Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Moonlight Sleeping on the Midnight Lake

Tomorrow is STBEW's 46th birthday.

She'll celebrate it by being homeless.

I don't know the reasons behind it, and I don't care to know, but the lease on the DSS*-funded studio apartment where she had been living for the past year expired today, and she has no place to live. She's known about it for months; hell, she may have even instigated the separation, but she had to leave, and she had no place else to go.

Well, not entirely true. She's got some other social services network that's supposed to kick in soon--hopefully within the next ten days--and for now, she's staying with her ex-boyfriend. The one she started dating when she broke up with her second boyfriend. The one she broke up with right after the new year to get back together with her second boyfriend, who she is in the process of breaking up with as he's helping her move into the apartment of the one...

Fuck. I lost the thread.

Anyways, she has a place to stay.

Plus, she's renting space in my head, too. Well, not renting. I'm giving it to her for free.

That phrase 'renting space in your head' is a favorite one of my friend Mike. He went through all this crap too, only he did it in the mid-eighties. It's his way of describing what I did all day today.

Which was worry. About my ex, and about all the perhipherals involved: watching my kids, where she'll be, all the crap she has to go through--none of which is in any way in my control.

At least I'm not asking myself "Why am I doing this?" I know the answer to that, and it's not really that interesting of a question anyhow.

Nor is it the question "Why can't I stop?" I can stop. I have the tools. I know the techniques.

The question is: "Why don't I stop?"

Why indeed. I'm still working on that one. But I'm pretty sure it all comes down to fear. I think I'm equating her situation with mine.

No, I'm not getting evicted. And I don't have troublesome relationships with a number of women.

I think it has something to do with change.

Sometime in the next week, I hope to sit down with a grant-writer. He and I will be discussing funding for a documentary that I have been approached to direct. It's all very tentative right now.

But it's change. A massive change for me.

For me to do this doc, I would have to quit my job. No two ways about it. I would be on my own. It's a scary situation. Even if I made the film, there would be no guarantee of future work.

I would have to rely on my own skills, and little else.

When I started this post, it was a bitch session about STBEW. It's not that any more. She has her own road, and if she trusts her higher power, and just keeps doing the next right thing, she'll be fine.

And that's something I need to do for myself: figure out what the next right thing to do is, and then do it. That's really what faith is all about, isn't it? Doing what you think is the right thing, and not worrying about the consequences.

Not worrying. That's the key.

For now, STBEW will be getting the kids off the bus at my house, and watching them here until I get home. And I told her that we'll talk about her getting the kids for overnight stays after she gets settled. I've got a list of requirements that she will have to meet for this to happen. I didn't mention that to her, though. She's got enough on her plate as it is.

I also bought her a birthday card. I'm putting $20, and three lottery tickets in it for her. I'm going to request that she spend the money on something fun. We all need some fun in our lives.

I'm pretty sure this is one of my worst posts, yet for some reason, I feel I should thank you for helping me with this.



*Department of Social Services

All Around the World...

My previous post brought a few suspected Mac heads out into the light. I must admit that even though I use both, I don't really have a preference. If someone wanted to buy me a PC, I'd let them.

I'd probably get enough selling it on Ebay to get a decent Mac.

However, even if you are a PC guy, you have to admire the cleverness of the Mac ads--how they capture the essence of the laid-back, hip sensibility of the Mac user, versus the uptight, stodginess of the PC, while simultaneously pointing out the hazards of running the worlds most popular OS:

Such an American distinction, isn't it? It's too bad this wouldn't play well in the rest of the world.

Well. I guess it's just a western cultural phenomenon. Something like this wouldn't play well over in the homogenous Oriental markets...

Aww hell.

Screw it. I'm going to bed. I feel a cold coming on...


Monday, January 29, 2007

...And We're Back

Didja miss me? Did you even know I was gone?

Well I wasn't gone long, so I don't blame you. In actuality, I didn't go anywhere. My computer went down for the weekend. It was running slower and slower, so I had a guy fix it for me. I have a guy. Some folks have extended warranties. Some folks have trusted repair shops. I have a guy. One of those self-taught guys who live for whatever their passion is. What he doesn't have in formal training he makes up for with hours and hours of trial and error.

So I took the box to my guy, and he went at it. Two days and a hundred bucks later, it's like a new computer. Some of it was pretty stupid stuff--there was so much dust collected inside the case that the fan wasn't really working any more, and so the processor was, in effect, suffocating. But he also added some more RAM, a second hard drive, installed a much more powerful antivirus system, and ran a bunch of disk utilities which found a plethora of spyware and viruses that my bargain-basement programs didn't catch.

I really enjoyed standing in his apartment, listening to him talk about processor speeds, RAM caches, drive defragging, and all that stuff. There were rarely two words used together that I recognized, and I had a feeling that the ones I did know had gained alternate meanings . I didn't care. All I needed to know was asked with one question, and answered with one word: Is it running faster than it was before? Yes. Pay the guy.

And even though I had never been in this guy's apartment previous to this, I recognized that this scene had been played out before. Only the hardware has been changed.

Forty years ago, it would have been car-related, and I would be the guy who drove his Studebaker into the suburban garage of the twenty-something gearhead who was constantly tinkering with his chopped Chevy Nova.

In the end, it's all about speed. His computer looked more like a cyborg than a desktop machine. It had a clear acrylic side, with a fan that had an LED array on it that displayed ambient temperature and humidity. The chassis bolts had little LED lights on them. He burbled on about the new liquid-cooled system he wants to buy. Hell, the front of the box even had flames on it.

And as he went on about what he did to my computer, I guess I had an aha! moment--one of those realizations that comes with four-plus decades of life under my belt.

They come at strange times, and sometimes at a cost, for example: aha! So this is why older men tend to walk so gingerly across parking lots in winter: we don't heal as fast as we used to.

So as I stood there with a bemused smile on my face, enjoying his enthusiasm, knowing that it was a lifestyle that has no appeal to me, my aha! moment is that I can enjoy someone else's hobby without having the faintest clue of what it is.

This sucker boots a hell of a lot faster though.


Wednesday, January 24, 2007

And Now, For Something Completely Different...

I've removed the video from this site, but you can still see the movie by clicking on the title.

yeah, I'm going to hell. I'll save you a seat.


Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Better Start Swimming or You'll Sink Like a Stone

I felt very energized this morning.

I had a chat with a dear friend, and I was open to the possibilities of not only a great day, but a great plan to move into the next part of my life.

That part's still good.

This evening, however, wasn't quite as good.

It started out with a note from STBEW telling me that my son isn't showing her any respect, and to call her.

Turns out she didn't want to talk about his behavior. Rather, she wanted to tell me she wants to get a two bedroom apartment so that 'one of the kids can live with her.'

Meaning, of course, my daughter.

I told her I wasn't comfortable with that idea.

She smokes a pack a day. She's gone through three boyfriends since geting out of rehab. And she only wants one of the kids. Which would mean that, although she would see both kids every day, (since she watches them after school and some evenings when I'm working) I would only see one of them every other weekend or something.

And I can't help but think the main reason she wants this is money. She will get more from the state if she's the custodial parent.

Yes, she loves them. Yes, they're her kids too. But she sees them every day already. Almost as much as I do. Maybe more.

Seven years ago, I was a married father of four. Today, for all intents and purposes, I'm a single father of two. I have, since their births, been the stable, constant presence in these two kids lives. I will not let her change that just so she can get more money.


Monday, January 22, 2007

I Got Nuthin'

I've been exhausted all day. Anything I type will be of poor quality. So instead, please enjoy a few moments of a monkey washing a cat.


Saturday, January 20, 2007

First sledding

finished the run
Originally uploaded by You are here and it is now..

another run
Originally uploaded by You are here and it is now..

January 20th, 2007, and it's our first trip to the slopes. Usually, we'd have been here three or four times by now.

No, there's no global warming, Mister Preznit.


Friday, January 19, 2007

Entertainment Preview:

Something that makes me happy:

Thank God You're Here will be coming to American Television this spring. I hope NBC doesn't fuck it up. For those who aren't familiar with this show, 'TGYH' is a modified improv show, where a celebrity guest actor gets dropped into an unknown scene, and then has to improvise his or her way out. Each scene begins with the phrase "Thank God You're Here." Hence the title. The US show will star Wayne Knight (Newman from 'Seinfeld'), Bryan Cranston (Hal, the dad on 'Malcom in the Middle'), Jennifer Coolidge (Stifler's Mom), and Joel McHale (from 'The Soup', which I didn't even know was still on, and haven't watched since it was called 'Talk Soup' and starred Greg Kinnear).

Something that makes me sad:

A decade or so, I had to sit and listen to a man go on and on about how black men can't be racist. It was one of the rare times I was wise enough to keep my mouth shut. I also didn't ask him if they could be sexist. I'd love to find that guy and ask him what he thinks of Eddie Murphy.


Monday, January 15, 2007

Causes and Dates

I talked with an old acquaintance this weekend. I can't really call him a friend, because we've only ever met within the confines of a working relationship.

Red used to be the producer for one of the local sports teams.* He left a few years ago to go back to school and get his teaching credentials. Now he teaches eighth-grade Social Studies at one of the more affluent suburban schools. He still gets hired by the local teams as a freelancer, much like myself, so I've seen him from time to time, but we've never talked much outside of the usual mindless pressure-relief headset banter.

But it was payday, and as we waited for our checks, I struck up a conversation.

"So how's school going?" I asked him. He responded with a shrug-nod.

For those of you who have never met what is commonly known as a 'guy,' the shrug-nod is the standard response to most questions. Just about all the mid range of emotions and mindsets--roughly everything from "Jennifer Aniston and I have taken up residence at Disney world," to "At least my cell-mate has told me that I'm his only bitch,"--can be covered by the shrug-nod.

So I pressed further. "Is it everything you thought it would be?"

His smile was bright and brittle. "I go to school, I teach, and I go home."

I know--and know of--many people with nine-to-five mentalities. Accountants, electricians, dentists, bankers, and others, who strap on the tools of their trades, do their jobs, and go home. They leave their work at their work. As a rule, producers aren't like this. Nor are teachers.

And a guy who leaves one job and goes back to college in order to enter a not-very-well-paying career certainly does not fit that category.

"Sounds like you're not enjoying it," I said.

Again, the shrug-nod. "Right now, I'm teaching about World War II. All I teach them, though are causes and dates. I don't talk about the battles--do you think D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge are important? I don't even mention them. It's just causes and dates. Causes and dates."

The legacy of No Child Left Behind: causes and dates. No living history. No chance to enthrall. No chance to expose kids to things that might grab their interest. I don't know much about Red, but I can imagine a past for him--one where, some teacher grabbed his interest by making a topic real to him. Perhaps it was a social studies teacher. Perhaps it was the way they learned about World War II. Perhaps it was stories about D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge.

I doubt it was causes and dates that caught his fancy.

I remember my eighth-grade social studies teacher very well. Mr. L'Ameroux was a balding man with coke-bottle glasses. He was supposed to teach something like 'American history from 1850-1950.' But this was 1973, and instead we talked about Viet Nam. Watergate. Roe v. Wade. Salvador Allende. August Pinochet. We talked about democracy. We talked about freedoms. We talked about impeachment. We talked about constitutional crises.

'Talked,' in this sense, was a euphemism for argue. Mister L would come in and take a position, or make a statement, and then the arguing began.

I was reading newspapers. I was reading magazines. I was researching the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. I was forming opinions.

I was, for the first time in my life, thinking.

This was one of the greatest gifts I got from school. I have no idea what Mister L's positions were on the things we were talking about. He seemed to be taking the 'Establishment'** position on many events, but I'm guessing he was doing it simply to get us to respond.

Since I grew up in New York State, we have state-wide examinations known as Regents exams. Sometime during the third week of June, I was going to have to sit in a room and answer about 100 multiple-choice questions about something like 'American History from 1850-1950,' so starting the first week of June, we plowed through what was supposed to be the real syllabus.

For two weeks, I learned causes and dates.

I don't know what I got on the exam. Probably something in the upper eighties to lower nineties percentage-wise. That's what I usually got in everything non-math.

So what's my point? I learned nothing but causes and dates in eighth grade, just like Red's teaching. But the difference is I had a teacher who was allowed to teach. He taught us to think. In time, I learned quite a bit about American History from 1850-1950. Certainly more than I need to know in my daily life--probably enough to make me a decent contestant on Jeopardy!***

Red's school won't let him teach anything other than causes and dates. Because funding is tied up in the results. This means that Red's goal is not to open the minds of his students; rather, it's to keep the money coming in.

This administration has used fear quite well--it's used it to get us into war, and it's used it to keep itself in power. And it's used fear--the fear of losing money--to prevent our kids from actually thinking.


*When you go to watch your local sports team, every event that happens in the stadium outside of the actual game is scripted. The person who puts that script together and makes sure stuff happens when it's supposed to-from the pregame announcements, to the sausage races--is the producer.

**And for anyone who grew up in the seventies, you know what a bad word that was.

***I truly hope so--I'm taking the contestant's exam on the 23rd.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Thanks, Daniel, for the Set-Up.

Married To The Sea

Go visit Daniel's blog. Seriously. Cuz in a year or two, you'll be watching a movie or TV with someone and you'll lean over and say: 'Yo--see that guy? The tall one with the hair? Yeah. I blogged with him back in the day.'

And your friend will lean over and say 'shut up and watch the movie.'

You'll thank me that day.


Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Words I Never Thought I'd Write...

President Bush has done a good thing.

No, not in Iraq. Or Palestine. Or the Gulf Coast. Or with the economy. Or with his veto of stem cell research, refusal to raise minimum raise, tax cuts for the rich...

Stop. Stop. Stop. Must put those thoughts in the Happy Box.*

No, the sole thing in the six-plus years that The Worst. President. Ever. has done that I agree with happened on August 8, 2005, when he signed the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

Which, on the whole, is a crock of shit that subsidizes Big Energy special interests while doing nothing to a) save energy or b) lower prices...

Damn. Back into the Happy Box.

Nope, the one eensy teensy tiny thing in that abortion of a bill that I agree with is that he extended Daylight Savings Time so that it starts March 11 of this year, and ends November 4th.

Think about it. The best thing I can say about this guy is that he's given younger kids an extra hour of light for trick-or-treating. And I'm surprised that I can even credit him with that.

Worst. President. Ever.


*Can anyone out there tell me where that phrase comes from?

Sunday, January 07, 2007

And it's over.

Except for the cleaning. The tree's down. The lights are off. Another Christmas Past.

Someone in our church lives in Shortsville. Yes, that's a name of a town. I should talk, living as I do in Swillburg. They have a bonfire for the Feast of the Epiphany. We brought our tree along:

It blazed brilliantly for a few minutes, but it was over rather quickly.

Kind of like the holidays in general.

And, of course, no Epiphany feast is complete without a lightsaber battle:
Yes, my son wears shorts in January.

Screw it. I'm too tired to even try to be witty tonight.

OK--I'm a little less tired now. Getting the tree to the bonfire was a little bit tricky. I tied the tree to the roof of my van, exactly the same way I did when I brought it home. So there I was, driving along with a Christmas tree on my roof, at 6pm on a Saturday night. Maybe they thought my calendar was slow or something.

Here's the thing: for some reason, tying a used Christmas tree onto the roof of a van in the exact same way I got it home doesn't work. The damn thing kept falling off. On the highway. In the dark. It was sure fun getting it back on!

No, it wasn't. Unless someone changed the meaning of the word 'fun' to include 'scratching up your arms and getting resin all over your hands while trying to retie an unweildy eight-foot tall/five foot diameter hunk of lumber onto the roof of a van in the rain by the light of a surprisingly large number of fast-moving cars on the road at six pm on a Saturday.' If that's the case, then yes, it was fun.

Eventually, I stuffed the damned thing inside.


Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Haw! Haw! Haw! He's Thirsty

Doncha just love those quirky, kooky, strange little stories that get dropped into the ends of newscasts, or in little boxes on the inside of the world section of the local paper? They have little headlines, like 'Peculiar Postings,' or 'Weird World.' I saw this one posted late last week:
A thirsty German sold his 6-year-old step-daughter's pet beagle to the owner of a bar to pay for beer, the Bild newspaper reported on Friday.
Woo hoo! Oh, that's rich. That wacky German dude. He's thirsty! Get it? He's thirsty, and he's unemployed, and...hee hee...he sells his stepkid's dog for...ha ha, wait--lemme finish...whew...he sells this sweet little kid's dog...chortle...for beer!

Oh, stop! You're killing me! That's so funny! 'Cause...he's thirsty! What a great, absolutely perfect way to describe things!

It's great, because there's no problems in that household! This isn't a story about a lying, theiving, desperate, hopeless alcoholic who has sunk so low that he's pawning off someone else's pet to feed his addiction--rather, it's just a lighthearted fluff piece to send you chuckling off to work in the morning. It's not about a pathetic drunk and all the psychological ramifications like codependency, child neglect and abuse, depression and all the physical ailments that come when a family member is drug dependent--no, see, it's just about a thirsty guy.


That's all.