Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Stories of My Fathers

We saw Alvin and the Chipmunks today. GPop insisted. The fun part was that all of the 4 to 7 year olds appeared to have a great time. There were a lot of little kids laughing. Son seemed to enjoy it, too. I nearly fell asleep a couple of times. That's a first.

Gluteosmooch Me, Mr. O'Reilly

Son had a bunch of gift cards to use, so we ended up in Blockbuster this evening. He wanted to purchase a used game for his new Sony PSP, which he's purchased for himself. As we were leaving, I saw a box of candy wrapped in white paper and a bow. On the box was written, "Happy Christokwanzhanamas!" in red and green marker.

I asked the kid behind the counter, "Has anyone complained about this box?" He shook his head and told me that he didn't know of any complaints.

I would have thought that True PatriotsTM would have knocked the kid on his butt for even standing next to that box. Wait a minute... Maybe the whole "War on Christmas" thing is a bunch of made-up nonsense.

I Have the Abilt- BLAM BLAM BLAM

We're caught up on Heroes.

Addictions Stink

I have 103 blogs in my Sage feed reader for Firefox. I just clicked refresh, and none of them have any new content. I have just consumed the Internet. [BUUUURRRRP!]

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Beautiful Niece; Beautiful Mind

Brother 2's daughter is a lovely little almost-2 year old. She's absolutely adorable, with big blue eyes and blond hair. When we visited at Christmas, she was demonstrating a new skill. She would take her sippy cup, drop some water out of it onto the lid of her toy box, then wipe it up with a napkin. Repeat ad nauseum. It struck me that behavior that's cute in a child could be a bit unsettling in an adult.

If you're compulsive and you know it, wash your hands!
If you're compulsive and you know it, wash your hands!
Wash your hands; wash your hands; wash your hands;
Wash your hands; wash your hands; wash your hands;
Wash your hands!

Tongue Twister

Son takes daily prescription meds for a minor issue. He takes one pill in the morning, and one at lunchtime.

GPop just asked him, moments ago, "Did you take your afternoon medicine?"

Son replied, "No. I just now took my mordicine. I mean my mordicine. I mean my morning mordicing. MOR-NING MED-I-CINE. I keep saying, 'mordicing.'"

Seven Minutes of Fame

GPop and I have a dirty little secret.

We have been fans of the Fox teevee show COPS since we met, almost 15 years ago. Before Son joined our family, we would either watch it on Saturday night or tape it to watch later in the week. In recent years, it seems that we can channel surf any time during the evening and find at least one channel that has it in syndication. It's amazing to watch the technology change over the last almost-20 years.

When we'd watch it, we would scream, "Woo-hoo!" every time a shirtless person would appear onscreen. If we couldn't understand the people, we'd turn on closed captioning to try and get what the person was saying.

We even tried to decipher the lyrics of the theme song, which for a long time we thought was saying, "The Tegina Achina give you no break." The actual lyrics are, "Not even you idren na give you no break." My midwest upbringing gives me no frame of reference to decode this, but the Interwebs tell me that idren means children.

GPop would always yell, "Shoot him!" when the cop or cops encountered a suspect. Great fun all around, although there's a niggling little bit of my conscience that tells me I shouldn't enjoy this sort of thing.

Since Son joined our family, though, we've opted for less violent programming. However, our channel surfing popped the show onto our screen this week, and it amazed me that these suspects would put an X on a release form so they could appear on teevee. Wow.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Angry Language Guy

I guess the phrase "dollars to doughnuts" no longer means what it used to mean. I suppose it means even less what it used to mean if you have to buy them from somewhere in Europe.

Foto Phriday

When we went spelunking this summer, we saw this eye-shaped rock formation. Note the helpful "EYE" sign.

Scare Hair

Why is it that hair, or lack thereof, in unexpected places is so unsettling?

Exhibit A:

Exhibit B:

Both images are from Wikipedia, and are subject to their licensing.

My Eyes, Part 2

I showed my injury due to horrible visions on this post. Angry Professor commented, "I thought it was a picture of a really ugly man's nipples." That inspired me.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

My Eyes, My Eyes, What Happened to My Eyes?

See this injury to my hand?

You might think a small vampire bit me, but you'd be wrong.

I was in a grocery store on Christmas Eve, picking up a couple of items in preparation for the travels, when I spied a morbidly fascinating sight. A woman, who had to be close to 70, plus or minus a few, was standing there with a bright orangey-reddish huge bouffant coiffure, a tight forest green blouse, a similarly tight forest green mid-thigh miniskirt, and knee-high black leather boots with at least 3-inch heels.

I learned not to stare, because I ran right into a display and injured my hand. I also swore out loud.

Mom's Birthday

My mom hits a milestone birthday in a few days. Brothers 1, 2, 3, and I have agreed to purchase her a technological device that I won't name until after the birthday. Suffice to say that we, as naive children, believe will fulfill some existential hole in her life.

At least, I believed that until I read this over at little.yellow.different.

An Ignorant Yankee in Queen Elizabeth's Court

A few months ago, I took Son, my mom, and Baldo McNerdy to a Renaissance festival about an hour plus change from our home. We had a great time.

Each year we attend, there seems to be some popular item that stands out. One year, there were a lot of people wearing fairy wings. Another year, quite a few people had pirate eye patches. This year, the popular item was little forehead horns. I know people were thinking in terms of devilish mischief, but I laughed inwardly at the meaning that the Elizabethan era denizens would have attributed to these decorations.

Angry Language Guy

What's up with this construct?

"The thing is is that..."

Doctor Bane and the Mystery of the Limited World View

I just spoke to my insurance company, and I've asked a lawyer for an appointment. I will now shut down my commentary on this issue until the affair is closed.

Thanks to everyone who spoke or wrote such kind words of support. Without a doubt, you all ROCK!

ESP at the House of Mouse

When I was in my early teens, my parents took us on a Family Vacation where You Will Have Fun to the neighbor of the east side copy of the Happiest Place on Earth, EPCOT Center. Brother 1 was elementary aged, Brother 2 was in early elementary school or preschool, and Brother 3 wasn't even a twinkle in the parents' eyes.

My parents were a bit harried at one point from dealing with three kids, and they asked me to find out from someone what time it might be. I approached a young woman with the official EPCOT costume.

GDad: [tentatively, 'cause I was a gangly, self-conscious teen] Excuse me...

Woman: 3:45.

GDad: What time... Oh...

Woman: You're welcome.

GDad: Thank y... [walks away]

Maybe the big black disc ears are some sort of telepathic amplifier. Next time, I'll wear my Aluminum Foil Deflector Beanie and see if the Experimental Prototype Humans of Tomorrow can still read my thoughts.

Doctor Bane and the Case of the Frozen Yeti

I spoke to the county children services rep today. He was aghast at my experience with Doctor Bane. In the rep's words, "I think you and GPop are wonderful parents, and so do my colleagues."

I'll be chatting up my employer's Employee Assistance Program to see if they can do some legwork for me with regard to spreading the tale of Doctor Bane's misdeeds.


I saw an opossum walking around in the road as I drove home the other night. It struck me that these animals do not appear as majestic or proud, but rather as frumpy.

Speaking of...

We watched Capote last night. I bought it about a year ago in the bargain rack at the grocery store for less than the price to rent it, and it sat on the shelf until last night.


With a kid in the house, we don't get to see too many character-driven movies. Most of the movies are very overtly conflict driven, like Spider-Man N, where N is an integer between 1 and 3, inclusive, Pirates of the Caribbean N, same deal for N, and other movies where people spend a lot of time not sitting down.

This movie really had me on the edge of my seat in its subtlety. There wasn't much in the way of white-hat/black-hat going on. The special features on the DVD revealed some of the decisions on color palette, costuming, casting, etc., that really came through in the movie. Check it out.

Separated at Birth

I was at one of those truck stop mega-gas-station things a while back. I was standing in line to purchase whatever I was buying that day, and I noticed that both the customer in front of me and the man behind the counter were little tiny men with high voices and lisps. They were having some kind of quiet argument about the price of something, and the only thought that went through my mind was, "Are you both Truman Capote?"

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

GDad, You're Not Funny

GPop, Son, and I went over to Rusty and Kath's house next door for a traditional Christmas pizza and salad dinner last week. Yum!

Son told Rusty and Kath that he wanted another Nintendo DS for Christmas. He already has one, but he wants a second.

Rusty: Why do you need a second one?

Son: So I can trade Pokemons between them.

Rusty: You'd need more hands.

GDad: Yeah, you'd have to become Shiva the Destroyer.

All: ?

GDad: [laughs] Man, than joke never gets old.

All: [Laughter]

Friday, December 21, 2007

Foto Phriday

My late grandfather was a wonderful man. His life goals seemed to me to be to raise a family and to work to make the world a better and more informed place. He fought in WWII, spent years farming and working in a factory, and then, in his retirement, he co-authored a book with some of his distant cousins to document our family in North America since the early 1700s. He spent a great deal of time in his last few years volunteering to convert old county court records to electronic format to help out the local genealogy society. I miss him terribly.

Some of the wisdom he passed to me included a number of observations that seemed to be grounded in the idea that the world is never and can never be perfect, so we work hard to make of it what we can.

"Trash can basketball is a win-win situation. If you make it in, you win. If you don't, well, you had to go over to the trash can anyway."

"Don't get too upset about weeds. If it's green, and it's on the ground, then it's your lawn."

In reflection of that last remark, here's a picture of a pretty purple flower that grows as a weed in my lawn every spring. It has a cousin that is the same size and shape, but mostly white with faint purple stripes. I happen rather to like it.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Line from a Meeting

I've been in meetings this week to bring a consulting firm into a large project we have for 2008. The president of the consulting firm used the metaphor that his folks had to "get on a moving train," because the project was already started.

One of the consultants said, I think tongue in cheek, "There are a bunch of train getting-on scenarios I could envision that wouldn't work so well."

I will almost guarantee that the quoted phrase "train getting-on scenarios" will always return exactly this one result if you were to Google it. If not, then we'll be able to find the possible plagiarist with Copyscape.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Interesting Update on Doctor Bane

I did some work on my state's medical board, and I found that Doctor Bane graduated from Ross University, which is located in the Caribbean. I don't know enough about medical schools to say whether this would be an optimal situation, but it does seem noteworthy.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

I Want to Eat the Same Thing Tonight

Fortunately, we had leftovers.

Last night I dreamed that I had been cast in the Zac Efron role in a local stage production of High School Musical 2. However, since I am in my late 30s, and I am not a particularly talented dancer, the director decided to change my dance number to be me stumbling around the stage yelling in a slurred voice, "PUTTIN' ON THE RITZ!"

We are Family

I came home from the awful doctor visit this evening, and now I'm sitting on the couch watching teevee with Son. He's lying on the couch resting his head on my arm and wrapping one hand around my arm to support his head. He is completely relaxed, and he trusts and loves me absolutely.

F*&^ Doctor Bane.

Nonsense and BS

UPDATE: I clarified in the first paragraph that the homestudy renewal is to keep our eligibility to adopt another child, not to keep Son in our family. Sorry for the confusion. Son is safe and loved no matter what.


GPop and I were approved to adopt at the end of 2005. In our state, we must renew this "homestudy" every two years. We've been successful parents of Son for almost a year and a half, and our homestudy social worker was very pleased with our home, our parenting skills, and our paperwork. He asked us to complete two final things in order to get our homestudy renewed for two more years so that we could continue to be eligible to adopt more children. We needed to sign up for eight hours of training, such as CPR certification, home safety training, first aid, dealing with difficult children, or other topics. The second item was a simple doctor's statement to say that we were physically fit enough to raise a child. The social worker takes care of the assessment of a person's temperamental and attitudinal capabilities.

GPop got his physical a few days ago from a physician's assistant at our preferred medical facility. For about five years, we've had excellent experiences at this facility. I don't think I've even sat in the waiting room more than ten minutes in five years. The staff always provides prompt, friendly service, and just as importantly, the billing is (so far) always accurate. Their policy is such that they have a rotating doctor on call who will see people today if their usual doctor is unavailable. In that sense, they combine aspects of traditional appointment-based visits with something of an urgent care model.

I went in today for my physical. My usual doctor wasn't in, so I got to see Doctor Bane. Doctor Bane opened up my folder and asked why I was in. I showed him the five question form that basically asked questions such as, "Is this person physically able to perform tasks related to raising a child?" and, "Are there any health concerns that would prevent this person from raising a child?" Pretty straightforward stuff.

I explained that GPop and I had already adopted Son, and in fact, Doctor Bane has seen Son before, so we had that connection. Doctor Bane looked concerned about the seriousness of this form, and started reviewing my medical concerns with a strong eye for detail. My medical conditions are the standard for someone who has a desk job - overweight, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and one that's a little more severe - type 2 diabetes that I control with medication. I don't have any debilitating health issues, so that part of the conversation didn't faze me at all.

He asked me to provide a sample to do a kidney function test, so I left the room to do so. I returned to the room with the sample. The medical assistant retrieved the sample, and I sat alone for a few minutes while medical things happened outside.

Doctor Bane returned to the room. He sat down and started going over his list of concerns. I have high cholesterol. I have high blood pressure. I have diabetes. OK, I know these things, and I take my medication for them. When the assistant took my BP at the beginning of the session, it was 116/82. My other numbers aren't way off base as long as I'm on my meds.

Then he said that he thinks my risk of heart disease at some time in my 50s (more than a decade away) is strong enough that he doesn't want to approve my physical. He's concerned that if I adopt a pre-teen child now, that child may not have a father later when the child is in his or her 20s. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?

Then he took a deep breath, and told me that I was placing him in an ethical dilemma. Huh?

He went on to explain that his belief system doesn't put him in a position to approve of people "in the homosexual lifestyle" to adopt children, so even if he did pass me on the physical, he still couldn't fill out my form. At that point, I think I was stunned into silence.

He spent a good ten or fifteen minutes blathering about how he was able to separate his professional behavior from his personal beliefs, so he wanted to make sure I knew that as I decided whether or not to accept his care as a physician. I spoke very little, but wondered as he kept going on whether he would be obligated to treat me if I broke my knuckles by punching him HARD right in his pie hole.

Finally, when he stopped going on about Leviticus and Romans, I asked him whether he would interfere with any other doctor at the facility who would treat my request for a physical on my actual physical health. He told me that the other doctors were answerable to themselves, not to him. He stopped just short of saying that the other doctors were answerable to God, or Odin, or whatever.

He went on for a while more in the vein of how his belief system was based not on what some pope or bishop said, but rather on his own interpretation of his scriptures, and blah blah blah. I tuned out trying to think of whether I needed to do anything else before I left. I thanked him for his candor, because it would help me make up my mind (about how far to stay away from this raving loon).

I don't think I've been so humiliated in years. I frankly don't know what to do next. He obviously spent a lot of time covering his ass by going over every medical concern I have ever had in an effort to find a professional reason to avoid filling out my form. I doubt I could find any reason to file a professional complaint.

I read about this kind of awful treatment of LGBTQ(etc.) people on other blogs I frequent, and it makes me angry as hell. I've never had this kind of thing happen to me before. How angry is angry as hell squared?

Monday, December 17, 2007

Bad Corporate Merger

If IBM and Microsoft merged, the name possibilities are pretty funny.

IB Soft.


Observation on the National Conversation

Republican frontrunners* (alphabetically):

  • Rudy Giuliani
  • Mike Huckabee
  • John McCain
  • Ron Paul
  • Mitt Romney
  • Fred Thompson
Democratic frontrunners* (alphabetically):
  • Hillary Clinton
  • John Edwards
  • Barack Obama
We still have a relic of a different treatment of men and women when we refer to them publicly. All of the men generally appear in the media and conversations as Lastname, but Hillary Clinton is generally called by Firstname. One could argue that this is to differentiate between her and Bill Clinton, and that argument has some merit, because we didn't hear about a Mondale/Geraldine ticket back in 1984; it was Mondale/Ferraro. However, it is still interesting.

*Please don't quibble about the term "frontrunner." I'm using it here to indicate people who have a lot of media coverage.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Flying-eh Man-oh

We just finished the first season of Heroes on DVD. Now we can start Season 2, and I hope we can catch up by the time the teevee shows start coming back.

Observations at Work

This is a representation of my notes from a meeting this week.

Friday, December 14, 2007

I Do Not Like It, Sam I Am

I've always been a news junkie. When I was in late elementary school and middle school, I would watch the local and national news from 6:00 to 7:00 nearly every night. I knew more about the nearby Big City council goings on than I knew about the politics of my classmates.

Even now, my radio is tuned to the local NPR station all the time so I can listen to its news. If they are talking about Iraq too much, or if I'm driving when they have one of their music programs on, I switch to my podcasts of other news programming.

Since I've become an adult, I find that I can't stand to watch local news. The reporting seems to be so banal that I feel I've dropped into the universe of Harrison Bergeron.

Back in August, GPop, Son, and I were watching a movie at home on a Saturday when we heard the local tornado sirens going off. We decided to switch to the local stations to see what was going on. It was a tornado warning, of course. What was really sad, but sort of entertaining, was that this was The Moment for which that the weather reporters had been waiting their whole lives. One local weather person was in the Storm Headquarters directing the serf reporters out into the storm to do on-the-spot reporting from within the funnel cloud. We could just tell that he was practically wetting himself with excitement over the idea that someone might die because of the weather.

The only teevee news I can stomach any more are the stock ticker graphs (without sound), and the AP newsfeed I get on the News Channel on my Wii.

Linguistic Item of Interest

Son's early linguistic development happened outside our home. He was 11 when he met us, so much of his grammar and basic vocabulary was already built. One interesting vocabulary anomaly we've seen is Son's use of the word "inside" for most instances where I would use the word "in." For example, "The teacher gave us homework inside our Social Studies class again."

He will use "in" sometimes, but his use of "inside" is prevalent enough that I am pretty good at anticipating it. I haven't worked out the rule yet, but it's intriguing enough that I might try.

Otherwise, his speech differs from standard English mostly when he uses subjects and verbs that disagree, or objective pronouns in the place of subjective pronouns, as in "them are" instead of "they are." The word "ain't" slips out a lot. GPop and I try to guide him by example rather than humiliating him by correcting him in public, but we will discuss grammar with him in private.

Are there any linguists or psychologists out there that might have any guesses about the "in" versus "inside" usage? Or, as I suspect may be true, am I being excessively analytical?

Captain Ruffles and the Bungalow Mystery

Some friends of mine bought a house a couple of years back. They're a couple who love to entertain, and the house they bought is spectacularly laid out for that purpose. The main floor is open from kitchen through the living room, and the basement is one huge finished room with an entertainment center, kitchen, and bar. In addition to having a fabulous entertainment complex, they also both love to cook and generally fuss about the things that make a party a party.

When they had their first party in their new house a few years back, Captain Ruffles and CB were invited and attended. Captain Ruffles, as usual, spent most of the evening creating drama where there didn't need to be any. At one point, I think he was feeling left out, so he sidled up to one of the hosts and said, "You have a lovely little bungalow here. It reminds me of a little vacation spot for a 1940s starlet."

Captain Ruffles isn't on the hosts' A list, B list, nor C list any more.

Foto Phriday

Here's a picture of a rainbow seen from our back door.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Grudge Match - Delayed

The original Captain Ruffles is, by most accounts, an awful person. I feel no particular remorse for exposing his anonymized peccadilloes. Because I've sort of franchised him, there are a lot of Captain Ruffleses, er, Captains Ruffles, er, um, INSTANCES of Captain Ruffles from which to draw material.

EBS Guy, on the other hand, is a little cantankerous and very weird (says pot regarding kettle), but he's actually quite a giving person. EBS Guy is going through a bit of a rough patch right now, so material about him will be a bit sparse. It's not cricket to kick a man when he's down.

The Grudge Match will have to wait for sunnier days.

Fraternal Fortune, Finally

Brother 3 just accepted a job at the company where I work. He's been working here as a temp for several months, and he will be starting full time on Monday.

And there was much rejoicing.

Blog Meme

List three poems that resonate with you. You may choose to explain why.

Richard Cory
by Edwin Arlington Robinson

Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim.

And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
"Good-morning," and he glittered when he walked.

And he was rich—yes, richer than a king,
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.

So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.

I Saw a Man Pursuing the Horizon
by Stephen Crane

I saw a man pursuing the horizon;
Round and round they sped.
I was disturbed at this;
I accosted the man.
"It is futile," I said,
"You can never -"

"You lie," he cried,
And ran on.

Old Men
by Ogden Nash

People expect old men to die,
They do not really mourn old men.
Old men are different. People look
At them with eyes that wonder when...
People watch with unshocked eyes;
But the old men know when an old man dies.

The last poem was especially poignant when my maternal grandfather died a couple of years ago.

The man pursuing the horizon is the person I can not help, no matter how hard I try. In recent years, I think I've changed my focus from changing the world for the better to changing for the better the lives of people close to me.

Richard Cory reminds me never to wish to be someone else.

No earth shattering revelations here.

Question for Readers

Did you ever imagine that you would change the world?

Monday, December 10, 2007

Unintentional Innuendo

I was just on a conference call, and the topic turned to holiday plans and holiday cookies/cakes/pies. A female caller spoke to the male moderator. "I don't know if you want my goodies, Moderator. They might make you sick." There was uncomfortable silence for a moment.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Elegant, Beautiful, Strange, Part 5

EBS Guy was corresponding with a coworker about an upcoming meeting. I've represented this as a spoken dialogue, rather than pasting the e-mails in with headers included.

H: Anything else to add to the meeting minutes? If not, I'll publish them.

EBS Guy: Let them fly my away ... fly away.... yup I lost it

Grudge Match, Round 1

As I'm reviewing the labels on my blog, I find that EBS Guy is behind Captain Ruffles in number of posts. I think I may have to rectify that soon. Please leave comments to indicate which person you'd rather hear more about, or which person you'd rather see guest star on an episode of The Office.

This Will Be Embarrassing in a Few Years

As mentioned a little bit ago, Son is home from school today due to calamitous weather. Oh, boo freakin' hoo - one inch of snow that's melting. Anyway, he's being exceptionally lazy on the couch, and he asked me to hand him the laptop, which was less than three inches from his fingertips.

GDad: Reach just a little farther, and I'm sure you can get it.

Son: I can't get it up.

GDad: That's not something you usually say until you're much older.

Son: ?

GDad: Never mind.

Hanging From the Sky

Several years ago, as I was driving to work, I saw a hot air balloon in the sky. I grew up about three miles from a hot air balloon ride business, so I've been used to seeing them about my entire life. This one, though, almost made me wreck the car.

It was shaped like a teddy bear. Not the floppy, flat kind, but rather the seated variety. So that means that the basket was dangling below the bear's butt. When you look at a hot air balloon from the ground, the flames appear to come from a little bit above the basket.

The end result looked like something that I've come to call the Flaming Dingleberry. I suppose that symptom could lead to someone being an Angry Pooper.

Article 1, Section 2, Paragraph 3

Son has only attended school three out of five days this week. The school system seems to be very liberal in declaring catastrophe days, née snow days. Conversely, my mother, who teaches fifth grade about 120 miles into the snowier part of the country from where I sit, has spent the week with her students at a state park that is fifty miles into the snowier area of the state from here.

Our company sent out a big company-wide e-mail alert telling people how to drive safely on the snow-covered roads. One of my peers, who is generally very soft-spoken, opened the message and piped up, "Is this the first time it's ever snowed in this city?"

Silent, But Deadly

I missed celebrating International Ninja Day on 12/05. I wonder if Dave will like this day better.

Foto Phriday

We were in Florida a couple of years ago to visit GPop's grandmother. During the visit, we passed by this sign for a restaurant. This sign led me to wonder how often these three events coincide in sunny Florida.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Hannukah Musing

Cranky Prof shows us an amazing lack of cultural awareness.

I was wondering the other day if there is anything less kosher than an Egg McMuffin, which, for the uninitiated, is a scrambled egg patty on a biscuit with ham and cheese. Meat touching dairy is not kosher. Ham is not kosher. I suppose you could top it off with a shrimp and cook it for brunch on Saturday.

Have Yourself a Beardie Little Christmas

Christmas Lizard is coming to town.

Elegant, Beautiful, Strange, Part 4

EBS Guy brought in more towels this morning. It's a little disappointing that there weren't also some inappropriate things as well.

Bloody Vikings!

I can't help but wonder what kind of disorder affects senders of unsolicited commercial e-mail. The random word subject lines are really funny sometimes. Today, I received one with a subject "water paintbrush elephant rocket" and another with "drape magnuson adriatic marco bibb."

Monday, December 3, 2007

Willard, Larry, Barry, and Me

Who gets to pick your identity? When you identify as an American, or a Lutheran, or a person of Norwegian descent, do you gain anything? When other people identify you as a punk, or with some racial epithet, or they call you some name based on a physical characteristic, have you lost anything?

Willard "Mitt" Romney is giving a speech this week about faith in politics. Critics are suggesting that his Mormonism is causing him to be a bit behind in the polls among conservative, fundamentalist, Christians in Iowa. Many reports indicate that these CFCs believe that Mormonism is not Christianity. Mr. Romney has indicated in the past that his faith isn't relevant to his bid for presidency, yet critics point out that he says that his faith informs his decisions with regard to policy, ergo his faith is relevant.

The president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Gordon Hinckley, says in this interview that Mormons are Christians. Well, actually, he says that he's astounded that anyone would question the issue. The question is in bold, and the response is in plain text.

There are many, many people -- and I'm talking about the people who are respectful of your religion, and who are knowledgeable, literate -- who nonetheless question whether you are, in fact, Christian according to their definition. I'm wondering whether you can talk to the people who really are trying to understand: Can you address their concerns? What is it that people find so difficult?

I don't know. I can't understand it. The very name of the church is the name of Jesus Christ. Our whole message is centered around Christ. The Book of Mormon is an additional witness for Christ. Everything we do is done in the name of Christ. I don't understand why people say we're not Christians. That's their right, of course. They can have their own opinion. But all that I can say is that in our terms, we worship Christ; we believe in Christ; we accept him. And he's our savior; he's our redeemer. He's the Son of God; he's the great creator; he's the word made flesh as spoken of by John. He's the savior of the world, Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

So, who gets to decide if Mormons are Christians? It's not as though there is a single decision making body for all of Christianity. Catholics lay claim to having a linear succession of church fathers all the way back to Jesus' apostle, Peter, whom the Bible says Jesus designated his successor, but internecine conflict has split the church countless times across the millennia. The Orthodox churches believe that they're the true church. The churches that popped up during the Protestant reformation believe that they have The Truth packaged up and ready for market. There are even more modern religions, such as the Jehovah's Witnesses, that reject the hidebound Protestant sects. So, who gets to decide?

Senator Larry Craig made headlines this year for his arrest and guilty plea for disorderly conduct when he solicited sex from an undercover officer in the Minneapolis airport. So, Larry Craig is gay, right? Senator Craig, at a press conference, said these words: "I am not gay. I have never been gay."

Who gets to decide? Senator Craig denies that his actions were for the purpose of soliciting sexual activity, and yet his actions, as described by the officer, are exactly what would be expected if the allegations were true, according to people who have experience with such matters. He seems to be living life on the down-low.

Many in the Republican party want to get rid of him, because he is an embarrassment. People in the gay community seem to be split between wanting him to admit that he's gay and then repudiating him, or wanting him to admit to same-sex activities without adopting the identity. I imagine Senator Craig has his own wishes in the matter. Irrespective of his identity and wishes, his record shows that he consistently votes to criminalize the behavior in which he engaged and consistently votes to prevent people in same-sex relationships from having rights that match those of people in opposite-sex relationships. This voting record is at odds with his behavior, but is it at odds with his identity?

But, in Senator Craig's case, who gets to decide if he's gay? Is the definition simply, "Someone who engages, one or more times, in sexual activity with someone of the same sex?" What about people who are attracted to people of the same sex, but who are celibate? Or people who are in a relationship with someone of the opposite sex, but who are attracted to members of the same sex without acting on that attraction? Or people who are in a relationship with an intersexed person? Who gets to decide?

Senator Barack "Barry" Obama, current candidate for the Democratic party's nomination for presidential candidate, was born to a white American woman and a black Kenyan man. He is, at the time I am writing this, one of the front runners in this race. If he is elected to the presidency, he will be the first African-American President of the United States. When you consider the history of obstacles that African American people have faced in this country for a couple hundred years, this will be a Big Deal.

However, because his mother was white, there are questions about whether Senator Obama is black enough to satisfy some criterion of blackness. Senator Obama publicly self-identifies as black. However, given the fuss in the media, that question is out there in the American consciousness. So, again, who gets to decide whether Barack Obama is black enough? Should there be some legal definition of race?

At the company where I work, our human resources department has a charge of monitoring and reporting on racial diversity in our company. In order to facilitate those reports, the HR computer system has a racial identifier on the employee record. The interesting part is that one's racial identity is self-proclaimed. If I wanted to identify as multiracial Pacific Islander and Hispanic (non-white), I could, even though my actual ethnic/racial background puts me routinely in danger of becoming invisible when it snows.

So, who gets to decide if Barack Obama is black enough? Is there some kind of cultural gestalt that serves as arbiter for this sort of thing?

Yours truly, your host for the evening, adopted a child a bit ago. My son is a wonderful boy. My partner, GPop, and I have been enriched beyond imagining by this addition to our lives.

Because of the laws in our state and country, GPop's relationship to me isn't recognized as anything more than passing acquaintance unless we go through expensive and complicated legal hurdles to protect ourselves. Even in Massachusetts, where same-sex marriage has been legal for a couple of years, the federal benefits afforded to married opposite-sex couples are not available to married same-sex couples. In fact, we had to go through some complicated, expensive, and anemic legal maneuvering just to provide GPop with some kind of legal recognition as a parent of Son. My sincere hope is that if anything were ever to happen to me, the arrangements we've made will suffice to keep GPop and Son together as a family, but I'm not convinced that it would be smooth sailing.

So, who gets to decide if we are a family? I say we are. GPop says we are. Son says we are. Those are the interested parties in toto. In my mind, nobody else should have any say in the matter whatsoever. Unfortunately, the state, as instructed by the people, has decided that our family isn't worthy of the protections or rights of other families. Other families run into the same issue. Should my private family arrangements be subject to the scrutiny and veto power of the government? Who gets to decide?

When I was discussing this issue with GPop, he stated that self-identification is the overriding factor. I countered with the question of what would happen if I made the claim that I was a Navy SEAL, which I am not, nor ever have been. Would that self-identification hold? We concluded that there are circumstances where objective reality can be verified to contradict self-identification claims. However, the earlier questions remain a little squirrelly.

Is there anybody out there? I'm getting a sandwich.

Oldest English Saga to Newest Gorefest

If you feel you must see Beowulf, see it in IMAX 3-D. We saw it on Sunday. I'm tickled by the camera angles that blocked the audience from seeing anything in the Beowulf/Grendel fight scene that would change the rating from PG-13 to R. Beowulf was sans clothes, and there were a lot of conveniently-placed candlesticks, arms, helmets, and whatever to block view of the naughties. I suspect that the Beowulf model was actually smooth 'round the bend.

I'm pretty sure the writers took some liberties with the story to add some dramatic flair. I don't recall Beowulf being the dragon-sire, nor Grendel's mother being Skjöldunger Next Top Model.

Small Town Celebrations

Our small town has a number of public events each year. In the spring, we have a Memorial Day parade to honor fallen veterans. Local residents bring out military regalia and parade through the streets toward a forum for speeches from dignitaries and such. Then there is pie.

Throughout the summer, there's a farmer's market every Saturday morning and Wednesday afternoon. Locals bring produce, preserves, and crafts to hawk along the street, and there's a celebratory air in the village. The stores all appreciate the additional traffic, and many of the little boutiques have extended hours when the market is in full swing.

Labor Day is the big shindig. We pull out all the stops. The main drag is closed off, filled with carnival rides, fried or frozen food stands, and live entertainment. The village springs for fireworks, and the whole town turns out. Many other local towns have Independence Day fireworks, but on Labor Day, we're the only game in town.

The past two years have seen Halloween Ghost Tours where volunteers guide visitors around town with tales of spooky happenings in the past. I haven't yet attended one of those, but maybe next year.

We're also starting a Christmas in the Village thing. The businesses on the main drag kept their doors open for business on Friday and Saturday night, and even the banks opened up the lobbies for carolers and other entertainment.

We stopped by the hippie/emo/beatnik coffee shop Saturday night, because Son's guitar teacher was on stage with his daughters. They performed a variety of Christmas and winter music. The instructor's youngest child is an active two-year-old with no fear. This little blond kid was running around, courting danger near the wires and music stands all evening. It was pretty funny.

We had dinner at Small Town Restaurant, which was packed. We were lucky enough to be joined by Baldo and Geekina McNerdy. After dinner, Geekina went shopping, and Baldo followed us around for a while, until the evening was done.

We ended up back at the Cöffëe Haus again. The music instructor was still on stage. By this time, he was asking for requests. GPop and I have had years of experience singing on stage as part of a chorus, so the joke request from our table was "Anything that requires a baritone!" What we actually requested, though, was "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer." What we got was "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas."

All in all, we had a fine evening.

Holiday Shopping

Since we started the path to adopting a child, and we hope for more, we've been educated on the foster care and public adoption system in our county and state. Our county agency, which assisted us through our first adoption process, needs clothes and toys for children that go into foster care without anything more than the clothes they are wearing.

GPop, Son, and I went to a local used kids' clothing and toy store yesterday to help where we could. We split up to get clothes. I picked pajamas for infants, toddlers, and kids up to about 8. GPop picked out daytime outfits, and Son picked out coats. Our idea was to find the largest number of clothes at the least cost, so we really just shopped by price tag. We managed to get a trunk full of clothes and toys for our budget this year.

We dropped the items off at the agency, and it looks like the agency is still getting donations, but the shelves aren't anywhere near full. I hope everyone has a happy holiday season, whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Festivus, Midwinter, Yule, Amaterasu, or any other celebration that coincides with this time of year. Please renew ties with your family and friends, and take some time to remember our common humanity in a way that is meaningful to you. There are folks who could benefit from that small gesture.