Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Counting Down

I can't believe there are only seventeen days until the Big Gay Cruise! Fifteen until my vacation starts. That's only eleven actual working days. Not that I'm keeping track on a calendar pinned to my bulletin board with each passing day crossed out with a thick, black Sharpie.

I'm so excited, my head is spinning! Although that could be the Sharpie fumes. Or malnutrition coupled with my 5:30am treadmill run. Or the Chinese herbs I was guaranteed would make my fat "melt". An oddly-worded promise that only triggers cravings for the amazing smoked pork belly I enjoyed at South City Kitchen a hundred years ago last May.

I got on the scale last weekend and realized there's actually a chance I could make my goal of 185 by the time we set sail. Only four more pounds, that's possible, right?

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Google That Smell

As far as search engines go, it's hard to beat Google. But there are times even their best semantic algorithms fail miserably. Here's a gross example...

The first time I visited Paris, France, I noticed my pee smelled funny. Kind of like when I eat asparagus, but the odor was different and lasted the entire trip. I chalked it up to my steady diet of wine and snails and, once I got home and my pee returned to normal, never gave it a second thought.

Until I made my second trip to Paris and it happened again. Different hotel in a different arrondissement, different restaurants, but the same distinctive aroma from the first day to the last. Now I was curious. I've pissed all over Europe and never noticed anything like this. This was definitely a Paris thing.

Surely this phenomenon had an explanation. And surely I couldn't be the only person to experience it. So I asked my doctor, Dr. DILF. Not because I was overly concerned there was something internally wrong with me, but because he's more familiar with Paris than anyone I know. In fact, it was his hotel I'd just stayed in. Not "his" in that he once stayed there and recommended it. He owned the place. That he presumably knows his way around a urinary tract was just a bonus.

Dr. DILF looked at me like I grew a second head. And not in a doctorly "Nothing to worry about, I can snip that right off for ya" sort of way. I changed the subject before he referred me to a psychiatrist again. And then did what I normally do when I want to piss off my doctor... I started googling.

I didn't sort through all 6,710,000 results, but the top thousand hits seemed to align along one of two memes: 1) The entire city of Paris reeks of urine and 2) Paris Hilton once relieved herself in a taxi. There seemed to be no way I could phrase my query to return any other results. I still have no idea if my kidneys are failing.

I was reminded of this experience recently while trying to research my upcoming vacation. It seems there's no way to phrase a query for "gay cruise" without learning more than I ever wanted to know about 1) Larry Craig or 2) Tom Cruise.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

BeerBot '92

Yes, I'm a geek. While the other kids were out in the sunshine, breathing fresh air and playing sports, I was building robots. All through elementary school, high school and into college I was building robots. I stopped after getting my first real engineering job. I guess because my hobby began to blur with my work. That's always a buzz-kill.

Then there was the disappointment when, after months of circuit board soldering, servo wiring and late-night coding, my final and most sophisticated robot turned out heterosexual. (Ironic, considering robots tend by nature toward being gay.) My intention when giving it body-heat sensors and a repertoire of witty banter was to advance the state of the art of human-cybernetic social interaction. And serve beer at parties.

Apr 16 1992 22:31:29 syslogd[4058]: panties aquired
Imagine my mortification when it became apparent what I actually brought forth into the world was a skeevy, three-foot, heat-seeking drone with a knack for getting sorority girls drunk before sexually harassing them. I would have flashed its EPROMs and started over from scratch if my housemates hadn't intervened. Sadly, the HOPPBOT-2000 fit in better at the Sig Ep house than I did. They made him an honorary brother and called him "Little Beer Dude".

My electronics tools and gear have been in storage so long I wouldn't know where to begin looking. So when I needed a soldering iron recently, it was easier to just buy a new one. What rekindled my interest in my old pastime?

For one thing, my career has drifted away from hands-on electrical engineering. While there's still a hardware side of telecom, it has gradually morphed into general network engineering. Most of the innovation and differentiation in the industry is now in network services enabled by software. I can't remember the last time I had to measure a voltage at work. I guess sometimes I find myself missing the nuts and bolts aspect.

Add to that the renaissance of home hobby electronics in recent years. It used to be if you wanted to enjoy the cutting edge of high tech while not spending a fortune, you had no choice but to do it yourself. Then came the 80's when cheap commodity electronics started pouring out of overseas factories and the idea of building your own stereo amplifier or home computer stopped appealing to all but the hardcore.

I think in reaction to this disposable "closed box" electronics consumerism, the Maker Movement started among those who were not only curious about how all this stuff worked, but wanted to extend the functionality of their gadgets in ways unforeseen by the original designers.

It's exciting to see a new wave of individual hobbyists at their home workbenches reclaiming their place in the technological avant garde that the previous generation ceded to multinational corporations. It's gives me hope for the future and is inspiring me to get back into it.

My next challenge: Convincing JB that I need a 3D printer. If all else fails, I may have to play the "download sex toys off the Internet" card.

I also need to talk JB into letting me set up a more permanent
workbench/bar in the spare bedroom.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Down To The Wire

Nine months ago, when I booked passage on the S.S. Boytanic*, anything seemed possible. I pictured myself and StevieB sitting on deck chairs in our Speedos, buff and tan, glistening with oil and bristling with abs. Oh, and we're drinking Mai Tais. I've never had a Mai Tai in my life, but I'm determined to make this vacation all about experiencing new things. You know... before it's too late.

My upstairs neighbor had just gotten pregnant. I figured if she can make an entire human being from scratch in nine months, surely I could crunch out a six-pack. And so last June I set myself to work and – aside from a calf injury, a summer cold, a disastrous Thanksgiving with the in-laws, and a shameful nog-fueled three-way with a Christmas ham and a cheeseball – I haven't let up.

But now that we're only a month out from the Big Gay Cruise, I'm coming to terms with the fact that what I'm seeing in the mirror now is pretty much how I'm gonna look in that deck chair. Good thing I didn't invest in that Speedo. Or oil.

I know I still have a few more weeks to chip away at what's left of the love handles. And, believe me, I intend to. But I need to be realistic and, most of all, I need to accept myself as I am. Which is easier said than done for someone who's spent the past six months shopping for swimwear online.

Anchors oy vey.
Nothing will skew one's sense of realistic body image like looking at a photo of a swimsuit on an athletic male underwear model while trying to picture how it might look on yourself.

Seriously, why can't they show what these swimsuits look like on average men? And if they did, would I still buy them? When I pick out a swimsuit that I like, am I really buying the swimsuit? Or am I buying a fantasy of how I wish to look?

And when UPS delivers the swimsuit that looked so hot online, I try it on and face myself in the mirror. It's times like this I wonder if I'm even anatomically correct. Where are MY deltoids? Where's MY Apollo's Belt? Where's MY adorable outie belly button?

I picture God working frantically at an assembly line. He's in a rush to finish me because it's been hours since his last smoke break. After pushing me through my mother's uterus, he wipes his brow, looks down and realizes he's got parts left over. He picks them up, looks around to see of any of the angels are watching and quickly stuffs them into Ryan Gosling.

That makes me smile and relax. In the mirror I realize I look better when I'm smiling and relaxed. I start feeling better about myself. Six-pack or not, I'm ready to frolic poolside with my shirt off and that's a huge improvement from how I felt eight months and 25 pounds ago. And that makes me smile even more. I look in the mirror and think, "Stop grinning, you look like a dork."

* Not affiliated with Brian Boitano.

Monday, January 6, 2014

40 Days

The first Monday of the new year. Yay. A month ago I vowed to not let the holidays sidetrack my daily routines. Things like my diet regimen, exercise routine, blogging... My resolution this year is to work on my vowing since I obviously suck at it.

After the blur of the past month, I'm looking forward to setting aside all distractions and focussing on what's important: preparing for the Big Gay Cruise.

I'm starting to get a little concerned that I may have to scale back my swimwear aspirations. I've basically leveled off at 192 where I've been since early November, leaving me 7 pounds shy of my cruise goal weight.

But we've still got 40 days. I'll pretend it's Lent and I'm a devout Catholic. Lord knows I've got the self-flagellation thing down. (Which, incidentally, is what I plan on giving up for real Lent.)

For some reason I can't fully explain, I spent an inordinate amount of time and resources working on one specific part of my cruise wardrobe... a pair of shoes.

I'll provide full details in an upcoming post. For now I'll just say this project has challenged my sewing, soldering and C++ programming skills. It also required scouring every craft, hardware and automotive supply store in the city for just the right industrial strength adhesive. Followed by a search for just the right industrial solvent to unglue a shoe from my hand.

The shoes don't even specifically match any of the announced party themes. But there's still one party whose theme is currently up for a vote. My fingers are crossed for "Glow Party". And not just because they're stuck that way.