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December 29, 2005

Let's see...

Got the shelf up, after much trial and patience. Thank goodness M's dad works close by and had a hacksaw to borrow. M seems to like the shelf. I have proved my handiwork capabilities (insert manly grunt here). It's even surprisingly level. Now I have to get the shelf that was in that closet installed in the basement bedroom closet. And I still have doors to hang. And a toychest to finish... and....

It's a good thing I love my girlfriend, otherwise I might think she's just using me for home improvement and repairs! ;-)

Last night I had a blast with T-L/Van and M at a Sea Dogs game (ice hockey). T-L and Van were nice enough to answer my many questions about hockey, and the local team won, so all was good. Oh, and we went to Vito's prior-- man I like their lasagna! Yum!

Tonight is a retirement party (brief appearance), dinner with my girl at Suwanna, and then the late show at the movies (The Producers). Friday is, I think, mostly free again. Then the New Years party on Saturday. And then leaving on Tuesday.

I'm already feeling some melancholia creeping in... I do not want to go. I like being here, I like being with my girl. The good thing is that it is only exactly one month between when I leave here (Jan 3) and when she arrives there (Feb 3) for her first visit to So Cal.

I know she'll hate the tiny apartment I live in, she'll dislike the cat hair, she'll hate the traffic and crowds, but she'll love the weather, love the shopping, and love being with me again.

And then I can show off my honey to all my friends and (most of my) family!

December 25, 2005

Arthritis

The only negative I have experienced while up here is a flare-up of my arthritis in, of all places, my thumbs. First my left thumb became virtually unusable due to swelling and pain, and then my right thumb started up right as the left one started to heal. Right now, my left thumb is mostly fine, but my right thumb is swollen, hurts really bad, and I can't use it hardly at all.

Not being able to use your thumbs really shows you why human beings climbed up the ladder as dominant species on this planet. There are so many simple things you can't do when you can't use or put any pressure on your opposable thumbs.

Hopefully the right will heal as quickly as the left. I've got more chores that need doing!

;-)

Update - Boxing Day (Dec 26)

Right thumb starting to come around. I have about 50% usage of it and it seems to be getting better hourly. Wahoo!

It can be a bit frustrating not to be able to trust your body at times. At least I have an understanding girlfriend, who realizes I'm not doing it "on purpose" or trying to shirk my chores.

Snow! Part Deux and Xmas Morning

Apparently the snow we had two days ago was not "good enough" for me to play in or make a snowman. In CA, we cannot be as picky about the snow we have, and must make due with whatever falls to the ground before it melts.

Here in Canada, like the Eskimos, they have many different types of snows. The snow two days ago was too light and didn't pack well. Yesterday's snow, however, was wetter and better to pack.

So I finally got released to play in the snow!! I had to beg and cajole, but M finally bundled me up in my warm clothes, found me a pair of snow pants that fit, and out we went.

Glorious!

We made a snowman that was about 4 feet tall, with a big nose and three mohawks for hair.



We then made snow angels in the backyard, went for a walk up to the school at the top of the hill, and then I shoveled snow off the back porch and front walk. One thing I did learn, walking, playing, and shoveling snow is tiring.

But what fun! *happy dance

Her brother came over and we then went to a get-together with M's mom's side of the family. I hoped, and M feared, that her mom would show, but she never did. But the rest of her family was nice and amiable.

Today is Christmas and we got up and opened our gifts to each other. I did manage to surprise her a little, about which she was worried (to her, the surprise is the important part-- I just like ripping open packages). She got me incredibly thoughtful and nice gifts, and reacted very positively to the gifts I brought for her.

Her younger brother showed up after that (so the after gift opening necking had to be put on hold), and I made breakfast for everyone and then he opened his gifts and M opened some family gifts. They are currently off visiting with their grandfather on their mom's side.

We are gearing up for cooking Christmas dinner for her father, grandfather, brother, and us. I've only done a turkey once before on my own and have helped my mom on occasion. But that is my task for today. M will prepare the mashed potatoes and veggies.

Good times. I'm happy I'm here.

Although, in the back of my mind, I wonder about Julie-- the woman who is taking care of my cat. I emailed her asking how it is going and I have not heard anything.

December 23, 2005

Snow!

This is what M's Front and back yards looked like yesterday:


(sorry, the one got rotated and doesn't want to rotate back)

This is what M's front and back yards look like at 9am this morning:





The Weather Channel says 5 cm of accumulation today.

You can't imagine the smile on my face seeing real snow and real snow fall! Remind me of this glee in a few days when I blog about how miserably cold and wet I am.

December 22, 2005

Couch... from Hell!

I have never been a napper. Even as a small child, when the kindergarten or first grade teachers would schedule a nap, I didn't nap. I sat or laid quietly, or read, or played until the others were done. The only time in my life I have ever napped is when sick.

M has a couch. This couch, or demon spawn, whatever, has this weird pull on me. Tuesday, after arriving and M going back to work, I sat on the couch. Next thing I knew, she was arriving home. Then Wednesday, I sat down there to wait for her to come home because I knew we were heading off to her father's for dinner... and she startled me awake when she opened the door!

Now, granted, both days I was pretty tired from the traveling and the getting used to the time change. Yesterday I also had a pretty bad headache.

Today, however, I feel well-rested, in full grasp of all my faculties, healthy and happy. I decided I was done with my chores for the day and that I would go out and either read a little or watch some TV. I sat down on the couch, feeling just fine thank-you-very-much, and I almost immediately start nodding off, like I'm some senior citizen in the rec room as Murder, She Wrote comes on, or like Dorothy traipsing through the poppy fields. This couch is a powerful, deep magic-- wise to the ways of sleep and its pull is strong!

I have determined for the rest of my stay here I should not sit on that couch unattended. I obviously need a chaperone to survive its deadly, irresistible pull!

Hmmm... I wonder if this is the couch that traps Andy Capp and Dagwood in all those cartoon strips?

It is evil, I tell you; evil!

Dehydration and Slave Labor!

Ok, the thing I'm having some trouble with is the dehydration. I'm in a colder place, I'm staying indoors for the most part, and yet I am even more dehydrated than in the desert, where I am habitually dehydrated. What gives?

I recognize that the fire/stove is producing a different kind of heat than I am used to and is very drying, but I spend most of my time upstairs.

It got so bad this morning that shortly after M left for work, I got a nose bleed! Sheesh. Glad it cleared up before her dad stopped by-- he might have thought I was being abused! ;-)

Anyway, note to self: drink a LOT more liquids.

Seem to be making decent headway with my Honey-do list. As I am on vacation and don't want to rush through anything, I am not hitting it as hard as I could, spending some time reading, watching TV, and just relaxing between chores. M seems happy with the quantity and quality of work so far, so I guess I'm pacing myself well. Then again, maybe she's chafing to add even more stuff to the list!

I already feel my legs and butt responding to the staircase. What with tending the fire and having to visit the stock room fairly often for things (both related to my chores and for general goods/needs), my legs are getting a workout! Plus, M’s home is so much bigger than my dinky apartment. The sheer fact that it is more than 10 steps to everything (as it is in my apartment), means I’m getting more exercise!

We had dinner with M’s dad, grandfather, and some distant relatives last night. Good stuff. I ate some salmon, which was ok (not really a fish person), and talked hunting. I bet my dad would really love to talk rifles and hunting with M’s family. I used to hunt, and was actually quite good at it back then, but never really had the desire to pursue it. I know that irritated my father a bit, as it was something we shared and could bond over. Plus, he recognized I had some innate talent in shooting that I know he wanted to cultivate (he is an award-winning shooter and helps run the range on the Marine Corps Base). But that just wasn’t for me, really. I do still own some guns and do like to take them out to the range on occasion, but it is not the passion for me that it is for him.

After dinner, M and I managed to manhandle the Christmas tree into the house and up on the base. It is even mostly straight. Tonight we plan to decorate it and get set up for the Christmas party tomorrow. Should be fun as I haven’t decorated a tree in… 10 years? Maybe longer. My sister was always the one who really liked the decorating. Mom and I were a bit less enthusiastic, so, once sister left home, we didn’t make nearly the big deal that sister did. Of course, if sister would visit us at Christmas, I’m sure we would break out the bulbs and lights! (Sorry, sis, I seem to have a hint stuck in my throat!)

This has been a great start to the vacation. I look forward to the change of pace that is forthcoming, where we visit with friends and family over the holidays. But I’ll admit—I think my favorite moments are the quiet ones alone with M, just curled up on the couch watching a movie.

Yes, I know I’m a sappy SOB. Deal with it! ;-)

December 21, 2005

Monster

Since I don't drink coffee at all, let alone Starbucks, and I know of no corn fields around which I can lurk, I think the results are somewhat suspect. But good for a laugh.

Your Monster Profile

Twisted Hunter

You Feast On: Starbucks

You Lurk Around In: Corn Fields

You Especially Like to Torment: Crybabies

December 20, 2005

Made it...

I am on the cold, ice-covered ground. I am at M's house and unpacked.

The first flight wound up being ok, all things considered (I was flying, after all!). We were pretty late arriving, though, landing at 6:49 am when we were scheduled to land at 6:11. Had some people's luggage make the flight without the people. So off their luggage had to go! My just-over-an-hour-to-clear-customs-and-make-my-connection had turned into about 30 minutes of frantic scurrying. However, being the "old pro" at it by now (yeah, right!) I actually helped a few people make it to the right area to take the tram to Terminal 1 (no one believes you have to go that far, and the wall through which you must walk to reach security looks like a dead end with a door in it). I was late enough that they weren't sure they would get my bags with me on the plane (but they did).

I also experienced my first blast of the Great White North as I stepped out of Terminal 2 to take the shuttle and slammed right into -9 celsius temperature. And there was this funny white stuff floating serenely to the ground. I tried to capture some for further analysis, but it refused all attempts by dissolving in my hand.

Needless to say, this stuff scared me and I put on my toque (thanx Mare) and zipped up my fleece jacket.

The last flight was ok, too, all things considered. There was really only one thing- my compatriot was fairly overweight and the plane and seats were small. I was more intimate with her than I cared to be. But that flight was only about 80 minutes long, so I just read the enRoute magazine. I'm not a big guy, I can handle that.

M's first comment as I made my way into the Saint John airport was, "You look cold!" I sort of collapsed into a hug with her and breathed a stuttering, "Yeah."

I managed to get some sleep on the first leg of the trip, so I don't feel as zoned as I did at Halloween. However, I've mostly been up since 7 am yesterday, it is 2 pm now, and I am feeling the stress of the flight and the anxiousness of wanting to be here disappear and a happy, tired calm has replaced it.

I'm with M and all is right with the world now.

(does happy dance, even though M hates when I do the happy dance!)

December 19, 2005

Waiting...

I'm all packed, just waiting for my ride to get here so we can head off to LAX.

Feel a bit better this time, as I've done it before. But still hate flying.

May not update this much while I'm gone, so Happy Christmas and New Year.

December 16, 2005

Idle Thoughts for a Friday

1. Will this day never end?

2. This has been the longest week on record.

3. Normally I would be starting my Xmas shopping this weekend. Instead of being primarily done with just a couple of nicknacks left to get.

4. I wish we had bowled on Wednesday rather than doing a makeup tomorrow-- I may need those three hours!

5. The guy in the parking lot of Albertsons at lunch has to know everyone thinks he's gay. You can't wear an open, plaid, flannel shirt over a t-shirt, with cut-off jeans shorts (that are way too short), and steel-toed work boots with white socks without having everyone's "gay" stereotype alert go off. From the looks of others in that parking lot, I wasn't the only one thinking that.

6. Should have sold my company stock two months ago, when it was worth $4k more than it is now. *sigh

7. It is going to be so freaking cold in Canada-- colder than any cold I've ever been in.

8. I hope M realizes I'm trying. This is not my favorite time of year (understatement) and I'm not used to someone who actually cares about surprises or expects them.

9. Why is Kermit the Frog riding a bike and singing "Rainbow Connection" stuck in my head? It's not like I've seen The Muppet Movie recently!

10. I want to see King Kong, but 3 hours? The LotR movies were worth 3 hours (plus). Not sure King Kong is.

December 15, 2005

Candy Cane Tootsie Pops

Renee, my boss, brought in a bag of Candy Cane Tootsie Pops. They are peppermint candy cane flavored/textured coating surrounding the usual Tootsie Roll center of all Tootsie Pops. I was hesitant to try them, at first, but her coaxing and my sweet tooth won out and I had one.

I am now seriously considering buying her a new bag of them before the Holiday treat is gone because I have had so many of them! The mixture of the mint and the chocolate is quite tasty. Plus, the peppermint flavor just sort of makes me happy.

If you like mint and Tootsie Rolls (not everyone likes the chocolate flavor of a Tootsie Roll), I recommend you seek out a bag of these treats and try one.

Separation of Church and State

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

Above is the entire First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America. That’s it, folks. I have emphasized the part dealing with the concept of “separation of church and state” because, once again during this very Christian time of the year, we are hearing from Christian groups who just simply don’t get the separation of church and state issue and are trying to make it into something it isn’t.

In simple layman’s terms, the government cannot start or favor a religion and they cannot stop you from practicing any religion you want (unless that religion infringes on other rights granted in the Constitution or Bill of Rights). The framers of the Constitution did this because America was primarily founded by those fleeing religious persecution and the Founding Fathers didn’t want anyone in America subjected to that same persecution here. Remember that England, Spain, France, Russia, most of the Middle East, and many eastern countries were (and still are, in many cases) ruled by governments with direct ties to centralized religion or were officially considered Theocracies. For example, in the 1500s, the Church of England separated itself from the Roman Catholic Church and the King established himself as the church leader. People who practiced other religions (especially Roman Catholics) were legally persecuted for those practices and this helped lead to mass migration to the New World. The Middle East still has Theocracies ruling many nations or strongly religious majorities that persecute religious minorities—we’ve heard all about the acts of violence against the Kurds, women, Sunni’s, Shiites, and other religious groups through that region.

The simplest way to make sure our government does not establish a religion, give special treatment to one religion over all others, or stop you from practicing whatever religion you want, is to “separate” government from religion. Over time, this evolved into meaning that the government avoids religious doctrine, comment, displays, or anything else that could show favoritism or prejudice toward one religion over another.

I am granting that America is predominantly Christian. The statistics I can find indicate that somewhere around 80-85% of Americans fall within some form of Christian belief (but only about 60% are affiliated with an established religious group or church). And it is primarily Christians who are vocal about separation of church and state issues. I am also granting that a certain level of Christian doctrine has inculcated the society and shows up on our money, in our pledges and in our practices, and other parts of life. Actually, it is primarily because of this predominance by one religion that we need this Amendment and must enforce it with due diligence.

When most of these religious groups complain about something relating to separation of church and state, what they are really complaining about is that THEIR (Christian) religion should be allowed, and they forget about the wide range of minority religions in this country with very different beliefs, rites, and needs. When they argue that prayer should be allowed in school, for example, they mean Christian prayer. They forget that if prayer is allowed in school, that has to allow the Muslims to pray five times a day facing east, Wiccans should be allowed to perform their nature ceremonies (some of which can and do involve nudity), and other, non-Christian styles of praying. Of course, as long as you do not disrupt the environment or others with your prayer, there is no reason why you cannot pray in a public school now. You just cannot do it in an established way (which would promote your religion), during official school time (but you could prior to, after, or during the various breaks between classes), or in a way that infringes on someone else’s religious freedoms. I am not even speaking to non-religious people’s rights to avoid seeing religion altogether.

The phrase “Happy Holidays” is an inclusive statement. It includes those who are celebrating Ramadan, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and other religious rites that fall during this period. “Merry Christmas” is not inclusive—it only serves those of a Christian faith. A privately owned company can feel free to have a “Christmas Party” and to put a “Merry Christmas” banner up; however, most companies do not want to limit themselves like that. Most businesses WANT to be more inclusive to their employees and their patrons—and “Happy Holidays” banners and “Holiday Parties” allow for more inclusion—and more sales/business.

By separating the Church from the State, our government lets all of its people practice their religion, no matter what it is. By staying out of the religion business, our government keeps from showing favoritism toward any one religion which lowers the chances of religious persecution for people who don’t practice that religion. It avoids the situations that have evolved in other countries where a religious majority has killed religious minorities, seized their assets, and otherwise driven those religions out or into hiding. It also provides for the maximum religious freedoms for the maximum number of people.

The next time you hear someone expounding on the problems caused by separation of church and state in this country stop and ask yourself: What does that person really want? Who is he serving? Is he being inclusive or exclusive of other ideologies and religions? Is he allowing for the greatest freedom for the greatest number of people?

Whenever someone argues to end the separation of church and state in this country, they are really advocating the advent of formalized religious persecution by the Christian majority over all other religions (and those who are nonreligious). It is a dangerous path, and one against which we must fight, using, first and foremost, the other rights granted in the First Amendment—freedom of speech to point out this grievance, freedom of assembly to speak about and call attention to the situation, and redress the government for grievances against other religions and people, as they happen.

December 11, 2005

The Chronicles of Narnia

‘The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe’ is one of my all-time favorite novels. I have a tradition of reading it before Christmas every year, with a bowl of ice cream and preferably in front of a warm fire. Where many of my friends looked to the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, I was a Narnia fan.

To say I was nervous about a live-action movie being made of this book is an understatement.

I loved it.

There were some things I would have done very differently, had I been in charge. But I think that is true of any fan of any book being made into a movie. In this case, like in Lord of the Rings, the movie makers felt they needed to change things to speed up the storytelling in certain areas, yet overly extended other scenes to lend more drama to the story. However, they managed to maintain the feeling and the intent of the story throughout. And some of the changes felt like ones made for more sophisticated audiences; as though the filmmakers felt that children today would be able to understand and follow along better than in the book, so they could skip some of the story.

Now, as with the LotR movies, there are some things to quibble over. The beginning feels a little long, not much, but just a little. There is a little in the middle that could have been trimmed or re-edited to be a shorter for the movie audience. A few of the important lessons from the novel were lost or minimized for the movie.

However, the overall movie stays on topic and has the same feeling to it that I get from the book. I am reminded a great deal of the book and movie for Jaws. The book and movie are very different, but equally good, with the movie maintaining the same feel and dread but getting there through different means.

Now, to specifics: This movie is for kids, but it is played for realism, so some smaller children may be upset by some of the more violent fight scenes or scared by the White Witch’s evil. I think it would be safe for 8 and up, but wouldn’t take younger children. The acting is pretty good throughout, with Tilda Swinton eating up scenery as the White Witch; she alternates between being beautiful and wicked, warm and cold, fawning and harsh with ease. The voice actors chosen for the characters are very good and convincing. My only disappointment was that I felt Aslan’s voice didn’t have the majesty I would have preferred. Liam Neeson does a serviceable job, but I expected more from Aslan.

The movie has a similar feel to it as the LotR movies, or Harry Potter, without being as dark or foreboding as either of those series. The effects are good throughout, but adults will see the CGI on the animals—children will likely not notice or care. Children will be enamored of the story and I think the movie could act as a nice lead-in to reading the books. Oh, and there is a surprisingly good song over the credits by Alannis Morissette that I thoroughly enjoyed. By the way, sit through the first 2 minutes of the credits, as there is a little tie-me-up right after the initial scroll of actors. After this, there are no other special credit scenes (sat through them until the end, as I do with most movies).

As to the “religious overtones;” if you’ve read the book, you know that you have to stretch pretty far to see Lewis’s Christianity in the book. To sum up the entire Christian themes in the movie: there are some allegorical similarities between Aslan and Jesus and the children are referred to as “Sons of Adam” and “Daughters of Eve.” Oh, and Santa Claus makes an appearance, but he’s only recently been co-opted by Christianity, so I don’t think that should count. You will only really see the Christianity if you want to, so don’t let any of the advertising that is skewing religious turn you off from what is a rousing story of good versus evil in a land where animals talk.

I will likely see this movie again, and will certainly buy it on DVD.

New Drug

I don't know who came up with this idea, but I think they should get Merck started on it right away!

Of course, I'm sure some people would say that the drug already exists, in various forms.

December 9, 2005

USPS

I have been a little irritated with the US Postal Service this past week. They claim they tried to deliver a package to me at midnight on December 1, which simply isn’t true. They actually made the first attempt to deliver the package on the 6th during the day. I left a note asking them to deliver it to the front office of the apartment on Wednesday. I got a note back saying they could not because the office was closed—which just isn’t true. There is supposed to always be someone in the office for just this sort of thing. Unless the PO was trying to deliver the package after 6:30 pm, there was someone there.

Anyway, this package contains the two gifts I got for my group’s secret santa party and gift exchange, so I really need the loot. I went online and was able to find a Redelivery option on the USPS site. I put in the tracking number, my address and other info, and selected Saturday as my redelivery date.

How cool is that?

Now, rather than having to find the Post Office to which this package was sent, or take a day and work from home, I can have them redeliver the package on a day convenient to me. True, until it arrives, I have to hang our around the apartment all day on Saturday, but that is no hardship. I need to work around the place anyway.

The cynic in me thinks I will be posting a follow-up message on Sunday morning about how I still don’t have the package and where the hell is it, but, until that time, I’m happy with my online experience with the Post Office.

December 8, 2005

Decisions, Decisions

“Give ‘Em Hell” Harry Truman knew that a President has to make a decision and move forward. He made one of the most monumental decisions ever made by anyone—dropping nuclear weapons on Japan. He felt that the “shock and awe” of that much power released on two cities in a short period of time would devastate the seemingly implacable will of the Japanese to continue the World War even as their allies fell around them. He felt that those bombs would actually save many more lives, both Japanese and American, which would otherwise be lost in a needless invasion of the Japanese homeland. He was certain that the Japanese, a proud people, would fight the Americans on every street corner and even women and children would die to protect their leader.

He had many times when he questioned that decision later in life. It is a devastating thing to issue an order to kill thousands of people in two nuclear fireballs. Being a human being, and a very rational and intelligent man, I am certain that, if any other option presented itself to him that would achieve the same decisive end with less loss of life, he would have taken it. But Americans insisted on a clear victory and Japan, it was felt at the time, needed to be broken entirely so that they would not become like Germany before them—ripe for another war once they recovered from the first. So the bombs dropped and the World War ended.

After September 11, Americans needed someone to attack. We needed retribution for the 3,000 lives lost. Evidence pointed to a group most Americans had not heard of, al Queda, and we knew they were holed up in Afghanistan. So we formed a strategy, went to Afghanistan, and began to route the al Queda we found there. We liberated towns and seemed well on our way to freeing that nation from what appeared to be despotic control and unrest.

And then a funny thing happened. Suddenly there was tentative information pointing toward Iraq. Saddam Hussein’s name came up. His former atrocities were then brought into the conversations. “WMDs” were rumored. So we split our focus, did not finish the job in Afghanistan, and went after Saddam. I am sure our President had some doubts. He knew fighting rebels in Afghanistan was very different from fighting the actual military and insurgents in Iraq. But, a little like Truman before him, he made a decision and moved forward. We went to war in Iraq.

Now we are finding monumental evidence that the reasons we used to go to war with Iraq were, at best, misinformed and, at worst, fabricated or overblown. When our President had what appeared to be clear evidence to go to war, we went. The evidence was so good that most politicians, the media, and the people were firmly behind that decision. Now that we have even stronger, more compelling evidence that this war is unjustified, people are questioning the action. The media and the people want to change our course based on this new evidence.

It is important that our President act in an equally decisive a manner based on this new evidence. I am not saying we should pull out entirely, as we have created a mess that will be hard to clean up for those left behind. But we should start working on it, training the Iraqis to fend for themselves, create strong diplomatic and economic ties with the country to help them prosper after the devastation of war, and we should start to get our people out of harm’s way. We need our President to present the people with a decisive withdrawal plan.

Or, to put it another way, we each try to make decisions based on the evidence we are given in our own lives. Although we rarely have to make decisions that involve such weighty matters as the deaths of thousands, the decisions do profoundly affect our lives and how we live them. When the evidence upon which we based our decision proves false or the conclusions we drew from that evidence do not work as expected, we form a new plan, change directions to accommodate, and put that into action. Our President is not doing that. He is acting as though he is incapable of acknowledging that things have changed, that the initial plan needs revision, and that we need to go in new directions.

I truly believe that most people know and understand that plans change with new evidence, new opportunities, with failures, and with unexpected successes. People want a plan to follow and to know where they are headed, but they also want to see leadership smart enough to roll with changes, the failures and the successes, and make new plans accordingly. The people are still working toward the goal; they are just changing how they get there.

I do not judge the decision to go to war with al Queda. I do not judge the decision to go to war in Iraq. History will decide if it was right or wrong. I do question our “staying the course” when all signs point to danger on that course. I want my leadership to be intelligent and determined to do the best thing possible for our nation, even if that means acknowledging that a previous decision was wrong and changing our plans accordingly.

President Bush agonizes over the 2,000 lives lost in Iraq. I am certain of it. Having the deaths of so many resting on his decisions must be painful. But those types of decisions come with the position he sought. Unlike “Give ‘Em Hell” Harry, Bush appears to have many options and other courses available to him to keep from losing more American lives. He needs to start considering them. Or, if he truly believes we should “stay the course” as he and his cabinet have often said, then he needs to provide us with a rationale that contradicts or puts into proper perspective all the evidence that suggests ending the war is the better course now.

November 30, 2005

Bald Men, Unite!

Already this week, and it is only Wednesday, remember, I have had three separate incidences of people making a comment about my “follicly challenged” head. Now, I know I’m balding, I usually shave my head so that it is truly bald, and I have a good sense of humor about these things, but a few things stood out to me about these three incidents:

  1. The people who made the comments barely know me and have no idea how I will receive such comments.
  2. I have grown my hair some, enough that it is visible all over my head (well, where I have hair). At the moment I am definitely not “bald.”
  3. Why is it still alright to make off the cuff remarks to bald men about something over which they have little to no control?

I am no prude. And I am anything but Politically Correct. I will not complain about their comments and I will give back as good as I get most days, as I did in each of these situations. It just seems strange to me that people I hardly know would feel it is perfectly okay to make a comment about someone’s baldness in a public arena.

With all the reasons today for a person (of any sex) to be bald, it seems like society would move away from jokes and comments about baldness.

  • At least half of the black men I know have bald heads, yet I never hear a bald joke thrown their way. Why is this? It is socially acceptable for black men to shave their heads or to be naturally bald. I shave my head, but I am not black, so I get comments.
  • I see many youths who have partially or fully shaved heads and they rarely get razzed for it. Do I need piercings, tattoos, and to wear my pants so that my boxer-briefs are visible to everyone in order to make my baldness acceptable?
  • I have friends and coworkers suffering through the deleterious effects of chemotherapy and who are suffering through temporary baldness because of the treatments. Two of these people are women, for whom there are additional stigmas for being bald. Why are they brave for showing their baldness while I am not? It is okay to be bald for external reasons, but not for genetic ones?
  • Most men (and women) lose some amount of hair as they get older. I don’t see many comments made toward the aged about their baldness. Why do I get them just because I’m younger?

Culture, age (young or old), and medical conditions are all positive reasons to be bald, yet the natural process of balding itself is somehow a negative?

If you walk around making off the cuff comments or ribald jokes about a person’s sex, race, religion, or sexual proclivity/orientation, you can be sued for various forms of harassment. Even weight has become something of a no-no to discuss in open forums, although you do still hear the occasional comment. Yet baldness is still perfectly fine for people to comment on without invitation or any real fear of reprisal. Every other naturally occurring circumstance about which I see or hear people commenting (like people of unusual heights) are usually behind the back of the person in question. I only see baldness spoken right to the “afflicted” person.

I guess it is a good thing that most of us who are balding or bald have developed thick skins and a good sense of humor about it. We’ve had to!

Maybe the next time you are with your bald friend or coworker, you will think twice about making a comment concerning the glare, the reflective quality, or the egg-like cast of his (or her) head. First, we have heard it all before—you cannot come up with a new comment no matter how hard you try. Second, no matter how much we claim we do not mind it and no matter how much we give you a comment right back, it is one more straw on top of a lifetime of other straws. Maybe this finally will be one straw too many?

In the end, I guess it doesn’t matter. Everyone knows bald people are better lovers!

>;-)

(I told you we give as good as we get!)

November 29, 2005

Fear The Future

In my job, I have direct accountability. If I don’t do a good job, if I don’t make a deadline, if I have a poor or sour disposition, my boss and the HR department get involved and the repercussions can be as mild as an informal talking to or as severe as being fired and having an official demarcation entered into my work history for that company and could follow me to the next job when that company’s HR department calls for a background check.

I’ve only had three “Talking to’s” in my career. First, at XXXXXXX’s Photography where the owner wasn’t sure I was “invested” in the company. When I explained that I didn’t feel he was invested in me or cared what my opinions were, he agreed and our relationship improved.

At XXX, I got into an argument with my boss at the time, David, that ended up with a snotty email from me and a reprisal email from him that had the words “and possible termination” in it as a threat. I had already decided to leave at that point, since that man was (and still is) a cancer to everything he touched and drove multiple good, caring, intelligent people from the company. I didn’t need to bother; within a month or so, the two remaining people in the documentation department were both given their walking papers.

At my current job, my boss, Renee, noticed my lack of focus and enthusiasm for my work. She informally talked to me about my motivation and the things she and I could do to make sure I was focused and involved. We made plans to go in different directions. That was more of a friendly wake-up call, but it was important; I needed to hear it, and it was the first time as a boss she had to have that type of conversation. We both learned new things.

So, in the real world, there are generally immediate repercussions for poor behavior or work.

I hear from my mother and other educators about the constant need for “make up work” and the expectation by students that they can and should be able to turn in work that is overdue not by days but by weeks and even months in order to scrape by with passing grades now.

I read in the newspaper that Matt Millen had “trouble” firing his “friend” Steve Mariucci for the poor performance on the field of the Detroit Lions (the team I root for). It doesn’t matter that the team has been the worst in the league since Millen took over (yes, even worse than the expansion Houston Texans and other perennial cellar dwellers like Arizona!), that he’s hired his third coach (including Dick Jauron, who Millen replaced Mooch with today) in five seasons, and he has made some of the most questionable decisions (three wide receivers as your number one overall pick in a row?) as a GM of any in the league. Somehow, it is everyone else’s fault except his.

These situations lead me to this: if these students ask for the same concessions at work, in the business world for which they are obviously and woefully under prepared, they would be laughed at and fired on the spot. If Millen had the same track record for managing projects that he has managing a football team, he would have been fired 4 years ago, instead of getting a multi-million dollar, five-year extension.

In my mind, High School, and school in general at every level, is used to prepare students for the “real world.” Part of that real world is that you fail, get in over your head, and have repercussions for your actions (or inaction). That’s why No Child Left Behind is a joke and will, ultimately, be a dismal failure: children need to learn how to deal with failure earlier in life so they are prepared for it and learn coping mechanisms to keep them trying over and over again.

And all sports could use a better business model. Currently, fans don’t see accountability at any level of any sport. Jocks rule the roost. Those with the worst attitudes and the most detrimental activities seem to get the most money. The “good guys” do seem to finish last. And the decision makers who allow this lack of discipline and who fail to impose rules and regulations seem to flourish.

Throughout my life, I have nearly always learned more from my failures than from my successes. Having that talk with the owner of the photography studio taught me to express my needs. The argument with my boss at my first white-collar job taught me to be tactful and diplomatic. It also taught me things that are important to avoid in future jobs. That talk with my current boss taught me the value of exploring my likes and dislikes with my boss so we can work toward a better working environment where I (and, through me, my company) can succeed.

I fear that the coming generations will not learn these lessons. They have no coping mechanism in place for their failures. What will these kids do when they get out in the “real world” and these excuses just don’t cut it any more?

November 22, 2005

Life, or Something Like It

The linked article is about Lorenzo Neal, a fullback in the NFL. I was struck by the simplicity of this man. He understands what it takes to do his job, strives to be the best there is at that position, and seems to understand that he is blessed to do what he does.

I am often struck by people who just seem to "fit" into their lives. So many of us are struggling against something-- our work, our personal time, the clock, those significant in our lives. Whenever I see someone who just sort of "gets it," I take a moment. Most often, these characters are fictional (for example, Doc "Moonlight" Graham, from Field of Dreams-- "If I hadn't been a doctor. Ah, that would be the tragedy."). But occasionally I stumble on an article that shows that there are some people who can "fit" in the real world.

It strikes me that those who seek out the limelight, need to make the statement, are the ones who have something missing in their lives. A Terrell Owens may be one of the best receivers in the league, for example, but that hole he has where something is missing makes him seek out the attention and leads him to miss games, alienate those around him, and, ultimately, spend time at home rather than adding to his gaudy stats. Neal, on the other hand, has played nearly 200 straight games, goes about his business, and gets the job done. End of story.

I would rather know a hundred Neal-esque people than one Owens.


Even if you don't like American football, you might learn a little from reading about this man.

EDIT:

Found the article.

Last of a Dying Breed
Dan Pompei
Posted: November 22, 2005

Someday, after your hair has turned white, your spine has curved and your hearing has faded, the little child on your lap will ask, "Grandpa, what was a fullback?" 

And you'll have to think back and remember. "Well, Billy," you'll say slowly, "a fullback was a football player who blocked. He took pleasure in clearing a path for others to make big plays. He wasn't in it for the dancing. Or the money. Or the media. A lot of fans barely noticed him. Only the real students of the game even knew what the fullback really did. 

"They began dying off around the turn of the century, fullbacks did, replaced by hybrid backs, tight ends, H-backs and wide receivers. It became so hard to find a good one, NFL teams just said, 'To heck with fullbacks.' " 

Your memory isn't what it used to be, but you fish out a name. 

Lorenzo Neal. 

He was the fullback's fullback, the best blocker you ever saw. "He would rather knock a linebacker on his keister than take a handoff," you'll say. "He was the last of his kind." 

This is a day in his life.

_______________________

Four hours before the Bills kick off to the Chargers, Lorenzo Neal trots onto the field at an empty Qualcomm Stadium. Outside in the parking lots, the sights of bare chests and sandals and the smells of sunscreen and ground beef testify to the beauty of the day. Neal runs around the perimeter of the field eight times. He listens to gospel music by Kirk Franklin on his iPod. Later, as the game approaches, he will switch to some 50 Cent. 

If he is not ready to play by now, he never will be. He has been preparing for this game, for every game, since he first started playing fullback 20 years ago as a high school freshman in Lemoore, Calif. He went to Fresno State, just up the road from Lemoore, and was drafted in the fourth round by the Saints in 1993. He also played for the Jets, Buccaneers, Titans and Bengals before moving to San Diego in 2003. 

Neal takes pride in being more prepared than the next guy. It is what has enabled him to survive all these years while others like him have died off. His offseasons, he says, are 10 times more physically grueling than his seasons. 

There is conditioning and lifting with a personal trainer, everything from pulling cars to running hills. There is wrestling with college kids at Fresno State, where he was an All-American junior heavyweight. There is boxing with former middleweight champion Paul Vaden. There is even ultimate fighting with mixed martial artist Chuck "Iceman" Liddell. Neal is typically in the gym by 5 a.m., and he works out up to three times daily. 

"I know it makes the season easier," Neal says. "You might be a better athlete than me. You might be faster than me, stronger than me, but you're not going to outwork me. When guys are tired in the third and fourth quarter, I know what I've done to prepare for this."
________________________________

On the first play after the kickoff, Neal is assigned to clear out the Bills' middle linebacker on a power play. He finds London Fletcher and drives him backward, and LaDainian Tomlinson runs for 12 yards. 

Neal likes this play, but his favorite is the lead draw because of its isolation qualities. "Just me and the linebacker in the middle of the hole," he says. 

Many "modern" fullbacks prefer to dive at the knees of defenders. That isn't Neal's style, although he will throw a cut block when it makes sense. "If it's me and a linebacker, it's like, 'Dude, why should I cut you when I know I can take you down?' " he says. "I like to hit them in the mouth and say, 'Let's go.'" 

At 5-10, 255, he has the perfect size to get beneath the shoulder pads of most linebackers. Leverage is his game. Neal is known for leading with his forehead. "He has a great head for the position," Tomlinson says. "His head is huge." 

Neal's big melon, in fact, is the source of much levity in the Chargers' locker room. "That's my moneymaker," Neal says. Of all the running backs, quarterbacks, receivers, tight ends and defensive backs on the team, only Neal wears an extra-large helmet shell, according to equipment manager Bob Wick. The only linebacker who wears an extra-large shell is Shawne Merriman, who has 6 inches and nearly 20 pounds on Neal. 

Finding the linebacker on a lead draw reminds Neal of one of his hobbies -- "frogging," or frog hunting. Neal and friends, armed with a flashlight and a long three-pronged gig, will take out a boat well after dark.When they spot a bullfrog, they shine the light in its eyes, which freezes the amphibian. Next thing you know it's 3 a.m. back at Neal's house, and everyone is eating frog legs, potatoes and eggs.
___________________________

Neal kicks out into the flat on the first drive and catches a pass. Bills safety Troy Vincent comes up to make the tackle, and the collision is violent. Vincent's helmet flies one way, Vincent flies another, and his forehead is gashed open. "Got him good on that one," Neal says. 

Neal has forged a career and, indeed, an identity out of such collisions. The man becomes the player, then the position, then the task. Neal is a block. Though he never has officially been diagnosed with a concussion, he has experienced some of the symptoms. Last season, a Raiders player -- Neal still is not sure who -- hit him so hard he had to lie down on the field for a minute. 

"There are plays when you're hit, and it's like you get the flutters," he says. "You see stars. You've got that buzzzzzzzz. OK, that was a good one. You just try to breathe. It's happened thousands of times." 

Fullbacks such as Neal probably incur more big-impact hits than players at any position. Virtually every play for Neal is a battle of bighorns vying for the highest ground. 

He sees himself as a lineman with a lower number. "The only difference is I'm 5 yards deeper," he says. "And the linebacker is 5 yards deeper. So you have 10 yards of speed, compared with linemen who are 2 feet apart. The collisions are way harder. It's who's got the hardest head, who's going to quit first, who's going to fall apart first." 

Perhaps Neal's most impressive accomplishment is not falling apart. Despite tens of thousands of body crashes, he hasn't missed a game because of injury since 1993, his rookie season. He has played in 186 straight games, an accomplishment of Favre-ian proportions. He credits staying healthy to playing fast and the grace of God. 

It's not like he ever tries to save himself. "Lorenzo doesn't care about his body, about his own well-being," Dallas defensive tackle La'Roi Glover says. "He just goes out there and throws his body around." 

Remarkably, Neal has no major physical ailments. He has had one surgery, to repair a torn ankle ligament during his first pro year. What hurts 10 games into the season? "The bottom of my feet, from the cleats digging into my soles," he says. 

November 17, 2005

Things I have been wondering lately

Why is a Milky Way bar sold as a Mars bar in Canada? Are there other versions of a Milky Way sold to other countries?
Why do they make you take your laptop out of the case and then x-ray it at the airport?
Why does the President think Americans are so stupid as to still believe his lies? Isn’t his huge drop in the polls indicting we are getting wise to him? (don’t actually answer that—I know we’re stupid)
Why are stores already putting up Christmas decorations when it is not even Thanksgiving yet? We’ve skipped Thanksgiving and are having Halloween followed by Christmas this year.
Why does Matt Millen still have a job in Detroit? He has the worst record of any GM in the league during his tenure.
When will Susan Cooper’s incredible series, or at least the first book, Over Sea, Under Stone, but turned into a live-action movie? Incredible tale, and the first book is perfect for the “tween” audience.
If copper wires have a hard limit of 9600 baud, then how do DSL and higher-speed modems work? And don’t give me “compression”—that can only account for so much!
Why don’t more parents care about education? Why do so many parents assume that the teacher is wrong and their child is right, even when they themselves know their child to be duplicitous and disrespectful?
Why is America the only industrialized nation without some form of national health care?
Why does my memory have to fade?
Where will I be in a year?
Why was it always hard and shaky with the others and why is it so easy and comforting with M?
Will my immediate family (mom, dad, sister and each of our immediate families) ever sit down to a Thanksgiving together again?
Can the world survive three more years of President Bush’s policies?
Will people ever respect the work I do? I do a little more than “pretty up” a document.
If everything is made up of energy, and energy is never created nor destroyed, and our memory and consciousness is that energy in action, then why is it so hard to believe in ghosts?
Will I ever finish the cleaning project in my apartment?
When will people realize that they are not “wasting time” when they are driving—they should be watching out for their own safety and the safety of others on the road?
Will people go back to taking responsibility for themselves and their actions? Or is that dead forever?
Will the Narnia movie possibly live up to my hopes and expectations? LotR did, for the most part, but Narnia is more important to me than LotR.
Will M. Night Shyamalan ever make a non-gimmicked movie? I think he’d be good at it. Die Hard 4 (would re-team him with Bruce Willis).
Why did it take me so long to find a woman who would be honest with me?
Why does gay marriage scare the religious right so much?
Will work let me work from home from Canada permanently?
Will M like Irvine?
When will people get back to the heart of the matter and stop talking about the weather?
Why do we still use Daylight Savings Time today? And why isn’t it universal?
Will any product ever truly engage Microsoft?
Why do I sometimes smell peanut butter or dust when neither is in evidence?
How is it that light can be seen, but does not illuminate?

Bowling Update (11/16/05)

Well, as a team we bowled well, with Tai getting two 160 games and Arvin coming alive in the middle game with a 170 game and finished strong in the 150s. I managed a 248, my second highest score ever (and only my second 240 ever), and also managed back to back 600 series for the first time in league play. Jean was absent, and we couldn’t find a substitute for her, so we had to use a blind score.

But -- (and you could feel that coming) -- we went against a team that bowled out of their minds. In the first game, every member of the team bowled about 30 pins above their average. They cruised in the second, and we only just managed to beat them in the third game. We lost total pins by 50.

Oh, and we had an 84 pin handicap lead on the team that they very easily made up every game.

So, we went 1-3 tonight. At worst, we should be tied for first place in the league.

Still, I’m proud of how our team is doing. Tai got down on himself a bit in the second game, when he threw a gutter ball and then 4 more opens in a row, but he rallied in that game in the final frames and then followed it with a 168 (which could easily have been a 180, if a couple of pins fell for him). Arvin started slow, but came on strong. It’s fun to watch these younger guys respond and improve every week. And Jean’s just a hoot and a half to bowl with—seventy years young and going strong!

November 16, 2005

Is This Maturity?

I left to see M on Thursday, September 15. Because of this, I did not buy comic books that day (Thursday is my usual comic book day). When I returned from Tucson, I had a lot going on and did not buy comics that week, either (September 22).

I fully expected to jump back on my comic buying the following week (September 29). It would be easy to catch up on the two weeks I missed, get back into the swing of things, and continue the neverending soap opera that is the world of comic book heroes.

But I did not.

It is now November 16, and I look at the calendar and realize that tomorrow is “comic book day” and, instead, I have scheduled an evening of online game time with two friends, for which they would like me to get home as promptly as I can.

For those not initiated into the world of comic books, the companies publish most comic books monthly. They stagger the release of their titles so that something is released every week. So, for example, one week I might pick up Iron Man, Hulk, Batman, Justice League, and Wonder Woman, and the next week I would get Superman, Daredevil, Green Arrow, and Teen Titans. During the summer months, a comic may increase its release schedule to twice in one month. And, due to the pressures of the industry, sometimes a comic slips and comes out more like every 5 or 6 weeks.

So, as of this week, I have officially missed at least two issues of every comic I have been collecting since the mid-80s. And I have comics that go further back, to the mid- and early 70s when I was a kid saving my allowance and getting a comic at the local Kinney’s Drug (along with a cherry coke at the soda fountain).

I cannot tell you exactly how many comics I have in my collection. I have managed to catalog about 4,000 of them and am about 1/3 of the way done. It is so time consuming and takes so much room that I usually only get a couple hundred done (one or two boxes) before I am tired of doing it for that session. Or I find a lost gem and I open it and start reading and suddenly find that I’ve read 30 comics and have forgotten all about cataloging.

I have also picked up a few of my comics during this “dry spell” of two months and read those. I still enjoy reading the comics and can see myself falling back into the habit easily. I just have no current desire to do so.

Having a girlfriend has affected this decision to some degree. But she is certainly not the main reason, as she does not mind me reading or collecting comics. I think part of it may be age. Also it could be partly the movies/TV shows that are available now. City of Heroes and other games also assuage the heroic needs I feel. There are probably many other reasons of which I am not currently even conscious.

I have threatened to quit reading comics on multiple occasions. Sometimes it is over the “death” of a favorite character, or the cancellation of a favorite title, other times it is over a long run of just idiotic storylines and overall malaise in the industry. And, of course, the incredible rise in prices has limited my purchases even as my salary has increased. I have comics purchased in the 70s for $.15. I have a large run in the 80s of $.75 comics. The late 80s and early to mid-90s saw prices of $1.00 to $1.50. Now, most of my comics are in the $2.00 range for the same 22 pages of art and story, including ads. Many are more than $2.

Usually something comes along that grabs me back when I’m threatening to quit comics altogether. Neil Gaiman’s Sandman; the rebirth of a good Justice League title; the cool new direction of the Incredible Hulk; a special event or limited series that reinvigorates the medium (Kingdom Come, Dark Knight Returns, Watchmen, Ultimates); a favorite character returning or changing (Captain Atom, Firestorm).

The only other time I just stopped cold-turkey was when I was jobless. Since I had no income, I could not justify the weekly expense; simple economics. This is the first time I have ever stopped for no good reason.

I have no plans to give away, sell, or otherwise remove myself from my rather extensive library of comic books. But, as to right now, I see no reason to go back. Am I missing out? Sure. I have heard and read good things about Identity Crisis, and have many of the precursor stories. Will it be hard to look at my huge run of Hulk and Daredevil and not cringe a bit because I do not have the current issues? Yes. But I just do not have any desire to set foot back in Comics, Toons, and Toys and peruse the shelves for my latest titles. I feel no need to talk with Matt (the store owner) about the latest treasures and off-beat comics coming down the pike.

Is this what they call maturity? Have I grown up finally?

November 15, 2005

Fog

I can understand why, throughout history, people thought of fog as an evil thing with a mind of its own. Fog has its own rules that sometimes seem to contradict physics and our knowledge of the natural world.

Irvine has a few areas where the fog creeps in on its little cat feet and then stays well after when it should be slinking back out to sea. Both mornings this week, driving into work at a little after 8 am, I ran through a fog bank so thick that I could not see more than about 100-200 feet ahead. The only reason I could see that far is because the sun was already up, the temperature was already heading toward 70, and the fog was fighting a losing battle against dehydration.

I have traveled the same route as early as 6 am. The early fog can be so thick you cannot see the white dashed line separating your lane from the lane right next to yours. I have experience it so thick in this area that I was stopped at an intersection and could only just make out the stop light across from me. It was once so thick that I pulled completely off the street and waited about 20 minutes for it to clear enough that I felt safe driving—I couldn’t see anything!

The funny thing is that this fog only occurs in certain areas. In the eight or so miles I drive to work, the first five are pretty much clear. In the last three miles, however, there are four separate spots where the fog may be laying in wait for me. These areas can be either north/south bands or east/west bands—you would think it would be consistently one or the other. Two of the fog regions are in wide-open areas, but are small, condensed locations of fog—probably not more than 100 yards deep. Yet the fog in those 100 yards can be so thick you cannot see beyond your bumper. Then it is perfectly clear and sunny for about ¼ mile until you hit the next thick patch.

I do not presume to understand the meteorology behind how fog works. I’m sure that subduction, induction, inverse layers, dew points, cold air falling, and other factors play integral roles in why these spots can hold the fog so thickly and for so much longer than surrounding areas. What I do know is that I look forward every morning to seeing these spots and wondering about them as I make my otherwise mundane way into work. It is like a little mystery the natural world springs on me to remind me there is more to life than work.

November 14, 2005

One Week

I've been home from visiting her for a week-- one week!-- and it feels like a month. I miss her.

I can honestly say I've never felt like this before. It seems like forever until December 20th, when I return to her.

How hard is it going to be after Christmas? Two full weeks together this time. And I won't need to work (even if she does).

This is hard.


...


She's worth it.

November 10, 2005

Bowling Update (11/9/05)

Well, our team is doing well. We are now 27-13 on the season and in first place by at least 2 games (depending on how the other teams did this week).

Tonight we went 4-0 primarily on Tai, Arvin, and Jean's bowling well. Everyone was over their average in at least 2 of the 3 games we played. Arvin also had a particular chance to shine as our Anchor by throwing well enough in the 10th frame to secure a victory (by 3 pins!) in the first game. And Jean, normally a 110-120 bowler, had two games above 150. With her 80 pin handicap, that turns into a nice gain!

My own bowling was pretty good, too. I got my first 600 series (scratch) of the season by going 209, 213, 184. I'm disappointed in the 184, as I left a 10 pin on the first throw of the 10th frame and was unable to convert it. I used to be Mr. Automatic on 10 pins, and lately I'm less than 50% on picking them up. Need to practice more specifically on those. Of course, that throw was also a very strong strike ball; not sure why I left the 10 pin in the first place! But that right-hand lane was tight all night and a lot of 10s were left behind.

I'm very pleased in how this team is coming along.

November 8, 2005

My One New Thing for Today

During my visit to Canada, I got a straight-razor head shave. It was fabulous! Someone else shaving your head feels great, and I look forward to going back.

During the shave, I chatted a bit with Dom, the man performing the service. He recommended that I get a bottle of American Crew oil to help me with my own head shaving. He explained that it was designed to be put on the head first, before the shaving foam, to help the razor glide over the head.

This morning, while in the shower, I thought of that bit of advice as I was preparing to shave my head with my typical safety razor (currently a Gillette Mach3). As I keep some baby oil in the shower, I thought I would try that first, and then apply the shaving cream following Dom’s advice.

Wow! The difference in the shave I managed to give myself is incredible. Fewer nicks and cuts, closer shave, and it took much less time than usual.

So, here’s a thank you to Dom. He certainly didn’t need to impart to me that bit of vital knowledge, but it will be put to good use from here on out by yours truly!

Update 5b

M succinctly summarized our last day and the morning I left. All I can add is that there was equal emotion from my side of things and that the first plane flight became a "red-eye" due to the emotions I was feeling.

I'm not sure what happened, but the first flight landed at about the time that my connecting flight was supposed to start boarding... so the clock was ticking. Having never been through Montreal, I was a little concerned with finding my way and I found fewer happy, helpful Canadians to help point the way. Finally found the very small, dank room in which I needed to pick up my luggage prior to customs, then had to wait quite awhile for that. It was shortly after exiting here with all my luggage that I heard the first page over the loudspeakers looking for me (my last name often gets pronounced like a certain wine). I made it to the front of the customs line, declared what I needed to, and then moved on to the huge line for the metal detectors and searches.

This went faster than I thought and soon it was my turn. I put everything I could into the bins for the x-ray machine, and then stepped through the metal detector. It did not beep, yet the stern Hispanic woman with the metal detector wand still waved me over to her and asked me to spread my arms. The woman wanded me close enough that I knew I wouldn't need to shave my head the next morning. She was particularly disturbed by the "bulge" in my jacket pocket, which was the blueberry muffin M had given me for the trip. She wanded the muffin like it held state secrets! I was wearing ill-fitting jeans and she also asked me to unbuckle my belt so she could wand behind the metal clasp. Without allowing me to re-buckle, she asked me to raise my arms and she wanded me again. Of course, this time my jeans were slowly creeping down to my knees so I showed about 300 of my closest travel-mates my underwear, but Wand Lady wasn't concerned with that.

She finally allowed me to buckle back up and move down to the next station, which was a "sniffer" for my laptop. It took three tries before he passed my PC, but soon I was repacked and on my way.

Just as I left, I heard a second call for my name and they said the gate-- 74. Ok. No problem. I just have to get from one side of the airport to the other while having no idea where I'm going. Easy. Off I went at a brisk walk. Soon I found gate 74 and there were two very nice attendants waiting for me. They asked me many questions about my flight and the speed of going through customs as they were waiting on two other people for our flight... yes, I was the third to last to board the plane!

The second flight was very bumpy. I found out from M afterward that my flight went right through a big storm, which explains the bad turbulence we experienced. Most of the flight they had to leave the fasten seatbelts sign turned on.

Because I went through customs in Montreal, I didn't need to at LAX, so I managed to get down to the baggage carousel quickly. It took about 20 minutes before they finally sent my luggage through, but that gave Judith time to park and find me. Soon we were heading off home!

We only made one slightly wrong turn as we both read the 22 West sign incorrectly and merged onto it going the wrong way (we wanted east). But a quick turnaround and we were righted. Soon I was collapsing into my apartment happily and yawning like a jackanape from all the travel and stress of leaving M.

Addendum:
On Monday I called my GP and managed to sneak into a cancelled appointment and get my ear checked. I had a small infection that was causing impaction in my ear and the deafness. They were able to flush out the ear and I can hear again! You would be amazed at the amount of gunk that can fit in your ear. Disturbing.

Canada, what I saw of it, is a beautiful place.

I enjoyed my time with all of M's family and friends. Everyone was incredibly kind to me, and I don't think it was just because I was there with M.


I want to be with M. I miss her. It will be hell waiting for December.

November 6, 2005

Update 5a

First flight: Ok, but ran a little slow.

Customs: Ok, but ran a little slow. I was 3rd to last to board the plane out of Montreal and actually was paged over the intercom. At least the woman with the metal detector wand was gentle. I expected to see some KY and gloves come out!

Second flight: BUMPY! But otherwise ok.

Drive home: Smooth. Judith was there on time and got me home safe and sound.


Now, to unwind, unpack, catch up, and put my kitty cat, who is "hiding" under the covers to my bed.

I'll provide a more detailed description when I'm more mentally stable and able to. Let me sum it up this way: I have never been so simultaneous happy to be home and sad to have left where I was before. I cannot wait to go back.

November 4, 2005

Update 4

Dinner with Family

I think it went well. There was some obvious tension at first, as Dad and Brother both got comfortable with me, and I with them. Initially they discussed their work, as Brother works for Dad. But soon some topics came up in which I could state an opinion and start getting into the conversations.

Dinner was great, even if Dad was constantly downgrading his cooking skills. He cooks a mean prime rib, folks. I also met Step-sister (Dad is remarried) at dinner.

During dinner, the awkward pauses seemed to grow a little less frequent and the conversations seemed to veer into more territories that everyone could share. I soon was commenting on how incredible Dad’s house was and he offered me a tour of the place. It is a wonderful home; 4500 square feet of living space when you include the completely finished “basement” areas (really more of just a lower level). Hardwoods everywhere, which you know I like! There are many picture windows that overlook the Saint John River (which we couldn’t see at night).

We then settled into the study by the fire for some more relaxed conversation that meandered from politics, to travel, to international concerns. I think I scored some points being a gun-owner and (former) hunter. I think they were surprised at how unbiased I can be about the stupidity of American politics, and I’m sure I scored a couple of points having an (expired) NRA card in my wallet (Dad’s a hunter, couldn’t you guess?). All too soon we were tired and needing to head back home.

All in all, my sense was that we got along just fine. M seemed pleased with how things went, too.

Unfortunately, we missed a call from one of M’s friends whom I haven’t met in person yet. There was some chance we could see them last night as well. I’m still hopeful that we can find some time in my remaining two days to fit them into the schedule.

And that brings me to the sad part. I’m totally not ready to go early on Sunday morning. While I have enjoyed all of my time here, I don’t feel like I’ve had enough time to spend with M, as yet. I know I’ll be back here at Christmas and will stay slightly longer than this visit, but that doesn’t help me NOW. Dammit.

So, I’m down to work today and game night tonight. Saturday’s events are a little up in the air, but should include (hopefully) a straight razor shave of my head, church, a quiet evening alone together, repacking, and an early night. My plane leaves at 6:40am on Sunday.

I don’t want to go.

November 3, 2005

Update 3

Digression about work:
It is hard to get used to working from home from so far away. When I'm home sick, or waiting for a package, or whatever, it is different. You know you're going to be back in the office shortly. You know that you can go in if all hell breaks loose.

Renee, my boss, has been having a hell of a time with me out. Everyone is going to her, of course, even though my Out of Office note mentions that I am actually working from my present location. But, as always, everyone wants it NOW, so they go to her for immediate assistance. Also, while I am getting stuff done, it isn't the same. I can't just get up and walk to the office and talk with the right person.

Of course, this current set up isn't exactly an "at-home office" situation. M has a comfortable new desk, a nice new chair, and everything else I could want handy. However, I understand that most of the 'work from home' people at my company have dedicated phone lines and internet. Most of them have some sort of 'work strategy' to allow them to remain as efficient as possible from their home. I'm new to this, so I haven't worked out a strategy yet and I do not want to run up large phone bills on M's phone.

Once I get a strategy in place, and a rhythm for working at home, I'll be fine. Now, to see my IT people about some things I've noticed from here... like the incredibly slow SCR Database.

As for my time in Canada:
The weather finally got a little wet and overcast. I still haven't experienced the fog I've heard so much about. Snow is scheduled on the forecast for well after I leave. I am not sure if I'm happy or sad about that-- everyone's been talking so much about the weather, that I was sort of hoping to see a little of it (even if it is still only Fall). I'm sure my visit at Christmas will get more weather than I could ever want, though. I am torn on this one.

Tuesday was our first attempt at M going to work and me working from home. It was mostly successful (except for the complaints listed in the digression above). We then met Jenn and Stew for some additional shopping and a really late bite to eat. We had a "small town" moment at Vito's -- as we were eating, someone that M knows popped in to join the only other group eating that late.

Wednesday continued the work at home/M goes to work scenario. However, we had a Date Night scheduled in the evening. Jenn was an absolute godsend because she was able to pick up a flower for me to give to M before our date. Official, public thanx, Jenn! I owe you one.

Date went very well-- M wore a fabulous outfit that was very attractive on her. I got to wear some of my new, warmer clothes. We went to M's favorite Thai restaurant, Suwanna. The food was incredible, as was the company. I will admit, though, that I liked M's Suwanna Chicken a bit more than my Sweet/Sour Chicken (which, don't get me wrong, was great! M's food was just even better). Oh, and a word of advice-- DO NOT just drink the onion/cucumber/vinegar mixture straight. The guy said it was to clean your palate-- it did, but like how battery acid can clean a penny! I think I'm still tasting it today. Potent stuff. We then came home and just did some odd chores and watched TV at home.

I reread that paragraph and it sounds like our date night was a little, well, boring. "We did chores on our date." Can I get an ironic "Whoopie!" Since we cannot spend the same amount of time together every day as most couples do, even doing the "boring" things is fun for us-- because we are sharing time together. Plus, I think M likes watching her guy puttering around doing chores. ;-)

Tonight we are heading to M's father's house for dinner with family. I've already met her dad briefly, but this will be the first sit-down meeting. I also get to meet one of M's brothers, who should be there. Oh, and we're having prime rib, potatoes, and peas. Sounds great.

October 31, 2005

Update 2

Today was Halloween, M's favorite (nonreligious) holiday. The house was decorated, the pumpkins were carved, and the candy was purchased and sorted.

It was a lazy day, spent around the house doing odd chores and just relaxing a bit. I made French Toast, eggs, and back bacon for breakfast. I then finished the cleaning up after the pumpkin carving event while M ran some errands around the town.

Also got to light the stove for the first time this season... anyone who knows me knows how much I enjoy making fire! Fire, heh he-heh heh. I think M may have become a little frightened at that moment. ;-)

Anyway, as it was a really nice day out, M got steaks for dinner and she made the salad while I grilled. She's got a nice grill, and it burns hotter than mine so I overcooked slightly, but it was still yummy.

Finally, we sat outside with the pumpkins lit and our fleece and jackets on, under blankets, and doled out candy. Had about 70 children show up total... not bad.

Now we're off to watch The Great Pumpkin.

Tomorrow starts the real test... I'm "working from home" from M's place and she's going back to work. Hopefully the internet connection will be fine and works' servers won't be too slow. Hopefully she won't be teased much about her time spent with American boyfriend.

Gotta say-- Canada's a nice place. I could like it here, a lot. Now, remind me I said this when/if I survive Christmas!

Oh, that reminds me-- a special shout out to Mare for the Alpine Beer Toque ("took"). I wore it tonight on the porch and it did wonders for my cold issues. Have hat, will travel. ;-)

October 30, 2005

Vacation Report (10/30/05)

The first flight was a fun-filled trip involving a talkative pilot (on a red-eye) and a lot of turbulence. Not fun. I only cat-napped at best, so was pretty tired deplaning in Toronto-- int 1 degree (celsius) temperatures.

Toronto's airport was interesting and I had to wait about 30 minutes to clear customs, then get my baggage, recheck my baggage, and then get on the pimped shuttle to go the other terminal. It was hectic, never having done that before, but everyone was very helpful and polite.

The second leg was a bit better; the flight was smooth and the pilot kept to himself. The plan was pretty small so that, at my size, I was fairly cramped in my seat. I did make the man next to me smile when I glanced out the window and said, "It's so greeen!"

Desert rat, born and raised.

M met me at the Saint John airport with jacket in-hand. Most of my worries and cares from the flight sloughed away right then and there! We collected my bag and drove to her home.

I got the grand tour of the place, was fascinated by her basement, in awe of her central vac system, and impressed with the decorating job her friends treated her to when she first moved in. Place is very nice and full of warmth and vitality.

We hung out while I absorbed the atmosphere and get used to being here. I was also pretty wigged out after many hours of travel and even longer without sleep. M was very gracious and understanding.

We took a driving tour of M's parent's house, her grandfather's houses, her old schools, and some other points of interest in M's life to date.

Soon, however, it was time to meet Jenn and Stew for dinner and shopping. Being a desert rat, it was quickly decided that little of what I brought would be serviceable by itself to keep me warm in the single digit celsius temperatures of the area.

Jenn and Stew are great. Jenn is a fashion maven and Stew is low key and funny. We got along very well and they made the first pass of "meet and greet" very enjoyable. And I got some new clothes out of it.

Didn't sleep very well that night as I was trying to get used to totally foreign surroundings.

Saturday was a fun day. Made M breakfast (french toast for her and eggs for me), which she enjoyed. I then was given a tour of some of the city, including a walking tour of the downtown area and a walk along the ped-way which allows a person to walk and shop for quite a distance without setting foot outside. That was fun. The architecture and brick work is amazing. It reminded me of some of the places I've visited with my sister in Pennsylvania.

Next up was church. M's Catholic church is a beautiful structure with many stained glass and painted windows. One of her priests is 101 years old! It was interesting to go through the Mass. It's all very prescribed and formal, with the sitting, standing, and kneeling throughout, the singing, and the recitation of certain words and phrases to the priest. I was pleased with myself that I could recite most of the Lord's Prayer when they did that at the end.

Leaving the church, I was introduced to a wonderful new thing called "wind chill factor." Now, obviously I know what this is and have even experienced it feeling colder when the wind blows in CA, but nothing like this! The hard truth is that this place gets Damn Cold™ in winter!! It went from 4 degrees Celsius to feeling well past freezing because of the wind. Ouch!

After church we made supper, and then met up with M's group of friends for an Improv night. Her friends Scott T, Anthony, Chris, and others actually performed the skits. I have to say, it was damn funny! I also got to meet Scott M, Mare, Brian, and Regan and had a late bite to eat and a good time talking. Mare brought for me a care package filled with stuff to make me more Canadian. I can't wait to wear some of it in CA!

Much better night's sleep from Saturday to Sunday. Being that M is hosting a Halloween pumpkin carving evening, we are downloading stencils, cleaning the house, and arranging furniture for the party. M's Dad just stopped by with some long tables for the event, and I got to meet him. Seems like a good guy and there are plans to go to dinner at his house later in the week.

So, I'm sitting here trying to download more stencil from the over-taxed pumpkin stencil site. M is in the kitchen finishing up some preparations for cookies and other treats for the party. And now she's calling because she needs help moving a table....

Okay, table moved. And another stencil just downloaded! Yay.

Tomorrow should be a quiet day of rest and relaxation until the sun goes down and we hand out candy to the neighborhood children.

Having an absolutely fabulous time, even if the cold is deadly! ;-)

October 27, 2005

Nervous Now

Okay, I admit it... I'm nervous now. Butterflies are a-flapping away in my gut and I'm totally distracted.

Not nervous about M; she's the best thing that has happened to me in a long, long time. That will be fine. Only slightly nervous about meeting friends. I've talked to many of them via IM and through emails and they all seem like great people. A bit more nervous about meeting family. Hey, it's family!

But I'm really, really nervous about the traveling.

I know in my head that everything will be okay. That hundreds of flights have no trouble whatsoever. That thousands of people fly every single day. But that doesn't stop my heart from skipping a beat every now and then.

As my mom always says, "This too shall pass." And it will, and then I'll be in Canada. With M.

Holding onto that thought.