Sunday, April 29, 2007

The Law of Conservation of Marital Trauma

We're all familiar with the principle of Conservation of Ninjitsu: the theory is that the total badass mojo of the bad guys in an action movie is a constant, regardless of how many of them there are. If a dozen thugs attack our hero, he isn't really threatened; each thug only has 1/12th of the total available badassedness, so he's no real threat to our hero. Thus, the good guy can fight an entire horde of ninjas with little trauma, but a single ninja makes for a climactic battle.

I was wondering if there isn't some similar principle at work in a marriage. Possibly the total trauma suffered by a pair of spouses is a constant; as one has a better day, the other has a worse day. This occurred to me on Friday. I figured out that just as my Tech Guy Trauma was getting underway, Laura was five hundred miles away, lying down on a massage table. As her massage progressed, my trauma level was increasing. And, finally, just as the show was underway and everything was working, her massage was ending.

I'll have to conduct further experiments to test this principle. I'm not planning on causing Laura or myself any deliberate hardship (this seems unwise!), but I'll take note of what the other's doing when one of us is experiencing Hard Times.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Today's crisis

I worked a lot today. We had two events, two performances, and a Major Crisis. It didn't start out as a major crisis. The Arts Council is hosting a forum on attracting young(er) people into the arts, held at the Conrad Hilton (which adjoins the Artsgarden), and as part of it they had a two-hour concert by a fun party band, Five After Five. Someone said something that sounded like, "Hey, Jeff -- why don't you wander over and see how the band setup's going?" So I wandered over around twenty 'til five (that is, twenty minutes until the show started). The band was set, but there was no PA: no microphones or stands or cables or speakers or amps or a sound board. I asked the band if they needed help setting it up; they said they were told they didn't need to bring any. I asked the hotel guys if they needed help setting up the PA, and they said that they weren't told to provide one -- and even if they wanted to, they don't own any, they just rent when they need something. I said, "let me get this straight -- nobody has PA, and the show starts in twenty minutes? Crap. Okay, I'll see what I can do." And over the course of the next twenty minutes, I assembled a complete sound system for a five-piece rock band.

For those of you who aren't sound guys (this would be everyone who reads this but Chris), I should explain what a feat that is. Setting up a sound system in twenty minutes is a Herculean feat. Doing it when you don't have the gear handy is almost a miracle. I accosted Zach, who was setting up for an event in the Artsgarden, and he and I collected a pile of mics and cables and extension cords and stuff and trucked it in a hurry down to the ballroom at the Conrad. I pointed and said what needed to go where, and ran to get the speakers, stands, and sound board, which were all down the street at the Arts Council's offices. We set vocal mics and mics for the amps, set up and wired our powered Mackie speakers, and set up the sound board. We grabbed speakers and an old semi-functional amplifier we had in the basement, cut an end off a speaker cable so we could wire it right to the amp, and ran monitors. And, somehow, we got everything set up and working pretty much on time. I stayed, ran the show, and packed up everything afterwards. How much of a feat was it to do all the setup in twenty minutes? For comparison, it took me over an hour to tear it all down and put it away -- and strike is always faster than setup. For comedy's sake, here's a picture of all the gear we assembled and set up in twenty minutes:

It's times like this when I'm extremely glad that I have amazing sound guys at the Artsgarden. Chris and Zach are both highly good at what they do, and they can really think on their feet and haul ass when needed. And, believe me, I know how lucky I am to have them working for me. I could find a whole pile of sound guys who are worse at it than I am; it's a challenge finding guys who are better than me, who are good to work with, and who can work our irregular hours. So, if you're reading this: Thanks, Guys. I appreciate you!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

cats and gender

Someone asked me recently about our cats' names. A lot of the cats have gender-neutral names, like Bastille, Salem, Pouncer, or Mouse. For the cats with more gender-specific names, the name often doesn't match with the cat's actual gender; Emmett and Eragon are female, Tosca and Loki and Ginger are male. There's a simple explanation: we name the cats when we first see them, before we've had a close enough look to determine their gender. Some of them we named young enough that, even seeing them up close, we still couldn't tell which were boys and which were girls.

Just so ya know.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Like chocolate and peanut butter

Jazz and poetry -- individually, they're much fun (done correctly; bad poetry is less fun than a trip to the dentist's). And together, they make a fun combination -- there's a kind of synergy. Today at the Artsgarden we've got a jazz poet, Bam Miller, backed up by a killer band: Marvin Chandler on piano, Jack Gilfoy on drums, David Young on sax, and Billy Meyers on bass. If you ever get a chance to watch her perform, it's worth the trip if you're a fan of poetry and jazz. She's got buckets of style, her band is phenomenal, and they jive well together.

And, appropriately, April is not only National Jazz Appreciation Month, it's also National Poetry Appreciation Month. If only Bam had some angsty poetry (it's also National Anxiety Month), and if she could perform it while welding in her garden (also National Welding Month and National Garden Month), that would be pretty funny. Because it's also National Humor Month.

Aletra Hampton, the last survivor of The Hampton Family Band, and later The Hampton Sisters, came to see the show today. And she did a number of her own after the concert. We're always happy to have her sit at the Steinway; she's a wonderful woman, and she's a living piece of music history. I think this was the first time I've seen her since her sister Virtue died, and I was glad she came by. I wished I could've gotten a recording of her performance.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Me=early. Plane=late.

Laura has an odd effect on aircraft. When she's on her way home from a trip, she really wants to get back in a hurry. This interacts with the chronal field of the plane she's flying on, and it ends up arriving in record time. The last few trips she's taken, I've shown up right on time at the airport to pick her up, only to discover that her plane landed early and she was already waiting for me with her luggage. So I went out of my way to arrive early this time. I found out that her flight was late, for a change; it might have picked up chronal interference from my perpetual tardiness field.

An airport oddity. The display board showed her 8:20 scheduled arrival as "DELAYED - ARRIVE 8:34". It was about 8:35 when I first saw her, and when I looked up at the arrivals board, it had changed to "ARRIVED 8:20". Are they wrong? Are they lying? Or is this just a matter of the way airlines keep time? I know that a flight is counted as "on time" for statistical purposes as long as it pulls away from the gate on time. It doesn't matter if it sits on the runway for an hour before takeoff; it can land at the wrong airport because of weather issues, and it still counts as on time as long as it backed away from the gate at the correct time.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

The Triumphant (though short-lived) return!

Laura comes home tonight! Yeeha! I'm looking forward to spending a little time with her, after a week apart. And it will be a little time; her flight lands at 8:20 tonight, and tomorrow we're volunteering for Spotlight, the annual benefit for the Indiana AIDS Fund. We show up tomorrow morning at 8am, and work all day. We should finish around 1am Tuesday morning, and Laura's got a 7am flight. We'll probably head home and try to catch a few hours' sleep before we need to be at the airport. So it's not a lot of time together.

I can't put my finger on why I'm doing it, but I've noticed that I've spent the day frenetically engaged in lots of little projects. I've painted the back of the garage to cover the graffiti, I finally ground off the drywall screw that's been sticking out of our shuffleboard court since we moved in (and which has been irritating my for years, every time I try to shovel snow out back), I'm baking cookies, I'm cleaning, and I'm doing a hundred other little odd tasks that aren't really urgent. For some reason, I'm feeling the need to completely occupy myself, instead of relaxing or reading or loafing....

Saturday, April 21, 2007

I'm stripping!

Get your minds out of the gutter -- I'm stripping wallpaper. If you're curious, I've got a picture or two of the walls, during and after, on my Flickr page. It's a pretty tedious process, partially because the guy who put the wallpaper up was a naughty boy. He didn't do anything to prep the wall before he papered, so it didn't come off as smoothly as I would've liked. I took some of the plaster with it in places, and some of the underlying paint, too. So next on my to-do list is lots of sanding and filling and patching and sanding. Then I carefully mask everything, then I prime everything, then I do some complicated painting. For now, I'll just revel in the fact that I don't have to strip anymore wallpaper.

You'll notice I've posted a lot here today (or at least a lot for me). That's been because it's a convenient break from peeling wallpaper....


A few fun things online:

First, the TV Tropes wiki. This has been my recent addiction; I've spent hours link-jumping around on this site.

The analog delete key. I don't want one of these, but I think it's funny.

I once mentioned the Pimp My Bookcart contest; here's the Pimp My Laptop site. They sell stock or custom overlays to stick on the lid of your Apple laptop.

I found a website on packing light when I was link-jumping finding stuff for Laura's trip; if you're interested in travelling light, hit for advice. One of her fun recommendations, which I didn't know about, is the Leatherman Knifeless Fuse, a multitool designed with no knife blade, which is TSA approved for air travel.

I cook, beware.

I made chili yesterday. I mentioned recently that I'm not a great cook. I bake well, but that's apparently a different skill. Things I cook tend to turn out rather less like they should. As an example, I forgot an ingredient in yesterday's chili. After an hour or so, it was looking radically not like chili, so I re-read the recipe to see what I missed. Turns out, I didn't forget something minor, like cumin; I forgot the chili powder. The thing that makes it "chili" in the first place. So I added it an hour late and let it cook longer. The end result wasn't bad, but this is typical of my cooking adventures. This is the reason Laura tends to do the cooking.

Friday, April 20, 2007

The Furnace. Kaput.

I forgot to mention earlier in the week, but our furnace died the night before Laura left. I'm reasonably sure the thermocouple is toast. I haven't replaced it yet; it's only been below freezing two nights, and the weather has been warm enough in the daytime that it's not too cold in the house. I'm having some trouble locating the part, mostly because I don't know the model number, or even the manufacturer, for our furnace. It's got no identifying marks on it of any kind. The thermocouple's pretty easy to install, but you need exactly the right one for this furnace. So my best bet will be to take the offending part around to a few supply shops and see if some expert behind the counter recognizes it.

I could call the guy who originally installed it, but I don't think he's in business anymore. I'm basing that on our last experience with him. The furnace was apparently new shortly before we bought the house. We bought it in midwinter, so we didn't discover that the air conditioning didn't work until the next summer. We called the installer, and he came out and looked at it without actually figuring out what was wrong. We called him a few more times to see if we could get him to come out and fix it. He kept finding reasons to not come out; I think he didn't know what was wrong, and didn't know what to do next. We stopped trying to call him when we called and found that his business answering machine message had been changed to say, in a gruff voice, "I'm at mom's. Call me if you need me." Verbatim. So we assumed that he was no longer in business. I called a buddy at Love Heating, who came over and spent five minutes looking at it before he diagnosed the problem: the control wiring was incorrect. Ten more minutes to rewire it and test it. If it turns out to be a problem I can't fix, I'll probably call Love again; they're a good local company to work with. Still, I'm hoping I can deal with it myself and save some cash....

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Tour Schedule

It just occurred to me -- I never mentioned Laura's tour schedule here. She left last Sunday for Norfolk, Virginia. This Sunday, she flies back; she gets in town around 9pm. Monday, she's designing lights for Spotlight, starting at 8am. That'll last until around midnight or 1am, and she has to hop back on a plane at 8am the next morning. She'll fly back to Norfolk, finish her show there, and have a day off (which she'll spend with her mom in Fairfax, Virginia). Afterwards, she goes to Lynchburg, Virginia for another show, and she gets back to Indy late on the 7th of May.

I suspect she's a bit overworked; then again, it's nice for her to be at a point, professionally, where she's in demand as much as she is. I'm very proud of her and the work she does, and I'm always amazed at how she sees the world. I think the world is more beautiful through her eyes than through mine, and I like discovering these little bits of her vision when I see her work. And I'm glad other people like what she does as well.

On a different note, this means I'm living the Wild Bachelor Life for a few weeks while she's gone. This mostly means a change in diet and a shift to less-regular hours. She makes rather more elaborate meals than I prepare for myself, so the shift to quick, basic, somewhat bland cooking is a pretty big change; still, I don't generally have the energy to spend lots of time cooking (or, more accurately, I'd rather spend the energy in other ways). I tend to avoid prepackaged foods, but I'm completely content to eat, say, cottage cheese for dinner, or a big bowl of wild rice, or couscous with diced George-Foreman-Grilled chicken. I'm planning on making chili tomorrow, which I'll eat for a few more meals the rest of the week, and I have an emergency backup Pizzeria Uno pizza in the fridge, just in case. But in general, I've shifted away from my old bachelor food habits.

My schedule is also more erratic when Laura's not home. I like spending time with Laura, so I work my schedule around hers so we can have evenings together. And if she's in bed, I tend to be too; even if I wake up early (or feel like staying up late), I tend to keep her in-bed schedule. So when she's not around, I tend to hit the bookstore on the way home more often, and I'm more inclined to be social. And, I tend to fall asleep on the couch a lot more.

Monday, April 16, 2007

I won something!

I submitted an interview question for Tower's author interview with John Scalzi. They randomly chose five of the people who entered questions, and those five people get a signed copy of his newest book, The Last Colony. And I was chosen! Yay, I won something! So what if it didn't require any skill; I WON something! This makes me happier than I suspect it should, but I take the little pleasures where I find them.

And, this means I don't have to buy a copy of the book. I suspect I will anyway; Scalzi added Don's Books in Kokomo to his list of stops on his author tour, and that's close enough that I can actually attend. It's not until the end of June, so I'm glad I'll have a copy to read before then. And I'll buy a copy from Don, just to support bookstores that do this sort of thing. I'm not worried about what to do with the extra copy; by my current count, I've purchased five copies of Old Man's War, of which I've given away four. I think it might be the best "starter" sci-fi book I can think of. If you have a friend who doesn't read science fiction, but who you think should start, it's a very accessible book to hand them. It's got good, likable characters, a good story, and a constant undercurrent of humor. It's probably my favorite book of the last few years, so I'm recommending it.

Under The Weather.

Sunday was my first bachelor day. I got home from work ready to engage in Wild Bachelor Activities. I was specifically thinking of eating pot pies and reading on the couch; I was pretty boring when I was an actual bachelor, too. My plans got derailed by a medium-strength case of food poisoning. Starting around 7pm, and ending around 1:30am, a lot of my evening was spent like this:
I don't have any pictures of me ralphing, because the cats haven't figured out how to use the camera yet. But this gives you a general idea of my yesterday. And, anyway, Emmett makes a much cuter picture than I do.

I still don't know what made me sick; my entire food intake yesterday consisted of coffee, cereal, a PB&J, and two ProMax protein bars, none of which are particularly suspicious. The standard food-poisoning symptoms were accompanied by a splitting, crushing headache. It was probably 2pm today before I felt vaguely human again. Now I'm mostly all better, though I'm still a bit queasy. My food intake for today has consisted of a little Mountain Dew (I wasn't going to risk coffee, but I want to avoid the caffeine headache), two organic toaster pastries, lots of water, and ten pringles. And that'll probably be it before bed. Here's to feeling better tomorrow.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Don Imus: beleaguered asshole

I've been following the Don Imus debacle with what I'll call amused disinterest. I had never heard Don Imus's voice before; now all I've heard has been him saying, "you mean nappy-haired hos" about a hundred times. The thing I can't figure out is that people are surprised by this. "Whoa! A shock-jock said something insensitive?!? The horror!" And I'm also surprised at his response. I'm not familiar with Mr. Imus's style, but I would've expected any self-respecting radiohead to have responded with something that sounded like, "Oops, sorry. Now get over it." Because what he said really wasn't that offensive. And I heard Al Sharpton call Imus a "cracker", which nobody even mentioned. Racism is all about intent, not vocabulary -- thus, a black guy can use the word nigger with impunity, but it's off-limits for white speakers. By the standard of intent, Sharpton saying cracker is no better than Imus's nappy-haired hos. Maybe it's worse; I suspect Mr. Sharpton specifically chose the word to offend, and to take advantage of the double standard of racial language. (I'm about to sound really politically incorrect, so if you're bothered by that, tune out now. Here goes:) I think Imus's problem is that he offended a powerful, non-marginalized minority. I suspect that he could've said something really offensive about, say, Latvians or Tamils, and few eyebrows would've been raised. But there's a huge PR machine waiting to jump in anytime someone says something that might be of offense to African-Americans. I suspect that pretty much nobody would've even noticed Imus's quick comment, had The Machine not raised such an unholy stink about it. A segment of black leadership in America has to jump on this sort of thing whenever it happens; their power is based on a battle against marginalization (as evidence, do we ever hear from the leaders of the German-American community?), so they need to reinforce the message of marginalization wherever they can find it, as a means of reinforcing their power base.

My second thought on the Imus trauma is that it's got to be a little difficult to be in his position. He spends twenty hours a week talking in public. Can you imagine stringing together four daily hours of conversation that wouldn't offend anyone anywhere? I think the ethos of the "shock jock" might have evolved in direct response to this dire need to not offend people. If you've got to spend four hours a day talking on the radio, you have to acknowledge that you're eventually going to offend someone. So you accept that as part of your milieu, and don't bother to stress about the possibility.

I also don't think I would particularly want to live in a country where everyone had to constantly self-censor everything they said or wrote, for fear of offending someone somewhere. People just need to develop thicker skins and freak out less when someone says something they don't agree with or which they find offensive. People need a stronger "Get The Hell Over It" reflex.

My favorite take on the Imus adventure comes from Jason Whitlock; I found it in the Kansas City Star. Check it out.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Worth Reading....

Here's a fun one: all-American icon Lee Iacocca just wrote a book about the lack of leadership in America. Borders online has an excerpt that you have got to read. I'm somewhat inspired to pick up the book.

The French Toast

For the past few weeks I've been making French toast for breakfast. It's quick, it's easy, and it's really good. We use Pepperidge Farm cinnamon swirl bread; if you've never tried this, grab some the next time you're at the grocery. It makes amazing French toast. Two eggs, a few tablespoons of milk, and a teaspoon or so of vanilla make up the batter, and we eat it with real Vermont maple syrup. The syrup is a treat; a friend in Vermont has a neighbor who makes maple syrup, and he sends us a jug every year. I grew up with Mrs. Butterworth's, which is maybe the best of the corn-syrup-based grocery store syrups, and it's barely recognizable as food compared to real, authentic, fresh-from-the-tree maple syrup.

I've been noticing that I'm turning into a lightweight. There was a time when I used three or four eggs just to make French toast for myself; now, Laura and I split two or three eggs' worth of French toast. And I've usually got a bit of batter left over, which I toss in the hot skillet to make a little crepe-like omelet. The vanilla goes oddly well in an omelet.

When I was growing up, Dad made French toast for the family almost every weekend. We never got tired of it, and it was a real production; Dad had it down to a science. A lot of my friends have happy memories of visiting on weekend mornings for Dad's French toast, too, and it was a fun family time. We had lots of little running jokes about everything, and French toast mornings are some of my fondest memories of growing up.

I didn't really have a point to all this. I just wanted to share some happy food-oriented thoughts.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Truth in Legislating

The Indiana legislature recently tried to push through an amendment to the state constitution: the Defense of Marriage Amendment. The amendment died in committee of procedural causes, but its original sponsors have made it clear that they will be trying again during the next legislative session. I like the idea of official government-sanctioned relationships; who wouldn't like the most intimate details of their lives being subject to government approval and regulation? However, I noticed that the contents of the amendment fall short of the promise of its name. The amendment reads as follows:
Section 38. (a) Marriage in Indiana consists only of the union of one man and one woman.
(b) This Constitution or any other Indiana law may not be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents of marriage be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups.
This doesn't seem like it does very much to Defend Marriage. I would like to propose an addition, to read:
(c) No person who has ever been divorced, who has ever been a party to an annulled marriage, or who has ever been proven to have committed adultery, shall be eligible to hold any elected or appointed government office.
I think I'll propose this to State Representative Eric Turner, who authored the original amendment. As "Defending Marriage" is his stated goal, I think my addendum would move him a good deal further along that path than the current wording. Barring that, I would like to request that he change the name of the amendment to something that more accurately reflects the amendment's origins and popular appeal: The "Queers Make Me A Mite Uncomfortable" Amendment.

I would also like to propose to Rep. Turner an addendum which sets a minimum annual quota for oral sex between marriage partners, but this might get complex -- there would need to be reasonable exemptions for health, disability, and hygiene, and negotiating the particulars would likely get bogged down in conference committees.

Monday, April 09, 2007

The Andes (Mint) Mountain

Until recently, the Cinnabon in the mall made yummy smoothie beverages. The flavors included Andes Mint, Cinnamon, and (I think) Toffee. They were discontinued last week, probably because they were too labor-intensive for their typical staffing level. So the management were left with the smoothie ingredients they had already ordered but hadn't yet used, and they needed to dispose of them somehow. One highly efficient way to dispose of anything edible is to give it to me, so I was gifted with a five-pound box of Andes Mint chips. I opened the package when I got it home, and it was a beautiful sight. I was good and only ate a spoonful right out of the box; the rest I'm saving for baking. For Easter yesterday I made a big batch of cookies, the recipe somewhat made up as I went along. I was pleased with the result. They were good, and not too minty; the chocolate dough really adds to the flavor, and they look nice too. Here's the recipe:

Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 cup light butter
1 cup butter-flavored Crisco
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 3/4 cups Andes Mint chips
1 bag chocolate chips

Cream together light butter, Crisco, and sugars; beat until fluffy. At this stage you can't overdo the mixing. Add eggs and vanilla, beat again. Add flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Mix until combined, do not overmix. Stir in Andes Mint chips and chocolate chips. Drop dough by heaping tablespoons (or a #40 ice cream scoop) onto ungreased baking sheets; flatten the dough slightly. Bake at 375 for 10 minutes. Let sit on baking sheet 5 minutes, then move to paper towels. Do not store until completely cool.
If you're so unlucky that you don't have friends who work at Cinnabon, you can still try the recipe. They actually sell Andes Mint chips in the chocolate-chip aisle of grocery stores (and 1 3/4 cups is roughly one bag), but the only place I can find them locally is at Wal-Mart. So I'm glad I have them in bulk now. If you can't find them, you can make your own; put two packages of Andes Mints in the freezer, unwrap them while still cold, and break them up with a meat tenderizer.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Two-minute tasks

I'm slowly settling into the routine of the Getting Things Done methodology. Some parts of it are more practical for me than others. One idea that I really like has been the Two-Minute Rule. When you're processing your to-do list (that is, your "actionable items"), if you find a task that will take less than two minutes to complete, do it immediately. I've rounded this up to five minutes, since I have so few two-minute tasks. And it's worked well.

One of the things I find irritating are all of the little tasks that remain undone. We spent two weeks with a light bulb burnt out in the dining room. It wasn't significant in terms of illumination; we've got 14 light bulbs in the dining room (I did marry a lighting designer, after all -- none of it is task lighting), and one missing bulb doesn't affect how much light we have. But we still notice it's gone, but we just never get around to changing it, so it just hovers on the edge of my awareness, one more thing waiting on the to-do list. But now that I'm being more conscious of quick tasks, I'm getting better about little tiny projects like that. I also re-hung my towel hook in the bathroom, where the drywall anchor had pulled out of the wall, and collected my library books into a neat centrally-located pile, and done a dozen other similar tasks that have been lurking for a long time. Forking over the compost? Done. Disposing of the big lawn chair that's been sitting next to the trash cans in the back yard for the past year? Done. I've even applied it to exercise. When I have a free minute (and nobody's looking), I crank out some quick push-ups or stretches.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Search Engine (de-)Optimization

I just found out that if you google "ance-day aleidoscope-kay eatles-bay" (minus the pig Latin), my earlier grumbling about the costuming for their Beatles show is one of the top six hits. How did I find this out? When DK's artistic director, David, called my wife to comment on my review of the show. Oopsie. I like David a lot, and I don't want to offend him; thankfully he apparently thought my review was funny, and while he didn't necessarily agree with me, he at least respected my opinions. Still, I was a bit surprised to learn that my ramblings were so accessible; I had assumed that I was writing for my normal audience of a few regulars. There are some people I really don't want to offend who might take lots of offense at my DK comments of the past week or so (and who might vent their frustration on Laura). So with that in mind, I'm engaging in search-engine de-optimization. I'm replacing the name of the company in my earlier posts with initials, to make it slightly harder for specific people to google it; DK is both a music publishing house and the top-level domain for Denmark, so it's unlikely someone will dig down a DK beatles Google search far enough to find me.

Normally, high search-engine ranking is a good thing; in this case, less so....
UPDATE 10-2-07:
I'm re-optimizing the previous entry. Dance Kaleidoscope just got slammed, and slammed hard, for their costumes again, and I think I'd like it known that this isn't a lone opinion. I like the company, I think they do good work, and I'd prefer that they distance themselves from this costumer.

I cook, beware!

After her long, stressful production week, Laura got sick. It's viral and sinusy and throaty and ear-y, and she's pretty miserable. She's got work to to this week, so she can't actually relax and take care of herself; still, she's taking care of herself as well as she can, and I'm doing what I can to help.

How bad was she feeling Monday? She let me cook actual food for dinner. This is an impressive thing, because I'm a bad, bad cook. I bake very well, but my cooking tends to be extremely experimental -- by which I mean bad. I cook like a confirmed bachelor with some kind of degenerative taste disorder. If I follow a recipe I can make edible food. But I have a tendency to improvise, and I don't know when to stop improvising. F'rinstance, Monday I made sloppy Joe according to Laura's mom's recipe. It turned out well, because I fought the urge to improvise at all. At one point I found myself thinking that some chopped green peppers and crushed garlic would go pretty well in the recipe, but I didn't add any. Laura said they would've been okay. However, the list of things I considered adding also included: pepper, sage, mozzarella cheese, lemon juice, ground chocolate, sweet pickles, oatmeal, and a can of mandarin oranges. Laura physically recoiled when I mentioned this. And, to me, they all sounded exactly as good as the green peppers and garlic. So I'm better off sticking with the recipe, always. Unless I'm baking, in which case I can invent entire recipes from scratch with a very low failure rate.

Monday, April 02, 2007


I donated platelets at the blood center last week. I hadn't stepped on a scale since giving up soda and related beverages, so in addition to parting with some precious bodily fluids I was also curious to see how much weight I had lost by dropping 400 calories in soda from my daily diet. Imagine my surprise to find that I somehow managed to gain eight pounds. I think this is the sign that I'm officially grown-up; I now have to worry about middle-aged spread. I just hit the point where I notice my tummy in the way when I bend over to touch my toes. So I'm making a point of exercising regularly and stretching and riding my bike to work. So far, so good, and it's been three whole days.

I'm also feeling like I'm not as strong as I once was. My weight has been in a state of increase for the last ten years. When I was 25 and rock climbing regularly, I was pretty steadily 145 pounds: wiry, cut, and with no excess body fat. When I was 30 and hitting people regularly, I was 160-165 pounds, but stronger than I was when I was climbing. And my legs were in much better shape. Now that I'm 35 1/2, and getting no regular intense activity, I just tipped the scale at 185. Gaaah! And the extra weight isn't muscle. In my climbing days, I would do pull-ups in sets of 26 or 28. For extra exercise, I would wear a tool apron with weights in the pockets. Adding 20 pounds dropped my count to 15 pull-ups. When I weighed 165 I was down to 15 pull-ups without the tool apron, which is a good indication that I didn't gain any upper-body strength. I haven't done any pull-ups in a long time, but I suspect I'm below ten now. Yeah, time to get back to the exercise!

And, in the interest of keeping up with my Getting-Things-Done organizational system, I'm writing down all of my exercise. If I get extremely desperate for things to blog about, I'll post it here. :-)

Irony lives in the White House kitchen.

While I was camping at Borders Books yesterday, I spent some time digging through the cookbook collection. In the pile was Desserts For Dummies. Like many of the Dummies books, it was actually pretty good. I picked up one or two baking tips I hadn't known before; I'll try them out and let you know if they're good. But I kept thinking that Bill Yosses, the author, sounded familiar. Maybe I already owned another of his cookbooks? So I googled him and found that he's the White House pastry chef. I think that with the publication of Desserts For Dummies, he became possibly the most appropriate person to cook for George.

I'm sure I didn't know that Bill Yosses was the White House pastry chef, so I'm still not sure why his name sounded familiar....

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Beatles and Costumes: codicil

I watched the Dance Kaleidoscope show again today. I wasn't planning on seeing it again, but it fit conveniently into my schedule; I came downtown with Laura, and I was on the strike call for the show anyway. I was surprised to discover that the costumes were a lot more tolerable than I originally thought. Once I was done venting my bile over the trauma my wife went through, I could watch the show more objectively. And my more objective opinion is that the costumes aren't terrible. The first act is okay; more than half of the costumes work for what they're supposed to do (this might be what's referred to as "damning with faint praise"). A lot of them were still pretty darn distracting, but since I had already seen the show once, I was better able to tune them out and pay attention to the dance. The first half of the second act was still pretty garish, but again on the second viewing I was able to tune the costumes out better. And, one costume I didn't like the first time around struck me as actually pretty good the second time; the "Jester on the Hill" costume is actually good for the character, and would look good draped on a mannequin in the lobby. But the girl's costume in "Long and Winding Road" did the impressive job of making a beautiful dancer look fat and somewhat dumpy.

That said, I completely stand by my earlier statement about elegance versus ornamentation. The costumes are extremely over-ornamented. I had a chance today to see the costumes close-up; I was amazed at how much unnecessary detail went into their production. Given that they won't ever be seen from closer than fifteen feet, they spent waaay too much time on details that are, in practice, invisible.

Some spray paint

Our garage got tagged last week. Not in the cool way, but by some idiot with a can of silver spray paint. It's not even good graffiti. If someone had done a cool bubbly-lettered six-color mural on our garage, I'd be fine with that -- or at least more fine. Instead, we got a name ("Keion") and a gang name ("10th stREEt waRRIoRs") in bad block printing. Our neighbor Joe got the word "BiTCh" on his garage; other neighbors got more Keion and warriors. I got some graffiti remover at the hardware store, but I haven't had a chance to try it out. I suspect it might work on Joe's metal garage door, but probably not on the rough cedar fence across the alley. What I can't remove, I'm planning on painting over. I need to talk to the guy with the cedar fence across the alley and see if he cares if I paint it white; it'll only take me an hour, and I'll be happier not seeing Keion's name every time I drive by.

The amusing/sad part is that only one neighbor called the police, and that was the neighbor who saw the guy doing the spray painting. And, of course, the police didn't care. Because the police never care. I don't think they even sent a car. To my knowledge, we and our neighbors have called in three home break-ins, two car break-ins, two sets of gunshots, and two vandalisms, and the police have yet to actually send someone out to investigate. They give you a case number over the phone so you can make an insurance claim, which you never file because it's cheaper to fix the damage yourself than pay your increased insurance rates. We've hit the point in our neighborhood where we don't even call in gunshots; the police don't actively investigate anything anymore, so if you didn't see exactly who did the shooting and where they went afterwards, there's no point calling. Even if you do, they tend to show up at your house first, then make a big show of pointing to where the disturbance happened before they walk down to talk to the actual perpetrators. They have to know as well as we do that you'll spend the next year replacing all the windows your irate neighbors shoot out; I'm pretty sure they do it to discourage you from calling. They're probably overworked writing parking tickets or arresting litterers in nice neighborhoods.

Sorry if I sound a little bitter. I'm just momentarily tired of our crappy neighborhood. I like our neighbors, and I like our house, and I like our incredibly cute feral cat colony. But sometimes I wish I lived in a neighborhood where I didn't have to worry about leaving the lawnmower outside when I run in to get a drink of water. And I wish the police actually cared about major crimes in our bad neighborhoods as much as they seem to care about minor nuisances in our expensive neighborhoods.

So I'm going to just paint over the graffiti. When it happens again, I'll paint over it again. With luck Keion will run out of silver spray paint before I run out of white exterior-grade latex.