Thursday, November 30, 2006
A busy day, but one in which I got some free stuff. One of my students who managed to bag not one but two deer gave me some venison. Like eight pounds of it. I've only had venison once or twice before, and I remember liking it. I hope I'm remembering correctly. And then another student who always drinks Tab energy drink brought me one today. I asked her earlier in the week if it was any good, and she said it tasted like watermelon Jolly Ranchers. I love watermelon Jolly Ranchers! I told her that sounded good, so she brought me one, and it kind of does taste like watermelon Jolly Ranchers, and not at all like artificially sweetened Cola from the 1970s. And it did kind of give me a boost without making my heart race or my hands shake. I can see how the kids are all addicted to the energy drinks. So sweet. So helpful for staying awake during boring classes. (Not mine, but stuff like math and public policy.)

Monday, November 27, 2006
Ever since Michael Richards disgraced himself last week, first by using some really uncalled-for language, and then by giving an apology while looking like someone gutted his pet dog and forced him to watch, the media is making all kinds of comparisons to the Mel Gibson incident earlier this year. I understand the temptation to do that, since both episodes, at heart, were about intolerance. But I think they're different.

Mel Gibson is an anti-Semite who, just hours after telling a pair of on-duty officers that he hates the Jews, announced to the world that he wasn't an anti-Semite. There's a contradiction there: it's like waking up every morning for a year with a nasty hangover after pounding shot after shot of Jagermeister, night after night, and trying to convince people that you don't have an alcohol problem. You drink too much, Mel Gibson hates Jews, and the behavior all-out refutes any statements to the contrary.

Richards, on the other hand, made some equally horrible remarks and then apologized. He apologized. Did you see his apology on Letterman? Here, watch it. I'm not in any way excusing what he did, but come on. The man looks genuinely sorry. He is not a good-enough actor to pull off that shocked and remorseful face. He feels badly. He knows he did something very, very wrong, and he is willing to tell the world that he fucked up and he's sorry. He sat in a radio studio and discussed how badly he feels with Jesse Jackson while it went over the live airwaves. Jesse Jackson! The only less sympathetic audience might be Al Sharpton. And he hired a damage control specialist, which may be going a bit too far, and is now seeking psychiatric counseling for his racially insensitive behavior, which may also be going too far, but see, he's acknowledging that he did something wrong and is seeking, however desperately, to remedy the situation. I didn't see Mel Gibson talking things over with any Jewish people. All he did was say something like, yeah, I was drunk, I don't hate Jews, now go see my brand new, massively violent new movie about early American civilizations killing each other off. The cynic in me thinks he made that movie because making a movie about Nazis killing off the Jews would have been too obvious.

Anyway, back to my point. Yes, Michael Richards said some stupid and awful things, and yes, he should be sorry, and I think he is. Mel Gibson said some equally stupid and awful things and then brushed it off like it never happened. No stunned apology, no sessions on the couch, and no sit-down with anyone Jewish. I can see why the media wants to make these comparisons, but until Mel Gibson is truly sorry, I think the similarities end at inappropriate remarks.

Sunday, November 26, 2006
Sadly, my little Thanksgiving vacation is coming to an end. Too bad, because I was really getting used to sleeping late and not going to work. Though I must say, today was nice. I drove back all day yesterday to avoid the post-Turkey Day travel stampede, which worked like a charm: the roads were more or less empty, and unlike a few years ago, I didn't get stuck for three hours in the middle of Pennsylvania wondering where the hell all of those people came from. So today was mostly for readjusting, doing laundry and general housekeeping things, and getting back into my routine. So the bad news is tomorrow I go back to work. The good news? Only four weeks until my two-week holiday break.

Thursday, November 23, 2006
Excerpts from last night.

2030h. Meet Andrea at unbusy, mostly empty diner for coffee and catch-up.

2035h. Sit in booth. Order coffee. Make snide remarks about outlandish 17-page diner menus.

2037h. Coffee brought to table. Waiter asks in broken English if we'd like to order anything. We tell him we'll get something in a little while. He nods.

2038h. - 2125h. Conversation and laughing etc. Coffee cups refilled once.

2126h. We decide to share a dessert, as we have both just come from dinner with our respective families and are not hungry for souvlaki, fried zucchini slabs, or onion rings the size of jelly donuts. I do the cake walk over to the dessert case. Everything looks tasty. I return to the booth. I suggest chocolate. Andrea is not a big chocolate person. I suggest carrot cake. Andrea is agreeable. We decide to split a piece of carrot cake. Order piece of carrot cake. Waiter nods. I think about delicious cream cheese icing.

2127h. - 2200h. More conversation and laughing etc. No cake. No more coffee.

2201h. Stop waiter and ask for cake. Waiter nods.

2202h. Coffee cups refilled. No cake.

2203h. - 2240h. Still more conversation and laughing etc. Still no cake. No more coffee.

2241h. I comment that we're never going to see that piece of cake, are we? Andrea agrees.

2242h. I yawn. We agree to go.

2255h. Andrea drops me off at home. Goodbye etc. I go to sleep. Still no cake. Mild disappointment.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006
After driving all day Sunday, I finally made it to my parents' house just outside of New York. I like the drive, and I don't mind doing all eleven hours alone (and sometimes I even prefer doing it alone, since I can sing loudly and stop only when I need to), but I guess it would have been better if I could have taken a nap about eight hours in. I got a little weary.

Mom took off yesterday and we went into the city (that's New York city) for some intensive tourism. We ferried across the Hudson, bussed up to Columbus Circle, and admired the shiny newness of the marbley Time Warner Center. We took a tour of CNN's New York Bureau, and mom was totally impressed with the green screen demonstration. I guess I sometimes forget that not everyone knows how the weather segments on the news really work. It was neat to see some of the studios, although I was secretly hoping that we'd run into Anderson Cooper and he'd want to have lunch with us afterwards, but the only prematurely gray man we saw was down in the newsroom spreading peanut butter on a bagel. Not Anderson. Too bad.

After our tour and with a little coaxing on my part, we took a long walk over to the upper East side for lunch and culture. I wanted soup dumplings, which we got, and then we headed over to the Jewish Museum on Fifth. I was curious to see what kinds of things they had in there, but I was especially keen on seeing the Masters of American Comics exhibit. I had mentioned this to my mom last week, and she agreed to it, but when we got there yesterday after lunch and saw all of the sketches of superheroes and brightly-colored panels, she looked disappointed. Apparently, she thought it was comics as in comedians, and was expecting some kind of tribute to Mel Brooks and Woody Allen and people like that. She wasn't expecting The Green Lantern and Jimmy Corrigan. Still, the museum was nice, and we did a tour of part of the permanent collection.

After we got back home last night, I was exhausted. We had walked probably around three miles, and it was kind of cold out, and I hadn't really caught up on sleep the night before, and when I sprawled out on the bed at around eight expecting to read for a few hours, I promptly fell asleep and didn't wake up until well after ten.

Friday, November 17, 2006

I say that for a few reasons. First is that I had today off! And that means no kids and no attitudes and no whining about I-couldn't-get-my-project-done-on-time. It also means not getting up at the crack of bare-assed stupidity and showing up for work before the sun is even over the horizon. It means sleeping in and just lounging in bed for an hour reading a real book and not poorly-written student treatments before finally getting out from under the covers, and then making a bowl of delicious slow-cook oatmeal (the 30 minute Irish kind) with cinnamon and apples and real honest maple syrup and eating it at a normal pace instead of scarfing it down so I can brush my teeth and scurry out to my car and get to work. And that is good.

The second reason is that yesterday, for the first time in a few years, I had a massage, and it was really good. It was so good that I made another appointment in a few weeks so I could have a birthday massage. As long as I'm able to suppress my ticklish instinct, I really like getting the whole body rub-down. I don't get the new-age-y-ness that goes along with being a massage therapist - the scented candles everywhere, the pictures of native Americans and kokopellis, the tapestries in muted purple and teal, the odd instrumental music of nothing but nylon-string guitar, wooden flute, and bird noises -- but whatever. She had a heated table and I was relaxed and it felt good.

And the third reason is that I don't have to go back to work until the Monday after Thanksgiving! Holy crap, does that ever rock. That might be the best reason yet.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006
I like to think I'm in pretty good shape, but this past Saturday, I went to a class at the Y called Body Blast, and I sort of hurt myself. Not badly, mind you, but a little. I umm, I pulled my quads. Both of them. (That's the front of the thighs, on both legs, for those keeping score.) I didn't think I'd pull anything, since I do lots of cardio and get on the Cybex machines two or three times a week, and all the cycling I had been doing really built up those muscles to the point where they're maybe a bit too big now. And really, those classes are for the borderline fit anyway. Or so I thought. But there I was on Saturday morning, doing squats with 15 pounds of iron on the meat of my back, and by the time I put the weight down after two reps of 20, I felt my legs go tight, and I knew things would be bad for a day or two.

Oddly enough, I wasn't sore anywhere else. I kept up with the upper body stuff and the abdominal stuff and the back stuff, and nothing else hurt the next day. But my legs -- wow. And you'd think that the other muscles in your legs would compensate for the ones that were hurting, but no. It turns out you really use those quads a lot. Especially, I discovered, walking down stairs. Going up wasn't a problem, but on the way down I found myself walking like a pirate and exhaling loudly the whole way. Yesterday it was so bad that on one afternoon descent down the stairs in out house, I lost my footing on the second step, landed on my right heel, and rode my heel all the way down the dozen or so steps. It was probably one of those things that looks cool if someone else is doing it, because I stuck the landing and ended up on my feet at the bottom, but my heart was beating so fast that I had to lie down to get it back to normal.

My quads still hurt today, but not as bad as they did yesterday or the day before. I even went to the Y today and got in 35 minutes of cardio and almost a full circuit of Cybex; I left out the upper leg stuff. Still too painful. But I think I'll try the Body Blast again on Friday. Hopefully once you pull a muscle like that and it heals, you don't pull it as easily next time.

Saturday, November 11, 2006
After seeing Borat, I have an uncomfortable moment on par with the uncomfortable moments in the movie:

Paul and Amy walk out of movie theatre into movie lobby.

Paul: Wow, that was really funny.

Amy: That was pretty funny, but not the funniest thing I've ever seen.

Paul: Come on, it was funny.

Paul sees an older guy he knows from work or something coming out of the theatre. Older guy is with an older woman.

Older guy: Hey Paul, funny movie, huh?

Paul: Yes, it was funny. This is my girlfiend.

Amy: Hello.

O.G.: Hello, and this is my wife.

O.G.'s Wife: Hello.

Paul: Hello.

Amy: Hello.

O.G.'s W: That was funny, but so offensive! I wonder what will happen when Jewish people see that? I wonder if they'll be offended?

Uncomfortable pause. Paul and Amy exchange glances. Pause extends.

Amy: Umm, I'm Jewish.

O.G.'s W: Oh!

Another uncomfortable pause. Some nervous smiling.

O.G.'s W: So, uhh, were you offended?

Amy: No, no. In fact, Sacha Baron Cohen is Jewish.

O.G.'s W: He is?!

O.G.: He is?!

Amy and Paul: Yeah.

Uncomfortable pause. All four nod slightly.

O.G.: Well, we should get going. So nice meeting you.

Amy: Yes, you too.

O.G.'s W: Yes, very nice.

Paul: See you later.

All: Bye.

O.G. and O.G.'s W walk out. Paul and Amy lag a bit behind so it doesn't look like they are following or anything. More pause, though less uncomfortable than previous pauses.

Amy: Huh.

Paul: Huh.

Amy: I think I just made her uncomfortable.

Paul: I don't think they knew what they were getting into with that movie.

Amy: Maybe not.

Friday, November 10, 2006
You know what I learned this week? This week, I learned that I just cannot party like I used to party. I have, against my best efforts and strongest desires, become a wuss. It's sad, really. Here's what happened. On Wednesday night, we went to see the English Beat in Detroit. I like them well enough, or liked them, rather, since they haven't had anything new out in a very long time. But Paul really likes them, and he really wanted to go, and even though it was a school night and even though the show was over two hours away, I said sure, why not. We are hip, with-it, cool people who like to go out to happening places and see live music and have a good time. That's us, and we should do those things. Let's go see the English Beat. So Paul got tickets. Deep down I was a little nervous because I knew we'd get home late and I'd have to go to work the next day feeling a little groggy. But the last time we saw a show at the Magic Stick, we were home by one. That's late, but not completely awful. I can do that once in a while, right?

We got there at eight, which was when the doors were supposed to open. But apparently the band was late in arriving, and they had to set up and do sound check and whatever else they had to do, so they didn't let us in until a little after nine. And then we waited. And then there was an opening band. And then there was about 20 minutes between the opening band and the English Beat. And finally, around 11, the English Beat came on. And you know, they were really good. They just sounded really tight and musically impressive, the way a good band should. And the lead singer was very energetic and talkative with the crowd, which always helps. I had a good time and even danced a little, despite my growing exhaustion. (See, I'm usually in bed before 11.)

One of my favorite parts of the show was seeing some of the real die-hard '80s ska fans who were there. Usually I don't give much thought to what I wear to a concert, but these guys really do: the good ska fans wear suits with tapered-leg pants, skinny black ties, big wing tips, and porkpie hats. Say what you will about the music, but these guys clean up alright. There was one guy there who even had a real old school ska outfit on: short pants (!) trimmed with checkered fabric, a black vest covered in small band buttons over a white shirt and a skinny black tie, and a fedora with a checkered sash. Oh, and giant wing tips. Awesome. The English Beat may not get the same draws as bands like Green Day, but I defy you to find anyone so well dressed at the Warped Tour.

Unfortunately, we still had the ride home. When we got in the car, Paul said he'd drive. I tried to stay awake, kind of for moral support or something, but I just couldn't. And then an hour down the highway, Paul got off the road because he was tired and didn't feel safe driving. I didn't want to sleep in the car, and I had to get up before six to get to work, so I psyched myself up, grabbed some gum, turned the iPod up really loud, sang along, and drove the rest of the way. We got home at three - enough time for me to get two hours and 45 minutes of sleep before my alarm. Yeah, yesterday was kind of rough. Today was better, but only slightly. (And I went to bed before 10 last night.)

So despite my efforts, I think I just can't rock like I used to rock in college. Granted, three hours of sleep isn't enough for anyone, but I really felt it, and all day yesterday I just had this feeling that at any moment, my legs could go out from under me. That's not a good feeling. I won't say that I'd never do another late concert in Detroit, but it would have to be a band that I've been dying to see for a long time. Sadly, my party days have come to an end.

Tuesday, November 7, 2006
I usually tire of political ads sometime in early October, but this year, it just seems like it's worse than ever. I was tired of hearing about the midterm election by Labor Day. They started running ads in like June! And if I heard one more politician or pundit use the phrase "future Speaker-of-the-House Pelosi" one more time, I was going to need a prescription. Finally, election day is here, and tomorrow, we can go back to being mean on a much less obvious basis.

Monday, November 6, 2006
Something is going on with the novelty cereal industry, and I'm not sure I like it. In fact, no, I don't like it. They're skimping on the good parts of the cereal and making you eat the healthy stuff. Or what seems to be the healthy stuff, anway. Like last week, I bought a box of Lucky Charms, and there were hardly any fun marshmallow shapes! It was all that oat-y stuff, which I guess is okay as far as cereal goes, but no one buys Lucky Charms for the actual cereal pieces! They buy it for the marshmallows, and I sure as hell didn't get a fair amount. And then this week, I got a box of Crunch Berries, and it was all Cap'n Crunch and hardly any berries. (Or "berries," I should say.) And really, does anyone even buy the regular Cap'n Crunch? The way I see it, if I can't have the crunch berries, then I don't want the Crunch. Just a few months ago, I bought a box of Crunch Berries, and it was full of berries. (Or "berries.") And I'm not saying that I want to buy the Oops All Berries variety of Cap'n Crunch, because I do like a little Cap'n Crunch thrown in with the Crunch Berries, but there has to be a good ratio of crunch to berries. In my most recent box, there was not. Not even close.

Now: before you go berating me for eating cereal that's meant for kids (mom), you should know that I do read the nutritional information on just about everything I buy, and while yes, I do know that there is sugar in these cereals, I also know that there's sugar in just about every cereal on the shelf. (The ones that don't have sugar taste and feel like mulch.) And I don't buy cereals with trans-fats, and I try to keep the total fat content of my cereal to under two grams. Most of the so-called kids' cereals have under two grams of fat, whereas a seemingly healthy cereal like Cracklin' Oat Bran does not. Do you know how much fat is in a serving of Cracklin' Oat Bran? Do you? Seven! Seven disgusting grams of fat, and all kinds of gross oils and who-knows-what. But it has the words "oat bran" in the name to trick you into thinking you're getting a healthy breakfast. It's not healthy! It's a little bit of oat bran held together by suet and corn syrup to taste halfway decent. The way I see it, Lucky Charms is better any day of the week. Plus, if I eat a bowl of cereal, I don't have to take a multi-vitamin because all of my vitamins have been added to the cereal. (Maybe that's why they're called frosted Lucky Charms -- they're frosted with vitamins?) And, I am a devoted fan of Special K Fruit and Yogurt, which is healthy, yes, but has as many grams of sugar as Crunch Berries.

Perhaps it would be easier if I had toast and jam for breakfast. I'm less likely to complain if my rye bread is short on caraway seeds.

Sunday, November 5, 2006
We were walking downtown on Friday night, and we saw this van run a stop sign and plow into a tiny Ford Focus, spinning both vehicles around and leaving a layer of Ford front end parts on the road. It sounded bad, and I felt awful for the driver of the Focus when she eased her way out of the tiny car. She was obviously in pain, whereas the four passengers in the van were perfectly okay. The driver of the van fully admitted he was wrong, and he apologized over and over to the lady in the Focus. I was a little scared, and I wanted to help, but after a few minutes, we saw that there was nothing we could do, so we kept walking. But it was upsetting.

Wednesday, November 1, 2006
I wasn't crazy about Death Cab for Cutie when I first heard them, because I thought it was too whine-y and insincere. But then I kind of got into The Postal Service, and then I was like, oh, it's the same guy from Death Cab. So then I started listening to Death Cab, and I have to say, I really like Plans a lot. And then last night, I was wondering if they had any videos, and guess what? They do! And they're totally cool. The video for Crooked Teeth is suspiciously reminiscent of Peter Gabriel's video for "Sledgehammer" (remember that one?). Also cool is Your Heart is An Empty Room: simple and sad. I love the clean animation, mostly because it looks so simple but really isn't. I also really like the stop motion stuff in Brothers on a Hotel Bed. The video for Someday You Will Be Loved is kind of gross, but I guess it's a good video. And I had seen this one for I Will Follow You Into The Dark on VH1; it's not animated like the rest, but it's an interesting concept.

Paul is not a fan, however. Last night when I was telling him about how cool their videos were and how much I liked the band, he suggested that maybe I go see them in concert and take a long some of my myspace friends. Ugh. I don't do myspace. I was kind of under the impression that people over 30 don't do myspace unless they're pedophiles or really insecure. Ick.

Another non-related bit of conversation: my parents came back from a trip to Palm Springs a few weeks ago, and are now very saddened by the recent fires that are raging in the area. My mom sent an email to my brothers and me complaining that the fires are dangerously close to a lot of the things they saw on their trip, including their favorite date farm. "What's sad," my brother replied, "is that you have a favorite date farm." Perhaps, but I think it would be sadder if my mom had a myspace page. The date farm I can handle.

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