Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Pad After Pac

These past few years haven't been great for my property value. Thanks to the History Channel series Life After People, I realize it could be worse. I guess I'm not really as antisocial as rush hour leads me to believe.

The Casa is just on this side of those twin condo towers. From the look of the kudzu overgrowth
this appears to be between a week-and-a-half and two weeks A.P..

Friday, February 24, 2012

Cat Fat

It's no secret that I love gadgets. But there's one gadget in the house that has me conflicted.

I wrote last year about getting a Withings Internet-enabled scale. (Pac Fat) I love its sleek black glass design, and I love its balance of elegant simplicity and advanced functionality. No turning it on, no buttons to press. Just step on, get your results and put your underpants back on.

It can even keep track of multiple users; recognizing each of them automatically based on his weight. In cases where two users' weights come close enough to cause confusion, the scale asks the user to identify himself by shifting his weight toward the side displaying his name. And if the scale can't assign the weight to any configured user, it sends you an alert. Every effort is made to ensure the results get accurately updated to the correct user's profile.

A complete history of those results is instantly available using the accompanying iPhone app. And if you happen to have an iPad, the pathos of your obesity struggle really pops.

And this is where the "hate" part of my love/hate relationship comes in. I've been actively avoiding the scale since the holidays. Which isn't as easy to do as it sounds when said scale is connected to the Internet.

But seeing as both JB and I are starting a new diet plan for Lent, ignoring the scale is no longer an option. Yesterday JB called me at work with a tone of concern. It seems he went to weigh himself and when he stepped on, the scale was wet. And it smelled funny.

Now things started making sense. I'd been wondering about those anomalous unassigned readings that have been popping up on my app lately. It turns out the Fat Cat has been using my expensive scale. But not to watch his figure, unfortunately.

I'm not sure if both cats are weighing themselves or
if the earlier reading was just Fat Aggie's hind end.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ash Wednesday

Forget Punxsutawney Phil, the real harbinger of Spring has arrived. The season of Lent is once again upon us.

I should say "upon me", since I don't want to make any assumptions regarding anyone's religious customs. With the exception of Scientologists, of course. And Mormons. And those scary looking tar paper church shacks I see in the North Georgia mountains; surely there must be some snake-handling craziness happening there.

Who am I kidding, really. I consider all forms of supernatural belief to be fair game. But I have the most fun with Catholicism, since of all the whacky theologies out there, it's the one that I know best. I was going to say "intimately", but then thought that might sound bad, like I was molested by a priest or something. For the record, I never was. (Molested, that is. I definitely remember being Catholic.)

It still haunts me. I was in the choir until my voice changed. I even served my catechismal duty as alter boy. The only sugar I ever got was an after-mass Snickers bar. What was the matter with me? Was I not pretty enough?

I'd like to believe it was because I just asked too many annoying questions. I went through with Confirmation as a favor to my parents, but after that I was pretty much over the church.

Why do I do the Lent thing then? I'm having deja vu of trying to explain this before. But I think it's just become a seasonal tradition for me. As Winter winds down and I look forward to pool season, I take the opportunity to do a six week "reset". A chance to shock my body and sharpen my mind with a sudden change of routine.

I remember reading somewhere that it takes thirty days to replace a bad habit with a good one. I'm not sure about the actual amount of science that went into that number. But 46 days ought to be a good start.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Pac Loops

My weekday morning routine is to wake up at or before 6:30, pick up the iPad from my nightstand and walk into the Kitchen. As the coffee maker is warming up, I stuff a thyroid pill into a fishy-smelling treat and give it to my fat cat, Aggie. But first I launch my KCRW app to listen to NPR Morning Edition.

Using my iPad as a tray, I carry my coffee and breakfast to the den, sit down at the computer to read news and blogs and, if I'm feeling ambitious, write a post of my own.

For the second morning in a row, I puzzled over the unusual surge in my blog traffic. I briefly made mention of it yesterday. Most of this traffic seems to be coming from google searches originating in Pakistan.

At the very moment I was pondering this mystery, I was surprised to get the answer from my NPR audio stream: Guns And Androids: Pakistan Air Force Making iPads.

And the name of this new iPad clone? You guessed it. The PACPAD 1.

Evidently, the Pakistan Air Force (Pakistan Aeronautical Complex, or "PAC") has interests that go well beyond simple air-forcing. Along with cheap iPad knock-offs, it also makes breakfast cereal.

StevieB wins the prize for the closest guess. Keep an eye on your mailbox Stevie,
a year's supply of PAC-Loops is on its way. Yes, they taste like crap, but there's a
prize in every box. That's how I got this Bin Laden decoder ring.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Phone Alone

Happy Monday, and a special welcome to my hundreds of new readers from Pakistan. You puzzle/complete me.

It was a relatively eventful weekend here. JB left Friday afternoon for Rome, unwisely leaving me home unsupervised. By remarkable coincidence, it was also the weekend of the Bearracuda Atlanta party. I started flashing back to last year around this time. I have to admit, having a flashback is much easier now that I keep a blog.

Friday night I did what I usually do when JB is out of town: After a bit of light manscaping, I took a shower then tried on shirts for half an hour. After checking out my final choice in the mirror, I messaged StevieB for a second opinion. I then walked down the block to meet my buddy Gilbert at our local pub, Blake's On The Park.

I like Blake's, but on weekends it tends to get packed and lately it's been attracting the wrong kind of crowd. And by that, I mean bachelorette parties. Don't get me wrong, I don't mind straight women in my gay bars. My best hag is a straight woman. I just think that if it were me who was leaving the security of my humdrum suburban enclave for a down-town romp on the wild side with my BFFs, I'd try to not offend the locals by doing shots to the point of regressing to my fourteen-year-old personality. And I'd ditch the penis-shaped lollypops and squirt guns.

So Gilbert and I decided to try a different scene and hopped into a waiting taxi. The next place was much more fun, until I realized my iPhone wasn't in my pocket.

I used to make a point of leaving my phone at home when hitting the bars. But something about the iPhone begs to party. How did I manage to enjoy myself before being able to consult my LoseIt app for an update on how many light beers left in my calorie quota? And how did I ever endure the hotter-than-thou attitude of my evil arch-frienemy without the instant satisfaction that only a search for his mugshot in the Dekalb County Sheriff's database can provide?

In addition, I find people who are standing around staring at their phones tend to get creeped out by people who have nothing better to stare at than the people staring at their phones. And I don't want to be one of those creepy people.

So you can imagine my distress upon realizing my phone was missing. I immediately borrowed Gil's iPhone to track down mine, but it couldn't be located. That told me whoever was now in possession of my phone had the wherewithal to make sure it stayed lost. That made me sad.

But a trip to the Apple Store Saturday lifted my spirits. It always does. And by the afternoon, all was back to normal. But I did leave my phone at home when I went to Bearracuda Saturday night. I spent the evening staring at all the bears while they, in turn, stared into their phones.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Valentine

I only caught JB's side of the conversation with his sister as he ironed a shirt with the phone cradled under his chin.

"Really? Wow. I had no idea he was still alive. Well, thanks for letting me know. I have to get ready for work, I'll call you Wednesday when I get back from Madrid. Love you too, bye."

"What was that about?" I asked, being nosey.

"That was Dora," JB answered matter-of-factly as he hung up the phone and went back to his ironing. "She read in the paper my father died."

I had no idea what to say. I was expecting to deal with the feelings attendant with the anniversary of my dad's passing. But I wasn't expecting this. Yesterday Google helped me find the obituary.

JA Sr., age 99, was called home by the Lord on Thursday, February 9, 2012 to join his wife Bodencia and daughter Angelica. He fell asleep peacefully with his family by his side. 
JA Sr. had his own business as Mason Contractor, and taught his sons the same trade, and his grandsons also learned the Masonry Business. JA Sr. enjoyed fishing, hunting, and spending time with his family.
JA Sr. leaves behind to cherish the time we had him with us; four daughters: Maria, Josie, Mary and Hortencia; four sons: JA Jr., Miguel, Andres and Antonio; 31 grandchildren, 81 great-grandchildren, and 8 great-great-grandchildren. 
A Visitation will be held on Saturday, February 11, 2012 from 2:00 P.M. to 9:00 P.M. at Funeral Home Chapel. To send flowers or a memorial gift to the family of JA Sr. please visit our Sympathy Store.

Many years ago, at least one of Senior's extramarital affairs resulted in a child. This particular son was never taught the family trade. He never got to go hunting or fishing with his father. Growing up, the "real" family made sure this little boy knew how illegitimate he was. And they're still at it, conveniently omitting the existence of Senior's fifth son from the public obituary.

But a mother's love can be a powerful force, both a sword and a shield. Her strength, hard work and guiding values would not only sustain, but influence her son profoundly. And in spite of the adversity he faced – or perhaps because of it – the boy grew up strong, caring, protective and successful.

Which is why reading this obituary evokes a sense of pity. It strikes me as such an incredible shame that a man can grow old and die without ever getting to know the truly great man his son would become. Or that an entire family could deny the gift of knowing the best brother and uncle anyone could possibly have.

But I also have to admit my feeling of gratitude. Regardless of his intentions and however flawed the circumstances, this man's actions helped bring an incredible light into the world. And for that I'm eternally grateful.

Thank you Senior. Rest in peace.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Climate, Controlled

T-Rex's fate was sealed when he realized his
stubby arms could reach the thermostat.
Last week I took the next logical step in my quest to control the world. "The World" of course being my condo.

I long ago replaced my simple, electro-mechanical thermostat with an electronic seven-day programmable model which would allow me to save hundreds of dollars per year by automatically turning down the thermostat whilst I'm away, presumably working.

The problem with a programmable thermostat is that it assumes the occupant's life follows a predictable pattern. He sleeps in a little on the weekend, gets up early for work Monday through Friday and works until 6pm. Unless it's Thursday when he has his robotics club meeting until 8pm, or Tuesday when his amateur radio club whoops it up past 9pm.

The sad truth of the matter is, if I were single, a 1-day programmable thermostat would suffice.

But living with JB throws any hope of programmable predictability out the window. As a flight attendant, his schedule is hopelessly random and subject to change without warning. Making matters works is JB's 2º comfort zone compounded by his utter lack of understanding of Thermodynamics and Feedback Control Theory and his frustrating disinterest in any of my attempts to enlighten him in these subjects.

JB thinks of the thermostat of our single-stage HVAC unit as if it were the gas pedal of a sports car. If he's cold, he pushes it up to 88º thinking that will make it warmer faster. And if he's hot, he slams it down to 60º.

I've attempted to correct his flawed analogy by explaining the furnace is less like a car and more like an elevator. How long it takes to move from where it is to where you want it do be is dependent on it's constant rate of speed and how many floors it has to travel. Assuming, of course, there aren't people on other floors calling for the elevator, and that... hey, eyes over here. I'm talking to you!

Cut to me watching JB in the building lobby, impatiently pounding the elevator button like he's trying to send morse code.

Occasionally the solution to a problem isn't to simplify. That's why my newly installed thermostat eschews a fixed schedule for the ability to control it remotely with my existing home automation system. It still has buttons on it, but they've been rendered purely cosmetic. Any functionally they possess can be explained by the placebo effect.

And what happens if I get cold? Fortunately, there's an app for that.


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Cruising Dreams

I've been reading with great interest the exploits of BosGuy who recently returned from a well-deserved Caribbean vacation cruise. And by "great interest", I mean jealous, catty spite. I've been dreaming of cruising the luxurious seas since 1978, the year little Pac's bedtime no longer conflicted with primetime.

"Hey Jon, does the cut of this uniform tucked into these boots gratuitously accentuate my package too?"
What an innocent time that was. Before I realized exactly why the easy camaraderie of Ponch and Jon made me feel funny... "down there". Before Bo and Luke taught me cousin love was only shameful in the North. Before I'd hear David Hasselhoff sing. Before I'd see David Hasselhoff eat.

Those halcyon days before Julie entered rehab, before Gopher joined the Republican Party, and long before I'd one day tune into VH-1 to find the influential role model of my tweenage years pointing his finger-guns at Carnie Wilson on Celebrity Fit Club.

"You gonna finish
that sandwich?"
Oh Isaac. What happened to you, man? You were my first, you know. Sure there've been others since then, way more than I care to admit. But only a few ever came close. I still compare all my bartenders to you my friend.

Thirty-four years of syndication finds me still living my nautical fantasies vicariously and episodically. But hopefully not for long. Inspired by reading BosGuy's adventures, I've decided it's time to start planning a cruise vacation of my very own. And I want to do it soon, before anyone can mistake me for Captain Stubing and ask for a tour of the bridge.

Now even this landlubber knows there are really only two options when it comes to booking a cruise: Do I want a gay cruise, or a really gay cruise?

BosGuy chose the latter, apparently, but me? I find myself conflicted. On the plus side, I'd feel more comfortable knowing I'm probably not only guy on the boat who gets a reflexive chubby when he hears "all hands on deck". And I've always wanted to use terms like "port", "starboard" and "sheepshank" in proper context without getting confused looks from my sex partner(s).

The down side of a gay cruise, as far as I can tell, would be the drama. If I'm going to spend my hard-earned money on an expensive vacation, I wanna milk it. So when it's over and I get back home, I want it to be all about me... my souvenir tee-shirts; my multi-media montage tastefully set to "In The Navy"; my rockin' tan lines or lack thereof; and – best of all – my dozen or more titillating and/or embarrassing anecdotes.

And when I'm telling my anecdotes, the last thing I want is to be constantly interrupted over and over again by people asking about that dude who went overboard.

Things I imagine overhearing on my cruise:

"No, silly, flip over. Remember,
starboard is the side which faces the sky."

"You brought him?? Doesn't this boat
have enough anchors?"

"Har-dee-har, very funny, but no.
I do not go down with the ship."

"Do the bears know we're abandoning ship??
Somebody check the buffet!"

"Atlantis? May as well just call it 'Atlanta'.
 All fores and no afts, if you know what I mean."

"Permission to promenade
on your poop deck, SIR?"

"Are we listhting? We're listhting, aren't we.
Quick, path me a life vestht!"

"Oh my! I want to be in that life boat."

"What is it lesbians just don't understand
about 'leave your baggage behind'?"

"Christ. First they stock the mini-bar
with 'sparkling wine', now this?"

Friday, February 3, 2012

Zeitgeber

Yes, I got the badge.
As far as "holidays" go, I think Groundhog Day is pretty stupid. I'm willing to bet there's no scientific correlation between rodent shadows and seasonal climate progression. But at this time of year, I certainly understand the longing to spot any sign of Spring on the horizon, no matter how significant.

I came across a nice word the other day that I had to look up in my dog-eared dictionary app: "Zeitgeber". Borrowed from German where it literally means "time giver", it's defined as an external cue used by an organism to adjust it's internal clock.

The day/night cycle certainly qualifies as a zeitgeber. Many people suffer from a condition called Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as the "winter blues". Symptoms include lack of energy, withdrawal from friends and social activities, and an increased craving for carbohydrates. I'm not immune to this malady, which I call SCD (SAD Cow Disease).

I always thought that if someone wanted to concoct the most perfectly evil business scheme, all they would need to do is design a seasonal product which disguises itself as a sign of spring while opportunistically exploiting the suffering of those with SCD. There's a name for an organization which would stoop to such sinister business tactics...