22 December 2007

if at first you don't succeed

I'll be trying again tomorrow morning.

My flight's scheduled take-off is for 1130 or 1145 with an ETA of 1330 or 1400. Hopefully, it actually happens this time.

I went to see Sweeney Todd yesterday at around mid-day.

I had my doubts about the singing, but I was most pleasantly surprised. The acting talent involved were more than equal to their singing parts. Also, as commented, Johnny and Alan singing a duet:AWESOME.

The colour scheme is typical Burton--varying gray tones with brilliant splashes of colour where they will make the most impact. What sticks out in my mind most is Sacha Baron Cohen's jewel-tone blue ensemble. As per the usual, Cohen makes a hilarious spectacle of himself.

I do have a complaint or two with where they left certain of the story arcs. Benjamin Barker and his wife Lucy have a daughter, and a ship boy falls in love with her, but we don't really see how that turns out. Without giving away more than necessary, Sweeney mistakes her for a boy and nearly kills her, and that's the last we see of her before the credits roll. I just would have been happier to see some kind of resolution there. Granted, I didn't expect any kind of happy Father-Daughter reunion between Sweeney and Johanna--Sweeney is way too far gone for him to resume any normal sort of lifestyle--but I would have like to see how the young romance between the girl and the ship boy turned out.

It's one of Tim Burton's gorier achievements, I must say. To give you an idea, it's rated R, but there's no excessive cursing or sexuality. The rating is specifically due to the violence.

After the movie, I walked down to my office to pick up my pay checks, and talked with the skeleton crew. I had to clear up my time-sheet with Zina, and we got to talking about movies. I told her that I intended to go see The Golden Compass ... Zina's response: "Oh, you don't want to see that! It's all about atheism!"

Yeah, I don't care. That really doesn't bother me.

I went to see it today. And, apart from the mouth-breathing cud-chewers sitting behind me, it was a fun time.

Also, I wouldn't really classify the movie as being "all about atheism." It really isn't. It's more anti-establishment--of all kinds, which I suppose could include religion, government, and society--than atheistic. The movie is really about the individual's capacity for free choice versus outside control over the individual's thoughts and actions; and the message of Christianity places a decent emphasis on making choices, choosing right from wrong, etc. So, I don't know, maybe I'm being naive, but I don't know what the fuss is all about.

It's an exciting, fun movie--and it uses CGI in a way that actually doesn't make me want to kill the producers (please see Zemeckis).

Turn the page ...

21 December 2007

no luck

At the suggestion of the woman who re-ticketed me yesterday evening, I called Delta this morning to see if anything sooner than Sunday had opened up.


Well, they thought there was something for tomorrow at 0700, but then they realised that it was already overbooked.

So still no.

I really won't be getting out of here until Sunday. ... OK, time to go shower, dress, and T myself to the movies for the day.

Johnny Depp, Alan Rickman, and Daniel Craig will make life less crappy.

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20 December 2007

angry, stuck, alone

Maybe I'll feel more like talking about it tomorrow, but I doubt it.

Suffice to say, my flight was cancelled. So I'm in Boston until Sunday at least. Frankly, I'm debating cancelling the ticket entirely and staying here for the holidays. I'm really angry right now, and I doubt I'd make good company.

So I'm not going to work tomorrow.

I'm going to the movies.

And I'm going to see The Golden Compass and Sweeney Todd, and that's how it's going to be.

Turn the page ...

a Christmas meme

Everyone else is doing it.

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? I will say wrapping paper, though I've been known to use gift bags in a pinch. Really, if I have the time and opportunity, I will wrap every present. College and life in an apartment turned me lazy for several reasons--one, "I can't find the paper;" two, "I'm all out of scotch tape;" three, "hey, look, here's this bag I've been keeping around for no particular reason." And so it goes.

2. Real tree or artificial? Real. I understand the aggravation of prickly trees, having had a few in the past, but that's why you don't choose the prickly kind and go for a Blue Douglas or something with the short and blunt needles.

3. When do you put up the tree? It was very touch and go with my parents. Sometimes it's right after Thanksgiving. Sometimes it's the weekend before Christmas.

4. When do you take the tree down? Whenever it starts to look peaky. Mid- to late-January?

5. Do you like eggnog? Yes, and all the available flavours, too.

6. Favourite gift received as a child? My parents like to tell me that I was most excited about the 3-foot high Big Bird when I was three years old. In recent years, my Mac and my first iPod.

7. Do you have a nativity scene? My parents have a wee one that my father picked up in Germany during Weihnachten. It was made by wood craftsmen there, features dowel-people and trees with leaves made from wood shavings. It's actually very interesting. Maybe I'll take a picture when I visit.

8. Hardest person to buy for? My mom. Because the things she wants are very general, but she's very fussy about the specifics of these general items.

9. Easiest person to buy for? My friends, generally. They appreciate the notion of "wish lists."

10. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? I don't know. There have been things I wasn't wild about, but nothing noteworthy. It's corny, but it's the thought that counts.

11. Mail or email Christmas cards? I'm not one to judge. I'm HORRIBLE about casual correspondence, period.

12. Favourite Christmas Movie? Like my friend Nicole, I love Home Alone. I also love the second Home Alone, Lost in New York (mostly due to Tim Curry -- "We love you!"). Lately, I've had the urge to watch The Santa Clause, and today we were talking about it at our staff meeting (because I work with a bunch of parents, holy crap). OOH! Other favourite Christmas movie? The Ref:

Mary Chasseur: Maybe they'll catch him, and then let him go in the spirit of Christmas ...
Connie Chasseur: That is not the spirit of Christmas --The spirit of Christmas is either you're good -- or you're punished and you burn in hell.
Who would catch a criminal, and then let him go free?
Mary Chasseur: Republicans?

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? December, usually. This year, I will be shopping this weekend.

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? I don't think so, and that sounds pretty gauche to me.

15. Favourite thing to eat at Christmas? Of the non-baked-good variety? Lasagna. And clam dip. Mmmmmm. Clam dip. And mashed 'taters, if they're around. I heart mashed 'taters (as the inches on my waist can attest).

16. Clear lights or coloured on the tree? Coloured. Blinking or not, it's all good. If they're blinking, though, I might stare at the tree for a long long time. Because I am easily-distracted by shinies.

17. Favourite Christmas song? "Greensleeves," which, honestly, if you read the lyrics, hasn't got much to do with Christmas. I also have a slew of records that I like to keep in rotation at my parents' house. Elvis, The Nutcracker, Rainbow Brite Christmas, Cabbage Patch Christmas, Sinatra, and the list goes on. Mostly, I become addicted to The Nutcracker, though. ... And not just any rendition of The Nutcracker, either. It has to be this version:

18. Stay home or travel for Christmas? Traveling to my parents' home.

19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer? You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen; Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen, but do you recall the most famous reindeer of all? Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer ... etc. So, yes.

20. Angel on the tree top or a star? We have both. It looks dumb.

21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? One the night before. The rest in the morning.

22. Most annoying thing about this time of year? People. Everywhere.

Yay for wasting time.

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19 December 2007

saved by the UK

I love Hot Chip. Or maybe I just love Hot Chip's "Over & Over" ... YES.

I've loved this song since, oh, last Fall. And I still love it. I can hear it every day and it makes me happy. Kind of like The Automatic's "Monster."

Both songs make me think of Torchwood, which is maybe a good portion of the happiness--and, right now especially, the antici- ... -pation (who loves Rocky Horror? oh, right--I do). The new Torchwood season begins next month, and the Doctor Who Christmas special is right around the corner.

Hey, we all need things to look forward to. Me, I look forward to new David Tennant and John Barrowman fixes from the BBC during Hollywood's woeful dry spell. (PAY THE WRITERS NOW, PLEASE. KTHXBYE.)

What else is on my mind this morning? Politics.

Television and politics--well, it works for Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.

Mostly, I'm just a little irritated by a web site that I was invited to look at. They're polling the public for the 2008 Presidential race, but they've excluded Ron Paul from the polls, and make a big [highly animated] point of letting everyone know this up front. It's not that I even like Ron Paul. I'm not going to be voting for him, because I think he's an idiot. At this point, I'm so disgusted with all of them, I might do a write-in (that won't be counted, because individual votes don't really count for beans in the US Presidential race, if we're really being honest about it).

But I think the owner of the site is a bigger idiot for excluding Paul. If you're really interested in clean poll results, you won't exclude any candidate, no matter how much you dislike him or his followers. If you're not interested in clean poll results, why take the time to create a web site devoted just to the poll? Isn't it a waste of time and energy for something that doesn't really matter to you?

OK. End irritable ramble.

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18 December 2007

more feelings of life reflecting literature

FORD: You’re a load of useless, bloody loonies!!

CAPTAIN: Ah, yes, that was it, that was the reason it was. Ha. Pass me the loofah, will you?

This is the kind of clarity that feels like clarity now (when I've had a few), and tomorrow will read like nonsense.

Most people who live in the United States of America don't know how very hard it is to leave. And I think this is because they don't even consider the possibility of life beyond the ocean. The world is flat. It starts in Los Angeles and ends in New York (or what have you). You might go to Hawaii or [gasp] Europe for vacation, but the concept of moving there permanently is far beyond the realm of imagination for 99% of the people who "make it" here.

I think Douglas Adams was referring to the States when he writes of the spaceship heading for a new planet because the old one is "doomed." All the "important" people need to go ahead to set up life for the ones "left behind," but the reality of the matter is that the "important" people are the most useless and idiotic of the originals. They're not being sent to colonize the new planet for future travelers. They're shot there with no hope of return or rescue.

That's the United States. Your ancestors felt like bloody geniuses for "making it" here, so important and free, and so you might vicariously feel that pride because you don't know any better. But you're trapped in the most back-ass-ward nation in the "free" world (where we preach separation of church and state but politicians still feel the need to mention G-d every chance they get), and nobody wants you back either. So you're stuck here, and it's fine if you don't realise it. But it's really depressing for those of us who wish for nothing more for Christmas than to be welcomed into the European Union. To escape ...

Dear Santa, ...

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would-be presents

I kind of wish that I'd thought of doing nuigurumi gifts for Christmas.

Before last night. Because that's when I finally thought of it. You know, eight days before Christmas.

I fail.

I should have thought of it when Andrea mentioned drawing pictures for people for Christmas. But I'm a feather-brain, apparently.

And then I was looking at chibi-Strife last night, and thought, Ooh, I could make ... But it's more than a little late for that idea.

So far, I fail in general at Christmas shopping this year. I keep hearing about money influencing shoppers this season; but, for me, it has more to do with being a fuss-pot and hating everything I see. Or loving something for myself, but not being able to imagine the same level of elation in my would-be recipients.

John and Rodney already received their Lush presents. I gave Michelle her Tealuxe set at the same time I gave the boys their bath stuff.

As for the parents, so far, Dad has a Red Sox ornament, and they're both getting a couple boxes of jewel-toned ornaments (not particularly for either of them, so I'll probably just label it, "Parents" or some more inventive title that strikes me later). I visited three department stores in search of decent pajamas for Mum, but no luck. Is there any wonder that people have forsaken foot-shopping for Amazon?

Oh, and on the subject of wrapping ... I'm not wrapping anything until I get to Durham, just on the off-chance that airport security decides to tear open my suitcase. Because the last thing I need is to have them freak out, rip open carefully-wrapped presents, and then discover that mess upon reaching Durham. Honestly, I'm already worried enough about transporting glass ornaments without the added stress of: "Will they or won't they feel the need to unwrap?"

Flying out of here in little more than two days, and I still haven't packed. Excellent.

Turn the page ...

17 December 2007

in response to: another American psycho

Names changed to protect the innocent decent (because nobody's really innocent, if we're being honest, but I consider my readership to be a decent sort).

The last entry was cross-posted to Book of the Black Rabbit.

This comment from a reader followed:

If done at all it should be done well.
Get in; save lots; get out.
Write the book afterwards (unless you get published first).

To which I replied:

Which makes me think of a few choice lines of Metric's "Handshakes":

Buy this car to drive to work,
Drive to work to pay for this car ...
Say you wanna get in,
And you're gonna get out;
But you won't,
'Cause it's a trap.

I think I might fear all manner of [traditionally reasonable] commitment.

Turn the page ...

another American psycho

There are certain aspects of job hunting that make me [better] appreciate Bret Easton Ellis's vision of the American business world.

Let's take business cards for example, because I've been receiving a lot of them lately (and [VERY] briefly have considered investing in my own). If people allow themselves, they will go insane over the layout and presentation of business cards; but, when it comes down to it, most business cards are basically the same.

I think the best representation of this was seen the film version of American Psycho. You can't truly appreciate the insanity of the description of business cards in the novel (well, you can, if you're thinking the way Ellis is thinking), but when you hear the painstaking detail in the film, and then see the after-product--two or three business cards that basically look the same--and the overwhelming surge of furious envy that Bateman exudes upon being [somehow, and frankly, invisibly] outdone by one of his "friends," you begin to understand the unspoken and absurd competition.

Yes, nihilism is gripping me. And I begin to ask myself, Should I really be trying to enter this world, when I clearly hold it in so much disdain? Granted, I'm not trying to find work in Manhattan--but it's all so much the same, isn't it?

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14 December 2007

end of a line

For early clarification, Whitey is a cat, not a derogatory reference to anyone or anything.

My father writes:

Whitey’s been awfully sick. He can hardly stand, and his head is wobbling rhythmically back and forth like he has lost his equilibrium. It may be a cold or flu, or it may worse. All I know is, Wednesday night he didn’t struggle when I picked him up to bring him into the garage. Last night and this morning, he is still a little wobbly, but he is back to being touchy. That might be a good sign.

It worries me, though, because this description reminds me of what happened to Rocky right before she died. And that, too, was around the yuletide. I don't know how well I can deal with going home to that situation again.

And Whitey is the end of a line of cats that began with the initial adoption of a calico kitten in 1987 or 1988. Puff had Moppet (f), Rascal (m), Rocky (f), and Yellow Stone (f). And, much to our surprise, after being fixed, Moppet had Smoky (m) and Whitey (m).

Puff died and Moppet and Rascal vanished in Pennsylvania. When we moved to NC, Yellow Stone and Smoky vanished (maybe lost, maybe taken). They were all outdoor cats, so it wasn't impossible that they'd decided to move on, or that somebody else had decided they wanted to keep them.

That left Rocky and Whitey.

Rocky died while I was visiting my folks, on winter break from BU. And now Whitey is our little old man.

I don't know. I always thought of Whitey and Smoky as the young ones, but ... he's pretty old now. Sixteen or seventeen, I think. I feel bad for my parents though. I only hear or read about his condition; they have to watch him slowly fall apart.

It's a day for spiked hot chocolate.

Turn the page ...

12 December 2007


I didn't think much of the casting decision before, but I'm starting to get the choice of Heath Ledger in the role of the Joker for the next Batman.

Mostly due to this picture:

Yeah, I'll give it to him. He's scary just sitting there.

My only current dissatisfaction comes from the fact that the so-called trailer for The Dark Knight is nothing more than special-effects tearing up the CGI logo with a voice-over of Christian Bale, Michael Caine, and--very briefly--Heath Ledger.

I guess I was really hoping for something beyond a teaser trailer. Oh, well. Soon enough, right?

I still haven't seen The Golden Compass, but I was calculating what I want to spend on remaining Christmas presents (and postage), and decided to hold off on going to the cinema until I go home. And then I have a list ... which is another good reason to not tell my parents what I want; because, then, they can just take me to see movies, and that can be my Christmas present.

Actually, even my movie list isn't much of a list. The Golden Compass, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, and maybe I Am Legend (but maybe not on that one ... we'll see).

Turn the page ...

11 December 2007

die in a fire

This morning's--because it's early, and you never know, the day is long--"Die In A Fire" recipient is ... [drum beat here]


We'll call him Ukot.

Ukot can ...


What's the story?

I board the train this morning, pay my fare, and sit down. And, as the T starts moving, I start getting bumped in the back of the head. OK, whatever, somebody needs to catch their balance and this will be over soon.

No. The bumping continues past Chestnut Hill Avenue.

Finally, I turn around to find a bag propped against my seat-back, attached to the back of a college kid who is talking to a friend. And, as though sensing the on-coming confrontation, ugly poorly-bearded kid turns his head and looks at me.

Me: Do you mind?
Ukot: Huh?
Me: You're hitting me with your bag, [asshat.]
Ukot: Well, you sat there.
Me: Yeah. It's a seat, [shithead.]
Ukot: There's a million other seats--

And then I turned around and ignored him; because, really, if he wasn't polite enough to move his bag after the initial complaint, arguing isn't likely to convince him. ... Notably, however, these kids did go away after I turned around. So maybe one of them has sense enough not to argue with me this time of the morning, this time of the month.

[Also, "a million other seats"? ... OK, you must be from BC, with math like that... and maybe you should go sit in one of these million seats, since you obviously can't support the weight of your own bag this morning, fuckwit.]

(WARNING: This entry contains expletives and ill-wishing.)

Turn the page ...

10 December 2007

unknown territory

Of suiting, hair, and the job search.

JCrew.com ... I really like their suiting. It's hard trying to dress the part for interviews. I felt very odd in the H&M dressing room, kind of like a kid playing dress up. The fact that the trousers I was trying on were two inches too long did not help. I could hem them, I know, but I'd rather spend the money on clothing that fits me to begin with.

More on the Dellaria hair-cuts: ... I like when they blow-dry my hair straight, but I never have the patience to do that for myself. Result being that today I feel far more raggedy than I felt on Saturday and Sunday when the 'do was still fresh and un-messed-with.

I'm also feeling that I'm being pulled in many different directions. I know that there's nothing that says I have to accept any job that I don't want. What I want is to leave, but I feel like politics are thwarting me at every turn. It's nothing less than the United States deserves, I know. We make it a living hell for outsiders to legally enter our country; so why should anyone else make it easy for us?

I just don't know ... In spite of the spike of happiness about the agency interviews, I still feel very frustrated about all of it.

Turn the page ...

09 December 2007

life at random

I had visitors this weekend. Several of them, over the course of the weekend, actually.

John and Rodney arrived late on Friday (or early on Saturday, depending on your point of view).

Saturday was mostly a day of crazy Newbury Street yuletide shopping.

Presents from Lush for the boys, a tea kit from Tealuxe for Michelle, address books from Trident for my grandmothers. I also bought a blazer and a blouse at H&M (I didn't even know there was an H&M on Newbury Street until yesterday).

We also had lunch with Karen at the Boston Beer Works and went for haircuts at Dellaria--amazingly well-priced haircuts, too. It's made my head feel strangely light, but it's a good sensation.

And Saturday never really ended. We didn't come home until 4 o'clock on Sunday morning ... a morning that ended in a session of strip-Mario Kart in which several boys were undressed down to their tighty-whities (none of which were actually white, as fate would have it).

I know. Wish you were here, right?

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07 December 2007


"The more things change, the more they remain... insane."

- Michael Fry and T. Lewis,
Over the Hedge

I began thinking about the prompt from a personal standpoint (a now-and-then, this December versus last December), but then I quickly moved beyond to the world at large.

I'm far more discontent with my life this December than I felt last December, or at least it seems that way to me now. Last December, I was happy just to have a full-time job with benefits and health insurance. Now, I'm bored with the job, and cannot see it going anywhere.

Last December, I would've said that I didn't feel experienced enough in the workforce to attempt anything better than what I do. This December, I've posted my resume on Monster.co.uk, and I'm feeling confident that my experience, education, and skills can attract something more suitable than my current position. Within the span of a few days, I've already been called by two local recruiters and emailed by two more. I'm hoping to set up meetings for next week and get the ball rolling on my career change.

And on one hand, I feel that this is a healthy development, and that things need to change in order for me to grow as a person, personally and professionally; on the other hand, I feel as though I have been ignoring other activities and other people because I've been consumed with finding new work.

But the world ... how has the state of the world changed since last December? Well, here in the States, we're twelve months closer to a new president; that's something to be [cautiously] grateful for ("the devil you know," etc.).

Last year, there was Iraq (and the year before that, and the year before that, ...); this year, there's still Iraq, but now Iran might also soon be on the menu. YAY.

It's a very bleak world outlook, I know, but--believe it or not--I always hope for the best. I just expect the worst. Call it Weltschmerz.

Turn the page ...

05 December 2007

synchronized blinking

Okay, so last year (or a few years back, I don't know), there was the "Wizards In Winter" light display being broadcast forever and ever on YouTube.

Well, there's another show that I hadn't seen before.

I love how the cars stop and sit in front of the house for a few seconds. I can just imagine when the drivers must be thinking--

I used to love the rainbow lights on houses when I was younger, but as I've gotten older, I've grown boring ... [ahem] I mean, classy ... and now I prefer the white lights -- especially when it comes to my own family's house.

However, I still love having the rainbow lights on the tree (and lots of them, blinking forever and ever). So I'm not that stodgy, I swear.

... Also, I love icicles.

And that sounds like a completely separate topic, but I don't mean the frozen kind (though they're pretty enough to look at, albeit eye-pokingly dangerous). I'm talking about the tinsel kind of icicles; for those not familiar with it, it's basically free-floating, stringy tinsel that you can hang all over the tree. It makes a big mess, and a lot of it usually ends up on the floor around the tree, but it looks amazing when night has fallen and the Christmas lights are on. It just makes the whole tree sparkle.

Turn the page ...


I just noticed that I got a "Best of..." from Holidailies for my 3. December entry. Thanks, guys!

Another [real] entry later ...

Turn the page ...

holding on

Yesterday's [thus far, by me] unanswered Holidaily prompt was: What childhood activity do you miss? and What childhood activities have you refused to give up?

In reference to the holiday season, I think I miss seeing the Christmas tree every day. When I was living with my parents, of course, we would generally pick up a tree at some point at the beginning of December, decorate it, and then leave it up until well after New Year.

Smelling the pine throughout the house, turning on the blinking lights when the sun went down (and it was always down between 1600 and 1700 by the beginning of December), staring at ornaments forever and ever, and having the time to do just that. I miss those things this time of year.

The one thing that I haven't given up is watching all the television specials. Rankin & Bass, as much as I make fun of their productions, is a staple of the holiday season. I can't go through Christmas without watching Frosty the Snowman, Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town, Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer, 'Twas The Night Before Christmas, and my favourite, the black-sheep stepchild of Rankin & Bass, The Life and Adventures Of Santa Claus (still unavailable on DVD--you bastards).

I found a dissected clip of it on YouTube, so I will share it the edification of the readership:

... But let's not forget A Charlie Brown Christmas, the A Garfield Christmas Special, or How the Grinch Stole Christmas. It's a lot of television to go through, so we should not be surprised that the Family Channel makes a month out of airing these classics.

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03 December 2007

snow, for what ails you

If you don't know about my location history, here's a short rundown. From birth until the summer of 2000, I lived in Pennsylvania. From my Senior year of high school through graduation from Boston University, North Carolina was my official state of residence (though I wouldn't call it home). Now, in my mid-twenties, Boston is home.

It's snowing here today, so maybe it's fitting that today's Holidaily prompt is asking for a snow story. But my snow story is set in my first home, my home of the first seventeen years of my life ...

Back in the 90's, I was a kid; and, during one particularly nasty snow storm, I had a fever.

I was maybe twelve or thirteen at the time and school was canceled for inclement weather. My parents did their usual thing--they knocked on my door when they heard the announcement on the radio, told me to go back to sleep, left for work, and I woke up again a few hours later.

On this day, however, I was sweating bullets. My bed was too warm, my room was too warm, the house was too warm, and every freaking thing I put on was sweaty and gross within ten or fifteen minutes.

And, as I stood in the living room, sweating with fever in a pair of summer shorts and a tank top, I looked out the picture-window at the front lawn. The snow was coming down in giant fat flakes, there were already several inches of the stuff on the ground, and I had a brilliant plan: I would go outside, just as I was, and be comfortable.

And so I did. I put on a pair of my father's sneakers to act as snow-shoes (more weight distributed over a wider surface--I could be a clever kid), a T-shirt for better coverage (because I didn't want my neighbors freaking out too much), and a pair of gloves. And I went out into the snow to make a snow man.

Weirder still, my plan worked (and no sarcasm here at all). Even with the temperature where it was (below freezing), I was perfectly comfortable in shorts and T-shirt for about half an hour. After that point, I started to feel the chill and went back indoors.

And voila! No more fever. I felt better, I wasn't sweating anymore, and my temperature was back to normal.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is the magic of snow.

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02 December 2007


Ha, I think my parents have just been won over to the idea of my going abroad ... again.

In my Junior year at Boston University, I spent the Spring semester in Auckland, New Zealand. Getting my parents to the point where they were relatively okay with my being half-way around the world was a battle of tooth-and-nail.

Fast forward from 2004 and my return to the States. Ever since graduating from University in 2005, I have had a longing to go out of the country again. And, on a briefly political aside, I kind of feel deeply uncomfortable with the direction the United States is going, and honestly believe that I would better off in Europe or Australasia.

One of my best friends, Rodney was recently accepted into Rutgers' study-abroad programme, and he is going to be in France in the new year. His boyfriend John (also one of my best friends) and I want to expatriate to Germany so that we can practise and better our German language skills, live a European lifestyle, and be close enough to France to visit with Rodney.

My parents have been opposed to this idea since I told them of it. They don't believe in my ability to find work, to be able to afford life in Europe, or to succeed professionally outside of the United States (not that I'm succeeding professionally here; but, conveniently for them, they've been blocking out that little fact). In reality, I think they're still experiencing empty-nest syndrome, and miss being able to see me regularly.

However, I think I may have changed their minds with the use of VOIP.

Yesterday, I talked to them on Skype for about half an hour in the morning and another half-hour in the evening. They were both very excited by being able to see and hear me from hundreds of miles away (you know, without paying anything for the service). And I've begun to believe that what actually bothers them about the idea of my going abroad is that they wouldn't see me (again, it isn't like they see me very often now, but there you go).

What is Skype? Well, if you happen to be out of the VOIP-loop, rather than attempting my own scrambled definition, I will direct you to their official site: Skype.com. It's fun. Go there.

(And, more on that subject, the headset and web camera are off my Yuletide wish-list. A few friends had made various suggestions recently, and I decided to follow through on my own. I went with the over-the-ear, behind-the-head Logitech headset. I also picked up the only web camera that was specified for Mac [on its packaging]. There are others that might work with Mac, but they don't say so, so they're not going to get my business.)

And then my parents were talking about getting me luggage for Christmas, winter clothes for Deutschland, and helping me pay for storage and shipping on possessions that I want to send to them. My mother also said that when John and I decided when we're leaving, we should tell her, and she'll look for cheap air-fare on Interval International (the time-share company that she and my father use). So that's exciting.

They're supposedly picking up a Christmas tree today, which also makes me happy.

They still won't tell me what they want for Christmas, but that's always been their way.

On another Skype-note, I love that the thought-bubble lists what I'm listening to on iTunes. Craziness.

Happy December! (And, again, though it's nothing for which anyone can do anything, I'm also wishing for snow this month.)

Turn the page ...

01 December 2007

l'heure verte

So after disembarking from the New Jersey Transit at Long Branch last Wednesday, my friends were waiting for me on the ramp to the parking lot. As we piled into John's car, Rodney announced that they had a present for me--and handed me a box of sugar cubes.

And because they had been talking about seeing it at a restaurant a few days earlier, I knew what was coming.


Well ... sort of. The brand name is Absente, Absinthe Refined.

The difference between this and brands that come from, for example, Alandia, is that it contains no Grand Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) and little to no Thujone. They've replaced the Grand Wormwood with Southern Wormwood (Artemisia abrotanum), an innocuous cousin. Also, it's not distilled; it's the "macerate & mix" kind. In short, it isn't really absinthe, which is not surprising because absinthe is still mostly illegal in the United States.

The result is that Absente is mostly harmless--or as harmless as any other 110 proof liqueur (our personal result was that we stayed up and laughed until 4:30 on Thursday morning).

There were no "Green Fairies," but the ritual is still fun--even though, as it turns out, we didn't do it quite right.

If you look around on many absinthe sites (and there are a lot), there are several recommendations for the absinthe ritual. The claim is that purists will only accept absinthe straight or in the "traditional French ritual"--slowly dripping ice-cold water on a sugar cube that has been placed on a special slotted absinthe spoon over 1-3 ounces of absinthe. The desired visual effect is a "louche," when the absinthe turns from emerald green to a light milky jade opacity. This will apparently only happen when there is anise present, so if you don't like anise (it's the flavour of black licorice), then you might want to avoid absinthe altogether.

I actually haven't had absinthe in this way since the Czech Stromu brand that I bought while I was living in Auckland, and there was absolutely no "louche," no matter what I did (low, very low anise content). It took me right until the end of my time in New Zealand to finish off that bottle. It's not that it was bad, but it isn't something I would drink all the time.

The ritual that we performed on this Thanksgiving Eve was somewhat different. We poured about two ounces into a glass, set the absinthe itself on fire, and then put it out by pouring the cold water over the sugar cube on the absinthe spoon.

This was not, strictly speaking, the traditional "Bohemian ritual." Actually, before I go on, it should be noted that the "Bohemian ritual" is more of a modern contrivance than it is "tradition." Actual French Bohemians at the turn of the last century were more likely to drink it in the aforementioned "traditional French" way. But I digress. On to the "Bohemian ritual" ...

I quote Absinth24.Net (and correct their spelling where that needed to happen) in their instructions regarding the absinthe fire ritual:

As absinthe usually contains more than 60% alcohol, you should be careful with the Bohemian ritual, as the absinthe in the glass shouldn't begin to burn. [oops.]

a) Pour absinthe over the sugar cube or dip the sugar cube in the absinthe.

b) Light the sugar up and wait until it's fully caramelized.

c) Mix the sugar with the absinthe.

d) Add ice cold water, and you are ready to enjoy the absinthe!

We have a plan to break this out next weekend after more sugar cubes have been acquired, as I opted to leave them behind at Casa Manna.

Actually, I also have a plan to make an order from Alandia at some point, but shhhh, we're not suppose to import the stuff to this country. And, yes, I recognize the idiocy of announcing illicit dealings in a public forum, but I'm telling myself that nobody [official] is reading this ... I'm not sure how Alandia gets around the absinthe ban; but according to their FAQ, if your absinthe gets seized by U.S. customs en route to your address, they'll refund your money.

Turn the page ...