Thursday, December 30, 2010

Angry Birds vs Transatlantic Flight

The Angry Birds won.
I've resisted loading many games on my iPad, mostly because I know myself. My level of obsession in any activity is inversely proportional to how useful and productive that activity is. Kind of like my dating life before the Jumping Bean.

But Pac and the iPad have something in common... when not connected to the internets we get sad and twitchy. My disconnected iPad's character changes completely. It no longer serves as my nine-inch window to the world and becomes... an eBook reader.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy reading. But I would have kept my Kindle if that's all I needed to keep me occupied on a nine hour flight. So before the trip I installed Angry Birds.

Those birds served their purpose and kept me occupied the entire flight home Monday. And Monday evening. And Tuesday morning. (Late for work.) Tuesday night into the wee hours of Wednesday morning...

Those pigs are pissing me off.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Best Christmas Ever

I can't say my 4-day Christmas weekend was relaxing, but it was awesome. We got to Brussels early Christmas morning and checked into our hotel. The first thing we did was order a bottle of champagne from room service.


I was expecting Christmas night to be quiet and dull, but I was wrong. Not far from our hotel was a Christmas festival crowded with revelers. Row upon row of booths sold everything from toys, clothing and jewelry to food and gl├╝hwein. (Vin chaud, or mulled wine, guaranteed to keep you warm.)


As the cup kept my fingers warm and music filled the air, it struck me that everyone was in groups of friends, families with children or couples. And it made me glad I was able to join JB on his trip so that neither of us had to be alone on Christmas.


I was mesmerized by one of the carousels at the festival. I'm not sure I would have appreciated it as a child, in fact I'm sure it would have scared the crap out of me. Even from my mature perspective, it definitely doesn't seem like a suitable children's amusement ride. Not without a tetanus booster and a liability waver signed by both parents. It's a Victorian steam-punk contraption that reminded me of Something Wicket This Way Comes.





Sunday was relaxing and fun. We got up early and were the first to hit the hotel's breakfast buffet. (I wasn't going all the way to Belgium without having waffles.) We met up with some of the other crew members in a pub and shared drinks and laughter by a roaring fire. But the flight home was looming in the back of my mind. Fortunately I was able to get a seat on JB's flight Monday morning. As I watched JB work I realized how much he enjoys his job and how good he is at it, and I thought about how that creates a self-reinforcing cycle. He wore his reindeer antlers which delighted the children onboard, and the grownups too. He related genuinely with the passengers in his cabin and, before landing, took time to thank each one personally.

As we touched down in Atlanta JB gave the standard "Welcome to Atlanta, please remain in your seats..." announcement. At the end he threw in, "On behalf of your Atlanta-based flight crew, I hope you had a merry Christmas and would like to wish each of you a happy, healthy and prosperous 2011!" This was met with spontaneous applause from the passengers. I joined in and added a whistle.

Friday, December 24, 2010

European Christmas Vacation


Since JB was scheduled to lay over in Brussels over Christmas, we tentatively planned for me to accompany him this trip. I say "tentatively" because pass travel is an adventure at the best of times, and all travel plans are at the mercy of current passenger loads. Sure, you can look ahead and say a flight looks good, but one cancellation can change the game completely. But when it does work out, it's a beautiful thing.

Today's flight looks wide open with a nearly empty front cabin. But even on the off chance I sit in coach, I'll still get VIP service due to my sleeping with the lead flight attendant.

The flight back on the other hand is looking iffy. As I sit in the airport lounge drinking a beer and watching the CNN Airport Channel, I see the headline "Winter Storm brings Charles de Gaul Airport To A Standstill."

Dang. CDG was my Plan B for getting home Monday. Next headline: "Delta Cancels 300 Flights in Atlanta -- Rain, snow & ice expected tomorrow."

Time to order a second beer. My butterflies are thirsty.

Location:ATL Concourse E

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Night Devine

There's a moment when you know it's Christmas. I had one tonight. At a gay karaoke bar.



Sorry there's no video. I put the phone down on the table to listen. But I'm glad I left the recorder running.

Its not me hooting. But I was the one who kept saying "Wow, wow...".

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Double Boiling

After my brush with death making brittle the other day, I decided to keep the baking and candy-making to a minimum. Although I still need to break out the double boiler, what could be easier than dipping things in melted chocolate?

Fifty weeks of the year I shy away from white chocolate. It's like taking all that makes chocolate holy, then choosing what's left. Cocoa butter. It really doesn't deserve to even be called chocolate, but "edible moisturizer" doesn't sell. However the dipped pretzels are a hit every year, and have become a Casa Midtown tradition. Plus they sort of look festive.


But I am still tempted to try Stevie's Chocolate Crinkle Cookies. What could be better than half brownie, half cookie and half powdered sugar? Yum!

FaceTime Well Spent?

When you've been with someone fourteen years...

I love that he got me my new iPhone for Christmas.

But I expected more from our first long distance Facetime chat. JB was not at all happy with how he looked, because THAT was he was focusing on. The tiny window showing his face was all he could see. The big window with me in it meant nothing.

And his face looked so nice to me.

All I gotta say is that Jumping Bean better get with the times. And quick.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Light

I was raised Catholic but in my heart I know I'm 97% pagan. The remaining 2% is a mixture of Buddhism, Judaism, Neoplatonism, Southern Baptist and Mathematician. I thought for a while about joining that Heaven's Gate church. I loved the astronomy but hated the shoes. (Are there any cults that wear Pumas?)

Also, I've dabbled. I mean, get on your knees once and you're a catechumen, twice and you're an alter boy. I remember once I was being... but I digress*. Where was I? Ah yes, Paganism.

It doesn't surprise me that this time of year held a special place to our great grandmonkeys. The longest night of the year, coming with the faint promise of Spring. It's like seeing the light at the end of the tunnel when you're still only three-eighths of they way in.

We totally take light for granted. In fact, I cant seem to get away from it. Not only does it seep in through the curtains at all hours, but every new gadget I bring into the house has two or thirteen glowy, blinky LEDs on it. When I was little the only night-light I had to comfort me was my mom's glowing cigarette butt rising and falling in the dark. Now it's like trying to sleep in that sad glass cage at the airport, but without all the emphysema.

Once in college I took an unofficial tour of an old copper mine. I and some fraternity brothers snuck into the abandoned shaft, making sure we each had two working flashlights going in. Deep inside we all turned them off for a good ten minutes. Even giving our eyes time to adjust, it was the darkest dark I'd ever seen.

That's what impressed me most from that elicit expedition. After the first few moments, our echoing laughter faded to a creepy silence. The darkness went from being the mere lack of light to become a physical, palpable entity wrapping itself around us. I began to feel claustrophobic and I realized that without our flashlights, we would literally die. There would have been no way we could have blindly found our way out of that labyrinth while avoiding the dangerous pits and flooded shafts.

So it makes perfect sense to me that, at a time when light was a precious and limited resource, people would find any reason to celebrate turning the corner and put the longest night behind them.

And of course, they'd celebrate with light.








* My apologies to Doctor Evil.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Chocolate Death Chews

After reading about Randy P's awesome sounding chocolate coated cashew brittle I decided to try it myself. Since I didn't have a candy thermometer, I had to use my inner Julia to tell my soft crack from a hard crack. Evidently my inner Julia is on crack.

I knew it literally wasn't brittle when I could use a pizza cutter to make bite-size morsels. I forged ahead anyway and dipped them in dark Belgian chocolate. The next morning I looked them over. They looked good. Real good. So I popped one in my mouth.

Whatever it was that I made, it wasn't candy. It wasn't even edible. In fact, it almost killed me. It stuck to every part of my mouth that didn't have the good sense to excrete protective mucous. Then it went for my throat, and that's when my flight-or-fight instinct kicked in. Do I try to swallow this mess or do I try to spit it out? Either option seemed equally impossible.

Oddly my main concern was, do I remember the Heimlich from my Red Cross training? And would I be able to convey the instructions to JB in interpretive dance before running out of blood oxygen?

After my near-death experience I evaluated what was truly important in my life. Revenge. I marched straight to the Cook's Warehouse and bought a candy thermometer.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Gay Scarf Dance

Evidently scarves are all the rage with the gays this holiday season, if you watch Old Navy commercials. WTF?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Pac's Column

Reading StevieB's post about his recent office move got me thinking about my current work habitat. I'm not close to any windows which is sad at this time of year when I spend most of the daylight hours in the office. I have an inside cubicle close to the heart of the building and I share my cube space with a building support column. It's like working in a phone booth with another, somewhat smaller phone booth inside it. What? What's a phone booth? How to explain... It's like working in a TARDIS... no, bad analogy, those are actually quite roomy inside. It's like working in a shoebox, with one shoe still in it. And someone is wearing the shoe.

The center of the floor has the elevators, stairs, restrooms and a mysterious chamber with a locked door marked "Mechanical/Electrical/Phone Room". Inside this room I can only imagine lives an angry dragon or large steam engine. All day long I can feel its pulsating energy. The fluorescent tubes and suspended ceiling tiles rattle overhead. A few unluckier employees, condemned to toil even closer to the beast, can't even focus on their computer screens unless they force themselves to relax and let their eyes vibrate in sync. Kind of like Jodie Foster riding the Machine in Contact.
Click to take a virtual spin of Pac's Cube!
Hey, it's cooler than it sounds. But not much.
For even more realism, do it during a 3.0 earthquake.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Made Worse Every Day

Lately I've been watching History Channel International more than the History Channel. Even though it's not in HD, it seems to have a bit more actual historical content and less Pawn Swamp Truck Ice Picking Logger Stars on it. I'm willing to submit that the average Nielsen family just isn't interested in true, educational history. But do they seriously find shows about the self-storage business more compelling?

And you knew it was only a matter of time before they pulled this...
sigh.

Monday, December 13, 2010

One Triggabyte

A technician working on a 1970's hard drive.
When I do remember my dreams it usually makes me wonder, "what the hell's going on in there?" I woke up this morning laughing with this quote in my head: "You taste like you brush your teeth with Bisquick." I have no idea what this means.

JB and I went to the mall on Saturday. I know, stupid. We were still a quarter mile from the exit when we got stuck in mall traffic. Another hour before we could find a parking space. "In and out!" JB kept saying. Right.

It was last August when a summer storm knocked out the power. When the power came back on, my old iMac could not be resuscitated. I've been making due since then with my iPad, waiting on my best behavior for Christmas when I was told I could get a new iMac.

I spent the rest of the weekend getting the new baby set up and importing our music and photos from the back-up drive. I remember when I first heard the term "terabyte". (Or "triggabyte" as my friend Larry calls it when he calls me for tech support.) I was working for an ISP that was expanding into national markets and growing rapidly. In a meeting one of the network engineers was describing a new email architecture. When he said our online storage was expanding to a terabyte, the geeks in the room gasped. At the time our entire customer email storage was operating within just a few gigabytes.

That was 1998. Today I find more gigabytes than that under the sofa cushions. And I'm just hoping we don't fill up our new triggabyte iMac drive with our mundane crap before I can absorb our christmas expenses and buy more storage.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Pot Luck

For this recipe and more, visit the Gallery of Regrettable Food!
Just finished my last night shift of the year! My job responsibilities occasionally require me to work maintenance and software releases at night to minimize potential customer impact. The only problem is that I'm still expected to show up at the office the next morning bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. With enough coffee I can manage bright-eyed, but I don't get paid enough to do bushy-tail.

Today was the IT department's holiday pot luck. Pot luck, even the name conveys the inherent uncertainty and potential for adventure. And in my office, it was sure to be a multicultural adventure. I didn't provide a dish of my own. Not out of fear, although in this economy it's never wise to risk poisoning your coworkers. Through some oversight, the contract personnel were left off the invite list until the last minute. I suppose I could have thrown a casserole together last night. I was going to be up late anyway. Fortunately I had the perfect excuse to bail out of the event. Exhaustion.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Control Freak

I've always been a control freak. Not the stereotypical Type-A style control freak. I leave that particular disorder to my partner, JB. I'm way too lazy for that. (I prefer to think of it as "ambition economics".) I'm talking automation. As a kid I watched the Jetsons and wanted that lifestyle right then and there. Not so much the flying cars, although those would be cool too. I wanted that level of push-button convenience, like a bed that dressed me in the morning, and hands-free oral hygiene. And I got tired of waiting for it.

At age eleven I was building robots. I wasn't so much interested in an artificially intelligent companion, I was imagining an obedient servant. Looking back, it's ironic how much time and effort I spent trying to avoid making my bed.

My first attempt resulted in a trash can that rolled around in circles and spoke pre-taped lines recorded in a "robotic" version of my own voice. It was less Rosie and more C3PO, except even more useless and gay.

While Dad allowed me access to his workshop, my mother was never supportive of my hobby. Probably because household items, small appliances and wigs would go mysteriously missing only to turn up weeks later, assimilated into some fresh
Rube Gold-Borg monster. "Get that thing out of my sight!"

The robots got better over time but never really performed anything more useful than entertaining my friends and family. My final creation, Hankie 2, was a notorious womanizer; don't ask me how, don't ask me why. Countless hours of soldering and programming only to end up with a machine that moved and spoke like Steven Hawking but with the brain of Benny Hill.

One Christmas my relatives watched as Hankie 2 rolled up to my most prudish aunt and then, as if his proximity sensor failed, just kept rolling. To everyone's delight, Hankie disappeared under her skirt. Everyone, that is, except Aunt Judith who squealed and cursed at the electromechanical violator. Hankie's gears finally stopped grinding as he exclaimed to uproarious laughter, "It's dark in here!" At least his light sensor was still working.

Hankie even managed to eventually win Mom over when -- one night on his charger -- his infrared sensor detected her lighting up her 4am smoke and he asked, "What's cooking, good looking?" I sensed the shift when Mom started calling him by name. "Get Hankie out of my sight!"

I guess it should come as no surprise I went on to get my Electrical Engineering degree in control theory. Or that Casa Midtown is under complete computer control. Control which JB steadfastly refuses to relinquish without a fight. My programming efforts are constantly subverted by unplugged controllers, lamps and stereos which don't turn on because they were turned off the "wrong way" and systems mysteriously switched to manual override.

To accommodate JB's irrational need to decide for himself when lights should turn on and off, I've had to alter my dream of ultimate automation. The casa now keeps track of JB's whereabouts at all times and has a "Half_Jetson" mode and a "Full_Jetson" mode. Now I just have to figure out how to get Muncher (our Roomba) to only come out from under the bed in Full_Jetson mode. I'm tired of JB telling me, "Get that thing out of my sight!"

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

As The Shoppers Rush

During the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, my mind goes back to an experience from two years ago. JB and I were headed to some sort of holiday event, I cant remember exactly what. Even though we were already running late, we had to make a stop at Publix to pick up some party supplies. To save time, we planned a divide-and-conquer strategy, meeting back at the checkout. The store was typically busy for a Friday night on the week before Christmas and even though the cashiers and baggers were efficiently keeping the shoppers moving, the lines were about five carts deep. The boop boop of the bar code scans seemed to fit in time with the piped-in holiday music.

There must be some sort of cosmic law that states no matter which lane I choose, there's going to be a price check, a shopper that needs to run back for a forgotten item or one of those people who not only still pays with a check, but also needs to take the time to tediously record the transaction in their ledger to make sure the account is still in balance.

As I shifted my bag of ice between arms to check my watch, JB began motioning to draw my attention to the older gentleman waiting ahead of us. It looked like he was also on his way to a Christmas party. He was wearing red and green suspenders and a matching bow tie, and it occurred to me that his appearance and demeanor would be perfectly suited to a seasonal stint as a department store Santa. I silently hoped he wasn't packing a checkbook. We acknowledged each other's festive attire (I was wearing a Santa hat, JB had reindeer antlers on) and he winked from behind his bifocals. "Merry Christmas," he said.

"Merry Christmas," we responded obligingly.

When it was his turn, the man said something that made the cashier laugh cheerfully. I didn't pick the fastest lane, but ours seemed to be the warmest and happiest. The man and young woman had a friendly exchange as I was focussed on finding a spot on the conveyor belt to put down my ice. He wished her a "Merry Christmas!" as he took his bag and receipt. "Merry Christmas..." she said and watched him intently was he left the store. Then she looked to her nearest coworkers, as if she expected them to be watching.

As she turned back to her duties, I noticed her wipe a tear. She was still smiling but, while so gregarious a minute ago, she was now somewhere far away. She scanned half our groceries, then paused and looked up at us, her eyes pooling. "His card..." she hesitated for a second, as if embarrassed. Then her cheerful laughter returned as she resumed scanning and said, "The name on his credit card is 'Santa Clause'."

Monday, December 6, 2010

Do You Smell What I Smell

Its been a crazy week. Night shifts Tuesday through Friday, along with my normal daily responsibilities.

Toward the end of the week I thought I was going nuts each night when I'd sit at my computer desk at home working with our offshore personnel. Could it be my imagination? After a half hour into my online conference call with India, I could swear I smell curry. I need a good night's sleep. Or a vacation. Or intensive cultural sensitivity retraining.

Also this week, air traffic controllers go on strike in Spain. Who does that affect? Lots of people, I'm sure. And all of our weekend plans it turns out, when JB gets stuck over there on his layover.

He's finally back home tonight, after missing two of the most anticipated holiday parties of the season. But the season's still young. There are plenty of holiday memories yet to be made.

He tells me about his Spanish adventures while I try to make being back home compare to an unexpected paid vacation in Barcelona. A glass of red wine, some guitar music, Totino's pizza tapas... I know, I'll light some candles.

"Where are those candles you said you bought at Pier One the other day?"

"In the den, next to the computer. Behind the door."

"Found them!"

Seriously. Who would buy curry scented candles?

Friday, December 3, 2010

Misfits

After reconnecting with my old elementary and high school friends on Facebook, I've come to realize that I was perfectly okay losing touch with most of them. It's amazing how far apart we all drifted ideologically over the years.

But maybe, just maybe, there is an upside to reconnecting with them...



If it helps put things in perspective, this one popped up a few moments later...



It's obvious that Rudolph's underlying message of understanding, tolerance and respect -- even for those quite different from yourself -- is lost to some. To them it's just a cute story.

Or maybe, they just never had the opportunity to know how it feels to be a misfit.

I remember how much, at one time, I wanted to fit in with these people. How much I wanted them to like me. How they seemed to know even before I did that I was a "faggot".

Then again, maybe it's me who's finally grasping the true meaning of this story. What would I be?... where would I be?... who would I be if I "fit in" with these folks? I can tell you right now I certainly wouldn't have a Mexican husband. Thank God for unanswered prayers, right Garth?

How fortunate and truly thankful I am for the things that make me different. Thank you Rudolph! Hermey, you're amazing just the way you are. And Yukon Cornelius, I'll be woofing you later, you hot ginger git.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Working From Home

I've never been much for computer games, but one day I decided to pick up a copy of The Sims. On a Saturday afternoon I installed it and gave it a try. I built some little sim houses then started adding sim characters, learning how to customize the appearance and personalities of each one. Just for fun I made a Sim Pac and a Sim Jumping Bean and set them free in their swanky sim casa. As I watched the game unfold, I could see Sim JB getting increasingly frustrated as he cleaned up behind Sim Pac. For his part, Sim Pac alternated between sitting at the computer, watching TV and eating. There was something about that little storm cloud over Sim JB's head that seemed so realistic, so... familiar. I cautiously lifted my eyes from the game to see the real JB, swiffer duster in hand, glaring at me. I never felt the need to play Sims -- or any other computer game -- since.

I mention this because occasionally my job allows me to work from home. I don't usually like working from home because I'm way too easily distracted. Lingering household projects and chores which blithely languish all weekend suddenly start itching my brain when I'm sitting at my computer at 2:30 on a Wednesday afternoon. And the television calls my name. "Pac... Pac... Daytime television is quality television. Turn me on, Pac. You're perfectly justified catching a little CNBC. My random TiVo suggestions will take it from there."

It's even worse when JB is home. JB is a fight attendant and it seems like he's home a lot. But whether he's at home or away on a trip, he's always busy, always doing something. The idea that productive work could be accomplished while sitting passively at a computer, fingers barely moving, just doesn't register with him. Individually he understands the words "knowledge" and "worker". He just can't put them together. More than once I found myself trying to write code over the noise of the vacuum cleaner, finally giving up when the Dyson starts slamming repeatedly into the back of my chair. It's passive-aggressive way of telling me "one person here is accomplishing useful work while the other is not". To JB, computers are for wasting time on Facebook, playing stupid simulation games and the occasional wank.

And to him, Pac at work looks exactly like Pac at play.

That's why I like to make that distinction perfectly clear for him by getting the hell out of the house each weekday morning. Then at the end of the day I can come home feigning exhaustion and flop dramatically on the couch with a beer in one hand and remote control in the other. If I make a good enough show of it, he may even bring the beer and remote to me. There's just no way that would ever happen if JB actually saw me "working". Nope. He'd point me directly to the baskets of unfolded laundry still hot from the dryer or put a toilet brush in my hand and send me scrubbing.

Fortunately, JB was out of the house when I worked from home today. That gave me the peace and quiet I needed to productively enjoy this...


How did I miss this theatrical release? God bless you BET! Sticky Fingaz perfectly
reprises the Jennifer Anniston role for 1/250th of the cost, with the savings directly
creating even more jobs for little people.


And learning important facts like this...


I heard about the Sally Hemings thing, but
that's just damn freaky.


~

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

When I Knew I Was A Bear Lover

Please tell me I wasn't the only little boy with a thing for Yukon...


Real men do wear muffs but carry their breast-parka-pocket pens sans protector. And they love tinsel. Remember kids, bumbles bounce!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Horny Whoosa-what??


One of the things I like about Scruff is that it's not all about local hookups. Sure, that's still an attraction -- or distraction -- depending on what you're looking for. I enjoy chatting with guys all over the world; watching over the course of the day as the different continents wake up, get horny, get off and fall asleep.

Before bed last night I woofed a hot guy from the UK. This morning I found he left me a message...
"Hey man, liking the bod you horny git"
What the...? I'm hoping from the context it's probably positive. I pop open my dictionary app.
git [git]
-noun
1. British Slang. a foolish or contemptible person.
Yikes! Is this some sort of abusive cockney dirty talk? Next stop, the Urban Dictionary. Pretty much the same thing, but with more detail. That's where I learned in modern colloquial use, "git" can be used as a term of endearment. Well alrighty then!
"Thanks, you hot biatch!"
Still waiting.

Postscript: Just found out he's Scottish, wears a kilt and can call me whatever he likes.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Really?

Leave it to Microsoft to launch an advertising campaign aimed at convincing consumers how non-compelling their product is compared to the competition. Do iphones really render you gay?




It just so happens I know which app this guy is using...

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Here's To Peckers




Craig: Happy Thanksgiving.

Pac: "As long as I know how to peck, I know I'll stay alive!"

Craig: I think one of the secrets to a long and happy life is a strong, active pecker. :-)

Pac: I'll drink to that!



Friday, November 26, 2010

Tryptophriday

Thanksgiving Day was sunny and unusually warm in Atlanta. Like shorts and a T-shirt warm. One of those late autumn days you want to make the most of because you know the piper will be invoicing any moment. So while the Jumping Bean was busy in the kitchen making the house smell amazing, I puttered around outside. I started by going down to our storage locker to fetch Christmas.

Of course I first had to take out the stuff which was on top, all part of our annual crap rotation ritual. As the earth rolls around the sun, our Rubbermaid storage bins churn in sync. It made me sad we didn't use our tent this year. With at least two plastic bins full of camping supplies, not to mention folding chairs, sleeping bags and an inflatable mattress, we're well outfitted. Even with zero vacation days, there's no excuse for not finding at least one weekend to spend in the north Georgia mountains. Next year, definitely.

One big crate of Forth of July supplies. We're usually all about celebrating the Red, White and Blue since JB's birthday is on the third and and we always enjoy participating in the annual Peachtree 10K on the Fourth. The race ends at the park so our house has always been the unofficial post-race gathering place. But this year the applications came out while JB was in the hospital for take two of his hip replacement, and getting the forms submitted in time just wasn't a priority. To make up for the income lost while on leave, he ended up working over his birthday and the holiday anyway. Next time for sure.

Finally extracted several boxes and crates labeled XMAS in thick black Sharpie and brought them upstairs just as JB took another batch of his chocolate bourbon pecan pies out of the oven. I set about untangling strings of lights and hanging them from our balcony railing. It was warm enough that I worked up a sweat. JB brought me out a cold beer as I plugged in the last string.

During the night a cold front rolled through. This morning is cloudy and cool with the forecast calling for rain all day. And that's perfect. Today is all about the indoors. College football, yummy leftovers, more of that delicious pie, maybe even some hot cocoa. I think we still have some of those little marshmallows left from that god-awful-yet-mandatory sweet potato dish.

If JB wants to go shopping, more power to him. If he wants to put up the tree today, I'll be happy to supervise. If he wants to watch the game with me, I'll make room on the sofa. I might even share my slanket.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Cheesecake?

I remember discovering the International Male catalog in my teens. Goodbye forever JC-Penny catalog! Somewhere along the line they became Undergear, which I guess makes for a better URL. It looks like they're fully embracing their role as pornographer for the closeted and repressed along with their gig as circuit party outfitter. Yesterday I found this in my inbox and even I was embarrassed. What is it they sell again?

"WTF?? Dude... I swear I was just having
 sex with Cinderella a moment ago."

I don't know if underwear models have changed since I was a kid, or if I was just too young to have the whole twink/jock/daddy/bear distinction solidified yet in my gay mushy brain. This ad makes me want to give the Penny's White Sale flyer another try. I remember those guys having body hair. And dignity. And thick, meaty stems.

I really hope this is not the Pumpkin Cheesecake I've been hearing so much about.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Midtown Sounds

My partner and I have lived in our present location for over eight years now. Before that we lived together in an apartment for four years. The decision to buy a place together was logical and made good financial sense. Quite a contrast from our decision to first move into that apartment together, which seemed impulsive and terrifying.

We wanted a condo in Midtown near the park and this place just kind of worked out for us. It's in an older, established complex, a rather small building compared with the boxy steel and glass high-rises which have sprung up around us. Places with self-important names like Metropolis, Spire and Luxe. To be honest, I never noticed the three story stucco building until our agent showed it to us, even though my commute took me past it twice a day for years.

Our unit faces inside, away from the street. I believe the listing called it a "courtyard view". It's a parking lot. But aside from the comings and going of our neighbors, the occasional late-night car stereo turned thoughtlessly loud, the morning bang of the sanitation workers collecting the trash, the twice-weekly buzzing leaf blowers of the landscaping crew, Sebastiano from New Jersey adjusting the timing on his Corvette engine at the oddest hours, and of course, somebody's touchy car alarm which is triggered by all of these activities -- it's much quieter than facing the street.

Sure, I can hear the occasional police siren, traffic helicopter, and the engines from the fire station three comfortable blocks away. But when it's late and I find myself unable to sleep for some reason or another, the predominant sounds at night are the freight trains. I have no idea exactly where these trains are, the closest tracks are miles away but I can hear them clearly. Right down to the faint blaring of the the train horns. It's not a disturbing sound at all, on the contrary. It's relaxing and evokes a feeling I can't really describe in words. Something between loneliness and the progress of daily life. And I drift back to sleep.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Team Building

My department got to leave the office early Friday. My boss organized a "team building" event. Well, he authorized a team building event and delegated the work of organizing it. That's what bosses do. A vote of possible activities was taken, with the opening of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I in IMAX getting only a single vote.

Those who are familiar with Atlanta know the terms "ITP" and "OTP". Defined by the boundary created by I-285 which circles the city, you're either inside the perimeter or outside the perimeter. I'm definitely an ITP guy. My office and my dentist are technically OTP but as they cling to the perimeter I barely know I've left my comfort zone. As long as I'm in earshot of the traffic buzzing around 285, I'm okay.

So Friday afternoon, with my GPS set to it's sexiest accent, I navigated to the far, far OTP bowling alley. I definitely knew I wasn't in Kansas. For the next several hours six Indians, a Russian and I bowled, drank beer and lemonade, ate a variety of deep-fried items and built our team.

It's been years since I bowled with anything heavier than a Wiimote controller. I used to bowl in college and it took a while to get my form back. I'd like to say I let my boss win, but he kicked ass. My consolation prize was learning I had bigger fingers and shoes (by two sizes) than the rest of my coworkers. And thats what team building is all about.

Oh, and I learned beer and bowling alley carpet don't mix.



Thursday, November 18, 2010

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Utility Belt

Lots of meetings at work yesterday, but one stands out. Most of my department is Indian. The new guy is Russian. I like the new guy, he's smart and has just the experience we need. That's why after a long and exhaustive interview process, he was the one I recommended above the other applicants.

I strive to be 100% objective and professional when it comes to hiring. So I like to think it wouldn't have mattered one bit if Vlad would have worn his fanny-pack to the actual job interview. How a man caries his smokes, smartphone and snacks has no bearing at all on his skill as an engineer. Just the same, it was probably still a good idea to leave the bum bag in the car that day. Good judgement is another quality I look for in a candidate.

Vlad's been with us almost two months now and he's really doing a great job. And I'm starting to become accustomed to the strap-on purse he wears front and center like a business-casual codpiece. Sort of. As far as I can tell he has just the one, and it really doesn't go with much. But I think I'd be way more alarmed if he had a coordinated collection.

So in a meeting today, it was interesting to listen to a group of my Indian coworkers start razzing Vlad about his geekaroo pouch. "Is that not what a tourist would wear? Are you lost and needful of directions to somewhere?" and "Is that how you carry your rubles? Why do you not convert them and carry a wallet?"

Indians are the happiest, friendliest, most polite bullies I've ever met. I actually get a little depressed if I come home with any extra lunch money. But in this case I was glad they were the ones to say something about the black leather strap-on elephant sack in the room.

As the sole American representative, and knowing full well what it's like to spend time in the cross-hairs, I kept my head down pretending to attend to an important email. (In other words, Scruffing.)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

He's A Giver

Found these here.
I say this every year, but I'd really like to get my holiday shopping done ahead of time. I'm a horrible procrastinator. Scratch that. I'm an excellent procrastinator. I can rationalize putting anything off until later. You might not even see this blog post until 2011. If I put it off to 2012, I may not have to do it at all.

This is one of those times I envy my friend, Joe. Joe is anything but average. He was pretty much finished with his shopping a year ago. When purchasing a gift for Joe, you only need to remember this simple test:

If Joe can't eat it, drink it or fuck it, Joe doesn't want it.

More than a life philosophy, it's a clear and simple instruction he's made loud and clear on many occasions. And you should ignore it only at your own peril. Case in point:

Beverly: "What a beautiful and unique sterling silver chafing dish."

Pac: "Why thank you! It was a gift from Joe."

Beverly: "Yes, I know. I gave it to him last year."

When you get a gift from Joe, you can be reasonably sure it's a re-gift. When you buck the guidelines when buying a gift for Joe, no matter how well-meaning or extravagant, it's going unapologetically and unceremoniously into the re-gifting closet, probably already with a lucky re-recipient already in mind.

Don't bother getting offended. You knew the rules.


~

Monday, November 15, 2010

Stone Mountain

I find geology fascinating. The idea that the continents have been careening around like bumper cars, forming oceans and mountains over billions of years boggles my brain and puts our individual microsecond on this earth in perspective.

Saturday we visited Stone Mountain, a large granite outcropping just east of the city. It was a beautiful day and we decided to get our Saturday exercise by climbing the mountain. It used to be a more strenuous climb for me back in my heavier days, but now it's a leisurely hike that I can easily make from the base to the summit without stopping to rest.

What made it more special was that it was the Jumping Bean's first climb with his new hip. He easily made it to the top, pausing only to snap photos on the way. Knowing such a hike would have been impossible for him a year ago, it was wonderful to see.


JB taking in the view of Atlanta from the top of
Stone Mountain.

Happy Belated Veterans Day

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Dusk

Another Hipstamatic snapshot the JB took yesterday
 from Atlantic Station coming home from the gym.







~
My favorite time of day is when the sun is setting and the lights of the city are just starting to sparkle. This time of year I'm lucky if I get out of work early enough to enjoy this moment on my commute home. I don't like having to spend the whole of daylight in an office. But the long nights usher in the new season which, to me, contain some of the highlights of the year.

This year I'm consciously resolved to savor these moments. We each have the ability to make our own light. There's no need to fast forward life to next spring, or hibernate like a bear.

Although spending some time curled up in front of the fire with a bear is definitely something to look forward to.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Santa's Little Helper's-Comp Claim

I posted a photo of my cat on Facebook this weekend. Don't worry, my feline misadventures will be well documented in future blog entries. (Right up there with my vacation slideshows, I know you can't wait.) Suffice it for now to say a house with two cats and a dozen cameras is bound to have tons of cat photos.

So I decided to post this one to poke a little fun at those who are already chomping at the bit to get their curbside holiday extravaganza on:

Pac: No Aggie, bad kitty! It's WAY too soon to hang the lights.

This must have struck a nerve, because someone shot back with the prize-winning caption of the week:
StevieB: Poor cat fell from the ladder when the staple gun hit the wire. Why oh, why didn't you turn the power off first Pac? Poor cat probably flew 15' across the room, what's wrong with you?
Pac: Oh he's okay. Walk it off pussy! You've got eighteen more strings.

First, no animals were harmed and there's nothing "poor" about that cat, least of all his appetite. Second, this defensive random stranger does raise a very good point. People need to be careful out there. Electricity, ladders, staple guns, slick icy roofs, catnip... it's a recipe for mayhem folks.

So... (you knew this was coming) to do my part to promote a safe and happy holiday season, I'm using a portion of the the vast Pad resources to endow the creation of the first annual (drumroll, please)...


This first Sparky will be presented to the elf who spreads the most neighborhood photonic cheer with the fewest debilitating accidents. The winner will be determined by this simple formula:

bulb count (lit only)
----------------------------------
blood loss (in ml) +
bruising (in square cm) + 
cranial lumps (max 20) +
pinched or smashed digits (max 20) + 
shocks (in volts per zap) +
whacks to the ulnar nerve +
(fractures * 10)

Staple and nail punctures will count under blood loss, and broken fingers will count under both fractures and smashed digits.

Humorous and/or embarrassing anecdotes not resulting in permanent scars will not be counted against the contestant and may instead result in bonus points at the judges' discretion. The idea behind the bonus is not to reward jackassitude, but to acknowledge the value of sharing your mistakes so that others -- even complete strangers -- may learn from them.

Remember, just because people are laughing doesn't mean they're not learning.

And finally, the Sparkies are a safety awareness prize only. There is no consideration for the perceived quality of the final presentation. After all, one person's fabulous quasi-religious electroluminescent masterpiece may be his neighbor's epitome of tacky light pollution. And Sparky don't wanna get into that.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Legend Lives On


In college we used to have an Edmund Fitzgerald memorial party every November 10th, a tradition my roommate and I continued for several years after graduation. While any excuse to have a party would have served equally well, for us yoopers, the Fitzgerald was our Titanic. But unlike the Titanic, the Fitzgerald came with a cool song. (I'm not counting anything by Celine Dion.)

My grandfather worked for a time on a Lake Superior ore carrier. A dangerous profession, for sure, but a relatively safe and important one considering World War 2 was raging.

I made a ringtone of The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald and it makes a good alarm clock song. It's been waking me up for a few weeks now. While looking for other covers of the song, I found this album. The sample clips are swapped between "The Wreck of the Edmond Fitzgerald" and "You've Got a Friend". Stop laughing Pac, it's not funny.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Bird To The Third, Part 1

When I heard StevieB was stuffing ducks into things, I immediately thought, A) Stevie must be making turducken for Thanksgiving and B) how can I wrangle a dinner invitation?

I've been fascinated by turducken ever since I first heard such a delicacy wasn't just the stuff of urban legend. It sounded like comfort food for Doctor Frankenstein. And ever since I've been dying to try it.

One day I spotted two boxes stamped "TURDUCKEN" in the freezer section of one of our local Publix supermarkets. Each time I shopped there I'd check that freezer to see how fast this particular stock was moving. And each time I saw two boxes. It could have been the price tag, which also never moved.

I personally was never tempted to splurge on one of those crates. For one thing, I need a picture on the packaging of any food product I buy. I don't care how misleading or downright fraudulent it is, my imagination needs help putting that meal on my plate. For another, I'm not spending $80 on generic meat. If I plop a white box with bold black lettering on the checkout counter, it had better be half the price of brand name turducken. Or less. Before coupons.

One day the turducken crates were gone. I imagined some big spender fanning $160 as he proudly purchased everything required for a quadruple meat party for fifty. An even happier idea was the probability we'd passed the expiration date and imagining the beneficiary of that dumpster dive.

I once watched Paula Deen whip up a turducken in between commercial breaks ("You need to really involve your butcher on this one.") right in front of her panic-stricken pet cockatiels with time to spare for a poker game. That was the day I realized even the Food Network offers nothing more than pure escapist fantasy, same as Disney, Lifetime, Fox News and the History Channel.

But I have all the confidence in the world that Stevie can stuff a spectacularly succulent tri-foul. Only 21 days left to prepare and I need to get busy... I have no idea what to wear to a bird orgy.