Wednesday, October 31, 2012

TED´s Excellent Andean Adventure - Part I

And let me just say, right up front, that before you judge, YOU should try typing on a Peruvian keyboard while slightly drunk.  Fun fact: when typing a blog entry in Peru, almost every word, even ¨Peru,¨ gets highlighted as a spelling error.

Anyway, I am having a great time in Peru.  I will post some details at length later (I'm keeping notes), but for right now, please enjoy this small sampling of some of the street art from the Miraflores district of Lima.















Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Incomprehensibles

So, if memory serves (meaning that I'm too lazy to look it up), two, three, or four years ago on one of my blogs, I said that I was going to make the day after the final tax deadline the day when I allowed myself to whinge on my blog. And then I never did it again because, well, whinging is very, very common in the blog world, and it's almost always tiresome, even when it's well done (i.e., rarely). Also, I have a strong inhibition against whinging. I have an even stronger inhibition about whining, which is why I'm using the British version: it makes doing it more palatable somehow. Which is strange, when you consider the U.K.'s reputation for barely palatable food. But I digress. Of course.

Anyway, this past filing deadline (for those of you who don't know -- i.e., everyone -- Americans who can't or won't get their returns filed by the normal April 15th deadline can get an extension to October 15th; this means that when you get close to 10/15, what you have left are a) the most difficult returns, and b) no possibility of a further extension) was especially intense, and I went three weeks without even a Sunday off, and I guess I could whinge about that, but I knew what I was getting into when I took this career and this job, so it would be bad form to complain. Besides, after all these years, I'm kind of used to it, and when you get to the Friday before the deadline and realize that all of your work is done, there's a certain level of elation. And then having a weekend off is suddenly a big deal, and that's kind of great.

The thing that I'd really like to complain about, of course, is politics. Almost everyone I know considers me very laid back, sometimes to a fault, so they would be surprised if they could hear my inner monologue about American politics, which boils down to "Really?" and "AAAAAAAAAAGH!" It depends on the day which of those two predominates, but let's just say there are plenty of both. But I'm not going to say much more than that because it's impossible for me to talk about American politics without eventually concluding that a substantial number of my countrymen are idiots, and then heading down the rabbit hole of whether particular people are stupid or evil and how blurry the distinction can become.

But maybe "idiots" isn't even fair. I have long since concluded that the world has become such a complicated place that we who live here aren't intelligent enough to handle it. What I mean by that is that there are so many complexities in so many areas that no one person is smart enough to understand everything that needs to be understood to get by. Even if you're a rocket scientist, chances are you don't understand tax law. And if you're a tax whiz, like me, you might still not understand very well how your car works, even if you know how to change a tire and the oil.

 So most of us, myself included, end up relying on experts. And that works out pretty well with things like auto repair because even if you don't know a tachometer from tachycardia, there are mechanisms by which you can find out whether your mechanic is competent and/or honest. But these mechanisms fail in the political sphere.  If you're getting your information from people who are only pretending to be impartial when, in fact, they have an axe to grind AND (this is important) you don't have a healthy level of skepticism, then you end up like this guy:

Where to begin?*  As a general rule, I don't favor bumper stickers.  I'm willing to give you two, or possibly three, but after that, you devolve pretty quickly into eccentricity slouching towards madness.  Even if your bumper stickers are all things I agree with, I don't think you need to wear your heart on your bumper. 

That said, I suppose I'm a pseudo-hypocrite because while I don't have any bumper stickers on my car at the moment, I do have a yard sign supporting Maryland ballot question 6. I'll be voting absentee this year, for the first time ever, because I'll be returning from Peru on the day after election day.  And it'll be an even longer flight if Willard wins. Visit Peru and come home to a Republican victory.  That has the potential to be the steepest descent ever.

Romney's very candidacy is incomprehensible to me, but let me leave that alone for a moment and pivot to a couple of other things that I also don't get, but that I managed to take a picture of.

Let's start with Martha Stewart pet toys.  Really?  Really:



It strengthens, if only a bit, my faith in humanity that these were on clearance because no one was buying them.  I have nothing particular against Martha Stewart, most of the time, but pet toys really doesn't seem like a natural fit for her brand.  When I saw these at PetSmart, I averted my eyes and quickly purchased a different brand of toy to replace one that Luna had chewed to bits after months of diligent effort.

Speaking of Luna, I was out walking her  a couple of weeks ago when I spotted this:


Usually, Americans' fascination with their NFL teams bugs me a little, but when someone goes to all the trouble necessary to put a pair of ten-foot, inflatable football players, I have to give them a) some grudging respect for effort, and b) my sympathy over their addiction.  DC-area football fans are particularly rabid, which cannot help but intensify their frustration when the Redskins fall short yet again.  In my youth, I was a rabid Skins fan, and I would like to say that I gave it up out of solidarity with native Americans, but I have to admit that naming sports teams after indigenous peoples is something that doesn't really bother me, though I do draw the line at anything involving tomahawk chops or other weapons of individual destruction.  Grow up, sports fans.

Off topic, and totally comprehensible:

Here are two quotes from a semi-recent post from Mimi Smartypants:

WE MUST APPLY THE WIRE BRUSH OF KNOWLEDGE TO THE FORESKIN OF IGNORANCE
and
Nicholson Baker is somewhat well known for writing about sex. For the record, I don’t particularly care if he writes about sex, although the sex certainly deteriorates with each of his “sex books.” Vox was semi-enjoyable as a wank book, Fermata was an elaborately sick postmodern fantasy about how it’s kind of okay to rape as long as you are extra-considerate and make sure your victim enjoys herself, and House of Holes is an unreadable disaster that lurches from scene to scene while employing some of the most ludicrous sex-talk ever. “Fill my mouth with your manly nutbag?” Please.

It has become something of a mission for me to work the phrases "Apply the wire brush of knowledge to the foreskin of ignorance" and "Fill my mouth with your manly nutbag" into my personal discourse.  I reckon the former belongs in a political debate (I can't believe Joe Biden didn't use it.) while the latter needs to be pillow talk, uttered -- obviously -- to someone with whom I never again want to share a pillow.  I have, as yet, been unsuccessful on both counts, but I think you'll agree that it's a worthwhile project, and I encourage you to take up the cause.  If you manage to say either of those, let me know, ok?






*You'll note that the guy is a cat owner, and I point this out only because I understand that some sort of microorganism that cats carry can end up in human brains.  I don't believe the full extent of the effects of this infestation is known yet, but maybe we can blame birtherism on the cats.  Then again, in medieval times, they blamed the plague on the cats, and the cats were, in fact, helping to keep the true disease vectors (the rats) in check, so maybe we shouldn't be too quick to blame Fluffy. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

You're Meant To Be Lazy in Summer, Right?

Sometime this past Friday afternoon, I made a checklist of the things that I needed/wanted to get accomplished this past weekend.  It seemed like a pretty good list at the time, but yesterday morning when I was getting ready for work, I looked at it again, and 90% of it was still unchecked.  As usual, the problem isn't that I'm lazy: the problem is unrealistic expectations.  Next weekend, I'm going to put items like "sleep in," "play video games," and "breathe" on the list. 

To the Dogs

Speaking of sleeping and breathing, we did have a guest this weekend.  Greyhound Welfare, the organization we adopted Luna from, has a mailing list, and people sometimes post there in hopes of finding a greyhound-owning sitter for when they're going to be out of town.  Someone local sent a short-notice email last week, so I said I'd take care of her grey.  I thought it would be fun for Luna to have some company and a good idea to start sitting for other dogs so that people might return the favor if I want to travel dogless sometime.  Anyway, here are Luna and RC, in an action shot.


That was about the most energetic RC was for the entire weekend.  I sometimes joke that Luna's main activity is holding the carpets down, but RC made Luna look like a Jack Russell terrier.  I will say that the carpets have never been flatter.

I did manage to get both dogs out for a longish walk (2.5 miles, Luna's standard evening walk) Friday evening.  It occurred to me that if I were to treat Luna and RC as a single unit, I'd probably call them LC so that walking the dogs was just like being on an episode of The Hills.  In the same way that a deerstalker cap is just like sardines.

After that indignity, and a not-very-long hike in the woods on Saturday morning, RC apparently felt that he'd expended enough energy, and when we went for our Saturday evening walk, I got about a quarter mile from the house, and RC turned into a fencepost and absolutely would not move until I started heading back for home.  Luna really likes longer walks, so I made it up to her with a three-miler Sunday night, while RC chilled in the house with EFU.  Everybody was happy.  Still, I was a bit relieved when the rug flattener's owner came to pick him up and I could get back to just having my fun, energetic dog who doesn't feel that every tree needs and deserves to get pissed on. 

TED Discusses Politics

Paul Ryan.  Really?

Vacation Matters

I've probably whinged before here about my ineptness in planning vacations.  Back when I was partnered, I never had to plan vacations because b&c would suggest a location; I'd say, "Make it so;" he'd suggest flights, hotels, museums, and such; I'd say, "Whatever;" he'd complete the arrangements; I'd write him a check for half; and we'd be off.  But since I've been single, I haven't been able to arrange anything that didn't involve either a) me in NYC or b) me and the kids visiting family.  And since the girls went for two weeks to the West Coast with their mother and step-father this year, and EFU didn't have any additional vacation time, I didn't plan anything at all for the summer.  A few weeks ago, I was starting to feel anxious about the lack of vacation and trying to figure out what I could do, but I hadn't come up with anything. Then I called b&c to see how he was doing (his mother died recently, and he inherited her cat), and he asked me if I was interested in going with him to Peru. 

I knew without asking (though I did ask, of course) that if b&c was suggesting Peru, the trip was sure to include a visit to Machu Picchu.  It was something I'd always assumed I'd never get to see, but now it looks like I will get to see it.  We discussed dates, then we had a conference call with the tour company, and we're going at the end of October.  I'm very excited.  I already have a prescription to help with altitude sickness.  Also new hiking boots, which I am very carefully breaking in.  (We are not doing serious hiking -- i.e., we aren't walking the Inca trail -- but the tour guide representative said they'd be a good idea, and I have a history of spraining my ankle, so better not to take chances.)  I think that breaking in hiking boots is mostly about breaking in my feet, but as long as the boots and the feet get along well, I'm not that picky about which has the right of way. 

Apparently, the end of October is the beginning of the rainy season in Peru, but I'm hoping that my and b&c's good luck with weather on vacations holds.  I'm told the worst of the rainy season doesn't really hit until December, and at the end of October, the crowds have started to attenuate somewhat.  Anyway, I'm not going to worry about it.  If I disappear -- along with Machu Picchu -- in a mudslide, I'm sure I'll learn a valuable lesson from the experience.

The tour company has provided me a very detailed itinerary of what the group will be doing, but I haven't really focused in on most of it. I know that we spend one afternoon and the following morning in Machu Picchu, and there are two travel days, but I'm not so sure about the rest of the eleven days.  Presumably there will be llamas.  It occurs to me that Llamas in the Ruins is an excellent title for a satirical travel novel.  Somebody write that.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Better Late Than Never


The view from my hotel room
Hey, nobody's perfect, right?  I meant to make this post about my post-tax season trip to NYC back right post-tax season, in April, but, well, life, you know?  Whenever someone writes "life, you know," I believe you're obligated to imagine an unshaven Frenchman in his late fifties, sighing the line through a cloud of smoke that he has just exhaled, and just before the non-cigarette-bearing hand brings a glass of red wine to his lips.  Soon after, there will be a wry smile. 

Anyway, I really did have a great trip to the city way back in April.  It was full of delights in all of the areas that I want a vacation to hit: ambulatory, gustatory, cultural, and horizontal.  And let's tackle that last one first: I made the horizontal acquaintance of six guys during my stay.  I realize that is not such a large number, but I was only there for three nights, and I had a lot of other things to do. 

As for the guys, well, I'm sure I'm not the first person to notice that New York is chock full of men who think of themselves as New Yorkers but don't think of themselves as Americans, and five of the six guys matched that description.  I have a thing for men with accents, and these accents, and the accompanying guys, were all just swell.  The sixth guy (who, fortunately, was somewhere in the middle of the order) was actually from Maryland and lives about fifteen miles from me.  He was not swell, and, unfortunately, not long after my return, he hit me up on Scruff, looking for more of the same.  I said no.  Or maybe I just blocked him: I don't remember which.

But the other five were entirely charming, and I especially enjoyed meeting a French New Yorker who works in finance and a Colombian New Yorker who's a personal chef.  The latter gave me some good restaurant recommendations.  The former told me (only after I asked) that he'd been in New York so long that he now thinks in English instead of French.  I think that's a tiny bit sad.  He came to see me on his way home from the opera.  He'd spent $439 for his ticket.  "Wow," I thought -- and said.

I hadn't even been sure that I was going to NYC this year, but sometime during the first week of April (this is where many accountants* would make an April-is-the-cruelest month joke, but a) seriously? and b) March is worse) when I was feeling especially beaten down by work and life, you know (long exhale, red wine, wry smile), I took a break between tax returns, checked the deals on one of the discount travel sites, and found a 3.5 star room for a price that I could not (or at least did not) resist.  It was one of those deals where they give you the price, the rating, and the approximate location, but you don't get the actual hotel name and address until you book the room.  In this case, I ended up at a very nice hotel at 57th and 7th. 

I arrived Wednesday afternoon.  I was there early, but they were very nice about it and checked me in immediately.  The room was so nice that I may have done a happy dance as soon as I was inside it, though I suppose that 85% of the happy dancing could reasonably be attributed to not having to work 75 hours a week any more.

I got started immediately on the ambulatory portion of my visit.  I'd decided beforehand that I wanted to have a small picnic in Inwood Park, so I headed over to ninth, then south to International Grocery, where I picked up some taramasalata, kalamata olives, and pita bread, then I took the train north. 

I had my first only-in-New-York moment of the trip when the A train got to a part of the trip where it doesn't stop in what would normally seem like forever.  But on this occasion, two young gentlemen stepped forward, turned on a boom box, and started dancing.  And they were incredible.  One was short, compact, and acrobatic; the other was long and lean, and  he had a tendency to balance on one hand while the rest of his body snaked through various positions.  Who can stand on one hand on a moving subway car?  It was crazy: even the locals seemed amazed. They switched off and danced for three or four minutes, all in an area that couldn't have been more than ten square feet.  I gave them a couple of dollars, which seemed like not enough, but it was more than anyone else gave them. 

Inwood Park seems a lot more practical than Central Park: everywhere you go there are people playing baseball or softball or ultimate frisbee or tennis.  I found a bench and watched the frisbee players while I ate my little container of taramasalata (so, so good; so, so filling; so, so cheap) and the pita bread.  The olives were not so much to my liking, but I have good kalamatas all the time, and good taramasalata is not findable out here in the provinces. 

After that, I set off walking.  You pretty quickly get from where there's everyone to where there's no one.  I headed up a big hill and strolled for a half hour or so.  I found a trio of hanging chickens:


And then, a few yards father on, another:



I decided that they must be some sort of Buddhist monument to a friend who had died recently.  I am likely mistaken about that, but I am fond of saying that you should never let the facts get in the way of a good story. 

Much of the rest of my perambulation involved Central Park.  I can't imagine going to NYC and not sitting down at the Bethesda fountain.  I did that a couple of times during my visit.  One of the time a group of high school girls who were visiting from the Midwest struck up a conversation with me.  They were very nice, but I kept wondering why no one had warned them about not talking to strangers.  On the other hand, I have been reliably informed that no one ever finds me threatening.  I find that fact approximately 4% insulting and 96% reassuring.  Also, I feel like I ought to be able to profit from it somehow, but I have not yet written a business plan.


I walked many other places, as well.  The weather was amazing throughout my trip.  I took the subway a few times, but mostly I just walked everywhere I wanted to go.  I have learned not to plan so much when I travel.  I typically like to go on a vacation with a small  number of activities that I know I can get to.  Sometimes, I just have a single goal.  There's so much going on in NYC that I had a few more specific activities in mind before I arrived, but I still left a lot of time for discovery.  I mean, it's New York, so you can rely on two things: a) there's no way you can see everything, and b) you're always going to see something interesting. 

I'd arranged to have lunch on Thursday with an Internet acquaintance, someone from a website where I've participated for many years.  I had never met him in person. I always face such meetings with some degree of trepidation, mostly because I'm not at all extroverted, but they always turn out to be a good time.  I had a very specific restaurant in mind, and we decided on a later lunch so that we would be sure to get a table.  I was in the Park in the morning, and he suggested that I take the subway down to Union Square and then walk east on 14th Street.

It will tell you most of what you need to know about me ** when I tell you that -- even though I rarely drink -- one of the big highlights of the trip was the discovery that NYC has a (wait for it) Trader Joe's wine store!  Oh to the em to the gee! 


This is what I bought there.  We must conclude that I bought it principally for the label since it's sitting, still unopened, on my kitchen floor, next to the refrigerator, even as we speak. 



I also bought an inexpensive bottle of Prosecco, but that one didn't make it off the island.

Apparently, TJ's is only allowed to sell wine at one location in all of New York, and that's why there's a separate wine store.  Or at least that's what the cashier told me when I whinged about how the TJ's in Maryland aren't allowed to sell wine.  I considered going into the regular Trader Joe's, which is just down the block a bit from the wine store, but even though I had plenty of time and an appetite for discount chocolate, I decided not to: there are plenty of them back home, after all.

Then I walked over to First and south a few blocks, where I waited for my friend at Momofuku Noodle Bar.  I realize that Noodle Bar stopped being really trendy a few years ago, but I'd always wanted to eat there, and I had reliable intelligence that the food was still very good.  My friend showed up (he'd ridden down from his office on a bicycle that he was considering buying from a co-worker) a few minutes later, and neither he nor the restaurant disappointed.  I went for the signature ramen, and we split an order of pork buns and an order of snow peas.  Nom. 


After we finished at Noodle Bar, we walked around the corner to a tiny little coffee shop, where he had an espresso and I had a latte.  I am normally not a big fan of the coffee unless it is heavily adulterated with the chocolate, but my friend is something of an expert, so I figured that it was worth trying something from a place he frequents.  It was very good.  As chocolateless coffee goes, that is.  While we were there, a group of young men came in, and one of them attempted to order a decaf.  When the coffee guy (there's a word for that, but I am not using it) told him they didn't sell decaf, the young man seemed nonplussed and asked whether he'd committed a faux pas by ordering a decaf.  The coffee guy assured him that it was ok, but it was clear that the young man would never have coffee in that town again.  I wanted to hand him a shovel.

I'd mentioned to my friend that I thought I'd stop by Grand Central Station on my way back to the hotel, just to enjoy the atmosphere, and he suggested that I head upstairs and have a cocktail at the oyster bar and watch the passengers come and go.  I tried to do that, but I somehow ended up at a different bar, one owned by a basketball legend whose name also graces a very successful line of athletic shoes.  It was fine, though.  I still got to sit and watch passengers, and I had a very nice Manhattan.  Cocktails are pricey in New York, but this one cost less than I'd expected to pay, so I was pleased.


I had plenty of other good food during my visit.  I went to Milk Bar for some cookies, and they were very good, mostly (I will pass on the corn cookie next time, but the one with the crushed potato chips in it is great), but my very favorite meal of the trip came on Thursday night after I'd had the conversation with the aforementioned Colombian New Yorker personal chef, and something he said made me google best new york dumplings, and I ended up (after a long walk during which I attempted, unsuccessfully, to acquire a knock-off designer handbag for my younger daughter) at a hole in the wall on Mulberry Street where -- for the princely sum of not quite five bucks -- I stuffed myself on dumplings (and Snapple):


The steamed ones were chicken and mushroom.  The fried ones were pork and scallion.  They were amazing.  This establishment also sells their dumplings frozen, in bags of fifty.  If I lived in New York, I'd eat those all the time.  I'll go back, but next time not alone so that I can try more varieties. 

After Dumplingfest 2012, I walked north through Little Italy and had a cannoli.  I have one every time I visit the city. 
My big cultural goal for the trip was to -- finally -- visit the Guggenheim. 


The central exhibit (on the long, twisted inclined plan, sort of like walking up the threads of a screw) was a John Chamberlain retrospective.  He spent most of his long, productive career making sculptures out of crashed automobile bodies, but in later years, he turned to twisting foil. 


There were many pieces that I liked a lot.  I walked up the screw twice.  Near the top, there was an alcove that had one of his pieces that was neither car part nor twisted foil.  It was a huge piece of foam, covered in plastic.  There was a sign on it that asked patrons to remove their shoes before sitting on the sculpture.  Everyone, including me, assumed this meant that you should stay off it, but the price of admission had included an audio tour, and I listened to the explanation for the piece, and it said that you should go ahead and sit on it.  So I took off my shoes and sat for a while.   


Within a couple of minutes, it was covered with people, including many visiting students who had not removed their shoes.  The guards did not seem to mind, but one of them chastised me a few minutes later when I took a picture, even though I was not pointing my phone at any of the artwork.  That time.

My other main cultural outing was to see Other Desert Cities.


I'd somehow stumbled across a rave review for the play online, so it was my first choice.  I almost always catch a show when I go to NYC, but I am down with neither paying full price nor for standing in long lines at TKTS.  As it happens, the lines are generally dreadful in the afternoon, but they disappear by early evening.  I walked over from my hotel Friday evening and got a ticket after waiting for no more than a minute.  ODC had been around for a while, and it wasn't a musical, so I figured that the chances of getting a ticket were high.  I also figured that if the tickets were all gone, I'd find something else worth seeing.  There's always something worth seeing. 

The play was terrific.  It's a very well written play, and the entire cast was first rate.  I'd always wanted to see Stockard Channing perform live, and now I have.  Good live theater may be even better than good dumplings, though it's admittedly a close call.

Saturday midday, I took the bus back to Maryland.  There are numerous private bus lines that specialize in going from the DC area back and forth to NYC, and I have never yet found one with empty seats on the trip north, or one that was more than half full on the trip back south.  We didn't run into any bad traffic (either way).  It was a great trip.  I reckon I'll do it again next year. 


*Accountants who've read The Waste Land, that is, which is substantially none of us.

**The only thing that's possibly more revelatory of my character is that I have recently concluded the most important personality trait any prospective boyfriend can have is the firm and unshakable belief that Wile E. Coyote is a nobler character than Road Runner.

Friday, May 18, 2012

This Article Is a Stub

Yeah, I know, cheap trick, but I'm putting this here to force myself to come back, hopefully this weekend, to upload some pictures and write some details about my post-busy season trip to NYC. For now, a few observations:
  • This was my best trip to New York so far. It seemed like the perfect mix of cultural, culinary, and horizontal activities.
  • I remain committed to the notion that whenever you go on vacation, it's important to have one goal that you know you can accomplish and otherwise not to have too detailed an itinerary, but if you're going to NYC, you can probably increase that to one goal/day without fear of failure.
  • I have also determined that no matter what sort of fabulous dining experiences you have planned for your trip, breakfast is still the most important meal of the day. Your days will be much more congenial if you find a pleasant breakfast spot near your hotel and enjoy a leisurely meal while appreciating your surroundings. This is part of why European vacations are so often successful: your hotel will usually provide a nice breakfast for no additional charge.
  • I spent a lot of time walking around the city and especially walking in the park. The weather was almost embarrassingly wonderful. Thanks, climate change! Sure, entire Pacific nations will disappear, but let's not forget the silver lining.

Monday, March 19, 2012

TED Gets a Day Off


Sunday, to be precise. I don't mean an extra day off, not at this time of year. At my office, a common Monday conversation goes something like this:

"How was your weekend?"

"My Sunday was fine."

The implication being, you understand, that there was no reason for me to ask about Saturday since we both spent the whole day in the office laying railway line working on tax returns.

It is not uncommon for tax accountants to roll our eyes when we hear complaints about how hard other people are working. This is especially the case in the DC area where we mostly hear government workers whinging about how terribly busy busy busy they are at their forty-hours-per-week jobs with all those holidays and all that vacation time.

Really, though, none of us work all that hard any more. As recently as the early twentieth century, a six-day workweek was standard for the working class, and each of those days could be twelve or more hours long, except some people got a half-day on Saturday, and, yes, that's more or less my current schedule, but only for six to eight weeks out of the year. Besides which, I'm sitting at a desk for all that time, I'm not digging ditches or shoveling coal or even working an assembly line in dangerous conditions without breaks. So I try not to whine about the few seventy-five hour weeks that I put in over the course of year.

The reason that a seventy-five, or even a forty-five, hour work week seems like an imposition has to do with something the economists (or somebody) call habit formation. Habit formation means that once you've gotten used to some benefit, giving it up puts you in a worse situation than if you never had it. In other words, if you're a bazillionaire, and you get used to a top marginal tax rate of 35% (or 15%, if your income is predominantly capital gains), and suddenly your top rate skyrockets to 39%, you perceive a greater loss than if your rate had never dropped below 40% in the first place.

Similarly, if you get used to a forty-hour work week and generous vacation and holiday benefits, having to work more hours or getting fewer days off pisses you off, and it's small or no comfort that your ancestors felt blessed to get a half-day on Saturdays.

Note, please, that I'm not advocating that people work more hours. There are plenty of conservative economists to do that. I happen to think that everyone should work ten percent fewer hours and that we should employ ten percent more workers to compensate (and, yes, I'm aware that it's not as simple as that). You combine that with ending the wars and taxing the rich, and you improve the vast majority of people's lives. And the uberrich who can no longer afford an eighth vacation home can just suck it up, frankly.

Anyway, on my day off/one-day weekend, I had to get up pretty early so that I could get YFU to church by 8:15. This was the week that the senior high class leads the service, and they still had some rehearsing to do. Then I headed back home, showered, woke EFU, and the two of us headed back for the 10 am service.

After church, the girls wanted to go thrifting, so I took an allergy pill (the thrift stores all make my eyes water, and I'm pretty sure it's not from joy over the low, low prices), and we headed towards Value Village.

I have this dream that some day, somewhere, I'm going to walk into a thrift store, and there's going to be a pristine pair of Doc Martens in my size.

But that's never going to happen, or at least it didn't happen this time, so while the girls checked out clothing, I went to housewares. I saw some cake pans. There are always cake pans. This time, there was a Power Ranger:



I never really experienced Power Rangers, so I don't know which one that was, or even if they were different, except for the colors. I also didn't have more than a passing awareness of the Ninja Turtles, but I'm guessing that this one:

is Michelangelo.

I used to collect food molds. I mean vessels meant to present a food in certain shapes, not molds that grow on foods, you understand. And if I didn't already have waaaaaay too many (i.e., > 1) fish molds in packing boxes in the basement, I might have been tempted by these salmon mousse molds in slightly different colors.

They could work as a school on the wall, I guess. But I forbore. I wasn't going to buy anything (I mean, aside from whatever clothes the girls wanted: they always find plenty, it seems), but I saw a perfectly fine set of six white Williams Sonoma cereal bowls, so I got that, and, among the much less interesting cake pans, I saw what you see at the head of this post. That's right, readers: Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup!

I really wasn't going to buy it, but I thought that if I put it in the shopping cart, walked around with it for a bit, showed it to the girls, and then put it back, I'd feel all virtuous, so I did that, except when I showed it to YFU and said that I could use it to make a cake for her party later this year, she thought it was a great idea. Powerpuff girls, ftw!



Anyway, we finished shopping, and everybody came away with something he or she wanted, so we trundled off to Chipotle for a late lunch, then home. My plan at this point was to take YFU back to her Mom's house, then get a nap, and then possibly head up to Baltimore for some HQT with a nice guy I'd been out with once before, but when we got back from the ex-wife's house, the weather was so nice that I went into the back yard with a pair of clippers and spent the better part of an hour freeing a couple of my ginormous maple trees from their attractive but unhealthy ivy infestation. It looks so nice, but it kills the trees, ultimately, and I don't want the trees falling onto my house, as much as I like maple.

I could still have gotten a nap at that point, but damn wasn't the weather awesome, so I asked EFU if she still wanted to head up to Rocky Gorge for a round of mini-golf, and she did. We were en route to the course when I got a text message from the aforementioned guy, but I was already exhausted, and I still had nineteen itty bitty holes of golf to play. I was pretty much going on fumes and fair weather at that point, so I begged off. In my experience, falling asleep on a guy (perhaps literally) on the second date is a bad move, anyway.

Beside, mini-golf is so much fun! It is wrong to take joy in beating your own child at any form of pseudo-sports competition, but, hey, she's twenty-three, and she always beats me at cards.



Sadly, there was no money at stake.

We went home, and she worked on lesson planning for the coming week, while I watched perhaps the least defensible movie ever made. I mostly watched it because I refuse to read the book, but whether or not you've read the book, you do not want to watch this movie. I expected the ham-handed political philosophy. What I didn't expect was the total snoozefest. I'd like those ninety minutes of my life back, please.

Ayn Rand notwithstanding, it was a pretty good Sunday. I even got to bed early. And I get another day off next Sunday. Woot!

Monday, March 12, 2012

And Here's to You, Mrs. Robinson

THE GRADUATE

Brace yourself, readers. You're about to see a really big picture of a dog.

lunagrad2

Yeah, that's Luna in her graduation cap. She didn't get a gown, but then she's black, so she looks like she's wearing one all the time, anyway.

Part of the deal you make when you adopt a greyhound is that you'll enroll her in obedience classes, so we signed up for the beginner training at the PetSmart between my home and office. The final exam was Saturday, and, frankly, I was a little nervous because while Luna had fully mastered sitting on command (easy for most breeds, but very difficult for a greyhound), she was totally uninterested in my tips on how to answer multiple choice questions. But she pretty much aced the final, and now she can start applying to grad schools.

Still no luck getting her to yell "Elaine!" but we'll keep at it.


THE PURPOSE-DRIVEN LIFE

I was reading this Instructable about how to walk across America. As with many Instructables, it's fun to read even if it's something you have no desire to do yourself. Actually, I would have thought that how to walk across America would pretty much be "look west, put one foot in front of the other, stop when you get to the Pacific Ocean," but it turns out to be somewhat more complicated than that.

I'm not trying to mock this guy or his Instructable (though it could maybe use some editing). I think it's pretty cool when someone decides to walk across the country, though I myself would not attempt it, unless maybe the country in question was Liechtenstein, and even then, I'd look for the shortest possible route, and probably hop a bus halfway through.*

What got me was that he says that the most important part of preparing for the walk is determining why you're walking. And as part of making this determination, he suggests this site, which purports to tell you how to discover your life's purpose in half an hour or less. Wow. I mean, I always knew that all that time I spent in Sunday School and church services as a kid was wasted, but I had no idea just how wasted it was. Two hours every Sunday for eighteen years of my life, and all I needed was a half-hour and a blank sheet of paper. Well, and a pen, I guess.

See, that's how you determine your life's purpose. You sit down with a blank sheet of paper, you write something -- anything -- down, and then you keep trying out different variations of your personal mission statement until you cry. Because once you've written something that makes you cry, you're done: that is your life's purpose.

So I'm reading this, and I'm thinking, "Damn, Skippy, that just sounds a little bit too easy to me, what life's purpose did you come up with out of that?" And then I read a little farther, and he told me:
Here was my final answer: to live consciously and courageously, to resonate with love and compassion, to awaken the great spirits within others, and to leave this world in peace.

Well, I'll give him one thing: if I'd been working for half an hour, and that's what I'd managed to come up with, I'd probably cry, too. Vague much? Also, if I had to think about that purpose on a daily basis, I'd probably want to gnaw out my own intestines. I mean, if I'm at the McDonald's drive-thru, do I have to attempt to awaken the great spirits within the person taking my order? Do I have to worry about how the fries are going to help me resonate with love and compassion?

As it happens, I don't believe that anyone's life has an inherent purpose. You can choose a purpose, but it seems like a lot of work. It probably makes more sense to establish a few simple principles. Things like having more fun and being good to the people you care about. You get the distinction, right? "Don't be a dick" is a perfectly good rule to live by, and you can live by that rule whether or not your life has a purpose. I wish the organized religion folks would understand that.

*Gmap-pedometer says that a walk across Liechtenstein is about 3.5 miles, so maybe I'd even do the whole thing. Unless I got distracted by a pub, which seems likely.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Things I Like (Partial List)

Do you ever have one of those days when the absurdity of modern life is bringing you down down down? I was sort of having a week like that, and it was capped off yesterday when Luna (She's the only member of my family whose real name gets used on the blog, and it's only her real name because we decided it; her birthname/racing name was something involving "Nassau," and we never asked any sort of judicial authority to change it; still, the local dog licensing authorities were happy to issue her a license under her new identity, without even doing a background check! How do they know she isn't wanted in another state?) who has gotten more curious as she's gotten more comfortable, pulled a Costo-sized box of Oreos off of the dining table, scattered most of the sleeves of Oreos, brought (at least) two sleeves back to her crate, and ate (at least) one.

And, hey, you know, there really isn't enough chocolate in Oreos to cause much concern, but sugar makes dogs hyperactive, too, apparently because even though she ate the Oreos in the morning, at midnight last night, she insisted on going on a third walk for the day, where, in the course of a trip around what passes for our block (1/2 mile total, but it was cold), she excreted what was left of the Oreos in a rather liquid defecation that was not so easy to pick up into the newspaper bag that I'd brought along for the purpose. An extra walk, even at midnight, is not such a big deal, but I kept thinking, "Damn. I left my Fitbit in its docking station, and I AM NOT getting credit for this." First world problems, yo.

I thought maybe that had settled matters, but an hour later I heard rather a large crash, and I went downstairs to find that she had somehow also managed to work a full case of seltzer water off the dining table. Nothing was broken, but a lot of stuff was scattered, so I swept up and shut her in her crate for the night. When I got up in the morning, she had returned to her normal, near-comatose state.

SO TOTALLY UNRELATED THAT I'M NOT EVEN GOING TO ATTEMPT A TRANSITION

So, you've heard that personal blogging is dead, right? People use Facebook and Tumblr now (I'm not going to get started on the execrable Internet practice of the missing e: Grindr, Flickr, Tumblr, etc. [or tc., if I wanted to be a wag, I suppose]), so there's no longer a point in having a blog unless you're doing it professionally. I reckon the assumption there is that anyone who blogs needs attention so much that they love showing the world all their business on Facebook. Sadly, Facebook gives me hives. Happily, there's a long tradition of outmoded technologies' fading and then becoming cool again. Sort of like recording classical music on period instruments, or owning physical books rather than just reading everything on your Kindle, or, I don't know, weaving your own fabric. And I figure that the speed with which things go in and out of style these days means that personal blogging will experience an hour of coolness every three months before it returns to being passé.

Besides, keeping up with trends is just too much work. And my guess is that if there are a billion people on the Internet, only a few tens of thousands of them are on the edge of the blade of what's happening this very minute. I mean (and only by way of example, you understand) Passive Aggressive Notes is kind of a one trick pony, and it had its big moment in the sun a while ago, but it's still there going strong, and it's still funny if you visit it once in a blue moon. I guess that like a lot of sites, it's built its own community, and they probably don't care that the spotlight has moved on.

I am not going anywhere with this, so if you were looking for wisdom and/or a conclusion, well, sorry.

Anyway, back to our main topic, sort of. I had this feeling lately that I might be entering one of those dark nights of the soul and that it might have something to do with being in my fifties, but then I remembered some true dark nights of the soul, and I realized that what I had going on was more of a cloudy afternoon of the soul.



Full disclosure: the above pic was actually taken on a cloudy morning. I know that you are (rightfully) shocked at my audacity and mendacity, but by noontime, the weather had cleared. That is not a metaphor.

Anyway, while I'm all for tears and mourning when something truly awful happens, I don't believe in whinging when I'm just tired because I'm working a lot and/or I refuse to go to sleep at a reasonable hour, so I prefer to put myself in a better mood by thinking about things I like.

[It occurs to me here that you could just cue up your mental Youtube of Julie Andrews singing "My Favorite Things" because I am just not going to the effort of finding it and embedding it here. I mean, I have nothing against anyone who is that gay -- indeed, I admire people who are that gay -- but I am not that gay myself.]

So herewith a short list.

Speaking of Tumblr, this is my favorite Tumblr blog right now. This guy is great. Also, if you want to know what I'm like, think of the person as unlike this guy as possible (while still being gay), and you have me. I would love to buy this guy a drink sometime, but I think I'd probably bore him terribly, and I'm almost certain that it would be like hanging out with someone who speaks a different language. Besides, he lives in NYC, and who can afford to buy drinks there?

Speaking of things that have their moment and then fade, I think this blog is no longer posting new material, but you can always enjoy the archives. So much more fun than guys with iPhones, innit?

And if you want something that still updates regularly, there's this one, but a) you probably know about it already, and b) the guys on there have on way too much clothing. Still good for a smile, though, and at least there's some diversity among the men on display.

For the opposite of way too much clothing, go to Flickr and find the photostream of paulmorristim. You can thank me later. Oh, and don't do that while you're at work. That guy has the best job in the world, and he knows it and is appropriately grateful.

Speaking of guys who love their work, if you have Netflix streaming, you should check out Bill Cunningham New York. It is perhaps not the most insightful documentary in the world, but the subject matter is very compelling, and it will make you happy.

Back to work. Alas.

Friday, March 2, 2012

A Good Day for Maryland


So, yeah, the Maryland legislative and executive branches did the gays a solid this week, and same-gender marriage is legal, at least for now, in the state of Maryland. This is good news.

I don't generally get into the whole gay marriage issue/debate/brouhaha for at least two reasons:

1. Debate? What's to debate? Of course we should have the same marriage rights as anyone else. It's clear to anyone with an ounce of sense that all of the arguments against gay marriage really boil down to: ewwww, we don't like homos, so let's not give them rights. And, hey, if that's your position, fine, but own it.

2. Marriage is something I've done (albeit with a woman), and I sort of feel like it's one of those things where you get one bite at the apple. I don't mean that second marriages should be legally discouraged or that they're morally wrong, but I just feel kind of been-there-done-that. Mind you, my feelings on that issue could change if I met Mr. Right, but in this case, Mr. Right is probably someone who's loaded and doesn't have any heirs, rather than someone with a six-pack and unlimited endurance. And, here again, I want to be clear. I certainly value love and intimacy, but you don't need to be married or even partnered for that. The only part of being single that really bothers me is the economic inefficiency. If I had someone companionable to share bills, housework, and travel with, I wouldn't necessarily require any great romantic fervor or sexual fidelity. And I wouldn't need a marriage. You'll just have to trust me when I tell you that my position here is pragmatic rather than cynical: I still find it very touching when any two people tie the knot. Just like I still find it very touching when people have children, but, as much as I love my own, I don't want any more.

But my own personal disinterest in being married aside, I still think it's pretty cool that the legislature here managed to pass a bill giving me and people like me some of the rights that we deserve. I haven't read the bill, but I understand that there are exclusions so that churches who view same-gender unions as an abomination aren't forced to perform marriages. I suppose that's a good thing, but I really wonder about the necessity. Are there really gay couples who are so driven by political rather than emotional agenda that they'd insist on being married in a church that disapproves of them? Maybe there are, but that seems pretty moronic to me.

For a long while, I've felt that church and state should be entirely separated when it comes to marriage. There are certain important legal protections, and to get those protections, you should have a civil marriage. Line up at a government office, sign some documents, and -- shazam! -- you're legal partners. And then if it's important to you to profess your relationship in front of your community, then, fine, go find a church and do that. The thing is, for a long while now, there have been churches willing and eager to stop doing commitment ceremonies and start doing marriages for gay couples. My own church and minister, for example, would be thrilled (thrilled!) to give their imprimatur to a gay wedding, and if such is still allowed as of next year, I imagine there'll be a few. (There's a lesbian couple of long duration in the choir, and I have no idea whether they've already married somewhere else, but one presumes that if they're not, they might get married at the church. They're both lovely people, but one of them is a soprano, and the other is an alto, so God only knows how they manage to make it work. That would be like me marrying a tenor, and, well: ewwww! Talk about unnatural.)

Speaking of churches, one of the reasons that legalizing same-gender marriage was relatively difficult in Maryland was because of the opposition of Black churches and Black Democrats. I find this very disappointing. When I was dating That Guy (who, really, was not all that religious, but liked to go to church on occasion because, let's face it, the Black churches have all the best speakers; also, really great music) he would tell me about what a wonderful experience he'd had listening to this preacher or that, and I'd ask him what that preacher's position on gay marriage was, and then there'd be an argument. And, well, I'm just going to go there: a lot of the opposition -- and, especially, the fervor of the opposition -- to gay marriage among Black ministers has less to do with Biblical commandments than it does to the fact that so many ministers like some man-on-man action on the DL. I guess that's where they find common ground with Republicans. Oh, the hypocrisy.

Anyway.

I sort of felt like there really wasn't anywhere near the media coverage of the Maryland law as there has been in other states. I mean, sure, there were a few reports, when the House of Delegates finally passed the bill, and when the Governor signed it. You had the usual clip from a lesbian couple with two children who are -- justifiably -- happy that they now have official recognition, and you had a bit of the hand wringing of the usual suspects about how Western civilization just lost another cornerstone blah blah blah will no one think of the children blah blah blah. But overall, the coverage was kind of low key, and maybe that's a good thing: it's just not such big news any more when one more state gives us the rights that everyone else has.

Or at least that we might have next January 1, if the likely referendum doesn't take them away from us. You'd like to think that a state as reliably liberal and Democratic as Maryland wouldn't vote to take us backwards, but, well, the Black churches will certainly be turning their members out. I have not so much as lifted my iPhone in the movement towards marriage equality, but I reckon that if someone's going to try to take a right -- even one that I don't intend to exercise -- away from me, then I'm going to have to do something. "Doing something" may just be writing a check, but I suppose I might finally be persuaded to do more than that.

By the way, I would be remiss to not mention how this is yet another example of how Maryland rules and Virginia drools. The Virginia gays who ignore the land of equality and instead choose to support a state that amended its constitution to deny them rights and wants to require invasive ultrasounds for women getting an abortion so that they could pay a few percent less in taxes must be SO PROUD (or maybe GOProud) right now. Y'all can bite me.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Stalking Mr. Right*

Before I go off on a series of tangents signifying nothing, I need to remind you of TED's unified dating theory. A proper date must have activities from both of two classes of activities: the social and the sexual. These categories are to be construed broadly. Social activities can be dinner or a movie or a cup of coffee or a drink in the hotel bar. Sexual activities can range from spending the night tied in a sling right on down to a goodnight kiss. But the deal is, you have to have both. If you have social activities without any sexual activity whatsoever, you have just hung out with a friend, possibly a friend of very short duration. If you spend the evening making out and/or producing fluids but you don't have any social activity (five minutes of post-coital conversation does not count), then you've hooked up. If you get both, then you've had a date.

Anyway, now that I'm entirely single again, I've been doing some dating, and it's been fun on both social and sexual levels. I like the living-in-the-present aspect of early dating. If you're dating a guy for a while, then you have to start thinking about The Future, but for the first so many (ten? fifteen?) dates, the only things you have to think about "are am I having a good time?" and "do I want to do this again?" And you shouldn't really even think about that second one until after the date or, if you're an overachiever near the very end of the date. Thinking ahead is just going to drive you crazy, and, let's face it, most guys you date aren't going to end up sharing a checking account with you, so why go there?

Contrariwise, I find that when I'm actively not thinking about the intermediate- or long-term potential for any of the guys I've been out with, I enjoy speculating about who the perfect guy for me would be. And in the minutes I've spent pondering this matter, I've come to two main conclusions:

1. I want a guy who's not around too much.
2. Real men are overrated.

The "real men" thing just means that flesh-and-blood guys (although they have the immense advantage of, well, flesh) never measure up to men from movies or books or television. And since I'm already dating real guys, it just makes more sense to search for the notional Mr. Right in the popular media.**

As for "not around too much": back when I was shacked up with my last partner, I found that we were happiest when he had taken on some overseas consulting work and was gone three or four times a year for two to three weeks at a time. And he was a pretty nice guy, so it's not that I didn't like him: it's just that I like my space. On the other hand, I also like having someone to share the bills, so I'm basically looking for fictional men who travel a lot but share their home base with me. (I am aware that the practical applications are rather severely limited.)

So, who might measure up?


George Clooney in Up in the Air. Sure, I'm aware that George Clooney is the actor, not the character, but did you remember "Ryan Bingham"? I had to Google to figure out the character's name. Anyway: George Clooney, traveling corporate hit man. Let's evaluate, shall we?

Assets: Easy on the eyes. Hardly ever home, so very low maintenance. Apparently very skilled in the sack. TONS of frequent flyer miles = free vacations!

Liabilities: Straight. Probably wouldn't remember my birthday. But really, the biggest problem with GC is that he's just starting out on his midlife crisis. Within six months, he's going to have quit his job and will be staying home learning to knit, so I'd get home every evening and dinner would be ready, but he'd always be there, and he'd be wanting to discuss our relationship. Egad, no.

In general, I think there are just going to be problems with heavy corporate travelers. To begin with, most of them are going to be in sales, and, well, ewwww. So let's leave behind the world of commerce and look at that other source for frequent travelers: G-men. For starters.



Bond. James Bond. We're using the Daniel Craig incarnation here, because he seems the least fictitious of the bonds, but it doesn't really matter: one Bond's as good or bad as another.

Upside: Easy on the eyes. Fast cars, exotic locales. Reputation for being great in bed, so unlimited opportunities for threeways. Big payoff from the British government when some foreign strongman or other finally cuts his throat.

Downside: Straight. No, really straight, and probably narrow. Seriously, look at the nipples on Daniel Craig: they've never been bitten. And I'm guessing he's not that good in bed anyway. There's a lot of close your eyes and think of England going on. Worse still is the near certainty that some day you're going to wake up bound, naked, tortured, and held for ransom in the hold of some freighter off the coast of Africa. (I realize that this would go under upside for some of you, and, hey, I don't judge, but it's not my thing.) And, sure, he'd probably rescue you eventually, but that sort of thing is tiresome and just try explaining it to your employer.

Moving on.



Agent Dale Cooper.

Plus: Sex on a motherfucking stick. Likes pie. Possibly could be nudged to bi. Will never cheat.

Minus: Probably wears boxers. Sexually conventional, so nudging to bi would be a lengthy process, and he's much more likely to go for Sheriff Truman than for me. Will never cheat. Bob.

So, no business travelers, and no government employees. Who does that leave?


Oberon.

Pro: Smoking hot. Pan-sexual. Will bring a continuing stream of sexually adventurous woodland beings home to bed with him. Supernatural. And this is Rupert Everett from the movie, so it's long before that unfortunate cosmetic surgery.

Con: Always sleeping outdoors. Also, as much as I love A Midsummer Night's Dream, I don't think I could bring myself to watch that version of it again. Whoever cast Ally McBeal as Helena needs to be shot. Or at least sternly reprimanded.

I guess it's back to the real men. Alas.

*Yeah, I know: no actual stalking is going on or is even contemplated. It's just not my style, but sometimes I like a provocative title. Hire a lawyer and sue me.

**I am aware that the logic here is, shall we say, weak. But we're tongue-in-cheek in this post anyway. I don't actually spend my time fixating on movie characters.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Sturm und Drang

I meant to post yesterday, on Valentine's Day (hereinafter V-Day, because, really, any holiday with a name longer than "Yule" is just too much trouble to type out), but I got busy, and, more to the point, what I was writing was crap.

Anyway, my V-Day started at 7:30 with a phone call, from a very sweet guy with whom I've been on two dates, wishing me a happy V-Day. I'm not sure that waking someone up via cell phone is a great strategic move on V-Day, but whatever. There followed a text message with a ridiculous V-Day graphic, and I was of two minds:
1. Dude. It's only been two dates: ease up a little.
2. What? No chocolate?

It is a sad but undeniable fact that I am more likely to want what is harder for me to get and what I probably shouldn't want. Put another way: I'm more likely to be into a guy if he seems less into me. I am given to understand that many others of all genders and sexual persuasions are in the same boat.

If you analyze this phenomenon (as I have, obviously), you come to a couple of conclusions. First, it's often to your advantage to appear less interested than you are. "Playing hard to get" is the more negative way to put that because it makes me sound like I'm playing games, and nobody wants to be accused of playing games, even if that's what he's doing. In any case, playing it cool is wise not just because it usually makes you more attractive. Emotions often outrace reason, and if you act on the former, you may have already done something you'll regret when the latter catches up.

The second conclusion is that I should really learn to value guys who are into me more than I do. And, you know, for the last several years, I've determined to spend more time with guys who are willing to chase after me and less with guys who I have to pursue. And, well, it's a work in progress. I'm doing better with the not-acting-too-interested part than I am with the rewarding-interest-in-me part. But I find that being aware of the ways in which my psyche acts against my self-interest is a big help in modifying the behavior.

Well. There's my moment of introspection for 2012.

As for V-Day itself, I see a lot of whinging from both the attached and single segments of the population. If you're attached, the whinging goes something like, "Egad, yet another instance of the greeting card-florist-industrial complex conspiring to make me spend money on frivolities." And, well: really? The fact that you have someone to do something for is, on balance, cause for gratitude and celebration, not for complaint. Besides, V-Day is the easiest holiday ever! Finding someone the right Christmas or birthday gift can be really difficult, but on V-Day, you get some chocolates and flowers and you're done. [If you're feeling especially kind, you can throw in some sexy underwear or a sex toy, but I mention this only so that I can tell a story at my own expense. That Guy, with whom I recently broke up, was a very stylish dresser, but he wore underwear (white woven cotton boxers: ugh) that were totally at odds with his image. So early last month, I went online and ordered him some more appropriate underwear, thinking it would make a good V-Day gift. Then I broke up with him. And, well, I'd ordered underwear on clearance, so it couldn't be returned. And it was size small, which I really am not. Fortunately, last weekend, I got a late night call from one of my favorite gentlemen of horizontal acquaintance asking me to come over, and it occurred to me that said gentleman is probably 5'4 and maybe 120 lbs if he's soaking wet, so I grabbed some of the underwear and took it with me. He was happy to have it, though when he tried it on, it was a little too big. I reckon it'll shrink in the dryer, though.] It's pretty easy.

The whinging by the single people usually goes more along the lines of "Egad, the media are conspiring to make me feel inadequate because I'm single." This, reader, is an error. The media are, in fact, conspiring to make you spend money because that's what they're there for. So if you're single, wrap yourself in the mantle of intellectual and moral superiority: "I am too smart and too good to be duped into feeling inferior by people who only want my money." Or, if that doesn't work for you, buy yourself something. Chocolate is half off!