March 06, 2004

About Me

I've failed miserably every time I've attempted a 100 things. I hate writing bios. But I found some inspiration this morning. I don't claim that its good but here's a little bit about me that you might not have known...

I was born early in the morning. I think this probably has something to do with being a morning person. I was born after 20 minutes of labor. In fact, my mother couldnít wait for the elevator in the hospital to carry her up the four stories so she ran up four flights of stairs. I think this probably has something to do with the fact that Iím overly punctual. I was born in a South American country. I donít think this really has much to do with anything.

When I came into the world my parents were living in Argentina. Both Americans, my father was working for the Latin American practice of a larger US bank. My mom taught American kids, usually the children of diplomats or business people. Theyíd gotten married not long before they moved to Argentina. They had no money but it didnít take much money to live well in South America at the time. They found themselves with a massive apartment with a private elevator and a maid. Supposedly beef was really cheap too although there was a scarcity of black pepper.

Six months after I came into the world, my parents decided to move back to the States. We first landed in Chicago then New York City and finally Houston. My parents bought their first house and that is where I grew up.

I had a normal, happy childhood existence. I did the normal kid things - I played with other kids, I went to school and I thought normal kid thoughts.

When I was about to enter school, my parents started hunting for the right place to send me. My mom was, after all, a teacher. She talked to parents, read reports and made a decision. Since public schools in Houston were reportedly no good, I started kindergarten at a Baptist school. This was where I learned about God. And racism. And the dangers of an inferior education. You see, during the four years I spent at this school, I memorized plenty of Bible verses (we had to recite them in front of the whole class on Fridays Ė a horrible, nerve-wracking process) and heard the pastors tell plenty of racial jokes to the all-white, upper-class student body which continually chose to look Ė or hear- the other way. And when I finally clued my parents into what was going on, they immediately moved me to the local public school, whereupon the holes in my first five years of education became abundantly clear. Imagine her surprise when my fourth grade teacher actually heard one of her students ask (this is me, by the way), ďWhatís a fraction?Ē

I tried to make up for my lack of arithmetic ability but only did moderately well. What I became most interested in was music. My father had this stereo, one with a dial and backlit pointer for choosing the radio stations, and I could plug a microphone into it and be a DJ. Iíd drag my parents to the local record store and pick up all the 45s I could find. Iíd take them home and spin them, imagining millions listening at home. In 1984, I convinced my dad to take me to a Genesis concert. This was when theyíd only started their arena-rock phase and were still somewhat of a progressive rock band. They played for two and a half hours. Sure, they played some of their 3-minute pop but they showcased some of their longer, more complicated, epic songs. I was amazed. Here were five guys on stage sounding like twenty. Here were these gorgeous, intricate songs bathed in shimmering lights and fog machines. This is what I wanted to do. Because I only had two Genesis albums, I went out the next day and bought the rest. That was all I listened to for weeks until I discovered other artists, more beautiful music. I remember one morning, a chilly spring morning, rare for Texas or at least that part of Texas. My bed was pushed up against the window Ė I could roll over to the left and face my neighborhood from the second story. I used to leave my stereo on all night, softly playing whatever or whoever I was into at the time. And as I rolled over, hearing Yesí Yours Is No Disgrace, the cool air hit me in the face and I saw a hundred hot air balloons. Iím not sure why this stuck out in my mind but it has. I recounted it to my wife the night we first talked.

By the time Iíd turned thirteen, Iíd thrown a band together Ė thatís where the name Rude Cactus came from. Borrowed guitars, second hand drums and cheesy 80ís keyboards made terrible noises when combined. We loved Led Zeppelin. There was something about Robert Plantís wail, Jimmy Pageís guitar riffs and John Bonhamís bombastic abuse of the drums that appealed to us. Perhaps it was also because we were thirteen and fourteen years old Ė the target demographic for Zeppelin. The band eventually ran out of steam. A couple members fell in love with The Doors, a band I couldnít Ė and still canít Ė stand. We still played but mainly we just drank when someone could find a bottle of something when their parents werenít looking. I started smoking around then too, despite the fact that no one else did. There are many stories of drunken adolescence. Everyone has those. I wonít bore you with mine.

Things abruptly changed in 1989. My dad got a new job and, after fifteen years of life in suburban Houston, we moved to Virginia, just outside Washington, D.C. We drove the 1400 miles from Houston with three cats, one of whom proceeded to scream throughout approximately 1357 miles of the drive. I donít know how my dad managed to keep his sanity.

Having moved in October, I waited to start high school until the new semester. In January I began life in my new high school and started sinking into life here. My musical horizons continued to expand, as did my education, experiences and love life. My closest friend became Scott, a temporarily transplanted Canadian, and my love interest was named Alison. As it turned out, Alison wasnít a very nice person. Scott was. He returned to Canada a year later but we still kept in touch Ė in fact, we still do. Iím proud to say that Scott met his wife at my wedding. He and his wife got married and have a beautiful daughter. They lead hectic lives in New England and Scott is one of the only people in ďreal lifeĒ to know about this site. Hey Scott!

Despite the fact that Alison wasnít the nicest person, that didnít stop us from carrying on an on-again off-again relationship that lasted a couple of years. Yet the time that I spent with Alison, Scott and a couple of other friends remains a highlight of my brief life thus far. Alison taught me lessons about relationships and how to treat people (or how not to treat people, as the case may be) and Scott allowed me to be goofy. Weíd take long drives on backroads listening to loud music, smoking cigarettes and singing (screaming, really) until our voices were shot. Weíd watch concert videos and make fun of heavy metal singers in tight spandex. We just had fun.

I graduated from high school in 1992. In the fall, I attended Mary Washington College. I tried to maintain a long distance relationship with my current girlfriend but it became obvious in a very short amount of time that that wasnít going to work. Plus, driving home every weekend was a good excuse to get away from my psycho roommate. We lived in ďThe DungeonĒ of a fairly popular dorm, named because of the fact that it was the basement floor and, because the dorm was built into a side of the hill, only had rooms on one side of the building. I escaped from Joe (class-A lunatic and roommate) into the confines of Room 100, which was where I met Beth.

One evening, those of us involved in our early-college long distance relationships were psyching each other up for our upcoming mass break-up. Three of us were planning on ending our relationships the same weekend. That evening, Beth cornered me in a bathroom and discussed the fact that she and I could probably be pretty good together. I agreed and didnít argue. Instead I talked about those hot air balloons. It must have worked. We both broke up with our significant others that weekend. A few weeks later I was scheduled to move into my own place off campus Ė Iíd had mono and needed to get out of the dorm and away from Joe before I was murdered in my sleep. Beth helped me move in along with some other friends. She never really left. Weíve been together ever since.

You can make up your own college stories and insert them here. My college career wasnít really distinguished by much except the astonishing length of my hair by the time I was done. I graduated after five years and Beth and I moved back to the Northern Virginia area to get jobs and be responsible adults. I cut my hair and began working as a communications director for a small non-profit company while Beth worked for a law firm. We both quit smoking, I quit drinking and we changed jobs after a couple years, moved into a bigger place and then got married.

On October 9, 1999, Beth and I were married after almost seven years of living in sin. Needless to say, no one was shocked when we announced we were engaged. In front of 150 people, we were married at 5:00 in the afternoon. A reception followed. People still tell me it was the best party theyíve ever been to. That makes me smile. It was pretty damn good from where I was standing too.

That brings us to the present. And the present is what I write about here everyday. Thereís no need for me to repeat myself. I live a happy life, one filled with people I love, music, books and my cats. I still love music. I realize its terribly uncool but I still listen to Genesis. And I still think about those hot air balloons.

And now? Your questions...answered.

How'd you end up as an "IT Security Geek"?
I graduated school with very non-technical liberal arts degrees. I mean, how was Far Eastern history going to get my anywhere? I got a temporary job at a local non-profit agency as their assistant communications director. It became permanent very quickly and I began to wear many, many hats. Before I knew it, I was running and designing their Web site and handling all the technical aspects of the agency. I left the company and went to work as a systems administrator/network architect for a dot-com. After two years of good experience, I got laid off (couldnít see that one coming could you?) and moved into the wonderful world of post-9/11 IT security. It was just that simple.

If you could live anywhere on the planet, where would you choose?
Paris. Its freshest in my mind but the quality of life is so much better than ours in North America. Weíre always rushing from point a to point b. The Parisians, however, seem to take their time. It doesnít hurt that they live in a gorgeous city.

What's the story behind the cats' names?
Callie: Real name Calypso. Iím not sure exactly how it came about. Sheís been my wifeís cat since she (my wife) was twelve.
Pixel: The name was taken from a book by Robert Heinlein entitled The Cat Who Walks Through Walls. It seems somewhat appropriate.

How big is that list of books you've read in the last 5 years?
Iíve been keeping track of everything Iíve read over the last five years. I average somewhere around 100 books a year. So, probably right around 500.

Favourite possession (other than the Fender :)
Other than the Fender? Surely you jest. Thereís a group of stuff I keep in my right-front pocket. First, I have a rock that my wife gave me as a good luck charm many years go. I also have a small keyring on which I have:
-an old earring that reminds me of my youth
-a Fosters bottle cap that my wife handed me several years ago and said, ďHere, keep this foreverĒ
-a button, Iím not sure what from; and
-a small silver elephant, a good luck symbol
Yes, thatís a cheesy answer but itís the first thing I pick up in the morning and the last thing I put down at night. And I go nowhere without them.

What's the mileage on that SUV (oh, come on, you KNEW I was going to ask that one *grin)
I think its around 18 mpg. Its my wifeísÖI actually donít get to drive it as much as Iíd like.

What do you look for in a blog that keeps you reading?
Honesty and personality. Its all well and good having a blog that keeps track of the latest news or issues but if it doesnít have personality or isnít an honest reflection on the person sitting at the keyboard, it really doesnít interest me much.

How did you and the missus meet? And was it a love-at-first-site sort of thing, or something that came about later?
Okay. Everyone settle in and get comfortable. Got a drink? Good.
My wife and I met during our freshman year in college. We were both dating other people, both long-distance relationships. We had many mutual friends, all of whom ended up hanging out in the same dorm room. I think we really formed a family away from home. Thatís beside the point. Needless to say that the relationships werenít going very well. There were many problems with mine that I may choose at some later date to describe. And there were a few things wrong with hers (thatís her story Ė I wonít tell it here). Late one night/morning when we were all incredibly tired, but surprisingly sober, Beth and I found ourselves in the bathroom discussing the future WE might have together. The next day we both went home and broke up with our significant others. I moved off campus the next weekend, in order to recover from a bout with mono. Beth helped me move and she never really left. We made it official six months later by getting a larger apartment together. The rest, as they say, is history. That late night/early morning was almost 11 years ago.

If you could do anything, and get paid doing it, what would it be?
There are three answers to that one.
Answer One: Sex.
Answer Two: Teach. Iíve long thought that teachers earn neither the money nor respect they deserve. Iím not trying to be materialistic but I enjoy the money Iím making now and could never command such a salary as an educator. But when I get tired of the corporate world, Iíd like to teach. Iíd like to influence, as scary as that may be to some of you, kids. Iíd like to engage them, to share what I know and hopefully impart some wisdom. Idealistic? You bet.
Answer Three: Musician. Itís a dream and Iím very well aware of that. Iíd like nothing better than to be able to share my music and passion about music with others. Are there any Pink Floyd fans out there? OkÖstick with me here. Thereís this scene in a concert video from their last tour. Dave Gilmour (vocalist, guitarist) is standing on stage, the lights are almost non-existent except for the spotlight backlighting him. And he begins the second guitar solo for Comfortably Numb. You can see the veins in his arms popping, the strings bending and the muscles in his face reacting to every soaring note heís churning out. And he carries that audience away with him. I canít dream of a better job.

What did you want to be when you were growing up?
See above. Without the sex thing, of course.

Admit it, you were a "bad boy" in your teens, weren't you? ;)
I hate to disappoint you. I really wasnít. Sure, I started smoking when I was 12 and I probably drank way too much growing up but really the worst think I was ever accused of as a teen was not applying myself. School always bored me.

What is your most shameful indulgence?
Normally, my amigos Ben and Jerry. I can take on a pint of One Sweet Whirled any day! Lately, however, Iíd have to say cigarettes. I know, I knowÖIím not happy with myself about it either. Iíd quit for 5+ years but I lost my willpower recently. My goal is to be done with them by the end of the holidays.

What is the absolute craziest, wildest, thing you've ever done?
IíveÖfloated down the Rio Grande for five days, been chased by cows in the Potomac River, ended up in the emergency room after a bizarre ice cream incident, rescued myself from a stuck elevator, peed off a 40 story building, tried out for a cheerleading team (dressed as a female cheerleader), climbed a mountain and stolen a car (my parentsí at age 15) but I donít consider any of those crazy or wild. Just normal, run-of-the-mill life experiences. I know, Iím boring.

Spill some secret for us. Something you've never told (almost) anyone!
Um...I'm not sure what you're looking for here. Lemme think about how I want to answer this one :-)

What language(s) would you love to learn?
I took lots of Spanish in high school but have managed to forget most of it. Iíd love to re-learn. And also French. Since Iíd like to live in Paris, Iíd have to know some French!

Where are the places you most want to visit?
I was born in Argentina and Iíd very much like to go back. I moved away when I was six months old so I donít exactly remember much. I also would very much like to travel through Asia. I have a degree in history, specifically the history of the Far East but Iíve never been.

What things are there that you specifically feel like you need to do or see before you die?
Teach, write the Great American Novel, see the Great Wall of China, travel the canals of Venice, find Jimmy Hoffa, have kids (preferably two), be a cool dad and make a difference in the worldÖsomehow.

Why "rude cactus?"
I point you to this link for an explanation.

Uhh, if you were a lollipop, which flava would ya be?
Lime. Or lemon. I don't know why. Just my favorite flavors I guess. What the answer supposed to be deep or something?

Would you rather be a giraffe or a moose?
Moose. You get to live in the mountains, hang around lakes and trees and stuff. Moose kick ass!

And finally, whats the winning lottery numbers this week?
I'm keeping that for myself, thank you very much. Its not that I don't like you all...

If you had wings.. what would they look like?
They'd be sleek and silver, bending the light to make them appear invisible when I didn't want to attract attention to myself. When fully extended they'd be wide, allowing me to soar and rescue small helpless animals from trees.

If you could dine with three people, living or dead who would they be and why?
1) Mr Rogers - I don't know why. I think he'd be interesting. My mom always used to ask me when I was a little kid who I'd want to have over for dinner and I always said Mr Rogers.
2) Peter Gabriel - If you only give him credit for "In Your Eyes" you're selling the man short. He's a genius and I'd love to spend time with the guy.
3) My grandmother - she's alive and well but lives in California and I rarely see her. And I think she'd get along with Mr Rogers.

What is your favorite alcoholic beverage?
I'd have to say a good Mexican beer. I don't drink all that much anymore, for reasons that aren't all that clear to me but if I had to, I think I'd go for the Corona.

Describe the most wonderful, amazing feeling in the world.
Its like a sneeze only better.

Which do you consider your most important contribution to the lives of those around you?
In 1989 I began volunteering at a local homeless shelter. I cooked and served meals. Slowly I began to become more involved - I was the youngest person to sit on the organization's board of directors, I did a couple live TV spots and I helped develop a program that went into elementary schools and taught kids about homelessness and how they could help. A few years back I was the first recipient of a state community service award. I think that is, so far, my most important contribution.

Which is your most treasured sense and why?
Sound. Although I'd very much miss sight as well. But I'm not sure I'd be able to handle the world without music.

What is the most important piece of information (or belief) given to you that you need to pass on to someone else?
Good or bad, you can chalk everything up to a learning experience.

If you could delete one person from the history of the world who would it be, and what changes do you think that would make to our current time? of those Star Trek space-time continuum questions. I'm not sure that you could delete any single person or event with out repercussions. Hitler, Stalin, all the viscious dictators are the obvious targets. But what else would that change? Who knows what changes a benign 1938 Germany would cause? I don't have a good answer. That's a toughie.

Heather asked...
So, Cactus, what species of cacti are you, anyway?
Blogus sedentaria. Once described by Audubon as ďoften lazy yet opinionated in its demeanor, blogus sedentaria can thrive in even the most hostile environs, although it seems to produce larger thorns without the requisite amount of caffeine or sugar, often times becoming one giant prick.Ē

Rachael asked...
You said that you're highly caffeinated, so what's your absolute FAVORITE caffeinated beverage??
I love caffeine. I usually get into the office by 6 or 6:30 in the morning so its vital. And nothing can ever take the place of a large cup of black coffee. All the frou-frou Starbucks specialty crap canít take the place of good, strong black coffee.

Rock Star Mommy asked...
Plant or Page?
Thatís practically impossible Ė apples to oranges and all that. But Iíll go with Plant. Page is an amazing guitarist but his output since Zeppelin hasnít been nearly as great. He remains, however, one of my true guitar heroes. Plant has continued to thrive. His latest, Dreamland, is one of the most played CDs I've bought in the last couple of years.

Muhammed Ali or Mike Tyson?
Ali. From what I can recall, he didnít remove other boxersí appendages with his teeth. Right? He floated like a butterfly, stung like a bee and didn't snack on his opponents.

Lennon or McCartney?
Lennon. He was about the music, about peace and about art. Paul, at least lately, seems to have sold out. I doubt Lennon ever would have. Although he married Yoko and I really never understood that.

Rip Taylor or Rip Torn?
Torn. Rip Taylor always freaked my ass out with that wig. Was he supposed to be funny or something?

Rambo or Rocky?
Rocky. Much better character than a ripped mercenary, I think.

The Grateful Dead or Phish?
Phish, although Iím not much of a fan of either. My wife likes The Dead. I donít understand it at all. At. All.

90210 or Melrose Place?
Gotta go old(er) school and say 90210. That said, I didnít watch much of either. Except Iím scaring myself by knowing things like ďThe Peach PitĒ.

Punky Brewster or Pippi Longstocking?
Punky! And Soleil Moon Frye or whatever the hell her name is turned out kinda hot. No, not then! Now. See?

Shel Silverstein or Dr. Seuss?
That might be the single toughest question Iíve ever gotten. Iím going to go with Dr. Seuss though. Loved him as a kid and still do. Not that I didnít like Shel. But I think I got more outta Dr. Seuss.

Ray Charles or Stevie Wonder?
Ok, second only in toughness to the previous question. I think Stevie is one of the more brilliant musicians of our time, although Ray had one of the best voices in soul. Iím still going to go with Stevie. Just go back and listen to Innervisions to see why.

Lord Of The Rings or Harry Potter?
Harry all the way. I was one of the masses who waited in line at midnight for the last book to be released. My wife and I were in the minority as we didnít have any kids. So we made up an elaborate story and talked loudly about our poor nephew Timmy who couldnít attend because of a vicious lobster attack. People still stared, albeit for different reasons.

Whammy bar or Wah pedal?
Wah. Although I have a special place in my heart for whammy bars, I dig my wah. And? I really like the phrase "dig my wah" although it sounds slightly dirty.

Potato chips or Goldfish?
Goldfish. Thereís really no contest. Goldfish all the way. They're like snack-crack.

Letterman or Leno?
Letterman. Leno annoys me. And heís too careful. Rarely does he go out on a limb to be funny. Letterman, on the other hand, is just wacky and has a sense of humor I appreciate. I mean, who doesn't like a bit called "Will It Float?"

Guns N' Roses or Motley Crue?
Guns Ní Roses. I bought Appetite for Destruction right after its release and was blown away. I caught their Washington DC show on the Use Your Illusion tour and I still maintain they were one of the most talented bands of their time. As for Crue, I was one of the few people who was happy when Vince Neil left. I've always had trouble with his nasally voice and liked his replacement (John Corabi, which I knew off the top of my head...aren't you impressed?) a lot better. Sadly that arrangement only lasted one album after which I really gave up on them.

Movies: Renting or Theaters?
It depends on the movie. Some things you just have to see in theaters. Other movies I can easily pass on and wait for the DVD.

Maureen asked...
Bono or The Edge?
Bono. While I like The Edge, I think heís slightly overrated as a guitarist. Bono seems like a cool guy all around.

On the Don and Mike Show- who is your fav. one on it?
Mike, actually. Talented dude.

Sledge asked...
Less filling, or tastes great?
As far as accuracy goes, Iíll go with less filling. If its less filling, chances are it doesnít taste great.

Jon asked...
You receive a secret love note from someone, complete with nude pictures (hiding her identity but showing enough to interest you) asking you to meet her somewhere for a ren-dez-vous. She tells you NOT to tell your wife.
Like the fool that men are, you tell your wife about it and she smiles and says, "Go ahead, it might be funny. I trust you."
Do you:
1) Stay home, knowing that its a female trick to test your loyalty and she probably set it all up anyway?
2) Go because its probably something she set up to be sneaky and romantic without involving a plastic cup and '70's porn, and she'll be completely heart broken if you don't do it because she's been planning it for months?

Knowing my wife as I do, I doubt it would be a setup. But Iíd stay home just to be on the safe side. Iím all for stuff that doesnít involve a cup or 70ís porn but Iíll stay away from the sketchy rendezvous (what's the plural of rendezvous, by the way? Rendezvi?).

Doulazanie asked...
Boxers, briefs or commando?
Boxers. Canít stand the briefs yet freeballiní can be a little uncomfortable too. Boxers seem to be an appropriate happy medium.

Loup asked...
re: the bizarre ice cream incident ... What flavor?
Vanilla. Yes, I almost lost a finger for simple vanilla ice cream. The shame!

Goodsnake asked...
How old were you when you had your first sexual experience and how many had you had before the misses made an honest man out of you?
That would be the ripe old age of 15, if I recall correctly. Now, for the second part? I have no clue!

Heather asked...
Um...if you could choose one superpower what would it be? You know, to complement your wife's alter ego of "The Pantless Wonder".
How about the Pantless Wonder Twins? That could be cool, right? Although not twins in the strict sense of the word. Iím talking a pantless crime fighting couple thing here. The superpower? Iíd like to be able to stop time and exist independent of it. That? Would be cool! Also, Iíd like to have super blogging commenting powers so that I could visit every one of your sites and comment everyday. Of course, if I was able to stop time, I could do that while no one was paying attention.

Groovebunny asked...
Mmmmkay...when are you gonna grace us with that audio of you playing something on guitar??? I mean...since now that you have the technology to deliver and all. :)
I actually have to try that. The problem? Iím a perfectionist and Iím not going to ever be happy with anything I post. Hell, I already record audioblogs about eleventy-billion times before I record one I'm happy to post. Hi, Iím anal!

Sweety asked...
Have you ever got emotional by looking at a piece of art, like a painting or a statue? What was it?
Kinda sorta. My wifeís favorite piece of sculpture is Nike of Samothrace at the Louvre. When we traveled there last year, it was pretty much the first thing she wanted to see since, being an art history major sheíd studied it quite a bit. Its placed at the top of a long stairway and its presence is almost magical. That magic combined with the way my wife reacted to it forced one of the stronger reactions Iíve ever had to art.

Do you always remember your dreams?
No. Rarely do I, actually. Which is probably good and bad.

Will you show me & Mr Sweety around Washington if we ever visit?
Of course! Let me know when youíre coming and Iíll sign you up for the Washington Cactus Tour. I know where all the good record and bookstores are. Oh, wait. Youíd probably actually like to see important stuff like monuments and museums, huh? I guess I can do that too :-)

What advice would you give me & Mr Sweety if we ever come & live in the US?
First, save money. Second, be somewhat prepared to be disillusioned. This is a wonderful country but, like any other country, its not without its faults. That elusive American Dream is becoming harder to obtain and clouded by crass commercialism and ridiculous politics. You might have to look a little harder for it. But its still here.

Ever had cartoon characters on you boxers?
Yes. Iíve got a pair of boxers with Marvin The Martian (I have a matching tie too) as well as a pair with Scooby Doo. I only wear those on special occasions.

Samantha asked...
if you were to hand select a menu, of all of your favorite foods and wines, what would you choose, for a perfect meal?
The perfect mealÖprobably something Italian. Iím a big pasta fan. Perhaps a nice Caesar salad followed by some homemade risotto and possibly a nice spaghetti with a red wine sauce? Desert tooÖchocolate mousse! Iím not a wine drinker so Iíd have to pass there.

what do you really think about the state of popular music right now? Does it scare the shit out of you? Depress you? Or did you buy an Usher CD?
I have mixed feelings, honestly. The music industry is horrible. It rarely fosters original talent or creativity. Music Ė the art and the creativity Ė has been thrown under the bus for the sake of revenue. Yet, we also live in a time in which there are so many ways of getting music out to the world. Indie labels have large following and the Internet is providing artists new and old with new tools for distribution. Sadly, I think the industry overall will continue to be dominated by whatever sells.

Monique asked...
if/when i go to DC what are the 3 places i HAVE TO SEE... and they don't have to be touristy spots (i've never been there). i'll show you and the missus around boston if you show me and the boys (that would be hubby and child) around DC sometime.
Deal! As far as the three places you have to go, Iíd say the first stop would be the Mall. Thatís with a capital M, not one of our local teenage hangouts with the Shoe Hut and Pizza World. No, the Mall in DC with all the museums and monuments is a must. The second would be Great Falls. Did you know that more water flows over Great Falls in an hour than passes over Niagara Falls? Its true. You can look it up. Itís a truly gorgeous site that most people donít expect to see right outside our nationís capital. The third? Arlington Cemetery. Its almost impossible to comprehend how many people have sacrificed themselves for this country. And while Arlington doesnít paint a complete picture, its both surreal and humbling.

you're a vegetarian, what prompted that? have you tried Trader Joe's Succotash?
Yes, Beth and I are both vegetarians. We never ate that much meat to begin with. Eventually, when we realized we werenít even cooking it anymore and just eating it when we went out, we decided to stop altogether. It wasnít a major life change or anything. And no, I havenít tried that but it looks like Iíll have to!

you're a avid, rabid reader, do you prefer one specific genre or do you read all over the map?
I primarily read fiction. My dad started me off on sci-fi as a kid. I credit the imaginations of Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein with most of my enthusiasm to read now. But rarely do I read much sci-fi anymore. I enjoy almost everything Ė from good literary fiction to cheap horror novels.

Dawn asked...
When was the last time you cleaned out your car?
Um. Does the fifth amendment apply to a blog? Please!? Its been ages, quite possibly eons, since Iíve cleaned my car. Iím not proud of it. Excavation and carbon dating is perhaps the only way to determine how long its been.

Out of your insanely large CD collection, which ONE is your absolute all-time favorite?
Iím not trying to duck a question here but thatís seriously impossible and my answer would change on a daily basis. I have a few though. Genesisí 1974 album The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway probably did more to get me into music than any other single album. After I bought it, I was transfixed for days. It was elaborate, epic and singularly original. Iíll also credit Yesí The Yes Album with similar early inspiration. Led Zeppelinís Physical Graffiti showed me that there was more to life than progressive art-rock, specifically insane guitar solos, wailing vocals and bombastic drum work. There was a level of energy to the music I hadnít heard beforeÖand I loved it. Still do.

Kelley asked...
What are you and Mrs. Cactus doing for your fifth anniversary?
For our upcoming anniversary, weíre traveling back to NYC where we went on our honeymoon. Weíve got tickets to a few shows and reservations at some of our favorite restaurants.

Zoot asked...
What's your favorite Halloween Candy?
Does it have sugar in it? If so, its my favorite. Iím an equal-opportunity candy consumer. For example, Iím currently typing this with a mouthful of gummy bears.

What are you going to be for Halloween?
I think Iíll probably just go as me.

Do you dress your cats up for Halloween?
No. While Callie, our smaller, more docile one would most likely put up with it, Pixel would remove several of our limbs if we tried. I value my appendages.

Shiz asked...
Would you stop shopping at TARGET (or another favourite store) if you found out they were irresponsibly contributing to some world misery? Like slavery or child prostitution or something?
Yes. Although Iím sure it would be hard to find a store in which there isnít something objectionable from that point of view. But on the whole, I couldnít in good conscience support a store who knowingly sold or distributed something like that.

Groovebunny returned and asked...
Mmmkay...what's your happiest memory from your life thus far?
My wedding. Or all the random memories I have of being silly with the woman I love.

Your life overall...the grass in greener on the other side or the grass is just lovely where you are?
The grass is fine right here. Of course there are always going to be some weeds but you just pull those out and move on.

How much wood could a wood chuck chuck if a wood chuck could chuck wood?
27.43 cubic feet per day for your average sized wood chuck. This number will vary based on the region. For instance, your wood chuck in the Pacific Northwest will often chuck more wood than the Midwestern wood chuck, given that they're larger in size and are generally located closer to Starbucks.

Do you even know what a wood chuck is?

Favorite line from a movie?
ďSew, old one. Sew like the wind.Ē From Three Amigos.

Favorite thing about yourself?
Iím going to go with personality. I think Iím reasonably intelligent, a fairly nice guy and have an okay sense of humor.

Most unfavorite thing about yourself?
My occasional lack of a sunny disposition and the inability to just chill.

Do you dream in color?
3-D actually. But only when I remember to put on the glasses.

Do you snore?
Oh hell yeah. Much to Mrs. Cactusí chagrin.

I know you've written somewhere here that Mrs. Cactus works out in the morning before work, while you make your coffee and donut in an arm wrestling battle, who would be the victor? You or Mrs. Cactus?
I think Iíd win. Of course once she reads this, Iíll probably have to test that theory so Iíll let you know for sure.

So we've seen shots of your fabulous shoes. How many pairs of shoes do you own?
Somewhere around 10. I wear maybe three of them regularly.

Do the shoes make the man or the man makes the shoes?
The shoes definitely donít make the whole man but they canít hurt.

What would you do if you were in the shower and a very large spider appeared from no where and landed on your face?
Probably pass out, hit my head on something and die. I hate spiders. HATE!

Do you sing in the shower?
Yes. Although very quietly so Mrs. Cactus canít hear me. I'm okay with a guitar. Singing? Not so much.

Do you have any holes in your socks?
I have one pair of socks that I found holes in the other day. Other than that, no.

If you were stuck on a deserted island, what is the one thing you could not live with?
My mother. Damn, I love the woman but sheís crazy.

If you had the opportunity to say one thing to the entire world, where everyone was listening to you at once, what would that one thing be?
Be nice to each other.

Genuine asked...
How did you get hooked up with the JLB?
Most of the members of the JLB all hooked up at the same time. We were chatting one day and it all just came together. And can I tell you what a kick ass group of people they are? I couldn't ask for nicer, more wonderful friends.

Bond Girl asked...
How'd you and your missus meet? Was she charmed right away or did you have to convince her?
We met in college and halfway through our freshman year, she picked me up in a bathroom. Really! Havenít I told this story before? If not, I smell a future post. When I moved off campus, she came with me and we havenít looked back since. I like to think she was charmed right away but thatís really her question to answer.

And the one that speaks volumes, Coke or Pepsi?
Coke. Coke all the way.

BMH asked...
Red or Green Apples?
Red, preferably Fuji.

And what do you make of the theory that Smurfette was actually a guy in drag?
I can get onboard that theory. What proof do you have though?

Retro Girl asked...
I'm new to your blog so I have to know just what the hell is the 'Judith Light Brigade' besides a collection of great blogs? And who came up with such a brilliant name for this troupe?
All your answers should be here: ďGreat blogs?Ē Thanks for that! As I mentioned earlier (scroll up), the JLB is an awesome, supremely talented group of I'm not really sure how I fit in there! ;-)

Second question: Your top 5 films (in any order).
Thatís a tough one.
1. Avalon
2. North By Northwest
3. Philadelphia Story
4. Magnolia
5. Citizen Kane

Amy asked...
My friend wants to learn how to play the guitar...and lessons will be in her future very soon...but I was wondering if you have any suggestions for books or videos as well that I can pass along to her??? Or words of wisdom? Or both. :)
First thing first Ė get a decent, simple chord book. That pays off instantly because knowing the chords is important and they sound cool, thus providing encouragement. A word of advice Ė lessons arenít for everyone. The second my parents hired a piano teacher, I lost interest. When I started seeing a guitar teacher for pointers a few years after I started playing, the same thing happened. I think the most important thing about learning to play the guitar is simply playing. Instruction helps but some of the best lessons are learned by screwing around.

Alektra asked...
You are quite the writer. If you could quit your job and just write, what would you write? Fiction? Social history? Journalism?
Fiction. Iíd like to write the clichť Great American Novel one day. Weíll see how that goes. I originally wanted to be a journalist but the college I went to didn't have a great program. In retrospect, that probably wouldn't have made me happy.

And why do you feel that draw?
Iím not sure. I think itís the way my brainís wired. Iíve always been a words person, never drawn to numbers or proofs or theorems. Always words and sentences and paragraphs. Strings of the right words woven together can yield such emotion and such power. While I'm reading, I'll occasionally run across a sentence or paragraph that forces me to sit back, reread and think "my god that's an incredible sentence." I'd like to be able to do that...I'd like for someone to have the same reaction to something I piece together.

Monique came back and asked...
tell us about your most romantic night with the missus AND tell us the most bizarre place you've done it (you know, made the beast with 2 backs, bumped uglies, knocked boots...)
I think the first one is easy - one night early in our relationship, I had Beth over to my new apartment for dinner. I cooked and served dessert and everything. Then we just stayed up talking all night. Really, it was as simple as that. As for that second question, Monique, that's for me to know and you to find out! :-)

Manda asked...
Okay. You've read a zillion and a half books in your life. What are your top five books?
Because I've read a zillion books, that question is VERY difficult. But I'll try. These are not in order.
1. The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell. The description will sound like science fiction but, regardless of your feelings about the genre, I'd really encourage everyone to read this. It is sincerely one of the finest books I've ever read.
2. If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things by Jon McGregor. I've said a lot about this book here. It was probably the best thing I read last year and I still find myself thinking about it a great deal.
3. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. There's a reason this book is being used to teach everything from strategy to team work. Its funny - since I read this many years ago, I've read a lot of Card's stuff and I really haven't been all that impressed. If he used up all he had for this book, it was well worth it.
4. The Bridge by Iain Banks. This was my introduction to Banks and it hooked me. Sadly, he's never caught on in the US but if you can find his books, they're well worth buying. The Bridge was a truly unusual yet satisfying novel, one that I wish I'd have written. Its a tough read, at times, and is a head-trip but its such a fantastic novel.
5. This is such a tossup. I mean seriously, I've only got one place left? Can I mention 253 by Geoff Ryman, one of the most creative books ever written? How about Ellis' American Psycho which was the most disturbing thing I've ever read? Last Orders by Graham Swift, maybe? Or Magnus Mill's Restraint of Beasts? I'm going through The Book...the book in which I've written down everything I've read for the last 7 years. And I can't choose just one more!

Also, what's your favorite song? [For me, it's hard to narrow it down to one, so pick a few, if you have to.]
Oh man! These are just too hard! Some (not all or THE) favorites as of today - Aimee Mann's Invisible Ink, Secret World by Peter Gabriel, Hallelujah as performed by Jeff Buckley, Porcupine Tree's Blackest Eyes...oh, I can't take it anymore! :-)

Zenwanderer asked...
What is your favorite "guilty pleasure" movie and band that you might be embarressed to admit to your friends?
That is actually easy. My favorite guilty pleasure band is Genesis. I'm not ashamed to admit it...well...okay, I kinda am. You must realize that before they became the top 40 hit machine they were in the 80's, they were actually an incredibly talented group of musicians making some incredible music. My favorite guilty pleasure movie? Logan's Run. Its so cheesy but I love it. I watched it about a month ago, as a matter of fact.

Jon dropped by again and asked...
Ginger or Mary Ann?
Mary Ann. Ginger seemed awful high-maintenance.

Mary asked...
What kind of camera do you use? I hope to buy a new one soon and I'm looking for suggestions. The pics off my current one are usually crummy. I'm *pretty* sure the problem is that I suck at taking photographs but, hey, couldn't hurt to try a new camera, right?
Nothing wrong with that. Blame the equipment, I say! Seriously, I use two cameras - both are Sony CyberShots and I love them both. You see, some people seem to labor under the misapprehension that I'm A Photographer. Let me set the record straight here and now - I point my camera at stuff and push the little button. Thats about the extent of my talent. I'm glad you like what you see though! Anyway, Mary, try the Sonys. The only downside? Proprietary memory stick. Still? Damn fine camera.

Gypsy asked...
If you could be ANYONE famous or not, who would you be and why?
I'm not entirely sure I'm cut out for fame. I'd honestly rather just be myself.

What is your favorite ritual?
Ritual? Aside from the entirely OCD crap I manage to do, I try not to have any. I do enjoy driving home at the end of a long day. That's always nice.

Which Holiday is your favorite, and how do you celebrate it?
Hmmm...I do enjoy Halloween and we usually spend that giving candy to all the little kids in the neighborhood. I also have to admit I like Christmas. Its all about family and thats who I spend it with.

Will you EVER buy Mrs. Cactus a pet duck for her bathroom?
There's an ever-expanding list of stuff that will have to fight over room in that tub. The duck, of course, is one. Last night while we were watching Finding Nemo, my wife expressed interest in a turtle too. And I believe there's been talk of a dolphin as well. So really, that tub's getting a little crowded.

Lissa asked...
If you had the power to change a moment in your personal life and therefore change the future, what would that moment be and why?
I've watched too many episodes of Star Trek to fall for this one! Seriously, we all fuck up. We all do great things. We all fall on our asses - literally and figuratively - from time to time. But all you can really do is pick yourself up, dust off your literal or figurative ass (or both) and learn from it. Without these experiences - both good and bad - we wouldn't be who we are today.

What does it take to be your valued friend?
Nothing. Maybe that's one of the things that makes me, well, me. I believe the best in people right from the start. And I generally put my trust in everyone until proven otherwise. Yes, this is often unwise. Sure, I pay for it sometimes and get hurt and I manage to get pretty pissed off at myself for letting it happen...again...but I'd honestly rather consider everyone a friend until proven otherwise than the alternative. Close friendship has to be earned, like most things, through time, honesty and trust.

Posted by Chris at March 6, 2004 02:41 PM

Great post. I read every word.

Bios like this really help understand the motivations behind people, and what they're all about. Thanks.

Posted by: Jon at March 6, 2004 03:10 PM

Wow, Chris... that was pretty damn good. :-) Thanks for sharing the highlights of your life with all of us.

Posted by: Dee at March 6, 2004 03:16 PM

Sounds like you had a pretty varied younger life, as I guess a lot of people do, and then settled down to real life.

Congratulations on the successful transition.


Posted by: Cassie-b at March 6, 2004 04:19 PM

nice to meet you, mr chris.

*shakes hand*

Posted by: Marie at March 6, 2004 04:20 PM

excellent entry- it is so neat to hear about what your life was like.

Posted by: Maureen at March 6, 2004 04:30 PM

Very nice to make your acquaintance, Chris. I still listen to Genesis, too. So, I'll sit over here in the uncool section with you.

Posted by: Lisa at March 6, 2004 04:59 PM

Excellent post!

Posted by: Rachel in Alaska at March 6, 2004 08:01 PM

WAY better than 100 things, Chris. Very nice indeed.

Posted by: feisty girl at March 6, 2004 11:02 PM

Wow, great post! I feel like I know you now. :-)

Posted by: Krush at March 6, 2004 11:26 PM

Thanks for letting us be a part of your world.

Posted by: Genuine at March 6, 2004 11:33 PM

That was fun. I graduated in '92 also, and met Ross at college as well. Both post-miserable-break-ups.

That was a great read. Now if I could just get off my ass and do something similar...

Posted by: Kelly at March 7, 2004 12:49 AM

That's even better than a 100 things! Nice to meet you mister Cactus :) About Genises, youīre not the only one being uncool.

Posted by: Sweety at March 7, 2004 04:55 AM

1st, never apologize for listening to genesis.
2nd, not that you need to be told,
but that's a very good piece...
the right mix of detail and coherence,
and the perfect degree of exposure...

i've got a feeling that one of my
lesbian protagonistes will meet some
really nice remarkable guy
in a story later this year...

Posted by: stacy at March 7, 2004 07:31 AM

wow. thanks for sharing that. i love learning about people. where they came from, the things they love... i really enjoyed reading that. especially since i know exactly what you're referring to when you talk about "The Dungeon." i had some friends that lived there, too. and, just a little comment, if i may: not only could you be an awesome musician, i think you'd make a hell of a writer, too. you've got an incredible way with words...

Posted by: Judy at March 7, 2004 10:22 AM

Thanks for sharing -- it's a great read. Definitely better than the 100 things.

Posted by: Monica at March 7, 2004 10:39 AM


I really enjoyed your story. I couldn't sum things up that well so I never do, but there are times I feel like I should try.

Posted by: Anastasia at March 7, 2004 11:17 AM

I really enjoyed reading this. The happy wedding story made me cry, but then I'm in a crying sort of mood today. : )

Oh, I'd give almost anything to go back to college.

Posted by: Theresa at March 7, 2004 02:35 PM

That was... beautiful.

Posted by: Christine at March 7, 2004 05:16 PM

Chris, I just loved this. It was so much better than a regular 100 things list. What an interesting life! I love the story behind you and your wife. Beautiful. :)

Posted by: Hunter at March 7, 2004 08:21 PM

You're a neat guy, Chris.

Posted by: Lauren at March 7, 2004 10:11 PM

I dont even know a good way to tell you how beautiful that was and still REALLY convey to you that I mean those words. But it WAS beautiful, and I am being very SINCERE.

Posted by: Zoot at March 8, 2004 08:04 AM

Nice to meet you. And you are really very blessed, but you know that don't you?

Posted by: wlfldy at March 8, 2004 08:12 AM

Why have I never commented on this? If it weren't for Zoot linking here recently, I would have forgotten about it.

You are probably the most interesting person I've never really met. It would be a true honor to meet Mr. Cactus himself, in the flesh some day in the future.

So when you coming to Sweden????? LOL ;)

Posted by: Tjej at March 21, 2004 08:48 PM


Posted by: lorraine at March 26, 2004 08:07 AM

Saw your link on Beth's site .... read ALL of your entry (I am famous for skimming and not paying attention to details ... sometimes.). Glad to make your acquaintance. Right on!

Posted by: Kymmie at April 16, 2004 09:34 PM

I STILL say you gotta do 100 things.

Posted by: Coleen at April 18, 2004 07:44 PM

Awesome, awesome post.

Although did you seriously have cigarettes on your person during our lunch outings? And you did not GIVE ME ONE? I think I hate you a little bit now.

Posted by: Amalah at May 1, 2004 09:17 AM

WOW! That was insightful and so genuine.

I think you have lived a remarkable life.

Posted by: Amber at May 13, 2004 04:04 PM

How about teaching sex?

Posted by: Tek at May 26, 2004 01:16 PM

Damn! If I tell you my life story, will you write me an eloquent bio? Because I seem totally unable to do it myself.

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Posted by: reductil uk at July 9, 2004 12:23 AM

I have "Duke" in CD AND Vinyl, I'll have you know. I LURVE me some Genesis.

Posted by: Michelle at July 23, 2004 01:40 AM

i just wanted to say that i really enjoyed your site [:

Posted by: lars at October 15, 2004 04:28 PM