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February 06, 2005

Just in time for Valentine's Day

"Before the 18th century, lovesickness had for thousands of years been accepted a recognised ailment. But for the past 200 years it has been out of favour with medical practitioners as a proper diagnosis..."

Dark ages are over, apparently for teen hearts of all ages, as lovesickness is making a comeback as a diagnosable, treatable disease. All that suffering over S.? I should have sought medical help. That inability to cope when sitting next to R. in the lunch room? Totally clinical. What a relief to know that when I thought I was just going to DIE if I didn't get to see J. again, I really could have actually dropped dead!

The last time I fell in love, I mean really plunged over the precipice, the object of my affections and I were married. Good thing, too, because "People can die from a broken heart."

Happy Valentine's Day.

January 20, 2005

Bush League

Last night I dreamt I was one of the Bush girls. Not the blonde one, of course. The brunette, Lauren? No, that’s the cousin. Barbara. That’s her. Anyway, I was the brown haired one. And I was having a little difference of opinion with George over the inauguration. See, my best friend was that terrible entertainment reporter that looks like a frog, what the hell is his name? He’s on Entertainment Tonight, I think, he’s blonde and very skinny and often in leather pants and has scarecrow hair, you know the one. Anyway, he’s as “gay as Christmas” (a turn of phrase I have always enjoyed and hope you are not offended by). See, I was getting in to it with George over gay rights.

Why this issue? Probably because – in my waking life as ME - when I think about gay rights, I think about very specific people in my life, fine, fine humans and good friends, who are being denied adoption rights or domestic partner rights or marriage rights based on the fact that their hearts have landed on a true love of the same sex. I think about real live people who I adore when I think about gay rights, so it sort of sits at the front of my consciousness – or indeed, my subconscious, it appears.

In my dream, I was supposed to give a little speech at the inauguration, but because I (as Barbara Bush Jr.) was fighting with George about gay rights, I was being prevented from attending the party. See, George was afraid I was going to use my time on the podium to bring up the issue of gay rights, when he really wanted me be sucking up to his family values and imperialism spreading inauguration donors. And I, Barbara Bush Jr., the uppity one, supposedly the smart one, was a liability. I was being confined to a rather ill-lit wing of the White House.

But my friend, the guy from Entertainment Tonight, the blonde guy who sort of looks like Steven Tyler, what IS his name already, was there with me. And I was sobbing on to his shoulder about how ashamed I was of my Presidential Parentage. And he was saying, as he stood there, reassuring me while wearing leather pants, that I shouldn’t be embarrassed, that one doesn’t choose their parents, and that just having my voice in George’s ear could potentially make the tiniest difference for his civil rights going forward.

However, plot twist, A-HA! Later, from the dreamer’s all knowing point of view, I observed George meeting with my Entertainment Tonight very best gay boyfriend, and they discussed whether or not their Evil Plan(TM) to subdue my left wing opinions was going well or not. And in the light of the tightly focused halogens, I could see that – bwa ha ha ha ha ha! – my Entertainment Tonight very best gay boyfriend in leather pants with scarecrow hair was nothing but a machine! The horrors! A machine built to service the needs of George to convince his family members that all was well, silencing their agendas and opinions in the service of greater conservatism! The horrors!

It is possible that I spend too much time obsessing about the Bush administration.

November 21, 2004

maybe I'm just paranoid, but...

am I the only one who has been targeted by the God Squad SPAM specialists? I have received a number of the following emails - the text is all the same - from people trying to save my eternal soul:

"A eternity of torment is forever.
If you or someone you care about to you has not accepted God please do today.
As he is real and alive you need to realize this.
The following prayer can save you or someone that you love.

Say,"Oh God,save my soul. I'm so sorry that I have
sinned against you, but I have come home. I will
serve you, Lord, the rest of my life. Deliver me
from all my sinful habits. Set me free! I do believe
Jesus died on Calvary for me, and I believe in His
blood, that there is power in His blood to wash away
all my sins, all my sins!" Say,"Come into my heart,
Jesus; come on in,Jesus.Come on in!"

If you meant it, He has come. If you meant it,
Jesus is yours. Start reading your Bible, pray daily
for all those you care about,including your dead loved ones,
and believe that somebody's listening; His name is Jesus,
and you are now saved."

What's most disturbing for me is the automatic nature of it. If I meant it, I'm saved. Personally, I think it should be a lot harder than that. I think it requires living a life dedicated to tolerance, charity and love of your fellow man every day without exception. I don't think Jesus Christ is the only way to live a "saved" life. And I think you've got to do more than say a few words and mean them at the time.

So, here's this liberal's challenge to the religious right - Live lives dedicated to tolerance, charity and love for your fellow man every moment of every day. Throw away your dogma and embrace all of your brothers and sisters in a single community. Pledge yourselves to inclusion and reach out in love. You'll be met with love.

November 05, 2004

Seven

How handy that I come from a culture that has a whole set of rules for mourning. Sitting 'shiva' lasts for seven days, though you are supposed suspend that during the Sabbath. Your diet should include eggs and lentils, which, like meatballs, are round and symbolize the cyclical nature of life. During the seven days that you mourn, you should "suspend all worldly activities, and devote full attention to remembering and mourning the deceased." Even God is supposed to have observed 'shiva' following the the great flood - "seven days for the destruction of the world."

I mention this tradition because there's a ton of mail and commentary kicking around about how things "aren't that bad" or how we should "buck up and get back to work." And to all of you who are already there, I say Hallelujah to your accelerated recovery and thanks for getting right back on that horse. But I'm going to sit out for a few more days and mourn. There's nothing wrong with me and there's nothing wrong with the idea that I should contemplate my loss.

Yeah, it might be tainted with bitterness and anger but hopefully reflection will bring me out to the other side. After all, it was optimism that made me put my shoes on and spend all that time on the campaign. I think the joy of involvement was apparent on the faces of everyone there. There was an incredible amount of good there.

But hey, Michael Moore, John Kerry, and especially George W. Bush, don't talk to me about healing and reconciliation right this minute, okay. I'm in mourning until next Tuesday.

"At the conclusion of the Shiva, it is customary for the mourners to go out of the house and walk around the block. This act signifies, on one hand, the beginning of a return to the world of daily living, and on the other hand, a symbolic escorting of the soul of the departed." Tuesday, I'll go take a little walk around the neighborhood.

Read more about sitting shiva here.

In the Ghetto

My friend C. came for dinner last night. C. was born in England and he's lived here for many years. C. is gay and like all my gay friends, he's spinning over the 11 states that voted against marriage rights. He's been joking, in a not very funny way, about starting to wear a pink triangle. He's also been reading the Nuremburg laws to see if he can pinpoint the place at which things started to change. The whole idea makes my skin crawl, not just because I'm Jewish. We weren't rushing to conclusions about how we are now just like Nazi Germany, we're more sensible than that, but we did both ask what, exactly, it was that made people know it was time to start packing. By the time they got to Kristalnacht, it was way too late, but were the marriage laws the turning point?

This led to us talking about the ghettoization of intellectual culture. When you look at the map, either the map that divides the vote by state, or if you can stand the loneliness, the map that divides the vote by county, you see how we've insulated ourselves in these little outposts - the Northeast, here in Seattle, you know where you are and who you've surrounded yourself with. My nearest neighbors are a lesbian couple and a gay man. My best friend? Gay. The crowd I see the most at dinner parties are a surprisingly religious bunch, both Jewish and Christian, with a huge thirst for knowledge about the world beyond their doors.

And me? I'm a bookish, free-flying independent with a fine arts degree who's managed somehow to build an odd little compromise with corporate culture so I can make a fair living while avoiding working all year round. I married a foreigner but I don't live with him, I have zero desire to have kids, and I drive a 20 year old car.Last night when C and I went out, I realized only my shoes, socks, and underwear did not come from a second hand store. To top it off, I play the ukulele. Oh my god, I'm a total hippie.

So what? So this: We're in the ghetto. We love it here in the ghetto because it's safe. We're surrounded by people who may not be exactly like us, but they don't judge us. They do more than accept us, they embrace us and pull us in to their families, making our ghetto the warmest place you'd ever want to live. Nobody sent us here to the ghetto, we came here under our own volition because we feel at home here. But we are ghettoized all the same.

This is a rude awakening for me. See, becuase I grew up in the ghetto, I thought the whole world was like this. My parents worked for desegregation of the public schools. As kids, we learned that art and music and literature were things of great value. My father insisted that we study liberal arts because those things taught us how to think which was way more important than learning how to DO a specific thing. My mom was - and still is - and incurable reader. Our house was full of books and art, not prints from Cost Plus. Not posters. Original art.

I don't want to leave the impression that I had this rose tinted Rennaissance upbringing. There was a nasty divorce. I was a foster child for a while. Later, my dad did some time for white color crime. The point I want to make is that I've ALWAYS lived in the ghetto, I've never known anything else. I've stayed in the ghetto my whole life, even out of the US. I was an exchange student the same year I was a foster child. I've hitched rides from Palestinians while I was working on a kibbutz. I lived in Brixton, for crying out loud, the site of the British race riots in the 80s. I went out to see the world when I was 16 and I thought I had my eyes open.

But I have spent the whole time blinded to what America is. When I first met my husband and we would talk about America, he would totally get down on it. And I would fight back every time. "Americans are A, B, and C" he would insist. I would argue vehemently against that. Because the America I knew was never A, B, and C. It was always X, Y, and Z. "I AM A TYPICAL AMERICAN," I would say, over and over and over. "Nope. Not even close," was his consistent response.

The thing I have learned from this election is that he was right. I am nowhere near a typical American. I want to force my values on others as much as I want theirs forced upon me, which is not at all. I react to strangers with more curiosity than fear. I have hardly any interest in "getting ahead." I am not a hammer. Everything is not a nail.

Until Tuesday night, I loved my country. I felt truly patriotic, in spite of the damage that the Rove-ing band of thugs have caused at home and abroad. I believed we could take it back. I believed that my values (a word that now feels profane) were shared by enough people that change was imminent, inevitable.

Now I just feel stupid. How could I have not seen it? How could I have been so blind? Typical American? My ass. To the NASCAR dads and security moms, I'm a fucking joke. And, hey, how handy for them, they needn't give me a date for relocation, I did it already.

Come on in and make yourself at home. No the walls aren't new, they've been here the whole time. I can't imagine why you never noticed them before. I'm making cornbread and veggie chili, will you stay and eat?

Welcome to the ghetto.

September 17, 2004

Those crazy christians

I am finally going this weekend to get passport photos taken so I can get mine renewed. I know Jay is all happy over Jimmy Breslin's assertion that cell phone users are the dark matter that will decide the election, but I'm looking at those electoral college numbers and thinking I really do need to pay more heed to plan B.

I was still flabergasted that Bush can still be doing that well, despite everything everything about him lying about his service, WMDs, Iraq, Abu Ghraib, etc. Then I get a reminder buried in an article today on CNN about some stupid anti-gay group boycotting Proctor and Gamble for not supporting Cincinatti's law discriminating against gay couples' marriages.

In the 1980's, a rumor spread through evangelical Protestant churches that the company was connected to Satan. The company eventually filed libel suits against individuals it said were spreading the rumor.

I tend to forget how much of this country is just plain insane. Maybe I should plan to move anyway.

September 07, 2004

Small joys

If anyone's wondering why I haven't posted much in a while, it's 8:40 pm and I'm still stuck in my office in deepest Bellevue. Crazy, crazy workload right now. In this weakened state, it was a mis-addressed email that almost sent me over the edge. I can't live without the stupid auto-complete function in Outlook (it would take 3x as long to address my mails) but I can't live with it pulling up every damn David I've ever emailed when I just want to ping Smithlet.

So I Googled for a few minutes and, bless the Lord, finally learned how to edit the Outlook email-address autocomplete list. And it's so easy I wanted the cry--you just highlight an offending name in the drop down and... press delete. Looking at the comments on the linked page, I'm not the only frustrated by the very un-Microsoft simplicty of this approach.

Still, it made my day. And that, my friends, is a sad comment on my day.

August 11, 2004

"Why am I the only honest bigot?"

Slate has a thoughtful article on how our disavowal of racism makes it harder to confront our own racist impulses. It's quite a confessional on the part of the author, who has more credentials than 99% of us if she wanted to simply declaim "I am not a racist." She also goes in a bit more for class struggle than is fashionable these days--and props for that. It's a good read, ending with this observation:

"It's not bigotry per se that hamstrings us in the struggle to achieve a just society. It's our inability to talk about and think our way through our preconceptions. We have to learn how to forgive each other, and more importantly ourselves, when we're stupid."

July 21, 2004

Call me Ahab

More proof we're travelling backwards in time. Maybe we could bring back witch trials, too.

Oh, wait.

More on airlines, fear, and racism

This started as a comment but then got too long. I, too, read the Salon article, various blog posts, and the original article... and while I share Paulette's concern about racial profiling, I just don't think it's fair to equate the article--or the concerns it rests on--with xenophobic expressions along a continuum that ends in anti-Arab hate crimes. Just because this is being used by talk radio idiots to fuel hysteria does not make telling the story an ipso facto act of racism. For reasons I'll get into in a moment, I found it interesting and important. And pace the fact that I almost always share David's love for Patrick Smith's prose stylings, I think he takes some cheap shots at Jacobsen.

Though the tone of the article is undeniably hysterical in places, and though I'm sure some details were embellished in their retelling, I'm unwilling to dismiss the issue out of hand. The author has some pretty decent credentials (time spent in the Middle East, initial friendliness with the passengers in question) that keep the story from feeling like a racist screed.

Nobody, I believe, has debunked her assertion that it was this incident that led to the increased onboard security that I found so unsettling last week. I can attest personally to the renewed seriousness with which the airlines are taking the "congregating in the aisles" issue. My Alaska flights to and from Newark last week were logistically quite difficult due to the "no queueing" rules. There were about 8 extra announcements about when the lavatories would be locked, how long until the meal service that would block access to the lavs, and how absolutely no passengers from coach could enter the first-class cabin for any reason. This applied to white little me as well as everyone else.

The attendants were very keyed up about it, and their anxiety made me anxious. I almost posted it about it at the time. I've been flying all my life, but it's to the point where I need to get a prescription for Xanax for when I fly. Between the chaos at the airport and concerns about security (coupled with the physical constraints of not being able to walk around the cabin), I've just been a basket case lately on long flights.

Annie Jacobsen may turn out to be a nutcase... but even if you are paranoid, sometimes they (in the global sense, not the Arab-specific sense) really are out to get you. And some of the details in the story (the men in question taking cell phones and cameras into the lavatory) would make me nervous too. Whether or not the men were Syrian, I can honestly say. Frankly, I would have found this article worth reading if it were a group of 14 Swedes!

I travel extensively for business (though much less than I used to) and I have never seen Arab or Arab-looking passengers singled out (though I know it happens). On the other hand, I have repeatedly seen people who were completely incapable of causing any harm hassled, somewhat gleefully, by the TSA drones. This included me when I was in a leg brace--TSA screeners made me laboriously unhook my brace, something that not even the super-suspicious Russian screeners required. I once saw a (lily white) man in a full-body brace have to struggle with his shoes to comply with the screener. And I have seen literally dozens of 70+ passengers remove shoes, belts, braces, splints, and even a western shirt with too many snaps. But, as the Annie Jacobson points out in her follow-up article, it's ridiculously easy to get metal knives at airside restaurants. The half-assed TSA approach only feeds peoples' fears (and the pettily sadistic randomness of their application of the "rules" is conditioning Americans to do whatever a person in uniform says to--but that's another story).

I would argue that the real problem with screening in the nation's airports is not that it is too selective-- it is that it is not selective enough. El Al is the model of airline security, and while skin color alone is not a flag in their system, they pay tremendous attention to national origin, passport stamps, and a list of questions that they ask you if you meet any combination of age, itinerary, and occupation. There are plenty of stories about innocent travelers who have been denied boarding on El Al until their stories could be confirmed. If you are serious about screening, that sort of approach makes complete sense to me. Much more sense than body-searching feeble grandmothers of any ethnicity.

My #1 fear when flying is the precise scenario the woman mentioned describes-- a bomb assembled on board from components that look harmless alone. Richard Clarke's book describes a threat that caused the Clinton administration to cancel trans-Pacific flights for a week. The intelligence mention plastic explosive, wristwatches, and bottles of contact lens solution, and mentioned that the bombs would be hidden in lavatories. Of course the airlines resisted efforts at the time to make permanent changes to security protocols... too costly.

Now that we, the taxpayers, have bailed out most of the major carriers (with nothing in return) and employ TSA screeners directly as Federal employees, I think it's ridiculous that security is still as lax (and capricious!) as it is. Given the ridiculousness of the screening protocols, if I had seen the activities this woman describes seeing, I would have been freaked out too. Whatever the color of the instrument-bearing bathroom vistors. (I am, after all, from Oklahoma City... where we know that bombers come in white as well as brown.) And certainly musical instruments, orthopedic shoes, and fast-food bags should be checked as thoroughly as my laptop and shoes are.

The real tragedy is that we didn't "done it right the first time" with regards to airline security. There was no political will to look at what works and how it could be implemented here--it was just done in a completely slapped-together "don't worry folks!" kind of way. Airline security is still a joke--just a joke that takes a lot longer than it used it. We will almost certainly see more airplane bombings, which will only increase the risk of racist profiling. How much better if we proactively identify threats and deal with them, to prevent bombings in the first place. Until that happens, people like Annie Jacobsen and I will be weirdly attuned to the lavatory habits of our fellow passengers. I really hope that doesn't put me in Rush Limbaugh's camp... but if so, the only think to do about it is medicate me heavily before taking me to the airport.

June 10, 2004

More on the end of the world

So apparently there's an email going around saying someone heard from their friend who bumped into someone from CNN who was recently at the Pentagon ... (you get the drill) ... that there's going to be a terrorist attack tomorrow, June 11. I didn't receive it myself, but I read about it on snopes, along with the usual, perfectly rational debunking.

And yet ... there's one detail in there that gave me pause to wonder. I was surprised when they announced that the NYSE would close tomorrow in honour of Reagan's death. Has the NYSE ever been closed for such a reason before? If not, this gives some small amount of credence to the rumour.

May 03, 2004

Honor Roll

I'm sure everyone caught the fuss over Ted Koppel's reading the names of the US soldiers killed in Iraq. 721 of them, there were. There was something about this story that was making me itchy beyond the usual 'Can you believe the corporate censorship' knee jerk reaction. After thinking upon it for a while, I realized that I'd seen this done before. The News Hour has been running what they call the "Honor Roll" for a while. They read the names of the war dead at the end of the News Hour and there's been, as far as I know, no flap about it.

I dropped them a line to ask about it. Here's what they said:

Thanks for your interest. We read the names of those service members who
have died in Iraq when the names become available. It's not who died that
day or even that week, just the most recent names that have been released.
Also, names aren't released everyday, so our Honor Roll is not run everyday
either. So you may hear on the news that four or five soldiers have been
killed in Iraq, but we do not run any names - this is not because we are
being censored or have discontinued the practice, we are just waiting for
officials to notify next of kin before they start releasing identities out
to the media. Sometimes a whole week will go by with no Honor Roll, and then
we will have an Honor Roll with over 20 names on a day when there were no
casualties

I hope I was able to answer your questions. If you are curious, we do keep
an online archive of the Honor Roll.

Sincerely,
Online NewsHour Staff


I didn't watch Ted Koppel, but I have seen the Honor Roll a few times on the News Hour and it always fills me with great sadness.

April 13, 2004

Defining the Language of War

The ugly turn in Iraq (if a war can get uglier) has set me to thinking about who the hostages are and how they fit in to the semantics of war. The hostages that aren’t soldiers can’t – I think – be considered Prisoners of War because they’re civilian employees, regardless of what role they actually play on the ground. Since they’re not POW’s, they’re also not subject to the Geneva Convention rules for Prisoners of War. This would include the “private security forces”, though I wouldn’t call them private security forces, I’d probably call them mercenaries.

In Guantanamo Bay, we have “illegal combatants” who also aren’t subject to the Geneva Convention - that’s why they were so classified. Jessica Ryan and her crew were considered POWs; they were enlisted folks, not civilian employees of Haliburton or any other company contracted for reconstruction in Iraq.

The hostages aren’t illegal combatants or POWs. One might argue that folks like Jessica Ryan and Thomas Hamill, were already hostages of the policies of the Bush administration, after all both Ms. Ryan and Mr. Hamill ended up in Iraq because of economic despair.

Paul Bremer said on national television that “We will not negotiate over hostages.” About the same time, Donald Rumsfeld stated that the troops in Iraq who’d been scheduled to go home will now have to wait. And layoffs in corporate America continue with Dupont announcing that they’re cutting six percent of their work force.

Who's a hostage? Who's a POW? Who's an illegal combatant? And who decides?

March 15, 2004

The point of acupuncture

A controlled (though obviously not double-blind) clinical trial reveals that acupuncture can help to relieve chronic headaches (BBC News). It's good to see that alternative therapies are getting some scientific review, and it's certainly a cheaper (and arguably safer) means of treating the problem. The British Medical Association even suggests it be available under universal health care.

Personally, I think the question of whether acupuncture has any real benefit remains unproven: this could easily be the result of a placebo effect. This doesn't make it any less effective, of course. But I'd be more impressed if it showed benefit for a complaint which isn't purely self-reported and could be subject to directly measurable improvement.

January 28, 2004

48 Disenfranchised Hours

"King County has received notification that you no longer live at the address indicated on your voter registration. We have placed your name in our inactive voter file until we hear from you."

Because it's long and full of bureaucracy, I've posted the true story of my brief but harrowing stint as a 'disenfranchised' voter here. The short - but as of yet unconfirmed - story is that if you are going to insist on spending an extended time abroad, you should try to avoid being called for jury duty.

Also, here's a handy link to online voter registration. Just in case.

January 27, 2004

Are the '00s the new '30s?

This might not count as healthy paranoia, but since we're on the topic: Are Parallels To Nazi Germany Crazy?

January 12, 2004

The toilet: tool of terrorists

Passengers on transoceanic flights to the US are no longer allowed to queue for the toilet at the behest of Homeland Security. Frankly, if you can't go for a piss when you want on a 12-hour flight from Sydney to Los Angeles, the terrorists have already won. As reported in The Age: 'the chief executive of the Board of Airline Representatives of Australia, Warren Bennett, said the decision bordered on American paranoia. He said it would place "enormous stress" on flight crew.' I worry more about the stress on the passengers.

Just how far is this paranoia going to go? Does every country need to roll over and accept every ludicrous demand from the US? At least the Brazilians are getting their own back.

November 11, 2003

Revisionist History on the Web, again

First, Time magazine surreptitiously pulls an article from their website where Bush Sr describes why invading Iraq was a bad idea. Then, Merriam-Webster's online dictionary pulls the newly-published definition of McJobs following complaints from McDonalds.

This is worrying, and not just for the obvious political reasons. There's no doubt the Internet has revolutionized the way we as a society disseminate and ingest information, and is an improvement on the days of journals and libraries. But at least in the print media there is an automatic audit trail when documents are edit after the fact of being published. You can see an article clipped from a newspaper, or the black ink of redaction in a classified document. But on the Web, documents can disappear, and the seams mended without a trace. In the Time case, even the reference to the Bush Sr article in the table of contents was deleted! Unless somebody notices, documents deleted from the web are simply gone from the collective consciousness. (Do you really think researchers and historians will be using anything other than electronic media in the next decade or so?) It's chilling to think that history is changing before our eyes to an extent we probably don't even know.

October 05, 2003

The Best Imitation of Myself

Andy Warhol said that everybody gets 15 minutes of fame. Since I became aware of that statement, I have been haunted with the pressure to make sure I didn't "squander" it uselessly. I think ultimately I'm hoping to stretch it out long enough to make some cash and then maybe even become a decent trivial pursuit answer. (Not in the Kato Kalin sort of way mind you... I said "decent") It's good to have dreams no? Well, thinking about the 15 minutes scenario every now and then always pauses me to reflect on maybe what could have been or should have been or the road less travelled sort of thing... (we could call it RobertFrost-itis I suppose) so, with the exception of 6 minutes in a Donny Osmond video, I was curious to see how well my remaining 9 minutes were being "saved". Not an easy task to accomplish but thank god for the internet right? (without which, how would you be reading this anyway?) I'm sure everyone has done this at least once, where you type in your name into a google search and see what pops up as "you". Well, as it turns out my name is not uniquely my own. There they were the other "me"s. A doctor or two, a tennis player, a travel editor (who has been dubbed the "travel detecctive"), a kid who plays drums in a high school marching band, and some guy named Warren but was nicknamed "Pete" (How the hell does that happen?!) Sort of like a mini vacation for the soul, there were these other lives all right there hanging out as possabilities and choices missed or not taken (yeah, that part is a stretch but if you can't go with that, then this article really doesn't have much of a point now does it?). It is somehow comforting to think that I have made progress and advancements in the medical and labratory science or have been alerting people to frequent flyer scams, shredding it up the guitar with 10 pounds of aquanet in the lion mane of my hair (didn't I mention him before? yeah... there's one of those out there too) and so on... it somehow makes the days of sitting about the house eating a pint of Ben & Jerry's seem less like slacking off and more like a well deserved rest from all of my worldly activities. It is good to know that my 9 minutes are still safely stored away and who knows maybe I'll get to borrow a few from those other guys... not like they'll miss 'em or anything.

September 17, 2003

Where's my goddammed soup?

I know you wouldn't think it to know me, but I am a wuss when it comes to being sick. And it's weird, right? Because usually, I'm tough as nails. Nothing phases me. I'm a stoic. Through and through. Straight-faced. Deadpan. Dry witted.

Ok, that's not true. I take many a cake for grousing. (And while I'm not going to explore the origin of that expression, but what kind of birds do complain? Do grouses grouse? Or does their call just sound whiny? They didn't have any, that I noticed, at the zoo, so I can't say for sure.)

But, yeah, I've got me a little cold. And I'm milking it for all its worth. This is a trait I learned from my father, believe it or not. He may have been a Ranger, but when he got a bug, everyone was walking on eggshells not to bug him. So that's yet another way I take after him. And it's good for me in developing my whole curmudgeonly persona, I think, to complain about the miseries of my viral infections.

So I don't want to go to work tomorrow. I want to stay home, under the covers, and whine. I might even think about calling my mother and whining at her for not being here to bring me chicken soup. Because if you're going to be sick, you might as well take some pleasure in it, and make the woman who brought you into the world feel sorry for not making it a perfectly wonderful and disease-free place, right? I don't know. I need to go to work. But I feel like crap. Chills. Congestion. Light-headed. Generally in a bad mood. Tired. Sore. Somebody just put me out of my misery.

Except, I know that in the grand scheme of things, I'm fine. I'll recover. Probably in a day or two because I've been zincing myself to high heaven. But still. I get sick so rarely that when I do, I want to do it with verve. Panache. Some kind of bang at least. So I complain a lot. Because that is just so out of character for me. Sigh. Maybe I'm just jealous of Cliff and his detached retina. Or maybe I'm just a wuss. I keep asking myself how I'd survive on a boat for a week or more in Alaska if I'm whining about a head cold, but on the other hand, maybe I whine because I've not suffered enough in other ways. So does that mean I'm trying to toughen myself up, become a stronger and better person by going fishing next summer? Or am I just kidding myself? I guess that remains to be seen.

I've been reading this book about fishing on a scallop boat, one my father recommended after I first mentioned my hare-brained scheme, and I think his plan backfired. I'm more jazzed about the whole idea than ever, even despite the dislodged teeth and stiches and severed limbs described in the book. So I'm thinking that, assuming you'll all still love me as much as ever with a prosthetic arm and caps on my teeth, that at least I'll be better off a year from now when I get my next cold and say "This is nothing compared to being 50 miles offshore with a half ton of salmon that I need to pack in ice even as I'm bleeding profusely."

You all can only hope.


September 09, 2003

Celebrating non-diversity

Here's something I've always wished for: a gathering of all the David Smiths. It's just for a small town in Vermont, but maybe this will lead to a US-wide (or even world-wide!) convention someday. I'd go.

I've always felt cursed by having the dullest name in the universe. (My close friends know that my middle name is equally dull, so no hope there.) It's caused any number of logistical problems, from getting the wrong mail to having to wait an extra 10 minutes while the support rep on the phone scrolls through 10 pages of names just to find mine. It even caused a minor problem with the house-buying process -- in the title search some other David Smiths turned up with judgements against them, and I had to prove I wasn't them. On the other hand, it does help to become anonymous when you need it.

On a more serious note, the one-to-many mapping of names to people has caused problams for several people as a result of the current War on Terror. There is now a "passenger watch list" which the airlines are meant to scritinize, and if your name matches one on the list you get searched. In detail. Every time. Problem is, there's no way to get your name off the list if it's added mistakenly, and because the list only has first and last names (and sometimes just initials!) many innocent travellers are being inconvenienced. For example "J Adams" is on the list, and if your are John or Jenny or James Adams you will be stopped. The WSJ covered the issue. Let's hope "D Smith" never gets added to the list -- not just for my sake, but to prevent the 4-hour security lines it would cause.

August 19, 2003

I love people who make me seem well-adjusted in comparison

And apparently this guy even managed to get a book deal out of his site Things My Girlfriend and I Have Argued About.

To be honest, I'm not sure if this is entertaining, or very, very unnerving. Like, I could almost see me writing a blog like this some day, though probably not about things my girlfriend and I have argued about. I'm guessing it will be more like things my mother and I have argued about. Or things my mother and grandmother have argued about. Or things my brother and mother have argued about. Or things my mom and my aunt have...

Hang on. I'm going to register a domain name. I think I smell a book deal.

August 15, 2003

Ceci n'est pas un homme

If there is one thing that pisses me off, it's being stood up. Well, ok, who are we kidding? There are probably a lot of things that piss me off. Because, as has recently been pointed out to me, I'm no longer irritable but in a "constant state of maximum irritation, and therefore incapable of becoming more irritated." It would appear, ladies and gentlemen (and pooch, should you be reading this, Dozer), that I have a disposition.

Fortunately, outside of work, I think I do an admirable job of hiding this well. I mingle. I giggle. I tell funny stories. (At least, I think they're funny.) And, you know, I can seem downright effusive at times. Like when Jay called to tell me about David's acceptance of the proposal, and I managed to scare at least half a dozen folks hanging out in front of the Coffee Messiah with my screamsqueal of delight. So, you know, I'm not all grousing and cursing. I have my perky moments too.

Except, when you push one of those buttons that just really irks me. Like standing me up. Because here's the thing. If you don't want to meet me, DON'T SUGGEST IT. Don't say, oh, hey, how's about we do X, and then just not do X. If you can't make it, change your mind, whatever, just call or email and say, "Hey, I don't think I'm going to be able to do X afterall." Because really, that's just low.

Right. And it might not take a huge stretch of logic to get that I had a bit of an experience with that sort of...ahem...behavior recently. And so, being the neurotic little freak that I am, thought I might turn to trusty old Google to find out what an appropriate next course of action might be, mostly because the no-show in question has a copy of a particularly favored book of mine, as well as a CD that I'd really like back.

Yeah, and it should probably come as no surprise that there is a fair amount of advice out there on just what to do in said situations, most of it fairly consistent, as in this tip sheet on www.getgirls.com which I chose as my link because, well, I am amused by the URL. So, apparently, I could call today to find out what's up, thus giving me an opportunity to suggest various methods of returning the above mentioned literature and music, and perhaps I shall. Although I admit that I am quite partial to Jay's much more pointed suggestion of sending a FedEx package with a prefilled-in shipping label to effect the desired recovery of these items.

Jay will note, however, that nowhere on this tip sheet does it mention as an appropriate step, "Have your best friend call the offending stander upper from your cell phone during the appointed event in order to threaten him with bodily harm." Nor does it give any indication that graduates from any particular institute of higher education are more likely to engage in such behaviors than are, say, Yalies (who, we know would never have so little consideration for a fellow human being), thus disproving Jay's theory that this sort of behavior is well-documented among, as he so charmingly dubbed them, "Harvard fucks."

At least I had a lovely evening with my dear Jay, who was, as always, enormously satisfying company in any context, and we did have the opportunity to feel quite old while chatting with some fellow Elis whose existence on this planet never overlapped with that of John Lennon. So I'm not actually in a state of maximum irritation at the moment. Just close to it. Which is to say, in warning to those I might encounter today, I'm feeling irritable.

July 23, 2003

Jumping on my bandwagon

Why is it that every time I get some idea in my head, it seems like before I can spit out the word "copycat", everyone else has suddenly made a mad dash to beat me to the punch? Well, not that it will stop me, but still, this is frustrating.

Ok, the last time it happened they didn't exactly make a mad dash, but it was still frustrating to see a movie about Porn 'n Chicken, the Yale club that nearly got themselves booted out of Old Blue for making a porno flick in the stacks at Sterling Library called Staxx, an idea I first floated back in my days with University Pictures, and which, for some reason, I never managed to get any Sudler Fund sponsorship for.

So now, it was probably about two weeks ago I started making plans to spend a week working on the Jubilee, a salmon boat out of Kodiak, Alaska that belongs to someone I know. Now, suddenly Slate's copy chief Laurie Snyder is sending her dispatches from a southern Alaskan salmon boat?

What gives? Well, I'm still planning on doing this next summer, since it looks like the timing won't likely work out for me going this August, but trust me, the other idea I've been cooking up lately, I'm not breathing a word of, lest some member of Salon's editorial staff take it upon herself to do it first.

July 22, 2003

My Xterra thinks I'm a lesbian

I just discovered that I drive seventh most lesbian car ever. Not the gayest car, mind you -- that honour is reserved for the VW Jetta, closely followed by the rest of VW's product line -- my car is for chicks, it seems. And here I was, thinking I bought an Xterra to get me to the out-of-the-way camping and climbing spots and cart around rugby gear. Apparently I'm just barely repressing desires to wear overalls and shop at Home Depot.

July 07, 2003

An accidental author

So it turns out (to my considerable surprise) that I'm a published author. And not just dusty-thesis-in-a-university-library published, or dull-article-in-a-refereed-journal published, or even letter-to-the-editor published, but a real author of a real book with a cover and spine and the whole nine yards. You can even buy my book from amazon.com and Barnes and Noble. I'm sure I'll be hearing from the publisher soon about the international book tour and signing events.

I wonder how many other authors are surprised to find they are listed on amazon.com. With the advent of free software came the parallel revolution in free documentation for software. "Free" here does not mean free-as-in-beer: companies are free-as-in-freedom to take these works and publish them for a profit. As a sometimes free-software and free-documentation author, it does give you a warm glow when you make that initial contribution to the world, signing away your future rights under the auspices of the GPL. I know it's not up there with saving poor children from hunger or providing world peace, but it's something, y'know. But that warm glow becomes something of a sour taste when others profit from your work without so much as a by-your-leave.

You might think it's a little ironic that I came to be the author of a book which supports a free-software rival to the company I work for, and you'd be right. The reason is that a couple of years ago I was trying to correct a previous injustice, where work I had written had been appropriated without any acknowledgement whatsoever. Back in my university days, I wrote part of a free guide to a certain commercial software package, and that document became widely distributed. (Since that time, I joined the company that makes that software -- hence the rather obtuse references.) R is a GPL copy of the software my company makes, which emerged a few years ago, and that document I wrote part of was absorbed wholesale to become the manual for R ... without attributing me at all! I wrote several chapters of that document, and as Paulette knows writing software documentation (and especially writing it well) is no mean task. I was miffed enough to demand that my name (and affiliation) was added to the manual, which has become the source of this book. I guess in practical terms it's no different than having the R manual available for download in PDF format, but when it appears in physical book form it just seems to take it up a level.

The original document "Notes on S" contained this copyright notice: "These notes may be freely copied and redistributed for any educational purpose provided the copyright notice remains intact. Where appropriate, a small charge to cover the costs of production and distribution, only, may be made." Purportedly the new publisher, Network Theory in the UK, donates all the profits to Free Software, so it's debatable whether this is a violation. Removing (or changing) a copyright notice certainly is, though, although the blame there probably goes to the R authors. So what am I going to do about it? Probably nothing, except to ask the publisher for the free copy they offer to authors. Let's see if they manage to send it. A proactive gesture would have been a whole lot nicer -- it's not as if I'm that hard to find in cyberspace.

It's incidents like this which have rather soured me to the Free Software movement. (This isn't the only incident that has affected me personally, by the way: I wrote an entire manual to an Emacs extension -- S-mode -- which ran to a few hundred pages and was also appropriated wholesale and without attribution by the subsequent maintainers of the project.) Ideals are all well and good, but it seems they often turn to zealotry which can leave the details of copyright, attribution, and general good manners behind. I strongly feel that there is a role for both free and commercial software in this world, and it behooves both parties to recognize that fact and to play by their own rules.

June 17, 2003

Attack On Bourgeois Turns Out To Be Nothing

After a community viewing of Jay's losing—but smart and refined—competition on Jeopardy, I drove home and stopped by the ProClub for some cycling that I really should have done outside (I even had my road bike on the back of my car).

Later, driving down Broadway, just after passing the south end of Broadway Market and before the Vivace outpost, across from Bill & Ted's Excellent Cafe Adventure, or whatever that Baskin-Robbins became, I heard a loud, sharp noise on my right. Had someone thrown something at my car? It was so loud, I wondered how it could have been a human-powered shot. Was it my shiny car with the gold "L" logo that had elicited the attack?

I turned the corner and pulled into the parking lot at WaMu to inspect the car, wondering how, if I found damage, I could do anything useful about catching the culprit. I scanned the right side of the car... no visible holes in the body... one dimple I already know about... tires are fine... no cracked glass. Huh. I got back in the car, and then I saw my attacker. The parking garage at the health club was quite warm, and an hour of sitting there had caused quite a bit of pressure to build up in the re-corked bottle of Duvel lying on the passenger seat. The cork was no longer in the bottle.

I held up the bottle while I wiped up the ale with my canvas bag from Trader Joe's, and then realized how that might be perceived around here (the open container of alcohol in the hand of the driver). Canvas isn't too absorbent, so I'll be referring now to the car's "ale skin" interior.

April 08, 2003

Still waiting for Gaultier...

...but this stylish tie is a great start! I'm going to start wearing my "Freedom to Breath Safe Clothing" silk necktie with medical filtration fabric every day!!! I know all my ladyfriends will want the silk scarf variety for their own fashionalbe protection.

As the website says:


These products are unique because they are worn as fashionable clothing accessories such as scarves, ties, and other items until such time as the wearer finds themselves in an unusual situation where they fear for their safety. The clothing item can then be placed on their airway as a filtration device. The lingering image of people covering their airways with their clothing as they fled the World Trade Center is etched in all of our memories. The concern exists that bioterrorism or “dirty bombs” will spread radioactive dust and bacteria which will put our breathing and health at risk.

The ties and scarves are just $40 and available in red, blue, gold, and black. And my, aren't those models attractive people-- secure in the purity of their respiration!

April 04, 2003

"Les masques SRAS"

"I want the one by Gaultier, in patent leather!"

Yes, the ticket agents at Charles de Gaulle have donned masks to ward off SARS, according to this report by the BBC. I have to say, probably not a bad idea, especially if you are a French wuss. No, seriously. Let's stop this thing. But wouldn't it make more sense for all the passengers to wear masks? They already give out eye masks for long flights... why don't we just go the full balaclava route. Oh, wait, those are for highjackers.

Le Figaro has an even more interesting story about the growing panic in Canada, which we're hearing almost nothing about thanks to the war. Of course that article is in French. Here's one from the Toronto Star that makes the Canadians sound (predictably) less panicked than the French make them out to be.

January 16, 2003

You will be assimilated...or, you know, maybe not

For years my friends have been telling me I’m the perfect person for TiVo. "Join us, join us," they say in deadened tones, holding out remotes as they walk towards me like extras in Night of the Living Dead. I watch a lot of TV, have shows I like to keep up with regularly, and about a billion actors I keep my eyes open for. Plus I can spend a whole day reminding myself to set the vcrs for something, and then promptly forget when it comes time to set them. But a lot of things made me not want one — high cost, the size of the machines (the previous boxes were big enough to fit a small child into), the fact that it recorded stuff for you without asking, which freaked me out profoundly. But once I started my Buy Electronics Before Being Laid Off program, I figured I might as well break down and get one. The new series 2 versions were considerably smaller, recorded more TV, and seemed, while still high priced, a better value (although I didn’t at the time know about the monthly $13 for service, which kinda changed my perspective to a little more sour).

And last weekend I went shopping with the two best people you could shop for a TiVo with. M has been evangelizing them for what feels like forever, and L had been working there designing the UI until recently. So I got it all figured out, went to purchase one, and they were completely out of stock. They said they’d have a truck in the next day, so I dutifully went back to a store farther away with M, and they only had two left of the more expensive, higher-capacity one, so I bought it. Best Buy could not have made it more difficult. M patted my shoulder and told me we could go have a drink afterwards — by the time they had asked me for the name of my mother’s first boyfriend, I thought my head was going to explode. And now BB has pretty much every piece of information on me that it can have, including my underwear size and bra cup, because apparently they refuse to sell you a “service” without you providing all that and your blood type and then signing in said blood. I’m sure the incompetent woman at the counter went home and complained to her family about the two screaming bitches who came through her line that day, but when it comes to privacy, screaming bitch doesn’t even begin to describe me. Hera on a tear would probably do it.

So I buy the thing and M helps me set it up, probably deciding at that point that she has no respect for me because I can’t figure anything out at all (the technically competent must be so frustrated by people like me, who look at diagrams and go “duh?”), and then we go off and have dinner and take her electronic toys to her place, and I come back and it says it’s processing and whatnot, but that I can watch live TV. So I play around, start reading my manual, and suddenly during Alias I realize that even though I have to pee really bad, I don’t have to wait for the commercial because — voila! I can pause it or rewind it! Terribly exciting. I come back and watch Marshall giving Syd flowers and think, well, maybe it’s not so bad. I watch Boomtown and go to bed and it’s still processing.

Then I come home on Monday and turn it on to see what I can do with it. With the manual and a plate of Mongolian tofu in front of me, I start doing the guided tours. Fun stuff. I don’t like the fact that it’s taken over my system completely, and now I can’t do anything except watch live TV without at least two, usually three remotes in my hand, which I hate, but I’ve moved past anger and denial into acceptance. And I find it’s recorded things for me that I didn’t ask it to.

I freak. But I look at the list. From my previous night’s two-show viewing, it has surmised that I want to watch Xena, Touched by an Angel, Wonder Years, Jackie Chan Adventures, Perry Mason, some show I’ve never heard of, and a court show. I marvel at the fact that you can make a leap from Alias and Boomtown to Touched by a fucking Angel. And freak out completely. The first thing I do is find the suggestions feature and turn it off now. I’m deeply disturbed by machines that think they know what’s good for me ever since seeing Colossus: The Forbin Project when it first aired in the ‘70s, and also, look what happened to the future in The Terminator just because of Skynet thinking for us. I ask you.

But hey! 24 is on FX tonight and I missed a lot of that last ep — so I can set it to record before I go to bed! How exciting. I also set it to record the La Femme Nikita eps on Oxygen during the day. Thinking I have all this stuff to watch when I get home last night, I turn it on and find 24, watch it, then find the LFN recordings, some of my fave episodes actually, and... I get Cybill with Lee Tergeson from Oz, which technically might have been fine but not what I wanted, and it’s also recorded some frightening movie with Bill Pullman and Ken Wahl. In a panic, I call M, who helps me try to figure out what’s wrong. At one point, I notice that not only does it say it’s the wrong time, but it also has the wrong channel listed (because it thinks it’s the wrong time). She suggests unplugging, which I do, then restarting, which I do, and now it thinks it’s 3 a.m. We hang up and I try customer service.

I get a guy who could not possibly be less interested in my plight. I try my best to explain to him what is happening, which admittedly is somewhat convoluted because, well, it’s freaking convoluted. When I’ve explained my predicament, I’m met with total silence. This becomes a pattern — I answer a question, he sits there on the other end, silent, unacknowledging, like some vastly superior oracle. I wonder if I’m supposed to sacrifice a goat or something to get his attention. Sample conversation:
(after going away for about three minutes, and coming back and saying okay, then being silent)
me: Okay?
him: Now you’ll need to unplug it.
me (politely): Okay. But I did already do that before I called — does that make a difference?
him: Just unplug it.
me: Okay. This is a bit of a project, so I have to put the phone down. (I put the phone down, do my Cirque du Soleil contortionist impersonation and unplug it. Pick up the phone and say okay.
I’m met with total silence. I wonder briefly if I should say hello to see if the phone’s gone dead, but he seems miffed by everything I do, so perhaps not. Goats may still be involved.) Um, what will I be doing next?
him: Just wait.
me: Okay.
him: We need to wait for 30 seconds.
me: Ah. I see.
silence again for more than 30 seconds.
him: Okay, plug it in.
me: Okay, done.
Silence again. For a really long time. Finally, in desperation, I ask “what next?” after it completely restarts. He walks me, rather unhelpfully and with great annoyance, through forcing it to make its daily check-in call. While it’s doing that, he gives me a number. I ask what it’s for, because he does not explain and he says it’s something blah blah or other, and that if this doesn’t work to call back and use this number. I ask, oh, when do you close? Right now, he says curtly. I can hear his finger poised above the disconnect button, stirring the air. I say, oh, well... okay then. Uh, thanks.

None of this, of course, works. So I go to the web site, which because I have a dialup connection is slow and painful and time consuming. Finally in desperation I send cranky e-mail hoping that might get me a response the next day. Hah hah! Only after you submit it do you find that a response will take from 3-5 days. I laugh so hard I cry.

By now I have wasted the entire night, and missed Gilmore Girls, 24, and am in the process of missing The Shield (they're incredibly lucky there was no Buffy on that night). I’m angry and frustrated, and mister not helpful has made me feel small and stupid, especially when I asked if this was a common problem and he said, “No. You’re the only one who’s had it.” Thank you, Dr. Phil. So I do the one thing I hate most about people who get frustrated with computers — I start pounding on the keyboard and banging random things. I turn it on and off, reset the phone number, reset and restart, and basically spend about an hour doing all of this. And then somewhere along the line, the combination of banging, screaming, cursing all the people at TiVo so they’ll end up with syphilis and their children will end up with syphilis too, resetting the phone number and restarting 15 times, and calling in on its daily call for the 8th time, it works. Suddenly it knows that it is not 4:45 a.m., but in fact 10:41 p.m., and that The Shield is on, not an infomercial. I cast my eye suspiciously at it, turn it off, and go to bed. Because it’s going to make its next daily call in the morning, I know when I wake up it’ll be fucked up again.

But so far, so good. It still knew the correct time when I left. We’ll see what I get when I get home. But they lost me. If I could have been assimilated, I never will be now. It may never do this again, it may be reliable and easy, but TiVo will never have a fan in me, will never have an evangelist. I’m always going to feel like I have to have backups on the vcr, and can’t rely on this thing, and what I thought was adorably customer-service oriented in a company, I’ve been made bitter and cranky about instead. Even if I keep it and it continues to function, I will never tell people, “join us. You’re the perfect TiVo person.” Maybe I’ll laugh and joke later, but right now, I’m thinking: syphilis.

December 18, 2002

Me and Bud, We Go Way Back

I am a fan of Calvin Trillin. Now, there are those who might go so far as to say that I’m obsessed with the man, but they would be people who neither know me nor my ability to obsess all that well. I would guess that they would also be people who have never read any of his work (or were just sadly incapable of appreciating it), especially The Tummy Trilogy, one of my favorite books. Well, technically, it’s three books, each as brilliant and funny as the next, all together in one convenient binding, but you get the idea.

No, it’s not an obsession at all, which would be sick and wrong. It’s just that I think Calvin and I could be buds. I mean, we’ve got a lot in common, after all. For example, we’re both really into food and would consider it not the least bit strange to, say, drive for an hour to some parking lot if the cart operating out of it sold truly remarkable carnitas tacos. Also, we’ve both got great senses of humor. I know Calvin has a great sense of humor because I’ve read all of his books and also several dozens of articles he’s penned for magazines like The New Yorker, Gourmet, and Time and they are always laugh-out-loud funny. You can’t write material that funny and not have a great sense of humor.

I know I’ve got a great sense of humor because in my nearly thirty years of existence, I’ve always been funny. Oh yeah, I can make them laugh. Like this joke I came up with I was seven after my brother broke his foot while dancing with the girl who lived next door (and who, strangely, seemed to be present just prior to most of Jeff’s emergency room visits in those early years). Anyway, at the time ABC used to have a show called something like “Wide World of Sports”, and they would start out the show by showing all these moments in athletic history with a voiceover that promised they would show us “The thrill of victory; the agony of defeat.” The last part, if I remember correctly, was accompanied by a visual of some skier wiping out in what seemed to my untrained eye, a particularly agonizing way. So my brother was laid up with his foot in a cast, and I think he was complaining about his foot itching or something, so I said “Oh, it’s the agony of da feet!” Which had everyone in stitches, and I was only seven. So you can imagine that years of practice have sharpened my wit into a fine and remarkable art. See, Calvin and I are both funny.

Calvin likes to write, and obviously, I do too. Calvin meets colorful people and writes about what they eat. I think that’s really cool. We both went to Yale (and just to prove that I’m not obsessed, I didn’t crash his 40th reunion to try to meet him, even though I could have, because that would have been obsessive, and therefore sick and wrong). Calvin thinks that Arthur Bryant’s in Kansas City makes the best barbeque around, and I have no reason to doubt him. We’ve both written about turduckens, though he more thoroughly than I. And we both have these fantasies about some public figure coming to town and giving them a whirlwind tour of the best chow to be found. For Calvin it was, at least at one time, Mao Tse Tung. He referred to this imagined scenario as a Mao Run, and would describe how he would take Mao eating throughout New York’s boroughs, sampling the best of each item available in the city.

For me, surprisingly enough, it’s Calvin. I know exactly where I would take him the first morning after meeting him at his hotel and trying to act really casual that I was going to spend the next few days taking him on a tour of Seattle taste treats. So we’d start out for coffee and breakfast in Ballard and a place called Café Besalu, and I would gently suggest that although all of their baked goods are well above average, the ham and cheese pastry is truly outstanding. When we had eaten, we would head back to the car, which, for whatever reason, we had parked on Ballard Avenue, and I would point out Madame K’s Pizza and inform him that she did a very good rendition of New Haven style pizza (which he would appreciate, having spent some very culinarily formative years in the Elm City), though sadly she sold no clam pie, and that we would be heading back here for dinner later in the weekend. Then we’d head downtown, and I would show him around Pike Place Market (which I’m sure he’s been to on many occasions, but not with such a chowhoundish guide) and I would point out Sosio’s, my favorite vegetable stand, where they would cut a sample of a particularly juicy peach or an amazingly crisp apple for him to try. Then we would continue down to Pure Foods fish market where we would sample some of their hard smoked salmon and buy a good piece for snacking on later. At that point, Calvin would turn to me and say, “Hey, Paulette,” and I would reply, “What’s up, Calvin?” He would then tell me that I should call him Bud, like his other friends do, and I would be really flattered and try to record the moment in its every detail for later storytelling purposes because, I mean, how momentous, that Calvin, I mean Bud, considered me a friend. And it happened at that very moment, standing next to the obscenely large Australian lobster tails with tourists bumping into us, mistakenly thinking that they were at the fish-throwing place further down the market (which Bud and I would have walked by earlier, and where he would have stopped a moment to watch the whole fish-tossing shebang, but then after a moment I would have explained to him that this other place we were headed did a much better smoke with their fish, and he would have broken away from the crowd and followed me because he would implicitly have understood that it was time to get our priorities straight). My lifelong dream had just come true and was magically transformed from a fan to a friend. Bud’s friend. I liked the ring of it. Somehow, everything would just sort of make sense, and the moment would just feel really huge.

Then Bud would kind of tap me on the shoulder to bring me out of my reverie and repeat what he had been saying for at least the last five minutes. “Hey, is there a good place to get lunch around here? I’m starving.” And I would steer my new friend Bud to the Market Grill, just across the way, and tell him that he should get the halibut sandwich, but not the chowder, because while it quite good, the soup at Jack’s Fish Spot is truly exceptional and not to be missed. Then I would say, “You know, the salmon sandwich here is fantastic, too. You might want to get both.” Bud would smile and nod, and maybe give me a little punch in the arm, because now we’re buds and that’s what buds do when they have a moment of understanding, and then, just to avoid being corny and drawing the moment out too long, I’d tell him that later we could stop by to get a bag of these really good mini-donuts that they make fresh throughout the day.

December 11, 2002

An Essay on Why I Stopped Dating Younger Men

Recently, the Universe reminded me: "Daniel, there is a reason you resolved not to date younger men anymore, remember?"

This summer, my Reason was named Morgan. Before that, the Reason was called Lonny, Al, Moses (yes really), Greg, Brian, Jay, etc. Different blooming young roses by different names, but ultimately, they all smelled as stinky.

Here's my problem: I'm 28-years-old, but am often taken for 25 or younger, so I tend to attract the younger set. What usually happens with these younger "men" is we'll have some really good dates -- everything seems romantic and nice, no red flags -- and then all of a sudden, the guy gets weird and goes incommunicado for no apparent reason.

Then, he has to be asked what's wrong and he comes out with "I'm confused" or "I don't think I'm ready for a relationship." He then suggests we continue to "hang out" as "friends."

In this galling situation, I always want to say this --- and I did, in an email to Morgan, which was really less an email to Morgan than an epistolary essay directed at all younger men I've ever dated:

Hello Morgan,

Hello?! Who said anything about a "relationship" anyway? I just wanted to have dinner sometimes, see some movies, maybe have some making out and steamy sex, and see what comes of it, if anything.

I am not ovulating and ready to chain myself to a husband so I can have a baby.

And trust me, I'm in no rush to shack up in an apartment with somebody -- I've already done that. I'm especially not interested in moving in with any men in their early 20s who are just getting started out in life, who have no money and no idea who they are, what sort of career they're going to have or where they'll be living long term. I'm too young to play the Daddy.

All I want is some fun right now. But for some reason, boys think that if you spend time together more than once or twice, it must be "a relationship," which is for some reason something horrid and foreboding in their minds. God forbid you should make any kind of meaningful emotional connection to another human being. I have trouble understanding the thinking there... I was just very different in my early 20s from the other guys I meet who are that age.

Anyway, this concludes my rant. It's less directed at you specifically than at all gay men I've ever dated in their early 20s. I'm just feeling very opinionated this morning. :)

And I'm glad you enjoyed hanging out with me and my friends, but I'm less and less a subscriber to the idea that if you date a man and it doesn't work out, you should therefore turn him into a "buddy" and just pretend like you've never kissed or slept together.

That shit is fucked up, yo. Straight people don't do that, so why should I? You and I should just hang out with people our own ages who we have more in common with. That said, it was very nice meeting you and I wish you well.

Best,
Daniel