Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Disposable Income

Today I will explore my possibilities. Some of these are clearly within my reach, and some are clearly inaccessible to me, but I'm entertained by seeing what exactly is for sale and how they measure up against each other.

$98.75: Six extra-large Sicilian Classic pizzas from Papa John's.

$200: Burger King's most expensive hamburger, The Burger: Wagyu beef, white truffles, pink Himalayan rock salt, etc.

$457: Refurbished XBox 360 Elite (120 GB), extra controller, Fallout 3 and Left 4 Dead.

$500: Two tickets to LaGuardia Airport, two tickets to "Pissing my Pants on Vine" and "As the Diamond Burns" at Upright Citizens Brigade Theater in Manhattan--this Friday to Monday.

$1,000: Westin New York bagel: Alba white truffle cream cheese and Goji berry-infused Riesling jelly.

$1,316: Retro Vespa Style 150cc moped scooter and "Lady Jet" Bandit helmet (for Rebecca, obviously).

$2,133: Two tickets to Paris, stay at the La Tremoille hotel--this Friday to Monday.

$2,355: Two tickets to Florence, stay at the Residenza Del Granduca hotel--this Friday to Monday.

$3,546: Two tickets to Tokyo, stay at the Hilton Tokyo Narita Airport hotel--this Friday to Monday.

$4,359: Four 4-credit graduate-level classes (resident) at Metropolitan State University, plus fees, before books.

$22,020: BMW K 1200 LT touring motorcycle and black Indian Motorcycle biker boots.

$25,000: Serendipity 3's Frrozen Haute Chocolate: 23-karat gold, 28 cocoas, and La Madeline au Truffle ($2,600 per lb.).

$205,268: Three-year lease on 10th floor G-model office in the luxurious Royal Atrium office building, United Arab Emirates.

$365,000: Purchase price for 1-bedroom, 1-bath 850 sq. ft. loft at 1855 Industrial St., Los Angeles.

$549,900: Purchase price for 2-bedroom, 2-bath 1,539 sq. ft. condo next to Mill City Museum in downtown Minneapolis.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Between Kindness and Responsibility

I brought Bella to Uptown Veterinarian this morning. Monday I noticed blood in her stool so I bagged it up and called my old veterinarian, Dr. den Boer.

Long-time followers of my old and sundry blogs will recall her from when I owned Katze, when he was yet among the living. When Katze went off his diet I brought him to Kitty Klinic, who charged me $300 for lab tests and said they wanted to "monitor" his kidneys. They wanted to see him for a couple more visits.

At a friend's recommendation I went to Dr. den Boer. She called Kitty Klinic and reinterpreted their lab results: Katze's kidneys had completely failed, there was nothing to "monitor." KK just thought they'd get a few hundred more dollars out of me before Katze passed on. Dr. den Boer charged me all of $40 for her own lab tests and research. Katze had to be put down and Dr. den Boer held onto his body in a freezer until I could find an appropriate burial plot. Out of gratitude for Dr. den Boer's service I constructed and still maintain a Web site for her business. Each year I cover the cost of domain registry and recently have started designing a nicer, more professional Web site through Google's services.

He's buried at my brother-in-law's parents' farm in Hutchinson, MN. Seemed like a good idea at the time, but if I believed any part of Katze's identity remained in his mortal coil, it would be very inconvenient and unpleasant to visit him. As it stands, we are still spiritually connected and I can honor his memory without visiting his grave.

Years passed, I met Rebecca, and we felt we were ready to provide a home to new cats. We came into possession of Bella and Toki, two beautiful and loving creatures. As I said, recently I discovered blood in Bella's stool and kept a sample to bring to my preferred veterinarian. I stopped in on Monday, on my way to class, to drop off the sample.

An old woman I didn't recognize came out and I told her I was leaving the stool sample. It sounded, in conversation with Dr. den Boer, like all I had to do was leave it on her desk but the assistant said she would get the doctor and went into the back room. I stood there for five minutes, waiting, hearing nothing. Anxious to catch my next bus, I left the sample (in a plastic baggie, in a bright blue paper bag, clearly labeled) on the desk and ran out.

Tuesday was my appointment. I brought Bella in at 2:30 PM promptly, and soon another client came in with her cat in a large carrier. In casual conversation she explained that she had an appointment at 2:00 PM but the office had been locked and appeared empty.

At length, the assistant I saw the day prior emerged, spotted us, and said she would get the doctor and went into the back room. I was losing faith that she actually would procure any doctor at all. After a few more minutes a UPS delivery guy arrived and had a package for which he needed a signature. Even he had a respectable wait before Dr. den Boer managed to make an appearance, but at 2:45 PM she met him, signed, and spent several minutes opening the package and explaining to me and the other client that the contents needed to be refrigerated. Dr. den Boer was not young the first time I met her, and that was several years ago. Now she moves very slowly, hunched over, though her voice is clear and her mental faculties seem intact. Her hearing has deteriorated, as the other client discovered in conversation--Dr. den Boer had few words for me, for some reason.

She apologized to the other client for not being here: she had been socializing with some friends and found it difficult to extricate herself from the conversation promptly. She told that client that she had to go in back to find a smaller pet carrier--the client's resembled a pup tent--to transport her cat, who was here for a neutering. She went into the back room and I waited a few more minutes before picking up Bella's carrier and quietly slipping out of the office. I apologized to Bella all the way home, for dragging her out into the windy afternoon and keeping her cooped up in the cramped waiting room. She didn't enjoy the noise of traffic and found no comfort in the scents of other animals. We stopped by Calhoun Pet Supply where I got her a special treat of wet cat food, which I split with Toki so he wouldn't feel jealous.

I'm quite upset about my experience with Dr. den Boer. All these years, I've been recommending her to friends and family, extolling her based on my one positive experience with her. But this time around I could hardly have been treated worse, short of actual belligerence. She was irresponsible about her afternoon's appointments, and my faith in her ability to carry out her duties deteriorated rapidly. It got to the point where I actually came to fear for my pet's well-being and did not relish the idea of leaving her to this doctor's care.

Yesterday, I executed a broad online search of other veterinary offices in the area and came upon Uptown Veterinarian. It had a number of positive reviews, and it's quite closer to my house. They had a separate waiting room to keep cats apart from dogs, which Bella appreciated--at some point in her feral past she suffered a traumatic experience with dogs and can't settle around them. We were attended to by a friendly young assistant, and when Dr. Smith came in she was professional, courteous, and receptive. They handled Bella expertly and sufficiently explained to me how they would diagnose and respond to her affliction. The bill I received seemed thankfully reasonable, as well.

I feel bad about Dr. den Boer. None of us are getting any younger, and what else can she do? I can't recommend her anymore, however, and I certainly cannot bring my pets to her. Additionally, I think I'm done paying for her Web site. Other sites refer to her sufficiently--one of which ripped off my site's content without credit--so when the registry comes around again I'm just going to let it lapse. Someone else may pick it up if they like, I've done more than my part.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

It Is Beyond Amazing

Newt Gingrich as transcribed from his appearance on The O'Reilly Factor:
Look, I think there is a gay and secular fascism in this country that wants to impose its will on the rest of us, is prepared to use violence, to use harassment. I think it is prepared to use the government if it can get control of it. I think that it is a very dangerous threat to anybody who believes in traditional religion. And I think if you believe in historic Christianity, you have to confront the fact. And, frank — for that matter, if you believe in the historic version of Islam or the historic version of Judaism, you have to confront the reality that these secular extremists are determined to impose on you acceptance of a series of values that are antithetical, they're the opposite, of what you're taught in Sunday school.
This is comedy gold, in any other context. Gingrich thinks this is what will get him elected to presidency in 2012 (ostensibly going up against Sarah Palin). This is rich, ripe material for all sorts of comedic riffing. Gingrich not only steps up to bat for Islam and Judaism, but he would also paint an image of a gang of gays dragging some luckless Christian behind their Ford pick-up or tying him to a tree and beating the crap out of him.

Temptation for irony aside, Gingrich is accusing of gays doing to straights all the things that intolerant Republicans, Conservatives, and orthodox religious groups have done to gays. Gingrich is a man who did not understand how to interpret Orwell's 1984. He came away from that novel with several great ideas, such as completely turning his claims around in complete defiance of truth or substantiated fact.

"It is the gays who are oppressing us," he would have us believe. "We are fighting for the freedom of everyone who agrees with us. Gay and secular fascism are trying to force us to accept everyone's freedom, and that is why they need to be dragged out of their homes and shot in the head: in the name of freedom. We have to take up arms against the fascists who would advocate peace; we have to close our ears to the fascists who wish to give all information to everyone; we must bring the rest of the nation and the rest of the world to heel under our rules, our dictates, our strictures, in the name of liberty and freedom."

It's astounding to watch his audacity. He's not putting a spin on a situation ("I did not shoot him, he stole the bullets out of my gun and hid them in his chest"), he's actually claiming the reverse. He is actually insisting that gays are doing to his group what his group has done to them. He's insisting that the Indians have settled on our shores and are wiping us out with their diseases, reneging on all the treaties they made with us. He's claiming that the witches burned all of Salem at the stake. We all went to the same movie theater and we all attended the same showing of the same movie, but we saw Apocalypse Now and he saw Red Dawn.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

This is One of a Few Services I Provide

I now have two very good methods to stave off boredom.  They both involve the computer but only one may require speakers.

ONE: Go to YouTube.com and do a search for "prank."  Say goodbye to your Saturday!  (Alternately: search for "funny baby" if you're seriously depressed.)

TWO: Here is an enormous directory of online comics.  Most of them are shite but there are several high-quality titles: it's up to you to find them.  I could tell you which ones they are but many people prefer to feel they're in control of their lives.

Prior to the discovery of ohnorobot.com I only had one good method to stave off boredom.

Notice that you cannot "prevent" boredom, you may only "stave" it "off."  Boredom is not like a virus that you can contract if you live irresponsibly; it is like an evil spirit or a cubemate's fart, against which you may employ special herbs or a fan.  Boredom may also be "warded off" but only if you used to play AD&D or your parents lived in Salem, Massachusetts.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Wintral Cleaning

Yup, I'm in that stage where I just want to delete the extraneous. I decided eight blogs was too much to maintain so I deleted a few.

VOX, WordPress, and Friendster are the accounts that lose out. Blogs I'm keeping: Blogger (this one), Writer's Market, Open Salon, and the one on my professional Web site. Friendster was a ghost town and VOX/WordPress were cliques I couldn't break into. Oh well.

Yesterday I wrenched my back while doing yoga on Wii Fit. I tried to write about it in terms of "I wasn't doing something right," but someone on Open Salon took my piece to mean that it was proof the Wii is dangerous. That was absolutely not what I had said and not what I meant. It's a perfectly cromulent workout tool, no more dangerous than weights or walking down the street.

This person also felt insulted and belittled by the video game instructor, and that's not the first time I've heard that argument. I'm fascinated by the new realm of discourse that's opened up by advanced technology, and by people's limitless capacity for complaint.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

We're Bobbing on the Surface

It still bugs me that no one remembers what "swachele" means.

I lent out moch moni on plate and jewells this yere, and had many trifells giuen me. I bought my swachele sword this yer, and did the hangers with siluer. - Forman's diary, 1600

Tantamount to: "I spent a lot of money on armor and jewelry this year and received many trifles. I bought my swachele sword this year and had the hangers done in silver."

We may infer what swachele means. It could mean "fancy" or something along that line. It could be related to "swashbuckling." That's my best and most obvious guess.

1693: "The huff, snuff... swash-buckling High Germans."
1897: "He strikes one as a bravo, he swashbuckles and swaggers."

Swash as a transitive verb means "to dash or cast violently."
1577: "The Archbyshop of Yorke... swasht him down, meaning to thrust himselfe in betwixt the Legate, and the Archb. of Canterbury."

It also means "to make noise as of swords or of a sword beating on a shield; to bluster with weapons; hence, to swagger."
1593: "I giue them right to sweare it out with wordes, I giue them might to swash it out with swordes."

I don't know how I first found the word swachele but it led me to the first passage mentioned here, and all other searches have summoned up that passage with minor variations in spelling and interpretation. I can't think of any other words that resemble swachele, and while my inference technically fits the sentence, I don't wish to presume the foreman's motives. Maybe he wanted to buy a fancy sword; maybe he wanted a flashy sword to show off; maybe he was treating himself after a hard year of labor, a relief from toting around some ragged scabbard and dulling blade within.

And maybe swachele means something else entirely. We may never, ever know, and that really disturbs me.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Extremely Important & Incredibly Serious

This is a picture of my wife and I walking back from our voting location, United Methodist Hospital. At 6:30 AM her alarm went off, I rolled out of bed to make coffee, and we got dressed and lined up at 7:05 AM. The concerned citizens who believe in expressing themselves as to the governance of this nation (at least, those who wanted to vote before going to work) were streaming out the front door, across the parking lot, and down the sidewalk. In a district north of me, voters were lining up outside Ballantine VFW, winding around the building and extending fully down the block. I almost joined that VFW, I qualified by fighting in Panama, but they doubled their rates at a time I was completely broke.

I dressed up as Uncle Sam and Rebecca dressed as the Statue of Liberty. These were from our Hallowe'en costumes, except we were zombified for Hallowe'en. A sort of semi-edgy, infer-for-yourself political statement, as far as that goes. Today we were just patriotic (and getting a little more mileage out of these costumes: they weren't cheap). As we approached the line some people began to cheer and clap, and we waved back and thanked everyone for turning out to vote. More people still flipped out their cell phones to take pictures. Rebecca uploaded this shot of us to the Star Tribune Web site; I uploaded it to Open Salon and my article about it made Editor's Pick.

Twenty-five minutes later our votes were cast. We changed clothes, I drove her to work and started grocery shopping for the night's party, got the apartment cleaned up. We invited friends and family to celebrate (we hoped) with us as we followed the election. I remember four years ago when Bush was about to steal another election, I stayed up all night and blogged (in accounts that no longer exist) my fury at Alaska for being so stupid as to re-elect him. I stayed up all night and followed the election, stayed up later to news reports of recounts and tampering, and maybe I passed out from exhaustion before a president was decided. But Bush rigged that election in the end and then gloated that "the people have spoken." Shameless.

So much more the surprise, then, when everything wrapped up around 11:00 PM last night. After a boisterous evening of adults, little kids, beverages, food on the grill, etc., I was checking the voter results in each state when my friend Molly yelled that he did it, it's been announced. All attention snapped to the TV and we watched an audience cheering its heads off. We cheered, too.

Today I saw a slide show of people all around the world celebrating our election. Grinning in Kenya, hollering in Australia, drunk and passed out in London, cheering in Japan, dancing in Iraq, a slight, shy smile in France (they do what they can), everyone around the world was with us in that moment. America wouldn't have to hang its head for the next four years. Healing could begin. All the news articles I've read from different countries have been written with tentative disbelief and nascent positivity. It's like Stephen Colbert said, "I don't know what to do with my happiness. I'm still afraid someone's going to take it away." I feel that too: something so important, something I've wanted so badly (I even went canvassing this weekend, as nervous and shy as I was) has come into being. Part of me is waiting for the other boot to drop, whether it's the Republicans demanding a recount or some splinter faction assassinating our last hope. We need this so badly, the world needs this, that we can't afford to lose it.

I listened to McCain's graceful concession speech, how he pleaded everyone to unite as a nation. And the audience booed him, because those racist, homophobic, materialist hypocrites with which he aligned himself aren't interested in unity, they want to subjugate anyone who is not among them. They don't want healing, they want dominance. They believed the propaganda and lies all throughout the campaign, even in the face of incontrovertible truth and facts, because they aren't interested in what they have to accept, they're focused on what they want to exist.

That's why I couldn't believe anyone was still "undecided." I couldn't believe anyone could look at Harry Potter and Voldemort and be unable to commit to a decision. I could not wrap my head around the fact that someone could look at Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader and say, "Well, I dunno... it's just so hard to say, you know? They're really close and neither one of them is absolutely perfect."

But beneath them, lower down the food chain, are two encampments. Beneath the liver flukes and serving less function than phytoplankton, there are two classes: those who are too lazy to vote, and those who show up and write in joke names on the ballot. I want to take those people and bring them to one of the many nations where our forces have carpet-bombed a village or cured impoverished nationals of ravaging diseases, or some nation that we can't touch, filled with a people starved for justice at the hands of an outside influence, someone who can meet their government on a level they are unable to, and I want these jokesters to look them in the eye and say, "Eh, my vote wouldn't have made a difference," or "I thought it would be funny to vote for Bart Simpson."

The former group is like someone in one end of a sinking boat. Everyone else is bailing water but that one person says, "It's not sinking on this end. I'm fine. Anything I do wouldn't make a difference anyway."

The latter is like someone playing with their food in front of a starving person.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

And Now... We Wait

It's Tuesday today: starting yesterday, new Peanuts cartoons have been made available for download on iTunes. These are Flash animations with new script but also based on past strips. They won't be free for long so act quickly.

This morning my wife and I got up very early, dressed up as the Statue of Liberty and Uncle Sam, and marched over to our voting location a block away. these were our Hallowe'en costumes, though we went as zombified versions of each, and we thought we could get one more wear out of them. A few people cheered and clapped, many more whipped out their cell phones to get pictures. The line seemed huge but moved quickly and we were done within 25 minutes. I drove Rebecca to work where she claimed her free Starbucks coffee. You get that if you show your "I VOTED" sticker, and you can get a free scoop of ice cream at Ben & Jerry's, but good luck finding one around here. I guess we have one by the Metrodome. Still, it's a kind gesture for these places to offer something for free: if that's what it takes to get people voting, moreso than civic responsibility, then offer the swag I guess.

Friday night we dressed up as Zombie Uncle Sam and Statue of Zombie Liberty and went to her friend David's apartment for a big party. That was a lot of fun, lots of good conversation, movies, and some Wii bowling. Saturday night we went to my friend Kate's house and I got to meet her friends and enjoy more good conversation. Unfortunately I also gave myself license to get extremely drunk, which only worsened when we went to another friend's house. Yesterday and today I notice my ribs ached and couldn't figure out why, then realized it was from vomiting so hard on Saturday night. Not my proudest moments. There's a scotch tasting in two days and I'm thinking I might skip it, if I can't find someone to share the scotch with. I really don't need four shots of good stuff exiting through the entrance.

Now, today, I've got to run around and do some last-minute shopping for our Election Day party tonight. Rebecca tried to invite the neighbors but they thought she was a canvasser and refused to come to the door, only yelled "We're voting!" out the window. She's pretty steamed about that but I emphasized that the importance of this election accounts for the inundation, the saturation of canvassing in this and all other neighborhoods. Yes, she could have been a baby someone set on fire, ringing their doorbell for help, but inside the house all doorbells (and motives for ringing them) sound the same.