October 31, 2004

Halloween Road Trip

I'm so citified (or suburbified, I guess), that I forget a short drive can bring me to this...




We crossed the Virginia, Maryland and West Virginia borders today for a little road trip to Harper's Ferry. And we had a gorgeous day for it. Even for getting lost on the backroads of Maryland. My gadget-freakery finally paid off though - my brand new cell phone got us hooked up to the Web and gave us directions before we could be hijacked by any rogue hillbillies. Its nice to know, however, that there's a land that exists not too far away (bout a half an hour, give or take) that isn't filled with zero-lot-line houses, condos and mini-malls.

Posted by Chris at 4:24 PM | Comments (24)

October 30, 2004

Slow Saturday

Very very quiet today! And actually, that's a good thing considering the week I had. We were actually planning on taking a little road trip but the weather was somewhat crapified so we decided to hold off until tomorrow. What did we do instead? Not a hell of a lot, which was fine by me. We watched a couple things my friend Netflix sent us (Coupling, Laurel Canyon), caught up on some reading, listened to some music and did some stuff around the house. Sounds thrilling, huh? It was kinda nice not to have to run anywhere, especially since it seems like we've been on the road a lot lately.

If its at all relevant to the place in which you live, don't forget to turn the clocks back tonight! And happy Halloween Eve. Remember, you're supposed to scare the crap out of yourselves with scary movies. I don't want to be the only one not able to sleep tonight!

Posted by Chris at 6:19 PM | Comments (15)

October 29, 2004

Friday Afternoon Music

On a few recent Fridays, I've posted some tunage. I figured, why not make this a regular thing? Why not share some stuff you otherwise might not get a chance to hear? Today? Well, why not go with the fun, punk stylings of Me First and the Gimme Gimmes covering Aretha Franklin (not literally) ? Exactly. Why not!

Don't kill my bandwith - right click and save as, please!

Posted by Chris at 5:37 PM | Comments (7)

Fried-Day

Here I am...Friday morning and I'm in the office. And I've been thinking. Its at least a month since I've actually been in the office on a Friday. So that it doesn't become too much of a habit, I'm planning on cutting out early.

Apologies if I've been absent from my usual online haunts this week. After my contract win I was very pleased. Then I thought about it and fully realized the host of things I had to do to prepare for it...including, well, designing the whole project, finding staff, developing our approach and putting together the briefing for the kick-off. So, yeah, I've been a little busy.

Before I head back to the grind, I just wanted to thank you all. First you read my rambling political manifesto and didn't flame me too badly, then you offered kind support to my wife and I. Who rocks the Casbah? You do...yes, you.

Happy Friday Everyone!

Posted by Chris at 8:24 AM | Comments (15)

October 28, 2004

Little Swimmers

Since I brought it up, I've gotten a lot of comments and even more email from you wonderful people telling me that your fingers, toes and other body parts are crossed for me. And I appreciate the support more than you know. While I try to maintain a sense of humor about it - and there's no denying that its a good source of material - I have been concerned not only for myself but for my wife. I'm happy to report that my little swimmers are just fine. More importantly, so's Beth. I think she recently spelled it out better than I ever could.


On an entirely less-important and different note, last night proved that Lost is still the most intriguing thing on television while The West Wing, the older episodes of which, in my opinion, were the best things on television, continues its slow slide into oblivion thanks to idiot John Wells. What happened last night? Inexcusable.

Thanks to all who read yesterday's incredibly long political diatribe. I really owe a lot of you cookies. Now I just have to figure out a way to make that happen!

Posted by Chris at 9:20 AM | Comments (26)

October 27, 2004

Sticks, Stones and Hanging Chads

Since we've got less than a week until the election, its almost mandatory that I post something. Some of you will disagree and wonder how a reasonably intelligent person could have opinions such as mine - don't throw heavy things at your monitor or hate me for my opinions.

Unless you’ve been a) hiding in a cave (understandable) b) in a coma c) hiking through the Andes on a steady diet of filtered water, trail mix and carob or d) on a very, very long conference call, you’ve probably noticed that the word liberal has taken on an ugly connotation over the last four years. Since I am one, its been bothering me for a while. Join me on an exciting examination of my liberal tendencies, why dontcha.

Liberal: not limited to or by established, traditional, orthodox or authoritarian attitudes, views, or dogmas; free from bigotry; favoring proposals for reform, open to new ideas for progress, and tolerant of the ideas and behavior of others; broad-minded; tending to give freely; generous

What's wrong with that? So, I don’t see anything particular threatening or offensive in that, do you? Because I'm liberal and open-minded, lets take a look at the other side of the aisle.

Conservative: favoring traditional views and values; tending to oppose change; traditional or restrained in style; moderate; cautious

Frankly, I don't see anything wrong with that either. It inspires no hatred or loathing in me but one thing is clear – liberal and conservative are mutually exclusive concepts, especially in the political arena. Why is it that these labels are bandied about with such ferocity? And how do I fit into this giant political equation set to be solved on November 2nd? Maybe there’s a book that will tell me.

Keyword Search: liberal+books. How To Talk To A Liberal (If You Must): The World According to Ann Coulter; The Enemy Within: Saving America from the Liberal Assault on Our Schools, Faith and Military; Liberal-it is: A Thinking Disorder Destroying America; Slander: Liberal Lies About The American Right; Persecution: How Liberals Are Waging War Against Christianity; The Savage Nation: Saving America from the Liberal Assault on Our Borders, Language and Culture; Useful Idiots: How Liberals Got It Wrong in the Cold War and Still Blame America First; Treason: Liberal Treachery From The Cold War To The War on Terrorism; Deliver Us From Evil: Defeating Terrorism, Despotism, and Liberalism

First off, props to Ann Coulter. Three of those titles are hers. She must be fun at parties, no? Notice, please, the usage of liberal (Out, out damn liberal...All work and no play makes Jack a dull liberal...Ding dong the liberal's dead). Name calling! I already talk to liberals. I think I’m actually a pretty well-spoken guy. Don’t need help there. I certainly don’t think I’m “the enemy” – I’m not waging a personal war against schools, Christianity or any other religion, the military, the English language, culture in general and I’m not giving immigrants piggyback rides across the border. I do consider myself useful and at times I’m an idiot but I certainly don’t blame America (entirely) for the Cold War. It was a Cold War, people. A standoff. Mutually assured destruction and all that.

Maybe if I try and find some conservative reading material.

Keyword Search: conservative+books. The Right Nation: Conservative Power in America; Conservative Like Me: Restoring American Politics, Piety & Patriotism; What’s the Matter With Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America; An Unlikely Conservative: The Transformation of an Ex-Liberal; Moral Politics: What Conservatives Know That Liberal’s Don’t; The Compassionate Conservative: Seeking Responsibility And Human Dignity; The Conservative Intellectual Movement In American Since 1945; Letters To A Young Conservative

Well that’s interesting. Did you see what happened there? Look at the zealousness of the titles in the first list (i.e., books written about the ills of liberalism by conservatives). Compare with the second (books written about conservatism by, largely, conservatives). If I had to come up with a hypothesis, I’d have to say that liberal writers out there, armed with material gathered through four years of a conservative administration, remained a tad more polite than their conservative brethren. What happened to compassionate conservatism? Anyone? Bueller?

Maybe I’m just going to have to rely on my brain and its interpretation of the issues. Ah, to hell with that. I'll just rely on the Internet to tell me what the big issues are this time around.

Abortion. Call me crazy but I don’t feel that I, or anyone else has the right to make any decisions regarding a woman’s body and her right to choose what’s best for her. If it suddenly turned into Let's Give Chris A Vasectomy Against His Will Day, you might find me slightly resistant. I wouldn’t want to see judges or Supreme Court justices who have great enthusiasm for overturning Roe v Wade hit the bench anytime soon. Additionally, outlawing various type of abortions seems like a slippery snow-covered slope and I'd rather not see this country take up judicial sledding.

Campaign Finance Reform. Out. Of. Control. Special interests ruin the political process. Politicians wind up beholden to those who contributed the most bling. My recommendation? Give each candidate $250k to be spent in October and that's it. Its idealistic but it should be about ideas, not flashy advertising and $5k per plate dinners. And honestly? The amount of money going into campaigns could feed too many starving kids. Its irresponsible.

Gay Rights. Gay, in case you're not up on your old school lingo, used to mean happy. Honestly? It still should. I’m opposed to anything which limits personal freedoms especially with respect to one’s sexual preference. Gay marriage? Yay! I have no problem with that. Equal rights for civil unions? Yay! Again, no problem. Should openly gay citizens be allowed to serve in the military? Sure! Does anyone actually think this "don’t ask don’t tell" thing works? If they want to out themselves, they should be perfectly able to.

Religion in Government. Does "separation of church and state" mean nothing anymore? My faith, or lack thereof, has been drawn from personal experience and years of careful thought on the subject. I was forced to memorize Bible verses in elementary school and made to sit through endless sermons during which the fine reverend told racial jokes. I've got my own way of thinking now. Jaded, sure. But its my own. I don’t need the government to dictate what, if anything, I should or should not believe. Prayer in schools? Displays of religious symbols or the Ten Commandments in government institutions? These things serve to bolster some but alienate others. People wonder why we’re loathed in the Middle East and other areas of the world in which Christianity is not dominant. We need only to look at our own county and the emphasis we place on Christianity to the exclusion and alienation of other world religions to understand this phenomenon. Some of my closest friends throughout my life have been ardent followers of Christianity. I have a deep respect for the faiths they hold dear and the principles by which their lives are guided. I also have a deep respect for the tolerance they show for me, the heathen. We need not institutionalize such practices at a Federal level. It only serves to exclude some from the process, from the experience that is, quite simply, believing whatever the hell you want to believe.

Gun Control. To say that “guns don’t kill people; people kill people” is akin to saying “crack doesn’t kill people; junkies kill themselves.” If there’s anything that should be plainly obvious, not only in this country but around the world, its that, if you give people the tools to harm each other and themselves, chances are many will take you up on it. Should guns be outlawed? Certainly not. Everyone should have the freedom to lead their lives the way they want. Should they be allowed to pursue their freedoms with street sweepers, Uzis and flamethrowers? Probably not. There’s a certain level at which you can’t make a case for necessity. Do you really need to hunt deer with an AK-47? I think not. But who can argue with the manufacture of guns with safety devices? Who can argue with background checks for gun show purchases? Who can argue with safety programs and training for prospective gun owners? Oh, that’s right – just about anyone beholden to the NRA.

The Death Penalty. Here’s an issue on which I’ll deviate from both conservative and liberal agendas, at least those at play in the current political contest. I don’t agree with the death penalty. I don’t believe our government has any more of a right to execute one of its citizens than a citizen has the right to murder a pedestrian for his brand spankin’ new pair of Reeboks. And if the death penalty must exist (I don’t believe its going anywhere anytime soon), mentally handicapped individuals and minors need to be excluded from the system. Yes, its bleeding-heart liberalism at its finest, but I honestly believe that most 16 year old kids probably deserve the opportunity to be rehabilitated.

Education. I’m against education. No, my mistake – its legalized man-on-sheep sex I’m against. Education is fine. As a matter of fact, education is the single most important thing on which the government spends money. The problem is that it doesn’t spend enough money. No Child Left Behind is a miserable failure, not as a concept but in the way its been carried out and supported (or not) by the current administration. Higher education becomes increasingly expensive yet the government, while trying to fund vouchers to send kids to private or religious schools instead of improving existing school systems, largely refuses to do anything to offset the cost. Hire more teachers and pay them appropriately – teachers living at the poverty level in some areas is criminal. Improve the schools – don’t allow failing schools to continue to fail. Support them, support teachers and support the students. I believe that children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way.

Here’s my idea: Go to Montana and, since there’s really not much there anyway, build the worlds longest chalkboard. Any legislator who attempts to cut education spending will then be required to write “I will never attempt to cut education spending ever again” a billion times and shall henceforth be called Senator/Representative Assclown for a period of three months. Should he/she refuse, he/she will be trampled by a herd of buffalo...or the three or four left in Montana.

Homeland Security
Can I just say, before I get into anything meaty, that I really don’t like the term “homeland security”? It makes me think of Nazi Germany, the Fatherland, and we have ways of making you talk. It makes me a little nervous. And I don’t like the warning levels. They’re uninspired and mean nothing.

The Patriot Act is the government’s single strongest tool to root out suspicious activity in all the land. Its also the government’s single strongest tool to infringe on individual civil liberties. There’s a delicate balance between the need for both. The Patriot Act doesn’t manage to strike it. How does knowing what books I check out from the library help you, Mr. Ashcroft? Oh, and John, while you’re at it, I bought three books on Islam and even checked out some porn while I was online the other night. I’ll be waiting by the door with my sleeves rolled up so you can slip the cuffs on when you get here.

In order to understand what you’re defending the homeland against, we must take steps to figure out why people out there want to do us harm. Only then can we take a defensive and proactive stance with any degree of accuracy.


Iraq
You’re not going to be shocked if I reveal, here and now, that I opposed the war in Iraq are you? Good. Because I still do and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. I remain convinced that Iraq became a distraction from the “war on terror” and that Hussein posed no credible threat to our borders and the people within them. Our focus should have remained trained on Al Qaeda. Nevertheless, our focus shifted to include Iraq. Shock! Awe! Sadly, there exists no exit strategy. There exists no plan to successfully plant the seed of democracy and leave well enough alone. We should leave a country better than it was when we went in. Right now? Its worse.

Now, if you’re President Bush, what I’ve just said is terribly unpatriotic. At least that’s the way it seems to me. If you’re not for the war, you’re against American values and the troops, right? Wrong. I’m as patriotic as the next guy. Most likely more patriotic. The troops overseas deserve the best support we have to offer - better than what they're getting now, in fact. But you can't have a successful outcome until you define what form that success will take and the steps necessary to achieve it.

Health Care
There is no reason, in a country in which private citizens own Hummers and Donald Trump is successful in spite of his criminally bad hair, that anyone – anyone – should go without health insurance or proper medical care. There is something seriously wrong with a country that bombs other countries into democratic submission yet refuses to take care of its own. The problem? How do you do it? I’ll be honest enough to tell you, I’ve got no clue, aside from covering the United States with a hermetically sealed bubble and sterilizing everything. But I’m guessing that would be tough to do. Regardless, something needs to be done. People are falling through the cracks and instead of the cracks getting filled up with people, they’re actually getting larger and more accommodating. Wait…yeah, I think that makes sense.

Social Security
Can I let you in on a little secret? I don’t plan on ever seeing a social security check that comes anywhere close to the amount that I paid into it. Isn’t that a little sad? Its like a never-ending colonoscopy – you know you’re getting it done for a good cause but it sure as hell is uncomfortable and regardless of the findings, you’re not getting these few hours back.

I return you now to the bottom line – be sure to gather all your personal belongings and stay in the entry until it has come to a complete stop. Regardless of what you think of my politics, does liberalism seem bad? Does it sound evil? Do you now believe I’m going to enter your home in the middle of the night and eat your babies? I didn’t think so. So stop with the name calling. Don’t treat conservative and liberal like they’re bad things. They’re labels, they’re values and they’re opinions. You may not agree with an opinion but you certainly can’t call anyone wrong for having one.

I am an American. It’s a fact I’m damn proud of. I have the right to my opinions and you have the right to yours. I won’t be bullied into thinking any differently.

If you've made it to the end and actually read this whole thing, you deserve a cookie.

Posted by Chris at 7:25 AM | Comments (49)

October 25, 2004

Rhymes With Fizz

OR, WHEN POETRY AND PARENTS DON'T MIX

I've had lots of requests for the limmerick mentioned in yesterday's post authored by my lovely wife. And since I aim to please, well, here it is.


I hope you were able to jizz
Like a champ, a hero, a wiz
Cos I hear that sometimes
Guys...well...cross their lines
And just accidentally whiz.

You can see how, just maybe, its a little embarrassing for us to know that my parents saw this one especially since there's absolutely no context for it whatsoever. They're completely in the dark about the test because we haven't really felt like having that conversation with them yet. Last night over dinner, Beth and I explored some possibilities for clarification.

Me: Maybe it was just my mom. Maybe she didn't have her glasses with her so she couldn't read it.
Beth: Have you led that good a life?
Me: Good point. No.
Beth: Do you think they know what jizz is?
Me: Um, yeah, probably. But maybe we can throw them off next time we see them.
Beth: How?
Me: Convince them its an expression or something. Like gee, guys, thanks for dinner. That pasta was da jizz!
Beth: No. I don't think so.

Posted by Chris at 8:50 PM | Comments (29)

Gratuitous Gloating

Remember how I was working my ass off on several proposals in August and September? Well, we just got the results from one of them and...I won. I won I won I won. Not only that but its bringing in several million bucks. And? My boss is cool. Why? Because he could have legitimately entered it as his proposal but instead, he submitted it with my name on it. I won I won I won.

Back to your regularly scheduled Monday...

Posted by Chris at 4:27 PM | Comments (23)

Cool Colonists Wear Shades

On Friday night, Beth and I sat in the lovely Washington rush-hour traffic (Aside #1: That was sarcasm. The traffic wasn’t lovely In fact, it sucked.), escaped the city and fled to Colonial Williamsburg (Aside #2: I use the word colonial here on purpose. If you’re a Virginia resident and try to get away with just saying Williamsburg they send the Redcoats to pillage your home after which they either hang you or beat you about the head with a musket and dump you in the James River. Yes, people around here are that serious about their colonial history.) After a few years hours of sitting on the parking lot that is Interstate 95, we finally made it to our hotel and hooked up with the in-laws. Dinner, and later sleep, was acquired and all was right with the world once again.

Saturday morning saw a break in the miserable weather. It took a couple of minutes to identify that shiny thing in the sky but there was indeed sun! After a mind-numbingly bad cup of coffee in the hotel, we went in search of a) a good cup of coffee and b) colonial shit. We did what you’re supposed to do in Colonial Williamsburg (Aside #3: See that, Virginia? I used the full name!), mainly walked around the authentic colonial town, saw people in authentic colonial get-ups, watched people work in authentic colonial ways making authentic colonial stuff, stepped in authentic colonial horse poop. It was all very…how should I say this…authentic and colonial. And we all had a very good time. Of course, by the end of the day, we ruined the authentic colonial feel by going to a wonderful Indian restaurant.

Yesterday morning, the weather, having cut us some slack the previous day, returned to its temperamental self. We woke up at the authentic crack of dawn, got in our horseless carriage and high-tailed it home. Why? Friday afternoon I was kindly informed that I had to deliver a large presentation today. Gotta love that! We made it home and I worked.

The most amusing part of the weekend? Well, that had nothing to do with Williamsburg (oh shit, here come the Redcoats!). Let’s do a little math…

Let X equal: You all remember what I was doing this time last week, right?

Let Y equal: Last week, Beth and I had this thing going. We’d basically come up with amusing little limericks for each other. Mine were only marginally amusing because I was trying to write them at 5-something in the morning. That is not an hour at which its conducive to write anything witty. Beth, realizing that I’d be home immediately after completing last Monday’s main mission (X) left me a very funny and very crude piece of poetry. I loved it. I loved it so much, I hung it on the fridge.

Let Z equal: Since we were away, I convinced my parents to come feed our cats. Which of course involved retrieving items from said fridge.

X+Y+Z=mortifying embarrassment

Now, go see the pictures from Colonial Williamsburg!

Posted by Chris at 10:29 AM | Comments (18)

Haiku For Monday #51

Monday, rain, sniffles,
presentation for The Man.
Week's starting off well.

Posted by Chris at 7:09 AM | Comments (4)

October 24, 2004

The Law and The Man

Beth and I are back from Williamsburg! I encountered a few problems with The Law while we were down there but I was set free and allowed to return. More details and pictures tomorrow!

In the mean time, I found out on Friday that I have to give a presentation to important people tomorrow. How's that for short notice? So, I'm spending the rest of the day working for The Man. Between The Law and The Man, I'm feeling a little oppressed.

Posted by Chris at 1:03 PM | Comments (15)

October 22, 2004

Song for Friday

While making plans to conquer the world with RockStar Mommy, I was reminded of a great Spinal Tap song. Here it is for everyone - a good laugh on a Friday afternoon can't hurt, can it? Please right click and save as only.

Posted by Chris at 2:53 PM | Comments (8)

Friday Wrap-up

Get me! I'm working from home on this fine Friday (which really isn't all that fine considering we're on our 5,392,589th day of cold, rainy weather). Why? Well, I'm sure my office still reeks from the whole egg incident AND we're headed out of town this afternoon on a quick weekend trip. So here I am!

I started off the week telling you all about number threeing in a cup. In case you're curious, the results are in! Of course, I have no idea what they mean so we're waiting for some interpretation. Next week. I'm an immediate gratification person so I don't like to wait. And? I hate tests. With my luck, those guys were slackers like me, skipping classes, hanging out on the wrong side of the cup, smoking teeny cigarettes. We'll know shortly.

I hope you all have fantastic weekends! I'll be back on Sunday!

Posted by Chris at 11:08 AM | Comments (14)

October 21, 2004

"I Can't Hear You. There's An Egg In My Phone"

For those of you playing Rude Cactus: The Home Game, it was a very, very old hardboiled egg in my phone. I've replaced the handset and it smells a hell of a lot better in here now. That didn't stop me, idiot that I am, from answering it before the switch. My boss called (who was, I now know, in on the joke). The conversation played out with me holding the phone as far away from my face as possible.

Boss: Hey!
Me: Hey, how are you?
Boss: Are you there? I can't hear you.
Me: I'M HERE! There's shit in my phone!
Boss: What? What's in your phone?
Me: I don't know. But its STINKY!
Boss: Its dinky?
Me: Stinky. STINKY! Its foul!
Boss: Um, okay. I'm not going to be in until noon. Could you let people know if they're looking for me?
Me: Yeah! Sure! If I don't pass out first.
Boss: Thanks!
Me: And I need a new phone, BAD!
Boss: Sounds like it.
Me: I'm sorry. Its nothing personal but I can't talk to you anymore on this thing. I'm going to pass out and die. Bye!




The forecast for today is partially nauseated with late-afternoon meetings.

Posted by Chris at 12:34 PM | Comments (18)

I've Been Had

I've mentioned the cardinal rule of my group of friends here at the office before - when one of us goes on vacation, we toy with them while they're gone, usually leaving behind a nice surprise or practical joke. Remember the toilet? Most recently another coworker took off for a week-long cruise. Ironic. Her favorite film star is Tom Cruise. So, what could have been better than returning to an office entirely wallpapered in semi-clad suggestive Xeroxed pictures of Tom? And when I say "wallpapered", I really mean it - everything!

Halfway through our trip to NYC, my wife turned to me and said, "Are you worried about what they're going to do to you?" I honestly hadn't thought about it. "I am now," I replied. You see, I was prepared to return to something bad. Something big, grand, something with a lot of thought and careful planning behind it. But when I returned? Nothing. They claimed oh, it was a really busy week which it was and that we had some ideas but never really got around to doing it. I was a little bummed, honestly, but I bought it. Until this morning, that is.

When I opened up my office this morning, I noticed a smell. Rather, a stink. I flipped on the lights, put my laptop in its docking station and began walking around sniffing (thank god I'm alone in the office at this hour). I didn't come up with anything. My laptop had booted up and the message light on my phone was blinking so I figured I'd get to work. As soon as I lifted up the handset of the phone I knew where the stink was coming from. The smell of death was wafting from my phone. Upon closer inspection, death itself (or whatever) was actually squishing from the mouthpiece of the phone. It was then I realized that I'd been had.

Needless to say, I grabbed the closest thing I had to a screwdriver (a pair of scissors) and took the phone apart. I can't really tell you what was in there but it was nasty. Perhaps cheese? Perhaps some sort of animal fat? Whatever it was, was pretty damn disgusting. And it all makes much more sense now. The random phone calls and messages from them over the past couple days. The hangups. The funny looks. Yes, it all makes sense.

I SO need a new phone.

Posted by Chris at 7:31 AM | Comments (25)

October 20, 2004

The Babe's Curse

So...Yankees or Red Sox? Or could you just care less?

Posted by Chris at 7:50 PM | Comments (18)

Hump Day Accomplishments

So far, I've accomplished several noteworthy things this morning...

1. Almost fell asleep while driving to work. Note use of the word "almost" - I only slightly veered into the wrong lane but I was never actually snoozing. My eyes were just resting. Yeah, that's it. Just resting.

2. Ignored a call from my mom wanting to meet me for coffee. I know. That makes me a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad son. But I couldn't take that this morning. I love my mother. But sometimes she makes me want to drive pencils into my brain through any available orifices.

3. Completed developing a project plan and budget for a project I'm running. It really was as thrilling as it sounds. But? Its also proof that I actually have been working this morning...kinda.

4. Spit gum across my office. I was aiming for the trashcan. I got a little overenthusiastic. It stuck to the wall.

5. Read drunken tales of woe from my JLB compatriots - and everyone join me in welcoming Type A to the Brigade!

6. Consumed a mere 20 ounces of coffee which, I'm realizing, isn't nearly enough. Which reminds me - I need a flunky. I have some power (um, not much but some) around here. I realize its rather '50s of me but I need someone whose sole purpose in life is to get me shit. Stat!

7. Gotten "Ramblin' Man" by the Allman Brothers stuck in my head. Help!

8. Came up with a really crappy blog entry which is neither funny nor amusing but, damnit, I'm going to post it anyway cos I've got nuthin'.

Posted by Chris at 9:31 AM | Comments (19)

October 19, 2004

Sonic Geography

Musically, I've been all over the map recently. In the past 24 hours I've listened to Porcupine Tree, Spock's Beard, Joe Satriani, Robert Plant, Iron & Wine, REM, Green Day, Jackson Browne, Velvet Revolver, Guns 'N Roses and T-Rex. If that isn't an interesting combination, I don't know what is!

Just thought I'd share.

Posted by Chris at 5:03 PM | Comments (16)

Captain Obvious and the Coffee Caper

I was in my local Dunkin Donuts this morning (as I am every freaking morning and yes, thank you, I know I have a problem and there might be some intervention necessary in the future but for now I think I have a handle on my caffeine and vanilla frosted addiction) and there was a guy next to me at the counter buying a dozen donuts. As I was being helped, the guy next to me let loose with what I thought was one of the day's more astonishing discoveries. "Hey, look at that! Donuts have holes!" he exclaimed. It got stranger.

Captain Obvious: I'd like a large coffee.
Helpful Donut Lady: Cream and sugar?
Captain Obvious: I don't want coffee.
Helpful Donut Lady: No coffee?
Captain Obvious: Oh, yes, coffee please.
Helpful Donut Lady: What size?
Captain Obvious: Coffee? I don't need any coffee thanks.
Helpful Donut Lady: No coffee? Just donuts?
Captain Obvious: That's what I said.

Its going to be one of those days, isn't it?

Posted by Chris at 7:26 AM | Comments (22)

October 18, 2004

"Hand Wax, While You Wait"

It was somewhat ironic that I saw a sign offering "Hand Wax, While You Wait" on the way to work this morning. Not only did it turn into a dirty euphamism in my brain, but it exemplified the direction in which my day was headed.

Before I explain, I'd like to warn you - potentially disturbing content ahead. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Last month, I mentioned a certain date I'd made. Today was the magic day.

The weekend passed in doctor-ordered abstinence which was mildly frustrating. What was worse? The objective of the whole thing - to number three in a cup and the anticipation that accompanied that particular prospect. And frankly, I've been a little concerned with the little guys. Maybe they're not excited enough. Maybe they're not as fast as they could be. Maybe they're just not, well, armed for bear. So I tried positive reinforcement. I muttered encouraging thoughts towards my pelvis like "you guys are the best" and "swim like you mean it". Sure, the one time my wife walked in while I was giving one of my little pep talks was a little embarrassing but its not like that's a regular thing with me.

As the day (this day) grew ever closer, my anxiety levels increased. I think most guys would agree - this is not something easily accomplished under pressure. My this is gonna suck attitude slowly shifted to one of panic-stricken how in the hell do they expect me to just go in a little room, whip it out and do my thing holy christ I'm not going to be able to do it and I'm going to have to come out carrying my little empty cup and admit that I'm a loser who can't do the basest of all things male regardless of the circumstances. So, yeah, I was a little nervous.

At 11:00 this morning I pulled into the lab's parking lot, nervous and clammy, resolutely got out of my car and headed through the front doors. The kind receptionists and nurses handled all the paperwork and, despite the fact that I know they were pointing and laughing at me when I turned my back to them, made me feel nice and comfortable. I was then ushered through a non-descript door, marked "andrology" (much better than "guy jerking off in here") and into a dimly lit room. Like a cheap leather couch and a table lamp are going to make me forget where I am! I took off my jacket and went through the previously developed three-pronged operational briefing and tactics:

Objective One: Surveillance. Ensure the room is cleared of any hidden recording devices and, most importantly, listen to make sure no one's hovering outside. No bugs. No one hanging outside in the hallway. Check!

Objective Two: Find the Porn. Stack of magazines acquired. FHM? Are these people Amish? Esquire? Um, hello where are the boobies? Entertainment Weekly? What the fuck. Ride? People, if I wanted to read about cars I'd...uh...oh, that's not the type of riding they were talking about. Check!

Objective Three. Number Three. I'll spare you the details. Suffice it to say...check!

I washed other people's porn germs off my hands and found the box labeled "put your specimine in here, perv" and dropped my little guys off for testing. I emerged from the dimly lit room, closed the door behind me and fled the scene. The whole thing wasn't nearly as horrible as I'd thought it was. But I dont want to do it again. I just hope the tests come out okay.

Posted by Chris at 1:04 PM | Comments (34)

Haiku For Monday #50

The vacation had
to end sometime. Back at work
at oh-dark-thirty.

Posted by Chris at 7:30 AM | Comments (10)

October 17, 2004

Movie Question

I need a little bit of help here. Is Taxi Driver supposed to be a good movie? Cos I just watched it and thought it pretty much sucked. Yes, I realize that its a minor miracle that I've somehow made it 31 years without seeing it but I could easily have made it another 31 and been okay with that.

And a movie-going tip for you all - don't bother with The Forgotten. The previews looked promising, nice and creepy. The movie? It was kinda bad. And? It took the totally easy way out of what could have been a marginally interesting explanation.

The Ratings:
Taxi Driver: one.jpg
The Forgotten: two.jpg

Note: All ratings are based on the CRaSS (Cactus Ranking of Suckiness and Succulency) entertainment rating scale (TM), five cacti being a perfect score and thus deserving of your time. Low cacti ratings increase the likelihood of clear and present suckage - beware.

Posted by Chris at 4:48 PM | Comments (14)

October 16, 2004

You Oughta Be In Pictures

Something occurred to me in France last year...and again in NYC this week. Its kind of a creepy thought. How many times have you been caught in someone else's picture? How many strangers' photo albums are you in? How many videotapes are you on?

Sure, its a creepy thought but it could be sort of cool as well. Think of all the places you are at once. Maybe a Russian spy caught you in a frame while staking out a local night-spot for politicians. Maybe you walked through the establishing shot used for a sitcom. Maybe a photographer caught you in profile while taking a picture of a landmark. Maybe that picture has sold hundreds of copies. Maybe your image, or part of it, is hanging in thousands of living rooms, pasted on the front of greeting cards and used as "November" in a calendar of favorite destinations.

So when people ask you where you are, maybe its okay if you say you don't really know.

Posted by Chris at 1:56 PM | Comments (15)

October 15, 2004

Travelog: The Wrap-up

Have you been wondering exactly where I was for the last week? Check out the map on the left and it should give you a pretty good idea. Those yellow areas (meaning, most of Manhattan)? That's where we were...where we mostly walked (which would explain why we're both hobbling around the house like 80 year-olds today). From the northern end of Central Park to the southern tip of Manhattan at Battery Park, we walked the island. And while Paris may still be my favorite city in the world, New York runs a very close second.

I tried to type out a few of my thoughts along the way but honestly, I didn't have a lot of time. New York is a great place for a vacation but it is not one of the more relaxing destinations one could choose. Regardless, I can hopefully make up for some of that lack of detail with some of the many pictures I shot over the five days we were in NYC.




There are, of course, the buildings and bridges. Two of my favorite sights in Manhattan are the Chrysler Building and the Brooklyn Bridge. Which may explain why I've ended up with so many pictures of each. If there's a better subject for photographers in NYC than the Brooklyn Bridge, I don't know what it could be.

There were, however, two buildings missing this time. As I said in my original post the day of the visit to Ground Zero, witnessing the holes left in the ground by the Twin Towers didn't have a great impact. It was a construction site. A massive one, but a simple construction site. However, our trip into nearby St. Paul's was what got me. There, the human toll is real. There, you can see the scratch marks from the gurneys on the pews. There you can see the banners sent to the city from around the world. There, you can see the cots on which first responders tried to sleep. Its there that you see just how costly the tragedy was, and remains.

Then there are the things that make New York, well, New York. From Chinatown to Little Italy, each neighborhood has a unique flavor. There were parades, street fairs - in one block alone we were assulted with smells of fresh Indian, Thai, Mexican, Brazilian and Middle Eastern food (and the Indian tasted excellent!). Not only were vendors selling fake Rolexes but bed sheets, socks, shoes, African tribal masks, homemade rap CDs and rugs. All of these things mix together and, amid all the chaos, blaring horns, speeding taxis, Wall Street traders, it all somehow works.

Want to see all the photos? Sure you do. Click to view!

Posted by Chris at 10:23 AM | Comments (25)

October 14, 2004

Travelog: Day Six

OR, THE RETURN OF THE CACTI

We're back! Yep, we got ourselves moving bright and early and managed to catch an early train back to Washington. Now I just need to go through the 297 pictures I took (yes, I said 297), do a little quick editing, and I'll post them! In the mean time, thanks to all for visiting the site while I was away. You guys, as always, rock!

Posted by Chris at 3:16 PM | Comments (13)

October 13, 2004

Travelog: Day Five

This whole traveling thing is exhausting! Let's see. Where did I leave off...

Last night we hit the pavement yet again. This time it was to the East Village for some Thai food and a show. The food? Good. The show? Excellent. We saw Stomp and, while loud, it was amazing. Yes, I'm very well aware that this thing has been running since '94 so everyone's already seen it but still - amazing. After a cup of coffee, we headed back to the hotel and passed out.

Up again this morning! This time? Battery Park. There was shopping, more walking and a trip to one of my favorite places - The Strand. For those of you scratching your heads - books! Inexpensive books! Its a fantastic place - they advertise "8 miles of books" and that seems conservative. Needless to say, we'll be returning on the train with a lot to read (so much that we even had to buy a new bag for the retun trip). Compulsive? Me? No...never.

After dropping the books off at the hotel, we had lunch in Bryant Park then headed to see Wicked. We were very dissappointed. Really, it was uber-Disney, which is scary because Disney didn't have a damn thing to do with it. The music was not all that hot, the lyrics were cheesy and, while it looked cool, it wasn't at all satisfying. I'm not saying that you shouldn't see if if you're in town. Just bump Avenue Q up on your list and move Wicked down a few notches.

Following the show, we came back, cleaned ourselves up and went out to Becco (yes, again...what do you want? Its, like, our favorite restaurant in this town and how often to we manage to make it up here?). The food was, as always, excellent. And after a lap around Times Square, here we are! We're packing up our stuff and getting ready to head home tomorrow morning!

Thank you all for checking in while I'm out of town. If I haven't responded to your email, my apologies. I'll have some quality time with my Gmail account tomorrow and the coming weekend! Until then, goodnight from New York City.

Posted by Chris at 10:44 PM | Comments (17)

October 12, 2004

Travelog: Day Four

OR, TAKE A RIGHT AT THE ROTATING LOBSTER
Hi. I'm tired. You see, we walked all over the place today...again. Yeah, I know. We said we were going to take it easy but didn't. My legs and feet? They effing hurt. Please stay in the damn room, they plead, but no, that just wouldn't be any fun now would it?

After my previous post yesterday evening, we headed out and walked around Times Square. Our mission: Knock-off handbags (and by the way, "handbags" is what all the signs say. When I use it, I think I sound like an old lady but, when in Rome...). We were only moderately successful. See? We found the trick. Most of the cheap crap they're trying to pawn off in the streets is just that - crap. Instead of an L and a V on the bags, they have a nice P. Obviously, Louis' less-successful brother, Pierre or something. But then we hit paydirt. A guy who pulled us around the corner, threw us a hefty bag and said "Check these out. They, uh, fell off the truck, you know? Just take it easy and don't act like this is a big deal. Nothing to see here, you know?" And, as if we were trying to smuggle plans for some missle defense system across the border, we found ourselves staring at the genuine articles. I was gung-ho! I was all ready to hand over cash. I even had my wallet out. But then Beth decided it wasn't the style she was looking for. So, that's half the battle, at least.

We returned to the hotel for a drink and bed. Both of which were accomplished, the latter of the two only slightly interrupted by someone siccing their fax machine on our hotel room phone number this morning at 3:00.

This morning we were up and out early again. We wandered down Fifth Avenue and laughed at a lot of the clothes in Versace, Gucci and Armani's windows. We actually went into a few and laughed in person two. Who wears half of this stuff, anyway? Then we headed into Central Park for a while, journeyed down Park Avenue, wandered through Grand Central Station and the lobby of the Chrysler Building (my favorite building in the world) then camped out in Bryant Park for lunch.

Now, we've resisted doing many of the really touristy things. We've already done most of them. But we had to take a little trip through Madame Tussaud's wax museum.




I've gotta tell you, its cheesy but a lot of fun. And the wax figures? Dude, they're so lifelike its creepy. I was standing next to John Travolta and I was sure he was going to turn to me and try and get me all into scientology.

Beth and I are just about to head out to dinner and another show. No rest for the wicked, weary or just flat-out exhausted!

Posted by Chris at 4:47 PM | Comments (17)

October 11, 2004

Travelog: Day Three

Remember when I said yesterday that we'd walked alot? Well, I was wrong. That? Was today. We had a grand plan this morning and my was it grand indeed.

As you can probably tell, we started the day at Ground Zero. Its something I badly wanted to see, which was why it was rather strange when I found myself somewhat emotionless at the site at which the towers once stood. To be honest, it looks like a gigantic construction site. And thats it. But when we walked into St. Paul's, seconds from Ground Zero, all bets were off. St. Paul's was used by the first responders - they carried the injured inside and turned it into a make-shift staging ground. The pews of the church are still scarred and scuffed, reminders of a time at which the injuried were brought on stretchers and laid across them. Momentos from the St. Paul's fences, once crowded with tributes, have been kept. The church itself is lined with banners. It is a very real and very living memorial with more heart than Ground Zero itself showed. Its proof, I think, that its not the buildings we miss so much but rather the people that inhabited them.

Following our trip to Ground Zero, we walked, well, everywhere. As its Columbus Day, there were cultural festivals with closed streets and vendors everywhere. The Financial District, Brooklyn Bridge, Chinatown, Little Italy, Grenwich Village, Soho, Noho...yes, we were there today. And a special thanks to Susan (a frequent site visitor and friend) for the recommendation to The Noho Star - we just had dinner there and it was great!

We're off again! This time? To scope out knock-off bags in Times Square. Hey, don't laugh. I already bought a fake Rolex! By the way...dig the restaurant we saw today. Yes, I'm still 12.

Posted by Chris at 7:07 PM | Comments (18)

October 10, 2004

Travelog: Day Two

First, the bit that I left out from Day One. We went to one of our favorite restaurants - Becco. Its a great Italian place on W 46th, otherwise known as Restaurant Row. It was fabulous. But can I tell you how much we ate? Um, no. There aren't ample words in the English language to convey how much we consumed. It was painful to walk back to the hotel. But we managed.

This morning we got up nice and early, caught a quick breakfast in the hotel and headed out on the town. It was chilly and a bit rainy but it soon cleared up. We made the hike from 41st to, oh, somewhere around 90th and caught an exhibition at the Guggenheim. We meandered through Central Park, attempting to make it to the west side but we got sidetracked. The resevoir, the boathouse, Strawberry Fields...they were all gorgeous. Then the hike back, which was probably a little slower than the walk uptown, given sore legs and stops to check out sidewalk artists and knock-off Coach bags.

So, we've walked more miles than god but our work here is not done. We're about to turn around and head out for another evening - we've got restaurants to check out and a show (Avenue Q) to see. More, of course, later...

Posted by Chris at 3:37 PM | Comments (17)

October 9, 2004

Travelog: Day One

And we're here! Sure, a little later than we'd have liked - the train was slightly delayed because a door or something wouldn't open. They felt the need to check this out every time we stopped. Other than that? The trip here was fine. Once we got to the hotel - tiny, cool and tres chic - we had a little bit of time to walk around the city. In our hike to Central Park and back, we noticed that everything looks pretty much as it did five years ago. The crazies are still here. And the tall building - although two have gone missing since the last time we are here. Their presence, however, remains. And the people? They're ALL still here too. Along with the lights and cabs and horns and street vendors all making me wonder how it is people manage to get by here for more than a week.

We're off to dinner, to one of our favorite places, to celebrate our anniversary. Five years ago today, I married the most wonderful woman in the world. I love you Beth!

Posted by Chris at 6:07 PM | Comments (20)

Leaving On A Jet Plane Train

Next stop, New York City!



Posted by Chris at 7:52 AM | Comments (12)

October 8, 2004

Out To Lunch

If you didn't already know, Laura is awesome! Wanna know how I know this? I had lunch with her and a friend this afternoon! We went to a local vegetarian restaurant I've been meaning to try forever and had a most exellent time. The only problem? I completely forgot to take pictures. Me? Forget pictures? Yeah, its very unlike me. I was clearly out to lunch in more ways than one.

Okay...off to pack!

Posted by Chris at 4:53 PM | Comments (4)

October 7, 2004

Closed For Business, Baby


Guess what? I'm on vacation! Yes, as of COB today, I am officially, well, closed for business! My lovely wife and I will be headed to NYC for our anniversary! Don't worry - I'm armed with a camera and a laptop so hopefully I'll be posting from the road. I'm prepared on the technology front. Now I guess I need to start thinking about packing.

And Laura, I got the message (having run into significant email problems, she's resorted to commenting) so feel free to comment or whatever (she's in town for a confence) and I'll see you tomorrow (we're meeting for lunch tomorrow) at the time and place of your choosing (we haven't really decided what's going on yet).

If you all know of any great, out of the way places we should check out in Manhattan, let me know! And I realize I've been a little slow on both the picture request and CD distribution fronts. I promise to rectify both of these situations upon my return!

Posted by Chris at 8:50 PM | Comments (19)

Dear Whoever

Dear Company,
Thanks for that head's up about replacing our phones. I really appreciate the fact that we're finally moving into the 21st century. It'll be refreshing to move away from the crappy pieces of plastic that are one step removed from rotary phones. A speakerphone that works? Brilliant! Caller ID? Surely you're just toying with me. But I will miss my current phone because the features are so clearly labeled. Like the abbriv dial # feature. I can't tell you how many times I've needed that. Or being able to ## data. That's come in handy in the past too. But I do look forward to the new phone. Maybe it'll help me avoid those pesky misdialed calls to Taiwan.


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Dear Elevator Manufacturer,
Are elevators supposed to stop between floors? And not start moving again? There's a certain level of panic this inspires when you're pretty much alone in the office at 6:00 in the morning. Its refreshing that elevator technology has kept pace with other groundbreaking innovations (except phone systems). Much like most modern-day technological advancements, I've noticed that your elevators have come equipped with Kick The Crap Out Of It Until It Works Again Troubleshooting Technology (TM). When you inevitably see the headline Man Breaks Both Legs, Plunges to Death, that was just me. I'd expect a lawsuit.

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Dear Car,
Does it hurt when I drive you? I realize I ran over a median rather abruptly this week and I'm really sorry for that. It was careless of me but I don't want this one incident to end our long friendship. But even before that, you howled like a banshee when I put you in reverse. And you're starting to do it when I move forward as well. I cleaned you and everything. This is the repayment I get? Sure, your trunk is a pigsty but I can clean that too. If it'll help, let me know. And please realize I can trade you in this winter. I dont want to hurt you, but I'm looking at Volvos.

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Dear Gas Station Owners,
Why must you change your brand names on me? I wouldn't mind so much except you've done away with the handy speed pass thingy. That? Let me buy drinks and cigarettes as if they were free! It was genius! I was going to write the Nobel Prize Patrol and sing your praises to my friends. But now? Not so much.

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Dear Time,
Its only 11:00? Wouldya hurry it up already? Places to go! People to see!

Posted by Chris at 10:44 AM | Comments (19)

October 6, 2004

Random Snaps

...from the weekend and beyond!

As you can see, I discovered the source of all evil (fanny packs) - Target. And? Dig the orange/green combo. I'll be stylin' in NYC in that ensemble. Uh...no, that's not even funny.

Posted by Chris at 5:19 PM | Comments (19)

Hump Day Things To Be Happy About

Thing One: I led my team meeting this morning. Sure, that's not so thrilling but I made it better with food! Yes, I brought fresh fruit salad, orange juice, bags of bagels and a dozen donuts. Total overkill!

Thing Two: I did not - repeat NOT - drive over any medians or become otherwise involved in any vehicular mischief on the way to work this morning.

Thing Three: Boobies! Yes, I donated (but no pics...I mean, who wants to see my boobies?). Have you?

Thing Four: I'm still bowled over by the job thing I mentioned last night. And to clarify, no, it doesn't involve the CIA. We've got enough intelligence problems in this country without me getting involved.

Thing Five: Tomorrow's my last day here at work before vacation! So, really, its like Thursday for me...only not. But kinda.

Posted by Chris at 10:16 AM | Comments (19)

October 5, 2004

My Crazy Day

I'll be cryptic about how I address work here but I just wanted to report that the meeting with Crazy Client? Went well...in a manner of speaking. He wasn't crazy...in fact, he was wonderful. And that praise I received yesterday took a very interesting turn this morning. One that involved the possibility of a new job. No, not with my company. With theirs. Like a BIG job. A job that's one step down the ladder from an impressive three letter title that begins with C. Like CFO, CIO, CEO...one of those types of things. No, I'm not exactly insterested but its something to keep in my back pocket.

Some days are a little bit of good and a little bit of bad. I can deal with that.

Enough about work. Watch the debate...have a good night...and I'll catch you all in the morning.

Posted by Chris at 8:56 PM | Comments (18)

Signs of Suckage

I'm really not a pessimistic guy, but there are a few indications that today might very well suck. Its 8:15 and I've already gotten signs.

Sign #1: I have another headache. Or maybe its the same one from this past weekend, lying in wait for the worst possible time to make its presence known.

Sign #2: I pulled out of my neighborhood and drove right across a median. Not a nice low grassy median but one constructed of solid cement with high curbs. And as I was running over it, hearing and feeling the jarring thunks as my two left wheels rolled over then off of it, I narrowly missed the street sign planted into the middle of the median. Then I veered into oncoming traffic. For no apparent reason.

Sign #3: As I was leaving the house I noticed a small hole in the shoulder of the suit I'm wearing today. Its a black suit. I have a black Sharpie. Yes, that's my idea of emergency tailoring.

Sign #4: Mere minutes ago, I discovered that I had something on the ass of my pants. Luckily, it was easily removed. Thank god I noticed.

Sign #5: I have a meeting with Crazy Client. Which I'm leading. At which I have to pitch an idea for a project I'm leading that I don't agree with whatsoever. Should be a fun afternoon.

Now, all of this is balanced out by a meeting I had yesterday. We (meaning my boss' boss' boss and I) arrived a few minutes early and checked out the client's new offices, since they just moved. Here's how the conversation played out.

Client: Since I got you both here, there's been something I've been meaning to tell you (turns head abruptly to boss) with respect to the work done on this project.
Me: Oh shit. What did I do? What could he possibly have been waiting to tell my boss with me in the room? My ass is so fired...or something.
Boss: Okay.
Client: You have working for you one of the best people we've ever had the honor to work with.
Me: I thought he was going to talk about me. What - is he trying to illustrate how bad I suck by comparing me to someone else?
Client: He consistently goes above and beyond the call. I can only imagine how many accolades you hear about him from his other clients.
Me: Sweet lord...cut to the chase and get to whatever it is you want to say about me!
Boss: I really appreciate hearing that. Every team has a secret weapon, an ace in the hole and he's truly ours.
Me: Oh, now he's talking about this other guy too? What's up with that?
Client: I can't tell you how many times he's saved us, been there to help us and really made us successful.
Me: Wait. Hold up just a second. Are they talking about me? Nah! Couldn't be.
Client: Chris, keep up the excellent work. We've truly appreciated everything you've done so far and the way in which you've done it.
Me: They are talking about me. Wow. And here I thought I was just a slacker. Oh. Wait. Say something. Stop thinking and say something. Now! Thank you. I very much appreciate that and its been an pleasure working with you and your team.

So, that was good. But I've often found that too much good in one day sucks the goodness out of the next. Wish me luck with Crazy Client.

Posted by Chris at 8:49 AM | Comments (30)

October 4, 2004

Ruth...Carol...Grandma

My parents headed out to California, not only to play in the see-ment pond and sit a spell but to visit my grandmother, my mom’s mother. I’m not sure I’ve talked much about her here but she’s having a few health issues so I figured it might be high time.

My grandmother’s an odd woman. There’s no way around that simple fact. I give you the following examples:

-Her name is Ruth. She’s never liked that name. Eons ago, she asked everyone to begin calling her Carol for no apparent reason. How did she decide on Carol? None of us have a clue.

-Not satisfied to wallow in her later years, she went to school and got her bachelor’s degree when she was sixty. Not only did she ace her classes but she was also the captain of her sorority’s bowling team. Yes, you read that correctly.

-In her old age (she’s 92) she only eats dessert.

-She’s been a vegetarian for as long as my mom can remember. In other words, before it was a thing.

-Despite the fact that she’s been sober for forty years, she’s an alcoholic. So much so that, when her father died in 1964, three of her four brothers took her to court to block her from receiving any settlement.

-She’s never spoken to those brothers again. Only one is still alive.

-Holidays and other special occasions on which gifts are traditionally given prove interesting. One year, I received a commemorative coin (legal tender in Liberia!) and she sent my wife a double-back of Turbee Twists. It became clear she was shopping from the back pages of Parade magazine. Last year my parents received a “Tiffany-style” lamp from her. She’s escalated to the home shopping channels.

-Despite her checkered gift-giving past, she’s given me two of the most special things ever. One was a pen belonging to a member of my family who died under “suspicious circumstances” – I’ve written about it here before. The other is somewhat less intuitive – a wind-up musical ceramic Christmas tree. That in and of itself is not special. It’s the fact that she originally thought it cost $70 but when she got to the register she was told it was actually $700. For some reason she sent it anyway, despite the fact that she lives on a very fixed income.

-After my grandfather died (I wasn’t even close to being alive yet), she shacked up with a younger man. They’re married now and argue like you wouldn’t believe. But they seem to love each other.

-Not one for collecting things, we were a little surprised when we visited last year to discover a very large collection of stuffed animals. When we inevitably asked what they were for, fearing the onset of senility or some other stuffed animal-collecting geriatric compulsion, she said “They’re for your children. I just bought one at first but then I kept seeing cute ones.”

-Gravity can be a mixed blessing. Sadly, gravity and my grandmother are mortal enemies, locked in a battle of epic proportions that’s been waged over the last 92 years. She has, and always has had, a terrible time staying upright. For that reason, she never learned to ride a bike. She never even drove a car at all. She’s fallen down flights of stairs in all the best places. When I talk to her and ask how she’s doing, I usually get something like “well, I was walking down on the bay and I fell into a palm tree. Its not that bad though. I only cracked a couple of ribs.” Most of these 92 years, gravity’s been winning the battles but it certainly hasn’t won the war.

You get the picture – an odd, old, charming woman. Now, she’s in a lot of pain but if I had to guess, I’d say she’s probably got a few more good years in her. But it saddens me to face the potential of a world without a crazy, gift and gravity-challenged old lady named Ruth, called Carol, who may be single-handedly responsible for keeping the commemorative coin industry in business.

Posted by Chris at 5:53 PM | Comments (24)

The Weekend, Headaches and Domesticity

All hail the obligatory weekend recap!

This weekend was full of goodness...fall-like weather, hanging out on the kitchen floor, and good books among them.

By the time I got home on Friday, I had a head-splitting, mind-numbing headache (danger! danger! approaching migraine!) that made me feel as though my right eye was about to make a dash for freedom and pop out of my head. Luckily, that didn't happen. Instead of wallowing in my own misey and spending the evening in a darkened room moaning in pain, Beth and I went to our favorite neighborhood Thai place. Wallowing in pain with good Thai food is better than wallowing in pain propped up on a couch in a dark basement. We went home...and hung out on the kitchen floor. And I took a bottle and a half of Advil then went to bed. Perhaps not the pinnacle of excitement but, you know, you work with what you've got.




Saturday proved to be a gorgeous day. Its fall, folks. No doubt about it. Beth headed out shopping with her mom. I hung around the house and did nothing very exciting. I did manage to go to Best Buy again and not get attacked by freaks. That's something. Since we're headed up to NYC soon and I go nowhere without my camera, I loaded up on memory sticks, bought some music, caught up with my friend TiVo, finished a book, started another then read some blogs. Beth returned and we went on a hunt for shoes (not for me) then caught dinner at a local Italian place. Then the Borg Headache ("resistance is futile") made a reappearance so we went home and made it through more of season one of The West Wing (they don't make TV like that anymore...hell, they don't even make West Wing like that anymore). Saturday ended as all good Saturday's should - with a bizarre discussion about the parts of your head you can never see. (Think about it...you can't see your own head! You can see your top lip, your nose, although that should be relatively blurry, and your cheeks if you puff 'em out. But the rest of your head will largely remain a mystery to you. And just so you know, trying to see your own head doesn't make a Borg Headache get any better. Quite the opposite. Shut up! I know it was strange!)

I started off Sunday by doing the grocery shopping. Then I paid bills and balanced the checkbook (be afraid...be very afraid...I'm bad with money but its the least I can do to help out...until they repossess Beth's car or something) and worked on getting a few issues with our mortgage straightened out. Beth headed out for an evening with her mom so, in an effort to pull my weight, I cleaned my car (yes, Dawn, I cleaned my car!), did the dishes, washed and ironed a bunch of shirts that I needed this week, pressed my ties, got Chinese food, took out the trash, cleaned the place up then collapsed on the couch with a pint of Ben and Jerry's to watch Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. After this, I had a terrible scare - my pal TiVo was recording something so all of the sudden I was confronted with a group of ten women wearing aprons and weilding mops singing American Woman on stage. Freaked my ass out. Until I realized that TiVo was recording the worst reality show ever. It was too much so I finished off another book while waiting for my wife to return...which, happily, she did.

And now I'm here. So, what's up with you guys?

Posted by Chris at 8:41 AM | Comments (26)

Haiku For Monday #49

Fall is here and so
are Monday morning meetings.
Yay for four day weeks!

Posted by Chris at 6:35 AM | Comments (4)

October 3, 2004

Democratic Responsibility

I was just sitting here reading and came across something that made me think for a few minutes. I feel compelled to share.

World history has been a bloody business from the get-go, but the nausea we're suffering...is particular to a democracy. Because in a democracy, we're all responsible for our government's actions, because we're responsible for electing the government. Even if we, the people, don't do anything wrong, we put the wrongdoers in power.
- Sarah Vowell, Take The Cannoli

I don't quote that with anything particular in mind. Vowell happened to be writing about a journey she and her sister took, following the Trail of Tears from its start in Georgia to its end in Oklahoma. But its something to keep in mind in an election year, whichever side of the aisle on which you happen to find yourself.

Posted by Chris at 3:12 PM | Comments (4)

On Books: September

Its that time again - time to look back at the books I plowed through the previous month and make some recommendations. I'm definitely headed in the right direction - July was a pretty bad month for books and August showed improvement. September continued the trend.

First up, and probably the book I can most recommend is Well by Matthew McIntosh. Its a novel but that term is used somewhat losely. This is a collection of seemingly random stories, chapters and sentences that all seem to support one central premise - despair. The back of the book describes the "well" as a place almost devoid of happiness. The bits and pieces collected here seem to bear that out. However, I think its more appropriate to think of "well" as a feeling...for which this book provides the antithesis. Tales of drug abuse, physical and mental abuse, suicide, alcoholism all weave together to tell a tale of residents of a Seattle neighborhood who are not, indeed, well...at all. As you can tell from my incoherent review, I'm not quite sure exactly what McIntosh has done here and yet whatever it is proved to be a moving novel despite its dive into the deep end of despair. Take some Prozac before reading...but definitely read it.

Donorboy by Brendan Halpin was next up. I can't begin to express how much I enjoyed this short yet big novel. Told entirely though journal entries (much like a blog), email and IM conversations, Halpin tackles a lot in a very short amount of time. Donorboy is the tale of a girl who's two moms are killed in an accident, after which her biological father (Donorboy) takes custody of her. Halpin has an incredible talent for voices - he writes convincingly as both girl and father and displays a remarkable sense of humor while managing to convey the gravity of the situations in which the characters find themselves. An excellent read, especially for bloggers such as us.

Garrison Keillor's Love Me proved to be the one dissappointment of the month. I'll preface by admitting that while I'm a Prarie Home Companion fan, I've never read anything he's written. This was my virgin foray into Keillor territory...and I wasn't all that impressed. Perhaps its because he deviated from Woebegon territory. Maybe it was the fact that I'd rather not picture Mr. Keillor, purveyor of innocent tales of small town life in the midwest having sex with numerous members of the opposite sex. Maybe its simply because the story was flat and only provided him with opportunities to riff. It wasn't bad - it just wasn't great.

Old School by Tobias Wolff provided a return to decent fiction. Set in an all-boy's private boarding school in the 1960's, the story revolves around one boy, his love of literature and his desire to meet Hemingway. Wolff uses the story in an interesting way, primarily to highlight thoughts and feelings about some of the prime literary movers and shakers of that time. Its dry in spots but ultimately satisfying.

Paul Auster's City of Glass, the first volume of his New York City trilogy, rounded out the month. I've always enjoyed Auster's work and this was no exception. The story itself is like a literary Escher sketch - it folds in on itself like the sketch Escher drew of the one hand drawing the other, providing whatever the literary equivalent of an optical illusion is. Yes, its a little odd. And ultimately, it may not yield as much satisfaction as you might hope. Yet its still very much worth reading.

Posted by Chris at 10:01 AM | Comments (9)

October 1, 2004

View from the Kitchen Floor

Just hanging out, on a Friday night...



Posted by Chris at 10:27 PM | Comments (22)

Ahhh-Chooo

I sneezed...and pulled something. It really hurt. That just doesn't seem right. Age has made me its bitch...and I'm not happy about that.

Aside from that, everything is hunky dory. And its the end of the week [insert Loverboy's 'Working for the Weekend' here]. Happy Friday everybody!!

Posted by Chris at 7:05 AM | Comments (29)


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