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March 23, 2005

Using WordPress

Be ye not afraid! Though the Day of the End of the MovableType is nigh, the Faithful Nonfamosi will rejoice. Nonfamous shall rise again, clothed in CSS so that the Templates need never again be rebuilt. And lo, you will hear the weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth as the Comment Spammers are banished into Utter Bloglessness. [No, seriously, check this out.]

For there is the WordPress « WordPress Codex to answer your questions. See especially the basics section.

The Posters among ye will know the goodness of Markdown and verily will you need less HTML to post. And in your posting Windows will ye have a Spellchecker. Webster be praised.

Yea though the column width will be fixed, ye will get used to it. And liketh it, maybe?

Here endeth the lesson.

March 20, 2005

Getting closer...

Check out my redesign progress and let me know how it's looking. Traditionalist nonfamosi should be pleased to see some much-loved elements return. The top nav items aren't working yet, but everything else seems to work nicely. Please do share your thoughts, as I'd like to be live on this by the end of the week!

March 17, 2005

Comments, anyone?

So, more quickly than I ever expected possible, I have a test Wordpress site up here. I'd love to know what people think. There's still some work to be done, but I think overall it keeps a lot of the nice design elements we're all accustomed to. (Read: the elements Paulette was going to beat me if I changed!)

The move to Wordpress promises to serve as a complete bitchslap to the comment spammers who make David, Paulette, and I spend three to six hours a week cleaning the site. Upgrading to the new version of MovableType was prhibitively expensive, and this version is just spamalicious.

Anyway, as always, you comments are needed!

March 14, 2005

Site usability

So... as I ponder some changes [big and small] to, I should be asking all of you. What do you love? What sucks? What needs to be massively different? What needs a tweak?

Please, anyone who reads regularly... either post a comment or shoot me a mail. If you don't comment, and you don't like the changes that are eventually made, then you'll really be sorry.

February 12, 2005

Our little cupcake really is Royale now!


LONDON/SEATTLE (AFP) - Prince Charles and CC Royale embarked on a two-month engagement ahead of their wedding, which will make official a longtime relationship notorious for its role in bringing together the Royal Family and the British gay community. While CC Royale adamantly denies that she is a transsexual, rumors are flying faster then CC Royale on a broom.

In a first public appearance following the announcement on Thursday, the couple appeared at Windsor Castle. While Charles stood quietly by, CC Royale broke out in an impromptu number of “I Will Survive.”

A beaming Royale (known to friends as Cupcake) sported a full-length fuchsia evening gown and a platinum diamond engagement ring -- a royal heirloom -- and said Charles had proposed to her on bended knee just before taking her doggie style.

The engagement, which gained approval from Charles' mother Queen Elizabeth II, the gang down at Destiny’s Karaoke (news - web sites) and his sons, princes William and Harry, was feted at Windsor with a gala dinner for 250 guests.

But in an apparent bid to counter criticism of their match, the couple have opted for a modest, private ceremony and announced that Royale will not seek to be queen. “Not until that tired old bitch is dead,” said CC Royale.

January 28, 2005

A propos of our recent bans

Boing Boing just posted a link to what they call outstanding tips for community moderation:

1. There can be no ongoing discourse without some degree of moderation, if only to kill off the hardcore trolls. It takes rather more moderation than that to create a complex, nuanced, civil discourse. If you want that to happen, you have to give of yourself. Providing the space but not tending the conversation is like expecting that your front yard will automatically turn itself into a garden.

Well, it looks like I started in the right place this week. Read the article for more great tips, and thanks to everyone who helps keep this front yard a garden!

December 01, 2004

Micro Row-Long


Cutest. Fetus. Ever!

Seth and Marti were kind enough to send this along-- making it our very first ultrasound scan here at F.A.N.S. It's going to be hard to wait until April to meet little Ian or Piper! I hear they are taking suggestions for middle names, if you are so inclined.

November 20, 2004

Happy Second Birthday, Nonfamous!

Yes, it's true-- Famous and Nonfamous Strangers is two years old today! Our first post was written November 20, 2002.

I never imagined how successful--or how much fun--this blog would be when I sat in my bedroom on 61st Street struggling with HTML and CSS getting it going. And needless to say, I had no idea all of the amazing changes in my life I'd end up writing about--proposing to David in Maui, buying a home we'd call Casa Nonfamous, visiting Moscow, Paris, London, Sydney and Adelaide, Vienna, and Florence with him--let alone the immeasurable joy of getting married in Vancouver. I could only imagine the pleasures of reading Paulette's posts from Spain. Swallow Don't Spit wasn't even a glimmer in my (slightly intoxicated) eye.

There was no Pam in our lives, no Jamie and Mike, no Jason--can you imagine? We'd never loved, worried about, or mourned poor little Dozer. I never dreamed that a post would get David profiled and photographed in the New York Times. And who can forget the time I lost on Jeopardy! While I did expect we'd all have quite a bit to say about politics, I did not really expect the quality of writing and depth of commitment the site would bear witness to. Needless to say I never really imagined that 51% of Americans would turn the site into an extended exercise in group therapy/platoon activation. But I did hope that it would reflect, as fully as pixels can, the passion that all of us bring to the business of living, loving, eating, drinking, traveling, working, and politicking. That it has done, and I am so proud and thankful.

So what are our vital statistics? With almost 1,000 entries, we're humming along quite nicely. Our most recent author additions--Terry, Marti, Jamie, Jason, and Erik--continue to post amazing stuff, joining David, Paulette, Pam, Gary, and me. (Nonfamous, for its birthday, really wants to get Anika and Julie Anne posting, not to mention Rachel if only she could conquer her fear of the Internets.) These writers are being read by 300-500 unique visitors a day, and our Google AdSense revenue is trickling in at a rate that pays for the site's hosting. But most importantly, we have proved that a group blog can do exactly what I hoped it would--replicate online the amazing sense of community, conversation, and convivality that our group of friends demonstrates in the flesh. Our family and friends in Australia, Oklahoma, New Jersey, New York, England, and Poland can see what's happening in Seattle and hear the thoughts in our heads. We get the occasional reader from Finland, Japan, and even Saudi Arabia. It is an amazing thing, and I want to thank every person who posts to, comments on, or just reads this site.

So what of the next two years? I honestly believe that the quality of writing and commentary we offer is as good or better than sites that are read by thousands, or tens of thousands, of readers every day. While I don't mind staying, well, nonfamous... I think we can take it to the next level. Blog strategy is increasingly part of my business--helping companies use blogs to connect to their best customers and most honest critics--so I'm going to be talking to more of those "A-list" bloggers and raising the profile of in the blogosphere. I'm happy to stay nonfamous... but I really do want to launch Paulette's cooking-show career. More on that later.

But to sum up, thanks for reading, thanks for posting, and thanks for passing our link around. Thanks for keeping paranoia at the lowest healthy level, however high that may be. I think Jeannine would be proud (though still crazy).

November 06, 2004

Minor site tweaks

Armed with my fearsome HTML prowess, I screwed around with the site template a bit this morning. The silly calendar thing is gone, the Google ad thing is smaller, and I updated the blogroll extensively to include sites David and I read to a lot. This is step one in my campaign to get us linked more broadly by other sites... more on that later. In the mean time, if there are any links you feel I've missed egregiously, please let me know and I will add them.

I'm also thinking about adding an "our greatest hits" section with hard links to our favorite posts... to make it easier for new visitors to get to know us. Smith and I have some thoughts, but please let us know what you think those should be.

October 20, 2004

Miss Cupcake Royale

Click here to see's Official Drag Queen in all her glory. Jamie, can we all go trick or treating with you? We could be The Sprinkles!

September 23, 2004

Since I sense a theme here

Pam, I added a category called "No, I am NOT blogging my time at the campaign office." I'm sure in a few weeks I'll be posting under that heading as well.

September 13, 2004

Backyard Blog update

I've written about 5 posts for the Seattle Times Backyard Blog but only two have been posted... too long, too "speculative," etc. But I got up in a dander about some other posts about First Ladies... read The my response here. "Seen but not heard." I still can't believe these people.

Seattle Ukulele Players at Victrola

I've kept this from you long enough, I can keep it to myself no longer: I play the ukulele. There. I feel better now, and you kind of suspected it all along, didn't you?

We're playing Thursday night, that's right, THIS THURSDAY from 8-10, right here on Cap Hill at the coolest, hippest, uke-friendliest coffee house in the whole damn city. Come to Victrola, get a cuppa joe, and sing along with us as we stumble our way through classics like "Don't Fence Me In" and "Five Foot Two - Has Anybody Seen My Gal?"

In answer to your questions:

Can we sing? Meh, not really, but that doesn't stop us.
Can we play? Some of us can, some of us can't, I ain't saying who's who.
Who the hell are the Seattle Ukulele Players Association? Visit the site, here.
Do we have a good time? Oh my, YES. YES we do. Please join us.

September 09, 2004

If I could write a book

I probably would be too lazy to do it anyway. I've talked for years about writing a cookbook, and I've made up plenty of recipes, and so far, nothing. Nada. No book. No agent. No tours. No signings and author readings.

But maybe someday. For now, I've created an alter ego for myself, the culinary adventurist. And I'm writing a cookblog. Or whatever you would call a fairly neurotic and long-winded, self-indulgent and, probably, self-mocking online cookbook and waystation for culinary musings. There's not much in the way of design--yet. Give me time, or at least the weekend. But there's at least the first recipe posted.

September 05, 2004

Alaska adventure

I know a lot of you were anxious for proof that I actually did hike during our trip to Alaska last month. Photographic evidence is now available here. Enjoy!

September 03, 2004

Unbelievable: experimental weapons on hand at RNC

Breaking news: our friend Kevin Slavin (known to many nonfamous nonstrangers as "the man in the 'hate fuck' hoodie") reported on Boing Boing last night that the NYPD showed up at a protest in NYC last night with an experimental long range acoustic device (LRAD) most recently used on insurgents in Fallujah.

Earlier this month, the New York Police Department showed off a machine called the Long Range Acoustic Device, developed for the military and capable of blasting at an earsplitting 150 decibels -- as loud as a firecracker, a jet engine taking off or artillery fire at 500 feet, according to the Noise Center at the League for the Hard of Hearing. The NYPD said it would use the machine to direct crowds to safety if there's a terrorist attack or remind protesters where they're allowed to march. Police said they wouldn't use the earsplitting screeching noise feature at the convention. "It's only to communicate in large crowds," Inspector Thomas Graham of the police department's crowd control unit said.

Luckily, they didn't use the device and our friend Kevin can still hear. But you should definitely read the BoingBoing article to see how much the police enjoyed showing off their new toy-- which looks like something that belongs on the Death Star. Of course its specifications are secret but some "non-lethal" sound weapons have been reported to deafen targets--and to add insult to injury, the sounds can cause you to lose muscle control. That's right, peaceful protesters... "The Man" can now shut you up, deafen you, and make you shit your pants.

Remember the good old days when we used to make fun of the Soviets' Orwellian use of loudspeakers to broadcast propaganda? The presence of this kind of sonic weapon on our own streets is far, far sadder and a real comment on the commitment to free discourse in our fading democracy. Peaceful protesters now know that their chants will be met by a military technology that can not only drown them out but could deafen them.

The only thing worse than hearing W repeat "Americans are safer" and "we've turned the corner" 1,000 times? Hearing them repeated at 150 decibels. Welcome to the future, friends. If you plan on protesting, bring your earplugs.

August 30, 2004

Meet the Backyard bloggers

Well, the The Seattle Times today launched Backyard Bloggers, of which I am one. My first post should appear today... we'll see what the editing looks like. If it's really different, I'll post the original here. I can already tell which of these folks I'll be arguing with. In general, though, it seems like a pretty cool and interesting crowd.

If everyone can help me out by posting with links from the Times, I'll have a good excuse to link to your post and, as they say, flog the blog.

July 19, 2004

The perils of semi-illiteracy

Could there be something worse than comment spammers? Indeed--teenage girls obsessed with dodgy punk bands from Florida.

A whole gaggle of them have been suffering for months now under the mistaken impression that
this post has something to do with this band. I wouldn't care, but these girls have the worst prose style since... maybe ever. And they just keep bringin' it.

I finally deleted all their comments (coming at the rate of one a day lately) in the hopes they would get the message. Fat chance. We just kept getting comments like this:

i luv them mikey is my favorite i fell in luv with him at beach fest toooo all the grls he is
mine an if u have any prombles oh well theres nothing i can do about the way i feel an my friend roza likes adam soooo he is also off limts.

Then today we got one that sounded like a not-so-veiled offer of groupie poontang in recompense for some contretemps:

squirrels gone wild we are sorry for all da things that happen on da 16th an i my self
am sorry an i was wonderin if i can make it up
too u guyz by hangin out with u when u do the next show.

I have it on good authority that "hanging out" means a lot more than in did back in the day.

So I finally changed the title of the post to "Fun with Squirrels" in hopes that the article will no longer be the #1 Google listing for the query. Ah, the perils of PageRank!

So, to put it in their terms: "if im bein rude 2 scrub yal off da site, thats 2 bad cuz this my blog, k and yal better stop wit da comments bout that stuipd band an if you got prombles with dat you got prombles wit me"

I'm glad we're all speaking the same language here!

June 09, 2004

Selling out to the man: Google AdWords

OK, don't shoot me. We're going to try this Google Adwords thing for the rest of the month. I'm sure it's not going to make us millionaires, but our costs for the site are increasing and I'm cautiously optimistic it can become self-supporting.

MovableType, the software that runs the blog, is going to cost several hundred dollars starting with the next upgrade (which includes features that promise to lock out the content spammers). It's a good product, and the creators should be able to earn a living.

We will get paid by clickthrough, and of course the ads are based on the content of the site. While the main page content may be a little too broad to target effectively, I think we'll find that the individual entries will be pretty spot-on.

NB: It may take a few hours or days to get truly tailored ads. In the mean time, I know you ALL want to buy those Reagan stamps and Jewish books. (Not sure how that came up.)

So please, give me your feedback. And by all means, if you see an interesting ad, click on through!

June 02, 2004

Calling all sci-fi geeks

My friend Nancy is doing some research about why people who love science fiction (particularly sci-fi books) love it so dang much. So, if you are a geek, email her, preferably before this weekend, with info about how and when to get a hold of you. Won't take long, you'll enjoy it, and in the future sci-fi fans like yourself will be marketed to even more skillfully than you are today.

May 20, 2004

Two things

One, gets another mention in the Stranger this week. This time in reference to a planned rally down at city hall to urge a boycott of Virginia businesses.

Lawmakers in Virginia passed a remarkably stupid state law last month, banning contracts between same-sex couples. Nationwide, gays are now boycotting the state and companies headquartered there--like J. Crew, Capital One, AOL (check out On Friday, May 21, local gays--headed up by Michael McAfoose, who led the Mayday for Marriage counterprotest--will go to city hall and urge the city to approve a resolution boycotting dealings with Virginia His gang will also be chopping up their Capital One credit cards and AOL promo CDs on the sidewalk. AMY JENNIGES

Wish they'd mentioned the time though. I'd go.

Two, Jay or David, can you give me enough permissions to zap the comments from that asshole who's been spamming us all day. I'd hate for him to just load up the entire site with his little irritations until you all get back!

May 18, 2004

Pix galore!

Well, David and I are almost packed for Europe, so I took a few moments to upload, edit, and crop a few photos. Enjoy shots of the bachelor party, wedding, and of course Paulette's fabulous birthday party last night at Marrakesh.

Thanks to everyone who made all these festivities so fabulous, and look for some Bon Voyage/Voyeur posts soon!

May 17, 2004

Pictures to follow

Jay Porter and David Smith were married Saturday, May 15, 2004, in North Vancouver, British Columbia. Marriage Commissioner Maureen Hunter solemnized the ceremony, which began at five o’clock in the afternoon and was attended by 50 close friends and family members.

The wedding and reception were held at the Hamersley House Bed and Breakfast. Official witnesses for the brief ceremony were Paulette J. McKay of Seattle, and Michael Robinson of London, England. Seated in the first row were David’s mother Margaret Smith and stepfather David Smith of Adelaide, South Australia; Jay’s parents Judy and Larry Porter and of Oklahoma City; his grandmother Barbara Tompkins and aunt and cousin, Lynda and Janet Plemons. Jay’s sisters, Julie and Lyndi Porter, read a brief passage from Corinthians before the exchange of vows. Floral arrangements of calla lilies and white roses adorned the arbor of majestic fir and dogwood trees, laurels, and rhododendrons on the grounds of Hamersley House, a lavishly restored British Columbia Heritage Site dating from 1903.

David and Jay wore vintage tuxes, matching neckties in a light blue Art Deco pattern, and black satin vests. The “Jazz Age” theme continued throughout the evening, with prelude music featuring Ella Fitzgerald recordings of classics by Cole Porter, George and Ira Gershwin, and others. As the grooms completed signing the marriage license, Chet Baker’s “Let’s Get Lost” heralded the arrival on the lawn of servers carrying champagne and hors d’oeuvres.

The wedding reception moved indoors as Jay’s sister Julie served as Master of Ceremonies as toasts were offered by both grooms’ attendants, with a special reading of “suggested vows” edited from suggestions of friends and family by Julie Welch of Seattle. After these toasts dinner was served. The buffet dinner by Louis Gervais Fine Catering was accompanied by the Twist of Jazz Trio. A selection of British Columbia wines and classic cocktails were served on the verandah, accompanied by a selection of Pacific Northwest cuisine small plates including local baby lamp chops, pork loin in Calvados glaze, firecracker prawns with kumquat marmalade, smoked salmon with black and white sesame seeds, and radicchio-wrapped bocconcini covered in a spicy sour cherry sauce.

Following dinner and drinks, the grooms cut their cake, a chocolate-espresso cake, covered in Tiffany blue and white vanilla fondant icing and silver dragées, which featured Art Deco architectural motifs and topped with a single calla lily.

Both grooms addressed their guests, thanking especially the numerous family and friends who had arrived from England, Australia, Oklahoma, Florida, California, and Oregon and mentioning fondly their many friends attending from Washington State, including fellow members of the Seattle Quake Rugby Football Club in attendance. Both grooms were emotional in their thanks for the unwavering love and tremendous support they have received from their families, both in the past and as a couple, and for the closeness of the dear friends who comprise their “urban family.” Both Jay’s father and David’s stepfather added their blessings for the union, and commented on the assemblage of so many friends from around the world and throughout the grooms’ lives. The toasts were ended with a special word of love and thanks from the mothers of both grooms.

Following the toasts, the grooms tossed their calla lily boutonnières to a crowd of their single guests; the prizes were caught by Tom Bentler and Julie Porter, though the two are not presumed to be marrying each other.

In addition to the wedding cake, guests enjoyed a caramel apple tarte, lemon mousse served in demitasse cups, and a selection of cheeses and fresh fruit. Following more drinks and dancing, the guests dispersed at eleven o’clock. The grooms’ immediate family and close friends stayed at Hamersley House for the weekend, enjoying the amazing hospitality of proprietors Shelly and Derek Porter.

Having returned to Seattle with the families Sunday afternoon following a picnic in Stanley Park, the grooms depart Tuesday for a honeymoon to Vienna, Florence and the Tuscan coast, and London.

March 28, 2004

Sick at home

Ah, it's spring, when young Jay's head turns to mucus! I've been fighting a massive allergy/sinus attack for about a week, and no amount of medication seems able to kick it. Worst of all, David's been under the weather as well--we've sort of had to take turns with who feels worse at a given moment.

But I have been bonding with my laptop all weekend, keeping up with the blogverse. I had meant for a long time (well, ever since I got my camera phone last fall) to set up a Moblog (mobile blog). Between sniffling and hacking, I finally did today. You can find it here, with the latest picture constantly update on the right side of the nonfamous main index page, below the list of links. I've posted a few things I had knocking around in my phone, but rest assured that I'll be taking some fresh pictures soon.

March 19, 2004

Meet a comment spammer

So who posts comment spam? Apparently people in Romania, among others. Let's meet one. Looking up the,, and spammer, we find one man behind these sprawling online pharmaceutical empires:

George Popesku
Similkova 23
Bukurest, Bukurest 12311
Registered through: (
Created on: 09-Jan-04
Expires on: 09-Jan-05
Last Updated on: 11-Mar-04
Administrative Contact:
Popesku, George
Similkova 23
Bukurest, Bukurest 12311
Romania 323445642
Domain servers in listed order:

Since we don't know anything about this guy, I'd like to announce a Nonfamous contest, for the best post about the Life and Times of G Popesku. Have at it, friends-- what's this guy like? Award good, but TBD!

What was that all about?

Hey Nonfamosi: most of you don't see the comments we're discussing here, because David and I delete dozens a week. It's a pain in the ass. We pay good money to host this site, and invest lots of time in its maintenance. Comment spammers are bottom-feeders, and the blog community is fighting them aggressively to ensure that they don't do to blogs what they have done to email.

Thanks to our high Google pagerank, comment spammers can increase their own PageRank by linking to us. Since this is clearly a valuable service, we've decided to charge for it. (Thanks to for the text.)

Unauthorized Advertising

The fees and penalties described below expressly do not include non-commercial posts relevant to the topic of the post, or genuine discussion among comment posters, even if the Siteowner disagrees with the content of your post (though we reserve the right to delete any comment at our sole discretion).

This new policy will be effective as of 12:00 am, PST, March 20, 2004, and is binding on all individuals posting in the comments on any page hosted in the domain name, whether that domain name is referenced by IP address or server name.

Unauthorized Advertising: Here defined as 1) Any comment containing only a commercial site link, or containing only a commercial site link and brief greeting. 2) Any comment superficially relating a personal story, but clearly in the opinion of the Siteowner, posted purely to promote the commercial links included in the post. 3) Any comment unrelated to the topic of the post that contains commercial links. 4) Any comment posted with the expressed intent of entertaining or informing, but added in the opinion of the Siteowner for the sole purpose of promoting links to a commercial site.

Fees: Per incidence fees are $150.49, and apply to each individual post. Per link fees are $150.49, and apply to each discrete URL included in the post, whether those links are to the same site, different sites, or different pages on the same site. A post containing 2 URLs would be charged $451.47, once for the incident, twice for each discrete URL. Terms: Net 30.

Late Fees: If no response or arrangements for payment have been received within 30 days of the initial notification email, an additional $150.49 will be due and payable at that time. An additional $150.49 will be levied for every additional whole or fractional month after the first 60 days of non-payment.

Responsibility: If the Advertiser benefitted by the Unauthorized Advertising is the same as the Advertiser adding the comment, that individual or business shall be held solely liable for fines and collections.

If the Advertiser benefitting and the Advertiser adding the comment are separate parties, they will share joint responsibility as follows: The Advertiser owning the commercial sites linked shall be held wholly responsible for each link going to their site, or any page thereof. If they cannot produce a third party Advertiser responsible for the Unauthorized Advertising, they will be held solely liable for all fees. If multiple Advertisers are linked to in the posting, and no third party Advertiser can be found, they will each be held liable for an equal share of the per incidence fee. Any third party Advertiser who posted Unauthorized Advertising but does not own a site benefitted by the posting will be held liable for the per incidence fee. Liability for late fees will be apportioned equally among all Advertisers who have not settled their bills.

Collections: After 30 days, the Siteowner reserves the right to notify ISPs and hosting providers of all liable parties in an attempt to collect this debt. Siteowner also reserves the right to enlist professional collection agencies, and to notify the major credit bureaus.

March 10, 2004

Life with Dozer, and without.

This is the most difficult post I’ve yet made on nonfamous, about one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever had to make. I should say “we,” because of course David and I have made it together. I think it best just to say it up front: we’re having Dozer euthanized Friday afternoon.

It’s hard not to use the phrase “put to sleep,” which sounds so much easier. Even euthanized is a bit of a euphemism—a “good word” for a “good death.” Who is to decide when death is good—to play God, even for a dog? That said, I’ve always been quick to argue against prolonging the lives of pets with serious physical problems. Keeping an animal in pain alive for sentimental or emotional reasons just strikes me as cruel. I had never considered the calculus involved in deciding when a pet’s mental health has become part of the equation, until the past few weeks.

Friends and frequent readers of this blog know all the details of Dozer’s sundry adventures—his adoption from Stockdog Junction rescue, his leap from David’s six-storey balcony (which he miraculously survived with barely a scratch), his various escapes, and all the rest. At the root of all of this is the fact that Dozer has never truly seemed happy or calm or secure in our home (or his own skin). This is a dog that jumps when I pet him, even if he is curled up next to me.

We’ve had Dozer almost a year now, since he was about five months old. We knew when we adopted him that he had been poorly socialized, but were told he would likely improve with time as he bonded with us. And he did improve somewhat. For a time it seemed he was becoming less skittish, less prone to startling, and better bonded to us. (Of course, he still neurotically destroyed any bed or toy we gave him; during the day he hides under our bed, and woe to trailing linens or any spare shirt that found itself near his neurotic jaws. He was never a “cute puppy chewer,” seeking out items that smelled like us—it was another nervous tic that we could never stop.)

After the New Year, this trend quietly reversed itself. It may have started when we had to give him steroids for severe skin allergies, followed quickly by a horrible stomach bug evidenced by a huge mess in the hallway. He was on a lot of medication there for a while, and perhaps that affected him. He had always been well housebroken before that, but we began realizing that he was peeing inside (eventually, and maddeningly, even when he had just been outside). He stopped coming downstairs to the family room when we called him, and when we would come up on the sofa with us he would jump down if we moved suddenly. He started cowering away from his in his bed when we brought his food in. It was pretty heartbreaking.

We tried last month putting him on anti-anxiety meds, but if anything this made things worse. When we went to Vancouver with my Mom when she visited for her birthday, we thought it would be easier on him to have someone house-sit instead of boarding him. Poor Julie Welch—without getting into the gory details, let’s just say that didn’t go very well.

At this point, we both agreed we couldn’t keep him. He wasn’t happy—and in fact seemed terrified much of the time—and we were stressed and frustrated. We had long noticed that he seemed to do better with some women than he ever did with us. We begin to feel certain that he had been abused by a man at some point, as little else would explain how disturbed he was. (Or perhaps as an Omega dog, maybe Dozer was unsettled by David’s and my coexistence as well-paired Alphas.) So we emailed Debbie at Stockdog Junction, and waited.

The response we got back was unexpected—she raised the possibility that Dozer wasn’t “salvageable.” That word gave me a chill. What did that mean? In the world of rescue, I imagined, there always had to be someone better with dogs, or more patient, or more willing to have their home turned into a dog run. Right? Debbie was going to talk to a behaviorist.

The answer, after a delay and some prodding emails, was that Debbie and not one but two behaviorists have said he should be euthanized. I was reeling at the news, but as we began to think about it we recalled that our vet had had said almost the same thing a few months before. (When we called to talk to our vet this week, nobody at the office was surprised why we were calling.) Debbie felt like there was too small of a chance that anyone would be able to handle him, and that the stress of bringing him back into the rescue environment would be too hard on him. (I must say, I think he might do well there among the other dogs—he does like other dogs—but the long-term prognosis is poor.) Nobody wants this poor little neurotic dog to be traumatized any more than he already has been.

The day after we got this email, I had my moment of realization. I was working in the yard and Dozer was out, doing his customary laps around the house. When he was ready to go in, he hopped up on the porch and started turning circles (as he does when he wants in or out). He just kept turning circles until I took off my gloves and turned to let him in. Just the fact of my looking at him, from ten feet away, was enough to make him pee all over himself and the porch. I almost cried—if he was that frightened of me, I just didn’t see how it would work.

You'd be right in pointing out that we are giving up on trying to place him with someone else, forfeiting the chance that we could keep him until some kind soul showed up to rescue him again. That would mean leaving him in his crate any time we are not actively watching him—he’s just gotten too destructive. (Of course, he would stay in his crate all day if we let him, but it just doesn’t seem like a quality life for a dog.) And if nobody came to take him by May, he would have to endure weeks of houseguests followed by weeks of boarding—something we know would not be pretty. Finally, the harder we thought about it, the less optimistic we were that someone else could do much more than we had. Even if there was some improvement, would Dozer ever approach the level of happy and well-adjusted? And could we visit on someone else the heartbreaking failure we're experiencing now?

My dad raised the good point that Dozer’s behavior put him in harm’s way many, many times in his first year… there is every reason to fear that he could get startled on a walk and get away from us again. He could get hit by a car, randomly abused, or starve to death. He pretty clearly has no survival instinct. That should have told us something right there.

We’ve been reading a lot about rescue and the inevitable role euthanasia plays in it. What we decided in the end was that taking him to the vet and staying with him as a massive dose of painkillers puts him under. That is the only kind of peace I think we can give him, but it’s going to be an awful thing to do.

Reading about dog rescue makes it clear that we humans invest a lot of faith in our ability to love and care for broken, vulnerable things. This is an important part of our humanity—but so is knowing when to let go. I’ve spent many years of my life locked in ridiculous situations by my belief that I could save something or someone—a few doomed relationships, a faltering company, even a benighted city I thought I was destined to enlighten. I’ve learned a lot in the process of hanging on, but my life would be much the poorer had I not learned to find the limit where selflessness became martyrdom. (Martyrs may do good for their respective causes, but they don’t generally do much for the people they claim to be suffering for.) We just can’t imagine Dozer’s doggy life being better in two months or in six if we just hang on, and on the other hand we can imagine life with a normal, happy dog that will thrive in our home.

There are things broken that we can’t fix, and that—as much as the prospect of missing the little red dog with “refugee eyes,”—is what moves me to tears. We cry in rage at the limits of our ability to fix the hurts of the world, our inability to make whole what has been smashed, to ease what little suffering we actually see in our cloistered lives. If I thought long about the tragedies bigger than a dog’s life (and a dog’s death) I should be devoting time and money to, I’m sure I’d be embarrassed. But right now I’m going to cry for Dozer without shame, and hope to God we’re doing the right thing.

February 20, 2004

Pete "Sweet"? So says The Stranger

Right here, about halfway down. And we agree!

That's right, Ballard's Favorite Jew is now Croc-a-licious. We'll be seeing him for the British Sea Power show next week.

Congrats Pete!

February 18, 2004

Trav's new blog

My friend Travers is now one of us, a bona fide blogger... witness Tech Soma, which Trav promises will be his "online file for news, opinion, and wise-ass comments on technology, politics, and their intersection." Let the TrackBacks begin, and Trav...

Doesn't it feel better now that you have submitted? I know you resisted at first... you said you didn't want your own blog. But now that you've given over your brain to the Net, isn't life simpler? Of course it is. Welcome to the blogsphere.

February 12, 2004

Nonfamous reality

Interestingly enough, the Porter-Smith wedding may become part of a Canadian documentary on gay marriage. Academy Award-nominated Paperny Films has contacted us about filming our wedding for an upcoming documentary, and we've said yes.

The producers seem great, and as a bonus we'll get a professional video production of our wedding. Paperny's proposal for six one-hour episodes is up for final approval with Canada's Global network in March; if approved, filming would continue through fall 2004, with a projected air date of fall 2005. They are also talking to Showtime, which has aired some of their other work. Though there will be no nudity in this production, they do want to talk to our families about raising--and now marrying off--gay sons. That is sure to be revealing.

While the prospect of being famous in Canada fits with the name of this blog, if Showtime picks it up would we still be nonfamous? We'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

In the mean time, we'll just have to think about the drama that will ensue if the first meeting of Meg and Judy is filmed by a TV crew. The only question is, who is more ready for her closeup?! "Ring me, Judy, we don't want to clash!"

December 15, 2003

David's Christmas Letter

I've been bad at keeping in touch with all my friends around the world, so this year I decided to atone for my sins by writing a letter to include with this year's Christmas cards. If you don't know me, this won't be very interesting! But I wanted to provide an on-line version with references to other articles here at nonfamous. Read on if you wish.

Hello Friends!

Sorry for the mass mailing, but I've been lax in keeping in touch with everyone. You know, busy busy busy and all that! Anyway, if you haven't heard from me in a while I'm very sorry. And to make things even trickier I've been moving around a bit lately. (I've had three addresses in the last year.) So this letter is to get everything straight. Hope you don't mind.

First, the big news: I'm getting married! As you might recall I met my boyfriend/partner Jay Porter in July last year (2002 -- seems so long ago now), and we've been together ever since. Things have been, well, kind of eventful ever since then. It might be easier to tell the story if I divide it into episodes...


On our first date, Jay and I had a drink at one of the local bars. I'd been playing rugby for a couple of months then. How'd I get into rugby, I hear you ask? I'm not quite sure, to be honest. I think I might have had a masochistic streak after the break-up with Gary. In any case, it turned out to be a great thing: I really love playing, and I've met many of my closest friends in Seattle through the club: Seattle Quake RFC. Anyway, while out at our first date we bumped into John, the then-coach of the team, and of course chat-chat, you know. John had some photos of a recent tournament, and showed them to Jay. Jay seemed interested. (But hey, it was our first date and you gotta show interest on the first date, right?) Then somehow Jay had agreed to attend the new player orientation that was happening the next weekend (while I was away on a pre-arranged holiday in Newfoundland for Jon and Zoe's wedding). Seems he liked it -- Jay's been in the club ever since, and was even on the board for most of this year.


Shortly after I got back from Newfoundland I got pretty sick, with a very severe throat infection that had me bedridden and hardly able to move for about 2 weeks. Jay was an absolute darling and took great care of me all of that time. I did eventually get to repay the favour in some small way, though -- a few months later Jay would snap the ACL in his knee at a rugby match, and was in surgery in February. We're both all better now, although there have been some lasting changes: I've managed to keep off most of the 10 kilos I lost while I was sick (and it was quicker and cheaper than Weight Watchers!), and Jay's not yet back on the rugby pitch but hopes to be by the time of the Bingham Cup in London next May.


In late September last year (just after my recovery) I went to Bali on a pre-arranged trip to visit the family (Mum, David, Rebecca and friends), and had a great time. I'd only been home a few days and was showing the photos of the trip to Jay when we heard the news. While looking at a photo of the Bounty bar, we could see the ruined shell of that and all the surrounding bars following the terrorist bombing on CNN. We'd just got out in time. It's the second time I'm missed a bomb site by a couple of days (the first being the bombing of the Admiral Duncan in London in 1999). It certainly gives you a strong sense of mortality, not to mention the senselessness of it all. I hear Bali is like a ghost town these days, which is so sad. It was such a beautiful and friendly place, and there was no right for it to be embroiled in such atrocities.


Jay and I spent out first Christmas together with Jay's family in Oklahoma. Now, there's not a whole lot to do in Oklahoma City except relax, eat and meet nice people, and that's just fine with me. I was stuck by how similar Jay's family is to my own, with their easygoing attitude and sense of fun. Judy in particular reminds me a lot of my own Mum. I'm looking forward to when the two families get to meet next year. We enjoyed it so much that we're spending Christmas there again this year. I hope it snows again!


Jay and I have managed to get a in fair bit of travelling together. Our first trip was down to LA, when Jay appeared on the game show Jeopardy. (It's a long story.) In May, I was heading to Europe for a work trip, and as Jay was conveniently between jobs at the time (he's into branding and PR type stuff) we decided to meet there. He had some time in Moscow while I had meetings in Berlin and Basel, and we met up in Paris and it was as romantic as it sounds. We spent the weekend in London, catching up with Woody and Sara before returning to Seattle.

Speaking of work, I'm still with the same company as before and things have been looking up there recently. Work is fun again, and we're actually working on some exciting things instead of just treading water, as we were for a while. And the economy seems to be improving, at last.


Just before we went to Europe I moved into a new apartment. My lease was up, and the rental market in Seattle is pretty depressed, so I negotiated with the nasty landlady to get a 6th-floor loft apartment in the same building for cheaper rent. Just after that Jay and I got a neurotic puppy. It sounds like a disaster in the making and you'd be right.

Dozer is an Australian Cattle Dog (or Red Heeler for the Aussies). He was about 5 months old when we got him from a stock-dog rescue place 100km North of Seattle. He's a cute little bugger but he's a little ... shall we say ... neurotic. It's a long story, but he managed to jump of the balcony of my 6th floor apartment (about 50ft up) not long after we got him. Luckily he's also a sturdy little bugger and survived with hardly a scratch (a minor fracture of the pelvis, and he literally blew the air out of his lungs). He's OK now, but it was a scary moment for us.

Dozer continues to keep our lives interesting with his antics. You can read all about his escape adventures and generally neurotic behaviour on our website. But we still love him.


We'd been dating for about a year when Jay suggested a trip to Hawaii last July. We had a wonderful time, and then Jay had an appropriately wonderful surprise for me: on a moonlit beach in Maui, he asked me to marry him. It was an absolutely perfect moment in the most amazing setting, and of course I said yes. You can read the whole story on our website.

We decided to get married in Canada in the spring. Since Canada now recognizes same-sex marriages, and allows non-Canadians to marry there, this would be a fully legal marriage ... in Canada's eyes, at least. The US doesn't see things quite that way, though, and it's unlikely to make any difference to our status in the US, in the short term at least. We won't be able to file joint tax returns or join each other's health system tax-exempt, for example. But Vancouver is a lovely city to get married in, and it's great to be able to do the "real" thing somewhere at least.

Wedding preparations are feverishly underway, and we'll get the invitations out early in the new year.


With the engagement, it made sense to move in together -- until them, we'd been living in separate rented accommodations. (Unbeknownst to each other, we'd both been planning that move before Hawaii anyway.) Getting a house together seemed like a good idea, and in pretty short order we'd found ourselves a wonderful 3 bedroom 1904 farmhouse in a nice suburb of Seattle just 10 minutes from the city center. We've been there since September, and it's been wonderful. We didn't have to do much to the place before we moved in -- a bit of plumbing and painting the bedroom (it was shocking pink when we bought it). We're slowly getting the place together, but it already feels like home.


Since mid-year Jay's been running a personal weblog at Weblogs are a great way to capture all those interesting things you find around the web; instead of emailing it to 50 people, you can just put it up on the 'blog. (That's one of the reasons I don't email so much anymore.) We've been doing that together and several of our friends contribute as well.

Since weblogs often appear in the results of search engines like Google, some of the articles we've posted have been referenced in the media. We've had mentions in the New York Daily News, the International Herald Tribune and BBC News. We were even featured in the New York Times, who even sent a photographer to our house for an article in the Circuit section.

We'll keep updated with our comings and goings, and it also means that I now have a permanent home email address which I check regularly (we've got broadband internet at home, with Wi-Fi so we can roam around the house with the laptop). So if you're interested at what we're up to, just check out the site or drop us an email.


So that's the story of how Jay and I got together, and now we're coming up on our second Christmas. We just got back from Australia where Jay got to meet the family and he fit in just as I expected he would. We had a great time down there, and I'm sorry we didn't get a chance to catch up with everyone while we've been travelling.

I miss all of my friends overseas: in the UK, in France and in Australia. Thanks for all your postcards and emails and everything through the year.

Have a great Christmas and a happy new year!

# David

December 12, 2003

Paulette the Published Poet

From an article in BBC News Spammers turn to Classic Prose:

Grant Hutchinson specialises in three-line subject line spam poems but others, such as Paulette Adell who contributes to the Nonfamous blog, are happy to use words from inside the message too.

Here's a link to Paulette's poem. Read and enjoy!

November 23, 2003

We're goin' to Aus-tra-lia...

David's country 'tis of thee!
Sweet land of meat pasties!
Of thee I sing, of thee I sing!

(Apologies to Niel Diamond there.)

Anyway. We are off to the airport in a few hours. The rest of you nonfamosi are hereby charged with keeping the site going in our absence, because barring a few days in Sydney we will be as far away from anything electronic as possible. All the travelogues will have to wait for our return. You'll be glad to know we bought a camcorder, so the site may soon have a video component. Yikes.

November 20, 2003

One year old!

That's right, today is the first Anniversary of Famous and Nonfamous Strangers. This calls for some Champagne! (Good thing we've got not one but two bottles of Veuve Clicquot in the fridge.)

It's been an amazing year... great posts from our incredible circle of friends, news of travel, great food writing, amazing pictures of holidays and vacations and parties galore, a crazy dog, an engagement, a new home, a NYT write-up, and so much more. We said it Sunday at our early Thanksgiving dinner, but we can't say it enough: We are SO thankful. God bless us, every one!

Anyway... the best way to fete a blog is to read it! At this point, 250-300 people a day are doing just that. Go back and look at your favorite posts, browsing by month or by category. We'll be adding some new features in the new year (a photoblog, perhaps?) and pestering more of you to write for us.

Thanks for a great year!

November 12, 2003

Nonfamous in the IHT

This is not a huge surprise but a nice one all the same: the International Herald Tribune picked up the NYT story on Amazon's "search inside the book" that featured David. I'd love to get a copy of the actual paper because apparently they used other photos from the shoot.

November 05, 2003

Who are the nonfamous nonstrangers?

People often find their way to the humorous story of how the site got its name. But the recent media attention (such as it is: we flatter ourselves!) has alterted us to a glaring deficiency on this site -- it's really hard to work out who writes it! So this little article is here to address that issue.

nonfamous nonstrangers

Jay Porter (jay) created on November 20, 2002 (and is just the tiniest bit miffed the NYT couldn't mention that). Jay does marketing strategy stuff for an integrated communications firm. Jay is from Oklahoma City.

David Smith (david) is Jay's partner since early 2002, and lives with Jay at casa nonfamous in Seattle. David is a product manager for a software firm, and hails from Adelaide, South Australia.

Paulette is the beautiful resident nonfamous food and travel goddess and spends a lot of time making life better for everyone. If you enjoy her writing, we should gloatingly note that her cooking is even better (and that she shares it with us often). Paulette helped David and Jay start "Swallow Don't Spit," the wine club for people who really just want to talk and drink. She manages big geeky books for an even bigger software firm. Paulette is a Joisey Goil and proud of it. So watch yourself.

Roger is an old friend but a new contributor to nonfamous. Nobody can decide if he or his boyfriend is cuter, one reason they are such a good match. He is a Texan but we forgive him.

Terry is married to nonfamous pal and power-oenologist Bob. Terry moves units right now but we expect her to change her job and the world any minute now. In the mean time she's likely to make us spit out our wine laughing (the only way we'd ever spit wine out).

Pete was Jay's housemate back before the dawn of casa nonfamous and serves as our resident musicologist and favorite jew. It's OK for us to say that because he does. Go find him at Sonic Boom and ask him if they have that Stevie Wonder album with that one song. And bring him some bacon.

Gary is... how do we know Gary? Several ways-- through Paulette and Monica and Anika. Dry and witty and very tall, Gary writes in great sporadic bursts of observation. Gary works at the same saltmine Paulette does.

Speaking of Anika and Monica, both of these amazing writers have spurned us, posting--what--once or twice? Maybe as we become less nonfamous they will log on and enlighten us. Same goes for Daniel and Cathy and Topher and and Sabrina and and Perry and Kim and Ian and Rachel. Not to mention my sisters! Hello-- you guys can start writing whenever!

Last but not least on the nonfamous roster is the ever-loyal, ever-jumpy Dozer. Dozer Jesus (hay-soos) Portersmith is the nonfamous dog. Cattle dog that is. Red heeler. The only dog we know with his own column on a blog. We knew he was a natural the day we brought him home--neurosis and writing talent go hand in hand.

Well, that's us. We welcome everyone's comments. If they're really good, you can become a nonfamous nonstranger too! Maybe.

Nonfamous in the NYT

After writing this article about Amazon's new "Search Inside the Book" feature I was contacted by a New York Times reporter on Friday last week who interviewed me about my experiences using Amazon and how the new search feature affected me. Then, on Monday, the New York Times called back and said they wanted to do a photo of me for the article. How could I say no? Sure enough, a very nice photographer visited casa nonfamous that evening and proceeded to take some cheesy shots: me leaning back on a chair in the office with my feet on a stack of books while gazing casually into the camera (as you do); me in the sitting room with a cocktail in my hand and a laptop on my lap casually searching Amazon; that kind of thing. She took two rolls of film, and luckily the final result is only somewhat cheesy rather than exceedingly cheesy. I'd love to see the other shots she took. She's a wedding photographer too, she says, so we might take a look at her portfolio -- there might be some business for her in May.

And so, the article appeared in the New York Times today. Well, it's on the website today, and it appears in the Circuit section tomorrow (Thursday). Guess I'll pick up a copy or two, eh? :) got a brief mention in the article, so I if you're a first-time visitor as a result of the article, welcome! Leave us a brief comment if so, we'd love to know how many people had their curiosity piqued by our little site.

October 13, 2003

In the zeitgeist

Looks like nonfamous (and me!) was quoted in the New York Daily News last week. I'm not so familiar with this paper. Is this a good thing or a bad thing?

August 14, 2003

This Ole House

So Jay and I have taken the plunge and bought a house. We made the offer this morning. The seller was about to drop the price on the listing, but we managed to get in early and offer the new price before anyone else got a chance to. So, barring any problems with the inspection/neighbourhood review or financing, it's as good as ours!

The house is a 1904 farmhouse with a gorgeous, newly remodelled interior. On the lower floor is the sitting room with an attractive (but nonfunctional) fireplace and a large dining room, with a modern kitchen in the back. Upstairs is the master bedroom with lots of closet space and a view of the Cascades and Lake Washington, the guest bedroom, and a third bedroom which has no closets (and so we'll probably use that as an office). The bathroom -- featuring a clawfoot tub with low water pressure -- is upstairs also.

An extension has been built on the back of the house which provides a large family room and a small bathroom. Unfortunately, it wasn't built very well, and the inspection report about it was frightening: "the entire addition is in poor condition ... and would be recommended to be removed or completely reconstructed". But it's OK for a few years at least, and the house is still good value even if we knock it down, say for a patio in a larger backyard. (The backyard is tiny but the front yard is nice, and the entire house is fenced in so Dozer can run around.) In the meantime, we'll probably use it for the home theatre system, provided the electricals can cope. At least we have a room where we don't have to worry about damaging the walls or carpet in a party!

All going well, we should be moving in at the end of September. It's a big step, and kind of stressful, but I can't wait until we can settle in to our first family home together!

August 08, 2003

Kung-Pao Chicken

So now I'm playing poker. It seems to be the "executive activity" of choice at work, which suits me fine since I'm crap at golf. I'm not too hot at poker either, mind you. A background in statistics helps me evaluate the relative merit of the possible hands in a probabilistic sense, but whenever the pot gets big I tend to stay in with a marginal hand "just to see what happens". Oh well. Fortunately, I don't see being $25 down at the end of a night a crushing loss. $25 is a good price for a night's entertainment if you ask me.

Anyway, I did manage to invent a new game at the last session. Since poker isn't widely played in the Commonwealth states, to get some variety at dealer's choice I have to make up my own game instead of relying on a vast repertoire of established games. So here for posterity are the rules of "ten-card chicken" (which on the night was universally referred to as "Kung-Pao Chicken").

Rules of 10-card chicken

  • Each player is dealt 10 cards, face down. (This limits the game to five players, but we used two decks for eight players.)

  • The ten cards will be divided into two standard five-card poker hands, betted on separately. There will be two winners: the winner of the first hand, and the winner of the second hand. At the end of the game, the eventual pot will be split equally between each winner. (It is possible the same player may win both hands and take the entire pot.)

  • After the deal, each player looks at his 10 cards and decides which five will be used for the first hand. A betting round follows. A player who folds in this betting round is out for the rest of the game, and cannot win any of the pot.
  • Once the first betting round concludes, all remaining players simultaneously turn over and display a five-card hand of their choice. The player with the highest hand showing (under standard poker rules) is the winner of the first round (but does not yet collect from the pot).
  • Another betting round begins (excluding players who folded in the first round). Players are now betting on the hand made of the remaining five cards in their hand. Usual betting and disclosure rules apply. The winner of the first hand may fold if he chooses and still collect half of the eventual pot.

  • After the betting round concludes, the winner of the second hand divides the pot with the winner of the first hand.

It's an interesting game. It's called "chicken" because each player has to make a choice -- do I play my best hand first or second? The winner of the first hand has a definite advantage, because he can keep bumping the pot in the second round safe in the knowledge he'll collect half of what everyone adds. But a good hand in the second round can catch players off-guard (although betting big on junk in the first round kinda gives the game away), especially since so many cards have already been shown. Winning the second hand is definitely worthwhile, as the pot can be huge.

As it happens, in the one game we played one player had full houses in both his hands, which drove the pot to astronomical levels. Sadly, that one player was not me -- the best I could make with 10 cards was a measly two pair.

July 16, 2003

Frodo on Maui (with apologies to Tolkien)

As I ascended the volcano with my beloved companion by cover of darkest night, I knew what I had to do. It was time-- in my heart, I knew that. We had traveled so far together, and this was right. As we got nearer the top, I could feel the ring, heavier, heavier, weighing on me.

As we waited for the beautiful sunrise, I wondered, is this the time? There are all these orcs and goblins around (okay, tourists in bad outfits). The sun peeked over the glorious clouds... and still I waited.

We looked into the huge crater of the volcano, deep and wide enough to swallow all of Manhattan... and still I waited. The plan was to ask him here, so I could throw the ring in and jump after it if he said no. What's my backup plan if we're not on a crater? This was to have been the time, but fate stilled my hand. The ring would have to wait.

We glided down the mountain on our bicycles, curve by curve, and it burned in my pocket. When? In the garden of protea flowers? In the grove that reminded him of his home across the Western Ocean? Maybe after we saw T3 that afternoon? (It was better than we expected, by the way, and gave my sunburn a chance to heal.)

It was dusk as we made our way back to Little Beach, where the previous day we had frolicked carelessly (and clotheslessly). The full moon shone above, huge as it loomed over the craggy horizon, lighting our way over sharp black rocks to the hidden cove. The ring, again, so heavy. This was its time, its place. {End Tolkien ripoff}

On the almost-deserted beach, under moon, as he spread a towel out, I dropped to one knee.



"Come here."

"What... what's that in your hand?"

"A ring."

"What, baby?"

"David, will you marry me?"

"Yes, yes."

And so it went. We had our moonlight swim, our giddy ramble, our glasses of champagne back in civilization. He loved the ring (thanks Paulette for your invaluable assistance; more later on the experience of being a man shopping for a man's wedding band at the Bellevue E.E. Robbins), and despite my incessant indecisive blathering to all our friends in the weeks before, he was completely surprised.

That night was the highlight of a beautiful, marvelous vacation celebrating our first year-- of many-- together. The rest of the pictures are here. We're thinking about a little trip to the more civilized civil courts of Canada in May (to be followed by some sort of ceremony and one hell of a party), and looking for a little place with a nice back yard for Dozer.

July 09, 2003

Get me on that plane!

It's not even 9 am, and I've already been asked by my uber-boss's assistant "What time is your flight tomorrow?" This is not a question I particularly wanted to hear.

"10 am. Why?"

"Then you could do an 8:30 conference call? The time the client wanted this afternoon won't work."

Mind you, this is with the clients who are pretty much the bane of my existence right at the moment. They are nice enough people, and good clients, but very, uh, collaborative. Ten emails and 6 phone calls a day collaborative. Six drafts when the timeline specifies two, with each draft having more substantive comments than the last. So basically, as they close the cabin door and rip the phone out of my hands, I'll hear a low drone intoning something like "...what we really need to see more of would be an example of customers who are integrating their business processes for greater operating productivity through enhanced teaming and Six Sigma recruiting and retention management..." And my eyes will roll back into my head, and when I wake up we'll be in Maui!

I am so clearly NOT going to tell anyone at work where we are staying!

July 08, 2003

At least David gets his name on the cover

Two years of blood, sweat, and yelling, but hey folks, my books are finally for sale! That's right, the Windows Server 2003 Deployment Kit is hot off the presses and a bargain for you advantage shoppers at only $115.19 on

I know you've all been eagerly awaiting this since the publication of the ever popular Windows XP Professional Resource Kit Documentation, my first book as writer and project manager.

Get 'em while they're hot, kids. You know these babies won't last long.

June 30, 2003

SS+K's new website goes live

So a lot of you have expressed interest (or confusion) about exactly what it is I am doing at my new company, and what kind of company it is. Our new website should help clear that up.

I'm eager for some feedback on the design. It's definitely cool--the navigation metaphor is "microfiche, i.e., a thumbnail of all content is visible on screen at all times--but I'm not 100% sure how intuitive it is. Oh, you need Flash, but you probably already have it. Otherwise, how could you enjoy the hijinx of Homestar Runner and friends?

You MUST click through on "The Work" section at bottom and watch some of the Time Warner Cable advertising. It is just brilliant and hilarious. Or, rather, "brilliant + hilarious" as our SS+K copy style would have it.

I really enjoyed beeting my New York compatriots last week, and the 10th anniversary party was amazing. SS+K's new downtown New York headquarters is unbelievable, vertiginously perched 30 floors up overlooking South Street Seaport and all the East River bridges and Brooklyn. Our brand theme is "municipal chic," which you kind of have to see to get. Amazingly, the Bellevue office was able to pick up this theme, as both offices were being built out at the same time. If you click on the "Contact Us" part of the site, you can see a little webcam shot of each office. You might even see me once in a while!

June 17, 2003

Dozer's not the only one with a weird dad

I think my father has always secretly wanted to be a redneck. Certainly he doesn't have the appropriate pedigree--the eldest son of very literary Irish parents, born in New York City and raised in other, equally large and culturally diverse cities along the Mississippi river--growing up he never had opportunity to put a car up on blocks in the front yard or rock on a crickety old front porch admonishing folks to get off his land. (Although, I do recall that he once built a still that blew up or something.) Perhaps that is the lure for him. Or perhaps he's just a little quirky.

But really, he's got redneck wannabe written all over him sometimes. He loves those "You Know You're a Redneck If..." type emails and claims to identify with many of those things. He likes to fish, he's got a pickup truck, he's always talking about his pigs and chickens and their antics, hanging out with old farmers, claiming that one of these days he's going to make whistle-pig pie (which is apparently something like a groundhog pot pie), drinking moonshine and cheap whiskey (ok, you got me there, it's more like expensive Irish whiskey)... Ok, so maybe he's more of a metaredneck or postmodern redneck. But he likes to shoot things with an old rifle. Now that's gotta get him some RN points.

Sunday, for example. I called him to do my duties as the good daughter I am and wish him the bestest Father's Day ever. So we're chatting and it's all nice. But a few minutes into the conversation I hear a clattering on his end, which sounds like the phone dropping, followed by what sound like gunshots, and then an exclamation of "Crap!" followed a few seconds later by "Hi, sorry. I'm back."

I suppose you can imagine that, as used to him and his sometimes curious hobbies as I am, I was concerned. Hearing your father drop the phone and curse while gunshots are being fired can be a less than calming experience. And, well, to be honest, he's really pissed neighbors off in the past, so you know, you can't be too careful. So I asked him, sweetly, calmly, and with genuine concern, "What the hell are you doing?"

"I'm out in the back pasture."

Translation, he's hunting groundhogs.

Yeah, the man has some weird obsession with playing God over suburban rodentia, especially ground hogs. I remember while growing up, the crazed look he would get upon finding some new zucchini plant or row of swiss chard in the garden had been digested by a woodchuck. He tried things like bigger and better fencing and putting up plastic owls. They dug under the fence and knocked the owl on its ass. Score 1 for the groundhogs. He took it as a statement. Nay, as a declaration. If it weren't for my mother's reasoned argument that poisoning the garden would also render the carefully tended vegetables inedible to their intended audience, I've no doubt we would have been finding bloated groundhog bodies throughout the neighborhood.

I also have a memory of a post on the back porch upon which he'd drawn little pictures of groundhogs with X's across them, one for each kill. He has the mentality of the soldier in Apocalypse Now who wore a necklace of his dead enemies' ears when it comes to these critters.

So we chat more. There are many things we can talk about. He mentions again the whistlepig pie. There is some discussion that maybe the old saw that anything you stuff with cheese and deep fry is going to taste good might also apply to groundhogs.

A few minutes later, there is a similar sequence of events to the ones described above. Phone drops...shots...only this time, "Got the bastard!"

Happy Father's Day, Pa.

June 13, 2003

I lost on Jeopardy, baby...


And you can see me lose next Tuesday, June 17. Check local listings, etc. In Seattle, it will be on KOMO 4 at 7:30.

I hope you’ll all still respect me afterwards. I’ll be sure to do an extra-special write-up detailing the mortifications of seeing the show air.

June 10, 2003

Shameless heartstring pulling

Paulette, did you get this link in an email from theYale Alumni Fund as well? Is it just me, or did you start tearing up-- and more to the point reach for your checkbook?! I suppose they just did a good job with it, but I'm kind of paranoid that now I'm 30 the long-dormant Boola9 virus has executed in my OS-- which means that the opening strains of "Bright College Years" make me go all vuhklempt and nostalgic. I'm a communications professional AND a former fundraiser, dammit-- that should really make me immune to slick marketing like this. But I'm just not.

May 09, 2003

Okies spared

The Nonfamous Mother of Us All, a/k/a The Judy called me last night to tell me she and the family were all unharmed before I knew what had happened. What's terrible is that this is the same area that was traumatized by an F5 storm 4 years ago this month, just a couple of weeks after I moved here. But what is really amazing is that despite 300 homes and many commercial buildings were destroyed, there were no fatalities and few major injuries. Relatively miraculous, really. And that part of OKC needs all the miracles it can get. One of the biggest areas of damage is the GM plant-- especially the paint facility, which is a big customer of my Dad's industrial hygeine business. But if that's the closest to home it hits, we're all thankful.

May 06, 2003

On matters of output

First of all, I'm SO sorry. Especially to Paulette, who manages to write beautiful posts even while in Europe. They have such weird keyboards there, not to mention lots of distractions to the would-be blogger.

You know who else has lots of distractions? Me! Namely, Dozer, rugby, and my real job. All three of these produce a lot of shit that I have to deal with, lately to the exclusion of my blog duties.

Dozer is, of course, the cutest puppy in the universe. I will momentarily post photographic evidence of this fact. He is also a bit high maintenance at the moment, what with his gargantuan poops (all too often on the beige grass on the inside of 843), his dinnertime escape artistry, and a shyness that is criminally vulgar (to quote Moz). David can tell you exactly how fast this pup can run, while I can tell you exactly how quickly he can hide behind the sofa. But we've had a quiet night here tonight and a good walk and he seems to be adjusting quite well.

Rugby is another story altogether. It has been high drama with a board member quitting after I pissed him off, a website relaunch, and our upcoming West Coast Gay Rugby Tournament May 10. Oh, and somewhere in there I ghostwrote an article for a drag queen and helped her get three of my teammates to strip, shower, and towel off on stage at the Timberline. And people wonder why I am ready to get back to the pitch!

Work is enjoyably insane right now. I am doing seven positioning projects at the moment--four was previously my limit, and I am afraid my head might explode. But it's all fun work, and far better than my final year of boredom spiked with terror at Landor. But I will be in full dog-paddle mode until mid-June, so please forgive any authorial lapses.

That's the news and I am outta here.

April 07, 2003


Well, Friday night was fun. And so was Saturday. I'm now 30, Pete's 29, and the scandalous photos are all here at Aries Convergence.

March 26, 2003

Explanation for Albin

With entries like the one Paulette just wrote (following those links resulted in uncontrollable spastic laughter, in my third day on the job), f.a.n.s. is sure to be a huge worldwide hit by, like, next week. Until then, we apparently have a huge readership at the Williams-Sonoma call center in Oklahoma City.

That is, of course, where The Judy works. The Judy is, of course, my very own personal mother, the woman who gave birth to me lo these (almostbutnotquite) 30 years ago. So you can imagine The Judy's pride (The Judy's Pride being one of The Judy's great and unassailable qualities) at her very own personal son's very own personal blog with the son's very own personal writing up there on the World Wide Web for anyone with a browser to read.

I mean, it's not like her very own personal son is an actual published writer with a loving remembrance about a mother bearing an unmistakeable resemblance to The Judy on the New York Times Best Seller list for 87 weeks in a row, but clearly having a weblog is really really close to that kind of literary mega-celebrityhood-- just with no royalties, no publicist, and no pied-a-terre overlooking Central Park.

Anyway, having told several coworkers about this website that is really much better than filial megacelebrity what with all the lurking media attention that would entail, The Judy found herself having to explain this week why her very own personal son referred to her as The Judy in this post. Which was a challenge, as The Judy has never really understood this particular nomenclature system and has (on occassion) seemed fairly nonplussed by it. One coworker in particular, Albin, whom The Judy adores immensely, took some umbrage to The Judy being called The Judy (by her very own personal son, no less). According to The Judy, he said something along the lines of, "Don't they know that Judy is this sweet little thing we all have to protect and take care of?"

So here's the explanation, for Albin, and others. It's well timed, as The Judy is about to visit Seattle for her very own personal son's 30th birthday (which hasn't happened yet, not quite).

My sisters and I (whom, I should point out, are sometimes referred to collectively by The Judy as "The Porter Sisters," which I actually kind of like but which, you know, sort of makes you feel not too bad for calling her something funny, too) have had this thing for some years where we call each other Woobie. (This comes not from the rather obvious potential source Mr. Mom starring Michael Keaton but from my college roommate Sara, but that's another story altogether.) Or Woobs or Woobina or Woobster or some other permutation of the word. This is our collective term of endearment for each other, permissible for use by nobody else, and accurate in reference to nobody else. It's not like we three have some Jodie Foster "may tay in whinnn" idiolect or something, but if we did it would be known as Woobish. (Things can, by the way, exhibit woobish or woobitudinal qualities or act woobily.) Various significant others have at times felt somewhat excluded by this, but even they have had to learn the hard lesson that love alone cannot make one a Woobie (just a Woobie-lover). Woobiehood depends on blood and a deep shared experience of childhood at 8233 (to wit: avocado shag, schnauzer high-fives, and a deep hatred of umbrellas). Clearly, none of that made any sense to any of you, which is why we're Woobies and you're not.

All that to say, we kind of thought our beloved Mother felt left out of this world of Woobieness. And back about five years ago, she was going through a bad time with a bum hip and a lot of pain. It was in this time that the Woobieumvirate had a collective epiphany about the power, beauty, and grace of the very small woman who bore and birthed us. Mother, Mom, and Mommy seemed commonplace, inadequate monikers. In this moment, we realized that she is The Judy-- larger than life, action-packed, and robo-hipped. Able to cook for 25 while on powerful (perscription) narcotics, undaunted by the loudmouthed opinions of the children she raised to be fiercely independent, and just generally kick-ass in every way (even at those rare moments when she doesn't quite believe it about herself).

The Judy is our ultimate term of endearment. Truth be told, it also captures that ur-Mother element in her personality, her sense of drama (Drama!), and the John-Hancock-shaming sweep of her magisterial signature. But rest assured, Albin, and all lovers of The Judy everywhere: no one loves The Judy more than her Woobies three.

And that's why we call her The Judy. Any questions?

(Thanks to the W-S Posse for reading f.a.n.s., and to some of them for saying in The Judy's earshot that I'm "so hot!" and most of all for loving The Judy in an appropriate-for-the-workplace fashion. Apologies to David Foster Wallace for the appropriation of "my very own personal" and the highly appositive style of this post.)

March 13, 2003

A nonfamous sister site! now has a sister site-- or rather, an aunt-and-uncle site:
Tompkins Abroad. Thanks to the miracles of the MovableType system, I used up only 30 minutes of my vacation (well invested, I might add) setting Rick and Lisa up with a blog of their own. If I have ever forwarded you any of her emails, you know how much our life is about to be enriched!

Lisa's first post , about her kitchen sink, is hilarious.

March 10, 2003

Welcome to Moscow

Well, I arrived mostly without incident and am having a wonderful time with Rick and Lisa here in Moscow. The sob story of BA's inability to get me an aisle seat landed me an upgrade to World Traveler Plus from Seattle to London (thanks, knee-- and the lovely Charlene!) and I had a whole row of four to myself on the surprisingly enjoyable Aeroflot into Moscow. (Great food, shockingly.) My bag did not make it until the next day, but this was not tragic. After a stop on the way home from the airport for pizza and "piva" (beer), I slept really well. No trouble from the knee, apart from a little stiffness.

Sunday was great-- we had a little light breakfast and then went to lunch at a truly fabulous restaurant called Nostalgie. It was old world charm meets new Russian money, with spectacular results. We had amazing blinis with red caviar, and the foie gras with Rick's tuna was absolutely the best I have ever had (Paulette, I was thinking of you!). My steak was excellent, and Lisa's crepe Suzette for dessert was the perfect end to the meal (Rick and I ate almost all of it). After that, R&L's really nice driver Pavel (more on him later) took us to Red Square. Wow. Again, more on that later after we go back. We could not get into GUM-- the giant amazing department store-- due to something that looked like a cross between crowd control and military exercises. We walked over to the Hotel Metropole (and I was a bit cold and sore of knee by now) and had tea. Pavel picked us up, and after some reconnaissance for a bar David's coworker Masha recommended, we returned home.

Rick and Lisa have the DVDs for the first season of Six Feet Under-- which I had not seen. It was their first viewing of any of the series, and they love it. Especially Rick. We had to cut him off after four episodes so we could get some sleep (not that I got too much... I am a bit out of sorts with the 11 hour time difference). We watched another this morning with breakfast, and as soon as I sign off we are off to the Novodeveichy Monastery. My big victory of the morning: calling and confirming in my phrasebook Russian that it is indeed open today. Score one for phonetic transcription!

More updates later.

March 04, 2003

This... is... JEOPARDY!

Originally emailed 2/27/03 following my sound drubbing on Jeopardy...

The Short Version:
I didn’t win. I did have fun.

The Slightly Longer Version:
I was fodder for the Jeopardy mill, falling not ignobly to a true machine of a Jeopardy player who was, I feel certain, on his way to being a five-time champion. And at some point in the future I will receive a $1,000 check for my troubles. All in all, a very memorable and enjoyable experience.

The Full Version that Reveals Details You Might Want to Save for the Show’s June 17 Air Date, So Don’t Say I Didn’t Warn You:

The whole weekend was great (this was, after all, a vacation as well as a Syndicated Television Trivia Ordeal!). David and I arrived late Friday and made our way to my dear friend Steven’s great new apartment just off the beach at Venice. David and I tooled around Saturday in our rented convertible, saw the sights, went to the Getty Center, got a bit of a sunburn, and then joined Paulette for our friend Jason’s thirtieth birthday party in Manhattan Beach. Sunday we were mostly bums, with a nice dinner at a funky Polynesian place off Fairfax with Paulette, our friend Daniel, and his friend Troy. Steven’s return from Acapulco on Sunday added even more fun to the mix—catching up with him was a highlight of the weekend. Monday excepted, it was a fun, relaxed, and surprisingly restful time. (Oh, I got food poisoning from a chicken sandwich at LAX on the way back—thus the day’s delay on answering all the urgent emails and phone calls about how I did on the show. I’m better now.)

Everyone at Jeopardy was incredibly nice and very, very concerned with my well-being given the gigantic leg brace sitting atop the trousers to my new suit. (Hey, if you’re going to lose, look good doing so—that’s one of many lessons I’ve learned playing rugby with the Quake! I was the best-dressed contestant that day, by a long shot.) Every 5 minutes some Jeopardy staffer would ask if I wanted a chair to play from (emphatically, no), needed to put my leg up (a good idea, actually), and if I was in any pain (“Oh, it’s really nothing—just enough to keep me sharp”). At three weeks after my ACL surgery, I was actually in pretty good shape, but to hear the Jeopardy folks you would have thought I was crossing the Sahara with a couple of bloody stumps... But of course I didn’t mind the attention, as it unnerved my 12 fellow contestants endlessly. The whole morning of coaching and makeup and “Hometown Howdy” practice kept rolling back to my injury. I even got to sit in a directors chair right offstage so as to avoid the stairs where the other contestants were sitting, cracking jokes with the assistant stage manager. If you are going to be on Jeopardy, I highly recommend being maimed to that precise degree that evokes sympathy—everyone else was treated pretty much like the carefully selected cattle we were. (Well, no cattle prods were used, but they move a lot of contestants through the Jeopardy feedlot in a year and for obvious reasons try not to get too attached to many of us.)

Having David, Paulette, and Steven in the audience was the greatest feeling— they are the kind of friends who just make you more confident by their presence, even if their confident smiles were a good façade for deeper turmoil. (Steven later reported that David was nervous enough for the both of us... Given his generally unflappable nature, the fact that he was visibly shaking through my entire match is really sweet.) I knew that they would love me even if I lost badly and just as importantly refrain from commenting on my errors until I had consumed at least one martini.

We did some practice questions, during which I actually outplayed the aforementioned Jeopardy Machine. Then I watched as he demolished his two opponents in the first match of the day; but I knew all but a handful of the questions asked, so I felt ready to go up against him. Pride goeth before a fall.

In the random draw of contestants, I was chosen for the second match of the day. Against the Machine and a Nice Gal from Atlanta. If she had been a slightly weaker player (like either in the first match) I would have had a better chance of beating the Machine. But she was smart and fast and despite the fact that I led her for most of the match, I was fighting a two-front war.

And a war on some nasty territory. The categories in the first round were in some weird TV-show schema— with names like Monk, Taken, and “ER.” The questions were not about these shows, but the overall effect was a bit confusing. I did OK, but Machine got an early lead and the round’s one Daily Double. He was just blindingly fast on the buzzer.

The second round had some killer categories (International Law and Unusual Trees) but I did well, coming within a couple grand of the Machine at one point. So when I hit the second Daily Double (he, of course, got the first) I gambled big-- $5,000 of my $12,000. Damn Unusual Trees—that’s all I have to say. So left with little money, squarely in third place, I went for broke— literally. I made some quick guesses with the few questions left on the board (a got a couple, lost a couple) and bet the remainder on the Final Jeopardy category— which I will not spoil for you. I got it wrong (but don’t feel too bad about my guess, which was at least a well-founded guess), and Nice Gal got it right, and so came in a respectable second place. So I ended the competition with no money and an odd sense of pride that I had managed, as Joan Didion would put it, to play it as it lays. This is perverse, but for a second I was almost glad to have had my turn and moved on... I could tell that winning at Jeopardy was quite likely the highlight of the Machine’s life, and I was inclined to let him have it and go on to other competitions, other rewards. (Not to mention my trip to Moscow, Paris, and London that starts next week— nothing like a dream vacation to salve a loss.)

I also just wanted to sit down. By the end of the match, my leg was really shaky— standing stock still that long was quite a test. But we had to stand and banter with Alex after the match, and I must say we had quite a nice conversation, to the absolute exclusion of both my competitors. (Clearly, Alex was already bored of The Machine.) As it turns out, Alex needs his ACL done and has been putting it off for years. I extolled the virtue of modern arthroscopic techniques and urged him to get it done before he hurt it worse. He told me he knew he should, but that I was young and athletic and his recovery would not be as easy. That was the end of our banter— he had to dash off to change.

Not one but two Jeopardians brought me my crutches and helped me down off the stage, reuniting me with my friends, who seemed happy just to have me back from the war. I signed my receipt for $1,000 and took my Jeopardy home PC game (gag) and headed for the green room (not green at all, actually) to retrieve my unneeded changes of clothing. When you lose, none of the other contestants will look you in the eye. I made a point of congratulating my elders and betters from the match, and both were gracious. I told the Machine to keep winning, because I didn’t want to go down to a mere three-day winner— I’m not sure his next two victims appreciated that. I will be quite eager to watch that whole week of matches!

Bag in tow, I met my dear friends outside the soundstage and hopped on the little golf cart that was carrying us to the studio exit. Within 10 minutes, we arrived at Campanile, the charming lunch spot Paulette had selected—housed in what used to be Charlie Chaplin’s home. We had a great lunch (thanks Steven!) and I sat there, made up like a streetwalker (or at least a weatherman) getting pleasantly plastered and enjoying repeated assurances from some of my favorite people in the world that I had gone down like a champ. That and $1,000 felt pretty good, even if it was about to rain in Los Angeles, and even if at some point my family, friends and 15 million viewers would soon learn that I couldn’t come up with Cate Blanchett’s damn last name in a crunch.

That, friends, is my Jeopardy story.

January 17, 2003

Me and my ACL

Most of you know (some of you in excruciating detail) that I destroyed my left anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in a rugby match November 2. After many delays, some interesting physical therapy, and lots of ice and ibuprofen, I will be having ACL reconstruction surgery February 3.

So what does this involve? This site offers a good overview. For the non-squeamish, this site offers even more detail and some lovely photos.

I'm pretty cool with all this, with exception of two words: "bone screws." Not only does that sound like medieval torture, I'm not looking forward to setting off airport metal detectors for the rest of my life.

My surgery will be a bit less involved than what is described above as I have opted for an allograft vs. an autograft-- the replacement ligament will come from a cadaver donor instead of being harvested from my patellar or quads tendon or hamstring. Virtually everyone I have talked to who has had the surgery said they would do this is they had the chance again, as the harvest site was more painful and problematic than the actual reconstruction.

This is not just because I'm a wimp-- though I am all for avoiding pain. The allograft should allow me to get back to normal day-to-day activities sooner. And as for my favorite abnormal activity, my surgeon and I wanted to avoid the inevitable weakening that any autograft would have inflicted on the harvest site. Given that I play lock, I need all the explosive strength I can get.

So when will I be on the field with the men of Quake again? I am looking at 8-9 months post-op before I can play, with a return to some aspects of training with my mates within 6 months. So I am holding out hope that I might be on the pitch at least a little in the 2003 Fall friendly season. That's my goal, damn all the people who think I'm crazy for playing again. Quitting is not an option.

December 02, 2002

Ich habe Dich nicht vergessen....

It's beginning to feel like home here. I now know how to use the washing machine and can remember to press the button to stop the water after flushing the toilet.

Last weekend Frank and I spent a few hours rearranging some things in our flat. Much of the work involved hauling furniture and other stuff we don't need down to the basement. We could have the garage sale of the century. Frank and I have made a pact not to buy anything for the flat unless we're sure the item we want isn't already somewhere in the house. The other day we went to IKEA (in Germany it also is the ultimate gay couple outing) to purchase a carpet. The next day Frank found a really nice rug rolled up in a corner downstairs. It looks like we're headed to IKEA again to return the new one. We did the same thing at another store with some dining room chairs.

I've been spending most days bicycling around Munich getting lost. Yesterday I rode my bike to meet Frank downtown at a government office, where I received a 3-year visa. After 3 years -- if I don't commit any felonies -- I can stay forever. It seemed like alot of running around to different offices and filling out various forms, but Frank says it went smoothly. Since I couldn't understand most of the dialogue between Frank and the office workers, I'll assume it did go smooth.

Next Monday I begin language lessons, which will be five days a week, five hours a day for 2 weeks. If I like the school, I'll continue there. If not, I'll switch to another school. You'll get a kick out of this: When I went to pay for the classes, I practiced my German outside and then proudly walked into the office and said, "Guten tag, mein name ist Keith Warnack. Ich möchte register für English lessons." The woman looked at me and said "Are you sure you wouldn't rather take German lessons?"

While not working, I'm trying to get up at the same time Frank does so I don't become a total slug. However, it's rare I shower before noon. I think the neighbors are wondering who the strange man in the bright red bathrobe is.

How are you celebrating Thanksgiving? Pilgrims aren't popular in Germany, but on Thursday we are going to the home of Thomas and Susan (our Hawaii companions) for "an American dinner." Susan is going to make chili con carne. I was going to bring a pumpkin pie, but the combination sounds disgusting. I think I'll bring flowers.

This will be the first Thanksgiving I've had without a turkey and all the trimmings. That's fine with me, I'm working on dropping a couple kilograms anyway. When I first weighed myself on Frank's bathroom scale, he told me that 1 kilo = 2 pounds. That would have been good news. I looked it up and 1 kilo = 2.26 pounds. Even if the label is Versace, leather pants don't look good with a gut.

Today I was planning to bicycle to Dachau, but it's raining. I'd rather visit a concentration camp on a sunny day. Instead, I think I'll walk to the Schloss Nymphenburg (the castle around the corner) and take a tour. I love the architecture here. Monday I went on a self-guided walking tour of an area called Schwabing. The main boulevard of Schwabing, Leopoldstrasse, looks like the Munich equivalent of the Champs Elysees. The sidestreets were lined with homes built in the Art Nouveau style. I also walked through a number of graveyards that had some interesting monuments. One mausoleum contained a lifesize marble statue of an elephant.

In addition touring around, I've been going to the public pool/sauna. I keep thinking how much fun it would be to take out-of-town visitors there, but then I imagine how awkward I'd feel sitting around naked with friends and family. Maybe just the pool -- where people keep their pants on -- would be enough. Germans are such a contradiction when it comes to health. After a cardio workout of swimming, going in the sauna and then jumping in cold water, you can sit poolside and have a beer and a cigarette.

Well, I think Frau Neuhaus is finished cleaning/damaging our flat, so I can go back upstairs and get ready to head out. Frank told her Friday will be her last day. She's a lousy housekeeper and possibly a thief, but I'll miss her. She's actually glad to quit working here. By the time she makes it to the 3rd floor she's breaking out in a sweat. I offered her coffee this morning and all she said was "Nein! Nein!" while patting her chest where her heart is.

I guess that's all for now. I miss you and I look forward to hearing from you.

November 27, 2002

bob's blog

I'm filing this under nonfamous nonstrangers because I know my friend Bob will post for us occasionally. Quite coincidentally, he launched his own blog, Imminent Ptomaine, last week.

It is, as he pointed out in its email introduction to me, "darker and more caustic" than f.a.n.s. But then again, Bob is a highly intelligent and amiable Brit who has lived in the States for many years; were he anything other than dark and caustic I'd be all-to-suspicious.

The blog's title does give me slight pause, as dining Chez Bob et Terri is an unparalleled treat for the senses-- where else have I ever enjoyed a whole roast lamb studded with 10 heads of garlic or tawny port older than myself? Nowhere, gentle reader. Now must I fear that these pleasures might cause painful illness and death?

Ah, well. Worth the risk.

November 20, 2002

our categories

So posts need at least one category. To start, these are they:

art/lit/smartypants - for you highbrows
aviso - Italian for "advice" and "warning," a propos our amateur advice columnists
biz - if you must write about business, do it here
ha- if it's really funny, put it here
neuroses - air out your issues here for public comment, lest you turn into Jeannine
nonfamous nonstranger news - stuff about the site and the contributors
podium - if someone needs a lecture
politics (woe is us) - it's all bad news these days
popcult - cf. art/lit/smartypants
seattle - no monorail, please
tech/sci- for nonfamous geeks
yum- good food and its pursuit

Anything I've left out?

why the title?

The site's name is taken from the text of a letter (view image) received in late 1997 at the offices of the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence, where I was working (along with nonfamous nonstrangers Rachel and sometimes Monica). We were torn between the undeniable pathos and unintentional humor of both the letter and its apparently scattershot distribution. OK, mostly we were just laughing so hard we hurt-- and that went on for weeks. We actually considered calling poor Jeannine, but encountered a difficult question: how does one call a paranoid schizophrenic without making her more paranoid? Emily Post offers no guidance on these matters.

To this day, phrases like "greatly maimed and incapacitated" pop to my mind and I giggle. Only when nonfamous nonstranger Topher revealed this week that he actually knew "crazy Jeannine" from his college days at Evergreen was I able to think of her as a real person, and a sad one at that. The urge to make contact surfaced again-- but what would I say? "Did you ever get help?" "Did you know you made some kids in the desolate middle of the country laugh and feel less sorry for themselves, in a kind of sick Seinfeld way?"

So thank you, Jeannine, and I'm sorry. I promise not to invade your privacy or host any "charity dinners on behalf of the cause [we] have fabricated about [your] life." But there is this little website where some decent people will share with the wider world our thoughts and worldview-- much as you shared yours with us via Xerox and snailmail.

the first post

Welcome, everyone, to "famous and nonfamous strangers." As this is mostly a message to those of you who expressed an interest in contributing, I've filed it under "nonfamous nonstrangers"-- as you are friends of mine and strangers only to the millions of adoring fans who will one day read the site.

I'm going to post a separate message about all the other categories we're starting out with-- though I expect more to come later.

Setting this up was so much easier than I expected. In the course of 24 hours, I registered a domain, set up hosting, and got MT installed on the server (by the nice people who wrote it). I am remembering how little I know about HTML, but for the most part I am insulated from all that.

I've set up a few people of you as "authors" initially, and I'd like to get all of you up and posting before I add others. I know everyone's busy, but this is all about a multiplicity of voices-- and my selfish desire to hear more of the smart, insightful, and funny things my friends have to say.

I'm going to hang back a little with my own entries for a while, in part because I'm still doing a lot of back-end tweaking and in part because I know what I sound like and don't want to hear myself talk.

With that, enough of this message. Welcome, thanks for trying this out, and please give me feedback. If you're not having fun after a week or so, let me know.


What is "famous and nonfamous strangers"?

As David and I update the site, it occurs to us that a little explanation is in order for both newcomers and, you know, posterity.

Relatively early in the blogging craze (back in November 2002) I decided to create a site that would mimic the kinds of conversations my wonderfully erudite, articulate, and most of all hilarious friends have when we get together. Since you can't have a dinner party every day, why not a blog instead? I intended more of my non-Seattle-based pals to get in on the act, but for whatever reason (lousy weather?) most of the active contributors live here. (I'm going to continue to hassle the rest of you.)

So the style of the site is conversational, occasionally confrontational, and generally short and to the point. Most all of us blog around the edges of work (and of course the busy lives we cram in outside those 40-60 hours a week), so there is a forced economy to much of what we post. As a huge Orwell fan, that "dispatches from the front" feel is something I love about the site.

I set out a few original categories (which have since been augmented) and set a loose on the world. The results have been tremendously satisfying. As of today, we're averaging around 300 unique visitors a day, a tally aided no doubt by references to the blog in the New York Times, BBC News Online, The New York Daily News and Slashdot.

Our themeline is "commentary on the world around us, with an effort to keep paranoia at the lowest healthy level." Especially when we talk about politics, a little paranoia doesn't seem unreasonable, but we do try to avoid sounding like our patron saint.

At any rate, that's surely enough introduction-- browsing the site is by far the best way to get a feel for it.