Thursday, October 20, 2005

Miscellany, Mid-October 2005

Sometimes life presents brief interludes that bear resemblance to that particular rollercoaster ride somewhere in your late 30s to early 40s where you realize that you don't enjoy rollercoasters anymore. That is to say, there are stretches where you think, "I'm too old for this crap," but like the rollercoaster ride, all you can do for now is hold on and try not to puke.

I think one of the most brilliant verses in all of pop music that describe this state come from Paul Simon's "The Obvious Child":

I'm accustomed to a smoother ride,
Or maybe I'm a dog who's lost his bite,
I don't expect to be treated like a fool no more,
I don't expect to sleep through the night.

Yeah, man.

It's been a while since I've posted because of insanity at work, being out of town, finding myself trapped in software training classes, having all my girls sick, and a big yearly party that involves a Martha Stewart level of preparation (not including the prison time).

Work has been so ridiculous that for a while now that I experience regular contemplations on the meaning of life. For fear of being Dooced and to spare you the boredom, I'm not going into details. Let's just say it's a lot like the parrot sketch of "Monty Python's Flying Circus," because it's far beyond the absurdities of Office Space. Yes, what we have is a deceased parrot. Now if the shopowner would acknowledge that, we'd have something.

On the home front, gas prices have added at the very least an additional $200 to our monthly costs. So we've cancelled the cable, the newspaper, Netflix, and other little services that have accumulated into quite the cumulative bill over the years. Cable was over $40! This, over an infrastructure (network) that has been established for years (so they had to have recouped those costs by now), that has the temerity to put shopping and evangelical shows on over a third of the channels. Buh bye. The Denver paper does this insidious upsell crap, where we originally just got the Sunday paper, but then they offered the weekend for free, only to start charging us for it a few months later when they promised not to, then did the same thing with the weekdays to where the bill was eventually HUGE. Gone, baby. (Reporters haven't been doing their jobs anyway.) Netflix was great and I recommend it, but my local library has over 2/3 of the same stuff for outright free. Can't beat that. Aloha Netflix, I'll miss you. So, we evened out the car gas bills. However, the local power monopoly is doubling natural gas prices yet again this winter (just because they can, there's no shortage), so that'll probably be another $1,000 we'll have to find somewhere. Here's to anti-gouging legislation.

Our co-pays went up to $30 just to see our primary care physician, so of course everyone promptly got sick. And they had to visit twice because the doc said the first time, "Doesn't look that bad. Bring her back if it gets worse." Lovely.

So, with this free-floating angst, I boarded a plane to a conference in Portland, Oregon. (Motto: "Gayer than San Francisco!" Think I'm kidding? Check out the visitor's website. How many cities have a special gay section on their site? Not that there's anything wrong with that, of course.)

Nice city. Their public transportation system is what a public transportation system should be. The variety of restaurants was phenomenal. The one blatant blemish they have in common with San Fran is the sheer about of beggars per square foot. And since the downtown trains are free, every other ride you have some scuzzy individual working the train for handouts.

My favorite crazy person was this woman in her 50s who had a huge, white beehive wig perched atop her head, with her own grayish hair draping out the sides. The wig must've been 2 feet high, and she was probably only 5 feet herself, so it brought to mind the woman costume the aliens wore in Mars Attacks!, but much aged. Poor dear. (Unless, of course, she's being outrageous on purpose.)

Sharing the hotel with our software convention was a convention of hairdressers. Did you know they even had conventions? Neither did I. What a trip.

First of all, they have completely different social mores and rules than do your standard convention goers - that is, sales people and computer geeks. Y'see, business folks and geeks may exchange a brief pleasantry when passing someone they don't know - though most likely they won't - and that's about it. Apparently hairdressers view the world as their personal zoo. When someone they don't know walks by, they halt all conversation, and STARE at this person, heads tracking their progress. When I first encountered this, I stopped by a mirror to make sure I didn't have a boog hanging, toilet paper trailing my shoe, or some other valid reason to be gawked at like a bug in a jar. Nothing out of the ordinary with my appearance. Then another non-hairdresser strolled past, same naked stares. So in short order I got used to the folks with a single streak of some color not found in nature in their coif to drop everything and examine me like I'm boarding an aircraft wearing a turban with fuses hanging off the backs of my shoes. I also found out that if you returned the gape grope, they got a little offended.

When they weren't giving we geeks the stink-eye, they were competing in these iron-chef-like competitions, slicing and binding out wacky hairdos in timed heats. How this applies to actual hairdressing I don't know. I mean, if I wanted my hair messed up in record time, I'd give my 9-year-old some strong cough medicine and hand her the scissors. (I kid. I don't dose the child for my amusement. Anymore.)

Funniest of all was after they checked out. I was riding the elevator down to the next session, and one of the hotel managers was holding a wighead in a bag and had a bemused look on her face. I asked her what was up, and she said many of the hairdressers had left behind their mannequin heads, and guests were happening upon them in closets and such, so the hotel staff was having to sweep the rooms to ensure new guests didn't drop dead of a heart attack. You can't make this stuff up.

On the flight back home, I took solace in the fact that I was on a model of plane that so far had only one crash to it's reputation, and it wasn't due to mechanical failure, and it didn't explode into a fireball when it did finally have its terrain conflict. I walk into my house only to see that exact model of plane circling LA because the front landing gear didn't deploy correctly, and was seized with retroactive scrotum tightening.

But that weekend I segued into the yearly chili cookoff held by some good friends, and I won second place! (First place going to the chef on our block, as always.) My secrets: Grill up pork chops liberally sprinkled with chili powder and cumin, cut to preferred size, put it slowcooker with chicken stock and let it cook for an hour or so. Chop (all fresh) one onion, one green pepper, on chili pepper and one jalapeno and saute all for 10 minutes, add to pot. Once those have cooked for a while, add 1 can green chilis, 1 can chili beans (drained), 2 cans black beans (whole can including sauce), 1 can diced tomatoes, and 1/2 bag of frozen white corn. Add 1 tablespoon each chili powder and cumin. Salt and pepper to taste. Cook as long as needed. Enjoy.

So I came off the weekend with that success only to watch a movie I'd been avoiding, with good reason it turns out: Wit. I generally avoid cancer movies, because the inevitable slide into death is invariably romanticized, and dearhearts there's nothing romantic about it at all. It hurts and then you die; I've seen that up close and personal. But Wit stars the wonderful Emma Thompson, who collaborated with usually great Mike Nichols, and the reviews are universally positive. Well, just goes to show ya, everyone's a sucker sometimes. It's yer standard romantic reflections punctuated with vomiting and visits by the doctors, then she dies. (If you consider that a spoiler, most humble apologies. But if you see a movie with "Batman" in the title, except to see a guy in a batsuit, k?) I'm not sure what others might get by watching someone die a horrible death whilst dispensing bon mots, but it does nothing for me other than harsh my buzz.

But, things have leveled out for the most part. The coaster rides seems to have returned to the starting line for now, so I'll leave you with interesting things I've happened upon while surfing lately.

- The 2Blowhards linked to, get this, a Vegan BDSM (Bondage, Discipline, and Sado-Masochism) site. Let's think this through ... it's immoral to exploit any animal for our use, even to the point where taking milk is exploitation because the cow (or goat) can't give its consent, but you can whip the snot out of a fellow human being within an inch of his or her life for erotic jollies. (Guess it hinges on that consent thing.) I walked around giggling about this for two days.

- Via Firefox's cool "StumbleUpon" extension, found this wild thang. If you've got a good set of speakers on your unit, turn it up.

- Also via "StumbleUpon", found a compendium of factoids.

- Since James is a rightie and I'm a leftie, his screeds usually just fill me with weltschmerz. This one I can get behind.


sharon d. said...

So, I'm guessing vegan BDSM'ers use rubber and not leather?

Anonymous said...

The guy-up-the-hill's girlfriend was joining all her girlfriends to see some avant-garde play, doubtless full of stylistic planes of vision. He wondered if I'd like to go to CU to see a documentary about the future corporate influence on food. I passed in silence the idea that you could have a future documentary and told him, "You know, you dems have locked down the courage and the emotional strength. I just don't have it any more. I could go to your 'documentary,' and it'd just depress me - until I shot and ate a deer. But all in all, I'd get bummed. I had to cancel my subscription to High Country News - I couldn't stand whatever the weekly 'they' were doing to the weekly environment. Shit, I couldn't even see Midnight Cowboy twice. In college, I could wallow in it, and contract a thoroughly enjoyable depression. Later on, when I'd seen some of that stuff in my and my friends' lives, the art couldn't cover for it any more, and I had to walk out." He gave me the usual quizzical look (I think the humor allele is not strongly expressed in these types).

So Yahmdallah, you hang in there as long as you can. Send us bulletins. I haven't quite fallen irrevocably into Mary-Poppinsry, but I am looking forward to my first exposure to Raising Arizona tonight.

The Opinionated Homeschooler said...

Regarding your recipe... the presence of green chilis and comino makes me think there's a New Mexican thing going on, and that that bag of "frozen white corn" (shudder) must be a substitute for posole?

Yahmdallah said...

Nope, it just is what it is. Corn. (For color and taste.)

I'm not that sophisticated of a cook.