Thursday, March 28, 2013

Temple Of Fail

To say I've been taking a break from the gym would be a mild way of stating the obvious: I've been slacking off. It's been a course of events of which my prefrontal cortex has been completely aware. Unfortunately, that part of my brain has been hiding in the library due to relentless bullying by my deep-dish pizza lobe and medulla oblonetflix.

Oh, I can point fingers. I could blame my iPad which has been subsuming an inordinate amount of my leisure time. I can blame P90X, which has yet to deliver on its promise of Goslingesque abs without ever leaving the house. Cool Ranch taco shells. Girl Scouts, obviously. The list goes on and on.

My partner JB, on the other hand, is a different story. Giving up alcohol for Lent and hiring a personal trainer, he's reached a stage of fitness that comes naturally to every out-of-shape person who's lost five pounds... He's become an insufferable, holier-than-thou health nut. Did you know the body is a temple? Evidently "temple" is what a sloth pit looks like after you sweep up the Pringles crumbs and recycle all the empty wine bottles.

JB's idea of an intervention was putting the scale in front of the refrigerator. Subtle. The final straw came when, while reviewing the American Express bill and dramatically hitting the "tabulate" button on his clackity printing calculator, he looked across the table over his reading glasses and asked, "This charge from 'LA Fitness'... Should I dispute it?"

This is my second week back at the gym after months of physical neglect. The only part of my body that doesn't ache is my blame-pointing finger. But hours on the elliptical machine at my gay gym have given me time to think. It's alarming by how quickly things start to go south the minute I stop working out.

For example, black gym socks... when did that happen? Sure, I was one of the first. But only because I'd forget to pack white socks and had to make do with what I wore to the office. I certainly didn't feel any vibe from my fellow gym-goers at the time that I was being avant-garde. Not when they strike me more as the type that uploads "gym fail" videos to YouTube.

It was never my intention to start a fashion trend. At least not this one.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

In A Heartbeat

JB and I were together for over a year when the roommate he shared his apartment with got engaged to his girlfriend and moved out. It made sense for me to take over the lease and move in with him. And I got scared. It seemed like such a huge relationship step to take. More like a leap really. But pragmatism overruled my cold feet and I moved in with JB.

A few years later when we decided to invest our rent money into a place of our own, the decision seemed like a no-brainer. Logically, you would think buying a house together would be a much more stressful commitment than renting an apartment together, but it wasn't. I remember considering the irony of this as we set up house in our new condo.

Six years later I found myself laid off and looking for a job. While I could continue receiving health benefits with a COBRA, JB offered a more affordable option. His company recently extended employee health coverage to "registered domestic partners". The application process was stringent, but nothing beyond what we could easily prove. We'd lived together for many years and our day-to-day finances were demonstrably linked.

We assembled the forms and required paperwork and sought a notary public. Suddenly, while signing the forms in front of a witness, the reality of what we were doing hit me. This was the closest we could legally get to a declaration of lifelong commitment. And I got scared.

JB and I were having relationship issues at the time, most of which boiled down to a lack of consensus over the definition of "commitment". I momentarily considered putting a stop to the proceedings. But once again, pragmatism overruled my fear and hesitation and I added my signature to the forms. And there at the counter of Mailboxes Etcetera, to the sound of one fax machine negotiating a connection to another, we officially became domestic partners.

A few weeks later I moved out. I'd reached the breaking point and was determined to get back on my feet on my own terms. That was five years ago today.

Three months later I came home, not even sure I still had a home. He didn't have to, but JB took me back. It wasn't easy, but with counseling we learned how to negotiate trust and over time things got better. I found an even better job and domestic life gradually resumed a comfortable routine. It wasn't exactly the same as those days we first moved in together, but in some ways it was better. When JB went into the hospital for a hip replacement, and again a few months later when his body rejected the implant, I couldn't imagine being anywhere in the world but at his side.

Last Saturday I was having dinner with my buddy, Gilbert. We were discussing this week's Supreme Court hearings regarding DOMA and Proposition 8. Suddenly Gilbert asked a question I wasn't expecting. "Would you guys get married?"

My lack of hesitation surprised myself.

"In a heartbeat."

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Gadget Of The Week

Anyone who knows me knows that I do love my gadgets. I'm constantly picking up new gizmos and doo-dads, usually exasperating JB in the process. JB is extremely practical and not at all technically inclined. Qualities I must have found exotically foreign and endearing at one point.

It makes no difference to remind him that I'm spending my own money to support my habit, I can always count on JB to react as though I just blew the last of our grocery money on some magic beans sealed in impossible-to-open plastic packaging.

Keeping in mind that I'm going to have to justify every expenditure usually serves to temper my impulse shopping impulse. I'm sure this is probably somehow a good thing. But still the adrenaline rush of clicking the "I need this right now!" button on Woot, Smarthome, ThinkGeek or Slick Deals is often too compelling to resist.

It's at this point, sometime between receiving the confirmation email and getting a tracking number, that the butterflies and second-guessing kick in. I begin anticipating JB's reaction when he sees the latest shipment of smiling boxes and padded envelopes.

Sometimes I fantasize that, after his initial skepticism, JB comes to realize that my latest purchase really does fill a subconscious and heretofore unmet need. We embrace and he discloses how much he appreciates the overall positive impact all my high-tech crap makes to his quality of life.

In reality this happens almost never.

The battery? Yeah, you're not getting that.

Such as it was this week when I received the newest addition to my tool/junk box: a digital infrared thermometer. I'd actually ordered this months ago and had nearly forgotten about it. At only $8, expedited shipping would have tripled the cost. Even I couldn't justify bumping up from the free standard ground. And honestly, I wasn't really expecting much for that price.

Why did I order it then? I've wanted one of these since I saw Alton Brown whip his out to safely confirm his griddle was ready to accept pancake batter. And let's not minimize the coolness factor of anything shaped like a gun that shoots laser beams. And it's digital. Digital.

While I was a little miffed that the implied-to-be-included 9-volt battery was nowhere to be found, an obliging smoke detector turned that frown upside-down. One pull of the trigger was all it took to conclude my new digital infrared thermometer would greatly exceed expectations as I gleefully-yet-accurately measured the temperature of everything in the living room from the comfort of the sofa.

Without even pretending to be impressed, it took all of about ten seconds for JB to ask me to stop telling him the temperature of things. And within five minutes I was strictly forbidden from ever aiming my thermometer anywhere near his general vicinity. This injunction came after – as a matter of simple scientific curiosity – I pointed my sensor at his nuts. It's not that he's opposed to having his scrotum digitally probed. (He may not be a nerd, but he's still a dude.) It's just that our cats are quite fond of lasers too.

Defending his groin from cat attack, JB seemed completely
oblivious to my suggestion that he switch to boxers.

It's one thing to sense when your partner is getting annoyed
with you. Investing in electronic instrumentation to digitally
quantify their feelings in real time demonstrates your
commitment to making the relationship work.

Yeah, he's not buying that either.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Comprehensibility Of Clear Expression

I love antique radios. I could go on and on about this topic. (Yes, I know, I could go on and on about any topic.) I also find language interesting. Mostly English, since that's the language I mostly know.

So I was doubly entertained when I came across this 1920's advertisement...

This was obviously a lot of money to spend for what was arguably one of the first "portable" radios. Equivalent to nearly $1,300 today. It goes to show there was always a cost associated with being an early adopter. If I were born 120 years ago, I so would have waited in line outside of the Crosley Store for one of these things. Assuming I'd survived World War I, the Spanish Influenza and the first few years of Prohibition.

Aside from the technological and economic aspects of this nostalgic advertisement, I found myself re-reading this sentence:
"But now you need wish for such a set no longer, because we offer herewith a portable set that brings in distant broadcasting stations with perfect clearness."

Did people really talk like this in 1923? Even if this ad was written in an overly formal tone, something about the word "clearness" didn't feel right to me. I would have expected the copywriter to use the word "clarity" here.

I switched my iPad to my Wolfram Words app. Both "clearness" and "clarity" have the exact same definition:
1 (noun) Free from obscurity and easy to understand; the comprehensibility of clear expression.
2 (noun) The quality of clear water. 

So these words are interchangeable and either can be correctly used here. But why does "clearness" seem so awkward?

I got a clue why this is when I compared their historical usage frequency:

The written occurrence of "clearness" over time.

The written occurrence of "clarity" over time.

For some reason the word "clarity", which was rarely used before 1900, began replacing the use of "clearness" to the point the word "clearness" is now practically extinct.

I thought I'd feel more sentimental about a word slowly dying out of existence, but I don't. Not when there's a perfectly clear word to use in its place. Unlike vacuum tubes, Art Deco and Flappers, I doubt it'll ever be missed.

Monday, March 4, 2013

I Just Wanna Sleep, Monster Edition

Finally, the conclusion of my responses to Just A Jeep Guy's TMI Questions about sleep.

8. What kind of sleeper are you?

Thanks to my FitBit, I can objectively answer this with data...

I don't remember waking up all seven times, but I do remember JB getting up to use the bathroom at some point during the night and my fat cat sticking his ass in my face around 5. I got out of bed once around 5:30 to pee. This represents a fairly typical night for me.

I wish the FitBit sleep data presentation was as informative as the Sleep Cycle app, which better shows the stages of sleep on a graph. I can sort of make out my 90-minute REM cycle here. But since the FitBit is worn on the wrist instead of measuring the movement of the entire bed, it's probably more accurate when sharing the bed.

9. What is under your bed?

When I was a kid there was a monster under my bed. Its favorite thing in the world was to quietly wait for unsuspecting passers-by, then reach out and grab their ankles. That's why I could never get in or out of bed without a running leap, which annoyed my mother to no end. Eventually as I reached adolescence the monster disappeared, probably repulsed by the accumulation of crunchy tube socks polluting its habitat.

Recently, since replacing the bedroom carpeting with hardwood, the monsters have returned. This time taking the form of ferocious dust-bunnies and drifting balls of cat hair the size of cantaloupes. To combat this menace I now keep Muncher (my Roomba robotic vacuum cleaner) under the bed, thus fostering a savage predator/prey ecosystem under there.

At least until Muncher chokes on a sock.

Friday, March 1, 2013

I Just Wanna Sleep, The Love Mattress

I'm still committed to finishing my responses to Just A Jeep Guy's TMI Questions about sleep.

6. What size is your bed and what kind of mattress is it?

It's a plain old Serta Perfect Sleeper queen-size mattress. Emphasis on the "old". I bought it slightly used from a cute guy I hooked up with at a bar one night. After doing it on his mattress on the floor, he explained he'd barely begun furnishing his new apartment when his company offered him a long-term assignment in Europe. I'd been feeling self-conscious about entertaining company on my once-groovy 80's waterbed, so I gave him a hundred bucks and he gave me a ride home with my new mattress and box spring strapped to the roof of his car.

JB hates that story, and by transference, the mattress. He freaks out every time one of those commercials comes on to tell us our mattress has quadrupled in weight due to various excretions, secretions, exfoliations and microscopic critters. As if the bed frame might collapse any minute under the strain. The commercials are selling mattresses of course.

I prefer to think of the old Serta as laden with memories. But every time JB comes home from a layover he talks about some new, comfy mattress he met. This has only gotten worse since hotel chains have discovered selling mattresses as a new revenue stream. Now he comes home with brochures.

If it were the normal unintended byproduct of an illicit one-night stand, the Serta would now be a senior in high school. Put in those terms, I suppose I'm open to the idea of shopping for a new mattress. And I'd be pretty dumb not to defer to JB's extensive mattress experience. He already made it known a Sleep Number bed is out of the question. Evidently had had a bad experience with a hotel Sleep Number. Something about the front desk laughing at him when he called down for tech support. I wasn't really paying attention.

7. Do you eat in bed?

Good god, no. I addressed this in a previous post. ("Happy Gays and Bread Crumbs Always Get Me Down")