Friday, November 29, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

I'm spending the holiday at JB's sister's house in Houston watching a stomach virus fell one member after another of the large extended family. My wish was to be able to make it through Thanksgiving dinner and dessert before falling victim to the scourge. It's Friday morning and I'm still feeling fine, and for that I'm thankful.


I probably would have eaten less if I hadn't assumed my body would never get a chance to absorb those calories.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Buzz

I have a ritual I turn to in those times when I'm feeling stuck. Like I've lost my momentum and I'm not sure how to get it back. And I'm juggling too many things at once and need to prioritize. When the things that I want to do don't cleanly mesh with the things I need to accomplish. For when I've taken my eyes off my long term goals and I need to refocus.

I shave my head.

Then, for a few days, each glimpse of my reflection shakes me back into awareness. Every breeze and raindrop is a reminder. Each time I get my shirt stuck on my stubble as I'm getting undressed is allegorical.

Then it starts to grow back.






Monday, November 18, 2013

Cycles

Last post I wrote about my love of the night sky. This one focuses on the Moon. Astronomers have a love/annoyance relationship with our natural satellite. On one hand, the Moon makes for an interesting target of study all on it's own. On the other, it's intense luminosity often drowns out the heavens making observations difficult.

Fortunately the Moon's orbit creates a predictable cycle that ranges between full and bright to dark and invisible. With clockwork precision, we get to experience both extremes and everything in between.

This lunar cycle is burned into our very core. It not only influences our language, folklore, calendar, art and poetry; it's been coded into our DNA since before our distant ancestors left their tidal pools to walk on dry land.

It's remarkable how unique our Moon is. While there are plenty of other moons in our solar system, it's the largest moon relative to its planet. For billions of years our Moon has kept the Earth's orbit stable enough to develop and support life. We can say with near certainty that we wouldn't be here if not for our constant planetary companion.

We had a gloomy, rainy weekend here in Atlanta, so I didn't get to see last night's full moon. My buddy, Gilbert, is visiting San Francisco and sent me this pic of the Moon rising over that beautiful city.


But I didn't need Gilbert to tell me the moon was full. You see, I've been keeping track.

A few weeks ago I was playing with the SkyWalk app on my iPad. With idle curiosity I decided to dial it forward it to February, 2014 to see what the sky would look like when our cruise leaves Miami. It turns out the Moon will be just a few hours past full, and just breaking the eastern horizon as the ship is scheduled to set sail at 7 PM.

This is how the sky will look on the third Full Moon from now.
This morning around 6:30 AM I was driving to work when the rain stopped. I saw the clouds break and there above the highway hung the moon. Just a few hours past full and about to set.




Friday, November 15, 2013

Looking Up

Living in the city, my best view of the night sky is
the StarWalk app on my iPad.
One thing I miss from growing up in Upper Michigan is the night sky. Being miles from the nearest street light, we took full advantage of having a free planetarium right outside our door. And sometimes even the windows. My bedroom had high, west-facing windows that reached up to the peak of the roof. When I wasn't asleep I was counting the identifiable constellations and stars in transit.

I feel blessed remembering how lunar eclipses and meteor showers were family events which warranted a temporary bedtime waiver and my mom's homemade kettle corn. One of my fondest memories is of being lifted out of bed by my dad, just getting home from his midnight shift, to witness a breathtakingly spectacular display of Northern Lights.

When I got older, eight or nine, I got a reflecting telescope for Christmas. I remember how excited I was to see the rings of Saturn, the moons around Jupiter and to explore the craters of the moon silhouetted along its terminator. By the time I came inside my clothes would be soaked with dew.

I spent my last night before leaving for college with a high school friend laying on a dock jutting out over her family's mirror-still lake, pointing at the satellites and meteors flinging between the constellations. After graduating from college, just before moving to Ohio for my first real job, I spent a night in a sleeping bag on the beach in front of my grandparent's cottage on Lake Michigan. I'll never forget how awesomely beautiful the sky was that night.

I haven't spent many nights since then looking at the sky. Urban living has its opportunities, but stargazing isn't one of them. On the best of nights I can see a few of the brightest stars and planets from the balcony of my condo in Atlanta. Occasional camping trips to the North Georgia mountains or rare visits back to the Upper Peninsula and Northern Wisconsin are the only glimpses that come close to the majesty I remember from my childhood.

I saw Comet Hale-Bopp on a trip back to Upper Michigan. I wasn't looking for it, and I wasn't even sure what it was at first until remembering the news reports. Some crazy cult believed they could hitch a ride on the comet by committing mass suicide. Freaks. I wasn't going home to stargaze. That was 1997, back when my mom first got sick.

But now we have a new comet visiting our neck of the solar system. Comet ISON is coming in hot to swing around the Sun on Thanksgiving Day. They say if it survives that hairpin turn, it may become spectacularly bright. Maybe even the "Comet of the Century". That would surly beat any Christmas light display your neighbor could come up with.

That's still a big "if" at this point. There's also a chance it break up during it's first ever encounter with our Sun.  Either way, we'll know for sure in a few weeks. I have my fingers crossed for Comet ISON. I'd rather not let Hale-Bopp be the comet of the century.

Fare thee well, Comet ISON. Try not to kill too many crazy people while you're here.




Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Weekend Wrap Up

My bachelor weekend wasn't nearly the action-packed "freekend" I envisioned. Despite my modest efforts, the only trouble I managed to get into was blowing my discretionary budget on underwear.

The final payment on the cruise is coming up next week and between this and the ongoing kitchen renovations, I've had to tighten my belt a bit. Figuratively and literally... I can now use the smallest notch on my belt! But I don't because that causes my now-loose jeans to cinch up around my waist which looks so Jethro. So I figure I can either spend money on new jeans, slacks and belts or just buy nicer shorts to show off when my pants fall down.

On my way to the gym Saturday I stopped at a small clothing shop called "The Boy Next Door". I've been meaning to check out their swimwear selection. I was a bit intimidated by the, uh, skimpiness of some of the swimwear to actually try anything on. I decided I'm going to wait until just before the cruise to round out my swimsuit lineup. But only after first stopping for a couple of margaritas for courage.

Instead I left the gay boutique with $70 worth of underpants.

Saturday evening I accepted an invitation to watch the Alabama/LSU game at "Woofs", a local bear/sports bar. I would spend a lot more time at Woofs if it wasn't so dang smoky. They seem to be one of the last holdouts as most of the bars and clubs have gone smoke-free. I had to immediately do laundry and take a shower when I got home that night. Even my new underpants smelled of cigarette smoke.


I figure I'd save you from having to ask for a picture.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Jesus Take The Wheel, Part I don't know let's say 133

The only thing not incredibly horribly sad about this story is the name of the town. Pflugerville.

If only someone could have seen this coming a thousand miles away. What surprises me is that all Killeen's pastors weren't killed.


"A Killeen church said three of its pastors were killed in a crash on Texas 130 near Texas 45 in Pflugerville on Thursday night.
"Grace Christian Center said on its website that “Pastors Terry, Jan and Steve” were driving from the airport. 
"Witnesses told police that one of the passenger van’s tires blew out, forcing the vehicle to leave the roadway and into a “violent roll into the median” about 7 p.m. Thursday.

http://www.statesman.com/news/news/crime-law/killeen-church-says-3-members-killed-in-crash/nbLmR/

I can't stop saying it.  Pflugerville.





Friday, November 8, 2013

Freekend

It's a universal rule that the junior members of any group or organization get the dregs after the less junior members have their pick. As my partner JB gradually gains more and more seniority in his job as a flight attendant, he's more often able to hold his choice of plum rotations.

Now he's not what we call a "Senior Mama". Even after twenty-plus years, there are still a lot of senior mamas ahead of him. Some of whom I suspect once partied with Wilbur and Orville.

Whenever flight attendants gather, and if the topic of conversation should happen to drift to their jobs... HA! Oh my! Sorry, I couldn't keep a straight face there. Oh how I crack myself up...

As I was saying, whenever flight attendants gather they talk incessantly of nothing but their jobs.

For myself as an outsider, socializing with two or more flight attendants is like being in a car with a radio that only picks up NPR. Most of it is "blah blah duty free blah blah beverage cart blah blah asshole pilot blah blah blah" with the occasional interesting segment that usually starts just as you pull into your parking space.

The stories I really enjoy are the ones the Senior Mamas tell of the golden age of passenger aviation. Did you happen to see any of the television series, Pan Am? It's exactly like that except interesting enough to be picked up for a second season.

I'm always enthralled with their tales of adventure, imagining what these Senior Mamas were like as rambunctious teenage stewardesses with their original hair color. When their overnight bag was nothing more than a purse big enough for a bikini and birth control pills. When they would bond over group-vomitings before their biweekly weigh-ins. When they had to help hand-prop the planes while hungover on the hot Havana tarmac.

No, JB is not a Senior Mama. Not yet. But his years have earned him a modicum of control over his schedule and, for him, that means holding weekends off. Now don't get me wrong, I love JB and I enjoy the time we spend together.

But there's this thing about people who spend their 12 work days per month traveling to places like Barcelona and Dublin... First, the term "weekend" loses its significance. Other than happening to begin with the letter "S", they're just two other days of the week. Second, home is supposed to be dullsville. A place to unwind from their latest adventure and to catch up on the errands, chores and workouts leading up to their next.

I treasure my weekends with JB. But every once in a while I like to spend a weekend having adventures of my own. When I can sleep late if I want. Set my own schedule, or not. Maybe get together with my friends and leave the vacuuming and ironing for Sunday night. Maybe even Monday.

And this, my friends, happens to be one of those increasingly rare weekends. A free weekend. (A "freekend" if you will.) Before leaving for the airport today, JB made me promise to stay out of trouble while he's gone. Without asking for an explicit definition of the word "trouble", I agreed.




Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Hold The Door!

Every few months we get one of these emails at work. Another creeper incident. They call them "office creepers" and the M.O. of this species of criminal is to walk into busy office buildings in broad daylight like they belong there. They then raid the offices, cubicles and supply closets of small, high-value items and walk back out before everyone realizes their iPhones are gone while the BlackBerrys remain untouched.

The emails usually come with attached security camera screen-snaps of the creeper in action, often with oblivious coworkers cast as unwitting extras in the background.

"Look at him follow Kristy through the side door. Oh, and there's Thomas holding the elevator for him. Tom's so polite, what a dork! Hey Saeid, isn't that your laptop? Wait, was I carrying an iPad when I walked in here?"

Each missive ends with an admonishment to be on the lookout for office creepers. Do not let anyone without a badge "tailgate" behind you through an entrance. Always confront those who doesn't have their badge prominently displayed. Anyone seeking admittance without a badge must be directed to sign in with the receptionist.

Great. On top of everything else I do around here, I'm supposed to handle security too? I'm an engineer for cryin' out loud. Do I look like I went to mall cop school? Don't answer that.

Seriously though, the problem with asking the employees to police each other is that it requires them to unlearn so many of the things they've been taught not to do...

Remember that mandatory, three-day "Diversity in the Workplace" seminar? Well, I suppose it's okay to judge people a little based on their appearance, dress, grooming, perceived level of education, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation... basically whatever triggers that gut instinct they just don't belong. But only if you suspect they might actually be a criminal, behaving with criminal intent, or acting, you know, squirrely.

Oh, and HR wants to see you. Something about a "third strike".

And everything your parents drummed into you about politely holding doors open for others? Really? Did your mommy dress you and pack your lunchbox today too?

Here's the new entry etiquette: Before entering the building, scan your surroundings, being sure to glare suspiciously at other people. After swiping your badge, wait for the sound of the beep followed shortly by the click of the security latch solenoid. Now, crack the door open a few inches and toss in your laptop bag. Slowly and carefully continue opening the door just enough to fit your beer gut, glare suspiciously one more time, then shimmy through the opening. Once you've successfully slipped inside, turn your upper body and push your shoulder against the door with all your might to re-secure the latch. If the door fails to latch, check that the doorjamb isn't blocked by the fingers or toes of criminals/co-workers attempting to follow you in.

The other day I was leaving the office. The second the door closed behind me I realized I didn't have my security badge clipped to my pocket. As I stood there frantically patting myself down, an attractive young woman exited right behind me. We didn't know each other, but I figured the fact that we just left the same office building might establish us in her mind as co-workers. I explained my predicament and asked if she could swipe me back in to look for my badge. As my luck would have it, another creeper alert had just gone out that morning. With a heart bursting with company loyalty, she dutifully told me to go fuck myself.

Did I roll my eyes? Did anyone hear me complain? That's not relevant to this story. The point is that I followed the rules and finally tracked down a security guard at the far side of the parking lot listening to talk radio in his truck.

The next day I was on my way to a meeting in a neighboring building of our sprawling, suburban office campus. This particular entrance is guarded by a receptionist so there's no electronic badge reader. Instead you hold up your badge at eye level, Agent Mulder style, as you walk past the receptionist's desk while her cyborg implant instantly scans your creds against a database of known office creepers, stapler thieves and butt xeroxers. If you come up clean, she nods and you continue on your way. I'm not sure what happens if you don't.

Only on this day the receptionist, who may or may not be an ex-navy seal, had her eyes closed. I thought about asking if she was okay, but didn't want to be the one to embarrass her if she was merely sleeping on the job. (Damn, that politeness again. It's bound to be the death of me or someone in my general proximity.)

I decided to interpret her sustained nod as a grant of admission and made my way to the elevator lobby. I could only assume the growing crowd waiting for the next lift were equally unverified as well. Fortunately the elevator requires passengers to swipe their badges before they can select a floor.

Then, just as the doors were beginning to close, in stepped an Asian man carrying a large cardboard tray full of mu shu pork cartons and rice boxes. "Five please," he said, looking in my direction. Gulp. The Executive Level. What to do? Security protocol clearly dictates I send him back to sign in with the receptionist he obviously just bypassed. But the poor dear so needs her rest...

"Five please," he repeated louder, as if my problem was a hearing one.

I sighed, swiped my badge, and pressed the 5 button, the whole while promising myself this would be my absolute last racial profiling. Ever. Cross my heart.

I spent the next couple days half-expecting to see my low-res surveillance photos in the next edition of Creeper Weekly. Forever branded the guy who swiped in the notorious mastermind of the Atlanta branch of the Chinese mafia to abscond with the CEO's iPhone and scotch tape dispenser.








Monday, November 4, 2013

Breakfast, Day 104

I just did the math and realized that tomorrow I will be on my diet plan for 15 weeks. I remember day one like it were yesterday.

At the beginning of October I switched from the 7-day-a-week plan to the 5-day plan. There were several reasons for this. One was that JB started Good Measure Meals with me, but he wasn't willing to commit to the 7-day plan. Being on a diet plan is very challenging for him when he usually spends three for four days a week away from home. Being on our own on the weekends gives us a buffer to catch up eating any meals he wasn't able to pack and take with him during the week.

Also, with October party weekends such as Gay Pride and Halloween coming up, I knew I was going to occasionally be straying from my diet. But the main reason was that it seemed the time was right to begin the process of weaning myself off the prepared meal plan and planning meals on my own.

The idea of course is that I'll choose healthy, balanced, well-proportioned meals similar to those I've been enjoying from Good Measures. Unfortunately it hasn't been working out that way. After being on the diet five days during the week, the weekend becomes a free-for-all. Last evening I gave into my basest of animal cravings and went to Fox Bros. BBQ. I did this after reading a review in Atlanta Magazine which declared their Frito Pie "Heaven in a bag." (It was.) I followed this up with one of my favorite desserts. (This I ate from a bowl ladylike.)

This morning I'm picking at my healthy Hummingbird Pancakes with a Frito Pie and Banana Pudding hangover. And I'm making a commitment to buckle down hard for the next few weeks leading up to Thanksgiving.

I've been making great progress. I'm down 7% in body fat since last Spring. The results of my recent physical were the best ever, with all my numbers are in the normal range. (With the exception of low Vitamin-D.) The doctor didn't even bother trying to talk me into actually taking the Lipitor he keeps prescribing. That in itself is a huge victory.

So I'm not getting down on myself. I know I deserved that Frito Pie and Banana Pudding. But now it's time for me to get back on track. Because my work isn't finished. 104 days down, 103 days to go...

Doctor's orders: Get more sunshine!