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Friday, October 31, 2008

A Harmonic Insomniac Journey

Or, reason number 143 why you shouldn't click on any Twitter links after 11pm.

@karlerikson, aka Secondhand Karl, tweeted a link to this pretty daunting video. On Youtube. I'm sure you've all wandered down Youtubian roads and ended up in unexpected places. But dammit, I had to go to sleep. Nevertheless, I clicked. And watched.

How had I never heard of this multi-tracking self-recording phenomenon before? I needed to check out some basic works after that; some ground floor stuff.

And scruffy haired/bearded guy was pretty good. Also? He had recorded a couple from "The Music Man". Because if you are at all interested in barbershop type stuff you know "The Music Man". I was in the barbershop quartet in "The Music Man" myself.

But then the lingo started dropping. This is the guy who introduced me to the term "tag". He hasn't dropped any phat multi-tracking tags in a while though. Because he has a part in "The Music Man" that's keeping him busy.

I saw a couple of names crop up here and there, "FineyLee" and "VancePerry" so I went looking for them. This right here is a fantastic tag, if I understand what "tag" means, by FineyLee.

And this is an overtone.

But then someone in the comments was all "I just find it easier to hear overtones when I listen to bhsnerd's tags." And I was all "Oh snap!" So, still not really knowing what an "overtone" was I clicked over onto a bhsnerd clip.

And figuring I'd learn about overtones through osmosis I just kept clicking.

Although, to me, bhsnerd sounds overproduced. Nice, but it's not "street". You know? So what about VancePerry?

This was a little more "street", because dude is rockin' his girth like nobody's business. But still a little too studio. Like he's selling out. Just keep it real, yo.

This was more like it. Just a bunch of guys who can't afford a webcam singing some barbershop. And I realized that's really what I was after. Not multi-tracking or single tags. But full-on barbershop. Multi-voiced rather than multi-tracked. And video. Because honestly who knows if that last one was different guys. It kind of sounds like the same guy, but with a picture of four guys up to trick you. No more tricks.

So I found a barbershop quartet.

But there, leaping out at me from the sidebar, was a fabulous word:

Octet.

And once you've toked a quartet and snorted an octet there's nothing left for it but to mainline a whole chorus.

But I felt like I was going to OD. So I did a simple search for "barbershop quartet", just so I could take the edge off and go to sleep.

Stop dancing. It doesn't make it less racist.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

New Blog

So, for those who aren't "in the know" (which, by the way, is a fantastic expression, noun-ifying as it does "know") I have started writing in a new blog.

Because I have so much unfettered temporality that I can sit around and write in yet another space.

While much of the point of this here blog has always been carve the world at its joints and find stories that are lying around, stories born in truth for one value of "truth", stories inspired by a world that is interesting all on its own, the point of the new blog is to invent the world, to see what happens when I close my eyes and think the world interesting.

The new blog is called Zombie Daddy. It's not as nice as this one.

I made reference to the "in the know" crowd earlier because I thought I had already outed myself as the author of Zombie Daddy, but Mr. Lady linked to the new blog all unawares and I felt guilty about the deception. After I stopped laughing.

(Editor's Note: As Emily has rightly pointed out, the Zombie Daddy concept was hers. I think. I don't remember the conversation. But if she says so, then that's how it was, right? I win at husband.)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Daddy Wars

When I looked through the window into Erin's daycare room I saw all three of the teachers kneeling, pinning a thrashing, writhing ball of snakes in tiny yoga pants to the floor. I did a quick surveil of the room, a headcount that confirmed my paranoid instinct: that for some reason it was Erin they were wrestling with as she panicked to get away from them.

I wasn't any more relieved when I walked in and saw that her face and hands were covered in blood. Blood that was still pulsing out of her nose despite the sopping tissue being applied by one teacher while another held Erin's flailing arms and the third pinned her legs.

In retrospect that was one of the least stressful parts of my day. It was a moment, one that could be dealt with immediately. It didn't linger, like the rest of the moments of the day lingered.

It was a Monday like many another. I dropped Erin off at daycare in the morning and then headed off to school. My plan was to sit at my desk and work, writing a paper on Hobbes and absolute power for the rest of the day, with minor interruptions to pick up Emily at the airport around lunchtime and also to take Erin to swimming class in the early evening. I needed to make good use of this time because the paper, like most of the papers I've ever written in my academic career (and I'm in grad school now, folks, which means I've written a lot of these damned things) was due the next day.

After only an hour of solid work I received a call from Emily saying she was on an earlier flight. No problem. I'd pick her up and be back to school right away, leaving a big block of time to work in the afternoon. But on the drive to Emily's office from the airport my phone rang. I didn't answer right away and I checked the message as I was dropping Emily off. A short "This is Erin's teacher. I just need to talk to you for a moment," was all that was on the system. A little concerned I decided to just drive over to the daycare, a couple of blocks away, rather than calling.

I walked in on the crimson horror movie scene and before I could wonder if this was related to the "I need to talk to you" message from a good fifteen minutes earlier, I saw that the cause of all of the carnage was an absent scab on the end of Erin's nose. She had done a good header down the indoor slide last week and received a nice carpet burn on her face for her trouble. It had scabbed over, blackening, over the weekend, and for whatever reason Erin had decided to pull the end-cap off just minutes before I arrived. The subsequent blood-letting was quickly attended by the teachers who applied some pressure and were in the process of cleaning her up and putting her shirt back on when I came in. As Cleese would say, "It's just a flesh wound."

Lamenting a little the fact that my daughter can't seem to go to daycare without being bitten, biting someone else, burning her skin off on carpeting, or ripping her face off, I composed myself and asked the teacher if this latest macabre tableau was the reason for her call.

No, actually. It wasn't Erin's nose. It was her eye. Her goopy eye.

The daycare has a policy of kicking you right to the curb if there is a hint or whisper of pink-eye, so they needed me to take Erin home and not bring her back until she had been cleared to return by a doctor. They were also sending another little girl home. Probably the one who gave Erin the goopy eye.

Not really knowing what I was getting myself into, but hoping that Erin would be okay (apart from the river of blood she had unleashed on the daycare) and that I would still be able to finish this soon-to-be-late paper I packed her up in the car and immediately drove her to the pediatric clinic.

After waiting to see the doctor for an interminable age (or thirty minutes; pick your poison) and after assuring her that I wasn't there because of the bloody honker, I was asked where I'd like the prescription for eye-drops sent. The doctor couldn't tell just by looking whether the infection was viral or not (and I'm still not sure which one I ought to hope for) but five days on the eye drops should clear it up.

Five days without daycare.

I packed Erin up in the car again and drove back to school to pick up my computer and books. I hoped to be able to work on the paper during her nap in the afternoon. Well, later in the afternoon. I had already burned the early afternoon. Then it was off to the pharmacy, and by the time we were done with that we were about an hour and half past Erin's usual nap time. She was in good spirits, and had started to ask for more bandaids to put on the end of her nose; she wasn't bleeding, she just wanted to play with them. But her good spirits were quickly doused when we arrived home and I had to pin her down like a daycare teacher wrestling with a bleeding panicked toddler in order to drop liquid bombs into her eyes.

She didn't manage to fall asleep for another hour. And I didn't manage to do any work. I was so exhausted from the day that I fell asleep myself, dreaming of an absolute monarch who could just terrify the daycare into taking care of Erin despite her possibly-not-pinkeye. I woke up, and woke Erin up, and we went to pick Emily up at work.

Then we went to Boston Market where inexplicably there were about half a dozen people playing Scrabble.

Home again, and bed time for Erin (after more torture and eye drops). And then I pressed on for an hour or so, trying to write a paper.

But the day's events were lingering. And non-scholastic stress was outweighing my scholastic stress.

To get the paper done would require me to go into school on Tuesday. But that would mean that Emily would have to take the entire day off to stay home. To go to my morning classes the rest of the week would mean Emily would go in late. But she can't go in late on Thursday, so Thursday I will just stay home and miss class.

And all the while little Miss Erin endures the psychic torture of her parents staring into her eyes and then betraying her with a liquid assault.

Daycare is supposed to make the world predictable, manageable. It is supposed to be an aid. But this week it feels decidedly like an impediment to everything: to Erin's health, to Emily's career, to my school work.

Add to this the feeling that I don't really want to be writing a paper on Hobbes an absolute power, that I'd much rather stay home to take care of my goopy-eyed daughter, and I have the barest hint of an internal Daddy War, career versus family.

But for the moment I can have it all. I wrote a 3000 word paper in three hours this morning, in plenty of time to submit it on time. Emily spent a wonderful day at home with Erin and they will have a lovely breakfast together tomorrow while I go to class. For this week we don't need daycare.

We certainly don't need it to goop up Erin's eye and burn her nose off.

I do like that they provide all of the diapers for the day, though. So I guess we'll keep going.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Proposition 8

Whether you support or oppose Proposition 8, the proposed amendment to the California Constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman, you ought to do it deliberately.

Making a deliberate choice means not only checking "yes" or "no", but doing so with the consequences of that choice in full view, and accepting them. Making a deliberate choice means choosing for reasons that stand up to scrutiny.

From ProtectMarriage.Com, the major sponsor of the amendment:

About Proposition 8
Proposition 8 is simple and straightforward. It contains the same 14 words that were previously approved in 2000 by over 61% of California voters: “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”
Because four activist judges in San Francisco wrongly overturned the people’s vote, we need to pass this measure as a constitutional amendment to restore the definition of marriage as between a man and a woman.
Voting YES on Proposition 8 does 3 simple things:

  • It restores the definition of marriage to what the vast majority of California voters already approved and what Californians agree should be supported, not undermined.

  • It overturns the outrageous decision of four activist Supreme Court judges who ignored the will of the people.

  • It protects our children from being taught in public schools that “same-sex marriage” is the same as traditional marriage, and prevents other consequences to Californians who will be forced to not just be tolerant of gay lifestyles, but face mandatory compliance regardless of their personal beliefs.

Section 1:

The first highlighted section and its attendant bullet point (Marked in Orange) from the Prop 8 sponsor site does two things: (1) it provides the actual wording of the proposition and (2) it provides the very first argument for voting for Prop 8 the sponsors would like you to attend: California voters have already approved the use of the 14 words contained in the proposition.

But what kind of argument is it?

The phrasing of the argument makes it appear the simplest conclusion in the world to draw. Of course you ought to approve of Prop 8: it's exactly the same language proposed in 2000, and so many of you approved of it back then.

However, Proposition 8 is not a proposition to favour or disfavour a bit of language; it's a proposition to favour or disfavour an amendment to the California Constitution. The 2000 proposition, which was approved, was not an amendment to the California Constitution. It was a simple piece of legislation, subordinate to the California Constitution. It was a bet, or hope, that it would turn out to be the case that the Constitution would permit defining marriage in the way the Prop 22 (2000) people wanted it to be defined.

So this very first argument offered by the sponsors contains a logical error, deliberately or malevolently. There is no valid analogy between the 2000 vote and the 2008 vote: this vote is a more radical step; an attempt to frame not just what the law says, but what the law will be permitted to say.

No one ought to be moved by this argument by analogy.

Section 2:

The second highlighted section, and its attendant bullet point (Marked in Blue) does three things: (1) it provides an abbreviated history of Proposition 22, (2) it notes the reason why Prop 8 has been written as an amendment, (3) and it provides an argument for why Prop 8 ought to be supported even though Prop 22 was overturned.

The abbreviated history is simply that Prop 22 was overturned. Because Prop 22 was overturned by judges citing the California Constitution (in particular the Equal Protection clause) if any definition of marriage as between a man and a woman is to exist in California it will have to be enshrined in the Constitution.

The argument for supporting Prop 8 despite Prop 22 being overturned is subtle, but it runs like this: California voters as a majority want to define marriage as being between a man and a woman. Only the voters of California have the right to decide what the definition of marriage is, with judicial oversight provided by responsible judges. The judges who ruled against Prop 22 prove themselves irresponsible, by both their ruling and their geography: they are in San Francisco. So the judges are not eligible to provide oversight in matters the voters have decided; they disqualify themselves by being from San Francisco and by being activist. Therefore the voters should pass Prop 8, because un-Californian, irresponsible judges are barring the will of the voters of California and need to be circumvented with a constitutional amendment.

There are two things at work in this argument that bear noting: there is nothing offered beyond geography and the fact of their ruling to overturn Prop 22 that inspires the Prop 8 sponsors to label the judges as activists, and thus disqualify them; also, there is an implied rejection of Federalism in favour of direct democracy, and it is this rejection that is supposed to generate enthusiasm for Prop 8.

That a majority of Californians have, in the past (2000) supported language like that found in Prop 8 has, as has already been noted, no bearing on whether Prop 8 ought to be passed now. But that this argument-from-prior-majority is being offered at all suggests that the Prop 8 sponsors believe the will of the majority, direct democracy, to be the proper over-arching conception of political justice in the state of California. If you accept this, despite the long history of the system of checks and balances enshrined in the separation of the branches, then you will be convinced that Prop 8 should be passed, because you will believe that judicial oversight in general is insulting or irrelevant to the will of the majority. But you have to face, full-on, what this conception of political justice means: Bare majorities may always bludgeon minorities, with your permission. Because you have decided that the protection offered by the separation of powers is less important than guaranteeing that the majority always gets its way.

And by noting that the judges are in "San Francisco" the Prop 8 sponsors are offering not an argument, but an innuendo: either that San Francisco does not represent a real part of California, so the opinions of anyone associated with that geographical region are irrelevant; or that because San Francisco has a history of political activism any judges in San Francisco must be political activists, and their opinions will always threaten the establishment. The term "activist judges" is a term that refers to judges who ignore the law in favour of their political agenda. These kinds of judges, if they even exist, are to be universally spurned and their opinions ought always be overturned. That, I think, is uncontroversial. But by applying the term to judges who ignore the majority in favour of the law the Prop 8 sponsors (and others who have applied this misnomer in the past) attempt to trade on the uncontroversial rejection of activist judges in order to reject non-activist judges who happen to think the constitution does not support the will of the majority. This is the fallacy of equivocation, and the argument it props up should not be accepted by anyone.

If there are any activists, ignoring the law in favour of their political agenda, it is the Prop 8 sponsors who would, by implication, eliminate the separation of powers and the protection and oversight it affords.

Section 3:

The last section of the "About Proposition 8" page of the ProtectMarriage.com page (Marked in Green) lists what is at one and the same time the most reasoned and honest argument for Prop 8, and also the clearest reason of all to reject Prop 8.

This section argues that Proposition 8 is a protective measure to ensure that both children are not taught that same-sex marriage is the same, legally (and by implication morally) as heterosexual marriage, and to protect individuals from the consequences of their behaviour toward same-sex couples.

I say this section presents the most reasoned and honest argument for Prop 8 because the premises are true, and with the addition of one extra premise the argument leads to a valid conclusion: to vote Yes on Prop 8.

The premise that permitting same-sex marriage will result in children learning, in school or otherwise, that same-sex marriage is the same both legally and morally as heterosexual marriage is just true. In the same way that other laws on the books, or rights enshrined in the Constitution are learned in school and normalized by their legislation, so too will same-sex marriage be normalized as long as there is no legislation that treats it as somehow different enough that even a child can notice. Opponents of Prop 8 have taken the route of just denying that same-sex marriage will be taught in schools, and admirable as this tactic is, since on its face there is nothing in the law that says schools have to include a discussion of same-sex marriage in their curriculum and so the "we have to protect the children" assault seems like a fallacy, in actuality if same-sex marriage is recognized then it will be recognized by children, even if not because of express changes to curricula. So the sponsors of Prop 8 are just citing a truth when they say that Prop 8 will protect children from being taught that same-sex marriage is the same as heterosexual marriage. This does not mean that their suggestion that schools will include same-sex marriage in curricula is based on anything legitimate, or amounts to anything more than a bare scare tactic, inciting panicked support to "protect the children" from their liberal teachers.

Further, the premise that without Prop 8 individuals will face consequences for treating same-sex couples differently from heterosexual couples is also just true. Individuals or businesses who, right now, do not consider same-sex marriage valid face consequences for engaging in practices that discriminate against same-sex couples. If those individuals and businesses wish to continue to discriminate against same-sex couples then they need a constitutional amendment to protect them. This is not to say that their practices ought, morally, to be protected. But it just shows that there is a legitimate worry for those who wish to continue to discriminate.

The extra premise that is needed to reach the conclusion that we should vote for Prop 8 is of course that the discriminatory practices that are threatened by same-sex marriage ought to be protected, and ought to be protected with the weight of the California Constitution. Alternately, an extra premise that says that children ought never be taught that same-sex marriage is the same as heterosexual marriage is needed to motivate the same conclusion, but from the "protect the children" side of the argument.

In both cases it is this un-expressed premise that does all the work in motivating the conclusion that Prop 8 is necessary, and it is unstated in the argument on the sponsor's "About Prop 8" page.

Why is it unstated?

It is unstated because it is too honest a statement of the moral views of the Prop 8 sponsors. Although everyone who shares their moral view of same-sex relationships will already agree with the sponsors that Prop 8 ought to be passed, there is perhaps a subset of people who do not share the moral opposition to same-sex relationships and so do not have that to generate the further opposition to same-sex marriage. These people need to be swayed to vote for Prop 8 even though they do not share the moral opposition, so the sponsors offer incomplete, fallacious, and misleading arguments to manipulate these voters into supporting Prop 8 in a way that they can consider legitimate, salving their consciences.

Conclusion

All I have done here is look at the ProtectMarriage.Com website, specifically the "About Prop 8" page, to see why they think we should vote for a constitutional amendment to change the rights landscape in California. Even disregarding every argument to vote against Prop 8 offered by the opposition in California, all of the arguments offered to support Prop 8 on the sponsor page are deeply flawed.

If you are going to vote for Proposition 8 do so because you are fully committed to morally opposing same-sex relationships and gay marriage for all time. Say it aloud. It is the only statement that makes any of the arguments on the sponsor page valid. And be prepared to face those who disagree with you about the morality of same-sex relationships and gay marriage. Because this shifts the debate from the "Why do we need Prop 8?" side of the table to "Is homosexuality wrong?" side. This is, fundamentally, what generates the only valid argument for voting for Prop 8. But it is precisely on this question that you will encounter the most opposition. If it is what you truly believe, then own it. Do not hide behind bad arguments, disguising your real character to make it seem more palatable to those who don't quite share your moral opposition.

And if you are going to vote against Proposition 8 you need look no further than the sponsor's own "About" page for reasons to vote against it. Because the reasoning used by the sponsors there is utterly irrational.

Friday, October 24, 2008

A Dream Come True

My little blog here is growing up. I've finally been doing this long enough that I get search terms in Google other than "backpacking" and "backpacking dad". I finally have what I've always dreamed about having: A Search Term Post.

You're welcome.

"shawn burns" erin high chair signing time: I love this one because my name is in quotes, like it's allegedly my name. Also, if they know enough about me already to know that my daughter's name is Erin and she watches a lot of Signing time and that she climbs her high chair, then why don't they know the name of the blog? It's like I have a short-term memory stalker.

naked backpacking: 5 hits from this one? Look. It's just not a good idea. Ever. Don't ever go backpacking naked. Unless you are backpacking in a sexy, sexy moonbounce full of bubbles and jello-o wrestling supermodels. Even then, how about taking the backpack off? What is it doing for you?

are mosh pit seats cheaper?: I don't know, dude. I think it's just, like, a pit or something. I don't know if they actually have seats.

does peanut butter cause moobs?: I don't have all the answers. Maybe. But I can tell you for sure that you can get moobs even without eating peanut butter.

lame tweeting about your lunch dinner: Sorry about that.

"backpacking dad" sex: Again, with the allegedly. This one kind of disappoints me though. Because it makes me think that someone was searching for a site loaded with erotic fiction about me, and instead they landed here. I'd want to find that other site too. This one blows.

"gashlycrumb tinies" "big house": What. the. hell?

amy poehler pregnant: I had nothing to do with that.

creepy notes to write to people: How about "I'm starting a site loaded with erotic fiction about you."?

firendship wordings: Well, that's one way I suppose.

great funny nicknames like assface: I don't think that's a nickname.

how do you know if you're creepy: if you are the owner of backpackingdadsex.blogspot.com then you are creepy.

is there a martial arts studio next to the Chuck E. Cheese in burlington, ma? Well, my friend. You have come to the right place for all of your Burlington, MA small business location needs.

shut up fake bruce dickenson: Seriously.

pirate signing time shawn burns high chair: Well, at least this person believes me when I say my name. Arrrr.

And the best one:

Your wife is doing this to fuck with you backpacking dad.

I think she wants me to spend less time looking at search terms.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Pupal

Parents are obnoxious.

When confronted by the childless on any topic, and forced to try to explain their opinions, prejudices, and premises to an increasingly incredulous and smarmy audience, parents will sometimes drop a big nasty bomb on the conversation:

You'll understand when you have kids.

This isn't obnoxious because it's a conversation-ender (although it is that), nor because it is utterly dismissive of the other perspective (although it is also that). It is obnoxious because it is a cowardly shorthand for what parents really mean:

You have yet to mature, and your opinion on this issue is as self-serving, and self-involved, as a child's. Finish growing up and stop looking at the world as an imposition, a third period class you have to take while you'd rather be spending time with your own brilliant self.

But as obnoxious as it is to use the "when you have kids" shorthand instead of just saying what one literally means it is also a side effect and sign of the very maturity parents lament as absent in those who mock their sincerity.

I thought I had a great idea for a project once. Pondering the politeness that pervades the polis I thought it would be fun and interesting to think about the very worst thing I could imagine saying to someone, either a stranger walking by on the street or my closest friends. Easier, of course, to think of the most horrible accusation possible when considering friends. During the process I realized just how darkly I could view the world and the people in it, and I had to admit that I held some fairly disgusting opinions about people, even while at the same time holding them in high esteem. This realization made me feel miserable. Not in the "sad" sense of the word, but in the "wretched, deplorable, shameful" sense of it. It was shaming to know that I could have those thoughts about people I purported to care about.

Now I'm pretty sure that we're all capable of those thoughts. But we don't all express them. That we have these weapons at our disposal and choose, every day, during every interaction with someone, not to use them is precisely the difference between maturity and immaturity. Maturity is the recognition that authenticity for its own sake, for your own sake, is as unwarranted as hurling feces at people.

There's a weird stage some people (including myself) go through, that involves a little regression toward childhood. Not genuine childhood, but a fantasy of childhood. We imagine, presume, hope, that childhood was the last time we experienced our own authenticity, when we last felt like we owned or controlled the world. In our post-adolescence (not "maturity", not "adulthood") we witness constraints, lies, manipulations, ugliness, and we long for the world to just leave us alone to do our thing. I can see in Erin's spontaneous expression and in her fearlessness the inspiration for these later, post-adolescent dreams. But wallowing in authenticity, rooting around in spontaneity, is a depredation of the innocent ownership of childhood. My fun and interesting project, to imagine the worst possible thing to say to people as they walk by was authentic, yes. It was honest, insofar as it is an actual manifestation of my self and not some fabrication. And it was freeing in a way that I could imagine a child is freed when running around on wet grass after being imprisoned during a deluge. But it was also unworthy.

Because what the child has that I lacked was a view of the world, my world, the world I am owner and part of, as basically good, and wonderful, and built for experiencing and spontaneous dancing. Whether this view of the world is true, or even validated by the evidence, every damned day, is controversial. But what's not controversial is this: "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take." (Wayne Gretzky, folks. It's not an accident that he is the Great One.) If you don't try to see the world as good, and worthwhile, then you will make it impossible to see good in it. Miracles are few and far between, and if you wait for the world to impress you despite itself you will always be disappointed in it. And smug.

As a child matures into an adult the stage after the pupal is once again full of dancing. Parenthood accelerates this, but isn't a magic pill: some people dance like Stairway is coming on next whether they are parents or not; and some parents will never dance. But for some, for many, for most, for the sake of dancing, and of having partners with whom to dance, we put our weapons down, and we say to those on the sidelines who laugh at the dance "You'll understand when you have kids." It's an obnoxious rejoinder, but one that takes the least time away from the dance.

Some days it's harder to dance than others, and I just want to stand on the sidelines and throw feces at people like an angry monkey. And some days I fail utterly and I just do throw feces at people.

But some days I'm reminded of the dancing.


Where the Hell is Matt? (2008) from Matthew Harding on Vimeo.

(Thanks to Jozet at Halushki for Tweeting this video the other day. It really helped.)

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Brotherhood

We have a nod.

When we pass each other pushing our Graco Travel Systems along the sidewalk we do a quick check: Hmm. Rolling the All-Grey model. Nice choice. Then we meet each other's gaze, but we don't hold it or anything; just a glance, and then a slight chin lift.

If we're particularly extroverted that day we'll also toss in a smile. But the smile begins, originates, erupts, while we are looking at the Travel System (a.k.a. 'stroller', for the uninitiated). It starts there because we know. We know how long it took to put that damned thing together. And how important it is that the wheels aren't wobbling. And how special it is to be looking down into our child's face.

So we smile at the stroller, and then let the smile stay on our faces as we look up, and deliver the Nod of the Brotherhood.

I see you have reproduced. You are a superior human being. I salute you and respect your virility.

I met a guy at BlogHer this past summer. His name is Brian. He had been 'round the blog here a couple of times. We were in the strange BlogHims session together. And he stood and spoke with me at a nightclub that weekend. I remember that we spoke. I don't remember much of what we said.

I was a little distracted, having just committed/suffered one of the worst introductions ever. But I remembered one important detail.

Brian was going to be a father. A first time dad. And more importantly (for me) he was going to be a father to a little girl. He wanted to shout it from the rooftops, and his excitement was infectious.

This week Brian finally met his little girl. And although I missed her birthday I'd like to help Brian shout her name from the rooftops.

SIENNA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And Brian? Brian writes what is now a daddy-blog (although it's kind of always been a daddy-blog. He has been a very expectant father.) He is Papa TV. Welcome to the Brotherhood.

(nod)

Friday, October 17, 2008

I'm Keeping the Notebooks.

It's not that the entries in the Best Damn Blog Giveaway in the History of Blog Giveaways weren't great. I just haven't read them. (Of course I read them.) So, rather than go out and read them and then try to judge which ones are the best and then announce which ones are the best and then have people say "You only picked that one because she flattered you first" or "You only picked that one because he flashed some moob" I've decided I'm just going to keep the damn notebooks for myself.

I ought to have said I was going to use a random number generator or something. Instead I put a bunch of pressure on myself to judge, even if arbitrarily, and then announce that to the world and let everyone know not only which ones I judged to be the best, but by insinuation which ones I judged to be...not..the...best. Who wants that kind of drama?

Not this guy.

So, I'm keeping the Notebooks. All the entries were great. I loved getting versions of the Breakfast Club letter. I loved seeing that 6 minute video compression of the entire Breakfast Club film backed by the theme. But I can't be that guy.

Still here?

Ok.

I'm totally picking winners. Because I don't care about the drama. Hurl your accusations. But go and read these two.

Rita Arens wins for her short but bottomless entry on why she identifies with Allison from the Breakfast Club. I re-read this one five times because I wasn't done getting it all.

And FADKOG wins for her long but topless entry on why she is most like Farmer Ted from Sixteen Candles. I only read this one once, but once was all I could handle. I'm still not finished laughing.

As for the rest, alas, I only have two notebooks. If you want one of them I highly encourage you to stalk Rita and FADKOG and commit a felony. (I in no way endorse or encourage you to (a) stalk anyone or (b) commit felonies. Disclaimers work like this, right?) This has inspired me to think of even more giveaways to do, though. Thank you for your entries, thank you for reading everyone else's entries, and thank you for not, as of yet, throwing any bricks through my windows.

Rita and FADKOG, please e-mail me at backpackingdad at backpacking dad dot com with an address where you would like me to send your prizes. It does not have to be your own address. In fact, I kind of want to send them to a friend's house and have you constantly going over there to ask them if they have any mail for you.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Co-Op

I'd like to write this out as a story, but it isn't a story. It's a collection of things, items, notes. I can't even form it as a story. But I must have a beginning, or preamble, or introduction.

Erin attends a parent co-op daycare four days each week. I work there from 4-6pm on Wednesday afternoons. One of the teachers, and the only man, has worked at the center for twenty years. He ran the parent orientation, and he works in the mornings. His name is Leviathan.

The Parent Orientation

Leviathan: "This is the century of woman. You dads have to think about that."

Leviathan: "We used to think of dads as Kings, moms as Queens, and kids as Pawns, but now we think of children as Kings, moms as Queens, and dads as Jokers. Your role in the family is to ease tension and provide comic relief."

The Morning Drop Off

Leviathan: (before I had even finished putting Erin's lunch in the fridge, so long before I was even close to leaving her alone) "I just wanted to tell you that we have a policy here of physically handing the child over, from parent to teacher, when parents leave in the morning. It reassures the child."

Leviathan has assistants, who are there in the afternoon when I pick Erin up and while I'm doing my parental co-oping duty.

The Report

Assistant to Leviathan: "I just need to tell you that one of the other children bit Erin today. I cannot tell you who, that is our policy. But I need to tell you that someone bit her."

The Confrontation

Assistant to Leviathan: "I just need to tell you that Erin bit one of the other children today. I cannot tell you who, that is our policy. But I need to tell you that she bit someone."

The (overheard) Report

Assistant to Leviathan: "I just need to tell you that one of the other children bit your daughter today. I cannot tell you who, that is our policy. But I need to tell you that someone bit her."

The Conversation

Me: "So, I don't know if that policy is supposed to extend to parents, but I'm pretty sure that Erin is the one who bit your daughter. I couldn't get any details of the incident from Assistant to Leviathan."

Her: "Oh, well, it's bound to happen at this age. She's fine."

Me: "Well, I'm sorry Erin bit her. She hasn't bitten even me for months, so I don't know what sparked it."

Her: "It's okay. Really."

The Conclusion

Parents don't have institutional memory. Sometimes that means that they are at a disadvantage when it comes to dealing with situations. For instance, in preventing biting incidents, in preempting them. But if you have a long institutional memory you are bound to elevate and worship your specialized expertise; you will extend it to make claims about things you have no business talking about.

And the institution can prevent or discourage conversation; the kind of conversation that does help develop the kind of personal memory for which institutional memory is a poor substitute.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

So What?

So what if I tacked an extra seven years onto her age?

So what if I constantly tease her about her love for a bottom-dwelling has-been team that was only ever good when there was a guy named Messier playing for them?

So what if I posted a picture of her on the blog that she made me swear would never see the light of day?

Tell me, are any of these, severally or together, reason for Tanis, the Redneck Mommy, to go slumming with the boys from DadCentric?

Tell me, honestly? And it's not like she's just hanging out with them. No, she's doing an interview with them. An interview! When the whole world knows that the definitive Redneck Mommy Interview was conducted right here in this space!

I tell ya. There's no accounting for taste. I mean, sure the guys at DadCentric are funnier than I am. And better writers. And better looking. But I give away notebooks produced to promote movies in the 80s.

Loyalty. It used to mean something.

 

(Editor's Note: I love DadCentric. Whit Honea is my blogging idol. Tanis is wonderful. I am not really bothered by this in any way shape or form. But, come on! :} )

Monday, October 13, 2008

Could You Describe the Ruckus, Sir?

Now that I've returned from a fabulous vacation and gone on a little political rant and stayed home sick all weekend long it's time to let you in on the real reason I went to New York:

To do the Best Damn Blog Giveaway in the History of Blog Giveaways.

See, located deep in the West Village is a stationery store (it is also stationary, as in it doesn't move around) that possibly pretentious people who are "in the know" would probably describe as "the _____-est little stationery store around" where "____-est" could be "cutest", "eclectic-est" or something else. And locked away within the heart of the _____-est little stationery store in the Village I came away with these, the Best Damn Blog Giveaway Prizes in the History of Blog Giveaway Prizes:

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That's right. Not one, but TWO official notebooks from classic John Hughes movies. Adding up all of the costs (transportation, hotel, meals, and the actual cover prices) these two notebooks cost me (or Emily) literally thousands of dollars.

Thousands.

And one of them can be yours. How, you ask?

Between NOW and 11:59pm on Thursday simply write a blog post describing in great, painful, humorous, depressing, sexy, angry, or emo detail which character from either The Breakfast Club or Sixteen Candles most resembles you. Leave a comment below with a link to your blog post, and on Friday, by fiat most arbitrary, I will declare the winners.

Check back here often to read through the links and wonder aloud if one of them is going to get the notebook that by rights should be YOURS.

(Entries So Far)

Astrogirl426: http://astrogirl426.blogspot.com/2008/10/treatise-on-allison.html


Jill: http://charmingdelightful.blogspot.com/2008/10/its-really-human-of-you-to-listen-to.html


Becs: http://bsoftheday.blogspot.com/


Muskrat: http://www.dailymuskrat.com/


bejewell: http://themusicalfruit.net/?p=997


Seriously Mama: http://seriouslymama.blogspot.com/2008/10/im-in-math-club-im-in-phyics-club-too.html


T.: Let Me Paint You a Picture


Rita Arens: http://surrenderdorothy.typepad.com/surrender_dorothy/2008/10/dumping-out-my.html

Mad Woman: http://mindofamadwoman.blogspot.com/2008/10/i-wanna-be-80s-movie-star.html


Blissfully Caffeinated: http://blissfullycaffeinated.wordpress.com/2008/10/16/brat-packed-full-of-crap/


Bridge: http://becomingbridge.blogspot.com/2008/10/john-hughes-you-know-us-well.html

Unfinished Rambling: Here

FADKOG: http://foradifferentkindofgirl.blogspot.com/2008/10/id-give-my-panties-to-geek-for-chance.html

Island Mummy: http://islandmummy.blogspot.com/2008/10/happy-birthday-samantha-make-wish-it.html

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Do Not Go Gently

What is the difference between six and half a dozen?

To many, to the undecided and indifferent, this question is at the heart of their uncertainty in the upcoming election, and in every election. Or rather, the obvious answer, 'nothing', is at the heart.

Few political candidates get to where they are by being radical; they get there by dancing with suburban Volvo owners, cosmopolitan fundraisers, and small town American values voters. No politician is a success by changing the system that empowers them. And knowing this paralyzes a lot of voters. To them a vote for either candidate is an endorsement of the system, and if a voter thinks that (a) the system is broken or (b) the system is fine they are going to feel exactly the same way about the two candidates on offer. If the voter thinks the system is broken then he won't vote for either of the champions of the broken machine. If the voter thinks the system is fine he also won't vote for either, because he is confident the system works and it just doesn't matter who is in office: the system protects us, lulls us, keeps us safe, so the consequences of choosing one rather than another are almost insignificant.

But to view the choice between candidates as being the same as the choice between six and half a dozen, and to thus view the choice as insignificant is to ignore one crucial aspect of decision-making: framework.

What is the difference between six and half a dozen? Perspective. The same as the difference between a half full or half empty glass: the worlds built around each, the framework of the choice, is an essential part of the choice. Choosing six is choosing a world were aggregation rules; choosing half a dozen is choosing a world where division rules. Do you see?

Neither tells a comprehensive story. How could they? Their individual existence is a fundamental denial of the existence of the other.

What every political philosophy offers is a different UNFAIRNESS. Although every proponent of a political philosophy will try to sell her view as the best, she does so as a Dr. Magnifico, selling snake-oil. That is, no matter the merits and demerits of the political philosophy, what you get from her is a sales pitch; a manipulation. Side-effects may include lower a lower poverty-line or higher gas prices. Because it's a sales pitch you won't get to hear about the UNFAIRNESS that gets packaged up with the miracle cure. And so all snake-oil salesmen end up sounding the same.

So look at the election in November as a choice, a real choice, between political philosophies. Look for, recognize, and accept the UNFAIRNESS that your endorsement of six or half a dozen entails. The worst injustice committed against the voting public is the promulgation of the belief that their choice is victimless. Because if our choice is victimless then the people hurt by our choices are not our victims, but our enemies, and we are permitted to hate them, hold them in contempt, and ignore them.

You may or may not know that I am a member of the Green Party. I'm not more environmentally conscious than anyone else; probably less so than most. I endorse a different unfair system than most people, and I accept my responsibility for creating the victims of that system. Without guilt we are golems, with no compunction to do better. Choose your own unfairness in November, but CHOOSE.

Do not convince yourself that the choice doesn't matter. And don't convince yourself that those you disagree with aren't going to be victims of your choice. Stare the decision in the face, and then make it.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

A Portrait of the Blogger as a Young Twitter...er..?

So. I went to New York.

But you knew that, right? Because: I Tweeted the entire damned time. You grew sick of it; you un-followed me; you unsubscribed to the blog; you made little BPD's and burned them in effigy. It was shameless, shameful, disgusting, and really just me bragging about the awesome time I was having. I'm sorry. I really am. I have no class.

I have even less class than you think. I'm going to re-live the weekend for you via the Tweets, with a little added detail here and there as seems appropriate. Because you care about every tiny detail (I've used an italicized phrase beginning with "every" twice now in this post; I'm a great writer.) It's going to be long, arduous, and I doubt you'll make it to the end, because I'm not that interesting.

So.

Here.

We.

Go.

**********************************************************************************

Landed safely at JFK. 04:55 AM October 03, 2008 from TwitterBerry

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Why at 4:55am you ask? Because it was the redeye from San Francisco. All times are Pacific Standard Time.

Just had a good lunch at Perry Street 10:42 AM October 03, 2008 from TwitterBerry

I can be even more inane. Wait for it.

Walking through Times Square, to go to Red Mango, which I could totally go to at home. 12:08 PM October 03, 2008 from TwitterBerry

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Because seriously, I didn't need to fly to New York to go to a yogurt shop. Women. Can't live with 'em, can't leave them at home while you avoid yogurt shops.

Getting ready for dinner and then Avenue Q. 01:57 PM October 03, 2008 from TwitterBerry

Self-explanatory? This Tweet just means that I changed my shirt.

In a cab. Watching tv. New York has the best cabs. 02:36 PM October 03, 2008 from TwitterBerry

But I can go the rest of my life without seeing Regis and Kelly again. They were on a loop every 10 minutes in every cab, talking about what a great cab we were in and how awesome the little tv's are.

Dinner at Freeman's in the Bowery. Smell that sweet hobo urine aroma. 02:51 PM October 03, 2008 from TwitterBerry

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This place was at the end of dark, scary alley. There were stuffed animal heads on the walls and the restaurant served rabbit. Emily won't eat anything cuter than she is, though, so she had a cheese plate. I had a steak, because no cow is cuter than Emily.

Rushing to see Avenue Q 04:54 PM October 03, 2008 from TwitterBerry

So, as dinner was winding down we jumped in a cab to go to Broadway for this show involving muppets and sex and swearing. But the cab took forever and we were going to miss the call, so we jumped out of the cab a couple of blocks away and ran (Emily was in heels) down the street, shoving lame theater-goers (lame after we had knocked them to the ground and stomped on their ankles, anyway) out of the way, and we just beat the curtain.

Avenue Q was awesome. Show-stopping number was "Schadenfreude", a duet between a muppet and a woman playing Gary Coleman. Un-real. 07:15 PM October 03, 2008 from TwitterBerry

If that doesn't tell you exactly what Avenue Q was about, I don't know what else to say about it.

At The Brandy Library in Tribeca. 07:31 PM October 03, 2008 from TwitterBerry

Just ordered a 20 year old Linkwood scotch to follow the 15 year old scotch that no longer takes up residence in my glass. 08:42 PM October 03, 2008 from TwitterBerry

Scratch that: a 24 year old scotch 08:58 PM October 03, 2008 from TwitterBerry

Good morning New York. Go away housekeeping; I know it's 11am, but seriously? I'm on vacation. And a leetle hungover. 08:09 AM October 04, 2008 from web

Housekeeping tried to walk in on us twice. Because when we got back to the hotel we didn't have the presence of mind to put the latch on or put the "Don't even try to open this damned door" sign up.

Having brunch at Gold St (which is on Gold Street, coincidentally). Then we go searching for New York. 09:57 AM October 04, 2008 from TwitterBerry

Going on the NBC Studios Tour at 30 Rockerfeller Center. 11:07 AM October 04, 2008 from TwitterBerryDSC00802

I know. I'm a sucker for tourist traps.

Saw a little SNL rehearsal on the NBC tour. Anne Hathaway, that Keenan dude, and a HUGELY pregnant Amy Poehler. 12:27 PM October 04, 2008 from TwitterBerry

Going to Central Park. 01:19 PM October 04, 2008 from TwitterBerry

There were entirely too many strollers and happy family-types hanging around Central Park for my "abandoning my child at home with grandma" comfort.

Taking a carriage ride around Central Park. Smells very horse-y 02:09 PM October 04, 2008 from TwitterBerry

Central Park carriage ride takes about 15 minutes. 02:23 PM October 04, 2008 from TwitterBerryDSC00818

Seriously? 15 minutes? What about those long romantic tours around the park that I see in the movies?

At FAO Schwartz looking for that big keyboard thing. 02:40 PM October 04, 2008 from TwitterBerry

Two store employees playing Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor on the big piano at FAO Schwartz. Made my day. 02:56 PM October 04, 2008 from TwitterBerry

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Don't send mail. I know I misspelled "Schwarz".

At St. Patrick's Cathedral. 04:31 PM October 04, 2008 from TwitterBerry

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After I Tweeted this I had the following conversation with Emily:

Emily: You're going to hell for Tweeting in here, you know.

Me: What? I'm not Catholic.

Emily: God doesn't care.

Out to dinner with the Hot Blogger Calendar folks. A big dinner with a whole lotta people who don't know each other ;} 05:27 PM October 04, 2008 from TwitterBerry

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(Sarah Morgan)

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(Me and Miss Britt)

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(Jane Porricelli does her first tequila shot. With her parents looking on.)

So, in case you didn't know it the excuse for the trip was that somehow enough of you clicked on a little button over at the Hot Blogger Calendar site for me to show my boobs to the world, all at my own expense. Well, Emily's expense. It's not like I work, right? I'm just a dad. Lazy dad. Slacker. Sitting around the house all day.

Hot Blogger Calendar dinner and drinks just paid for by http://www.helpareporterout.com . 07:35 PM October 04, 2008 from TwitterBerry

So, at the end of dinner as we were all reaching for wallets and preparing to do the "I swear I left a 20% tip but now it looks like there isn't enough money in the pot" dance, Peter Shankman just straight up announces that his organization bought dinner. Peter Shankman. Help A Reporter Out. Peter Shankman. Help A Reporter Out. (<---------I figure I owe them this much at least for the chimichanga).

OMG I'm having dinner with Peter Shankman: he is so dreamy!!!! 08:14 PM October 04, 2008 from TwitterBerry

Dinner is over; stumbling down 42nd avenue. Where all the cabs be at, yo? 09:03 PM October 04, 2008 from TwitterBerry

Currently singing "never gonna give you up" in a shop. NYC: you have been Rickrolled. 09:19 PM October 04, 2008 from TwitterBerry

In actuality New York Rickrolled me. I was only singing it because it came on the speaker system in the store.

Thank you, kind cabbie, for agreeing to drive us down Broadway at lethal speeds at 1am. Your samaritan act will not be forgotten. 09:56 PM October 04, 2008 from TwitterBerry

Wil Wheaton won't be in the Hot Blogger Calendar, but that's not stopping Emily from watching "Stand By Me" in our hotel room. Dammit. 10:13 PM October 04, 2008 from TwitterBerry

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Damn you Wil Wheaton. Baby stealer.

Did you know that 10am happens in New York too? I didn't. I'm not sure I'm the better for knowing it. 06:59 AM October 05, 2008 from web

Tequila stings a little in the morning.

Getting ready for the Hot Blogger Calendar photo shoot. Do I have time to do about 10,000 crunches? Where's my Spanx? 08:04 AM October 05, 2008 from web

That's right. I know what Spanx is/are. Even if I don't know if it/they is/are singular or plural.

In a cab on the way to the shoot that I will be late for because I totally took too long styling my hair. And it looks like it always does. 08:59 AM October 05, 2008 from TwitterBerry

It really did. My hair always looks the same.

At the studio. Met @busydad. Dude looks pretty damn hot in person, ladies. 09:33 AM October 05, 2008 from TwitterBerry

Seriously girls, I almost made out with Busy Dad myself, because he is just that hot in person.

Photographer had me lying on the floor with my hands behind my head. I feel so dirty now! 10:04 AM October 05, 2008 from TwitterBerry

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I don't want to think about it! Oh, the shame!

My shoot is over. I may or may not have taken my shirt off in front of a room full of women. Not for pictures. Just cuz. 10:16 AM October 05, 2008 from TwitterBerry

I totally did. Twice.

Walking around Grand Central Station, no longer a Hot Blogger: just a geeky tourist with a camera and a Blackberry. Tweeting. 11:31 AM October 05, 2008 from TwitterBerry

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Went to sit on a bench, cop said: "don't sit there, we have an unattended bag" and then he called in the K-9 unit to sweep. I'm such a rube. 11:41 AM October 05, 2008 from TwitterBerry

It was so matter of fact that I didn't even think "hmm, there could totally be a bomb in that Papyrus bag". Oh, that's right, because there is no way in hell there was a bomb in that bag.

Progress down E42nd Street abrupted by the Polish-American Day Parade down 5th Ave. Not one Polish joke overheard. 11:56 AM October 05, 2008 from TwitterBerry

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This parade went on forever. I think it even impeded traffic on the other side of town in the morning.

Just took a picture of Emily with a pan-handling Elmo. Awe-sum. 12:35 PM October 05, 2008 from TwitterBerry

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Grover was turning tricks the next block over.

Two Hot Blogging Dads meet face to face. The world explodes from their hotness. http://tinyurl.com/3qobcd 03:29 PM October 05, 2008 from web

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Ok, Flickr Photostream: Behind the Scenes at the Hot Blogger Calendar Shoot http://flickr.com/photos/backpackingdad/sets/72157607765196410/ 03:52 PM October 05, 2008 from web

At Del Frisco's with @chicshopperchick , waiting for @alexcaseybaby 05:28 PM October 05, 2008 from TwitterBerry

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Paid just enough money for a sampling of some very, very good steak.

Just finished dinner/drinks with @chicshopperchick, @busydad, and @alexcaseybaby. Going up the Empire State Building now. 08:03 PM October 05, 2008 from TwitterBerry

At the top of the Empire State Building. Taking pictures in the dark. 08:22 PM October 05, 2008 from TwitterBerry

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If you are going to go to the Empire State Building and you don't care about, you know, seeing any buildings or anything, I highly recommend going at 11pm. There is no line whatsoever.

Singing karaoke with @busydad and @chicshoppachick 09:12 PM October 05, 2008 from TwitterBerry

This will not end well. You know that, right?

@busydad is up!! Singing Toby Keith's "Get Drunk and Be Somebody" 09:36 PM October 05, 2008 from TwitterBerry in reply to BusyDad

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Ladies, he sings too!

Note to self: Journey's "Lights" is about a half-step to high for me to sing. In public. Tenor I am not. 09:58 PM October 05, 2008 from TwitterBerry

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This was incredibly painful to attempt. Because not only is it a half-step out of my range, the entire freaking song is within a couple of notes of each other, so it wasn't just the high notes I was missing: it was basically all of them. Also, I'd only had one beer so I was in no condition to do karaoke; I need at least 4 beers. Of course, with that much beer I'd have really been straining to hit those notes. I should have done a Johnny Cash song. But thank God for forgiving, drunk, New York karaoke bar patrons who didn't actually boo me. But I walked off the floor like a rock star, flashing a double Sign of the Devil and sticking my tongue out as if I hadn't just murdered an awesome drinking song. Then my lovely wife had to go and show me up by knocking out some Ace of Base.

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The long day is over. Early flight out of JFK tomorrow morning. 10:20 PM October 05, 2008 from TwitterBerry

But, it's so early. Why do flights have to be so early? 04:35 AM October 06, 2008 from web

It's fun to ride in the back of a cab without wearing a seat belt. Only been thrown against the partition twice though. 05:20 AM October 06, 2008 from TwitterBerry

Really, I ought to have learned my lesson after the first time. But I'm slow like that in the morning. Also? The hour-long cab ride into New York from JFK really only takes 20 minutes. Who knew that all you needed was a cabbie willing to take pedestrians and school buses down with equal glee?

JFK has lots of ""Fun Zones". But they all have the same double-console "Ms. Pacman/Galaga". I don't like either enough to play every 25ft. 05:59 AM October 06, 2008 from TwitterBerry

I mean, I like them. But what jackass made this call: "We're going to have little arcades in the big lobby areas, and they'll be a ton of fun, but we're only going to have two games. And those games will be 25 years old. But new copies. Nostalgia should be powerful enough to get them to plunk quarters down every 10 minutes and 20 steps. Right?"

Arrived safely at SFO. 02:05 PM October 06, 2008 from TwitterBerry

And that was that.

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Thursday, October 2, 2008

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Feeling Raw Because of Facebook, Part 3: You've Got Mail

So, here is the Final Chapter in my "Feeling Raw Because of Facebook" series. Is it a series? Does three make a series? It's a trilogy, at least. Anyway, here, another guest post by ME so that I don't have to write anything new.

 

She "friended" me out of the blue. I had never expected her to have a Facebook account. Surprised, but delighted, I "confirmed" that she was indeed my friend. Curious, I opened her profile, and there next to "Relationship Status" it declared that she was married.

We had met in a chat room when we, and the internet, were all still teenagers. She went by the name "kittycat", a very enticing name for the adolescent I was; I was "Soltan", because I was reading L. Ron Hubbard's Mission: Earth series at the time and the hero's name, "Jet", was already taken on the network we were logged in to; so I was the villain.

Our conversations were innocent, and friendly, and flirtatious, and eventually not-so innocent. And we built a friendship with not only each other but with many of the other regulars in that particular chatroom, on that particular network, during those particular months.

Eventually we were an online "couple", sending each other private messages more often than not even when we were logged in to the public board. And we were online so often that the channel owner empowered us as channel operators (just enough power to go to our heads; we kicked a lot of people out of the room for being trolls). And there were other online couples that we could relate to: Bernie and Emma, separated by the breadth of Australia, were always online when we were (apparently our sleeping schedules were reversed).

Eventually we met in person, and it was electric. She came to me over a Spring Break and I fell in love. No. I was already in love. I was in love with her before I ever saw the picture that she eventually sent to me in the mail.

Her visit was brief. Only a few days in a March that I will never forget. When I said goodbye to her at the airport I didn't think I'd ever seen her again. How could I? The distance was too great, our lives were too fluid. She lived in a different country, and about as far away from me as possible without crossing an ocean.

Spring Break always reminds me of that incredible time we spent together. And seeing her on my "friends" list on Facebook just makes me smile.

12 years after we met I clicked on her profile, and there, next to "Relationship Status" it declared that she was married.

To me.

Emily on the Couch