Thursday, December 16, 2004

Stalking the White Elephant


Just in case you were curious, I looked up why a white elephant gift is called a white elephant, I looked it up on the Web:

white elephant

An unwanted or useless item, as in The cottage at the lake had become a real white elephant--too run down to sell, yet costly to keep up, or Grandma's ornate silver is a white elephant; no one wants it but it's too valuable to discard. This expression comes from a legendary former Siamese custom whereby an albino elephant, considered sacred, could only be owned by the king. The king would bestow such an animal on a subject with whom he was displeased and wait until the high cost of feeding the animal, which could not be slaughtered, ruined the owner. The story was told in England in the 1600s, and in the 1800s the term began to be used figurative
ly.

white elephant
n.

    1. A rare, expensive possession that is a financial burden to maintain.
    2. Something of dubious or limited value.
  1. An article, ornament, or household utensil no longer wanted by its owner.
  2. An endeavor or venture that proves to be a conspicuous failure.
  3. A rare whitish or light-gray form of the Asian elephant, often regarded with special veneration in regions of southeast Asia and India.

That being said, after our office White Elephant exchange, I decided I should go into business selling people White Elephant gifts for family and office exchanges, because I never seem to run out of them. And my White Elephant gifts seem to be a hit in an “I can’t believe anyone ever owned one” kind of way.

It would be a great way to get rid of all of the crap I’ve accumulated. Ebay hasn’t proven to be as an efficient and lucrative trash disposal unit as I’d hoped. I did look up whiteelephant.com to see if it was taken and of course it was. Domain names are the beanie babies of this generation. Everyone buys them thinking they’ll be able to sell them for a profit. Yeah…

Anyway, happy holidays and let me know if you need any white elephant gifts. But I’m not parting with the mechanical monkey.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Frankly, my dear...


I only have one more day of work and then I'm on vacation for two weeks. It makes a big difference in how I view my day to day work environment. Rhett Butler just about said it all, when he said, "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn."

Tess and I are going on a Caribbean cruise. It is her birthday present. And we are going to have fun. And I'm not thinking about work the entire time. I may even turn off my Blackberry when I'm on the beach.

This is actually my 13th cruise in less than ten years. I kind of like them. We went on an Alaska cruise in July. It just wasn't the same as a tropical cruise. Laying out on the deck under a blanket drinking a cold beer just doesn't cut it.

Oh, I know what you are thinking, only old people cruise and the ships are full of fat people salivating over the next buffet, but that's only half true. I look at it as a resort that travels with you. And it's a pretty darned good value when you think about it...food, lodging and entertainment rolled into one. Plus where else do you get the opportunity to wear a tux.

Regardless, I think this will be one of our best vacations ever. So, Bon Voyage and pass the sunscreen.

Monday, December 06, 2004

My roots are showing...

It began in Boise when we were visiting my 79-year-old mom over Thanksgiving. She started pulling out important papers she wanted me to know about. In particular, she wanted to show me that she had prepaid for her funeral arrangements, i.e. her cremation. My mother doesn’t want a funeral. It’s a tradition she started with my father’s mother. The H****’s don’t have funerals because my mom doesn’t believe in death. She is a Christian Scientist, but that is another story.

In the process of pulling out papers mom pulled out copies of her birth certificate and my father’s birth certificate. That led to a conversation about my father finding out he was adopted when his mother died in 1974. My father was 59 at the time. He learned about being adopted from some distant relatives who wrote him and said something like, “and by the way, did you know you were adopted.” And though my father wrote to the courts in Portland, Oregon, where he was born, they only confirmed that he was adopted and that there was no record of his natural parents.

At the time, I was 16 and the news hit me hard. I had grown up being proud to be a H**** and Irish. I was born the day after St. Patrick’s Day, but always celebrated my birthday on the 17th. In one fell swoop, my heritage was ripped away from me. To my chagrin, all I had left was my mom’s side of the family—the Clark’s. No offense to all of the Clark’s out there, but no one wants to be one of a million Clark’s. And no offense to my mom’s family, but my maternal grandfather seem to have one particular skill and that was fathering children. My mother had 12 brothers and sisters. And my grandfather died relatively young at 47 leaving, I imagine, my grandmother very relieved and very tired.

But the discussion about my father’s parentage did trigger something in me. I didn’t really know anything about my roots. I copied the birth certificates mom had and a couple of other bits of information that would help me and determined to begin researching my family once I got home.

Ok, I have new found respect for Alex Hailey for tracing his roots back to Kunta Kintay without the Internet. It must have been a major bummer. Because once you start digging for relatives, you discover there is one hell of a lot of data out there. Fortunately, the Internet now offers a relatively easy way to access work that other people have already done organizing it. I started, of course, with Google and searched for “free family tree searches.” That turned up quite a few sites that promised free searches before they tried to sell you the free information. Much of it was indeed available elsewhere for free.

But weeding out the many pay sites (all of whom seem to have some kind of connection to Ancestors.com) I finally found a couple of places where I could type in some basic information and begin my search. I’m especially grateful for the Mormon Church and its unexplained desire to keep track of everyone’s families. I may not agree with their religion, but they have a particularly good database online that contains tons of information.

I decided to start with my father’s adopted parents and in particularly his adopted father—Eugene Chester H****. Born in Iowa in 1871 or 1872, he eventually made his way to Portland, married my adopted grandmother, Walburga L*****, in 1908 and then adopted my father – Eugene Arthur H**** at age four in 1919. My first discovery was that Eugene Chester had stopped in Kansas City along the way and married Mary Etta Davis in 1892. They fathered one son, Chester F. who died in 1920.

So, I started tracing Eugene Chester’s roots further. His father was Chester H****. He was born in Quebec. The name Chester seems to be an unfortunate legacy on that side of the family. Chester’s father Justin moved to Quebec from Vermont. He was the one who took the family to Iowa. Justin’s father was John H****. He was born in Rehoboth, Bristol Co., MA in 1760. John’s father was Ithamer H**** (I can see why Chester was the preferred name to pass along). He was also born in Rehoboth, Mass in 1727. His father was Henry H****, also of Rehoboth, Mass. He was born in 1695.

Henry’s father Paul H***e* (note the dreaded extra “e” in the surname) was born in in Cambridge, Mass in 1664. His father was William H***e*. William was the immigrant of the family. Ok, I finally found when the H****’s had left the old Sod of Ireland and came to this country. Except much to my dismay, William didn’t come from Ireland. He was born in Cornwood, Devonshire, England in 1612 or 1613. This couldn’t be true…H**** is an Irish name, right? But William’s father, also a William, held the missing piece to the puzzle. His name wasn’t H****, it was Hele, an old English name dating back to Norman times. He was also born in Cornwood, Devonshire, England around 1587. Apparently William Hele’s son, William decided to modernize his last name when he sailed to the New Country.

That was it. Any trace of Irish heritage was now truly dashed. The plus side is that my father being adopted didn’t wipe out my green, shamrock roots. They never were there to begin with.

I’m now left with my mom’s side of the family. And I’m hoping for something better than the name of Clark to restore my now shattered lineage.

But that’s another blog or blogs.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

An open question for the airlines

Here’s a math problem for you:

A typical Boeing 727 holds about 189 passengers. You can seat one passenger per seat. How many seats can you sell per flight?

This is a trick question apparently. The airlines seem to think the answer is 300 tickets. Their computers like to play some sort of airline version of Russian Roulette and sell many more seats than an airplane has in hopes that enough people will pay and not show up so they will have room on the airplane for everyone at the gate.

It is a mystery to me why the airlines overbook flights. I can understand reserving a few seats for people bumped from other flights. But I don’t understand overbooking a flight.

We went to Boise for Thanksgiving. The flight there was uneventful. Security wasn’t bad. We ended up with two hours to kill before the flight. The trip was fun. It was good to see my family. There were no political or religious discussions. My niece and nephew still talk to me despite the fact that they are rapidly approaching teenagedom.

We dropped off the Dodge Magnum the car rental person had convinced me to rent. It looked like a souped up hearse, but it was kind of fun to drive. We had checked in online so all we had to do was drop our bags off. That’s when the first ticket agent asked us if we were willing to give up our seats. “Give up our seats, why?” I asked. She gave me that smile that loosely masks disgust that airline employees have perfected and said, “The flight is overbooked and we are looking for volunteers to give up their seats and take a later flight. We’ll give you free tickets for anywhere Alaska or Horizon fly if we bump you.”

There it was, the free ticket offer. The catch….there was no guarantee when that later flight would be. We had tickets to Sunday’s Seahawk game and Tess had to be back to teach on Monday. We declined the offer and proceeded to the gate.

Well, they must have really been overbooked because the ticket agents at the gate were doing the hard sell over the loudspeakers. They were pleading with people to give up their seats and accept free tickets, hotel rooms, food. I was waiting for them to offer free pony rides.

Call me jaded, but a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush really applies to airline flights around the holidays. We watched the agents lure college kids up to the counter and coax them with free flights to Cancun and Cabo San Lucas. They found their victims and the rest of us waited for our delayed flight. Because the other mystery of the airlines are flight delays. They are based on the airlines own little chaos theory. Because all of the delays this Thanksgiving were apparently caused by snow in Reno. Oh my God, snow in Reno! That’s as rare as rain in Seattle. But apparently they had a little bit of trouble with radar equipment at the tower that lands planes. And our flight attendant told us they ran out of the liquid they use to de-ice planes. Bottomline was the plane on our flight was delayed in Reno on its way to Seattle before it came to Boise to return to Seattle.

Anyway, we got on the plane an hour and a half late and it didn’t look overbooked (apparently they got quite a few volunteers). The flight from Boise to Seattle is barely an hour. So, all and all, we spent almost four hours in the airport to make an hour flight to Seattle. I guess it beats driving 9 hours and dealing with mountain passes.

But back to my original question to the airlines: Why can’t you simply sell the number of seats you have on the airplane and leave it at that? Wouldn’t it make everyone’s lives easier?

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Le Bois, Le Bois

Tess and I are flying to Boise tomorrow night to spend Thanksgiving in my birthplace. It's become a tradition to have dinner at my brother's house. It's an opportunity to whittle away at the guilt I feel about rarely seeing my mother. It's also an opportunity torment my Republican brother and remind my niece and nephew how much they have grown.

Their growth is a object of major angst for me. I touch bases on their lives on an annual basis so I'm only privy to their growth phases in condensed doses. As babies they were just these odd fragile things that spit up disgusting stuff when I bounced them around on my shoulders. This has been a tradition in my family to have my nieces and nephews spit up on me. Not being a parent, I have never taken that in stride as a normal thing.

As toddlers, my niece and nephew were even more of a mystery to me. They were usually too shy to warm up to me until I was ready to return to Seattle. When they started getting a bit older, I started to really enjoy messing with their heads. It was fun being "weird uncle Tim."

But now my nephew is essentially a teenager and my niece is 12. I saw them in May at my oldest brother's fundmentalist Christian wedding in Rainier, Oregon. It was still fun to mess with their heads, but I noticed a change. They are shifting into teenage mode and I'm sensing they are fast approaching that point where they aren't going to want to spend any time with Weird Uncle Tim anymore when we visit. Next thing I know, I'll be in Las Vegas watching them being married by an Elvis impersonator and I'll really feel old.


Thursday, November 18, 2004

Stop me before I watch more reality television

I didn't mean to watch the Bachelor. I had set the TIVO to record LOST and had it record 30 minutes past just to make sure I got the entire episode. I didn't realize the Bachelor came on right after it. So there I was sitting on the barcalounger too lazy to stop the show after LOST ended and the next thing I know, I'm watching the Bachelor. I mean, it's like a train wreck, you just have to look. And then boom, the recording ended right before the jerk hands out his roses and I freaked. I had to know who he was keeping in the house and who was getting the boot. So I set the TIVO to record the Bachelor.

I'm so ashamed of myself. I mean, Tess and I end up watch a lot of crap like that at her house because she has basic cable and you just don't have a choice. We watch What not to wear and the occasional Fear Factor. It's that or the shopping channels, because basic cable is basic crap. But I have no excuse at my house. I have like 400 channels including every movie channel. And what do I end up watching but the Bachelor.

Though I did have a conversation the other day with a co-worker who confessed she and her husband watched a fascinating documentary the other night about how airlines handle luggage. So I don't feel quite as bad about my viewing choices.

What's really scary is when I find myself watching the Food Channel and realize I'm watching a show about extreme eating establishments where people are challenged to consume things like a 10-pound steak and all the trimmings in a hour and they don't have to pay for it. It's important for these people to avoid paying for that steak because they are going to need that extra money for the triple bypass surgery they are going to need down the line. The real sad thing is that I've seen this same program like five times.

It's kind of like watching the Travel Channel and realizing every week is Las Vegas Week.

So every now and then I try to watch something educational on the History Channel or the Discovery Channel. I was fascinated by the guys running around with metal detectors at the Little Big Horn recreating the battle based on the pattern of the bullets they found. But ultimately, I find history programs that debunk the myths of the past a real downer. The Custer's Last Stand documentary essentially concluded Custer and his men didn't actually stand anywhere. They heroically ran around like chickens with their heads cut off being methodically picked off by the Sioux. Not that I blame the Sioux. Custer just didn't seem to know how to deal with a situation in which the enemy was not a bunch of unarmed, sleeping women and children.
History just isn't pleasant without the Hollywood spin that requires heroes and a happy ending.

But I'm not sure what I'd do without television. I scoff at people who say they never watch it. "What do you do," I ask. "Oh, we read and listen to music," they say. Give me a break. Turn the close-captioning on and you can watch television, read and listen to music.

Television isn't just entertainment anymore. It's a way of life. Even if it is just on in the background while you cook or do dishes, it provides that soothing sense of being connected to the world. If I didn't have television shows to talk about with the woman who cuts my hair, I'd sit there in awkward silence for 40 minutes because the Sopranos, Melrose Place, Desperate Housewives and Sex in the City are our common acquaintances.

Face it, we tend to know more about the lives of the fictional characters in our favorite television programs than we do about our own families. I couldn't tell you boo about my brother's lives other than one is a teacher and one is a born again. But I can sure tell you what Tony Soprano has been up to. For one thing, Tony Soprano's life is pretty darned interesting and I rarely talk to my brothers. When I do we just talk about the superficial things people who don't see each other very often talk about.

But don't get the wrong idea. I love my brothers. They just live in different states and different states of mind than I do.

And as usual, I digress. But all of this talk about my brothers and television has given me a great idea for a reality channel for families. Why don't they create a network where you can tune in and watch your own families lives? Could be an interesting way to stay on top of what they are up to.

Just a thought.



Wednesday, November 17, 2004

You can count on me

They finally counted my vote. After three phone calls and two promises to call me back, the elections commission told me that they had found the absentee ballot in question and it wasn't mine. They sent my provisional vote to be counted and the Web site now verifies that it has been accepted and counted.

But what if I hadn't pursued this? What if I'd just assumed my vote had been counted? And how many people had similar problems? I may be jaded about lots of things about this country, but I believe in the fundamental concept that everyone here has the right to vote. They may not exercise that right and they may not vote the way I would like, but they all have the right to vote. It shouldn't be the right to go through the motions and hope the ballot gets counted.

So I still feel unsettled by the experience. It's like some basic principle I've always believed in has been shaken. And it can't be justified by blaming it on human error and shrugging. There is a lot at stake in an election. Regardless of what you believe about politics and politicians, voting changes cultures and effects our lives. The people who manage elections have a responsibility the same way someone who works in an automotive factory or builds jet airplanes. There isn't room for human error. If you screw up in these situations, you affect lives.

You know, I normally try to be at least a little humorous in my rants. I try to see the absurdity in everything and relate to it appropriately. But I just don't see anything funny about this.

But I suppose there is a bright side to everything. Whatever crawled under my house and died in the crawlspace has deteriorated to the point that it no longer stinks. The flys are gone. The yellow jackets nest in my gutter has died for the winter, my house is painted, I have new windows, my new bathroom sink is almost installed (if not hooked up completely) and the roof seems to have stopped leaking since I had the new roof vents installed. And best of all, Tess loves me even though I never make my bed, can't fold laundry worth a damn and can't cook without leaving a mess.

So, to hell with my vote.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Conspiracy

Call me wacky, call me crazy, but I think someone voted absentee using my name. I told the proverbial "you" about going to the polls on election night and being told I'd registered to vote absentee. So I went through the "provisional" vote farse only to get home to find a letter from the election commission stating they didn't have a valid signature on file for me and I had to sign and mail back a form to them in order for my vote to count.

Okay, I assume it was all taken care of and just a typical government agency mired in bureacracy and making mistakes. Now I don't know. Yesterday someone dropped a note off at my door saying I was on a list of voters whose votes would be invalidated unless a valid signature was on file with the elections committee. This note was from the State Democratic Party office. The local governor's race is neck and neck and they want to make sure they get all the votes counted. I'd noticed on my Caller ID that I'd received a call from the Republicans the night before. I assumed it was about the same thing.

So I go to the elections commission Web site and enter my provisional ballot number. It tells me my vote was void since I'd voted absentee and my absentee vote had been counted. This morning I called up the elections office and the nice woman there agreed that "this was a problem." She put me on hold and then came back on and said someone would have to call me back.

I just find it too much of a coincidence that after being registered to vote in this state for 24 years and voting at the same polling place for 17 years, my signature would disappear, someone else would register for me to vote absentee and then someone would actually vote absentee in my name. I'm willing to bet they didn't vote Democrat, either.

It's a helpless feeling. You read about identity theft all of the time. But in this case, someone has stolen my right to vote. And I'm not one of those whiners who want to do the election over just because my candidate didn't win. What's at stake here is the very principal we've been taught our country never compromises: we have the right to choose by voting. If you don't vote you don't have the right to bitch. I voted. That vote was invalidated by a system that has broken down or by some ass who wanted his candidate to win regardless of the method.

So are there really any winners in this last election?

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Spambo strikes again!

Ok, I received another version of the spam letter from another country offering me loads of cash for nothing:

PLEASE SEND YOUR RESPONSE TO THIS EMAIL ADDRESS:mellamedbarukh@latinmail.com

Dear Friend, As you read this, I don't want you to feel sorry for me, because, I believe everyone will die someday. My name is MR Barukh Mellamed Crude Oil merchant in Iran,i have been diagnosed with Esophageal cancer . It has defiled all forms of medical treatment, and right now I have only about a few months to live, according to medical experts.

I have not particularly lived my life so well, as I never really cared for anyone(not even myself)but my business. Though I am very rich, I was never generous, I was always hostile to people and only focused on my business as that was the only thing I cared for. But now I regret all this as I now know that there is more to life than just wanting to have or make all the money in the world. I believe when God gives me a second chance to come to this world I would live my life a different way from how I have lived it. Now that God has called me, I have willed and given most of my property and assets to my immediate and extended family members as well as a few close friends.

I want God to be merciful to me and accept my soul so, I have decided to give alms to charity organizations, as I want this to be one of the last good deeds I do on earth. So far, I have distributed money to some charity organizations in Austra, cameroun, liberia,Algeria and Malaysia. Now that my health has deteriorated so badly, I cannot do this myself anymore.

I once asked members of my family to close one of my accounts and distribute the money which I have there to charity organization in Bulgaria and Pakistan, they refused and kept the money to themselves. Hence, I do not trust them anymore, as they seem not to be contended with what I have left for them. The last of my money which no one knows of is the huge cash deposit of fifteen million dollars $15,000,000,00 that I have with a finance/Security Company abroad. I will want you to help me collect this deposit and dispatched it to charity organizations. I have set aside 10% for you and for your time.

God be with you. MR Barukh Mellamed mellamedbarukh@latinmail.com
Here was my response:

Dear spammer:

I'm sick of receiving such poorly written letters from you people. So, I've taken the liberty of rewriting your piece of crap letter in real English that people can actually read. Please use it in the future and maybe you'll get a better response.

And can't you get a better job? There has to be a Starbucks or McDonald's somewhere in your country. Show some dignity man!

Your Friend


"Dear Friend,

As you read this, I don't want you to feel sorry for me, because, I believe everyone will die someday.

My name is Mr. Barukh Mellamed Crude Oil merchant in Iran. I have been diagnosed with esophageal cancer. It has defied all forms of medical treatment, and according to medical experts, I have only about a few months to live.

I have not lived my life particularly well. I never really cared for anything or anyone but my business. Though I am very rich, I have never been generous. I was always hostile to people and only focused on my business as that was the only thing I cared for (this is redundant by the way, so I'd probably delete it).

But now I regret all this. I now know that there is more to life than just wanting to have or make all the money in the world. I believe that if God gave me a second chance at life, I would live it very differently.

Now that God has called me, I have willed and given most of my property and assets to my immediate and extended family members as well as a few close friends. I want God to be merciful to me and accept my soul so, I have decided to give alms to charitable organizations. So far, I have distributed money to some charity organizations in Austria, Cameroon, Liberia, Algeria and Malaysia.

Now that my health has deteriorated so badly, I cannot do this myself anymore. Once, I asked members of my family to close one of my accounts and distribute the money to a charitable organization in Bulgaria and Pakistan. They refused and kept the money. So, I do not trust them anymore. They are not content with what I have left them.

The last of my money (which no one knows of) is a huge cash deposit of fifteen million dollars ($15,000,000) that I have with a finance/security company abroad. I want you to help me collect this deposit and distribute it to charitable organizations. I have set aside 10% for you and for your time.

God be with you.

Mr. Barukh Mellamed mellamedbarukh@latinmail.com"

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

I hate being a "provisional" voter

I don’t know if it was from sitting outside freezing at the Seahawks game, or the stress of the election, but I was as sick as a dog last week. I’m not sure why we single out dogs as a simile, but nevertheless, I was pretty darned sick. I tried being a trooper and going to work. But between the hacking, sneezing and major snot flow, I was treated as welcome as a leper at a Mary Kay Cosmetics party. That was last Tuesday. I was sick, but I had to vote.

I don’t believe in absentee voting. I like to get my ballot, go to a booth, make my decisions and then watch the ballot safely slide into the ballot box. At least then, I know it should be counted. Something about trusting my ballot to the US Postal Service is terribly frightening to me. Don’t get me wrong. I think the USPS does one heck of a job considering the volume they have to deal with, but every now and then, some things just slip off into a black hole somewhere at the post office and never make it to the intended destination. I mean, these are the same people who stopped delivering my mail for a week when the evil tree removers were removing my neighbor’s tree. They never did explain that to me. I believe the carrier was morbidly afraid of chippers.

But I digress.

I went to my neighborhood polling place (why do they always make you vote in elementary school gyms) and slyly slipped by the bake sale strategically positioned right outside the gym. Ok, there weren’t the major lines reported in many places, but it was busy. I go up to the table for my precinct and hand my registration card to the elderly lady sitting behind it. This same old lady has worked the table for the past 17 years since I’ve been voting here and not once has she been able to find my name in the registration book in less than 15 minutes. This is where I’m going to rant about using volunteers to work at polling places. I’ve got nothing against old people. Shoot, I’m rapidly approaching being an old fart myself. But why do the elections offices use them to monitor something as important as distributing and logging ballots. This particular old lady was not even pleasant in a grandmotherly way. She was old and bitchy. When she finally found my name, she snapped at me, “This says you’ve registered to vote absentee.”

Ok, I’m sick. I’m standing there with mucus dripping from my nose like a river and this bitchy old lady is staring at me like I’m a terrorist trying to scam a ballot out of her to vote democrat. I tense up and respond that there must be some mistake. She tells me I have to use a “provisional” ballot, hands me one and says to vote and take it to another table where a younger volunteer is sitting, sorting ballot stubs. I’m a bit confused, but I sit down at a table (all the booths were full, so I didn’t even get the dignity of voting in an actual booth) and mark my ballot. I take it to the volunteer at the “provisional” ballot table and tell her that I was told I was registered to vote absentee and given the “provisional” ballot. She acted put out that I was interrupting her stub sorting, but handed me an envelope and told me to fold the ballot, place it in the envelop and fill out a stub and then place everything in a third envelope. I asked her why I was listed as voting absentee when I never voted absentee. She just shrugged.

I proceed to fill out the stub for the ballot. It asks for basic info like name, address etc. and then asks for my voter registration number. I look all over my registration card and I’ll be damned if there was anything on it that resembled a registration number. I asked the woman which number it was. She frowns and takes my card. And damned if she could find a registration number, either. She said to go ahead and put the ballot in the envelope and she’d get my number later from the old biddy at the first table. I’m getting pretty agitated at this point. The envelope obviously was too small for the ballot. I did my best to shove it in and seal it. Snot is literally dripping onto the table and the woman was giving me dirty looks. I handed her the ballot and watched her push it aside. I have my doubts if it ever made it near a ballot box, but I was given part of the stub with a number and Web site where I could track its progress through the system. To date it hasn’t been counted.

But that is beside the point. Everything’s decided now and my “provisional” ballot isn’t worth a rat’s behind now. You’ve got to love the system.

So, I dragged my sick self home. Ironically, I open my mail and find a letter from the elections commission saying they needed a copy of my signature on file before they could verify my vote. I’ve voted in this state for 24 years, 17 of those at the same place and now they tell me they need a copy of my signature. Oh, and they needed to know my voter’s registration number, too. I xeroxed a copy of my registration card, signed their damned form and put it out in the mailbox, certain the USPS knows how I feel about them and won’t deliver it anyway.

Finally, I staggered to the barcalounger and turn on the tube. Much as I love my TIVO and satellite system, it is nearly impossible to actually find anything but movies and shopping channels. Curious as I was about the election, I went to bed without much knowledge about who was winning. I spent the next three days in bed even sicker than that much slandered dog. I didn’t really care how the election was going or where my “provisional” ballot was.

I’m a bit better now. I’m back at work and I know the election results. All I can say is that I’m glad it’s over and I don’t care if I never see another campaign ad or hear the results of another poll.

But, I think I’m going to go register to vote absentee. A friend of mine was registered to vote absentee and they sent him two ballots.

God bless America!

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Face it...


Think of all of the faces we all have (no this is not another koan about showing me the face you had before you were born or what is the sound of one hand clapping). If you live in a city of any size, you know what putting on a sidewalk face is. You know that you have to have a certain face available for riding public transit, a certain face when you are shopping at a mall, a certain face for work, a certain face for a job interview, a certain face for a date and yet another face when you look in the mirror. But which face is the real one?

The face I hate to put on the most is the one I have to wear if I’m at an event, trade show or presentation. That’s one reason I hate going to business conventions like the one I was at in Atlanta. There is nothing worse than my super fake face. I hate smiling unless something is genuinely making me happy.

Much as I love going on cruises, one of the most painful things about them is having your photo taken every ten minutes so they can coerce you into buying them. They are rarely very good photographers so you find yourself painfully holding a frozen smile for agonizing minutes before they snap the stinking photo. Often I catch myself automatically going into a Sears Catalogue model pose when the cruise photographers show up.

Many times I am tempted to buy cruise photos because they are so bad that I cringe at the thought of them being on display throughout the cruise. But in a way, the photo gallery on a cruise ship is part of the entertainment. Because, as you browse through other people’s hideous photos, you realize that perhaps you aren’t as ugly as you think you are.

Does that make me a bad person?

Dorian Gray had the right idea. Put on your best face, have a portrait done and then let the photo age and take on all the ugliness while you stay young and unblemished by time and experience.

As I write this, the mechanical monkey is staring at me and I realize that he has only one face. I guess it would be a bummer going through one life with one face (though I’d opt for going through life with one chin).

Maybe that is why the monkey always has that grimace on his face.

But at least I always know it’s his real face.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Ye Olde Curiosity Shop


There is a tourist shop on Seattle's waterfront that has always fascinated me: Ye Olde Curiosity Shop. Perhaps it is because it looks like my office. Or perhaps my office looks like the Ye Olde Curiosity Shop because of the stuff I used to buy from them. For example, the genuine shrunken head fashioned out of goat skin that is perched on my flashing plastic crow on a skull shown above is from the Curiosity Shop (the skull is actually from Big Lots...my favorite store when I am in the mood to buy useless, cheap crap that I usually end up immediately sending to Good Will). The head is pretty darned realistic looking. But if you go into the Olde Curiosity Shop, you can view real shrunken heads from the Amazon and two genuine mummies...Sylvester and Sylvia.

There's lots of weird stuff like that at the Olde Curiosity Shop. Problem is, it's pretty cramped and almost always full of tourists just dying to buy a t-shirt that says something about all the rain in Seattle. So, I don't really go there much anymore. I mean, after you've bought one shrunken head, what else is left.

Thinking back to childhood, I was always fascinated by weird stuff. My favorite part of field trips to the Idaho Historical Museum in grade school was this stuffed two-headed calf that they had. I thought that was pretty cool. I was never sure what it said about Idaho's history, but I think it had something to do with the dangers of inbreeding. I could have pretty much learned that lesson by looking at the way many of my cousins turned out. My mom came from a family of 13 kids and some of the younger ones pretty much showed what happened when you start scrapping the bottom of the DNA pool. And lord I have some butt ugly cousins.

But, I digress.

I've always figured I keep odd stuff around because they are conversation pieces. Essentially this means I spend a great deal of time explaining why I have a warthog skull on my coffee table. Oh, and that doughnut in the tape dispenser is just about nine years old. It was my own little experiment in mummification. Plus it is practical. I figure if push comes to shove in an emergency, dipped in a little coffee that sucker will be as good as new.

Nevertheless, as I get older, I find myself less drawn to collecting weird crap just for the sake of having it. One, the clutter is really getting to me and two, I don't want to end up like a friend of mine's aunt who collected tons of these porcelain figurines and would superglue them to shelves so they would be easier to dust and wouldn't fall over in the event of an earthquake. Of course, they discovered she had a brain tumor, so that could have contributed to that line of thinking in her case.

Oh well...

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Smile when you say that....



I can't carve a happy pumpkin. Tess carves happy, nice pumpkins. Mine have to be demonic. Because that is the point of carving a pumpkin for Halloween. They are supposed to be scary. They are supposed to frighten away the bad spirits. That's their purpose. Because Halloween is when spirits are supposed to be mucking about looking for a place to stay (kind of like relatives). To keep them from dropping by and staying, you turn of the heat and lights and put a bunch of scary jack-o-lanterns around to fright them (again, like you do with relatives).
Of course, the tradition in the old country was to use turnips. When people came to America, they realized that turnips were a pain to carve and pumpkins were in abundance. Thus, the carved pumpkin tradition.
But every year, Tess carves a pleasant pumpkin that grins at you nicely like the village idiot and you have to smile. But Tess is a teacher and doesn't like to frighten small children when they come begging for candy on Halloween. I carve evil looking pumkins because I'd just as soon answer the door with a chainsaw roaring and send the little mooches screeking away in their Harry Potter costumes and cute little Ladybug suits. Again, they are mocking the purpose of Halloween...to scare the bejeezus out of people. When I was a kid, it was some hideous zombie or werewolf. That's a Halloween costume.
It's this politically correct crap that is ruining everything. Heck, most schools don't even allow Halloween celebrations around here. The school system in Puyallup (yes, that is a town name in Washington...and yes it is pronounced the way it looks, like the sound you make puking...phewwwaalllup) banned Halloween costumes and celebrations because they didn't want to offend WICCIAN's...our modern day witches. I must forgive the people of Puyallup, though their idea of a good time is hanging out at the Walmart. They've just taken the Pacific Northwest desire not to offend anyone to a new and absurd extreme.
But as usual, I digress. I guess it is okay that Tess makes happy pumpkins and I carve evil ones. It all balances out. And we do make a lovely couple, don't we?

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

I meet therefore I am

Most of my day's are spent in meetings. This is particularily ironic because, I'm not a meeting type person. I don't like to get together and discuss things in groups or committees. I firmly believe that any great idea tossed up before a group for discussion is like unleashing a cute little baby seal on the ice in front of a bunch of crazed hunters with clubs. You can bet it's not going to be a pretty sight once they are through.

I suppose it would be different if you were in a group of people with similar intellectual capacity, common backgrounds and fairly reasonable attention spans. But this is rarely the case when you get more than two people together to hold a meeting. If you are lucky, someone will have prepared an agenda. This comes in handy, because once you've danced around each agenda item and blathered around them without resolution, you can at least put a little check mark next to it when the person facilitating the meeting says, "Let's come back to this item next week." This usually means that this is a "regular" or "ongoing" or "standing" meeting. And the first thing that is on the agenda of a standing meeting is "old business." So basically an ongoing meeting is like being stuck in Goundhog's Day (the Bill Murray movie...google it if you don't get the reference...I can only feed you so much information here).

The worst part about meetings are opinions. As I have pointed out in my diatribe on Epinions.com, the world is full of opinions and assholes and assholes with opinions. And meetings are like opinion conventions. And personally, I hate being asked my opinion, especially in a meeting. "What do you think about that, Tim," they ask. No one ever seems comfortable when I respond, "That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard." This is especially true if the opinion was spouted by a person at a higher pay grade than mine. Generally a person with a higher pay grade states opinions with more conviction than the other people at the table.

Meetings are often held to arrive at consensus. To some people, arriving at consensus is like achieving Nirvana (not the group). To me, arriving at consensus is admitting defeat and accepting mediocracy. Because arriving at consensus requires allowing everyone's opinion to shape the outcome of the consensus. To steal from an old saying, an elephant is a mouse built by committee and consensus.

Truly great things are not created by committees or consensus. Margaret Mitchell wrote Gone With the Wind without attending a creative writing class and having 15 other writers give her their opinion on how to improve on what went on to be a Pulizer Prize winning novel. It was her first and only novel (I know this because I visited the Margaret Mitchell house on my recent trip to Atlanta).

Michelangelo didn't rely on consensus to paint the Sistine Chapel (though the Pope did try to give him a few pointers here and there while he was painting it). When the apple fell on Newton's head, he didn't pull together a group of people to talk about it. He derived his theory about gravity on his own.

Oh, I know you are going to start pointing out great things created by groups. A single person didn't build the great pyramids. Though I imagine it was the consensus of the Pharaoh that made it happen. But this does make another point about consensus. The "committee" built the pyramids, but the Pharaoh got to be buried in it.

When it comes down to it, I guess I really don't like meetings because I'm not a team player. But then again, there is no Tim in Team.


Sunday, October 17, 2004

Mirror, mirror...


My last night in Atlanta I glanced in this mirror outside the elevators as you turned to go into the circular hallway. There was this funky wall sconce on the opposite wall that sent out this lines of light like a laser. Having just returned from dinner at the Hard Rock and infused with the uplifting light of the King's stain glass image, I decided to snap this self portrait with my digital camera. Of course, it's altered a bit with the help of software and a few accidental clicks of the mouse. I kind of like the results. Has that Erasurehead look I always try to achieve.
But it reminds me of standing on tiptoe as a kid trying to see my reflection in the toaster that sat on the kitchen counter. And when I could finally catch a glimpse of my own reflection in the mirror, I always felt a bit shocked. Because the face in the toaster was never the face I saw inside. As a boy, inside I always pictured my mature face and wondered who this boy was.
Now, as I age and look in the mirror, I still feel a bit shocked. Because now the face I see in the mirror is still not the face I see inside. Now as the lines on my face increase and my skin sags, I feel the younger face inside wondering who this stranger is staring back at me.
Reminds me of the koan: Show me the face you had before you were born.
Mirrors are odd that way.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Fried Green Blogs


This is the last day of the conference. Our badges are drooping. The consultants have largely packed up their booths and hospitality rooms and moved on to the next conference.

I've survived several mindnumbing sessions of people stating the obvious about the obvious.

Oh the awards...yes, we won three first place awards and two grand prizes. I have to admit I almost tripped my CEO getting up to the stage to accept them. For 15 minutes, all the world was right. The awards are packed in my bag already. They'll go with my other awards gathering dust next to the mechanical monkey.

I finally figured out why I keep going back to the Hard Rock (other than the lack of choices). I went there for lunch yesterday and finally noticed Elvis glowing down from a predominate stainedglass window. I felt at peace until my shrimp fajiitas came.

I ventured into a Durango Steakhouse last night. From the outside it seemed fine. Once inside I realized I'd stepped into the south's version of a Sizzler. I gave up red meat several years ago, but the temptation was too much. My Idaho roots burst through and I ordered crap. And damned if it didn't taste good. If I live in the South, I'd die in a couple of years from the fried stuff. But I'm traveling so it is ok. But Weston, my server, kind of smirked when I ordered the deep fried ice cream for dessert.

But at least I'm catching up on my current affairs here. I've watched several interviews with Mary Kay Lutirno, a documentary about Lorraina Bobbet and several more true crime stories. I miss my satellite and TIVO.

So, it's rise and shine early tomorrow and drag my bags on the train to the airport. It will be good to be home and see Tess. I've missed her most of all.

I wonder what the special is at the Hard Rock today?

Monday, October 11, 2004

The blog will rise again!

I will try and choke out this entry despite my tie. Let's just say this conference is confirming why I don't like conferences. I spent most of the welcoming reception dodging consultants who were trying to get my business card. I think they get paid by how many business cards they collect. I'm amazed, however, at my ability to to fake interest in an explanation of designing software to monitor lubricants for light rail cars.

I also had to talk one of the bartenders at the reception through how to make a bourbon and soda. He apparently was new at bartending and had never heard of bourbon and soda. When I explained that it involved "bourbon" and "soda" he looked very puzzled until I pointed out the correct bottle. He then threw Coca Cola into the glass and seemed very pleased with himself. I didn't have the heart to tell him it was supposed to be Club Soda. But then this is Atlanta where Coke came from. I wished the people in line behind me at the bar luck and darted for the food line. Let me tell you, there is nothing like pecan encrusted chicken tenders.

The four and a half hour flight was ok since I was able to upgrade to First Class on Delta (bless their southern hearts). It was that or battle with the unwashed masses in coach and pay extra for a sandwich. Though the great unwashed in First Class weren't much better. Nothing like businessmen popping off their shoes and parking their dirty feet on the bulkhead. Flying isn't what it used to be.

The hotel is ok. It's supposedly the tallest hotel in America and the view is kind of cool. I can see both the Hard Rock and the Hooters from my window. Though part of the Hooters sign is burned out and it reads "oters" at night. That cracks me up.

The three hour time difference threw me for awhile. By the time I was hungry the first night it was past 11 a.m. and the only thing available was late night room service. I've got to say, the people in Atlanta are very polite. There were very polite when I ordered a $12 plate of eggs, bacon and hashbrowns. I was polite, too when they brought eggs, french fries and no bacon. They were less polite when they brought the missing bacon.

Television is ok. Not my mega satellite system or TIVO. But I was able to flip back and forth between the National Geographic channel and a program about who built Stone Henge and a story on MSNBC about a convicted killer's last days on death row. I never did figure out who built Stone Henge (not the druids, despite their claims to the contrary), but the killer didn't get his last appeal. He did find Jesus, however.

I've eaten at the Hard Rock twice because I'm too embarrassed to go into Oters.

Fortunately the conference is a few blocks away from my hotel. You just have to weave your way through the Marta Station, Peachtree Center and a food court to get here. I haven't really seen much of Atlanta except for the cab ride in. At least I think it was a cab ride. The guy caught me outside of baggage claim and asked if I was looking for a cab. He looked real puzzled when I replied, "Why is one missing?" He offered to drive me to the hotel for a flat rate and proceeded to lead me back through baggage claim, up the escalator and into the garage. The cab didn't have any markings or a meter or radio dispatch. I sat in the back knowing he was going to drive me into the swamps outside the city, kill be and take my Blackberry. The religious music he was blasting on the radio wasn't much comfort. I figured it was just a ruse. Despite my fears, he did drop me off at the hotel and gave me a receipt. I still have my Blackberry (though I offered it to him).

I've tried walking around a bit, but I keep coming to the intersection of Peachtree and Peachtree and I give up. I have found the crackheads here much more polite than the crackheads in Seattle. They are very polite when they threaten you here. That southern hospitality, I guess.

Now I'm waiting for an award ceremony for some marketing projects I've worked on. Because lord knows, it's all about the awards.

Wish me luck. If I win, I may just go to Oters to celebrate.



Friday, October 08, 2004

To blog or not to blog

I've only been blogging for just over a month and already I'm starting to feel the nagging burnout. It's very similar to the way I felt after I got emersed in creating Disgraceland (the Web site) and had answered just one too many fan letters for Friz-Elvis, the Budgie King. I mean it starts out like fun and then I make the mistake of thinking I'm entertaining or worse yet, profound or provocative.

As the last bad guy Brandon Lee hunted down and killed for killing his wife in the Crow, "Sometimes I feel like a little worm on a great big hook." I was always fascinated by that movie for some reason. Maybe it's because Brandon Lee died making it and they still released it. The show must go on. Brandon Lee is one of the Bobbleheads in my "Bobblehead Rapture" photo.

But I digress.

Anyway, I leave tomorrow for a conference in Atlanta. I'm taking my laptop and I may or may not blog. One, I'm not terribly thrilled about the trip. I'll miss Tess and business trips have lost their thrill for me. Plus I hate wearing nametags and ties. And there is something about accomodations for business travelers that makes you feel like you are waking up in a cubicle.

Not too thrilled about flying dealing with the airport, either.

Tim-Elvis has the blues.

But I guess I won't think about it today. I'll think about it tomorrow, at Tara.

I feel an attack of the vapors coming on.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Cultivate your own garden

I always liked Voltaire. And I realize that it was satire when he wrote that the secret to happiness is to cultivate your own garden. But I really think he had a point. I should really know better than to talk about politics. I'll just confine my political self to muttering on the bus and stay out of other people's blogs.

There's no place like home.

Monday, October 04, 2004

My own theory of relativity

All theories must be backed up by a mathematical formula. So I'll just get that little formality out of the way:

PPBO=PN2

My theory is that the number of times people pass by my office (PPBO) is directly proportional to the number of times I am about to pick my nose (PN). And I'm not talking about about a digit to the knuckle up the nostril pick. I'm referring to the more casual, minor pick at something just to the edge of the nostril. More of a brush away than serious dig. I believe Seinfeld called it a "pick" versus a "dig." I just wanted to clarify this before you get the impression that I am crude and sit around blatantly picking my nose at the office. Everyone knows that should be reserved for the privacy of the home.

This formula can just about apply to anything in life that you subconsciously do that may not be construed as acceptable to do when you have company. Farting would constitute a subformula PPBO=FOL2 (people passing by my office proportion to the number of times I fart out loud). Scratching various body parts and having the boss walk by also is explained by this theory.

None of this should come as a surprise to anyone who read my blog about Fibonacci numbers. Everything in the universe is connected in some way. Oh, Einstein touted his "Every action has an equal and opposite reaction" and "Energy can neither be created nor destroy," and everyone thought he was a genius. The same "genius" would get so preoccupied by his theories that he would forget to go to the bathroom and crap in his pants. But I'm willing to bet someone always passed by his office door at the precise moment he would lighten his load, if you catch my drift and are catching on to my theory. So who is the real genius here?

And Thomas Edison with his "genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration." Give me a break. Real genius is coming up with ideas and having someone else make them work. Even better is having someone else come up with the ideas, make them work and you get the credit and money for them. Even Tom Sawyer recognized that.

Not to diss on Stephen Hawkin, but he may be able to explain black holes and the expanding and contracting universe, but can he put any of it to practical use other than write books about it that most of us read, nod and then go back to staring at our lava lamps? Now if he could harvest the power of the black holes and sell their naming rights to a major corporation, that would be something.

When you come down to it, we really don't appreciate genius. It makes us feel inadequate. Perhaps that is why we are more comfortable with people like Rain Man and Forest Gump. You've got to admire a slow but special person who can tell you how many toothpicks were dropped on the floor or be successful despite having the IQ of a parsnip. And that is probably the the best explanation for why GW is our president and is so popular. I swear that, as a kid, he played in the banjo scene from Deliverance.

But that's just my theory.




Sunday, October 03, 2004

Doing the claw

It's not in my astrological chart, but I have discovered a talent I have that seems to have remained dormant in me until that past couple of years. I am a veritable genius with a claw machine. If the Who had not have already written the Rock Opera Tommy about a pinball wizard, they would have written one about Timmy, the Claw Wizard.

If you don't know what a claw machine is, they are these carnival like games that you find near the door in many grocery stores these days. The glass case is filled with stuffed animals. The goal of the game is to manipulate a claw with a joystick to pick up one of the stuffed animals and manipulate it back to a chute so you can claim your prize. Sound simple? The road to the chute, as with life, is paved with many pitfalls. First, in many cases, the claw is pretty weak and opens easily. So even if you grasp the stuffed animal, it will easily open when the claw begins its ascent. Next, stuffed animals are soft and give way easily when grasped. And finally, even if you snag a stuffed animal, manage to lift it out of the pile of other stuffed animals, odds are it will strike another stuffed animal on the way back to the chute and you'll lose it.

Despite these odds, there is rarely a time these days that I walk away from a claw machine without at least one stuffed animal. It has become like chess to me without the pretense. I can walk up to a machine and size it up immediately as to which stuffed animals are ready to fall. Not unlike the kid in the movie Sixth Sense, I have a gift. He saw dead people and I see stuffed animals that are primed to fall to the claw.

But even with my gift, I am constantly beset with challenges to prevent me from walking away a winner. I think the Sugarloaf people (the ones who manufacture many of the claw machines) are on to me and have sent their own versions of the Terminator out to stop me. Suspciously enough, nine times out of ten the minute I start playing the machine, some ponytailed mental deficient with beer breath stops to watch and give me advice. "You ain't ever going to get that one...it's too smooth." Cast your gauntlet, geek. Nothing is too smooth for the Claw Wizard.

Then they send the hordes of little kids to watch. "Hey mister, can you get that one...I want that one." I can usually ignore them, but even a wizard has limits. I almost lost it in a Top Foods the other night when a five year old berated me for only being able to snag a Bert from Sesame Street and not winning him a freakish looking NBA bear. Near god that I am, I can only make the claw do so much.

But last night I was pure poetry. I walked away with a gorilla back pack, a Miss Piggy, a stuffed dog and a Bullwinkle. The guy with the ponytail was almost in tears. Greatness is so rare these days.

And what do I do with all of my prizes? Fortunately, Tess, my girlfriend, teaches 4th grade. To her students, I am a legend...an urban myth perhaps. But when Friday rolls around and they get to draw for prizes from the grab bag they all thank me.

"He's a claw wizard,
There has to be a catch,
Claw wizard's got such a supple wrist...."

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Bobblehead Rapture

The truth about blogs


Nothing should set off red flags in your gray matter like a headline that begins with "the truth about..." But for lack of anything else to write about, I thought I'd spout my own truth about blogs and blogging.

First, here is a nifty definition of a blog I found at http://www.marketingterms.com/dictionary/blog/

blog

Definition

blog
A frequent, chronological publication of personal thoughts and Web links.

Background

A blog is often a mixture of what is happening in a person's life and what is happening on the Web, a kind of hybrid diary/guide site, although there are as many unique types of blogs as there are people.

People maintained blogs long before the term was coined, but the trend gained momentum with the introduction of automated published systems, most notably Blogger at blogger.com. Thousands of people use services such as Blogger to simplify and accelerate the publishing process.

Blogs are alternatively called web logs or weblogs. However, "blog" seems less likely to cause confusion, as "web log" can also mean a server's log files.

So the term blog evolved because some lazy schmuck didn't want to type out "Web Log" and abbreviated it by typing "blog." Here's some news for you punks out there, writing is not for the lazy. Stop butchering the language and creating your cybertrash talk. You don't come across as cool, you come across as illiterate.

Now that we have gotten the definition out of the way (and my brief rant), let's really tell you the truth about blogs.

You won't get rich blogging. That's the word according to CBSnews.com. The article, "Blogs no Web of wealth," debunks that myth we all have that we will get wealthy by blogging. No shit Sherlock, forgive my French. I got news for them. I've already earned 27 cents by posting ads on my well-read blog. Can you say, "Financial Freedom?"

According to blogit.com, you can "publish, get read and get paid!" Actually, you have to pay them $5.95 a month to "publish, get read and get paid!" We all know who is getting paid in this transaction. Bottomline, don't write expecting to make money off from it. I have a perfectly good diploma I received that states I have a degree in Journalism. I don't regret having it, but it definitely wasn't a license to make money. Slapping up a blog about your latest pimple isn't the road to selling movie rights, either. Write because you like to and don't write to be read or to get rich.

If you need material for your blogs, I did find this cool site that should inspire you. It's better than most blogs I've read. Random thoughts is a site where people submit random thoughts that are displayed each time the screen refreshes. It's very entertaining for about 30 seconds (the average attention span on the Web. But it does drive home the fact that blogs are basically random thoughts strung together.

At least that's what the monkey told me.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

All the King's men


Elvis is a bit like Santa Claus. In certain cities, Las Vegas for instance, you can pretty much find him on every corner. It was that phenomenon that started down the path to study the mythology surrounding the King. Because damned if it ain't true, Elvis is everywhere.

To prove my point, my nephew recently got married at the Graceland Chapel in Las Vegas (it's the same place Jon Bon Jovi got hitched). Although the King didn't actually perform the ceremony, he did perform at the ceremony. And I know you're dying to see some wedding photos, so click here.

TCB.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

How many surrealists does it take to change a light bulb?


The answer is, of course, "the Fish." Get it?

I suppose not, but that has always been one of my favorite jokes, because, I am a Pisces. I am what the astrology world calls a double Pisces. I have a Pisces Sun and a Pisces Moon. If you know anything about astrology, you are probably wondering how I can possibly function? Well, if you must know, my Mercury is in Aries and Mars is in Aquarius. I believe that Venus is messing around in Aquarius, too.

Oh, and I was told by an astrologer that I also have a yode in my chart. This same astrologer also told me she had to stop looking at my chart because it was giving her a headache. I don't think that was a good thing...the yode or the headache.

Ok, you are probably looking up "yode" in the dictionary and thinking that I am just messing with you because the only thing listed there that is anywhere near "yode" in the dictionary is "yodel." And though I've been known to yodel on occasion, I don't believe it is caused by the position of the planets at my birth. A yode, apparently is an astrologically term for a rare pattern in a chart. I had it described to me as something akin to a "fickle finger of fate" pointing me at some cosmic thing in life that I was destined to do but probably will never figure out.

That sucks. I mean, I think it is true, because my entire life I felt there was some purpose I was supposed to serve but it was always dancing there in my peripheral vision just out of my perception.

Yet another astrologer told me I was destined to be a "social documentarian." At the time he told me that, I already had a journalism degree but was basically writing hack PR crap. I told him I wanted to be a novelist. He just shook his head and said in his thick mid-Eastern accent (which was pretty weird since he was Swedish) that "No, you will make your mark in the world of video or electronic communication."

This was pre-Internet days, so now I figure he must have been talking about the Web. I mean I was one of first people to mess around with HTML and blaze innovative new information trails with Disgraceland (which eventually became Dizgraceland due to a minor timing error buying domain names). I introduced people to page after page of useless stuff vaguely related to Elvis. But what I think the yode and the astrologer were really pointing me to was blogging. Because I (and millions of other bloggers, many not yet out of puberty) am now beaming my social documentarian views of the world into millions...well thousands....ok maybe a couple of dozen people's computers. And if I can only make a minor impression on just one person's life than maybe I will have fulfilled my destiny and can get on with important stuff like watching satellite TV.

Forgive me, it's the yode talking.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

High-fiving white guys

There used to be a local comedy show in the Seattle area called Almost Live that had a sketch called, "High-Fiving White Guys." These basically Wonderbread types would randomly break into high-fiving each other in this annoying, very uncool way. That was the point.

Almost Live unfortunately went off the air. The high-fiving white guys never went away.

I just returned from a Seahawks games in which they totally kicked the living crapola out of San Franscisco. Now granted, San Franciso was 0-2 already, but that shouldn't diminish the Seahawk's victory as they begin the season 3-0 and those of us who have prayed for a winning season are weeping for joy and inwardly terrified that they are just toying with us by winning.

I like to watch professional football. I like living in a city that has a team. Growing up in Boise all we had was high school football and the Boise State Broncos. I didn't like my high school team or the Boise State Broncos. Let's just get this out in the open, I was in band in high school. I was in fact the drum major. And while that is about as cool as you can get in band, it still leaves you on the fringe playing the Star Spangled Banner while the jocks break through the paper banners and admidst the cheers of the rest of the school. And it still leaves you getting wedgies from the jocks that were sober enough after the game to catch you at the pizza parlour.

Although I didn't continue with band in high school (there's only so much you can do with a bass clarinet) I did continue despising the jocks at Boise State. While I worked 60 hours a week despite my academic "scholarship," they got full scholarships and merely had to maintain that "C" average while taking their art appreciation classes.

Bitter? Slightly, but that is behind me now. Life teaches you to accept the inequities and move on quietly plotting revenge.

But I digress.

The one thing that would really drive me crazy is the way people who didn't play football, identified with the wins or losses of the team. If you failed an Algebra test, everyone in the class didn't rip out their hair bemoaning the entire school's loss. Conversely, if you aced a test, the school didn't globely celebrate their victory. For some reason, this is not true with sports. When a school's team wins, the high-fiving white guys start leaping and belly bumping as if they had anything to do with it. So throughout high school and college when someone would say something about how "We" won Friday's game, I'd point out that "We" don't play football and had nothing to do with the victory. This would inevitably lead to another wedgie, but I was smug in that I'd pointed out an inconsistency.

So, it is ironic that I am now a Seattle Seahawks fan. But then again, Boise never had a professional football game and I am now able to take community pride in the team that I fund through ticket sales and taxes for the new stadium that Qwest has bought the naming rights for. But don't get me started on naming rights.

I can now proudly pay $85 dollars for a ticket, $20 to park, $8 for a beer and another $25 for chicken fingers and garlic fries to sit in the stadium and cheer on my team in between the many time outs they take to accommodate network commercial breaks. But the thing that still remains to put a damper on it all are these damned high-fiving white guys, high-fiving and slapping each other on the ass and congratulating themselves everytime the highly paid professional football players complete a pass or make a touchdown. Listen guys, even though you are wearing a $60 shirt with the latest star player's name on it, you don't have a right to congratulate yourselves for their skill. And you don't have a right to cuss them or the coaches out when they make a mistake, especially the quarterback. If you had four or five 350 pound guys running at you at 50 mph, you would probably piss your pants and and make a few mistakes, too. Most of you are so out of shape that you are winded making your way to the urinal to make room for more $8 beer.

While I'm ranting, I'd like to point out that, after college, it's also uncool go to games, drink yourself into a stupor and puke on your shoes. And, despite the four $8 beers and the 25 little airline size bottles of vodka you snuck into the game, you are middle-aged and fat. So no matter how clever you think you are being by shouting stuff at the cheerleaders or commenting something crude about the 20-something year old girl a few seats away from you, you are still middle-aged and fat and are widely perceived that way by everyone around you except for your high-fiving friends who are, by the way, slapping you on the ass. Think about it.

All that being said, give me five, "Go Hawks!"


Thursday, September 23, 2004

Friends (not the series)


I used to have a best friend. His name was Michael Morgan. I used to call him Michael "J" for some reason. I'm not sure why. His middle name didn't begin with a "J." Anyway, Michael was the kind of friend you could not see in weeks or months and then get together and just start talking as if you'd just seen him the day before.

I first met Michael in college. He was a photographer for the college newspaper and I was the arts and entertainment editor and humor columnist. Michael and I hit it off because we had similar senses of humor. The big difference was that he kept his under wraps and I waved mine under people's noses in the school paper every week.

After college, we stayed friends. Even when Michael picked up one day, drove to Reno and got a job at Harrahs working in slots, we stayed friends. It was actually pretty cool having a friend living in Reno working at a casino. It definitely gave me an excuse to take a trip to Reno every year and not feel guilty about it. Reno is one of the more surreal places in the country. Perhaps that's why I like it so much and Michael moved there. Though the place eventually got to him and all he could talk about was moving back to Seattle. Eventually he did, but not for long. For some reason he could never get a job in Seattle. So, he packed up a U-Haul and I helped him move back to Reno. That's where the photo above came from.

The best part about visiting Michael in Reno was our trips out on the desert to shoot produce and various items we'd pick up at the grocery store. We'd picked up the hobby from a guy Michael used to work with at Harrahs. We called him Saigon Joe because he'd been in the Vietnam war and liked to go out on the desert to pop off a few rounds every now and then. Michael had a very obsessive kind of nature and quickly latched on to the hobby. Soon he had several guns and soon even I bought one solely for the purpose of target shooting on the desert. Neither of us ever thought about hunting animals. I'm a Pisces for pete's sake. But there was something satisfying about shooting a bottle of French's Low-Cal dressing and watch it explode in glare of the desert sun. And coconuts are a real challenge until you tame them with a .357 Magnum at a sporting range.


Oh, we'd gamble a bit. At least I would. After working in a casino for years, Michael had lost any desire to drop coins into slot machines. And we'd see a few shoes and get liquored up a bit at Fitzgeralds. And we'd talk. Michael was a good listener. Over the years he'd listened patiently to my various relationship sagas. And I listened to him obsess about one of his co-workers that he'd had a brief affair with before she left him for his supervisor. And I listened to his talk about depression.

But once again, Michael decided that Reno was his main problem and Seattle was the place to be. So once again he moved back. And once again he couldn't find a job. He even tried the local casinos. Eventually he ended up at a job he'd had in college, working on the grounds at a golf course. And for some reason, without Reno and the desert, we didn't get together much. Finally, Michael just disappeared.

It taught me something about friends and especially best friends: like everything else in life, they are temporary. When you are in grade school, you think you will have your best friends for life. But life happens. You get a girlfriend, a new job, go away to college, get another new job. You make friends with the people in your classes. But you graduate. You make friends with the people you work with. But they get other jobs or you get other jobs. "Stay in touch, ok," you say. But in this age of e-mail and cell phones no one stays in touch. The big gap between old friends is not distance, but time. Sometimes too much has happened in our lives to effectively catch up on with old friends.

But the hardest part for me is that people drift out of my life and in many cases I don't know why. When you end a romantic relationship, there is more often than not closure of some kind. But with platonic friends, I've found there isn't any definite closure. Even when I attempt to reestablish contact with people I was close to in the past, it has always been temporary. Time is a river endlessly drifting forward and our memories are washed up on the banks.

So Michael J, Gary, Holly, Janelle, Nellie, Dave, Robert, Shan, Tim W, and Irene, if you are out there, Tim says hi and hopes life is treating you well!

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Urban Native


Several years ago, when I fancied myself an artist of sorts, I created a series of native American chokers and breastplates fashioned out of non-traditional materials such as glass and copper tubing. But, I wanted to take my art a step further and become part of it. So, I asked a photographer friend to take shots of me decked out as what I called, "TheUrban Native." I took the black-and-white images and took my art up one more notch, as Emeril would say, and colorized it and framed them with actual feathers and copper beads. It was my three-dimensional potrait of myself and my art.

Other than frightening a few friends and co-workers (including the friend who took the shots), the images never really caused a stir in the arts community. But I've always like them. I've always liked the shocked reaction they get when people realize that the Urban Native is me.



But, basically, I'm the only one with any copies (except for the photographer, who I believe keeps the one I framed for her somewhere in a closet if it hasn't made its way to Goodwill). In July, my girlfriend and I took a cruise to Alaska. And in Juneau, I found a native American mask (actually I believe it was carved by a native Canadian) that I bought to add to my collection of masks from various parts of the world. It wasn't until a few weeks later, after mounting the mask on my wall, that I noticed the resemblance.

Ok, the color scheme is a bit different, but the eyes and hair are pretty much the same. My point? If you read my blogs, you should pretty much have given up on a point by now, but it pretty much drove home to me what I had originally had tried to capture with the Urban Native series. Despite our our high-tech lifestyle and so-called modern civilization, we are all still pretty much struggling with the same issues as the tribes that came before us. We just use different names like neighborhoods, communities, cities, counties and states. As an urban native, I still start a fire, cook my meat, worry about staying warm and keep the night at bay for fear of what's beyond the circle of fire. My lodge is a split-level wood hut with indoor plumbing.
And as you've seen from my blogs, I still struggle with the spirits that inhabit my trees, live (and die) in my crawlspace and inhabit nests in my gutters. I also struggle with the really nasty spirits that come into my house through telephone lines and e-mail. And I leave signs and symbols for those that follow in my footsteps.
Because I'm an Urban Native.


Friday, September 17, 2004

I held Snappy (but I wouldn't buy his t-shirt)


There is nothing like being a tourist. This dramatic shot was from a tour we went on in the Everglades. I think I paid three dollars to hold Snappy and get my picture taken. Then, in the gift shop, you could buy a t-shirt that boldly stated, "I held Snappy!" Now, taken out of context, this type of shirt could get the crap beat out of you in certain places, so I passed on the t-shirt and settled for the brief, but memorable experience of holding Snappy.

I have a similar photo somewhere of me holding an Iquana in Cozemel. I also have a photo of me in Grand Cayman holding a Stingray. Then there is the shot in Puerta Vallarta being kissed by a dolphin. Perhaps someday I will scan them and share them with you, too. Because, god knows what else I can do with them. They would be a nice companion exhibit to go along with my series of photos pointing at the various trash cans in Disneyland and Californian Adventure. Each land has it's own themed trash can.

As I said, there is nothing like being a tourist.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

All I am saying


The first record album I ever bought was Revolver by the Beatles. I was in first grade. I'd play it over and over before I went to school and sing along with all of the songs....Tax Man, Tomorrow Never Knows, I'm Only Sleeping, She Said She Said, Love You Too, Eleanor Rigby, Got To Get You Into My Life, Yellow Submarine, Doctor Robert, And Your Bird Can Sing and last but not least For No One. I wanted to be a Beatle (primarily because I watched them being incessantly chased by girls on television and in their early movies such as Hard Days Night). For reasons I didn't quite understand in first grade, I wanted to be chased by girls, too. I just didn't quite know what I expected to happen once they caught me. It just seemed like a pleasant thing to happen.

Regardless, I went on to buy all of the Beatle's albums and lament when they broke up after Let it be was released. Suffice it to say, I was and am a major Beatles fan. And all Beatles fans have a favorite Beatle and I can safely say that John is my favorite Beatle. I was in college at Seattle University and sitting in the school newspaper office when the word came out that John had been killed. It's pointless to even rant about how senseless that was. All killing is senseless. Let's pray for Karma and that the lunatic who shot John receives his.

I suppose my point is that you can tell something about a person's personality by their favorite Beatle. John was the rebellious Beatle, the bad boy, the man with the message. He believed in using his fame to try and make things better. Paul was the cute sell out. He was all about image and money. George was quiet and introspective, the spiritual Beatle. Ringo, well Ringo was the comic relieve of the Beatles. He couldn't sing and he could barely play the drums, but everyone liked him because he was goofy.

Ok, it's not astrology or anything, but it works. Think about it. Who's your favorite Beatle?