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10/01 Direct Link
Yes, soft summer is gone, October is here, and we in the northern hemisphere say farewell to sun and duck, farewell to kite and cucumber, farewell to warmth and joy.

Butternut squash be our rough fare now, and apples, and slow-cooked curries, maybe with coconut milk and potatoes in them. Gone are the happy and carefree entries of August!

We are entering darker territory, because it is the season for probing the sinister regions of the human soul. Here be memories best forgotten and words best un-written. Here be madness. Beware! Bewaaaare!

(You don't really need to beware, guys.)

10/02 Direct Link
Over the summer, in a gross misunderstanding of "what women want," my brother and I dubbed ourselves "The Bad Boys of Badminton." Neither of us is a fast-living heartbreaker who refuses to play by the rules; we're just terrible at backyard badminton.

Not "bad" in the attractive sense at all (we're both quiet and polite), we've decided to step up our game by breaking our racquets over our knees, hurling the birdie on the ground, and just generally spitting more often.

Our parents, meanwhile, look out into the back yard and begin to realize they will never have grandchildren.

10/03 Direct Link
We met at yesterday's EXPO, and I asked her if she wanted to get some falafel with me.

(I am never shy about asking girls out for falafel; it seems like a natural thing to suggest. "Come for the falafel, stay for the Dumpling" is my motto.)

"Let's not waste each other's time," I said after we placed our orders. "I've been around the block a few times, and I get the impression you have made multiple trips around the neighborhood."

She made a move to throw her coffee on me, but waited to hear what I would say next.

10/04 Direct Link
"Listen... for me? This is just how I am, right? This is part of my nature? I'm the kind of person who cares less about what you say, and more about what you do."

He emphasized this point by sticking his finger in my face.

"No, yeah," I said, "I'm not trying to screw you over here, friend," I said.

"Let me tell you something about myself," he said, becoming increasingly agitated. "Until this thing is finished? Just personally? I'm natcha 'friend', OK?"

(Jimmy is as liable as not to stab a guy, so this has been a fictional conversation.)

10/05 Direct Link
Early Childhood "Loss of Innocence" Anecdote
(ON SALE - $0.99)

I sat on the sidewalk playing with Beaker, my beloved chicken puppet. Beaker said "buk buk!" as some older boys walked by, and one of them grabbed him off my hand. I was too shocked to do or say anything at first. I just sat there, watching them run.

"Maybe they just wanted to borrow him," I reasoned. "They'll be back soon."

I waited until the streetlights came on, but they never came back.

(A sad one! On sale because most people will laugh when you get to "chicken puppet.")

10/06 Direct Link
I knew Gary had big news because he closed my door and sat down on my desk. He looked tired and nervous.

"My wife is pregnant," he whispered, and his eyes widened in anticipation of my response.

Did he want to be congratulated or consoled? I watched his face carefully for a hint, and decided to split the difference by saying "Wow!" and patting him on the arm.

"Thanks!" he said, "I'm handing out candy bars to celebrate." He tossed a Peanut Hero on my desk and headed for Cindy's office. Five seconds later I heard her squeal with delight.

10/07 Direct Link
The Creative DJ Nickname Process

Some friends wanted to know what my DJ nickname would be. It would supposedly give them an insight into my psychology.

I did my best to think up something that sounded cool. "DJ Landwolf," I said, realizing it was slightly ridiculous.

That was completely unacceptable, they said, and I needed to try again.

My second choice was "DJ Smoove," but they laughed at it and said it wasn't quite right for me.

DJ Scratchbob Mixpants?

No way.

DJ Smudgemaster?

Try again.

Just shout out the first great idea that pops into your head, they said.

10/08 Direct Link
Our IT group at work recently cracked down on Internet use, and now one of the few news sites we can access is the BBC. In addition to very good international coverage, it gives us a different perspective on the news here in the USA.

The real reason I like the BBC is that I get to learn about the local news all over the UK. I have read about a hedgehog rescued from a drain near Wembley, and something called "Asbos," which apparently is what they call it when you get mugged by a drunken Scotsman. What a country!

10/09 Direct Link
Julia and I somehow started talking about waffles, which reminded her of the huge antique waffle iron at her parents' house. They were slightly crazy, she said, but I was welcome to spend a weekend there with her if I wanted to.

Of course I wanted free waffles, but I also was really curious about Julia's parents. How crazy were they, and what would they make of me?

"And don't think you'll be able to look at my mother and figure out what I'll look like in thirty years," she laughed, and of course that's exactly what I was thinking.

10/10 Direct Link
We arrived late on Friday night, so I wasn't able to meet her parents until Saturday morning.

Julia insisted I should sit at the kitchen table while she started the waffle batter. When I looked up from their local newspaper, I noticed an enormous hulk of a man standing in the doorway grinning at me and stroking his black beard. He was not overweight or especially muscular, he was just huge, and when we made eye contact he said, "Eeoolia id maggi vaffash, ah?"

I found myself nodding and smiling. He laughed loudly and took a seat next to me.

10/11 Direct Link
Julia came in with a pot of coffee.

"This is my Dad," she said proudly, patting him on the back and pouring coffee into his mug.

He spoke with a nearly unintelligible Russian accent, and it was only after a few hours of listening to him that I was able to understand what he was saying.

After a few minutes Julia's mother came out. She was a small woman who looked nothing like Julia, but was obviously the source of her sense of humor.

Julia's father adored her, and followed her around the house like her very own tame bear.

10/12 Direct Link
Julia brought out a plate of enormous waffles. They were the best I'd ever had, and I told her so.

After we'd finished, I helped Julia to put some plates in the dishwasher. Her father, still in the kitchen, shouted something to her in Russian, and she shouted something back. I assumed he had asked why she had brought a coffee-swilling, waffle-devouring stranger into their home, but in fact he had said that I struck him as an OK sort of guy, and she had replied that yes, I was.

Hearing that made what happened next more difficult.

10/13 Direct Link
When I went back out into the kitchen, Julia's father was putting on his jacket. He patted me on the back and laughed.

"Come on!" he said. "Lat's go jamp on ta trumpolin!"

After asking him to repeat himself several times, Julia's mother stepped in and explained that her husband was an enthusiastic believer in trampoline jumping after meals as a digestive aid.

I admit, I didn't want to jump on a full stomach, but I guessed it was the kind of thing "OK guys" did after breakfast.

"Jamp with me!" he said, heading for the door, and I followed.

10/14 Direct Link
I'm not going to win any prizes for that anecdote, but I wrote it down for a reason.

My first point is that you should sometimes do things that you don't want to do, because jumping on the trampoline with that guy was pretty fun. He laughed so hard he could barely breathe, and he did it three times a day!

The second point is that if you get the chance, you should try to meet the parents of people who are important to you. You can learn some new and embarrassing things about them, and perhaps you'll get waffles.

10/15 Direct Link
I am ashamed that in October of all months I am writing cozy tales of good times.

October is a month appropriate for lurking terrors, creeping horrors, and wild, daemoniac hymns to the thousand-faced moon.

{I have been reading some H.P. Lovecraft. That man can really torture a sentence, but you don't have to take my word for it! Try this one out, from The Lurking Fear:

"In that shrieking the inmost soul of human fear and agony clawed hopelessly and insanely at the ebony gates of oblivion."

Yikes! Visit your local library for more sentences by H.P. Lovecraft.}

10/16 Direct Link
One of my favorite college professors, while teaching a poetry class, read us a part of Alice in Wonderland. Alice had just heard the poem Jabberwocky, and she says,

"Somehow it seems to fill my head with ideas -- only I don't exactly know what they are!"

She told us it was fine to feel that way after reading something. Sometimes that feeling of having gained new and inexpressible ideas is the most enjoyable part of reading.

After all, if we could clearly express all of our thoughts in writing, we would have no need for poetry or fiction or music.

10/17 Direct Link
--Then I read something similar from George Saunders:

"... I began to understand art as a black box the reader enters. He enters in one state of mind and exits in another."

As an English major, they wanted us to write about what we had read, and our professors had gotten their jobs because they'd written volumes and volumes of analysis, looking through the lenses of postmodernism, post-structuralism, feminism, Marxism, deconstructionism...

After I graduated, I remembered Gandalf telling Saruman,

"He that breaks a thing to find out what it is has left the path of wisdom,"

and I was convinced.

10/18 Direct Link
Maybe you, too, stood in the shower this morning and remembered the dream you had the night before.

"Aaaaah," you might have groaned, "I wish I hadn't remembered that dream."

You probably said that because the dream cruelly waved certain uncomfortable truths in your face, and you would have had a better morning if you hadn't been forced to confront them over breakfast at seven in the morning.

Then you found that confronting them was futile and only made you grouchy, and your whole day was ruined.

That was my experience, anyway. I assume it happened to someone else today.

10/19 Direct Link
That LOTR quote made the discussion from the 16th and 17th the most embarrassing thing ever (and I am including last year's drunken rants in that statement), but I felt that it sort of sealed the deal and iced the cake.

I want to put ideas in your head, but I especially want to put ideas into your children's heads. I want to corrupt them to the extent that I am able.

If I can't alter your DNA*, I can alter the way you think, but first I need to learn how...


*(a bonus reference to an actual drunken rant)

10/20 Direct Link
I was puzzled by an inefficient system.

"All of the girls I know are lonely," I said, "because they can't find anyone who meets their standards..."

My neighbor nodded his head.

"...and all the guys I know are lonely for largely the same reason, except for the ones who are unable to find someone with low enough standards to take them."

He said it was too much for him to figure out. He said maybe they should all just put on a Pointer Sisters tape and "dance it out," but I told him I wasn't sure what that would accomplish.

10/21 Direct Link
The child in front of me in line was shooting up the supermarket with his finger-gun.

He fired three shots directly into my heart.

"pow! pow! pow!"

I was too tired for this nonsense, but I dutifully clutched at my chest and groaned.

The child was triumphant.

"I shot you! You're dead!"

Instantly I straightened up.

"That's right," I said, "but now I'm going to come back as a ghost and haunt you forever."

His lower lip began to shake.

I got in trouble with his mother after that, but the boy had to learn that violence has consequences!

10/22 Direct Link
I've comfortably held "parties" in my apartment of up to five people, but that morning it felt as if I were running out of space. What was she doing there, sitting and encroaching on my couch?

She smiled and looked up at me, waiting for the promised coffee.

"Do you have any cream?" she asked.

I said nothing, rummaged through my refrigerator and found a carton of soy milk. I held it out for her to inspect.

She wrinkled up her nose in a way that I had probably found endearing the night before, and I wished she would leave.

10/23 Direct Link
An article in the latest issue of Evolution and Human Behavior (volume 31, issue 6, page 412) tells us the kind of men women are attracted to depends on their ovarian cycles.

"During the fertile phase, women were particularly sexually attracted to men displaying a variety of features in their interviews: Men who were seen to be confrontational with other men, arrogant, muscular, physically attractive, and socially respected..."

The shape of the face is also important, with large brow ridges, narrow eyes, and large jaws considered especially attractive.

In other words, fertile women dig cavemen.

The more you know... __--*

10/24 Direct Link
Well, attractive, socially respected cavemen... ... ...

...

"Hey there baby, may I ask? Are you currently ovulating?"

"Why... yes! Yes, I am..."

"GRAAAH (*stomp stomp*)"

"Oh my, oh my goodness..."

"Yes, call me maybe next week (*wink*)"

(I am cracking up about this tonight, but when I read it tomorrow I will know the true meaning of regret.)

For some reason this reminds me of an interview I heard with an evolutionary biologist. He said you can go ahead and pack thirty chimpanzees into an airplane for three hours, but when you open the door only one or two will be alive.

10/25 Direct Link
My point is that even though we are in some sense a hostage to our hormones and instincts, we are also capable of overcoming and (may I say it?) transcending them. We can all get into an airplane and be pleasant to each other and distribute the vomit bags fairly, and we can learn about the biological bases of our behavior and adjust accordingly to suit our modern lifestyles.

I think I've finally said everything I have to say. I promise to stop talking about this now, and end these three days of horror.

Conflicting interests: not a caveman-face

10/26 Direct Link
"I don't want to wish my life away, but..." has become the theme of the office lately.

Mostly it has to do with the weather, (as in, "I don't want to wish my life away, but I'm ready for April or May to come around this time of year") but other people hope time will pass them by for other reasons:

* Gary wishes his wife would give birth already, as he is not happy about his increased responsibilities

* Cindy wishes Christmas would come (she really likes Christmas)

* I wish we could skip Wednesday and Thursday and go directly to Friday

10/27 Direct Link
I've been living in this apartment for three years now, and every winter I realize that my feet are cold and I should buy some slippers.

I've just bought myself a pair this week, and they have raised my standard of living to a very cozy level of domesticity.

Do they represent a slippery slope, though? A gateway to more dangerous territory? I am worried.

Putting on slippers is a statement. It is a statement that you are comfortable at home, you are staying in for the evening, and you are not expecting visitors.

Maybe that's how it is now.

10/28 Direct Link
When we get mail at the office, I am the official box opener. This is because if I don't open a box, it will sit on a table for weeks. I like opening boxes, actually; it sort of feels like Christmas.

Anyway, I hate to throw the boxes away, so I usually try to give them to Dan, who sends things out in the mail a lot. I have a standard routine for this. I walk the empty box into his office.

"Dan!" I say, "Look at this nice box! Want me to put it on your shelf?"

(continued tomorrow!)

10/29 Direct Link
He picks it up and turns it over.

"I don't know," he says, "this corner is sort of dented."

"Yeah, but that's just the corner..."

I whack it several times against the desk to demonstrate its strength.

"Dan, this is a good, strong box!"

He raises an eyebrow. I can tell he is impressed.

"Say," he says, "that is a good box. Here, let's put it on the shelf."

He has so many boxes now, because I am a good box salesman.

(Have I written about work yet this month? This one is about work. I call it "Box Salesman.")

10/30 Direct Link
My apartment's boiler is broken, so I don't have any heat or hot water, and it's getting very cold. I guess it might be several days before it's repaired, so I'm keeping myself full of hot liquids (eww) in the meantime to stave off ice-bite.

I am originally from Buffalo, so I feel honor-bound to pretend that I am not cold here in Albany, but the fact is that I get chilled very easily these days, and I hate winter more than almost anything.

Please send over one of those rescue dogs with a little barrel of brandy.

10/31 Direct Link
Other than the phrase "keeping myself full of hot liquids," I can't remember some of the things I wrote for October that might be better left un-published, although I know there were several more. I do remember promising that kind of thing at the beginning of the month, though, so I'm going full steam ahead.

I'm going out now to see how many Sarah Palin costumes I can count on the streets. I will use this data as a indicator of the political mood of the nation, which, as far as I can tell, is currently "totally batshit crazy."