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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.


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


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.

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.