push polling

I suppose it was inevitable that Google would find this diary and some odd and interesting Google searches would show up in my stats. Enter “visible thong strap” (with quotes) into Google, and you end up solely hitting this diary. I only bring this up because I suspect that this entry will probably make for some interesting search engine fodder down the road. We will now return to our regularly scheduled program…

One the few things I do like about plane rides is that I get to catch up on my reading. I got to read two books almost entirely on this trip. I finished Mitch Albom’s The Five People You Meet In Heaven. I started and nearly finished Al Franken’s Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right.It is the latter tome that holds my interest now.

One of the charming things that I learned about in this book is “push polls”. Brain child of the late Republican political strategist Lee Atwater, the push poll is a way to even the electoral odds when a rival cannot be assailed through policy ideas or charisma and must be attacked using lies and innuendo. It takes the telephone opinion poll and turns it into a weapon to slur and demean opponents using irrelevant facts (in the best case) or outright lies (in the all-too-common worst case).

Mr. Franken gives a prime example of how this works in the story of the very first victim of the push poll, Max Heller. Max Heller was an Austrian born Jew who escaped the Nazi Holocaust as a young man immediately before the start of World War II. He met a lovely young woman in the mid-1930’s in Austria, got her family to assist him in his escape to the United States, and eventually married her. He became a naturalized citizen, prospered, and eventually ran for Congress in 1978. He was ahead in the polls until a series of anonymous telephone “opinion polls” were carried out in his district which asked the following sort of question “Would you feel better or worse about Max Heller knowing that he is a foreign-born Jew who has not yet accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior?”

Given that we are entering Presidential Election season in the United States once again, I am not looking forward to the mud and slime that Karl Rove, a devout disciple of the Lee Atwater method, will inevitably throw against the Democratic contender (likely to be John Kerry). Goodness knows, President Bush is likely to not be able to persuade a wide majority of the nation to vote for him on his ideas and his record alone. So questions of “character” and “family values” will have to be raised… which I think we all know means push polls that say “Would you be more inclined to vote for John Kerry knowing that he is a descendent of European Jews who refuse to accept Chirst as their Savior, a divorcee, and fornicator with Hollywood celebrities like Catherine Oxenberg and Morgan Fairchild?”

So, it is in this inevitable spirit of meaness, obfuscation, and prevarication that we will encounter this summer, that I offer some “push poll” questions of my own:

  • Would you feel better about voting for President George W. Bush knowing that he once hit and killed a small Mexican-American boy while driving his car in rural Texas in 1970 after snorting two vials of cocaine, only to have his father hush it up and lie about it later?
  • Would you look upon the Republican Party more favorably knowing that conservative spokesperson and author Ann Coulter is the submissive sex slave of a former arms dealer and crack dealer turned Black Muslim extremist?
  • Would you feel better about George W. Bush’s vision of America knowing that his policy advisor Karl Rove offered Paris Hilton a large undisclosed sum of money to create her own private sex video for him?
  • Would you see the Religious Right in a more favorable light knowing that that Ralph Reed only turned to Jesus because he had a homosexual experience in college and secretly enjoyed it more than any other sexual experience he’s ever had?
  • Would you be more likely to vote for a Bush/Cheney ticket in 2004 knowing that Vice President Cheney’s last heart attack occured in his bed room immediately following odd mewling and growling noises that were rumored to be made by “Buster”, his pet St. Bernard?

These questions are blatently false and leading, I know. I’m a very, very bad man, but, no worse than some members of the party whose views I oppose.

the rollercoaster

Life is being a rollercoaster this week. There are lots of ups and downs, so many ups and downs. I’m feeling a little lost in the middle of it all.

The really, really good news is that Company O., in its wisdom, has decided to give me my first bonus in about two years. The bonus will be about 8% of my earnings in the last six months. After the government takes a very healthy bite out of this money, there will be enough for the major expenses of our honeymoon and maybe even some new stereo speakers. All hail Company O.!

On the down side, Fiancee S. is going to be laid off this summer. She teaches at a nearby elementary school that is undergoing consolidation at the end of this school year. She is at the low end of the seniority totem pole at this school, and will be let go. This is not wholly unexpected news, and she has prospects (including priority for open positions elsewhere in the school district), but, we had been hoping that one or two contingencies would arise that would prevent this. Sadly, they have not materialized.

Finally, in the weirdest of turns, aspects of my job have become strangely political. I’m currently working on a joint project with another company, Company X. As a part of this project, Company O. vehemently wants certain experiments run. Company X. just as vehemently does not, saying that Company O. can run the experiments on its own, but absolutely positively not on a joint project with Company X. In the midst of all this, an offer has materialized that would cause the desired experimental data to surreptitiously to appear, provided we cross-our-hearts-hope-to-die promise not to say where the data came from. Company O. is a big company, and tongues wag. I don’t think that the secret could be kept. So now, I think this must be brought to the attention of “higher ups” in order to bring influence to bear. I am now torn about which specifics to relate… because if the wrong people found out about the offer, some people could end up in deep shit. I don’t want that… not on my watch.

does anybody know what time it is?

Well, it’s finally here — godparent weekend. Fiancee S. and I have journeyed away from the metropolitan area we call home to visit my cousin J. and his wife K. in The Land of the Confederacy. Our mission on this visit is to act as godparents for J. and K.’s baby daughter, Ka.

It has largely been a very good visit. J. and I grew up around the corner from one another, but, we haven’t necessarily had the chance to spend a lot of time together as adults. It has been very pleasant to discover that our time together as children has translated well into time we can spend together as adults. I’m also pleased to see that Fiancee S. and K. seem to be getting along well. When I think about the people in my family of my generation with whom I will likely grow old with, J. and K. tend to sit near the top of a rather short list.

Baby K. gets baptized this morning. We attended a rehearsal for this event on Thursday night. The parish church where she will be baptized is a modern, suburban church. The baptismal font resembles a very large example of one of those “Zen fountains” that were all the decorator rage a few years ago. It’s a large textured copper cauldron where holy water is pumped into the bottom of the cauldron, flows over it’s lip, and down its sides, only to be recycled into the cauldron again. The parish also seems to favor baptism by immersion using this setup rather than the more traditional “sprinkling” used in the Catholic Church. Whether this is an innovation fostered by Vatican II, Fiancee S. and I don’t know… but we suspect that it is a case of “keeping up with the Joneses” theologically speaking. This is the Land of the Confederacy after all, and Pentacostal Churches abound here.

My only problem is that I don’t know what time it is. Travelling to the Land of the Confederacy involved crossing a few time zones, and Baby K. will be baptized at an early morning Mass. So, my internal clock and my wristwatch tell me that it is the middle of the night… but the sun is up and J.’s kids are watching Sunday morning cartoons. What time is it? I don’t know.

wedding invitation diplomacy

In the white corner: Dr. Geek and Fiancee S., haggard soon-to-be married couple
In the red corner: Various family members who have now received “save the date” information

Fiancee S. and I were given our first interesting diplomatic test last night regarding invitations to our wedding. It regards the invitation of children to our wedding. Basically, we aren’t inviting everyone’s children. The room holds 250 people; the two of us and 248 of our nearest, dearest, and ok-we-have-to-invite-them. Because this will be “My Big, Fat Irish Wedding”, there are just too many adult aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends as it is. We can’t fit (much less pay for) all the children into our reception area. That said, we are making some exceptions for very near and dear friends and family and children who are participating in the ceremony.

Now enter my second cousin D. Go back about 5 years, and D.’s daughter was a flower girl in my sister S.’s wedding. Go back about 25-30 years, and I was ring-bearer in D.’s wedding. My memory of it was it was an ugly 70’s affair; I was in a tan tuxedo with chocolate colored velvet piping on the edges, a riffled white tuxedo shirt (almost like Austin Powers, but not quite), and a chocolate colored velvet clip-on bowtie. Go back another 15 years further, and D. was a flower girl in my mother’s wedding. D. and I haven’t been horribly close over the years, but, you can see that there is an association between our two branches of the family going back to my mother’s generation.

I got a call from my mother last night about D. She got her “save the date” card that we sent out a few weeks ago. It seems that D., her husband, and her two children (aged 16 and 12) were leaving the Land of My Birth for Our Fair State for a vacation the day after my wedding. After getting the “save the date”, she moved their air travel reservations to the day of our wedding. Only then did she realize that her children might not be invited. She then called my mother and reminded her of past associations, including the fact that I was in her wedding.

Fiancee S. and I are torn about what to do. On the one hand, there is room in the budget to add two children. There is also the fact that the number of my blood relations expected to attend our wedding is small. On the other hand, they will most likely be arriving by air in the middle of the day and will ONLY be attending our reception, NOT our wedding ceremony. We feel like a temporary detour to their vacation. We also feel that attending the reception but not the ceremony is WRONG. There are some valid reasons why D. and her family must travel on Saturday, but the whole thing feels awkward.

No decision yet, but, I’m sure we will figure out what to do very soon.


When it comes to my own fitness goals, it is the female form that inspires me. Even when I look at the packaging of a diet supplement I take, it is the picture of the woman on the front that makes me think “you need to exercise.” I sometimes wonder if this is weird.

I think that this is rooted in my adolescence somewhere. I was the shy, geeky kid who was more often than the friend than the date. There is still some part of me that wants to have the visible athleticism that will turn a woman’s head by just walking into a room. There is some leftover part of me that wants to be wanted by the “in” crowd, even if there is no in crowd anymore.

It does go a little deeper than that, though. My sense of strength has always come from my intelligence. This is fine, but, I want to feel more connected with my body… and don’t. I hope that if I would ever be able to have an abdominal “six pack” I would finally feel powerful and confident in my body. That and maybe learning how to box or something… it seems to be requisite somewhere in the male psyche that a man must be able to feel that he can kick someone else’s ass if he needs to. It’s not that I would any time soon… or at all… but having the capability seems important to a sense of confidence in my physical form.

So, when I see a very fit woman at the gym, I discreetly observe. I don’t know if the women in question notice or not, but, I wouldn’t want them to think that I am trying to hit on them. No, watching them is more like appreciating art — it is about understanding and appreciating effort and discipline that I often find hard to muster.

Of course, things can be taken too far. Fiancee S. and I turned on the TV the other night to discover a “strongest woman” contest won by the good Ms. Jill Mills:

This is conditioning to a point that is much farther than I would go with my own body, and correspondingly I don’t like it. I can admire the tremendous effort involved… but it’s not for me.

Miss Jackson, is she nasty?

I don’t quite understand all this furor over Janet Jackson and the Super Bowl halftime show. Ok, yes, I see that this is an excellent opportunity for the Republican morality police to get bent out of shape and score some points with their core constituency. This incident shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, however. In hindsight, I tend to think of the whole thing as inevitable.

Janet Jackson has been selling herself as a sexual being for years now. Any picture I have seen of her in the last five to ten years has pretty much screamed “Hi, I’m Janet Jackson and these are my breasts.” Gone are the days when we ever see her covered up. That Herb Ritts video that introduced Janet to the world in a cut off tank top ended any pretense of hiding her body; Janet has been Janet-the-oh-so-sexual-being for some time now. Her media personna oozes so much sexuality that at least one woman I’ve met over the years expressed the sentiment that while she wasn’t really bi-curious, she would sleep with Janet Jackson in a heartbeat.

Given the fact that Janet has been providing her breasts with so many social introductions over the years, is it so surprising that she would use the Super Bowl halftime show as a debutante ball? I think not.

I do not fault Ms. Jackson for her sexuality, as some would. I only fault her and many of her contemporaries (male and female) for playing the “sex card” too coarsely and too often. Music is as much about seduction as consumation, and my opinion is that the balance between the two these days is more than a little lopsided.

No, I think that the Janet’s mistake in regard to the Super Bowl halftime show was a lapse in professional judgement. She should be enough of an entertainer by now to tailor her act to her audience. Some things are appropriate for risque, adult cabaret and some are appropriate for a family audience. She obviously let her “I am Janet-the-sexual-being hear me roar” vibe cloud her judgement and forget that the Super Bowl halftime show is not one of her videos and very definitely involves a family audience.

Oh well, I hope she learns from the experience. And covers up once in a while. Goodness knows she’s got a great body, but, some stylish couture to cover it properly can be just as flattering as letting everyone see everything.