Jul 31, 2006

Pissed Pissedofferson

Let me tell you a story about a girl who works for a man. This man has some genuinely good qualities, like he gives us computers and pencils with which to do our work, and thinks of us in some perverse way as his children. I believe that he wants to care and that he has a sense of humor about himself, which is always good. But.

But, he's a total freakazoid. The man never sleeps, and travels constantly. If you ask him how he is, he says exhausted, and he'll expound on it relentlessly each and every time. He has what can only be described as undiagnosed A.D.D. For example, he can't have a conversation with you at his desk without either playing solitaire simultaneously, or going through his email or paper mail, assessing and tearing up each piece while pretending to listen to what you're saying. He is a terrible pretender. If you're going to be a bad listener, at least be a good actor.

So, he's kind of a shitty boss but he's not a monster, so you can't hate him most of the time. (Let's give him a pseudonym right now, so I can more easily refer to him without repeating pronouns so much -- let's call him "Genghis.") For example, Genghis loves to gossip, which is always endearing. He'll say, in the most serious tone, that he's going to tell you something in confidence and that you must keep it to yourself. So then he tells you some bit of news that you already knew because you heard it through the rumor mill. You keep quiet on it for a few days until someone else tells it to you again, swearing you to secrecy because Genghis swore him to secrecy. Duh.

Lately I've been more critical of his ridiculous behavior for two reasons. The first is that for the past two months, I've been piddling away at what I think I'm supposed to be doing with no actual direction from him, and it's starting to wear on me. I feel useless, because even as I work on this project, I know it will have to be undone and redone in a particular way (which I would rather do the first time around, but can't because I have no input from him). The second reason is that he has been taking advantage of a friend and coworker of mine, let's call him "Poor John," because Poor John is relatively young and willing and able to work long hours. So Genghis is literally working him to death simply because he can't get organized enough to respect Poor John's time better. If he could respect other people's time, he could learn to use it well and not have people jump through ridiculous hoops to redo things over and over because they weren't given adequate information in the first place. This place can be so inefficient, it scares me.

Last week, Genghis asked me to come in on Sunday to speak with him about our project. (This is not unusual, as he thinks that no one does anything really important on the weekends anyway, which one could argue is true.) So, whatever, I agreed even though I knew it would be a fruitless meeting.

So I come in on Sunday after yoga, and I admit, I was in a pretty good mood because I had just ridden my bike to yoga and then bought an ice cream cone. At about 12:15 pm, I come upstairs to find Genghis and Poor John sitting in the office, which is no less than a steam bath because they don't turn the air conditioner on on the weekends. (That's because people aren't typically working on the weekends, but I digress.) The first thing that happens is that Genghis asks me sweetly to go back downstairs and also get him an ice cream cone. It was a cute enough request, and he looked so covetous of my treat, that I did it without too much squirming. It's then 12:35. I go back to my desk to wait for Genghis to be done talking to Poor John. I surf the web for puppy porn.

12:58. Poor John emerges. I assume this means I'm supposed to get up and go in for my turn. I go in to see the boss man, but he's on the phone. He gestures for me to come in and sit down, which I do. Five minutes later, he's still on the phone. I glare at him. He flashes all ten fingers, which I take to mean come back in ten minutes. I go back to my desk and wait for him to come get me when he's done.

1:25. I get sick of waiting and looking at homeless puppies (ok, one can never really get sick of looking at homeless puppies because homeless puppies are soooo niiiice) so I get up and go back in there. He's off the phone, so I start in with some questions. For some reason he decides to cut me off and says we should go in the conference room. Fine. 1:32. We sit down and discuss the project for about 6 minutes. (That's right, you almost missed it.) We then spend another 45 minutes talking about Formula One racing and other Genghis Hobbies. ("Talking" isn't exactly the right word to describe what we were doing, but at least one of us was talking.) It's sad, because this is Genghis's form of socializing, so I let him do it.

2:15. I wait for him to finish with the Hobbies, and try to discuss something important about another project. At this point, he sees fit to return to his office for the rest of the discussion, so he can play solitaire and answer emails while pretending to listen to me. I say that if he would wait three minutes I could say my piece, to which he responds, "Well, you can talk and walk, can't you? Let's go to my office." I blather, he pretends (poorly) to listen, and blah blah, et cetera. I give up on communication and try to leave, even though I'm worried about Poor John's health (at this point he's glistening like a block of cheddar left out after the family picnic).

Before I leave, Genghis says that I should come in at seven on Monday because he has something important I need to do for another one of our jobs, and he'll leave the information on my desk for me when I get in. I agree to do this, because resistance is futile.

Monday, 7 am. I come in. There is nothing on my desk except my own usual crap. I call Genghis, who says that he'll call me back in ten minutes.

8:31 am. Genghis calls and says that I'll need to call him back at 10 am so he and I can have a conference call with another colleague.

10:00 am. I call. Genghis says he'll call me back in twenty minutes.

10:15 am. I begin a process that is known as "levying the asshole tax." This is a term that Anna coined to refer to the times that you almost purposely waste time at work because you're steamed.

10:44 am. I am finishing up this blog entry. Before I leave you lovely reader(s), I present you with this image of the cover of A Star is Born, the remake starring Kris Kristofferson and Barbra Streisand. I am including this here for no other reason than that I'm sort of fascinated by this cover in the way that I'd be fascinated by a closeup of roadkill. This image has skeeved me out since the first time I saw it. It's got something for everyone - it's very seventies, moist and yet frizzy, libidinous and yet ridiculous. Enjoy.

Jul 25, 2006

Warranted Pessimism
(wherein I prove right, as usual)

People think optimists are happy and pessimists are pissed off and bitter. I'm here to tell you the opposite.

I'm a pessimist. That means I assume most people (with key exceptions from among my near and dear) will disappoint me. It doesn't mean I think the world is going to end or that we're all doomed to pointless, empty lives. It just means that I assume most people will screw things up, I assume most people have bad taste, I assume the person on the street is not that clever and maybe a little bit capricious, I assume someone is going to mug me, and et cetera. I don't think everyone's out to actively screw me, I just most people are going to screw up and it's going result me having to fix it and waste a bunch of time.

TJ, on the other hand, is an optimist. He assumes people will carry through and do things right. He assumes that his financial advisor has his best interest at heart (not that he doesn't, but...) He assumes we won't get arrested if we go to France, even though hasn't cleared up his delinquent tax confusion from when he lived in Paris. He also assumes the dog will not pee on the new rug, will not chew the new valuable item if we leave it out, and will not get caught by the dog catcher van if we let her run around in an leashes-only area of the park.

I learned my behavior from both my parents in different ways. My mom is just a catastrophist, and assumes there will be an earthquake and a power failure and a flood all on the same day just because something important is happening, so maybe we should just plan for all three. My dad is different - his mentality is more about assuming the IRS will make a mistake and audit him for no reason, so he makes sure to keep devastatingly good records and mails everything certified and registered in triplicate. I am not as fastidious as my dad is, but I inherited the sentiment.

Sometimes I feel guilty for being such a misanthrope, and I worry that TJ will think I'm a total downer about these types of things. But fortunately for me, I am ALWAYS VINDICATED.

Vindication Episode #37: TJ had this MBNA credit card that charges, like, 80% interest. I was freaked out that he used to carry a balance on it, and tried to make him pay it off. The card didn't even get him frequent flier miles! For the love! Anyway, he ultimately conceded to getting a United Airlines card so that we'd both be collecting miles on the same airline, so I asked him to cancel the MBNA one. One day he said he had done it, and more or less forgot about it. I asked him, a month later, why there was an autopay charge from MBNA on our checking account statement. He said it was probably the final payment but that he was absolutely sure he canceled it. The next day, the MBNA card bill comes in the mail. It is not canceled. There is only one observation I now make about this: TJ was really shocked that they failed to cancel the card, per his explicitly stated wishes. I was not surprised in the slightest.

Vindication Episode #38: We had a temporary parking permit for the zone 1 area that we live in (if you don't have a permit, you can only park 2 hours - if you do, you can park forever). Getting the permanent permit is another funny story, involving some shenanigans on our part, but I'll save that one for later. So we had a two-week temporary one, and on the final day it was valid, we got a ticket! When it was still valid! (Feeling of self-righteousness at that point was great, since we actually had done nothing wrong, which is not usually the case when one gets a parking ticket.) T.J. was on his way to the Parking Authority anyway in order to get the permanent permit, so he showed them the incorrectly-issued ticket, which they agreed was issued in error. They took the ticket from him, gave him a copy of it for some reason, and "wrote it down on a list somewhere." When TJ got home, he told me that story.

Me: Did you get a receipt?
TJ: For what?
Me: For getting the ticket dismissed.
TJ: No, but they dismissed it.
Me: How do we prove it?
TJ: Why will we need to prove it?
Me: Because in twenty years you'll be applying for a job with the federal government and we'll both be immediately arrested when they do a background check on you and find out that in addition to the French Taxes Issue, you have $90,000 in late fees on a ticket issued in 2006 that you never paid.
TJ: You're being silly.

Three weeks later, the Notice of Violation with associated late fee comes in the mail. TJ is shocked and frustrated. I am smug and self-righteous. I proceed to draft a formal letter complete with photocopies of the ticket, the temporary parking permit in question, affidavit stating the obvious, and any additional information I feel they possibly could need. Then I photocopy the whole thing and send it registered mail to the Idiot Parking Authority. I waste approximately five minutes being self-righteous and inadvertently making TJ feel bad, and 25 minutes composing said letter. And it's probably not over and done with even now, but it's par for the course and I more or less expected as much.**

The moral of this story is: Optimists are usually disappointed, where as pessimists are occasionally pleasantly surprised!

Alternate moral: It's not easy being right all the time. No, wait. I mean the moral is that you can always be right, but you can never be sorry. No. That's not it. What's that idiom about being right but at what cost? Like, I'm taking pleasure about being right, but it's a bitter pill to swallow? Ok, that's a different idiom. I can't have my cake and eat it, too, because my smugness probably is not in my best interest. How can I be happy that I'm right about my general lack of faith in humanity? It sucks, that I'm right. I should be upset when I'm right and happy when I'm wrong about such things! Isn't there an idiom to that effect? As you can tell, I may not be sure what the moral of this story is after all. Maybe someone can tell me.

** Editor's Note: Here I am 4 days later and I have to say, even I didn't expect to receive ANOTHER ticket yesterday for parking without a valid permit. ESPECIALLY BECAUSE WE HAVE A VALID PERMIT.

Max Weiner, Gemologist, and other stories

Max Weiner cracks me up. He's "our jeweler." I never thought I'd say I had a jeweler, but there you go. It started out when TJ decided to buy me a ring, and after wandering around Jeweler's Row for a while, someone directed him to Max for the estate stuff. I think he was looking for something antiquey like your Bubbe's Deco engagement ring. Anyway, he met Max, Lorraine and Phyllis, who were all happy to help him drop some cash on a nice diamond ringed with sapphires in a hand engraved platinum setting [for further discussion of what it feels like to receive a diamond ring when you are someone who has always been disparaging of diamond-sporting girls, see "Bling" (Hickman, 2006)].

Max Weiner is what we call "hamishe" (pronounced HAY-mish-eh). It's a yiddish word that my mom has always used to mean family-like, that is, you feel comfortable with that person because you sense that they are more or less like people in your family are. Whatever that means. Jewish people often refer to other Jewish people using this word, but it's by no means limited to that. I think Judi Moon is hamishe, and she's Korean. Anyway, as a bit of trivia, it turns out that the word is descended from the same word that Amish comes from - meaning "down-to-earth," which isn't quite the same thing, but there you go.

Anyway, so he's hamishe. Phyllis ans Lorraine are also, and it's not because they're particularly nice or sweet or that they give you advice on your love life. They just talk to you like you're not a stranger. So, Murray Weiner became our jeweler, and when it was time to get wedding bands, we went back to him. Right around that time, I realized that he wasn't even the best jeweler -- not highly observant, let TJ order a ring that was vastly too big, and didn't even have as good an eye for detail as I do. But we still went back to him because we like him.

I just went down there to pick up our wedding rings, which we had hand-engraved. We kibbitzed** for a little while (that's another yiddish word for y'alls to look up) and I was about to leave when he grilled me as to whether I've been to his new restaurant yet, and why not? His new restaurant is called Bubby's Brisket, and apparently is some kind of fast-food version of Jewish Soul Food.

Me: Oh, I bet TJ will want to go, but me, I don't eat the red meat so much.
Max: Why?
Me: I am trying to eat a low-fat diet.
Him: Why? You're skinny.
Me: (stoked) Uh, thanks... I have high cholesterol. Need to watch out for sat fats.
Him: It's not fatty! It's low fat!
Me: Oh come ON.
Him: No, it is! We take out all the fat in the process of cooking it our special way [insert lengthy narration of fat-eliminating cooking process].
Me: Ok, I'll try it.
Him: Here, have a coupon! Bring these flyers to your office! You ever need catering? I can make a mean salad with a nice vinaigrette.
Me: Ok, thanks Max. See you.
Him: Ok, so long. Come to the restaurant. You won't regret.

** Oh jeez. Every time I look these things up I find out that they don't mean exactly what I think they mean. The term kibbitzer, or kibitzer, (and thus the verb to kibbitz or kibitz) comes from the chess cafes of central Europe at the start of the 20th century. A kibbitzer did not play chess, but watched other people playing, and possibly made comments on their play. So the word has a connotation of butting into other peoples' business with unwanted commentary. I always thought it just meant "shooting the shit," you know, chit-chatting.

P.S. I am now listening to Gentle Giant Octopus (1972). Have you heard this stuff? It's almost as good as the Cat Steven's Numbers album...

Jul 22, 2006

Come for the Crack

We've been hosting company!

First, Megan and Anand came in on Thursday. Poor Anand, we had made plans to meet up at the White Dog Cafe for some tasty locally grown fare (the place has seriously good food, and we thought they could whip up something for the freaky vegan visitor) but he missed his flight. And then he couldn't get on standby. And then he couldn't get on standby again. Then he made it to Atlanta, but couldn't get on standby to PHL for another couple flights, so he missed the whole food part and showed up in the wee hours. I knew he made it in, but I haven't even seen him yet since I had to go to work on Friday morning, and they left for DC during the day. (T.J. tells me I had some kind of interaction with Anand in the middle of the night when I got up to go to the bathroom, but I must have been asleep cause I sure don't remember that.) Before they left, T.J. played tour guide a bit. He took them to Fitler Square and the Schuylkill River Dog Park and to Capogiro for gelato (more locally grown crap for Megan's benefit, but this stuff is unbelievably good, I mean really, you have no idea, I'll have to write a separate blog entry about it later).

I'm glad he got to take them around a little before they left town, because I am proud of this town and always want to show people all the good stuff and none of the bad stuff and all the charming bits and none of the stupid tourist crap. The best part of living here is just the daily atmosphere - I like living where we do, even though one of you dicks connected my house to a bunch of other buildings.

Then, after those guys left, Tara and Jason showed up after work, on the first leg of a cross-country trip in a big moving truck. Friday was a bad day to leave my cell phone at home because they arrived in Philadelphia a couple hours earlier than I was able to get home. By the time I could phone them, they were sitting in Chaucers drinking beer because the cats were overheating and needed to get some AC. Blue and Kafka got along well enough with Nani and Carmen in that no one bled, but somehow I don't think they'll keep in touch (now that they're all packed up in their sophisticated cat carriers on the way to Ohio).

T.J. and I took T & J to Ten Stone and then came back home because T.J. wanted to show Jason "Oblivion" and Jason wanted to show us "World of Warcraft." So for the next hour, we went back and forth comparing the two games while Tara moaned in agony and then passed out. It was highly dorky. I don't think we convinced Jason that ours was better than his, nor did he convince us, but I do now have a greater resolve never to get involved with any of you massively-multiplayer types because if I became you, I'd never forgive you. Jason has the ability to balance his world-in-the-box to some degree because he's so used to it by now, but it's something that could potentially eat me alive if I went there. I hereby vow not to go there. T.J. won't either.

So that's the news from here - we took our guests around and managed to give them a little slice of Philadelphia without offering cheesesteaks and pretzels. I have grown to like this town a lot, and I'm happy to stick around here for awhile...

Jul 17, 2006

Hot or NOT?

My Man

Question of the evening: Given what I admitted about my musical inclinations, is this AWESOME or NOT AWESOME?


I walked home today past Tower Records and saw the sign. I immediately rang up TJ at home because I didn't want to forget to ask him if he thought going to this show would be AWESOME or NOT AWESOME.

It's a dichotomy. It's either got to be deeply one or the other.

Some of you know that I have a broad interest in the rock and roll genre I call Place-Name Rock but I've also heard it called Pomp Rock -- it's the stuff played by 70s bands that most likely were named after a city or maybe a state. It involves excessive key changes and the album covers usually have some type of space ship on them. Are you getting my drift? Remind me someday, and I'll go into more detail about how much my life has been improved by repeated listenings to Boston's debut album...

Anyway, no matter how much I love Boston and early Chicago and their Epic Ballad Rock Brethren like Steely Dan, Yes, Styx, Queen, Supertramp, Kansas and basically any band that could be reasonably called "Prog Rock," there's nothing I less want to do than go to the Tweeter Center to see any of these bands perform today, in the 21st century. Recently I heard an ad for an arena show called "Credence Clearwater Revisited," and made me feel depressed.

With this in mind, I am pondering whether seeing the current-day incarnation of Ian Anderson play Tull covers with an orchestra at an outdoor venue (where rabid fans will no doubt be ripping on their air-flutes while picnicking on the lawn in general seating) will be HOT or NOT!

I welcome your input. Meanwhile, I'm going to go check out this list I found while googling "Ian Anderson HOT or NOT."

Jul 14, 2006

Carmen Update: Hormones to blame?

I'm skeptical, but it could be true. You know how when a woman has to have a hysterectomy, it does weird things to her body because hormones are missing? And you know how common practice used to be to put women on estrogen when they reached menopause, just to ease the symptoms and maybe also prevent osteoporosis? But then it changed and now they try to keep women off hormones because of cancer risks?

Well, we never think about this in terms of our pets, whom we neuter with gusto. There are so many fixed pets out there, and are they getting bone loss and hot flashes? Probably so.

The vet declared that Carmen is leaking because she doesn't have enough estrogen due to being spayed, and prescribed hormone pills to ease her incontinence. So she is now on a regimen and we'll see if this helps the situation. Stay tuned, friends... and have a good weekend!

Jul 12, 2006

Dog's leakin' again

Carmen is about 2-1/2 years old, we think, so in people years she's supposed to be at least 17. However, the 7-year multiplier concept really falls apart in many ways. The dog is so much like a small child, I think it's more like a 1-year multiplier, to wit:

1. The dog has limited English skills, therefore you can't use reasoning and logic on her
2. The dog cannot answer questions regarding whether she's physically hurting or just mentally deranged
3. The dog is very endearing and you love her even when she makes you furious
4. The dog knows when she's been bad
5. The dog has been nominally trained not to wet the bed at this point
6. The dog is not old enough to understand sarcasm

This has been a great learning experience so far, and we've been able to imagine what each of us would be like as a parent of a human child given the way we deal with the dog. So far, it's pretty clear that our future children will adore T.J. and vilify me, since T.J. will take them to the park twice a day and give them candy and let them do fun but dangerous things. I will be the one to deny them toys, hold them accountable for their behavior, hold a grudge when they wreck my stuff, and then lie around on the settee moaning, "My nerves, my nerves..." when they're making too much noise. It's clearly going to be awesome.

The past week has been a trial. To start, I have a very hard time going to bed before midnight and waking up before 8:30 as it is, which means I'm perpetually late for work and perpetually self-loathing about it. Three nights ago, right about time to go to bed, we noticed that the dog had peed. On the bed. Weird, right? I though we were already over that phase, but I dutifully stripped it down, febreezed the hell out of the mattress, and redressed it. Bedtime was postponed a little, but it wasn't too bad.

Next night, same story. This time, I'm angry and start glaring at Carmen, which usually makes her pee a little in submission, even on an average day. (That's why we usually don't discipline her until we've taken her outside to empty her bladder. Then, she comes back in and we let her have it with Christine-Miller-style gasps of disappointment and the ugly-eyed-stare-down.) So I repeat the sheets/febreeze/sheets scenario again.

Next night, it's already late - almost 1:00 am, and I've delayed going to bed because I'm playing some stupid retro video game on Homestar for no good reason. I hear T.J. in the bedroom, and he goes, "Uh, Dubin? The dog wet the bed again." I proceed to ignore him because I am starting to get irate at the dog. T.J. then does the bed routine, with what I am pretty sure is the last of the clean sheets. It's 1:30 am and we go to bed agitated. I am wondering if the doggie has a U.T.I. or some bladder problem.

3:51 am: I awake mysteriously and feel around near my knees. WET. Am furious. Am starting to direct this at T.J. for no good reason. Am tired. Dog is insane. No more sheets. Get up, find old 1970s sheets from camp. Put on bed. Febreeze self and bed and the dog. Make dog sleep on pile of peed-on sheets from previous nights. Demand that T.J. take dog to vet in morning. In these cases, it starts to become "his" dog again, as it never occurs to me that I should take on the vet duties.

At this point, I am really grossed out about the bed. How much pee can the bed hold before we throw it out altogether? I learned this from Megan's blog:

Vbed * Holding Capacitybed = Mattress Moisture Reservoir

...and it seems we have a long way to go. But the gross-out factor is still there! At this point, the dog has peed on everything we own, and only some of this is washable.


The pup is at the vet with T.J. as we speak, and my suspicion is that she does not actually have a bladder infection. I think she's just somehow retarded and likes to regress.

However, just like human children, these animals have something going for them. Extreme cuteness and loveability, plus an added dose of loyalty. My allergy doctor advised me not to live with a dog and a cat, but how could you put these guys out on the street?

They're so nice...

Jul 11, 2006

Time to write the post!

Apparently some time in the past there was a commercial for Dunkin Donuts where the guy wakes up really early in the morning and says, "Time to make the donuts! Time to make the doh... nuts..." in this very sleepy voice, the point being that he's getting up early for YOU, for your sake, to make you a hot and fresh donut. So just about every morning, T.J. wakes up and says "time to make... the... doouugghnuts..." and now it's one of those lines that goes through my head every time there's a donut around or every time it's "time" to do any particular thing. Even though I never saw this ad, because as I recall we didn't have Dunkin' Donuts in California, we had Winchell's.

I think that's something T.J. and I have in common. We have, like, tape-recorder brains. Things get stuck in them, audio things. Sometimes we're in the house together on the weekend and I realize we're both singing versions of the synthesizer musical segue NPR uses between Terri Gross and Marketplace. And I look at him as if to say, "I can't believe you're singing the NPR thing, but so am I."

So, now we have this phenomenon where I get things stuck in my head that I've never heard first-hand. Like the donuts thing. Or this Peter Sellers movie he always talks about where Sellers plays "a well-meaning, but hapless, Indian actor who is accidentally invited to a major Hollywood party, causing havoc." There's a scene where he kind of gets lost at the party and befriends a parakeet, to whom he feeds "birdy num nums" (which I guess are bird snacks). In the movie, Peter Sellers keeps saying "birdy num num" in this Indian accent. T.J.'s friend Ashu (who happens to be a real Indian dude) naturally likes to do exaggerated Indian accents for fun, so I guess the two of them used to spend a lot of time watching this movie and saying "birdy num num" like Apu from the Simpsons.

Ok, so the point is that I have never seen this movie, but regularly wind up imitating T.J. who is imitating Ashu who is imitating Peter Sellers who is playing an Indian Actor in a largely improvised 1968 comedy film. So I can't possibly be doing it right. When I say "birdy num num" I probably don't sound anything like Peter Sellers.

There's a reverse example, or maybe ten. But here's one. Once upon a time, I was visiting a youth hostel in Massachusetts for my thesis research. There were some highschool kids in the kitchen cooking lentils, they were there for a youth leadership something-or-other. Well, these people were listening to a recording on the boombox, and singing along really loudly, with much gusto. The song was called... ehem... Dancing on the Ruins of Multinational Corporations. Yeh, that's what the song was. Really. And the kids were singing and stomping around and I was cracking myself up because the truth was I was too old for taking that kind of modern-day labor song seriously at all. Even though I am naturally suspicious of globalization and stuff.

So, much later, I told T.J. about this song and we both cracked up a little bit and then we started singing it. Of course he was imitating me who was remembering a song that a bunch of kids were screaming in a hostel kitchen. So nowadays, he'll occasionally bust out Dancing on the Ruins... and when he gets to the HA HA HA HA HA part, he's singing it WRONG. But I never have the heart to tell him he's doing the HAs wrong.

Should I tell him, dear reader(s)? Should he tell me I'm doing the birdy num nums wrong? OR should this be the kind of things we gently let go of...

(By the way, I told him about my blog. I wonder if he's looked at it yet!)

Jul 9, 2006

Ticks! FEH!

Today I'm not so interested in crafting a comprehensive blog entry with full exposition, plot arc, denouement, etc. I feel under the weather. We had a little World Cup barbecue, but I was feeling really cruddy -- feverish, achy, sore throat. It started Saturday morning, and at first I was like, "Wha? I'm getting sick?" Then, all of a sudden, I made a connection to last weekend when we took Carmen to the Pine Barrens to run around offleash. She had a great old time, hunting squirrels in the underbrush and prancing around in the brackish water, but all of a sudden, we realized there were ticks all over the three of us. TICKS, feh feh feh. FEH!

So we started picking them off, but they were not messing around. Every time I looked down, there they were again on my legs, hiding under the straps of our stylish sport sandals, and getting all up in our personal under-clothes business. Before we got in the car, we did a thorough once over and cleaned up the humans, but we didn't get most of them off the dog until we got home.

Anyway, I get to the point where I've made this tick-illness connection and I'm pretty sure that I have Lyme Disease. So I go to the trusty interweb and google for symptoms. Ok, here's what you get:

Unexplained fevers, sweats, chills, or flushing, Unexplained weight change- loss or gain, Fatigue, tiredness, poor stamina, Unexplained hair loss, Swollen glands, Sore throat, Testicular pain/pelvic pain, Unexplained menstrual irregularity, Unexplained milk production; breast pain, Irritable bladder or bladder dysfunction, Sexual dysfunction or loss of libido, Upset stomach or abdominal pain, Change in bowel function, Chest pain or rib soreness, Shortness of breath, cough, Heart palpitations, pulse skips, heart block, Joint pain or swelling, Stiffness of the joints or back, Muscle pain or cramps, Twitching of the face or other muscles, Headache, Neck creaks and cracks, neck stiffness, neck pain, Tingling, numbness, burning or stabbing sensations, shooting pains, skin hypersensitivity, Facial paralysis, Eyes/Vision: double, blurry, increased floaters, light sensitivity, Ears/Hearing: buzzing, ringing, ear pain, sound sensitivity, Increased motion sickness, vertigo, poor balance, Lightheadedness, wooziness, unavoidable need to sit or lie down, Tremor, Confusion, difficulty in thinking, Difficulty with concentration, reading, Forgetfulness, poor short term memory, poor attention, problem absorbing new information, Disorientation: getting lost, going to wrong places, Difficulty with speech or writing; word or name block,
Mood swings, irritability, depression, Disturbed sleep- too much, too little, fractionated, early awakening, Exaggerated symptoms or worse hangover from alcohol.

GOOD GOD IN HEAVEN! I have a handful of these symptoms even on a good day.

Anyway, I'm not feeling well and I guess I'll have to get myself a primary care doctor and go find out what's going on.

In the meantime, I leave you with some nice pictures of the doggie. She's real nice. I hope she doesn't have Lyme Disease, too...

Jul 8, 2006

Bozeman Recorder Ensemble Blues

The other day at work I was listening to an old episode of This American Life, which is what Courtney and I do at work when we have mindless drafting tasks to accomplish. I put on the one on the theme of Music Lessons, which was hilarious and entertaining with a live performance by both David Sedaris and Sarah Vowell (who actually sounded a little nervous, it was a long time ago) speaking about the role music played in each of their childhoods. The highlight of David's was his confession that as a child he wanted to take his act, which consisted of him singing advertising jingles in the voice of Billie Holiday, on the road -- he actually sang the Oscar Mayer Baloney song, and it wrecked me. But it was the Sarah Vowell piece that got me thinking about how I wasted my youth not being a band geek.

Seriously. I should have been a band geek, and I regret it. The truth is that I couldn't have been one even if I chose to at that time, because I just didn't like the kids in band so much. Being a band geek is a lot more than playing the tuba in band; it involves embracing the social aspects full-on and forming a little band clatch of misfits and bad dressers. But I had a lot of the other prerequisites, if I had been able to shed my skepticism and join up.

First of all, I would have met people like Sarah, with whom I apparently have a lot in common (which I learned after listening to her piece). When she was in junior high, she played a whole lot of band instruments decently, but she particularly excelled at one non-band instrument -- the recorder. But unlike me, she actually loved baroque recorder music so much that she tried to find others to play with, and they turned out to be the Bozeman Recorder Ensemble, which I'm sure looked just like this. The mean age was older than her parents, and the women were all church singers and the men were all ponytailed math professors. She had a formative musical experience because she was able to get over trying to be cool in middle school and just go with her real love -- playing the recorder.

A similar opportunity was wasted for me after college, when I was living with Anna on Rose Street and tried to bust into the Irish Dancing Scene at the Starry Plough. I tried, I really did. Because I LOVE Irish dancing in a way that I cannot really express -- when I hear the strains of some old ballad, I freak out internally and want to do some serious set dancing. But ultimately, I dropped out for the same reasons I failed at becoming a band geek: I couldn't let myself get into their tight-knit social thing. You could go dancing at the Plough on Mondays, but unless you were willing to go to so-and-so's on Tuesday to watch the Simpsons, and to so-and-so's on Wednesday for some weird role-playing game, and to ComiCon on Saturday and foam-sword-bashing in the park on Sunday, you just couldn't get in with them enough to properly learn to dance for real. So I fled in shame and went back to trying to be hip.

Still, I have a lot of closet habits that are destined to remain solitary pursuits. For example, I own a good chunk of recordings of the genre formerly known as Folk Rock and I will continue to sing about blacksmiths and murderous royalty and foxhunts and the losing of maidenheads and all that corsetty stuff, all while in the privacy of my own car or shower.

I am slowly exposing TJ to some of this -- right now we are listening to a Bert Jansch recording of Blackwaterslide. It's an acoustic treatment of a traditional song that also made its way into Led Zeppelin's debut album in the form of Black Mountain Side. He's amenable - this is a great crossover genre for us to share, as he appreciates the "hella tight" bluesy fingerpicking style and I get to sing about medieval misfortunes...

One morning fair I took the air
Down by Blackwater Side
And in gazing out all around me
The Irish lad I spied

All through the far part of the night
We lay in sport and play
Till this young man arose and gathered his clothes
Saying, faretheewell today

That's not the promise you gave to me
When you first lay on my breast
You made me believe with your lying tongue
That the sun rose in the west

Well, go you back to your father's garden
Go you home and weep your fill
And think you upon your own misfortune
Brought by your wanton will

Jul 5, 2006

You have found an Oblivion Gate

Yes, that is what you think it is. It is a screenshot from a video game, the kind of game usually played by 25-year-old boys and other children. I remember a time when I had no interest in this type of thing -- it was not that long ago. One of the things about my life that has changed since marriage has to do with this very game, a game called "Elderscrolls IV: Oblivion."

I should be embarrassed, right? I mean, Anna called me the other night and I didn't even pick up the phone because I was busy bashing some weird evil moth-monks with my enchanted sword, in a cave where ghosts turn to ectoplasm when you kill them with magic spells and then you can harvest the ectoplasm and us it to make potions with your alchemy equipment. This shit makes the "liger," known for its skills in magic, look like some kind of Sigfried and Roy show.

It started when T.J. bought the XBOX 360. I noticed he spent a weird amount of time playing Oblivion, but it wasn't too bad at the beginning. His character was running all over Tamriel, opening up chests of gold and looting people's thatched-roof cottages and the like. Then he started playing more and more, so one day when he was out, I made up a character and started my own little adventure to see what the big deal was.

Now, life basically sucks. There are only a few options for the after-work hours:

1. He plays Oblivion. I wind up eating a Lean Cuisine from the microwave and surfing the web, since there's no point in talking to him.

2. I play Oblivion. TJ winds up eating a Hot Pocket from the microwave and playing internet chess all night, since there's no point in even trying to talk to me.

3. We trade off, so we both get to play but neither of us talks to the other.

4. No one plays, but we are both thinking about playing.

The game has really taken over, because for one it's very beautiful, and for two the plot devices are reasonably compelling. You get to fistfight skeletons and barter with hot medieval looking babes, and you can even change your own appearance by adjusting the nuances of your facial features and skin color. My character is a bluish dark elf with red eyes. She's fiiiiine. TJ's character is a scruffy-looking white guy, kinda like TJ.

I remember that I used to do things like go to the gym, do the laundry, cook, and talk to TJ. Now, I have an inkling of how an alcoholic feels -- like, the person knows that they would have a better life and accomplish more and have deeper relationships if they could just quit the bottle, but then they go pick up the bottle.

My friend John and his girlfriend just broke up. He said she told him she was worried he'd get a new girlfriend right away, to which he said, "Don't worry. You know I'll spend the first year of our break-up catching up on... I mean drowning my sorrows by playing Oblivion 24-7."

Who has this game? Are there people out there like us? Can I get a witness?

Jul 3, 2006

IKEA: The Relationship Antidote

Dear reader(s): Remember when Christine and I went to Retail Land and accidentally overshopped? You know, when we went to Lowes and then Bed/Bath/Beyond and then IKEA and then topped it off with a serving of Designer Shoe Warehouse AND that terrible furniture store that's like Levitz but isn't? And how we were in IKEA so long that we had to eat a meal TWICE? Supposedly I learned from that experience that being in IKEA too long will eventually put any adult into toddler mode. As I remember it, Christine and I got overtired towards the end of the evening and then started randomly screaming and crying.

I also learned a year or two ago that Everyone's Favorite Scandinavian Superstore will also quickly erode the structural underpinnings of even the most grounded relationship. TJ and I were there long enough to get agitated, and then had a fistfight over how to properly twine the car trunk shut. By the time we got home and started to assemble the dining room table, we were pre-programmed for disaster -- I think he said something like, "Don't torque the legs when you pick it uuuuuuu..." and then the next thing you know my jaw came unhinged and his legs were dangling mutely out of my mouth.

This Sunday, the Lowes/IKEA combo had more or less the same divisive effect. We traipsed off in the morning, happily drinking lattes and taking the dog to the dog park, and by evening we had already had a tiff over the relative shininess of eggshell versus satin and a mess of other minutiae. By the time we got home, I tried to let him put together this bar-cart thing by himself so I wouldn't get my bossiness in his way. I saw him wrangling with the thing for what seemed like a long time, he even pulled out the cordless drill (which you don't usually need for this allen-wrench stuff). Still, I refrained from saying anything and let him work it out. Finally, when he was done, he looked it over and we proudly pushed it into its new corner.

I then took a break from what I was doing to assemble the stool we bought. Yeh, it was just a stool. It had, like, six parts total. So I start roughing it out and screwing in some of the fasteners and TJ comes over and says, "That doesn't look right." I looked up at him and E.S.P.'d him to shut up. He said, "Yeh, something's not right." I said, "That's because I'm not done yet." He said, "I think you need to turn that piece over the other way." I said, "TJ? Could you please go over there?" which he did but, then he came back. "I think you need to turn that one piece around."


Him: "I think it's a trapezoid."


Him: "Look at it again."

Me: "It's... a trapezoid."

What happened next was some kind of slo-mo realization process. Then an overwhelming feeling of regret washed over me and I started blinking excessively. I might have even started drooling. I knew then that we could never, ever go to IKEA again for anything because my credibility was completely shot. I had no capital left. I looked at the ground.

My loving husband: "Honey, I'm very, very sorry you were wrong."

Me: "TJ, I owe you an apology and I am truly, truly sorry that you were right."

Moral: When you take two people who both essentially need to be right all the time, someone is always going to get ired because someone is always going to lose. Since losing sucks, we should probably both practice being less competitive with each other. How does one do that? Who knows, but we will probably have many, many opportunities to practice.

P.S. For those waiting for the outcome of the Korea/Japan treaty, TJ and I discussed it over dinner on Saturday and came to the following conclusions:

1. I will survive.

2. TJ may not even want to go to Japan for a week anyway, and maybe will only stay a couple more days to see more of Korea.

That wasn't so hard, was it?