"Do I contradict myself? Very well, I contradict myself. I am vast. I contain multitudes." -Walt Whitman

:malicious user:

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

beat

hat's off to all those blue collars who build and maintain this planet. just put in too many hours at the stupo-screen (read: laptop) and i am wasted, drain-bed, good-for-naught.

on a positive note, a realtor called with two possiblities on a new apartment for moi and company. it's not easy to find a rental when you've got three adults, a baby, a dog, and a cat. both prospects sound quite nice, but they're also a bit of a drive from my office. mind you, i've done the 2-hour long island to nyc commute, so anything under an hour is bearable.

nevertheless, it's sadistically amusing how mentioning to someone that you might be moving 20 miles away from her boyfriend inspires said someone to start looking for alternate housing a wee bit closer to the status quo.

oh, and stay tuned for details of my upcoming contest, wherein you just might win a $20 amazon gift certificate.
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Friday, October 24, 2003

fyi (pronounced "fffwwheee")

ok, so like i've said, i'm a music junkee. my co-workers are waiting for the 3,000 album mark, because i've promised to bring in krispy kreme donuts then. anyway, today was a good music day. i heartily recommend the following, if you have even the slightest appreciation for jazz or zappa-esque rock:

esbjorn svensson trio - seven days of falling: an incredible young jazz trio that somehow conjures the spirit of radiohead, monk, and bill bruford, while maintaining their own very unique voice. available in europe now, and in the states in january. i also highly recommend the compilation somewhere else before.

ellery eskelin - arcanum moderne: hard-bop for for people who don't like hard bop. somehow really really listenable, especially the track 'half a chance'.

emmylou harris - stumble into grace: magical. 'nuff said.

in vaguely related news, after work tonight i travelled to a crappy neighborhood to a very crowded bar to hear a co-worker's two-man band. the music was really enjoyable, as only live music can be, and it's cool to see your co-workers outside the confines of the cube farm, to see that they have other lives, and are more dimensional than just their role in the office. lots of bar-fare, like the grateful dead (and let's face it, the dead sound good no matter who plays it), jimmy buffet, etc. but i did let out a genuine (and embarrassingly loud) whoop of joy when they played john hiatt's 'the tiki bar is open'. cheers, ted.

ok kids, thanks for being patient. as you were.
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extra crispy

so earlier this week, tuesday, i think it was, i'm having one of those days where work just does not want to get done. i'm trying sincerely to complete a task, and it's interruption after interruption - phone calls, people stopping by, etc., etc., etc. finally, I close my office door and try to set to work.

about 30 minutes later, my phone rings. it's my boss.

"bob, did you know that the building is on fire and you're still inside?"

"no, i didn't. and yes i am."

"would you care to join the rest of us out in the parking lot?"

"umm. ok."

so i grabbed my jacket, locked the office, and went out into the parking lot, where a small contingent of co-workers who were aware of my potential state of bbq cheered my appearance.

there we waited for an hour, watching fire trucks, ambulances, police, and sundry officious-looking individuals go back and forth whilst giving us no clue whatsoever to the future of our fair building.

then someone got the brilliant idea (having not seen "young frankenstein") to say, hey, at least it's not raining.

whereupon the rain started.

apparently Someone-In-Charge-Of-Things decided they'd rather burn or be poisoned than get wet, and we were readmitted to our building.

i never did get that project done that day.

oh, and in spite of the nonworking walkie-talkies, all of our safety officers looked real cool in the flourescent vests.
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Saturday, October 18, 2003

cheap shot

anyone who knows me at all knows that if i were stuck on a desert island faced with a suit by the RIAA and could only have 10 disks o' music with me, also knows that i would impale myself on the local flora or fauna within 36 hours. that said, here's my current top 10 desert island disks. (wait, please, chop off a leg and let me take a few more...)

dark side of the moon
blue oyster cult on your feet or on your knees
peter gabriel 3
alan parsons project tales of mystery & imagination
elp brain salad surgery
pat metheny as falls wichita
mussorsky pictures at an exhibition
copland third symphony & billy the kid
e.s.t. somewhere else before
tangerine dream poland

ps. if i start posting my results from "what kind of kitchen appliance are you" type quizzes, please see my instructions below regarding neon cooling systems for LAN-party computers.
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failure

tonight's dinner kinda stunk.

which is really depressing, because i cooked it.

the menu was pear and cheese strata with mushroom soup. the soup was excellent, if i do say so myself. the strata was horrible. which ticks me off, because i've made it before, and it was great.

well, i made it once before. for me, that's a big thing. i almost never repeat a recipe (so many recipes, so little time), with the exception of indiana cheeseburgers and chocolate truffles. but last autumn, whilst living with my good friend drew and a few other assorted characters, i made this strata, and it was bang-your-partner's-head-against-the-table good. so tonight i'm sitting here with a foul taste in my mouth trying to figure out what i did different. it was definitely the cheese (tip: smoked gouda doesn't melt), and it might have been the wine. either way, now i have two dishes that officially count as abysmal failures.

i hope the sun still rises tomorrow.
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Thursday, October 16, 2003

on having no sense of accessorization

today, with assistance from a friend, i went to a brokerage firm and had them do a buy and hold on some stock options my company granted me. this is my first venture into the world of high-rolling wall-street sharks, bulls, and bears. this also pretty much guarantees that my employer will go belly-up by december.

on the way home, i passed a jaguar with spinning hubcaps, proof that wealth does not equate to taste. that was just the warmup, though, as about two miles later i passed a purple honda cr-v with a spoiler shaped like this, but - i swear - about the size of the rear window of the vehicle. it looked like a radar dish.

in a vaguely related area, this past weekend i researched motherboards (or "mobo's", as the cool kids call them) and processors, for my budding diy pc. one of the top performers that i found also happens to come with fluorescent bits and pieces, which to me makes as much sense as having a glow-in-the-dark pancreas. then i realized that i had made a sharp left turn into the culture of LAN parties; people, let me tell ya, this blogging is about as geeky as i wanna get. please, if i start posting about purchasing faux neon cooling systems, please hunt me down and kill me.
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Saturday, October 11, 2003

You could see it in her eyes
But imagine my surprise
When I saw you

-Steely Dan, Dr. Wu 1975

this story has no particular purpose other than to recount an experience. there is no moral or point to be learned. i'm not that good a storyteller.

october 9 was national depression screening day, a fact of which i was aware because my employer develops and manufacturers medications for this disease. and so on thursday i said a quick prayer for someone i used to know. let's call her lisa.

i met lisa a bunch o' years back, when i worked in publishing (nothing glamorous; it was one of the companies that publishes scientific journals). she was a walking pheromone storm. you have met a person like this at least once in your life, in some context or another. when lisa entered a room, every guy in the room (and several women) immediately mentally broke the seventh commandment. lisa wasn't exceptionally pretty, or even particularly sexy. what she was, was sensual. unstoppably so. it came off her in waves that knocked all cohesive thought out of your head and left you red-faced and breathing irregularly.

another coworker of mine (let's call him pete) became romantically involved with lisa, and the relationship seemed healthy to the rest of us while it lasted, which was a period neither noticeably brief nor noticeably lengthy. the only effect the relationship had on the rest of us is that (a) we knew why they were late to work and (b) now we were not only breaking the seventh commandment, but mentally cheating on a coworker as well.

time passed, as time does, and our little worlds spun their separate ways.

[this, dear reader, is one of those moments wherein i wish i had a blog years back. because the exact circumstances leading up to the next chapter of this narrative are very foggy. i recall that i called pete from a diner, but i cannot recall just when i phoned him, whether it was at the beginning, to get her number; or at the end, to ask him why he hadn't warned me. nor do i recall how or where i was before or after the event. i wonder when national intermittent amnesia screening day takes place.]

in one of my periods of noncohabitation with my wife (how's that for tact?), i found myself phoning lisa, and receiving an invitation to stop in for a purely plutonic visit. i knew she had suffered a series of almost unspeakable tragedies - the deaths of a sibling and both parents in three unrelated incidents; she and pete were no longer dating. she had left our mutual employer under very weird circumstances. i wondered how she was coping.

i arrived at her apartment (which i later learned was paid for by a social services dept) and rang the bell. a dog barked. lisa answered the door, warned me to take off my shoes lest the dog pee on them, and invited me in.

it was like linda blair living in a room shared by the three lone gunmen from the x files and meg gibson's jerry fletcher from conspiracy theory. stacks of newspapers and magazines full of circled paragraphs and sentences, clippings everywhere, notebooks with illegible scribblings.

this was a woman whose smile used to cause automobile accidents. that smile was now stained charcoal and yellow from nicotine. her nails matched her teeth, and the atmosphere looked and smelled of weeks' old smoke and too much desperate sweat. her hair, which had been raven black and shiny, was dull, frizzy, and streaked with grey. lots of grey. her skin was actually sallow, which is a bad color for living things.

she was, i think, 27 years old.

in the next hour, i learned of her recent past (working on hiding satellites in comet shoemaker-levy 9), her current exploits (trying to rightfully prove that she had authored several landmark papers in government journals), and her constant need for caution (because the agency was spying on her - she had recently removed the camera they had hidden in her refrigerator). she spoke in staccato bursts, and the conversation was like my first impression of steely dan songs: that there was something very interesting going on, but i wasn't catching onto what it was.

i realized i was genuinely frightened of this woman, who had shared countless lunch breaks with me, who had been to my home for dinner. i realized that this was what serious mental illness looked like. i wanted very much to leave.

after a half a dozen attempts to say goodbye, i finally managed to get out the door, retrieve my shoes, and wave farewell.

i haven't seen her in eight years. if i were a stronger person, perhaps, i'd track her down and check on her. but i know that i won't. i'm not sure if it's fear, or cowardice, or something else.

maybe it's the realization that my friend lisa disappeared long before i showed up at her apartment that night.

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Friday, October 10, 2003

consider a symphony or sonata to be a musical composition of 3 or 4 movements of contrasting forms. it's been a sorta symphonic day, or at least a sonata of a day.

work had this lousy part wherein the security file associated with several of my apps got pooched whilst i was updating one of them. i. love. microsoft. then i had to do some testing, which went off without a hitch. then back to descrambling the pooched files, which were quickly becoming the binary equivalent of spaghetti. then angel called, and that always brightens my day.

early afternoon, i had to go see my lawyer, as the would-be-ex is still finding ways to avoid letting this divorce go through. i stopped by home on the way back to the office to have coffee with angel, and wow what an oasis that was.

the scrambled egg applications were still waiting at work, and had not been nice and fixed themselves. they had just gotten cold and kind of runny. luckily, it being friday, i was required by (very) local law to leave work at 5:30 and go to happy hour, where we toasted our coworker's 31st birthday (the baby!).

then off to pick up mouse, home to dinner, and to watch the symphonic yes dvd i picked up on the way to get mouse. (look, i had to kill time; what better legal and moral way than barnes & noble?)

coda: i'd told the felon he had until tonight to move out; given that one of his coworkers told him he can move in with him in a couple of weeks, i'm extending the deadline. on a very tentative basis.

very.
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Wednesday, October 08, 2003

a brief apology

to all those on my blogroll who think i'm too stuck up to comment on their blogs: for whatever reason, my laptop is very choosy about what sites it allows comments on and what sites it ignores the clicky. i truly want to say something, i really do. but dell doesn't want me to right now.

i'm in the very slow process of building my own pc, and i'll be sure to teach it to play nicely with everyone.
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Saturday, October 04, 2003

tracked down

first things first, third things third, second things second . . .

my apologies in advance, but this post contains some profane language. i try to keep it to a minimum.

first, it's probably too late, but best of luck to tequila mockingbird at tonight's fray.

second (third things on circle), there've been a few bloggers recently justifying/defending/defining their reason(s) for blogging. so here's mine. firstly, of course, i blog for myself. why else would i, in this day and country? i blog because i enjoy writing, and i enjoy sharing my slice of the human condition. secondly, i blog because i have a really crappy memory. no, really bad. worse. so that, through a blog, perhaps i can avoid telling angel another story that begins "i'm fuzzy on the details, but i seem to recall this time that . . ." and there are lots of stories like that. i have a very clear memory of walking through the back of an industrial park along some railroad tracks in the predawn hours, but i don't remember anything else about it. that kills me. i'm trying to avoid more memories like that.

lastly, i blog for my kids, and my grandkids. in this age of divorce and estrangement, this may be the best snapshot of me they get.

ok, third things are up.

someone once said to me and angel, "ya know, with some people, shit happens. what, does shit actively track you down?"

tonight, it did.

this morning i dropped off the pickup at ming's, three blocks away, to get inspected. incidentally, it failed emissions, and they plan to investigate on monday. i told them, keep the truck until they're done. those three blocks are about 100 yards closer to sea level than my home, mind you, so it's a hell of a lot easier to get from my home to ming's than it is to get from ming's to my house.

so the felon is back, and temporarily abiding on my couch. he's got a well paying full-time job, and is looking for a place to stay. but now, he's here. today he worked a half day, and the drinking started when he got home, around 1 in the afternoon.

around dinner-makin' time, he borrowed my bicycle to go up to the shamrock bar, to shoot some pool and hopefully meet a fellow drunk to share a room with.

so i made dinner (chicken athena, which was positively delicious; thank you, patty, i'll post it for all to enjoy later, and the fresh rosemary was ecstasy in a baggie!), consuming a bit of greek wine along the way, whilst anxiety took root in angel's guts and proceeded to mess with her appetite and slowly blossomed into a near-panic attack. shortly after the main meal was finished, i asked angel how the felon would get back into the house, in the event he arrived after we had retired for the evening.

whereon angel confessed that, in a stunning moment of "what the hell was i thinking?", she had given him her keys.

her keys.

with the house key.

and all those other keys.

like...

the key to my car...

the key to the pickup...

which was at ming's...

which was between our place and the shamrock.

...say it with me, people:

"fuck."

so i told her i'd go and look for him, and bring him home, so she could relax. and i did. down to the shamrock, about a mile and a half away. i walked in, spotted him at the bar. placed a hand on his back and in an uncharacteristically deep voice said, "pardon me son, but i'll need to see some ID, and you'll need to come outside with me please."

i could feel his bones turning to ice water under my palm. i confess, it was very satisfying. (kind of like how my brother must have felt when he approached the kids partying on his lawn with his doberman on a leash. he told them, "i can let him go, but i can't call him back." they drove off so quickly they left half their party running down the street after the car.)

once he realized it was me, and not the MAN, he followed me outside. i assured him i wasn't upset with him, and explained that his mom was quite worried, so i'd gone to check up on him. we returned inside, he picked up his beer, i ordered a seltzer, and we drank. i noticed two guys and one woman looking at us like a lot. i'm not sure if they wanted to pick a fight, or just wanted to know what the story was behind the young guy drinking quietly and the older out-of-place-looking guy with him. at any rate, the bartender decided it was time to ID the felon, so i paid the tab and we stepped outside.

actually, the felon stepped outside before me. i walked out in time to see him stepping into a yard bordering the shamrock. get this picture: this bar is across the street from a valet-parking type restaraunt. the felon is acting like we're back in the boondocks and he can disappear in someone's farm. i walked up to the fence and quietly said, "i hope you're just taking a whiz in there, cause you're doing a lousy job of hiding."

after several minutes, he fought his way back through the thorny rose bushes and re-emerged in the parking lot. i informed him that it was time to go home, and he should get in the car; i'd return tomorrow for the bicycle. he told me he'd meet me at the house, that he had business with someone in a few minutes. i told him that wasn't really an option any more. he squirmed. i didn't. he confessed he was afraid i'd get really mad if he told me what he was up to. i told him he has playing in my court now, and the rules were different, and he didn't have much of a choice anymore.

whereon he confessed that he had ridden the bike to ming's, tossed it in the truck, and driven the truck to the shamrock.

whereon i told him i kinda had that figured when i passed the truck in the parking lot upon pulling in.

i'll spare you the drive home. let's just say it's perversely satisfying when someone tries to BS you and you catch them with the BS on their hands.

i doubt he'll be going back to the shamrock. or borrowing keys. or looking me in the eyes for a few days, either.

at least until he moves off my couch.
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Wednesday, October 01, 2003

a long 'un, kiddies...

I've had a monumentally crappy day, involving (in separate incidents) lawyers, landlords, and a great outlay of money. Nevertheless, people depend on me for various things, and, being the incredibly (ir)responsible bloke that I am, I must oblige. So, with further ado, I present the recipe for one of the best damned hybrid sloppy joe/grilled cheese sandwiches you will ever encounter.

Notice I said 'with" further ado. Here's the ado.

A bunch o' years back, before I had access to the internet, I got my news through a medium consisting of ink on newsprint, ironically called "a newspaper." I found therein a fantastic recipe for an incredible sandwich that was a mutation of a grilled cheese sandwich and a sloppy joe, labeled as a Indiana Cheeseburger, or some such. (Did I just violate grammar by using "a" before "Indiana"?) I made them, people ate them, and there was much rejoicing in the land. Then I got married. Then we split, and I did not get possession of the recipe file. I couldn’t make Indiana Cheeseburgers anymore.

There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth throughout the land. Beating of breasts. Etc., etc., etc.

Some time later, I met angel (another blog's worth, at least). We lived many many many miles apart. Enough miles to fit several states between us. We communicated by email, IM, and snail mail, when we couldn’t be together. Down in angel-land, I came, I saw, I cooked.

But I did not cook Indiana Cheeseburgers, because I did not have the recipe.

One day, I got a package from angel. It contained a card, a letter, and various pieces of flotsam and jetsam that she had discovered whilst cleaning the kitchen drawers (she had a huge kitchen, with many drawers). One of these items was a newspaper, which had been saved for reasons no one could remember. And in the newspaper was a syndicated column by Jane and Michael Stern.

A light went on. A bell dinged. A jaw dropped.

I fired off an email to the Sterns, describing the Indiana Cheeseburger. The next day, the honorable Mr. Stern replied with the recipe that follows, which, I discovered, were indeed from a restaurant in Indiana, but were actually called:

Cheese-Br-Grr's


To make meat sauce:

1 clove garlic, minced
2 tbs vegetable oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 lb. ground beef
2 tbs. brown sugar
2 tsp. salt (I leave this out)
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. worcestershire sauce
5 - 10 drops Tabasco sauce
1/4 cup ketchup
1/2 - 1 cup tomato juice

Saute garlic in oil over medium heat in large skillet. As garlic browns, add onion and saute until soft. Stir in beef. Cook beef, loosening with fork, until it is browns. Drain off excess oil, then add remaining ingredients, adding tomato juice to create a sloppy but not soupy mixture. Simmer, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes. (I drop it in the slow cooker and let it sit there all day.) Yields enough for 4 cheese br-grrs.

To make a cheese br-grr:

2 slices of white bread
1 slice American cheese
1 - 2 tbs. butter or margarine

Spread meat sauce across a slice of bread. Top with slice of cheese, then another slice of bread. In skillet over medium-low heat, melt butter or margarine. Grill sandwich on both sides until golden brown.

Here's my take: I use a square cast-iron skillet, butter the bread, and drop it on the skillet. Then plop some meat mixture onto each slice, drop on the cheese, and put on the top layer of bread. Butter the top piece of bread, then flip 'em.

The American Heart Association won't condone this recipe, but damn are they good with a cup o' soup or fries.

There you go, Drew!

Other randomness: Meat Loaf's new album, Couldn't Have Said It Better, is bombastic, pompous, cliche'd, and predictable. And ya know what? It's great! I should have half the testosterone this guy has! No one does this over-the-top theatrical power rock with tongue in cheek quite like the big man. Stephen Trask contributes a track, which is just icing. If Bat Out of Hell II was just a little too Jim-Steinman-y, you'll be happy to know CHSIB is a happy medium. (If you like the theatrics of Meat Loaf but haven't heard of Trask, go get Hedwig and the Angry Inch; if you like the theatrics of Meat Loaf and have heard Trask, go see Hedwig. If you have no idea who Meat Loaf or Hedwig are, you're in the wrong room and your purchase price will be refunded.)

So down the road a piece there is a used bookstore which has this wonderful policy of leaving books outside for free ("take all you want, but read all you take"), and once a week or so I partake of their generosity. Right now I'm reading Neil Gaiman's American Gods, and it's the best thing I've read in that genre since his Neverwhere, which I read entirely over a series of homeless nights spent alternating between Barnes and Noble and the Hotel Nissan. Anyway, I also grabbed a book called Understanding Jazz. Let me tell ya, fair reader, I need a book called Understanding "Understanding Jazz", cos I don't have the slightest idea what this guy is talking about. Think I'll return that one to the free book pile.

I was hoping it would be a good bathroom book. Yes, I have books in the bathroom (an acquaintance of mine used to have a newspaper rack in his bathroom, fully stocked). These are usually books of such nature that an entry or two can be read in the time one might normally spend in the throne room. Such as? It Was a Dark and Stormy Night is perfect for this. But currently it is the above-maligned Understanding Jazz, and Stud Turkel's Hard Times. I have to tell you, if you think you have it bad, pick up this book. If your family has been in America for more than a generation or two, read a few pages of the accounts written here. Then shut up. Unless you have served or are serving in the military, shut the hell up. And then shut up again. Hell, if you're reading this, then shut up, because you obviously have electricity. Our grandparents (and/or parents) went through crap we can't imagine. Stop whining that your double latte is taking too long and you'll be late for work.

Shut. Up.

Angel's dad was a bomber pilot in WW II. When I met her, he had already been ravaged by Parkinson's disease to the point that he was bed-bound and rarely coherent. But members of his crew came and visited him from time to time, and there were framed newspaper articles about him in his cramped bedroom. Every time I entered his room, to say hello, or to help change his catheter or his diaper, I still felt like saluting. It pissed me off on Veteran's Day to know that people like this man were lying around forgotten, that their sacrifices were being taken for granted. Perhaps the beneficiaries of their work never realized what they had been given because the men and women who fought for those benefits did it with pride and without complaint. My own father did that too. I never knew a day of hunger or want, despite his being out of work sometimes, and me being one of six children.

Many of us are rabbits between the wheels. I hope that my dad and angel's dad can look at me with the same pride with which I see them.

To live between a rock and a hard place
In between time
Cruising in prime time
Soaking up the cathode rays


To live between the wars in our time
Living in real time
Holding the good time
Holding on to yesterdays


You know how that rabbit feels
Going under your speeding wheels
Bright images flashing by
Like windshields towards a fly
Frozen in the fatal climb
But the wheels of time
Just pass you by
Wheels can take you around
Wheels can cut you down
We can go from boom to bust
From dreams to a bowl of dust
We can fall from rockets' red glare
Down to "Brother can you spare..."
Another war
Another wasteland
And another lost generation


It slips between your hands like water
This living in real time
A dizzying lifetime
Reeling by on celluloid


Struck between the eyes
By the big-time world
Walking uneasy streets
Hiding beneath the sheets
Got to try and fill the void

-Neil Peart

Oh, and the answer to last week's extra credit problem: Yaz Pistachio was a character in Berkeley Breathed'sbloom county.
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i used to be disgusted. now i try to be amused.
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