Tuesday, November 30, 2010

World AIDS Day 2010

December 1st, as many of you know, is World AIDS Day.

As such, it is - obviously - a day to consider how HIV and AIDS have changed the face of the world as we know it over the past few decades. To think of the lives lost or forever altered by a disease which knows no boundaries, no prejudices, no borders. A disease which simply needs blood to survive - blood which we all share no matter our colors, our sexual orientations, our heritages, or our religious or political leanings.

World AIDS Day is also a day to think about what we do in the world on a daily basis. To consider how important each and every action we take can be - in our own lives and the lives of those around us. To reflect on how important honest and open communication - between partners, between doctors and patients, between governments and people - can be. To remind ourselves that what we do with our lives is up to each and every single one of us.

It is also a day to think about how we can change the life of another person in an instant - knowingly or unknowingly. Whether we reach out to someone in need, speak up against a bully, talk about the possible consequences of unprotected sex, or make a donation of time or money to an outreach charity, we all make choices on a daily basis which impact those around us. Inaction is also a choice we all have to live with.

A few choices I would suggest for commemorating World AIDS Day 2010:
  1. If you aren't sure if you have HIV or AIDS (or if you're simply "pretty much certain" that you don't), please take the time to get tested. Your life - and the lives of those around you - depends on it.
  2. Help to educate others in your life about HIV and AIDS. Help them to understand that this is a non-discriminating disease which added another 100,000 people - both men and women, of all ages, races, and religions - to its roster in North America and Western Europe alone in 2009. If they think they don't know someone affected with this, you can bet they're wrong.
  3. Consider making a donation to one of the organizations fighting against HIV/AIDS, or working to make the lives of those living with AIDS more liveable. (There are a LOT of organizations out there. For instance, without even thinking about it, I can name: Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, The Minnesota AIDS Project, Baltimore's Moveable Feast, or any number of other organizations.
  4. Take a moment or two or ten to really look at the people you have chosen to have in your life and enjoy them for who they are, realizing that they may not always be there.
  5. For one day. Just one single day out of 365. Truly try to pay attention to every choice you make in your life.
Here's hoping that someday in the future World AIDS Day will be a day of remembering a horrible disease that once was, and not one that is.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Muppet Movie Monday

No. Not "The Muppet Movie" Monday. Just Muppet Movie Monday.

I happened to stumble across a "marathon" of Movies starring Muppets this past weekend. Or... Well... Maybe not exactly a marathon, since I saw them on different days, but much Muppet mayhem, at least.

I got to see "Muppet Treasure Island," "The Muppets Take Manhattan," "Muppets from Space," and - no surprise - "A Muppet Christmas Carol."

It's been AGES since I've seen the first three, and they were great fun. I actually have a copy of the fourth of those, and I was planning to get it out this weekend so I was thrilled that I didn't have to.

I know I usually write a movie review on Monday, but today I fully admit that I'm just basking in the glow of all of the Muppet-ness that was the past weekend.

Definitely better than a frozen fish fight.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Colossal Black Olives

When I was growing up, all of our big holiday meals included canned pitted black olives and "jarred" green olives with red pimentos in them.

As I've gotten older, I've come to enjoy all sorts of olives, but there is something about those pre-packaged olives that still holds a special place in my heart - and on my table. So, early this week when I wasn't sure what Thanksgiving would bring, I decided that I needed to store in some black olives, at the very least.

Did you know that there are at least five sizes of pitted black olives? And I'm not including sliced or diced.

I immediately ruled out the "small" olives and started looking at the "large" olives. But after seeing the "large" ones then I looked and saw the "extra large" olives. There were something like 48 olives in a can of extra large ones.

Forty-eight olives sounded like fun, but then I saw the "jumbo" olives, with 36 olives in the can. Imagine how much bigger the olives are in that can. Well, I may never know, since I then noticed - at the edge of the shelf - the "colossal" olives.

Yes, colossal.

Only an average of 22 olives in the can. All for the same price as the other cans. I had to have them.

They were amazing. The size of... umm... well... kind of the size of dates. Or small plums. They were large enough that I could fit them not only on my fingers, but even on my thumbs without them breaking (well, without them breaking too much).

I suspect I'll be buying them again for the next festive occasion. In fact, I might even say they were a colossal success.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thankful Tiz List

On this Thanksgiving Day, I figured it would be good to do a Thanks-themed Tiz List. (Can't remember what a Tiz List is? Click on the "Tiz List" tag at the bottom of this post and you can see the full list of the ones I've posted in the past.)

I'm thankful for...

1) Family and friends who invite me to spend Thanksgiving with them.

2) And for family and friends who understand when - due to weather and non-weather reasons - I opt to spend a quiet cocooning day at home.

3) A 10" pumpkin pie (made with Libby's pumpkin, of course, Libby) in the oven to eat all by myself while cocooning.

4) Cool Whip to put on said pumpkin pie. (Yes. Cool Whip. Which could have been #1 if I wasn't trying to be sentimental today.)

5) Musical theater, for its promise and joy.

6) Sunny snowy days, because there is nothing so glorious as a blue-skied day with white snow on everything. (I'll gripe about it later when I'm freezing cold while shovelling - which I'm already tired of doing even though it's only November.)

7) Real mail.

8) Phone calls.

9) Hand-made afghans and quilts.

10) And scarves. (Yes, even when the fuzzy yarn gets caught in my beard.)

11) See's Candy kiosks in the malls around the Holidays, even though the candy isn't quite as good as when it used to show up in a box from California along with lemons and avocados.

12) Warm flannel pajama pants.

13) Stores that are CLOSED on major holidays.

14) Programmable thermostats.

15) Tear-jerking Holiday commercials. (Which I prefer, frankly, when I'm alone.)

16) Stumbling across great old movies while scrolling channels on the TV.

17) Full-sugar, full-caffeine Coca-Cola.

18) The fact that there are different sizes of canned black olives. Not just different sizes of cans, but actual different sizes of olives. (I have a can of "Colossal" olives in the kitchen right now to put on my fingers later today.)

19) Dr. Seuss.

20) The fact that Christopher comes home in a couple of days - and that I simply have him in my life to miss when he's gone.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Thanks to all of you for reading!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Mental Health Day

Have you ever had one of those days when you just needed a Mental Health Day away from work?

You know, one of those days when you wake up in the morning and just can't imagine going, no matter what? Possibly you've got some errands you really want to run, or some work to do around the house, too. All of which suggests that you might feel SO much better if you just spend the day doing things mainly for yourself.

Things like hanging out with the pup. And organizing some paperwork. And watching random TV (like "Dr. Who" on BBC America or "Gilmore Girls" on ABC Family). And possibly... just possibly... buying the first Christmas gift of the season. And maybe even going out and treating yourself to really bad (and, yet, totally craveable) food.

Really? You haven't?

Nah. Me, neither.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

That Pre-Monday Feeling

Why is it that Sunday nights - even though for most of us they are the culmination of a couple of days of relaxation away from work - seem to result in high stress?

I spent Friday night at a concert. I was incredibly productive, yesterday, running a whole bunch of errands, doing some editing, and having a friend over for dinner last night. Today I spent about 6 hours editing, picked up one of the Scotland-travelling friends from the airport and took her home, then came home and had dinner of leftovers from yesterday's dinner (which was still quite good, except for the whole "almost inhaling some of the fried rice" thing).

And, yet, after having a mostly restful weekend I'm having kind of heartburn-y stress feelings. Yes, those feelings could be because of the leftover Chinese food with the fried rice I almost sucked into my lungs, but I suspect there's something more insidious than that. I suspect there's a bit of not wanting to go to work involved. And of not entirely looking forward to another week of Christopher being overseas.

Here's to next weekend - 4 days off, and Christopher home on Saturday night. (But... yeah... I'm popping some Pepto, just in case.)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Idina Menzel in Concert

I had intended to write about something completely different tonight. It was going to nicely tie-in to the whole "Friday Food" theme. And then I went to see Idina Menzel in concert with the Minnesota Orchestra.

I want to say that it wasn't my favorite concert ever. But it was just so good that I suspect I'll remember it for a lot longer than most concerts I've been to. Or, more correctly, she was just so good. She had such an earnestness about her that as an audience member I just had to love her. I had to go along for the ride with her stories, and enjoy the laughter of the patter as well as the tears in the songs.

I've seen performers who were great with the audience patter, but had no personality during songs (have any of you ever seen James Naughton in concert? Great voice. Wonderful patter between songs. NO personality when singing them.). And I've seen some who can, at times, over-emote because they don't have a cast and props to work with (love Bernadette Peters, but she's not subtle). And... yeah... I kind of feared for that a few times tonight, too. But so much of what went on around all of that was just so, well, so good.

She performed "No Day But Today" from Rent and asked the audience to sing the "echos" at the end. She did "Funny Girl" and "Don't Rain on My Parade" from Funny Girl. She did "I'm Not That Girl" from Wicked, and a blended "Love for Sale" and "Roxanne." She did "Poker Face" - the Lady Gaga song she performed not long ago on Glee. And, yeah, she got me to tear up (and start to reach for Christopher's hand, until I remembered he wasn't there) with "Look to the Rainbow" from Finian's Rainbow.

But what kept me going was all the other stuff she did. She spent time talking to Sarah Hicks (the conductor), talking about her clothes and asking where she was from - and really seeming to care. She fussed with a pin that was sticking in her side that she had apparently forgotten to pull out of the dress when it came back from the dry cleaners. And she actively included the ASL sign language interpreter (a guy by the name of Stephen) in her performance - even though he may have been happier being left out.

I realize that we probably could have had another 20 minutes of music if she hadn't talked to these people. But she talked about how this was the first time she'd ever had an interpreter on stage for a concert - and that it was so much fun to watch him. And she openly apologized to him when she was telling a story about breastfeeding her son and he had to sign that. (She also stopped in midsong during "Poker Face" to watch him do the gesture for "muffin" - no, not the baked goods kind.)

Early on, she stopped between songs to pose for pictures. And toward the end of the evening she actually shushed some audience members who wanted to cheer for her while she was making a serious point. She said that her agent had told her that she could play a venue like Orchestra Hall - with an orchestra behind her - and pack it. And that she hadn't believed him until she walked on stage. Part of me realizes that that whole thing could have been staged, but it just felt too real.

She wrapped up the evening with an amazing a capella "For Good" (which she did with no microphone) and "Defying Gravity" from Wicked. Then wrapped it all up in a bow with "Tomorrow" from Annie, which she said was for her dad in the audience (and was part of a story she had told in the first few minutes of the show).

I might just have to put her on my list of fantasy dinner guests. And I won't even make her be the entertainment. (Unless she wants to be.)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The "Over the River and Through the Woods" Season

It dawned on me this evening while I was taking the pooch for a walk that we have once again come to the time of year when we all start going "over the river and through the woods" to houses of all different kinds of relatives and friends.

And, although I'm not really ready for that time of year to be upon me, I have to admit that I love that it's almost here.

I love that two out of the three big holidays that come up in the next 6 or 7 weeks have nothing to do with anything other than being together. Sure, Thanksgiving is also a day for stuffing yourself with food, but mainly it's about being together. And New Year's Eve is supposedly about toasting in the new year, but it's really about being with people to enjoy and reflect, too.

Christmas... well... as much as it's about getting together with family and friends there can - at times - also cause stress and anxiety because of the forced joyfulness of it. And there's the gift giving which can be difficult for some people. And the day is mythic in the amount of pressure that is built into it. Which is probably why I like Advent (those 4 weeks before Christmas which each get their own candle on the wreath) better than the day, itself. But that's a whole different blog post.

I've started seeing the "home for the holidays" commercials showing up on TV. Part of me wants to be frustrated that they're already on, but with Thanksgiving next week, I'm willing to give some latitude. Especially since some of them are really well done. After all, everyone wants to have the next great Folger's "Peter Comes Home" commercial. (Oh, go ahead. Watch it again and get misty-eyed. It's okay.)

Here's to the season of reflection and reconnection. After all, ready or not, here it comes - over the river and through the woods.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

What the...? Wednesday

I have had enough moments in the past week that fit the "What the...?" mold that I figured I'd share a few and make this a nicely alliterative posting.

- What the heck are people thinking when they park so that there is about half a car-length open behind them, and another half a car-length in front of them? Why do they not move one way or the other to give room for another full car? I know that this isn't always the fault of the "obvious" car (perhaps the car was properly parked and the people around it moved), but when the person is parked in the middle of a section of curb which is basically two car-lengths long, that's an issue.

- What do you call it when you get 4 things in a row correct? With three you can make a sports allusion with "trifecta" or "hat trick." But what is it with four?

- What makes otherwise mostly rational people become mean, belligerent, threatening, and all-around jerk-y when they're corresponding online? At work in the past week we've had two types of people - the ones who actually treat us like people, and the ones who don't seem to know how. Someone actually threatened to blackball us with all of the writers she knows because she felt that our customer service was bad and that we weren't being responsive enough. The problem with that assertion? She had received an email about 6 weeks earlier that she had never responded to. When that was pointed out, and an apology for any possible mis-givings was offered, she still acted like it was our fault. Whatever happened to the gracious apology?

- What is it about mid-level celebrities (ie local newscasters) that makes them feel like they ought to be acknowledged and/or fawned over?

- How do you get into a voicemail system without a password? And why does a voicemail system which is only accessible from home need a password, anyway?

And, finally...

- What the hell am I doing up at 11 o'clock at night on a day when the pooch got me up at 5:30 in the morning?

Well, at least I have an easy answer to that last one. G'night y'all.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Travel Tuesday, Or Not

It is, indeed, Travel Tuesday. But, as you may have noticed, I'm not travelling at the moment. Christopher is travelling with friends (currently in a castle in the UK), but I'm here at home taking care of the pup since I have no vacation time.

Which means that the most travelling I do is walking around the block twice a day, and driving back and forth to work. And although the morning misty skies have been pretty the past few days, it's not exactly the most thrilling situation where travel is concerned.

Sure. Last weekend I drove over to Saint Paul (on the really nasty early-storm roads). But that's been about it, lately.

So I've been letting my mind wander, again.

Earlier today I was contemplating a weekend jaunt to San Francisco for an evening all about ecology and sustainability. Or questing off to become an English tutor somewhere far away.

This evening I tried to imagine hanging out in Los Angeles at a pee-wee soccer game or two. And I just spent about 20 minutes between Baltimore and New York.

Now I'm back at home. On the couch with a pooped pup trying to get me to give up on the work I need to do and go to bed.

I suspect my mind will wander more places before the day wraps up. Perhaps as far as a castle in Scotland.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

First Snow of the Season

They've been predicting the first snowfall of the season for a while, now. We've known it was coming this weekend. We've even known that we could easily get 6 inches of snow in our area.

Last year, we got our first major snow in October. And there was snow on the ground pretty much constantly all the way through to March. So we started late this year - but hopefully it won't stick around an extra month in the spring.

I grew up in South Dakota, so I knew about snow before I moved out here from Baltimore a few years ago. Even though I admit I had really gotten used to Baltimore snows - which are usually mixed with rain and melt away within a few days. And, on major snow days (basically anything more than an inch), everything shuts down. It's great.

Out here, though, I've gotten mostly back into the swing of snow. I know that nothing closes due to snow. I know that people drive like maniacs while driving through inches of freezing precip (these are the same people who drive 10 miles per hour if it drizzles and it's 70 degrees out). And I know that shovelling is one of the things that goes with living in a house.

As you may have noticed, Christopher is currently away. So today - after getting glared at by the dog for making her go outside to go to the bathroom in the snow - I ran some errands (I swear I wasn't driving maniacally) and then came home to clear the sidewalks and driveway.

The first snow of the year is typically kind of a fun one to shovel. It's usually just a couple of inches, and it moves pretty quickly. Yeah, not today.

Today's snow is HEAVY. It's wet. It's pulling down tree branches around town - and I even saw a full tree down in one neighborhood. The snow is falling off the trees in clumps the size of snowballs. I cleared off all of the shrubs in the yard, but I fear some of them may have permanent damage.

Then I headed to the garage to start up the snow blower. It started on the first try, and did well enough as I cleared half of the driveway and about 20% of the sidewalk. Then the thicker snow on the next section of the driveway and sidewalk started to plug the blower's spout. And I started to have to shake it out ever foot or so.

I eventually - after a few choice words which I'm glad no one was around to hear - gave up on the snow blower and moved to the shovel. It took me another half hour to clear the sidewalks, and I was soaked from the inside out and the outside in by the time I was done.

Even if some of it melts this week, I think I'll be feeling this first snow for a while.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

It's Quiet in Here

You know, it's strange how much quieter the house is with Christopher away on vacation. I'm sure that I'll get more used to it over the next couple of weeks, but on this - the second night without him around - it's still a bit strange.

Aoife, on the other hand, seems to be hearing more and more noises as we go along. Every time there's any noise outside in the direction of the kitchen and garage, she stops what she's doing to look up to see if Christopher is home. And, periodically, she does a circuit of the house to make sure everything is okay - and that she hasn't misplaced him in the office.

I suspect she'll begin to get used to Christopher not coming home in a few days. But I bet that she'll keep looking hopefully at the door when there's a chance he'll be there. Honestly, so will I, but she doesn't have the luxury of a calendar to count down the days 'til he gets home.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Just Plane Stalking

Yep. That's what I'm up to tonight: just plane stalking.

I'm sitting here on the couch trying to catch up on some of the things I haven't watched on TV, lately, and I've got the Delta airline website sitting in the corner of my screen. Every so often I click on that, open it up, and refresh it.

You see, Christopher left this afternoon for 2.5 weeks in France and Scotland. The official reason for the trip (at least the first week or so of it) is to celebrate a friend's 40th birthday in Scotland. The second week (or thereabouts) he's simply spending in Paris since if you're on that side of the world and have the vacation time to burn you really might as well. Right?

So I'm starting a 2.5-week-long stint as a "solo parent" for the pooch. And tonight is our first very-quiet-seeming night at home.

But, while we're on the couch, Christopher is winging his way eastward. And I'm following his progress on the "Flight Status" thing on Delta's website. Stalking his plane... sorta.

It was a bit strange, today. The weather was warm and sunny (another freakishly warm day, in fact), and I took a long lunchbreak to drive Christopher to the airport. About the time he was taking off, a cloudbank rolled in. The sunny warm day turned grey, damp, and windy. If it had happened in a movie, it would have been too cliche for words to have that weather change as the boyfriend left town.

And... so... now you know where I am, tonight. And I know where Christopher is, thanks to my plane stalking.

Monday, November 8, 2010

MNOp Monday

Christopher and I attempted to go to a movie about three times in the past four days. But we never quite made it. On the other hand, we did go to something kind of movie-related, yesterday. Well, sort of.

You see, yesterday we went to see "La Cenerentola" (aka "Cinderella") at the Minnesota Opera. The opera is by Rossini, not Rodgers and Hammerstein, and definitely not Disney. There are no mice. There's no pumpkin. There's not even a ball or a wicked stepmother. And, although some of the music is really catchy, I found myself kind of wanting to sing my own songs from time to time.

The production was nice. The sets were big, the costumes made sense. The voices were good. But... yeah... the direction seemed a little slow, and Christopher commented after the fact that there were some flubs in the musicality of the production. (Luckily, I don't know the show well enough to know that.)

I know that the Sunday matinee is never the strongest show of the week, but it just seemed to not live up to what I had hoped for. Instead of coming home and humming the overture, I came home and started singing songs from the Rodgers and Hammerstein show. That's probably not a great sign.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Back On Target - Not a Bulls-eye

Today, for the first time in months, I actually pulled out the Target ad from the newspaper and looked at it. Flipped all the way through it. Contemplated going to Target to buy a few things.

You see, when I decided that I wasn't going to shop at Target because of their sizable donation to MN Forward last summer, my decision was that I would stop shopping there until they either made a large donation to a gay-friendly candidate OR the election was over. The latter, of course, means that the money that they had spent in that one race would have run its course and - for better or worse - be "done."

Well, this being Minnesota, the gubernatorial race is going to be heading into a recount. But, since there aren't any ads or anything during a recount, that means that the money that Target gave, in essence to a single personally-incredibly-repulsive candidate, is now done. That donation no longer holds any sway in the political future of the state - or... by totally over-rationalized extension... my life as a gay man in the state. (The candidate, now in the recount, may still screw up my life in the future, but the advertising money won't.)

Interesting that, while I was making this decision today, I was flipping through the Minneapolis newspaper and found an article stating that - while Target says they didn't see any noticeable drop in revenues after the not-well-thought-out donation to MN Forward - they have suffered an eleven-percent drop among people who used to consider Target to be a highly moral/ethical company. Sure, many of those people may still like Target, but they no longer "like like" Target. I guess you could say that now people think of Target as being just a tad "off-target."

So... With the full realization that Target is neither the most culturally bankrupt of corporations, nor the least... I plan to start shopping there again in the near future. We'll see how it goes.

And I'll keep keeping an eye on the political donations of my favorite corporations in the future.

Lesson learned... hopefully on both sides.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

I'm Alive and Kicking. Or at least Walking.

Sorry. I probably shouldn't have skipped posting the past couple of days after having been so depressed about how I was feeling on Wednesday.

The good news, though, is that I am feeling better today. I think that the antibiotics are working (along with the yogurt - which is supposed to help with digestion because the antibiotics are so strong that they can cause digestive issues because they also can kill off the "good" bacteria in your system). Okay, so Christopher and I have spent the past two nights at home instead of going to a movie we've been wanting to see - because I just haven't felt like going out.

And, tonight, Christopher is off to a wine and cheese night with friends which we've both been looking forward to. But, while he's off to that, I'm still at home where I just finished up working on an edit that needed to be done, and I hope to finish about three things, then go directly to bed. I *so* need to get some extra sleep. Especially since, at 7:38 this morning, the phone rang to tell us that the dryer Christopher had ordered on Monday was on its way over. No sleeping in on Saturday morning for us.

In fact, we followed up the installation of the new dryer with cleaning the basement (because it needed to be done, apparently), measuring the yard (a friend of ours is helping us design a landscaping plan), and taking the pooch to the vet to figure out why she's favoring her back left leg.

Figuring we'd have a relaxing afternoon, we came home for a bit, then headed to Costco and a luggage store (have I mentioned that Christopher is heading out of the country for 2.5 weeks starting this Wednesday?) before getting home. Where I sat back down to finish said edit ("said" in the first paragraph, above), and Christopher got ready to go out.

Now I'm going to finish this post, watch a little TV, turn back a few clocks, and head for bed.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Whiney Whednesday

[Let me start by saying I'm not going to whine about yesterday's elections. Instead I'm going to mention how proud I am of Christopher and our friend Kelly who both worked from (at least) 6am until 9pm to help the elections run smoothly. That's kinda cool, you know?]

What I am going to whine about is the fact that I've had sinus issues since last Friday/Saturday. At first, when I felt some pain in the rear of my jaw, I thought maybe I had just gotten some popcorn wedged back there. But the ache didn't go away when I brushed. I made it through the weekend, even though I didn't have my pseudophedrine with me, so I just popped ibuprofen and kept going.

Monday my lower jaw started to hurt a bit more, but I was back to my generic Sudafed and seemed to be doing okay. Yesterday was about the same, but I started to feel it in my upper jaw, as well. I decided that a night's dosage of meds would make the decision on whether or not I headed for the dentist, today. (If the sinus meds worked, then it wasn't a problem with my teeth. If they didn't, then I was going to check in with the dentist.)

Unfortunately (sort of - I like my dentist), the meds worked last night. And I was hoping that I'd be fine all day. But, during the day at work, I can't take a full dose of pseudophedrine because it makes me foggy. So about mid-afternoon I was having upper and lower jaw pain - and a mild earache, and then the area beneath my jawline started to hurt (all of this on the left side, only).

At about 6:35 this evening, I checked in at Urgent Care. About half an hour later I was on my way out the door - just too late to pick up my new prescription for antibiotics. So I've got one more day of dealing with the pain and annoyance using over-the-counter means, and tomorrow night I get to start on the antibiotics.

Here's hoping that curing the pain will also cure my whining. Even I'm getting tired of it.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Movie Monday is Pre-empted by "Get Moving Monday"

Tomorrow (Tuesday, November 2nd) is Election Day for pretty much all of us in the States.

So get moving and get out there and vote!