Monday, January 31, 2005

5 reasons to hate Montəll Williαms

I'm going to try not to dwell on the negatives, because I know someone who does that and she's really unbearable. Her blog would be a non-stop "woe is me" and you'd want to shoot yourself in the face to keep from reading it. The other thing she does is to take credit for everyone else's ideas while talking nonstop about herself. I kid you not, I know more about her than I do about myself and I've known myself a lot longer.

I think part of my problem is that I'm desperately out of shape. I'm only a little overweight for a man my age and height, but I spend so much time sitting in front of this computer that several of my joints have gone past stiffness into solidifying. I bet Jethro has some cool chiropractic term for it. Showoff. (kidding) But seriously, I'm so out of shape (everybody: How out of shape are you?) I'm so out of shape I get winded while eating. That can't be good.

So I went for a walk this morning before lunch. It felt good. Well, I should rephrase that somewhat. The idea of walking felt good. The actual walking, not so much. I like a brisk walk when it's cold out, but the wind was slapping me in the face the whole time. I actually did not enjoy that. It's the first time in the 9 months or so that I've lived here that I walked along the street on which I live. I'm near the end of my block, so usually I walk a couple streets over to the grocery store for the Sunday paper. (I say that as if I've done it more than twice.) Anyway, I noticed that a "neighbor" around the middle of the block has about a dozen birdfeeders hung in the trees between his front door and the street. Each and every one was empty, including the corncob without a single kernel left on it. What a cruel joke to play on defenseless little birdies. If any of you out there have an empty birdfeeder hanging in your trees you're a terrible horrible person. Go fill it.

Other than being out of shape, I noticed something else about my body, and this may disturb some of you, so I'm sorry. Two nights ago, before I climbed into bed, I went to the bathroom to pee and a whole Cheerio® came out. This was a standing room only event, so I'm pretty sure this shouldn't have happened. I was doing my business and I looked away for no less than a second when I heard a little 'clink' against the porcelain. I looked down to find a whole Cheerio where previously there had been none. It hasn't happened since, so I'm not overly worried but for all I know it's a good thing. I've done a little searching on the web and can't find anything in the medical literature. If any of you know of any sort of spontaneous cereal syndrome, including but not limited to anything Honey Nut, please email me a link.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

It was a dark & drizzly night

I just finished another book, this one entitled Story - The Way of Water. It's a biography of astronaut Story Musgrave. Dr. Musgrave is an amazing mind, and if this man had devoted his life to evil instead of poetry we'd all be slaves in his world while a lucky few serve him lattés and scones. Seriously, he's scary smart. The book is actually a difficult read because although it's a biography, a great deal of it comes from his personal journals and interviews, so it's practically an autobiography. The way he speaks and thinks can be very difficult if you're not a) artistic, b) philosophical, or c) him. Nevertheless, he made a few good points I'd like to share with you:
We have been designed to perceive the beauty of earth and heavens. It is part of our constitution, a means to survival! Response to beauty is organic, mind and body - physiological.
p. 80

Privilege to see the Sphinx, but I would trade for all that the Sphinx and the pyramids have seen.
p. 253

Biological need for intimacy. Intimacy fulfils the need, the real need. I can control my solitude, not my intimacy. Easier to be solitary. Need to be intimate.
p. 435
I hardly qualify as the same species as this person, but I'm reminded of some of my own thoughts and writings. The first quote reminds me a bit of what I wrote on what it is to appreciate the beauty of a woman. Before my "epiphany" I only had half of the equation, the body. There's a lot to be said for the mind, my own mind, that is. The second quote reminds me of the quiz from Inside the Actor's Studio, what I'd like to hear God, if He exists, say when I arrive at the pearly gates. Finally, with regard to intimacy, it's what I've hinted at in my post on loneliness.

For those of you who only care if I write something funny, here's a true story from my life: My ex-wife (aside: first draft I forgot to write ex-) had never been with a man before me. Ladies, I'll let you in on a secret here- the reason guys fantasize about that is for no other reason than it takes the pressure to perform off. Truth be told, I didn't really care but I did have a bit of fun with it. That is, I joked one day that when a man gets aroused, if you listen closely you can hear it, kind of like the creaking of a rusty hinge. She strained & strained to hear it, and of course I'd insist that you have to get REAL close to hear it. Occasionally I'd make a squeaking noise when watching TV or something and she'd shoot me a dirty look.

Back to serious thoughts- I'm thinking about taking a blog-hiatus. I've been out of work for 19 months now. I burned a huge hole in my savings this month with property taxes and school. I'm a virtual shut-in in my house, which must smell even though I'm tidy and regularly burn incense and candles...I just know it has to smell funky to the few visitors I've had recently. I have to get out of my rut. I like you all (well, except one who must be destroyed) but blogging is a poor substitute for real human interaction. I have to stop listening to my mp3s and get out of here. I wandered around the streets of this town trying to find sense of it all. The rain on my face, it covers the trace of all the tears I'd had to waste. Why must we hide emotions? Why must we never break down and cry?

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Music Edition

I almost didn't blog tonight, and well, technically I haven't published this yet, so...I don't know, I'm just not terribly motivated at the moment. I think I'm either doing too little or too many other mind-numbing things in my daily life and it's sapping my creativity. I went for a burrito at lunch, but it hasn't provided any more blog-fodder than this solitary sentence.

So I'll go back to music. There's been (yet ANOTHER!) questionnaire floating around, and while I won't answer it completely, I thought for grins I would see how many music files I have on my computer: 7468. Hmm, I guess I like to collect music. I haven't always, and it's quiet here now as I type this, but a few years ago (WAY behind the initial popularity of mp3s) I started ripping my CDs to my harddrive. The primary reason is stupid and too personal for this blog, so ask me in person, but now I have over 40G of music (if you include the comedy albums and an audiobook I'll probably never listen to) on my computer. So what are some of my recent acquisitions and what am I enjoying listening to? In no particular order...

Michael Bublé, Michael Bublé -- A well-done album of American standards. Michael has a nice voice and the album isn't overly produced. Sing along if you know the words.

Julian Bream, Spanish Guitar Recital -- This is classical guitar, not to be confused with flamenco or modern Spanish music. Think Segovia, except more technically proficient. Don't get me wrong, Segovia is still God.

Minnie Driver, Everything I've Got in My Pocket -- From a technical/musical standpoint, this is a fine album and Minnie has chops. In case you didn't know, she was a lounge singer and fronted a rock band long before she was an actress. Still, I can't take it seriously either and have only listened to it once.

The Killers, Hot Fuss -- I got this album on the recommendation of my ex-wife, who generally likes the same stuff I do (in terms of rock/rock & roll). However, this is shit. Pure rubbish. It sounds like a high school Cure cover-band recorded at a gas station. (Which makes sense why it was recommended, since my ex- likes The Cure and I think they're shit too. Bitch.)

Johannes Linstead, Guitarra Del Fuego -- Now this is flamenco, as opposed to the classical guitar previously discussed. I don't have any other pure flamenco in my library, but I have had major a Spanish tendency creeping in lately (i.e. From Bream & Segovia to Los Lonely Boys, Steve Stevens, etc.). I wonder what's going on subconsciously there.

Various Artists, 50 First Dates OST -- I was skeptical of this movie at first, because let's face it Adam Sandler does not have a great track record. But it's been on HBO this month so I watched it. The movie is pretty good, but the soundtrack really jumped out at me. It's primarily 80s covers (Hold Me Now, Lips Like Sugar, Every Breath You Take, etc.) but with an island rhythm (since the movie is set in Hawaii). I don't usually go for soundtracks, but I dig this one.

Toothpick, Drive Easy -- Oh alright, give Katey Bear credit for this one. She mentioned it in an entry a few days ago and it got subliminally implanted, so when I came across it I picked it up. How to describe? Uncle Kracker & Eminem vs. Sugar Ray & Ben Harper in a tag-team cage match refereed by Sublime. I don't know, I just made that up. It's cool stuff though and will definitely go into the changer in my car.

Yo-Yo Ma, Classic Yo-Yo -- I really don't have a lot of classical music in my library, but Yo-Yo Ma is such a master of the cello, how could I not have at least one of his CDs?

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

More Than 3 Things I Hate

  • Someone in tonight's Strategic Management class was wearing way too much perfume. I don't think it was a guy, since most of them smell of curry, but I'm not ruling it out.
  • A woman in the same class was wearing a charm bracelet that jangled way too much.
  • I ordered 3 textbooks online and they're all being shipped separately. I need them now.
  • The first one arrived today marked "signature required." I was in the shower, so the driver took off.
  • It's the wrong edition and I just know it's going to be a MAJOR hassle to get the right one before Arbor Day.
  • I just picked up Michael Bublé's 1st album of standards. I can't express how much it sucks having music and not having someone with whom to dance.
  • Someone I know was ranting on traffic today, so what happens? I get stuck in it too.
  • This was originally entitled 3 Things I Hate.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

School daze

Barely a week into the Spring semester and I'm ready for it to be over. I'm taking 3 classes this semester and it promises to be difficult.
-Strategic Management: Appears to be about the selection and implementation of management strategies. Kinda touchy-feely management stuff with no right or wrong answers. I don't meet all the prerequisites for this one, but my advisor said go ahead and take it and the professor OK'ed it. By taking it now I can potentially graduate next May instead of next December. Cool professor, no females.
-Investments: Primarily equities (stocks) and portfolio theory. Cool professor but he talks very fast and might be making some of this up. No females.
-Conflict Resolution & Negotiation: This class scares me. It's almost entirely class participation with no exams. Very strict professor in terms of preparation and attendance, but I think I will learn a lot from this very gregarious professor. Nothing but married women.

You can see where my priorities are at the moment: School and women. Food, sleep, and TV round out the top 5. Blogging is somewhere in the top 10, but I might be coming down with an early case of Gogatsubyou so we'll see what suffers most.

In related news, I saw the cute Chinese girl from last semester in the hallway. We locked eyes and time stood still. The electricity in the air was palpable, as everyone around us suddenly developed static cling and the 8 giant plasma TVs simultaneously, spontaneously caught fire. The sprinklers kicked on a moment later while we still stood there, drenched but transfixed with one another. The building was evacuated and a Hispanic woman, either part of the custodial crew or just horribly attired, was screaming "PEPE! MY PEPE IS STEEL EENSIDE!" We got separated in the confusion and commotion. It would not be tonight.

Today is my parent's 38th wedding anniversary. I forgot to put a card in the mail, so I sent an email instead. I was tempted to write "it's better than I could do" but the sarcasm might not have translated so I just stuck to simple congratulations. Dad wrote back to say he was taking his "bride" out to lunch since he has a final exam tonight. Aww, isn't that cute. Bald loser. (inside joke)

Monday, January 24, 2005

Interior decorating for the single man

I was just trying to think of what to write tonight, and somehow remembered Christmas at my grandmother's house. You'll recall I stupidly accepted a ride with my parents to her house, when I could have left a day earlier and gone with my aunt & uncle. Well, uncle left for home a day earlier too, and after he and his family left the few of us left were sitting around the table chit chatting. The only other thing to do would be to go to Crazy Debbie's (an actual store) and buy a gross of bottle rockets, but not being 12 anymore I decided against. Besides, that would just have riled-up the 3.5 year old and I'm under explicit orders from his mother (meaning, she cursed at me) not to educate my Godson as to the wonder that is fireworks and/or fire.

I know I've told you that the 3.5 year old has a 1.5 year old little brother and a little sister due in a couple of weeks. I'm really curious to meet the little sister and see what her personality is like because the boys are very different. The older one is hell on wheels- biting, screaming, hitting, scratching- often simultaneously. He's my Godson and nephew so I'm told that I love him anyway. I don't remember exactly how it started, but he and I *bonk* heads as a greeting. It's entirely non-verbal, as all I have to do is bend down low enough and I get a little headbutt from the butthead. The little one, though he bites a little bit, is slow enough that you see it coming and can usually avoid the teeth. He's generally quiet and thoughtful and you should all be so lucky to have a child like that one. The little one is *bonking* now too, and although he's usually the calm one, he bonks hard enough to make himself cry, just a little and not enough to keep me from laughing every time. Back to the differences between them though, I just know that some day, probably sooner rather than later, the older one will be the one setting fire to something, but it'll be the little one still standing there when the police/fire department shows up.

Back to grandmother's house. We were sitting around talking and grandmother mentions that auntie has taken all the milkglass. There's nothing really of value in my grandmother's house (including the milkglass), but the fact that my uncle's wife (notice, I'm now referring to her as a relative by marriage) decided to go ahead and take what she valued really gets to me. There had been no previous discussion by the anyone in the family, so if I actually wanted it I would now have to go confront my cousin's mother. So I looked at my grandmother and said, "I didn't know we were already dividing up your estate." She just shrugged and asked if there was anything I wanted. My grandmother has outlived her husband by 14 years now and I couldn't help get a little choked-up at the thought of having to drive back to Louisiana just to pick out a few family heirlooms. But it'll eventually have to be done.

One of the (very few) nice things about being divorced is that now there's no one to stop me from bringing home the deer head that my grandfather mounted a year or two before he died.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

A Moment of Silence

I don't know if I've ever come right out and said it, but I've tried to avoid trolling the news headlines for stories to which I could write punchlines for your amusement. It's a type of comedy that is often done poorly (see the multitude of crappy blogs if you don't believe me) and at the same time has been perfected by a select few who have made themselves household names. To put it another way, I wouldn't try to repaint the Mona Lisa. I wouldn't try to rewrite Mozart's Requiem. I'd never try to re-build the Chrysler Building or re-chisel David. When an art form has been perfected, sometimes you have to step aside and allow the artist his due glory. I would never put myself in a league with the master himself, so I will stick to telling you little stories about myself. And as we have lost one of the great masters today, one who was such much more than punchlines and yet perfected the monologue, I'll simply say goodnight Johnny.

But I'll try not to leave you sad, I'd like to tell you about my favoritest charity of all time. With all the news of Tsunami Aid and such in the news lately it's been easy to find information on charities. Since I'm a broke-ass loser, I don't find myself in a position to actually give money to any charities at this time, but I'll still poke my nose around the web here & there. It was actually the impending death of a dear friend of mine that prompted me to investigate the whole "donation in lieu of flowers" thing. It was in this context that I came across a charity named Vive. I don't know if they pronounce it "veeve" or "vaive" but that's not important right now. What is important is that this charity exists to help refugees find shelter. Elsewhere. This charity is headquartered in Buffalo, NY and helps refugees find asylum in Canada. The irony here is simply beautiful. New York, home to the Statue of Liberty and its famous inscription:
"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore; Send these, the homeless, the tempest-tost to" Canada.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

The Fine Print

The questions that I posted yesterday are from the real application for a television reality show, which you can download yourself from the website of the network on which it airs. The application itself is only one page, the rest of the packet is the legal forms that accompany the application.

Form I- Voluntary Participation Agreement
This is a whole page of legalese that boils down to I'm playing your game because I'm an idiot and you even warned me not to. Included in the fine print is a clause that says you have to do whatever they say. Then there is your standard indemnification clause, so you can't sue them if you get hurt. I should quote part of this:
In other words, they can order you to push-start a 747, and if you get hurt they get to laugh about it (and of course feature it in promotional spots). The final clause in this document says they get to keep all the pictures, video, applications and everything about you forever and they can do with it whatever they want. Does this make anyone else uneasy?

Form II- Name and Likeness Release
This document takes the creepiness of the last clause of the other agreement and takes it one step further. We need to look at the whole thing and break it down:

By submitting this application I hereby consent to the recording, use and reuse [Literally ad nauseum in commercial after bloody commercial.]

by the Producers of the Program (as defined below) and [Company Name] and any of their respective licensees, assigns, parents, subsidiaries, divisions, business units or affiliated entities and each of their respective employees, agents, officers and directors (collectively "Releasees") [Any and every sociopathic freak from the CEO to the guy who brings the muffins.]

of my voice, actions, likeness, name, appearance and biographical materials (collectively "Likeness") [Everything but my actual soul.]

in any and all media now known or hereafter devised, throughout the universe, in perpetuity, in or in connection with the reality-based television series currently entitled [TV Show Name] (the "Program"). [i.e. Brain-implants of the reruns in the year 3054.]

I agree that Releasees may use all or any part of my Likeness and may alter or modify it, regardless of whether or not I am recognizable. [What are the odds they'd put my head on Jude Law's body?]

I further agree that Releasees exclusively own all right, title and interest in and to the application video that I have provided in connection with the Program (the "Video") and all rights therein and thereto including, without limitation, the right to use the Video and my Likeness in any and all media now known or hereafter devised, throughout the universe, in perpetuity. [So I get no royalties on the brain-implant reruns.]

I further agree that Releasees may use my Likeness and Video in connection with any promotion, publicity, marketing or advertisement for the Program or for any of the Releasees in any manner whatsoever, or for any other purpose and manner whatsoever. ["On the next episode, see the latest idiot to sign over all his rights."]

I grant the rights hereunder whether or not I am selected to participate in the Program. [So I don't necessarily get my 15 minutes of fame but they still get to exploit me.]

I release Releasees from any and all liability arising out of its use of my Likeness and/or the Video. I agree not to make any claim against Releasees as a result of the recording or use of my Likeness and/or the Video (including, without limitation, any claim that such use invades any right to privacy and/or publicity). [So all you internet stalker wacko-types can say you saw me on TV but I can't sue them for putting me on TV. Because I'm an idiot.]

So what do you guys think? Should I go for it?

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

The Rookie

I'm not remotely a fan of reality TV. There's nothing all that real about it and then there's the obvious comparison to my version of reality: A jobless, often-depressive, pastry-junkie living in a heavily mortgaged, squirrel-dung adobe in, of all places, Hellstown Texas. Nevertheless, I've seen an episode or two of just about all of the reality shows. The Wonderful Dash is one of my least favorites, since these people are going all around the world and yet they don't actually get to see it. Why don't they just box the people up and mail them from city to city? The view would be the same and the winner could be decided by the one who correctly guesses how much postage to put on the box. Remnant is the original, having spawned all others and added gems such as "voted off the island" to our lexicon. I don't see what's so great about watching "contestants" drop 30 pounds and get lice infestations, but I never claimed to understand American culture.

That said, The Rookie is coming to Houston for auditions in a couple of weeks and not only has the University bent over forwards to accomodate the staff, they've spammed all the students with invitations to participate. And since the whole pupose of my going to business school is to some day meet Mr. Ace-in-the-Hole, (aside: Oh thank you thesaurus. Write your own joke here.) I think I'll head down there and wow them with everything I've got, short of jazz-hands. Part of the audition process is to appear in person for a videotaped interview and to fill out the application. Let's fill out the application for yours truly, shall we?

[Basic biographical data omitted because you're all loony, psychotic stalkers and would show up here and kill me, which might hurt my chances of being selected.]

How would your co-workers describe you?
I don't have co-workers, you silly little man, I'm a full-time student. But the co-workers at my last job described me as 5'9", medium build, short brown hair, green eyes. Last seen being escorted from the building by security. (See attached police sketch-artist rendering.) As for my personality, several mentioned something about being a smartass.

What is your most impressive work or school achievement?
I was kicked out of 3 different universities as an undergrad, but I'm thinking you'd rather hear about something good. I once rebuilt a Windows NT 4.0 server with Exchange 5.5 into a Windows 2000 server with Exchange 2000 in a single weekend, and when they returned Monday morning the users had no idea anything was different. Maybe you had to be there.

Why are you successful in business?
Because I'm such a relentless negotiator the Dutch have given me the nickname De Tijger (The Tiger) and have banned me from their video-rental stores and kiosks. Being successful sometimes means getting barred from ever doing it again.

Describe a major event or issue that has affected your life:
Winning the gold medal at Athens in individual synchronized swimming was the realization of years of hard work and sacrifice. You're not going to check up on this are you? Right, either the gold medal or the Nobel Prize in Reading Comprehension. (Seriously. I'm 33 but I read at a 35 year-old level!)

Tell us something embarassing about yourself:
I have these unbelievably tiny hands and my inner voice has a Scottish accent.

Why do you believe you could ultimately be "The Rookie"?
a) There's a good chance I'd poison one or more of the other contestants;
a) I know all the letters of the alphabet, including the seldom used ones like Q & X;
3) I'm willing to let Mr. Ace-in-the-Hole touch me inappropriately. On camera.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Stream of semi-consciousness

Batteries are getting low in the remote control, actually have to get out of bed to change channel. Golden Globe recaps, yawn. Oh look, Ellen's dancing, that's new. I saw this episode of M*A*S*H last week. I'm out of fries and Coke, must go to grocery store. Later. Need to finish pulling cable in the attic, what a pain that has been. If I have to make one more trip to the Depot I'm going to drill my brains out with a Porter Cable 18v cordless drill. Well, I gotta get this project done. Oh, perfect timing, there's an IM from a hottie. I'll pull the cable after we talk a bit. Nuts, only burned 2 hours chatting, gotta pull cable now. Finally got it up the wall, but now news is on, good time for a break. School starts tomorrow- I'm taking 2 management classes and one finance class. Do I need to do anything to prepare? Shave. Eh, that can wait until tomorrow. I can look scruffy a few more hours. Going to auntie's house for dinner, I wonder what they really want. Aha, install digital camera software on their computer. Uncle wants a new house- that's understandable, since they have one child, both work 12 hour days so they're never actually home, and literally have piles of garbage in their house. Bigger house would solve their problems. Yeah, let's watch Nemo...again. Time for me to eject. Damn it got cold out, must be 45 or so. How I love to drive. Welcome home empty house. I need to figure out what to blog tonight. Ok, I'll just play this game for a few minutes to clear my head. Ok, that burned an hour...Leno's on. What? No headlines? Bastard. Flipping, flipping, flipping. Oh yeah, I'll watch Late Late from Friday on tape. I dig the Scotsman, but that was mediocre at best. Reset the tape to record again tonight. Back to Leno., Evangeline Lily from Lost and I missed most of it. Oooh, Teri Polo on Letterman. Ok, time to get serious about blog. Maybe I better scan everyone else's real quick. Yeah, one or two things I can steal. Hey, where'd all these comments come from? I better respond. Do I have any funny left for a new entry? Check the notebook- something about Mawmaw? Erections? No, not feeling it. Music edition? Listening to Wayne Toups - Don't Mess With My Toot Toot. Something serious from my past? No, I've been too serious lately, gotta keep it light or they won't keep reading. Guess I got nothing.

Sunday, January 16, 2005


Breaking news from the Tinyhands Kitchen Laboratories-
We've discovered a way to add empty calories to our favorite breakfast treat, Pilsbury Orange Danish. Dip the raw dough into sugar (preferably raw, or turbinado, sugar) before baking. The heat of the oven will crystallize the sugar into a crunchy shell coating. Now ice as usual and enjoy the impending sugar coma. Be sure to dial 9-1 before taking a bite so that you just have to hit 1 one more time.

I got an interesting fortune cookie last week:
"Someone finds you wonderfully mysterious." Not exactly a fortune, but I'm happy to get it. On the back of the fortune is lottery numbers, but since there's 10 digits I figure it could be her phone number. I haven't figured out in what order the digits go yet, but so far I've gotten a massage parlor in Detroit and an escort service in Cincinatti. Perhaps fate is telling me something.

Finally, some career advice: Make good decisions.
This is especially true if you're The Rembrandt's and someone wants to use one of your songs as the theme to a television show.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

The L-Word

[Originally entitled: Merry Christmas to The Lonely]

I'm a man of science, in a manner of speaking, so I sometimes find myself analyzing things more than I should. I sometimes classify things as a means of making sense of my life and the world around me. One such classification is whether something is discrete or continuous. I know some of you already know the difference, but in a nutshell if you can measure something with any degree of accuracy it's discrete. I have 5 dollars in my wallet: Discrete. Three of you stopped reading when you realized this wasn't a funny entry: Discrete. Binary is a subset of discrete, either something is or it isn't. Computers, way down deep are binary: Either the electron flows or it doesn't. Most lightbulbs are binary: Either it's on or it's off. On the other hand, if you can't stop measuring something with greater and greater detail it's continuous. Space is continuous. Time is continuous, although we choose to measure it in discrete units of seconds (and multiples of seconds) for the sake of convenience.

Alone: Discrete and binary.
Lonely: Continuous.

Another common theme in blogs I read are the alone and the lonely. Granted, all of us are alone at one time or another, but it bothers me a bit when I see someone say they are alone when they mean lonely. Point of fact, few of us are entirely alone, but all of us are lonely. The degree of lonely varies widely, from "not very" to "very" but since it's continuous there's no end-point on either end of the spectrum. With no end-points, you are never not-lonely and never completely-lonely. I'm thinking of a happily married couple I know, as well as another couple about to be married. All four people are obviously not alone but are still technically lonely, though probably at very low levels. Several others I'm thinking of aren't alone but are very lonely. I'm not passing judgement, I just illustrate the point.

Since alone is discrete it should be easy to alter the value, right? If you're at home and you're alone, get up and go somewhere where there are other people. Technically, it doesn't matter if you know those other people, that's not what we're measuring. Lonely, on the other hand, is continuous and difficult to measure with any degree of certainty. Truth be told, it's not difficult to measure because it's continuous, it just happens to be that too. It's difficult to measure because it's an emotion, and those don't flow in quantum units that can be tallied by an accountant or a psychologist. Only the subject in question knows which end of the lonely spectrum he feels closer to. Is is possible to alter the degree of lonely? Emotions ebb and flow naturally, so the lonely among us naturally report being more lonely at times, less lonely at others. But my real question is, can someone consciously alter their degree of lonely at any given time? Can it be done without altering the alone value or any other value?

My hypothesis is that it cannot be done by sheer force of will. I'm not sure I want to hazard a guess as to whether this is inherently good or bad.
It is what it is.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005


How am I supposed to come up with something to write about when nothing happens? I'm supposed to tell you about my day, but I didn't so much as set foot outside today.

I had a chicken sandwich for lunch with frozen french fries. That's not funny.

I watched TV. It was just OK.

I showered.

I looked for a job, then watched some more TV.

I spent about 20 minutes in front of the box fan (it's in the mid-70s here) saying, "Luke. I am your father. Search your feelings, you know this to be true." I said it over and over again. The only part of it that's kinda funny is that I amused myself for so long, but it doesn't really fill up the blog.

I read blogs and watched a little more TV.

I made chicken & rice for dinner, then contemplated working on my Darth Vader in front of the fan again, but I didn't.

I'm going to bed early, since I have an appointment with an academic advisor early tomorrow. Let's hope she's got boogers or a moustache or something I can write about.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005


I've been afflicted lately, ever since I took the Nyquil last week. I don't take over-the-counter sleeping pills as a rule, but over the last year or so whenever I do take them it seems to have the opposite effect- I fall asleep rather quickly, but wake up 30 minutes later then toss & turn all night. I guess it's not really insomnia, it's just sleeping for shit. I know you can relate.

Usually when I can't sleep it's because my mind is racing a thousand miles an hour. Maybe I've got a paper/presentation coming up that I'm excited about or maybe I've just thought of something funny I want to blog. Especially when it's something I want to blog, I have to get up and write a sentence or two in my notebook to remind myself of the great idea. Although I come up with dozens of things everyday that I think would make a funny blog, if I don't write them down I'll completely forget them. Kinda weird the way my brain totally reboots at night. So, often I've scribbled down a sentence fragment then I climb back into bed and then lie there unable to sleep because I'm fleshing out the full idea (aside: and hundreds of asides) instead of relaxing into restful slumber. I eventually resort to playing games in my head to try to focus on one thing only so that my brain will eventually get bored and let me sleep. Kind of like counting sheep, here are a few of my brain games:

Counting sheep- I've never seen a real how-to on this ancient pastime. I have to visualize the numbers as well, exactly as if I were watching Sesame Street (and yes, Count von Count has appeared more than once to help). If I don't visualize the numbers half of my brain will continue to think of other things while the other half futilely counts away.

ad numero ovillus- Latin, meaning to count sheep. Instead of just counting normally, in this game I count in Roman numerals. I, II, III, IV, et cetera. In case it's been a few years since your 6th grade math class, L = 50, C = 100, D = 500. It gets interesting trying to remember what comes after 38 (ex ex ex vee aye aye aye) and 88 (elle ex ex ex vee aye aye aye).

Multiplication- I can multiply large numbers in my head, though not immediately. Whenever my ex-wife couldn't sleep she wanted me to play this game at a whisper...put her right to sleep. Here's one simple example of how I do it:
-The sum of the digits in her SSN is 33, the sum of the digits in my SSN is 47.
47 * 33
= (47 * 30) + (47 * 3)
= [(40 * 30) + (7 * 30)] + [(40 * 3) + (7 * 3)]
= 1200 + 210 + 120 + 21
= 1551.
The part of the game that keeps my brain occupied is keeping track of all the simplifications I've made. I've successfully multiplied our full SSNs (9 digits) in my head.

Silly quiz

3 names you go by:
a) Louie (fraternity nickname)
b) Chicken Bone (fraternity nickname #2)
c) Little Shit (Dad's nickname for me)

3 screen names you have:
a) ForlornTexan
b) _m0e_
c) (n/a)

3 things you like about yourself:
a) I'll eat just about anything (ladies, take note)
b) Green eyes
c) I'm trying to better myself through education

3 things you dislike about yourself:
a) Love handles
b) Too introverted in real-life
c) Still care too much what Mom & Dad think

3 parts of your heritage:
a) Cajun (originally Flemish)
b) Irish
c) English

3 things that scare you:
a) Spiders
b) Windchimes
c) Democrat in the White House AND control of Congress

3 of your everyday essentials:
a) Q-Tips (for cleaning of the ears)
b) Broadband internet
c) Dark chocolate

3 things you're wearing right now:
a) Old Navy sweat-shorts
b) Hanes plain white crewneck t-shirt
c) Jade pendant purchased in Hong Kong

3 of your favorite bands/artists:
a) Cake
b) Lyle Lovett
c) Stevie Ray Vaughan

3 of your favorite songs at present:
a) Hollywood - Los Loney Boys
b) Let Me Down Easy - Chris Isaak
c) These Are The Days - Jamie Cullum

3 new things you want to try in the next 12 months:
a) Lebanese food
b) Chinese girls
c) Songwriting

3 things you want in a relationship (love is a given):
a) Non-verbal communication (once in a while)
b) Space to do my own thing (once in a while)
c) Sexual compatibility (more than just compatible parts)

2 truths and a lie (in no particular order):
a) In my audition for the high school senior musical, I sang one of the girls-only songs
b) I'm a Momma's-Boy
c) I'm buying a Harley as soon as I get a job

3 physical things about a love interest that appeal:
a) Female (genetically as well as physically)
b) Shorter than me [I'm 5'9" (175 cm) - so make her 5'7" or less]
c) Nice legs

3 things you just can't do:
a) Curl my tongue
b) Beg for a job
c) Speak ancient-Aramaic

3 of your favorite hobbies:
a) Skiing (water & snow)
b) Photography
c) Travel

3 things you want to do really badly right now:
a) Spank KtP for signing me up to do this
b) Dance in my jammies to the 50 First Dates soundtrack (get it? Dance badly? nevermind)
c) Finish this damn thing (actually the last question)

3 careers you're considering:
a) Financial consultant
b) Stock-broker/Investment banker
c) TV sitcom writer

3 places you want to go on vacation:
a) Italy
b) Korea
c) Vienna

3 kids names:
a) Miranda
b) Simon
c) Jack

3 things you want to do before you die:
a) Finish living
b) Reproduce
c) Be a guest on a television talk-show

3 people who now have to take this quiz:
a) Mike
b) Adrianne
c) Bonnie Heather

Monday, January 10, 2005

How I got sick

I love a good quote, so here's one to start off tonight's drivel. For fun, see if you can guess what movie I recently watched:
"When someone tells me they are happy, my ass begins to twitch."

Ok, if you guessed right off the bat that it was Winston Churchill shoot yourself in the face you silly English-speaking person.

Now that Christmas is gone we can talk bad about it. First, what is up with the people who only put blue lights on their house? White lights I get- looks like icicles. Multi-colored lights- ok, it's colorful and festive. But just blue lights? You're creeping me out. You're almost as bad as the people who put the 2-3 fake candles in the window with the red-flicker bulbs.

How stupid am I? Get this, I willingly (read: there was guilt-involved) drove to my grandmother's house in Louisiana with my parents, knowing full-well that my 3-year-old nephew/godson would be in the car the whole time. Houston to Alexandria is about a 4.5 hour trip that took 6+ hours stopping at every McDonald's along the way. The kid didn't sleep at all, so I spent 12+ hours in a car with a 3-year-old. Now, I hope someday to be a father and have children of my own. But I will box them up and send them FedEx before I willingly spend that much time in a car with a 3-year-old ever again. To add insult to injury, I could have made the trip with my aunt & uncle and their 8-year-old and even returned home a day earlier. But we've established that I'm stupid...don't rub it in.

Christmas with my family isn't that bad I suppose. There's just a lot of sitting around doing nothing but making chit-chat with people who already know everything about you. There's an Indian casino down the road (aside: You anthropology/sociology majors will recall the 3 stages of Native American development- hunter/gatherer, farmer/planter, and craps/blackjack) but I have no money and, trust me on this, you don't want be indebted to CenLa Indians. On the plus side, there's a continual buffet of marginally-healthy food on Mawmaw's table. (aside: My editorial staff tried to squeeze in a butter-joke about the food being margerinely-healthy...we worked on it for about 20 minutes before giving up. Sorry.) Although the family is coon-ass through and through, there wasn't any good swamp-food on the table this year. In case you're not familiar with Louisiana cuisine, anywhere you find ankle-deep water, you'll find a coon-ass up to his knees looking for a meal. (aside: No lie, I saw a man in the ditch alongside the road with his trusty Zebco 404. Sad fact- I'm probably related to this man.) And you know how every family has it's played-out joke? Ours is that my grandfather once remarked, after a HUGE Thanksgiving feast, that the best part of the meal was the cantelope. Nevermind that his wife & my mother/aunts had slaved over the stove for hours, the cantelope was nice & juicy. So every year since his death, in homage to my Pawpaw, someone comments after the meal how good the cantelope is. (aside: There is actually a bit of a contest and jockeying for position in the lull of the après-feast conversation to be the one to spring this gem. Ed.- Please, no more asides in this paragraph.)

Come to think of it, my nephew did sleep in the car. He fell asleep on the way back somewhere around Baytown (less than 30 minutes from home) but woke up again roughly 15 minutes later. Now, my sister warned us that if he doesn't sleep he's fine, but if he does sleep and it's less than 2 hours he's going to be cranky. If I miss my favorite TV show, I'm cranky. If the grocery store is out of blackberry yogurt, I'm cranky. I know cranky and this kid was beyond cranky. Full-throated screaming and totally inconsolable to the point of being completely unable to communicate his specific displeasure. Fortunately Dad had the bright idea to pick up his cellphone and call my sister, to let him hear her voice and assure him that we'd be home soon. My brother-in-law answers and we explain the problem, then hand the phone to the boy. He listens for a second, then in a calm and rational (for a 3-year-old) voice says, "Daddy, I'm having a bad day."

And so, after 12 hours in a car with a snotty (literally) child, I got sick. The end.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

The D-Word

Why is it that so many bloggers suffer from depression? Maybe the question should be, what is it about blogging that's so attractive to the depressed? My own list of favorites is currently about 34 blogs- blogs that I check everyday, occasionally a couple of times a day, especially if there's some interesting chat happening in the comments. Of those 34, at least 17 of them either openly admit to suffering from some degree of depression or display enough of the symptoms in their writing that it's a safer bet than OU + 36 points that they do. I won't name any names, because although there isn't the social stigma there once was with depression, that's your own business and you also wouldn't want me pointing out which ones of you display homosexual tendencies in your writing either. (aside: Not that there's anything wrong with it)

Well, I don't pretend to have any answers, other than my own perspective. I've known for years that I hate the holidays. I thought it was because I'm a greedy prick and stopped getting cool toys for my birthday & Christmas when I turned 15. It's actually Seasonal Affective Disorder, and I never really believed it was genetic until both my parents and my sole sibling admitted that they've been on anti-depressants from time to time. I did that chemical-action for awhile and decided that I just didn't like the idea. I'm not so bad that I can't get out of bed in the morning, and I just know I could get off the couch if Montel wasn't so bloody handsome. I like blogging because it's more sanitary than leeches for relieving the bad humors. It makes the scottish voice in my head that says "Write another fart joke and bring me more cupcakes" go away.

I read a lot (aside: because I'm smart) but I pretty much only read in bed before I turn out the lights. Generally I prefer history non-fiction (specifically NASA & aerospace), and I collect books written and signed by astronauts. I've got a bunch of books about quantum physics (specifically Feynman) and a shelf of comedy (Jon Stewart, David Sedaris, Dennis Miller, Ted L. Nancy). But I want to tell you about a FANTASTIC book I just finished that I can't decide whether it goes on the comedy shelf or one of the non-fiction shelves. Providence of a Sparrow: Lessons from a life gone to the birds, by Chris Chester, popped up in my Amazon recommendations a few weeks ago and when I read the blurb I said to myself, "Self, what the hell?" Once I picked up this book, I couldn't put it down. Consequently it has been through the shower with me and got dropped in with the stir-fry as well. (aside: No, not really...just the shower.) The author is afflicted with the same kind of nuisance depression that I am and is also a bit of a computer nerd, but the book is really about adopting a baby bird and bringing it into his life. The book goes back and forth between narratives of his life in Portland, Oregon with his girlfriend/wife and technical information about house sparrows and birds in general. The writing style is very much how I wish I could write, and if Mr. Chester has a blog I bet it's a damn good one. Since today's topic is brought to you by the letter D, I'd like to reprint a passage from the book on that topic and encourage (strongly encourage) you all to beg, borrow, or buy a copy, whether you're one of the Suffering Brethren or not:

The realization that we volunteer for many of our sorrows has helped me a good deal. We acquire them in seed form with each new attachment and shouldn't be surprised when they sprout one day. Speaking as a person whose biochemistry manufactures gloom as a matter of course, it's taken me years to understand that fate has never singled me out. The universe has better things to do than plague me with loss or go out its way to make my life miserable. A perverse egotism is one of the problems with free-floating depression. It sits on your psyche calling attention to itself until you half-believe you're important enough and special enough for the gods to persecute. Give this delusion the least bit of credence, and your will to cope begins leeching away. Chemically based sadness is real sadness but never proves its case that existence itself is inherently depressing- even though it may be.
As I've said, I'm far luckier than those who struggle with depression and anxiety that is far more potent than mine, people for whom pills don't work. They drown; I stand up to my knees on the fringes of the undertow. Taken all in all, I've had it easy, and I find myself pushing fifty with a sense of equanimity only partially attributable to pharmaceutical company chemists. My mother always said, "It's a great life if we can endure."

Providence of a Sparrow, p. 180

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

It's OVER! (updated)

No more posts about China. The mini-series that wouldn't end has ended. It's been fun for me to relive the trip and I couldn't be happier that those of you who enjoyed it did. I'm doubly-flattered that you liked the photographs- as I said, they don't do justice to the movie reel playing in my head.

What was your favorite part?
There's so many I couldn't chose just one. Climbing the Great Wall. Strolling the halls of the Forbidden City. Dumplings at some hole-in-the-wall cafe or a fancy dinner in the former-Communist headquarters building. Getting hit-on by Shanghai hookers. Good times. Good times.

What was your least favorite part?
Primarily the weather, though there's not much point in complaining about it. I would liked to have been a little earlier in the spring so it wouldn't have been so hot. The only other thing is about me- I'm a bit of a nervous traveler, so I don't relax as much as I should. I probably miss a lot of things that way.

What other words of wisdom can you leave us with?
I don't know about wisdom, but let me say this- If you have any interest in seeing China, go. Most of your fears about such a trip are unfounded. You don't need to speak Mandarin or Cantonese. So many of them speak English and more are learning every day. School children will approach you to practice their English, then insist on taking a picture with you to bring back to their class. The Chinese people are very excited about the Beijing 2008 Olympics because they know that millions of foreigners will be coming to their country. So many of them honestly want to make a good impression. China is an enormous and ancient country that rich doesn't begin to describe it. The other thing I can say about myself is that I tend to fall in love with the places I've vacationed- Ireland, Paris, Maui, Kyoto, Ixtapa, and now China. I love them all. If I won the lottery, my last blog entry would read, "See ya LOSERS! I'm moving to _____!"

[Ugh, that's a dreadful wrap-up to my vacation mini-series. No, no, it's terrible. What did you expect for free?]

I've posted one last photo album entitled "Ticket Stubs". I've scanned in many of the ticket-stubs to the attractions we visited. Most of them are beautiful, colorful momentos that I plan on making some sort of artsy-fartsy collage from eventually. I recently went to an exhibit of the Dead Sea Scrolls, here at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, and the ticket stub was pitiful. No picture, no description. It looked like it came off a dot-matrix printer, well, which it did. Pathetic. I hope you'll enjoy these too.

I forgot I wanted to give an unsolicited product plug to Space Bags. (They're available many places, I just found this link first.) I bought a set of these before we went and I won't take another vacation without them. Incredibly easy to use, I was able to get at least 50% more into my suitcase. Equally important, they helped keep my laundry separated and organized. Just jam your clothes in and roll 'em up to squeeze out the air. No more jumping on top of the suitcase while someone else tries to zip it shut. Well worth the price.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Hong Kong Phooey

Day 2-
One of the things that interested my mother and I, from reading the guidebooks, was the bird & flower markets. Most Chinese cities have them, since birds are popular pets in China. Crowded in massive apartment buildings (ghettos, by western standards) Chinese people actually pay additional taxes for having pets larger than a small dog, and there aren't a lot of cat-people in China. A popular outing for little old Chinese men is to take the bird for a walk to the park, where they will meet other little old Chinese men and their birds. The men will have a chat, maybe buy a bag of crickets or a new waterbowl, while the birds in their cages hang in the branches of the trees singing to each other. Figuring this was an early morning event we took the MTR up to the north side of town to Yuen Po Street (link is to someone else's pictures), a pedestrian market full of birds in the trees as well as many vendors of birds, cages, and accessories. Canaries and finches are most popular, along with some other species I didn't recognize, but I enjoyed watching the wild sparrows swoop in trying to get a free lunch from the bags of crickets for sale.

Another attraction we had read about online was Song Dynasty Town, a recreation of a "typical" Chinese village from, obviously, the Song Dynasty (960 - 1279 C.E.). We expected demonstrations of daily life, prayers, warfare, and entertainment. Think Renaissance Festival. (or the Fukugawa Edo Museum, for my Japanese friends) Our hotel concierge informed us that it had closed a couple months ago, probably stemming from criticism that there wasn't enough cholera and typhus for it to be authentic, so we missed it.

Instead, Mom and I ditched Dad again to take the train to Po Lin Monastery. Site of the world's largest outdoor buddha, Po Lin is about 50 minutes by train followed by a pretty scary 45 minute bus ride up and down the steep switchbacks of Lantau Island. (Alternatively, there's a 45 minute ferry, followed by a 50 minute bus ride. Do the math & decide for yourself.) We could see from the bus several beaches that looked very nice, but guidebook descriptions of sharks and riptides dissuaded us. As you can see in my photos, the mountain mists gave this place an eerie other-worldly feel. There's not much of a view, even from the buddha (which you can't really enter), but on a clear day you can probably see Macau. One of the highlights was watching an old monk give a bus driver an impromptu tai chi lesson. It was not part of any tour or demonstration, so the photo I took was totally candid. Part of the popularity of Po Lin is the cafeteria, where you can enjoy a vegetarian lunch with and by the monks. Sorry, I had taro & tofu yesterday. (Not really, but eww.) A couple of guilty quarter pounders back at the train station and we're good to go.

Yes, we ate at McDonald's. Just as with McDonald's at home, they have games and game pieces in China. The promotion was a free sundae if you could fold this origami-like gamecard into the correct shape. I figured it out for both Mom & I, but since the free sundae was on your NEXT visit, we gave them to the locals, thus assuaging our guilt at having been McConsumers from the land of McCapitalism. Actually, I only mention this because on the flip-side of the game card, and on every billboard and sign, is Yao Ming, center for the Houston Rockets and Shanghai native. On the occasions where we found ourselves communicating with locals who didn't speak a lot of English, we could pantomime basketball and mention Yao Ming. Houston is the 4th largest city in America, but we're famous for our 7'-6" (228 cm) Chinaman.

We spent the rest of the day walking Hollywood Road, the antiques center of Hong Kong and we rode the world's longest escalator. (Not as exciting as it sounds.) You can buy authentic artifacts from the dawn of mankind fact, that's about ALL you can buy here, and you better bring wads of cash. We also accidentally stumbled across Man Mo Temple dedicated to the city god of Hong Kong. The place is PACKED with spiral incense coils all burning simultaneously. The effect is a little nauseating and I think I still reek of the stuff. We met back up with Dad, then hopped a taxi for Aberdeen on the far side of Hong Kong Island. It used to be that you had to go around the island, but they've tunneled through it, so it's 15 minutes by taxi now. Aberdeen used to be the site of the sampan city, with floating junks (Chinese boats) and barges serving as residence to several thousand natives. It's mostly cleaned up now, and since it was night we didn't see much of anything. We dined at the Jumbo Floating Restaurant and I'm afraid I have to agree with the guidebook that this place is overrated. It was nearly empty, a testament to the probability that everyone else had believed it.

I took the nighttime photos of the Bank of China Tower and the surrounding streets upon returning to the hotel. This particular building is world famous and was designed by the equally famous (at least in the world of architecture) I.M. Pei, a Chinese-born, Harvard/MIT-educated master architect.

Day 3-
With no particular itinerary, we headed into Kowloon to have dim sum lunch at the Penninsula Hotel, one of the mainstays from the heydays of British colonialism. To be honest, I've had better dim sum here in Houston, but it's not always about the food. As you can see in the photo, Mom envied the teapot collection. We walked Nathan Road, the main shopping area in Kowloon. It's another great place to buy that faux-lex you've always wanted, but the real stuff, along with diamonds, boutique fashion, and of course pearls are also to be haggled-for in the shops here. Of special note is the Jade Market, which is a 1-block, by 2-block lot covered with a corrugated tin-roof. If you don't know anything about jade, you might as well buy it here. There's a better than average chance you're buying green glass no matter where you go, but at the jade market it won't cost you more than a dollar, or two for a dollar if you're a keen negotiator. Dad pooped out again, so the Hong Kong Museum of History occupied the rest of the afternoon for Mom & me. Another gi-normous collection from dinosaurs to modern day, we were a bit pooped too and didn't give this museum the attention it deserved. A very nice Vietnamese meal at an upscale Central district restaurant was a great end to our vacation.

Coming Home-
Day 4 was back to the airport for the marathon flights home, this time in reverse: Hong Kong to Seoul, Seoul to Los Angeles, and finally Los Angeles to Houston. A minor delay in LA was the only excitement, other than running into a couple from my parent's church on their way home from Vladivostok, Russia to adopt a child.

[Tomorrow: Final thoughts or denouement if you're uppity]

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Postponed indefinitely

I regret to inform you that the remainder of my travelogue has been postponed indefinitely. There's not a whole lot left, but it turns out that I'm dying and don't have much time to live. I've contracted the hanta-virus from my nephew and have a nasal tsunami to deal with. I'm now heavily medicated and vulnerable (hint, hint ladies). Sorry, I really wanted to have something for you to read at work Monday, but my impending demise requires my attention. I know I've let you all down, so don't weep for me.

I'll look for you all on the other side.