house/home/apartment is (or can be) an extension of that, too. Moving out of the old apartment has had a good effect on my psyche. The old place was a decent apartment. Lots of closets. But the rooms were all separated from each other by tiny little doorways. As you walked from the living room at the front of the apartment to the kitchen in the back, you had to do a kind of psychic compression through each doorway. In the new place, the living room and kitchen are connected by a great big doorway. In fact they're almost one big room. I can stretch my head a bit.

We still have a lot of boxes to empty out, and I need to get rid of a few dozen books if I can find that many I can part with, but we immediately felt at home here. Now I have to get over the inertia that has settled in and get the last of the stuff unpacked and in place. It's funny how stuff you thought was absolutely essential to your life can sit at the bottom of a box for a month and you don't even miss it. What more proof do I need that it wasn't so important in the first place?

Saturday, February 17, 2007

You Can Not petition the Lord with prayer!

I was reading an article on crisis pregnancy centers in Time magazine this afternoon. The abortion debate is truly one of those intractable discussions that may never be completely settled. I have my positions on the issue, which I won't go into here. I assume most people who know me know how I feel about this, and I am not one to proselytize. The comment I read that got me thinking was an opinion expressed by the CEO of a "pregnancy services" center in Asheville, NC. She says, "the Bible clearly states that sex outside of marriage is against God's will for our lives."

This seems like a reasonable and widely accepted point of view. Most people, believers or not, would say that the Bible does not support pre- or extra- marital sex. But if you really study the Bible closely, it is not so clear. People often point out that the Bible sets many standards that could not be followed today. Slavery, polygamy, and indiscriminate slaughter are all condoned at one point or another in the Bible, but no reasonable person would argue that they are acceptable in today's world.

My point is that whenever anyone says those four words -- "the Bible clearly states" -- what follows is invariably a subjective statement of what that person believes. Furthermore, it is usually a prelude to some statement that the speaker thinks is a fundamental moral law that no one could argue with. The Bible does not clearly state anything, and in fact just about any position that the Bible can be used to support, the Bible can also be used to refute.

The other statement that always sets me off is "I only answer to my Lord." One virtually universal sentiment in world religions is that whatever diety exists is primarily concerned with how we treat each other. It is inherent in faith that we have a responsibility to each other. You can't do whatever you feel like and justify it by claiming to "answer to the Lord."

Thursday, February 08, 2007

What marriage means to me.

The missus, like many missuses, asks me to confirm that what she is wearing for the day looks okay. She will sometimes use the classic "Does this make me look fat" but usually she has a specific and perfectly reasonable concern that I have no qualms addressing. Often it's just a matter of making sure something isn't too wrinkled and that she doesn't have a stray sock or pair of panties stuck to her skirt. I occasionally ask her to return the favor.

This morning I was contemplating my wardrobe and had a small problem. It's been bitter-ass cold all week, and I don't own too many sweaters. I was down to the last sweater in the closet, a straightforward crew-neck in a boring shade of brown. The trouble is, I was planning on wearing my brown pants, too, and I thought the outfit was going to make me look like a UPS driver (not that I have a problem with UPS drivers). So I caught her attention as she was getting ready to leave and said, "Hey, do you think this brown sweater will be okay with these pants? Cause I don't want to, you know, look like a..."

"Big turd?" she interjected.

"...uh...yeah, that or a UPS driver. Do you think I'll look like a big turd?"

"Oh no, honey. Of course not. Bye."

Thursday, February 01, 2007


I am at work with the "radio" on KEXP, and the Stranglers (or is it just Stranglers) "Golden Brown" just came on. I've always liked this song, but I never really knew the lyrics beyond "never a frown, with golden brown." Now that I've listened to them closely, I realize that it's basically (as far as the lyrical message is concerned) the same as "Brown Sugar" by the Rolling Stones.

Unless it's about heroin.

Friday, January 26, 2007

It's already happening!

See, it's already Groundhog Day (practically) and this is only the second time I've written here. I am keeping ahead of things for the most part in the rest of my life. I need to write an essay to get into the PhD program at school, even though I already wrote them an essay eighteen months ago. I wonder if they'd notice if I sent the same essay?

I went searching on Amazon yesterday for books on finding freelance research work. I know I could buy one of those Writer's Market books for technical writing, but I was hoping to find something that would give some tips on finding clients and pitching yourself to companies. I am not sure if I want to pursue that or not, but it is an option as I get further along in my education and can convincingly bullshit -- I mean sell myself as a capable researcher/analyst.

Right now I feel like I spend most of my time (the time I'm not goofing off on the Internets) figuring out shortcuts to transform Excel spreadsheets into workable data files. The more computers become central to everything we do, the more we all become glorified code writers.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

I think I'll try and hold my breath for 2007.

I know it's so commonly said as to be a cliche, but 2006 went by ridiculously fast. I made resolutions for last year that I didn't so much break as just never got around to. I feel like I spent the entire year catching up: catching up on school work, on office work, on friendships and family time. There were coworkers and friends who I literally didn't talk to all year.

So, for 2007, my one simple resolution is not to let myself get so far behind in things. If I can control things a little better, maybe this year won't fly by like the last.

Changing topics, I have been following all the flap that new Congressman Keith Ellison has caused by using the Koran to take his oath of office. It amazes me that people, and more specifically another Congressman, would be so ignorant of the principles of religious tolerance that they would take issue with this. Unfortunately the kind of rigid, xenophobic, narrow minded dolt who equates "Muslim" with "terrorist" will not be convinced otherwise by any argument, no matter how eloquent the words or unassailable the patriotism of their source. That the Congressman who represents the district in which Thomas Jefferson was born would stoop to making fear-mongering statements about the need to tighten immigration restrictions or risk the prospect of more elected officials taking the oath of office on the Koran is sickening.