Saturday, December 31, 2005

Let's try this again

Yeah, I know, that was fast.

But in the spirit of a friend of mine, who threw her first "New Year's Do-Over" party after an early-January night when she wrecked her car and her husband wrecked HIS coming to rescue her - I get a permanent invite because I rescued them both - I'm going to write my Happy New Year post over.

Yes, I'm feeling a little better.

Yes, I'm still busy, stressed out and going through some personal stuff I JUST DON'T NEED right now.

Yes, the Raiders sucked this year. Again.

And yes, I'm still moody.

But that doesn't excuse being an asshole, and I was an asshole before.

So first, a public apology to Stewie, who ought to be used to me by now. If you've followed the comment-related sniping of an earlier post, you'll understand why.

And now, for the excuses for being an asshole.

Look, this isn't a great time for me. I hate the holidays. I'm overworked. I don't have much time, and I have a dark cloud hanging over my head.

And it hurts to think I have almost no time, go out of my way to try and take time to post to my little blog (you ever read the times on some of these posts?) and then be accused - even in jest - of not putting in enough time. I'm frustrated enough in life, and not just sexually.

So I'm sorry, Stewie. Mea culpa. (Or as they say somewhere, "my bad.") I hope someday soon, I can laugh with relief and explain to you and everyone else why I'm being so bitchy lately. It's a lot on my mind, and I just can't share it right now.

That said, for the rest of you, please understand: I don't have a lot of time to post here, or do much of anything else. And I'm struggling with a lot of stuff right now. So yes, keeping this up is even more pressure, and demands sometimes that I neglect even more things to do this. 2005 was a good year (yay!) but the ending has been rough on me (blame the job and the personal stuff). And I really do want to start 2006 fresh.

It's just tough to do right now. Maybe, like Mary, I should declare a do-over at the end of January and start the new year over. Maybe I will. A lot depends on what happens between now and then.

I enjoy doing this blog, mostly. It amuses me and I hope it amuses you.

I just need to relax, take a little break and hopefully deal with some stuff. So be warned - my remarks of before still stand... I don't know how much I'll be posting in the near term.

But when I thought about it a little bit, really, how is that different from normal?

So Happy New Year, everyone! Again.

I promise, I'll try to put the emphasis on "happy." But it'll probably just be on "year."

Reasons for moodiness, including depression (which I have) and PMS (which I don't)
Stewie's blog, like I don't give him enough free plugs - but I figure I owe him one
Yes, Wikipedia has an entry for "asshole"; no, it doesn't have my picture on it

Oh, and if you're wondering what caused the whole flap with Stewie, and you're too lazy to read the comments on the earlier post, he was complaining (in jest, or so he says) that I don't reply to comments people leave. I read them all. I ponder them all. (Well, not the spam.) I just only reply when I have something to say, something that (ideally) adds to the discussion at hand. So if you're reading, thanks. If you're commenting, thanks. I mean it. And if I'm not responding, no, I'm not ignoring you. I just figure I write enough random stuff here and I don't want to bore you with more.

After all, the expression is "discuss amongst YOURSELVES."

Happy New Year!

Just wanted to wish any and all of my readers a Happy New Year.

(Not the Jewish New Year, the regular calendar one. Duh.)

Someone I used to work with once wished me a happy new year with the words, "May the coming year be rich in all that is good."

The next year was probably the worst year of my life, but I appreciated the sentiment, even in retrospect.

It's really about the nicest wish I could make for you and I always admired the beauty and simplicity of it.

I'm thinking of taking a bit of a hiatus from blogging to concentrate on some other writing and some other stuff in my life. So forgive me if the posts here become less frequent. I guess I just don't have as much to say that's worth sharing (at least in my opinion) as I have in the past. Or I just don't feel up to it anymore. I don't know. Life on the Rim has just felt like a chore lately, and I've got enough stress in my life these days as is.

I hope this is just a funk that I'll shake my way out of sooner rather than later. For both our sakes. But consider yourself warned. Sorry my efforts to post every day became a few times a week than maybe once a week and then "when I feel like it." Sorrier still I just don't feel like it right now.

(If you miss the blogging, you know where you can read my other stuff.)

Not much of an upper to close the year with, I know, but tomorrow's a new day, a new year, and a fresh start for me. Again.

May the coming year be rich in all that is good. And filled with munkees.

Friday, December 30, 2005

A little bit Christmas, a little bit rock 'n' roll

I got two pretty cool gifts for Christmas, along with some excellent books.

Yeah, that's right, I said Christmas. I know, I'm Jewish. But when you grow up in rural Pennsylvania, they don't let you have Hanukkah off from school, but you get a whole week around Christmas.

So that's when my family celebrates.

Actually, we open gifts Christmas Eve. I don't know why. Whether it's an f-u to the Man, or what, it's the way it's always been.

We spend the holidays with another family, some very dear friends who might as well be relatives. But that's sort of why I've got this warped holiday existence.

The first Christmas morning I woke up in my parents house was about six years ago. This year, at Thanksgiving time, we (my folks and the same family we spend Christmas with) went to see BTE put on "Miracle on 34th Street" (a remarkable comeback from the debacle a few years ago that was "Peter Pan"). Anyway, I'd never really seen it, but it turned out to be about Santa Claus and whether or not he's real. I'm pretty sure I stopped believing in Santa Claus the year I got the Millennium Falcon "Star Wars" toy for Christmas. That would be the year my Mom took a curve in the road a bit fast, and it fell on my head from the pile of gifts in the back seat next to me.

Whap! Yeah, Mommy's one of Santa's elves. Sure.

I realize I'm meandering way off topic here, but there's a lot of explaining that needs to be done if you're going to understand my holidays.

So I celebrate with seven other people: My mother and father, the parents of the other family, and their three children. The grandparents of that family were part of the tradition - my Uncle Leo was like an extra Grandfather, a mentor and dear friend of my father's. But they've since passed away.

The upside is, of course, I get gifts from two families. The downside is, of course, I have to buy gifts for two families.

That's not really a downside. I actually enjoy giving gifts. I enjoy giving gifts almost more than I enjoy receiving them. Maybe more. I know that sounds like about 5-foot-9 worth of bullshit, but it's true. I really enjoy giving something to someone else - something that's special, in particular. Like a gift they didn't ask for that still rocks the house, or when they ask for something like "a sweater" and you get them one they really like. (Or when you give someone something for no reason at all, like the time I sent Sari flowers because she complained no one ever sent her any, and I had a coupon. But obviously, at Christmas, that random occasion thing doesn't apply.)

Don't get me wrong. I love getting gifts. But I've reached that awkward stage in life where I'm fortunate enough to have most of the means to buy what I want, and the stubborn shopping addiction and credit limit that ensure I can do just that.

So most of what I asked for this year were books. Not an exciting gift for a child-at-heart who still loves toys, but I love to read and the books are rockin' cool.

But I did get two excellent gifts. One, I asked for, the other was random. And like I said, it's the winning random gifts that just rock.

I feel guilty. My parents didn't get me the cooler of the two gifts.

They got me a nice big fluffy comforter like the one I had on my bed when I was younger. They're superduper warm, and my bedroom tends toward the cold side in winter. And it's a definite A+ as far as the most useful, most enjoyable gift.

Nothing I love more than a warm bed on a cold morning. Except perhaps sharing it with someone. Someone at least slightly sexier than a stuffed monkey.

But it wasn't the most fun gift. That was a random gift from the other family: a desktop speed bag.

Yup, a leather bag you can punch to your heart's delight.

Now, those of you who know me know I go by "the Hitman" on some of my writings and other sites. How do you think I got the nickname? Yeah, my penchant for hitting things. Usually things harder than my fists. Like walls.

So since that was one of the first gifts I opened, I spent most of the rest of Christmas Eve first entertaining people by having to manually pump up the bag with my lazy out-of-shapeness. And then irritating them by repeated smacking the hell out of this thing. It's the closest thing I've gotten to a toy in years.

The great thing about getting gifts from two families is that my parents are loving/spoiling enough to basically get me exactly what I want, and the other family often takes a swing at something totally random they think I'd like. So I get the best of both worlds.

Plus, with the house in need of decoration that expands on the frat-boy motif, I do often get random gifts from the parental types, too.

Some years, the random gift is a little odd, like the anatomically correct dachshund candle holder. Yeah, a black metal weiner dog with a weewee and balls. Other years, the random gift rocks, like the giant lion sculpture that looked weird as hell when I opened it but looks absolutely excellent on my fireplace surround.

The best gifts I've gotten, I've gotten from my folks, including all those "Star Wars" toys and some seriously huge GI Joe stuff - like the space shuttle, one of the best-ever inspirations for my childhood scenarios, right up there with the Death Star.

But the best random gifts I've gotten are often from the other family (whose name is being omitted to protect the innocent from my ramblings).

The prize-winner there is probably the Colecovision. Back when my parents kept me technologically deprived. I finally had a video-game system - and an even better one than my friends' Ataris. All was happyjoy that year (1983, I think) until I was reading the instruction manual on the way home, and came across the dreaded sentence:

Color television required.

My parents - who in their retirement are engaged in a my-Mac-is-better-than-yours competition that would make Steve Jobs blush - were someone ambivalent toward technology back then. (This year, Dad got Mom an XM radio. I don't have an XM radio, for crying out loud.)

That made me the last kid in the world whose parents didn't have a color TV.

I cried all the way home.

My father still cheerfully calls it the only gift someone else gave me that cost HIM money.

But I'll tell you what, talk about "they don't make 'em like they used to"! That color TV, bought within days of our return, probably to stop my wailing, lasted nearly 20 years. The buttons started going in the late '90s and they replaced the TV a couple of years back. I'm not kidding. 20 freakin' years.

The Colecovision, I might point out, still works, too. Or at least it did the last time I fired it up, a couple of years ago.

And the GI Joe space shuttle and Death Star are still in the basement. And I still get the nice warm comforter on my cot when I go home at Thanksgiving.

(Yes, I said cot. They sold my bed while I was in college. Now I sleep in the guest room like everyone else, except at Thanksgiving, where seniority, in the form of the other parents, get the guest bed.

Aside, know how a college senior knows he better get a job? When his parents knock out the back wall of his bedroom and turn it into the sitting room for the master bedroom suite they're having built onto the house. That means "you ain't moving back here." Kind of like when they went on a cruise the day after dropping me off at college. I told them, you're lucky I wasn't the kid who quit before the end of orientation week. They said, no, you're lucky. We were in Sweden and the front door was double-locked.)

So in my 30 years on Earth, I've spent one Christmas at home. That year, my mother was sick and I guess she couldn't travel and Uncle Leo (who had polio and didn't travel far) had passed, so we switched Christmas to the folks'.

It was still exciting, waking up at home on Christmas morning (late in the morning, knowing me). Not that the family tradition isn't a highlight of the year - but I guess there is something magical about being at home on that day, and hustling (limping) downstairs to see what's under the tree or next to the fireplace (or piled up near the coffee table, having been opened the night before. point is...). And I'd never really had that experience. And I guess I'm just childlike enough to still get a kick out of it.

Well, I paused for a couple of minutes to bop the speed bag. Now it's time to snuggle up under the comforter with my insomnia and stuffed monkey. Between that, the biography of Richard S. Ewell I got, the Adam Sandler "Chanukah Song" I downloaded for the iPod I bought myself with my year-end bonus, and the praise the gifts I gave won...

(Aside, my personal favorites: the pearl earrings for Mom, the "Leave it to Beaver" lunchbox DVD set for Dad - one of my fond childhood memories is of my father coming home from campus for lunch and eating in in front of the (black-and-white) kitchen TV while watching "Leave it to Beaver" - and a couple of good and random books people really seemed to like.) was a good Christmas.



The Christmas/Hanukkah debate
The Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble
Restoration Hardware, sellers of the desktop speed bag
The Company Store, comforters and beyond
"Richard S. Ewell: A Soldier's Life," so far an excellent book about an underrated, quirky, bald, slighly inbred Confederate general
"Leave it to Beaver" - you're inferring more than you should

And if that weren't enough fun for one week, not only did I finally buy the "Star Blazers" set I've been coveting, and on sale, no less - thanks, bonus! - I got my free key-making machine for my locksmith course. Rockin'! Now all I need to do is figure out what I can mount it to. I think I'll order the portable board. It's that, or screw the thing to my kitchen table. Nine more lessons 'til I finish the basic course! Yay!

Monday, December 26, 2005

Long, short or shorter

I got my hair cut today. Sadly, my stylist lady is quitting. Sniffle. A good stylist is hard to find when you have Asian hair.

Well, there was that one place where the Vietnamese lady cut my Vietnamese hair. That was good.

I needed a haircut. I was having a bad hair day. Week. Life.

See, as you know, I'm Asian.

And Asian hair isn't like white people hair. Or black people hair for that matter.

Asian hair basically has three styles. Long, short or shorter.

It's black, it's straight. It's stiff and it's oily. (That doesn't sound like I'm talking about my hair. More like... well, nevermind.)

Anyway, I've lived most of my life surrounded by white people and therefore surrounded by white people hair.

And I'm jealous.

Most of my childhood, I had that Asian bowl cut all small Asian children have once they grow hair. (When I was a baby, I had a little bit of hair on top of my head that stuck straight up. After that, bowl cut.)

So in junior high school, at some point, my Mom let me get my hair cut more or less like my friends, or as close an approximation thereof as her stylist - a very good, wonderfuly but star-crossed woman - could do.

Basically, I wound up with the closest thing to an Asian mullet possible. At least it wasn't feathered. I don't think you CAN feather Asian hair.

A mullet is basically short in front and on the top and long in the back. You know what this looks like on rednecks and hockey players. Well, it doesn't look the same on Asians.

But that's about what I had. Short on top - now, after much combing and gelling, parted down the middle - and long in the back. Hey, it was the '80s.

That's pretty much what I wore through high school. At some points the back (the long part) was down over my collar.

The day before I graduated, I cut the back and buzzed the sides. I put my graduation cap on when I arrived at practice that day and my friends thought I'd shaved my head because all they could see was the buzzed sides and back.

But I had hair on top, parted and slicked.

And that's how I arrived at college. Where I kept buzzing the back and sides, but grew the top increasingly longer. At one point, I could tie it up in this little samurai-looking topknot, like one of my fraternity brothers.

And that's pretty much how it stayed for years. One summer, I got the whole thing buzzed. When I grew it back out for the fall, I spent about three months looking like a small porcupine had taken up residence on my head - hair straight, stiff and sticking straight up.

Anyway, I kept up this sort of pseudo-skater-cut of varying lengths all through the rest of the '90s - gel and all.

A couple of years ago, when I turned 29, I decided to spend my last year of my 20s living it up - so among other things, I did something I've always wanted to do - I got my hair colored.

I had my stylist - Sharon, the one who's leaving - cut it short on top (as well as buzzing it all around the back and sides like usual) and spike it up, then bleach/color it blond. (blonde = female; blond = male.)

I thought it would be funny.

Everyone at the office loved it. Especially the women.

(One of my co-workers called me "Spike," after some character on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." I still haven't watched my Big Box o' Buffy yet, so I still have no idea who she means.)

So the haircut stayed. I even experimented with color. One month I tried red and blond. One month (at the recommendation of one of the office hotties) blue. But mostly I've stuck with a blond, spiky buzz cut.

But I think I'm going to stop the blond, and only a year late (I was going to stop the craziness when I turned 30, that was sort of the point, but I liked the hair... well, the ladies liked it).

It's just too short to justify the expense. I don't get much blond, and the coloring costs three times the regular cut. Plus I'm not sure I'm prepared to get colored without Sharon, even though the other stylists at the place are good (I've used some in the past).

Ah, the curse of Asian hair. And just when I got comfortable, too.

Asian hair: "Thick, black and perfectly straight"
Asian hairstyles - as with clothes, the women get all the cool stuff
How hair coloring works
Spike, fanlisting-style

Watch for a post about my holidays coming up. I'm just not prepared to do it now. Happy Hanukkah to my fellow members of the Tribe. After all, Christmas is over, but we've got six crazy nights left!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The most wonderful (monkey) time of the year

Can I just interrupt today's religion-themed post to point out the patron saint of smart mouths has put up two of the awesomest holiday monkey pictures ever?

• The Hanukkah monkey - complete with prehensile tail and dreidel!
• The sock monkey Nativity scene - complete with baby-monkey-Jesus!

So go there and check 'em out!

And notice my new sidebar referring you to blogs that make me laugh, including hers.

Have your science and eat it, too

I've been following with a mixture of interest and horror - depending on the day - the news about a trial in Pennsylvania over intelligent design in schools.

It's the one where the religious people on the school board in Dover mandated the teaching, the voters of the district voted them all out of office, and then the district wound up in court while the new board tried to figure things out.

So the other day, a judge ruled that indeed, this was a violation of separation of church and state - and the religious people called him an activist judge, just as he anticipated, even though he is a church-going Bush appointee.

Pondering all this, I've come up with a conclusion and placed it before the ruling council of the Church of the Holy (in Memoriam, for Eternity) Dachshund.

(The Church of the (Late, and Lamented) Holy Dachshund is, of course, my effort to get a tax break as a religious organization. Donations can be sent via Paypal to the e-mail affiliated with this site. This is, of course, the unofficial-but-endorsed church bulletin.)

Back on topic, here's a way I think the fundies and the fishies can have their science and eat it, too:

Why don't we just agree that people evolved from monkeys, which God created in His image?

After all, who but a higher power could have designed the prehensile tail, perhaps the ultimate in appendage, or at least a close second among male members of the species? And how but evolution could mere mortals hope to explain the opposable thumb, which most monkeys regrettably lack but we have?

And on this blog, at least, the divine nature of the munkee remains unquestioned.


God, a munkee, makes monkeys in his image.
Monkeys evolve into humans.
Humans visit zoos to see monkeys because they are the image of God.

And everyone is happy!

Or at least, we at the Church of the (Enshrined in Pennsylvania) Holy Dachshund are. I think we may adopt this as our formal stance on creation vs. evolution at the next Holy Dee. (Like the Holy See, but D is for Dachshund.)

Sometimes, I'm a common-sense conservative. Sometimes, I'm a hedonistic liberal. But mostly, I just want to be a silly little happymunkee. Take that, you crazy Intelligent Design people!

The Scopes monkey trial
The Dover Area School District
The latest on Dover, via CNN

If I don't post at y'all before then, have a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah or whatever it is y'all celebrate (Kwanzaa, Festivus, etc.).

And in case I don't get to it before then... have a Happy New Year, too!

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Another random blog referral

Some of you may have noticed Lesley posting witty comments here.

If you haven't wandered over to her blog, you should.

Patron Saint of Smart Mouths

For people like me. With smart mouths. You know you're one, too, or you wouldn't be reading this blog.

Yes, yes I do

I think I have a new candidate for most ridiculous ad line of the week (see earlier post).

"Do you want incredible entertainment experiences... in your lap?"

That's the new laptop commercial from Intel.

Brings a whole new meaning to "Intel inside," doesn't it?

Intel, apparently lacking some QC in the ad department
Maybe this is what they meant

Thursday, December 15, 2005

I don't know what this says about me...

I think my latest dented rim, which I've been driving around on for months, has finally given up the ghost.

So I've got a flat tire and I might be out yet ANOTHER couple hundred dollars. (Still waiting on that class-action settlement, but claim submission is over.)

You know what, I really don't care. Debt is something my estate will have to deal with when I'm dead. As long as the housing bubble doesn't burst, I'm still in the black, overall.

But we had two potlucks at the office today and on the way back to my desk from the dinner one, picking up some page proofs, I almost ran into a wall, and nearly dropped my full plate (everything from ham - and nothing says Happy Hanukkah! like a good slice of ham - to cannoli).

I think if I'd done that I would've just sat down on the floor and cried.

Debt, during Christmas season, pah! Who cares?

But losing free food? Tragic.

I don't know what that says about me, but it might explain my waistline. I'd like to think it reinforces my belief that I enjoy the smaller things in life. Like chicken wings and pulled pork in the same meal.

Potluck, Wikipedia style - yes, I still believe in them
"Hot Shots!" and its jokes about chafing dishes

As for a more serious tragedy, when I was poking around on earlier today, I saw ex-Raider Darrell Russell died in a high-speed car crash today. That's a jaw-dropper. A tragic end to a tragic life that was once full of hope and potential.

The Raiders are one of those teams that's been jinxed with many (relatively) young men dying before their time. Another name for the list that includes Stacey Toran (drunken driving), Tim Hall (drive-by shooting), John Matuszak (hard living), Lyle Alzado (cancer and/or steroids), Mike Wise (suicide), Dave Waymer (heart attack), Eric Turner (cancer), Dave Dalby (car crash and/or suicide) and more. Barret Robbins didn't die, but he has certainly suffered many life tragedies in recent years, too. Very sad. Tragedy, and perhaps foolishness, know no bounds of fame, fortune or otherwise.

Political stances... today, anyway

I'm bored and I can't think of anything to write. I'm done with work and I was reading a couple of Web sites that deal with politics, and I thought it might be fun to list where I stand on a variety of interesting issues.

Pretty lame post, but on the other hand, it might be exciting. And who knows, maybe 20 years from now, pundits will be poring over it to try and decided if I'm qualified to be a Supreme Court justice, or if I'll just be an activist*.

* = "activist" being defined as somebody who doesn't rule the way you want.

Keep in mind, not only am I a wee bit crazy, I'm moody. As a result, I reserve the right to change any position at any time. Kind of like when I'm on the chaise watching the big screen at home.

Are you ready, fundies? Buckle your seat belts and place your Bibles in their locked, upright positions.

Here are some stances, chosen at random. Standard disclaimer: These are just my opinions, here for your amusement and entertainment value. I speak for no one but myself. And I'm only doing that for fun.

1. Abortion - This is the biggie, I suppose, since everyone's making a fuss about Roe v. Wade ("George Bush says, 'Who cares how people got out of New Orleans, just so they got out.'"). I'm pro-choice. That doesn't make me pro-abortion. I'm just not one to tell people what they can and cannot do with their bodies. It's none of my business. Until you've walked in someone's shoes, you can't judge them. (Who was who said "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone?" It probably wasn't somebody outside an abortion clinic. But it might have been somebody in whose name those jerks are throwing stones.) And hey, maybe you do go to hell for having an abortion. You probably do. But that's part of the choice, now isn't it?

2. Death penalty - That whole Stanley "Tookie" Williams thing was big in the news the other day. I'm in favor of the death penalty, too. Unlike the crazy lefties who are pro-choice and anti-death penalty, or the crazy righties who are pro-life and pro-death penalty, at least I'm consistent. Kill 'em all, I say. I think you should be as sure as you possibly can be that the person is guilty, but some people don't deserve to live, and others are never going to be redeemed. I don't know Tookie, but I tend to side with the folks who claim he was a poseur and wasn't remorseful in the least. I'm tough on crime. What can I say?

3. The new wave of censorship - Fimly opposed. Hey, I write horror movies. Like I want the FCC to be telling me what I can and can't see. I'm an adult. I know what I like. You want irony? I went out for food at halftime of that Janet Jackson Super Bowl, because I didn't want to miss any of the game, and nothing ever happens with the stupid halftime show. Who wants to hear Justin Timberlake sing? My bad. This, by the way, is why I'm always torn about supporting Joe Lieberman - I mean, he's a fellow Jew, but his stance on the whole Hollywood thing is just such a turnoff.

4. The war in Iraq - Well, at least Bush finally admitted his "intelligence" was more like his intelligence. Poor. I support our troops, wholeheartedly, but I think we went to the wrong war in the wrong country for the wrong reasons. So we either ought to bring them home or fight this war to win. And I mean the war on terror, not the whole Iraq democracy thing. Good luck with that. I mean, let's go find Osama and string him up somewhere. Wasn't that kind of the post-9/11 point? Back when the world sympathized with us, instead of hating us? So let's kick some ass and get our bravest men and women home. Or at least to Afghanistan to find bin Laden, and then home.

5. Fur - Well, fur probably is murder, but what's the point of a mink if it's not to become a coat? I mean, it's not like you can buy a coat made out of a puppy or a munkee. Then I'd be against it. But frankly, I just don't care. Some animals are meant to be a) eaten; b) used for lab tests; or c) turned into coats. That's natural selection. Darwinism.

6. And speaking of Darwinism: Intelligent design - Evolution all the way. And I don't just mean the Lancer Evolution. I mean, let's be real. The bulk of good and decent science favors evolution and survival of the fittest. Intelligent design is just another way for people to show they aren't, and it wasn't, or they wouldn't be here. And I mean, come on, the duck-billed platypus? Whose freakin' image was that created in? Like God, in his Intelligence, was sitting around like this:

• "Aw, shit, Gabe, I've got this leftover bill, a tail from that... what was it?"
• "Beaver, my Lord."
• "Right, beaver tail. Bill. Webbed foot. What the Heaven can I make out of this? And an egg pouch."
• "Well, my Lord, perhaps a creature designed to move swiftly through water and confound those You created in Your image years from now, when they try to decide what's a 'mammal.'"
• "Mammal... those are the ones with the tits, right?"
• "Yes, my Lord. The live birth-milk thing."
• "I need a break. Is it Sunday yet? What's the point spread on the Raider game?"

(Wait for it...)

Ok, no lightning strike. I do have to admit, those little Jesus Fish eating the Darwin Lizards on the backs of cars are kind of funny.

7. Israel and the Middle East - Obviously, as a Jew, I'm pro-Israel, and relatively hawkish (see the "if you're going to play, play to win" riff on the war in Iraq, above). But really, that crazy Iranian president has a point... not the one about the Holocaust "myth," but the one about giving Israel land somewhere else. I mean, what idiot thought putting the Jews right in the middle of all the people who hate them was a good idea? Why couldn't we give them the northern half of Florida? They were all going to end up there anyway? (I once turned down a job in Florida partly because it struck me that I'd be the first person in my family who wasn't moving to Florida to die.) And why not the whole state? Well, the southern half would be for the Cubans. What about Arizona? Or New Mexico? Does anybody really notice what happens in those states? I mean, they're hot, desert, full of ancient wonder (like the Grand Canyon). Give them to the Jews. Presto! Instant world peace!

8. Political correctness - Like you can't tell? Firmly opposed. I'm a proud member of the Politically Incorrect News Team, est. 1995. I really do hate radicals, on both sides, and the radical left has this thing about not offending anybody about anything. Whereas, I'll offend anyone if it'll get a laugh. I once worked in college with a girl who was - literally - African-American. She was very into her African heritage (she eventually went to Ghana, I think), and she once asked me if I had studied my Vietnamese heritage. I thought about it for a second and then said, "Sure. I've seen 'Platoon,' 'Hamburger Hill' AND 'Full Metal Jacket.'" Never seen a black person turn white before. But she was that horrified. Hey, when you're a Vietnamese Jew, you're a walking menace to the PC police. Deal.

9. Gay marriage - I think at the least, there should be civil unions, or whatever they're called. If you sign a form that says you're life partners or whatever, you deserve the benefits. And really, this "sanctity of marriage" crap gets on my nerves. If I were in Congress, and I heard them talking about an amendment to ban gay marriage because of the "sanctity of marriage," I'd get up and say, OK, listen, anybody who's not divorced, never cheated on their wife, doesn't have an intern under their desk - you guys can vote for this "sanctity of marriage." The rest of you can drink a nice tall glass of Shut the Fuck Up. Well, I'd probably have to be a little more eloquent than that, but my God, that just bugs the hell out of me. These holier-than-thou people whose only good way of life is theirs. What happened to love thy neighbor, live and let live, let he who is without sin cast the first stone? (I know, I used that one already. Sorry. Same point, different subject.) Love has nothing to do with gender or sexual orientation. Why should some people in love deserve anything less than others? Because, as some wingnut once said, "God hates fags"? God hates assholes, too, I'll bet, and they're allowed to marry. Otherwise, Dick Cheney wouldn't have a lesbian daughter.

10. The "culture of life" - More right-wing crap. Jon Stewart said when George W. Bush was governor of Texas, he signed a bill that allowed hospitals to pull the plug on vegetables when their insurance ran out. This is the same guy who wants a Constitutional amendment or something to save one vegetable in Florida? Hypocrisy! I call "bullshit!" I'm in favor of dying with dignity. Not so sure about assisted suicide, but then, why not? I'm on record as telling people if I'm ever a vegetable, they can pull the plug. Just make sure I'm not going to wake up and recover first, eh? Life is not as sacred as fundamental human decency. Not one life, anyway. Certainly not the shell of a life. Anyway, ten's a good round number, so this is it for now. End of rant.

11. Gun control/hunting - Screw it, this one goes to 11! I thought of another fun hot-button topic. They just finished Big Bear Hunt #2 in New Jersey. And I'm cool with that. I believe in gun safety education. I believe people should be allowed to have handguns and hunting rifles - with licenses and waiting periods and education. I'm opposed to automatic weapons. Face it, if you want to hunt, you know when hunting season is. Buy your gun seven days ahead of time. And if you've been convicted of a felony, you don't get a gun. You don't get to vote, either, so deal with it. As for automatic weapons, well, heck, if you need an AK-47 to shoot Bambi's mother, you're not a real hunter. I could shoot a deer with an AK-47. And hey, regular people shouldn't have bigger guns than the COPS. That's how criminals kill police officers. That's BAD. And any self-respecting, law-abiding gun owner should be able to follow the rules and not have to worry or feel like he's missing out on something. Learn to use it so you don't accidentally shoot your kids. Wait a week, it might keep some other idiot from shooting his wife on impulse and ruining it for everyone else. Go hunting, and keep the goddamn bears off the goddamn Interstate. Yes, I saw a freakin' bear on I-78 once. To me, that means there's too many of them. Now... end of rant!

There you have it. Some random samplings of my political thoughts, for posterity. Discuss amongst yourselves. Or post a comment if you want to hear more, or want a particular answer.

And remember, especially if you're one of my superiors at work, I'm just screwin' around here, having some fun, and establishing a track record for when they pass the Schwarzenegger Amendment and I can run for President. That's one Constitutional amendment I could get behind. Ace in 2012!

(Notice how, after a year and change of the Governator, no one talks about Arnie for President anymore? Or "Terminator 4," for that matter.)

• No links today. This post is all about me!

Monday, December 12, 2005

Munkee happenstance

My latest food network addiction is the show "Challenge," which is on Sunday nights and features cooking competitions.

I used to be an "Iron Chef" addict, but eventually I got tired of it... it lost its place in my heart to "Trading Spaces."

But anyway, now I watch "Challenge," which features everything from barbecue contests to cake-making and -decorating.

So on the holiday cake challenge, which repeated this Sunday night, there was a competitor named Elisa Strauss, out of New York City.

I recognized her, not just because her name is Strauss (same as mine), but because she had been a competitor before, in the birthday cake challenge - when she made a cake that was...

A sock monkey!

See, I'm not the only Strauss who thinks monkeys are cool.

But she didn't even place at the birthday cake challenge. I was disappointed. And so was Mookie, my stuffed munkee, who often watches TV with me.


She did win the bronze at the holiday cake challenge! I was very happy for her, and for another competitor, Michelle Bommarito, who just imploded at the wedding cake challenge, but won the silver at the holiday cake contest with an absolutely gorgeous cake.

Anyway, I thought I'd share this as cool random monkey happenstance of the day.

Food Network's "Challenge"
"Iron Chef," the Japanese version: "Allez cuisine!"
Elisa Strauss of Confetti Cakes, NYC
See the sock monkey cake here! Yay!
Michelle Bommarito, of Detroit

By the way, the other day, I was at the Short Hills mall, and apparently Food Network star Rachael Ray was there signing her cookbooks. I didn't even know she could cook, since the only show I'd ever seen her on was "$40 a Day," where she eats at restaurants and stuff. But apparently, she's superpopular. My parents and some friends said she's like A-list Food TV. And at the mall, there was a huge, HUGE line. And I was at the mall for like three hours and when I left the line was just as long as when I first saw it. Yeesh. Anyway, coincidentally, I caught one of her other shows the other day, and she really is hyper - and kind of annoying. She calls extra virgin olive oil E-V-O-O. Girl has had way too much caffeine. Cute, perky, talks with her hands, can cook a whole holiday dinner in an hour. Hell if I know.

R-R-R-L (that's Random Rachael Ray Links):
Rachael Ray
A defense of Rachael Ray, who apparently needs it...
...perhaps from this
Every Day With Rachael Ray, a magazine that rhymes

Saturday, December 10, 2005

The boy inside the man

I read this essay in my local paper - no, I can't vouch for how long the link is up - and it really struck a nerve.

It's about a man who reads a fantasy story to his little girl and then worries that her "real world" won't be nearly as impressive as her fantasy one.

My psychologist told me once that I understand the difference between fantasy and reality - which makes me sane - but that I prefer fantasy.

And I suppose it's true.

I mean, I'm an adult. And if I wasn't bar mitzvah'ed into becoming a man, I suppose I became a man a few years later, with some bad sex in a dark basement. I have a job, a house, a car. And believe me, if you're an adult, you know it every time you open the mailbox to face another bill.

Can you see why this world is drudgery? I get up, I get dressed, I brush my teeth and take some pills, I drive to work. I work all night. I drive home. I eat something, watch TV, shower, and go to sleep. Repeat. Day after day. After day. After day.

And yet, I can see the wonders of the world - sometimes I have to really try, but I can. I can take a certain joy in little things, and not just an extra wing from Hooter's or whatever, but simple joys. Snow falling. A sunny day. A pretty girl. A fancy car. Getting something accomplished. Most recently, hand-cutting a key to open a pin tumbler lock. My thumb has finally stopped hurting, three days later, but damn it, the lock opened! Yay!

But I do wonder what is so wrong with at least appreciating fantasy. I think of stories every night when I lie in bed, I dream every night when I'm asleep. I can still stare at the dinosaur skeletons and dioramas at the Museum of Natural History with a child's wonder. I can still stand in the Lego store at the Bridgewater Mall and stare. And think about my checking account balance, depressingly.

I've been to enough movie cons that I've seen old "Star Wars" toys for sale at extravagant prices. And once, I found myself thinking about how much money I could have made if only I'd kept all my toys in the boxes ("Mint In Box").

What a lousy childhood I'd have had. Those toys were my world - those "Star Wars" toys and G.I. Joes became a universe of joy. Hours upon hours. I make a good hourly wage, and I don't think the price I'd get for those mint toys would fit the bill.

But the thing is, those are some of the happiest memories of my life. The day I plowed Darth Vader's star destroyer into the Death Star a la "Return of the Jedi"... well, somewhere there's probably a toy merchant weeping at the thought.

Screw him.

That was an epic adventure to end all epic adventures.

I don't want to give that up. I want to loose my imagination, not lose it. That's why I write, that's why I watch escapist movies and read escapist books.

Because my psychologist is right. I do prefer fantasy. There's nothing wrong with the real world, but it's limited. It's limited by so many practical things.

My mind is unlimited. I love that. I love to dream, even when I'm awake.

"Star Wars" toys
G.I. Joe toys
And a random essay on fantasy vs. reality that doesn't quite apply

This weekend, I go Christmas shopping. If I don't come back, call my folks.

Friday, December 09, 2005

I sent it where?

Considering I've only ever had two packages get lost in the mail (knock on wood), one coming and one going, I've had pretty good luck with the Postal Service.

At least, with stuff I would blame them for.

On the other hand, I don't always have the best luck with mail when it ISN'T the fault of those fine, heavily armed men and women in blue.

Today, I'm wearing a sweater/sweatshirt thing my parents brought me back from Alaska, cheerfully emblazoned "AK - Alaska."

It's probably their way of reminding me of my postal misadventures.

When I was a college senior, I was applying for jobs in journalism just about everywhere.

I got one offer. About three weeks before graduation. And seeing as how I was supposed to get married back then, I took it immediately.

"Don't you want to know what it pays?" the Easton Express-Times' news editor asked.

"No. That's OK. I'll take it."

"Are you sure."

"Well, why don't you tell me."

He told me. It wasn't much.

"OK," I said, "I'll take it."

"You don't want to think about it at all?"

"Well, OK, let me think about for a couple of days, then I'll call you back and say yes."

I hope this gives you some idea how desperate I was... a would-be sportswriter winding up on a news copy desk.

Anyway, I'd sent out another resume, earlier in the process, to a place whose ad for a sports-desk-of-one described it as "Ketchikan, AK."

How bad could it be to work in Arkansas, I figured. Yeah, it's the Deep South, but hey, a job's a job.

About three days after I put it in the mail, it dawned on me that "AK" isn't the postal code for Arkansas.

Michelle was aghast. "You applied WHERE?"

My father gleefully informed me Ketchikan, Alaska, gets more rain than Seattle, depends on the fish cannery for its industry and is on an island you have to get to by boat.

And wouldn't you know it, they called. Gave me a phone interview and everything.

I suspect one reason I didn't get the job was I wouldn't commit to three years there, which they were asking candidates to do. I offered two and a half years, the amount of time until Michelle was supposed to graduate from college.

They posted the ad again in six months. Guess whoever they hired didn't like the rain. Or thought they were headed to Arkansas.

The United States Postal Service
The Express-Times, which hired me
Visit Ketchikan, AK. Bring an umbrella
Arkansas, which, like Stewie, goes by "AR"

For the curious, the two packages I lost were a bunch of used DVDs I mailed to a reseller, which cost me about $125, and a cookbook my parents mailed to me, which had more sentimental value than monetary value and was easily and cheaply replaced via eBay.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Let it snow, yes or no?

So it finally snowed in New Jersey over the weekend, and it's apparently going to snow again tonight - which should make my drive home a living hell, as usual.

I have mixed feelings about snow.

On one hand, it's a royal pain in the ass to drive in. I paid extra for a FF car (that's front engine, front wheel drive, for you non-"Gran Turismo"-players) with antilock breaks and traction control in part because I was tired after years of sliding all over the road in my FR mini-Mustang.

But even that FF doesn't mean much in Jersey weather. It mostly means I can actually GET home, just slowly and at the cost of added white in my hair (and I don't mean snow or dandruff) and an increase in my blood pressure, which is otherwise doing quite nicely, thank you.

On the other hand, I don't mind the cold, and I don't mind being snowed on. I kind of enjoy it, if it's nice, fluffy snow or light flurries, and not that heavy, crappy kind.

And some of my fondest memories involve the snow in some way.

The first time I ever appeared in a newspaper wasn't a byline, in fact, it was a picture of me as a little tyke, crashing off my sled (one of those big red saucer-discs) on the hill across the street from my house. The one my mother always worried I'd go spinning off into the road.

I should say I only did once. And of course, it was right into the path of a car. Which, fortunately, was going slow enough to easily avoid a small bundled-up Asian and his out-of-control saucer.

My mother probably still has that newspaper clipping somewhere. (Hey, I was a cute little kid. No, I don't know what happened. Puberty, I suppose, which ruined my complexion, and Domino's, which went on the college meal plan and ruined my waistline.)

Then there was the freshman-year weekend, years later, with Michelle at college, the one and only time in my life I've ever REALLY been snowed in somewhere. That was when I learned that the warmth of holding someone you love close to you is the single best feeling in the world. Yes, better than being drunk. Better than sex. Better than victory. No matter what parts of our relationship can and should fade, I can still feel the warmth of her body curled up against mine, the smoothness of her skin. Curled up on some cheap-ass dorm bunk, watching the snow fall through this tiny little window, just in love and never wanting to let go.

Another snow day in college was a Sunday during my freshman year. I worked at the school paper, a weekly, and we did our production on Sunday. One of the deals we had was with Papa John's, which brought us pizza in exchange for ad space. A great deal, except the weekend they brought 10 Hawaiian pizzas (ham and pineapple, if you've never tried it, and I recommend you never do). Ick.

But anyway, that weekend, Papa John's wasn't delivering. I don't blame them. There was probably a foot of snow on the ground - remember, in Pittsburgh, it's always raining. Lower the temperature, and presto!

So Chris Restifo and I drew the task of wading to the only place that was open, the Subway on Craig Street, about a half-mile away. A breeze in the spring. Not so much in the summer. Chris had quit the fraternity I had joined, years earlier, so I didn't know him well, and most of what I knew I'd heard third-hand, in a negative way. But I liked him, and we really had a sort of bonding experience on the trip. Was nice to get to know someone and be pleasantly surprised. And Lord, whomping through that snow may be as close to polar exploration as I ever get. Though I hope not.

And that makes me think we could've used some dog sleds, but that's not the point.

Speaking of dogs, this brings me to one more fond snow memory, and it's a Morgan one.

Morgan, as I've mentioned, was a dachshund, and therefore what I'll charitably call low-slung. And he hated hated hated (to quote another low-slung kind of critter, Roger Ebert) to get his tummy wet.

So walking him in the snow or rain was an adventure. He never got very far and was eager to run for home. He could dodge puddles, and mostly stay out of wet grass, but in any snow more than about an inch and a half deep, he was in trouble.

So he'd hop. Like a bunny, with his back arched and tummy sucked in, back paws to front paws to back and so on, trying desperately and futily to stay dry.

(Is futily a word? I don't know and I don't edit on this blog. Futile-ly.)

And he actually would look miserable the whole while. Very expressive dog.

I still love to watch the snow fall. And I get a kick out of watching the guys who plow the driveways in my complex run their little Bobcat around, popping it in circles and stuff. Hey, I pay for that, and it keeps going up, so I'm entitled to watch and laugh. It so looks like a toy.

Well, I'll think happy thoughts about snow now. I'll be swearing at it in a few hours as I literally sweat my drive home, no matter the temperature.

All About Snow
Front-wheel drive vs. rear-wheel drive
Why RWD beats FWD, an opinion piece
Domino's Pizza
Papa John's Pizza
Carnegie Mellon...
... and its newspaper
What Roger Ebert hates
And something I hate

And yeah, I'm a cold-weather person. I'm surrounded by co-workers who are always cold, and I'm always hot. Hey, if you're cold, you can add layers. If you're hot, there's only so much you can take off, unless you're on a beach in France or at a nudist colony.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Cleanliness is next to Godliness

In one of life's questionable ironies - questionable in terms of itself, and whether in fact it's ironic at all - I find myself cleaning up both before and after my cleaning ladies visit.

Yes, I pay someone to clean my house.

Two reasons: 1. I don't clean bathrooms. Ick. 2. I think cleaning is a job best handled by professionals, in terms of hygiene, actual cleaning, etc.

OK, three reasons: 3. Laziness.

In my (weak) defense, I do actually enjoy doing many household chores, including vacuuming. I just don't have the time, energy or real desire. Plus, like I said, there's something vaguely comforting about the thought that professionals are cleaning the house.

But that's not the point. The point is, I clean. Right before they arrive, and right after they leave. Which strikes me as odd.

Why before? Well, I am this sort of schizophrenic/bipolar slob/OCD person. Half my house has everything EXACTLY - and I mean EXACTLY - where I want it, and the other half is a raging mess.

So I clean up the messy part. Two reasons: 1. It's kind of embarrassing. Bad enough strangers see the bathroom - which is not disgusting or anything, but hardly a model of sparkly clean. But I don't need to be reminded of the pile of dishes in the sink, the empty cans/bottles on the counter instead of the recycling bin, etc. 2. I do this sort of sweep-and-clean mission about once a week anyway. No time like the present.

Why after? Well, that's the half for the OCD person, rather than the slob. Like I said, for some reason, I want some things right where they should be.

Part of me suspects it's because I'm generally depressingly disorganized, so I keep some stuff just so, so I can find it.

But I'm like this with everything. My day planner is a wild mass of lines, stuff scratched out, arrows, etc. On the other hand, I have a day planner I write so much crap in, I need lines, arrows and scratches to fit it all.

At work, when I book the section (lay it out), I've got a ton of papers scattered all over my desk. On the other hand, that's how I can tell what stories are in, what stories I need and what goes where.

I have three bookshelves' worth of books crammed full of paperbacks, hardbacks, trades, borrowed, owned (maybe even stolen?) in one room. And my LE hardbacks displayed lovingly between my monkey bookshelves on the coffee table. Big monkey sit. Little monkeys puuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuullllllll!

Mind you, I also have one bookshelf full of Civil War books organized by subject, chronologically. See what I'm getting at?

Back a little closer to point, when the cleaning ladies leave (no, I don't really know their names. I know, that's terrible. But they're here once a month, very early in the morning, and they don't speak English very well and I don't speak Spanish, and I know that's not really an excuse, but the point is, we don't talk much other than "hi!" and "bye!" and "thanks!" and I'm sure they've told me and I've just forgotten - it used to be a different group every month, which didn't help, but these two have been my regular crew for a while now. I don't know if they know my name, either, except that it's probably on the appointment book, and on my check)... well, that really roamed far afield from cleaning into guilt.

When they leave, I clean. Because they move stuff around. I mean, they have to, it's not like it's their fault. But it's not quite where I want it, and sometimes it's not even close to where it was before they cleaned. It's not like I want my toothbrush exactly six centimeters from the sink in the master bathroom. But it would help if it's actually somewhere in the vague vicinity of the sink, since that's where I brush my teeth. Or you know, if they knock a piece off one of my various decorative toys, I put it back, so I don't lose it or it doesn't get vaccuumed next month.

On the other hand, I really have no excuse for why I move all the picture frames around and stuff after they go. I think it's just part of my chemical imbalance or something. Not that chemical imbalance, the other one.

Well, off to straighten up downstairs. And then, nap time. Did I mention they get here WAY too early in the morning?

"Is Cleanliness Next to Godliness?," an article from
Maid For You, Bridgewater, N.J.

I've sat here for six minutes trying to think of something witty to write here. But I just keep yawning. Sorry.