the flasher

My father is sometimes a man of contradictions. By nature a very conservative dresser, he has one favorite Halloween costume that has donned every few years since I was around 10. It’s his “flasher” costume: a full set of long underwear (that concealed EVERYTHING below the neck), covered by boots, a long overcoat, and a hat. I remember he first wore it when I was around 10, and used it to take my sister and I out trick or treating. He didn’t actually “flash” anyone except a couple parents he knew very well, but if I was any older I probably would have been tremendously mortified.

My Dad is also a man with projects. Many of them are very useful, like the re-grading he did along one side of the house this summer to reduce water leaking into the basement during the rest of the year. Other projects are decidedly less so. My parents have a “Victorian eclectic” home built in 1919. It has a lovely tiled fireplace with elaborate cast iron grilles and grates and a quarter sawed white oak mantle. My parents never use this fireplace because it gets sooty dust all over the living room. My Dad is evidently dissatisfied with this state of affairs, and has taken to designing his own “electric fireplace” out of old C-9 outdoor Christmas lights and a small electric fan placed behind all the other grill work.

It also appears that my Dad is taking up poetry in his old age. He likes Haiku. He hasn’t mentioned many of them to me, but the one that will always stick with me is about my nephew’s tendency to want to remain unclothed and run around the house as a toddler.

I bring this up because my Dad likes to send out monthly e-mails that he calls his “newsletter” to people to let them know what he and my Mom have been up to. I got the one for the month of October yesterday. It mentions visiting a costume party in a neighboring township in his flasher costume. He then talks about getting home and enjoying his electric fireplace. Finally, the electric fireplace has overwhelmed him, and inspired a haiku.

This seemed to be a lot to squeeze into a paragraph and a half.

pedestals and footsteps

One of the interesting things I find about Facebook is that it puts you back in touch with people you haven’t even thought of for decades. I got a message from one such person this morning. It went something like this:

“Dear Dr. Geeky (he knew me when I used a diminuative form of the name I now go by,) great to see you on here! You seem to be doing well! Well that’s no surprise… we always looked up to you since you’re so smart and knew you would do well. Best of luck!”

I get this sort of thing from people I was acquainted with all the way up to high school at reunions and other places all the time. Mrs. Geek came back from my 20 year high school reunion last summer saying “and everyone said he was the smartest, person they knew in high school.” The women often threw in the word “nicest”.

Looking back on it, I feel now that I was being put onto a bit of a pedestal. I was the guy other students knew was on the “straight and narrow” path — not the person you knew was a fun guy to hang out with. Part of how all that happened was my fault… I was shy, knew how to do well at schoolwork… the people part, well that eluded me.

The interesting thing is that I had a conversation with my Mom about all this. It seems that people treated her pretty much the same when she was in high school… and after. I found that comforting.

It does beg a question, though: do we all follow in our parents footsteps in ways we will never completely know?

I think so.


I got to chatting with another of my dissertation advisor’s former students on Friday. I mentioned that I finally sent him a bound copy of my dissertation. As the other student had not sent provided bound copies yet, we talked about different binding companies and I shared my recent experiences.

During the course of the discussion, I got my bound copy from the shelf and opened it to a random page. I found a typo. The word “process” was spelled “proces”.


resistance is futile. you will be assimilated.

Ok, I went and did it. I joined Facebook on Friday. I have joined the collective. I understand why it is addictive. It’s been fun.

It’s been fun because I got in touch with a few people I haven’t really talked to since high school. I’m the sort of person who is a little cautious about who I decide to make my friends on social networks. So it naturally surprises me that people who I knew 20 years ago but haven’t talked to since ask me to be part of their networks… and more than that, make pleasant conversation in chat for the rest of the afternoon. Will it lead anywhere? I don’t know, but it’s nice to feel wanted.

I’ve been feeling rather worn out of late. Theories abound as to why. Stress at work? Not enough potassium and electrolytes to balance my increasing tough workouts lately? The crawling I’ve been doing around in our attic? Again, I don’t know… but it’s nice to take it easy and just engage in smalltalk… and Facebook is good for that.

I’ve been on Friendster, and MySpace… and dating and social sites much older than that. Facebook is probably one of the most completely realized sites I’ve come across in a long time. Social networking? Check. Working chat? Check. Applications? Check. Lots of people? Check. Lots of near real-time status? Check.

I’m sure the novelty will eventually wear off. It usually does. Until then though, Facebook looks fun.

relative craziness

I got an e-mail from some of my in-laws last night that is driving me crazy. The in-laws in question live in one of those rural, arch-conservative Congressional districts that is so Republican that the Dubya did some campaigning there for the local Congressman in 2006 when the Dubya did little to none of that sort of thing. Though they are staunch advocates for social justice for the poor, their views are resolutely in line with those of their district in many respects. So naturally, they feel the need to pass along this e-mail “memo” telling “the truth” about Barack Obama to their friends and relatives… because, by God, this country is going to hell in a handbasket if a mixed race, Harvard educated Senator and adjunct law professor gets elected President.

It would be one thing if this e-mail was a well-reasoned critique Barack Obama’s qualifications and views. It isn’t. It’s nowhere near that. It’s the concatenation two other e-mails well-known to the fact-checkers at The first part purports to be ‘Obama’s Not Exactlys’, which really is the first 38 of Obama’s 50 Lies. Most of these “lies” are proven by the Snopes people to actually be true, making the assertions against them “lies”. The second part is called “The Obama Tidal Wave’ and is supposedly by Bill Evans, who used to be with the Billy Graham Crusade. Thing is, it isn’t by that Bill Evans and many (but not all) of the “facts” in it are distortions or falsehoods.

I want to reply to this e-mail. The e-mail invites a reply by stating at the front “Friends, Please verify this information for yourself on the links that are published in this release on the web.” It’s got my fingers itching to type something.

But alas, I really can’t say anything. Family politics prevents it. I am, no doubt, already a “baby killer” in the eyes of these in-laws because I am a registered Democrat who believes in a woman’s right to choose. Nothing I say will ever change their minds; they knew they were voting the Republican side of the ticket way before I knew who I wanted for President, and I’ve known for a few months now. At best, a reply would merely kick a hornets nest.

*sigh* This is sort of like parts of the eight years in national politics in miniature. The Conservatives get what they want sometimes because, well, you just don’t want them pissed off at you… and boy are they good at being pissed off.

ah, the joys of wedded bliss

One of the things that the “so you’re getting married” books, web sites, and TV shows don’t inform you is that you may find your spouse telling you that you get dressed wrong. I’m not talking about constantly ripping buttons off your shirts, or tearing articles of clothing on belt buckles, or even wearing one article of clothing over another, when it really should be under. No, I’m talking about the order in which you put on and take off your shirt, pants, socks, etc…

Mrs. Geek and I have been dancing around this issue for a while now, and it finally came out into the open the other night when she said “you are doing that wrong”. I don’t think that this is a devastating blow to our marriage that will cause it to spiral down into divorce. I don’t think I’ll be changing the order I use to get (un)dressed either. I may close a door once in a while to avoid making my spouse uncomfortable… because Mrs. Geek’s comfort and happiness are important to me.

So all you wedding advice people out there on the Internet: Listen up! Work on that book chapter/magazine article/web page about what to do when your spouse says “you’re doing that wrong!” when it comes to putting on or taking off clothing.

sometimes they have me where they want me

You have to really love a certain album/tape/CD a lot to buy it four times over the years, right? That’s what I keep telling myself. For all the complaining I do about the music industry, I swear that they still have me right where they want me sometimes.

I’ve written here a couple times about how the band Genesis was my first real music love. Well, two of their albums, A Trick Of The Tail and Wind & Wuthering have always been tops of the tops with me. I just bought both of them for the fourth time this past week. I bought them the first time as cassette tapes in the late 1980’s, and then again as the original Atco/Atlantic CD masters a few years later. The band-authorized Definitive Edition Remasters came out in the late 90’s — finally bringing better sonics and complete liner notes. Then the band completed a series of advanced 5.1 surround sound re-mixes in Super Audio CD and DVD in both Dolby Digital and DTS in the last couple years. It’s been a confusing series of releases, each with two discs, one being a DVD (in either NTSC or PAL video formats) and the other being a CD or a SACD. I wanted a SACD/NTSC combo… and I didn’t find out they were available until late last month.

(Let me pause for a moment, dear reader. I am sometimes too much of a geek even for my own taste. Ok. Break is over.)

Am I pleased with my purchase? Most definitely yes. I spend a lot of time listening to music with headphones, and probably not enough with the home theater system in our living room. These discs were an excellent excuse to turn the little “SACD” light on in my CD/DVD player and listen in full 5.1 surround sound. The sonics are clear and the track separation is amazing.

Now I’m only left with one question: how many more albums will I have to buy for a fourth time?