we interrupt today’s entry…

We interrupt today’s entry for the following important announcement from Britney Spears:

Hi y’all, it’s Britney Spears! I just wanted to shout out to all my fans and let you all know that I’m about to announce my very own clothing line: b.s. fashions.

You’ll love hearing about how I got the idea — it’s a great story. I was going down to the local Walmart the other day with Jamie Lynn because baby A.J. was craving pork rinds and beef jerky and we were out (note to self: check the home servaillence cameras to see if Kevin or K-Fed or Cletus McK-Fed or whatever he calls himself is smoking pot in the house again.) I decided to get my sweet and sexy hubby to come along because, damn it, the boy needs some new manpris. Anyway, we get there and the store manager clears the place of customers (Thank you Mr. Anderson!) so Jamie Lynn and Felicia and I can shop a little while without, you know, being disturbed.

After a while, I notice that my oh-sexy-husband is nowhere to be found. I send Felicia off to find him, and when she comes back she says he’s talking to a salesgirl who works part time down at the local Hooters over at the CD counter. “That’s it!” I think, “No more spending money for him next month” and set off to speak to him myself. When I get there, I see that the girl is taking off her t-shirt (under which she’s wearing a pretty substantial sports bra) and handing him $20. As soon as he sees me, he says “Hey B., I was just about to come find you. Could you autograph this for Mary Eleanor, here?”

When we get back to the car, I started out by giving a cold stare and the silent treatment. Eventually, he said “What did I do???” I told him what he was doing, disrespecting fans. Then he said, “But B., that girl was going to pay $20 for a $4 Walmart t-shirt if was going to have your name on it!”

When I got home, I thought about what he said and I realized he was right — I need my own fashion line. That way people can pay all sorts of money to have stuff with my name on it. It’ll be quality stuff too… the best we can import from the finest clothiers and manufacturers from Guatemala and Mexico. I think we’ll have all kinds of cool stuff in the line too. You know, like neon-colored thong panties, big peasant blouses, and lots of biker leathers… and oh yeah, matching his and hers denim outfits like Just-er, whatshisname and I wore to that awards show.

I’ve even thought of a sales tag line:b.s. fashions
you’ll buy it ’cause I’m Britney
What do you think?

Well, Baby A.J. is craving deepfried Mars bars now… so I’ve got to go!

Peace y’all!!!!

an overdue dinner review

This is another entry in the backlog that built up during the last few weeks while Mrs. Geek and I struggled to upgrade 140 computers at her school before classes began.

I find occasionally myself having “aha” moments when I get to know some people; experiences that reveal to me previously unrecognized (by me) parts of themselves. Generally, these parts are something I strongly identify with… or as the net.writer Richh once said

“It’s one thing to locate a partof yourself in another–that is a prerequisite to love–but to findso much of yourself congruent with another–this is frightening.”

Well, ok, maybe not something I identify that strongly with… but you get the idea.

The last time this happened was when we had J., G., and son R. over for beef burgundy and double chocolate ice cream just over a week ago. Since J. and Mrs. Geek have known each other for nearly three decades now, J. naturally was one of the bridesmaids in her wedding. Since Mrs. Geek and I had been trying to have them over since last December, this was naturally the first time that we had the chance to rehash the events of that night.

At one point, the discussion happened to turn to the charm that my cousin J. (mentioned here) innocently worked up the bridesmaids that day. After hearing J.’s take on the day, I should now amend that to “most of the bridesmaids” because J. was having none of it. That surprised me… or perhaps the way she put it surprised me… perhaps because it revealed to me a certain dimension to her personality that I did not previously recognize.

This feeling was later amplified when I heard J. and Mrs. Geek reminisce about their early days together. I heard that tone in her voice… a tone that my own inner voice uses when I think about the person I used to be. I immediately got the sense that the way that J. and I look at the world is not all that different at times. Mrs. Geek told me once that J. was rather shy around new people when she was growing up… as I was and continued to be, all the way through much of my adolesence. When I heard that tone in her voice, I felt like I knew a lot more about who she was… and understood why my cousin J.’s charms held little value for her.

For me, the ability to light up a room with charm is something I may occasionally envy, but it is never something that will make me feel comfortable with someone. For me to let my guard down and really be myself, there has to be something more that is generally slower and more attuned to personal chemistry after a first meeting. I am someone who would rather have a few lifelong friends than a large crowd of acquaintances, and being accepted by me has something to do with grouping people more into the former category than the latter. My cousin J. is a good man in every sense of the word… but I know this for reasons that go far beyond what I see when he walks into a room. I found it interesting that J. might evaluate him in precisely the same way.

The dinner was tremendously pleasant for this and so many other reasons. The food came out great, and I think everyone enjoyed themselves. Hopefully, it won’t take another nine-plus months to see them again.

visiting the Mouse

One of the things I’ve neglected to chronicle in recent days was my recent trip with Mrs. Geek to one of the House of Mouse theme parks. It was my first visit in about a quarter century; I rode “E” ticket rides the last time I was there. Mrs. Geek is more of a Mouse afficionado and goes every few years. The Apostle Paul says something in his many Epistles of the New Testament about how a husband and wife should be “equally yoked”. He was speaking about faith in Jesus, of course. Being that Mrs. Geek and I are pretty equal in that department, we were (jokingly) more concerned on our way there if my faith in Mickey was strong enough (I was more of a Looney Tunes man, growing up.)

It turned out to not be a worry. I had a great time. While I could not look back to many nostalgic memories of visits past, I found it impossible to be caught up in the immense scope and sweep of the place. Walking in, you cannot help but notice that everything about the place is professional. True, it is possible to be cynical and notice that the very architecture of the place encourage the parting of tourists with their money. I tended to marvel more at the fact that the park was obviously designed and built by men and women who had lots of college degrees — not carney hucksters.

I have to admire the Disney approach. Walt’s attitude was to try to create magic, and he was not afraid to turn scientists and engineers loose to solve problems. From the earliest animatronic attractions on to the latest multimedia live extravaganzas, the parks drew as much with their tech as with the familiar corps of animated characters and princesses.

I also have to admire the scope of the Disney entertainment experience. There is something for almost anyone in the parks. If rides are not your thing, there is musical theater. If that doesn’t do it, there is live music and fireworks. If neither of those float your boat, there is likely a nearby shopping experience to cater to your fancy. The parks cast their nets very wide, and generally succeed in finding something you like.

It is also very interesting to consider the parks as cultural artifacts. Some of the rides speak to charicatures that are decades old. Others represent twists on social mores that are now far from politically correct. The parks also attempt some modest form of cultural enlightenment by taking a page from the old Worlds Fairs and Grand Exposisitions — if you cannot travel around the world, Disney will bring a little bit of it to you. In an age of jet air travel, HDTV, and the Internet, that notion is a nearly antiquated novelty in itself.

As for our visit itself, Mrs. Geek and I are now steadfast believers in a little software application called RideMax. It is quite impressive. Simply put, the developers of the program have spent a lot of time waiting in lines at some of the Disney parks so you don’t have to. You just provide the program with some simple information (what time you want to start, what attractions you want to experience, how quickly you think you can move through the park) and it gives you an itinerary of when to take each ride that minimizes the wait. Where’s the spontaneity in that, I hear you cry? Well, spontaneity is the language of the Devil on a busy summer Saturday at a Disney park. Thanks to RideMax, we didn’t wait longer than 25 minutes for any ride on a Friday, Saturday, and Sunday in August. We had long, late afternoon siestas each day and plenty of time to take the odd ride not on our itinerary. We found RideMax to be ideal.

About the only downer on the trip was the hotel. We travelled on a Disney Travel package deal from AAA. This was, for the most part, a good thing: consolidated passes for all the days we were there, free travel from the hotel to the parks by shuttle, and even the odd discount on food and merchandise. The hotel was another matter. We picked it because it was part of the Radisson chain — generally excellent purveyors of hospitality for me in the past. Not in this case, however.

The trouble began as soon as we walked in the door. First, a charge card imprint was not taken at the front desk when we checked in. This made for trouble later when we tried to charge meals at the hotel restaurant to our room. Next, they initially placed us in a room facing a busy street on one side and the noisiest ice machine on the planet on the other. That was quickly fixed, but even then there were problems. The new room was much quieter, but the toilet in the bathroom overflowed… twice. In fact, the second time was so bad that there was a quarter inch of standing water on the tile floor that began to seep into the carpet… and rain down through the ceiling of the room below us. Those poor folks downstairs had to be moved.

The hotel was a dark spot in an otherwise rosy landscape, however. We both had a great time. I’ve got my Disney jones filled for the next couple years. Mrs. Geek may be heading down with friends or family sooner than that. We both know, however that this will not be our last trip there together… and that is the important thing.

a prayer for New Orleans

I’ve been a tad out of touch for the last two weeks. The school year began anew at Mrs. Geek’s school in this past week… and a major project was underway to get the many iBooks and iMacs there upgraded to OS X Tiger. I feel like I worked two jobs during the last three weeks: my regular day job for Company O. and my “moonlight” job performing upgrades and solving problems at Mrs. Geek’s school at night and on weekends. Even now, with the job nearly complete, Mrs. Geek and I spent about 10 hours at her school today (Sunday) finishing things up.

It is with some surprise that I learned of the peril to the city of New Orleans posed by Hurricane Katrina. I’m having more than a few “there but the grace of God go I” moments tonight. I was offered a job there a few years ago… that I did not accept. But for that one choice, I might be on the road right now, or crashing at one of several Geek family relatives who live within a few hours drive.

To me, New Orleans seems a grand contradiction. It is both new and old, simultaneously pristine, holy, and luxuriously corrupt. For many years the second largest port in the United States, its contributions to the music and culture of this country are immense. It has seen struggle and disaster before… and it seems it shall know them again in the next twelve hours or so.

I’m keeping a candle lit for you tonight New Orleans… may this cup pass you if it can, and may you endure.

strapping on Helmet

It’s a metal day here at Company O. I was feeling pretty much tapped out all weekend and that feeling has continued well into my Monday. So, it’s a couple cans of caffienated diet beverage and some loud, loud guitars keeping me going through my day. The riffs are currently being provided by Helmet’s Betty. It’s been 5+ years since I last listened to this disc… and now I wonder why it took this long to put it on my iPod.

I’ve been under a fair amount of pressure here at work during the last few weeks. The Incredible Shrinking Headcount(tm) of our department has meant that more and more stuff is getting suddenly thrown on my plate. This isn’t such a bad thing in itself, but our department has to execute to a schedule, some of which was drawn up months ago before some of our people disappeared. To top it off, I’m collecting data from a large, complex installation running across several computers… and that installation is something of an angry beast at times. Just when I think I have it on the run, it turns and snarls at me.

Of course, there’s an upside to it all as well. I was paid a bonus by Company O. today equivalent to about 4% of my salary. That bit of extra cash is a real godsend, given some of the expenses that Mrs. Geek and I incurred in the last year. A big chunk of that extra money is going to finally pay off some debts that we brought to our marriage (yay! only one credit card balance to pay now) plus make a debt in some debt leftover from our honeymoon a year ago.

boeuf bourgignon and double chocolate ice cream

A lot has happened in the last 10 days or so… too much to include here. Work was too busy this past week to update much, though I found myself wanting to update every day. In the mean time, I hope you, my gentle readers will be satisfied with a report about this evening’s culinary experiments.

We had J. and G. and their son R. over for dinner tonight. J. and Mrs. Geek grew up together and knew each other since kindergarten. We tried to have them over for dinner for the last nine months or so. It was great to see them. I hope it won’t be nine months before we see them again.

The menu tonight consisted of beef burgundy, courtesy of the America’s Test Kitchen. Julia Child describes boeuf bourgignon as a rather rustic beef stew. If that is so, this was the Cadillac of beef burgundy recipes. All the carrots, onions, mushrooms, and herbs and spices are all kept in a cheese cloth as the beef cooks in the oven for three hours. The sauce used a base of Louis Jadot Burgundy with free range chicken stock (not called for by the recipe, but had some leftover), and a roux as a base. The preparations are more complicated than they could be, but the result is a deep, complex beef stew with only beef, pearl onions, and sauce moving across the tongue.

To go with the beef burgundy, we had green beans with lemon and butter, egg noodles (from a bag), and this ravishing Aparicio Vineyard old vine Zinfandel from Rosenblum.

For dessert, we had my second try at making a Double Chocolate Ice Cream recipe of my own creation. I call it “double chocolate” because it uses two kinds of chocolate, unsweetened dark chocolate, and powdered sweet milk chocolate. The former imparts a lovely, deep chocolate flavor that is not overly sweet, while the latter imparts some level of chocolate color — though our guests said that it wasn’t enough color to hint at the strong chocolate flavors within. My first attempt at making this recipe some weeks ago used a milk to cream ratio consistent with a vanilla ice cream I’ve made with much success over the last few years. That produced ice cream that never really hardened the way I wanted it to. So, I adjusted the milk to cream ratio based on some hints from an old copy of The Joy Of Cooking — it seems that something about the chocolate requires a lower amount of butterfat in the dairy base than with the vanilla. This second batch was exquisite. The revised recipe is being copied into my files as a keeper.

In all, some very excellent culinary work this weekend.

my lost years

Frank settled down in the Valley
and he hung his wild years on a nail that he drove through his wife’s forehead
He sold used office furniture out there on San Fernando Road
and assumed a 30,000 dollar loan at fifteen and a quarter percent
put a down payment on a little two bedroom place

I don’t think I could ever say that I have any wild years. I sometimes think of the late 1990’s as my Lost Years, though. I spent a lot of that time between 1996 and 2000 living with a roomate I came to hate more and more, becoming involved in an emotionally messy relationship or two, and working like hell on a Ph.D. dissertation that seemed like it would never be done. Through it all, the walls of my world gradually began to get closer and closer, leaving less and less room for interests outside of school.

These years have been more on my mind of late because people I knew then are crossing my path.

The first of these is T. She and I had an off-again/on-again sort of relationship that was either friendship or something much more intimate for about oh… what was it? A year? She was slightly older than me, intelligent, well educated (a Masters in Fine Arts), articulate and (unfortunately) recently divorced from a marriage that was still causing her drama. Eventually T. moved a couple thousand miles away to be with some guy she met a handful of times in person after a long online correspondence. She then moved back to the area about two years later after all that didn’t work out. Before a couple weeks ago, I last heard from her about four years ago.

I got an e-mail from her recently. She evidently threw some names of old friends into Google and found my personal web page. She saw that I was married and wanted to know details. She also mentioned that she was married to a childhood friend and had a small child. I have not responded.

Hearing from her prompted some complex feelings. Getting involved with her then was probably a small mistake… she was still rather wounded. The only reason I did was because I was also wounded… though I was too busy to really notice it at the time. What she wrote to me revived a sense of wrongness about the relationship that could be summed up by the Jack Nicholson quote “Lady, don’t sell crazy here; we’re all full up.” Part of her note said, in effect, “I know I was troubled then… but I’m doing better now, see?” I think I would have felt much better without the examination of healed old bruises so quickly after the word “hello”, thank you.

The most recent of these people is D. D. and I were housemates with another fellow that I have mentioned here as “the Anti-Dr. Geek”. I call him the Anti-Dr. Geek because he and I have the same first and middle names, as well as have last names with the same number of letters, vowels, and consonants. Living with the Anti-Dr. Geek eventually became like a bad marriage. We just didn’t talk to each other… and he was slowly driving me nuts with his passive/aggressive behavior. An example, I once got a short lecture from the Anti-Dr. Geek about how I was not raising the venetian blinds on the windows of our house properly (he wanted me to be sure that they were parallel with the floor, rather than slanted, to avoid having the edges fray the cords.)

D. was out of this direct line of fire. He is Russian by birth, but a citizen of Israel by inclination. He was working for another large high tech company when he ran into visa trouble and had to leave the country. I come to discover while in the locker room at the gym, that he has also been working for Company O. for the last two years. Small world, I say.

Talking with D. always was rather interesting. He would always ask the kind of questions that many people living in the United States would not probably not think of. I recall a point when we watched a news item together on TV about one of the follow on trials from the Rodney King riots; I believe several people were on trial for battery or manslaughter against a truck driver. After seeing this, D. turns to me and asks “So Dr. Geek, do people in the United States trust the police?” Talking to D. made me a little more aware of what it must be like to be living in the United States as a foreigner who grew up in a very different system.

One night Frank was on his way home from work
He stopped at the liquor storePicked up a couple of Mickey’s Big Mouths
Drank ’em in the car, and with a Shell station
he got a gallon of gas in a can
Drove home, doused everything in the house
Torched it
Parked across the street laughing
Watching it burn
All Halloween orange and chimney red
Then Frank put on a top forty station
Got on the Hollywood Freeway
and headed North

-Tom Waits, “Frank’s Wild Years”