Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Big Blue Chair

I'm currently sitting in the Big Blue Chair in Christopher's office. The Big Blue Chair used to be in the living room, but we got a smaller chair for in there a while ago, and then wedged the Big Blue Chair into the office. It's still probably the most comfortable piece of furniture in the house, it's just not a chair I usually sit in because... well... it's in Christopher's office.

Tonight, though, I was running around the house cleaning and tidying and doing laundry in advance of a visit from my parents, and the pup was following me all over the house anxiously waiting for me to settle down. When I was upstairs (finally) and mostly settled, she came into the office and crawled up on the back cushion and collapsed - a very pooped pup.

I was all set to do a few more things and to watch some TV in the living room, until I realized that she had had about all she could take. So I grabbed my laptop and came and sat down next to her on the Big Blue Chair.

And, a bit like that lunch out earlier this week, I once again found that the strangest little breaks from the usual routine are kind of nice. Especially when there's either a good friend or a Big Blue Chair.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Travel Tuesday - The Lunchbreak Version

I've been daydreaming - more than usual - of time off from work, this week. This is made to seem especially bad by the fact that this is only Tuesday.

In fact, early in the day, yesterday, I started having lyrics from the song "Where You Are" from the musical "Kiss of the Spider Woman" going through my head. It's one of those shows that I saw a very long time ago, but the songs sometimes pop into my head.

(Oh, who am I kidding? Set something to music and it will stick in my brain forever - it just needs the right trigger to be released. Christopher deals with it all the time - I suspect that might be some of the "for worse" in his opinion...)

Anyway... There's a lyric in that song which goes:

You've got to learn how not to be
Where you are

It goes on to some not-so-savory things (after all, the show takes place in a prison), but that idea of needing to learn how to imagine yourself somewhere that you're not has been with me all week.

So, periodically during the past two days I've been humming that to myself. And, while walking the dog, it might not have been entirely to myself. And it might have been singing more than humming. But that's a whole different thing.

Anyway... (yes, again)... Today at lunch I got to meet up with a friend from college. She works just a few blocks from where I work, and we've been trying to get together for a while. And, this afternoon, we succeeded.

It was just an hour away from the office. At a restaurant I've eaten at before. But it was just so very *not* my usual lunchtime, that it was amazing. We talked. We laughed. We ate (after all, it was lunch). And we vowed to get together again soon because it was too much fun to not try to repeat it.

Sometimes it's amazing how easy it can be to be somewhere other than where you are.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Movie Monday: Captain America

With all of the big summer blockbuster movies that are out right now, you knew I had to have seen at least one of them in the past week, right?

On Saturday night, Christopher and I went with a group of friends to see "Captain America: The First Avenger." And, yes, it was in 3-D.

Have I mentioned, yet, that I'm not a huge fan of 3-D when it's done just for the sake of doing it? As a glasses wearer who doesn't have the option of contacts, the 3-D glasses get really uncomfortable after about an hour, which means that unless the movie is really good, they become a huge distraction for me. That said, I don't think my glasses started to bother me until about 3/4 of the way through this movie.

I thought they did pretty well at sticking to the storyline established in the comic books (or at least as far as I know). I thought Chris Evans did a good job as Captain America - to the extent that he was actually believable as an "super-anti-hero." And the supporting cast supported him very well.

There was some plot that wasn't overly convoluted, yet was interesting enough to pay attention to. There were side characters who took unexpected turns. There was some really annoying CGI'ing at the beginning - but at least the movie makers didn't obviously keep switching back and forth from "real" to CGI like we've seen them do in the Spider-man movies or - more recently - in "Green Lantern."

Did I like it enough to think a sequel will be fun? Yes. Did I like it enough to deal with the 3-D glasses in a sequel? Maybe. Do I think that his costume will be around a lot at Hallowe'en because it has some padding and doesn't require the wearer to look perfect in spandex? Definitely.

Overall rating: A-. The special effects in the first section of the movie really didn't work well enough for me, and there were one or two moments late in the film when I really wish they'd given up on the 3-D-ing, and just let the movie be a movie.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Did You Feel the Earth Shift?

Today, at the stroke of midnight, the state of New York started allowing same-sex couples to marry. Or, rather, started issuing marriage licenses for people to legally do so and to get equal rights and protection under the laws which govern straight couples.

I've been seeing some of the build-up to this. Most of the pictures are of people who are incredibly photogenic and look like they've walked out of some kind of billboards. Sure, there are people in the stories who are talking about their decades together, but the media tend to grab hold of the stereotypical images for something like this.

Which made me very happy when I saw the following photo showing up on a few news sites. (I borrowed it from the New York Post site.)

There is something about the joy and happiness in this photo of two people who have been together for 23 years and will get to spend the rest of their lives enjoying the same rights and privileges of the other long-term couples around them.

From AP/Getty Images: Chelsea residents Phyllis Siegel, 77, and Connie Kopelov, 85, got hitched at the marriage bureau on Worth Street in Lower Manhattan at 9:02 a.m., setting off wedding bells across Gotham.

Oh. Hell. Who am I kidding? There's no way in the world they were thinking about any of the politics in this photo.

And, you know, isn't that the way marriage ought to be?

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Summer Headaches

For some reason, it doesn't seem as bad to be sick in the middle of winter. In winter, if you're feeling under the weather it's perfectly acceptable to stay indoors for a week with hot soup and a marathon of Rosalind Russell movies.

In the summer, though, if you tell people you're not feeling well, they kind of tilt their heads and say "ohh... gee... that's too bad..." and then go on about their lives. They still expect you to keep going on about yours, too.

The problem - for me - is that my sinuses go crazy-wonky whenever there's a major change in atmospheric pressure. And, when my sinuses go crazy-wonky, everything from the top of my head to my teeth feel the pain. I get the "behind the eye" pain, the "mid-forehead" pain, the "ohmigod I think I need a root canal" pain (I've actually gone to the dentist thinking I'd broken a tooth, in the past, only to be told the pain was caused entirely by my sinuses).

Today seemed like it would be a good day. I got up, I did some yardwork and walked the dog before the rain started. I did some editing. I watched some TV and had a quick nap. And then the clouds started to roll back in and the right side of my face started to hurt.

The storms that are probably causing this are supposed to sail through fairly quickly and be out of here within about another 18 hours. Which is great, but Christopher and I have plans to go to dinner and a movie with a group of friends. And we need to leave in an hour.

It almost - but not really - makes me wish for winter. Then I could claim that I had a cold and stay in with impunity. But, this being mid-summer, if I stay home I couldn't deal with the guilt.

(The worst thing of all? That's totally my guilt - imposed only by me - due to the fact that it's summer and, as I've pointed out, there's no wimping out because of a headache in summer...)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Robert Gets Artsy

I finally got around to moving some photos from my camera (actually Christopher's old camera) to my computer, and I'm happy to share this one from early this summer.

Yes. The peonies are actually from our backyard, which have become one of the best things about our yard in the mid-to-late spring.

I hope to have some tomato photos in a few weeks so that we can celebrate the mid-to-late summer. (And, hopefully, have a BLT that will rival the one I had last summer.)

Monday, July 18, 2011

Movie Monday - Musical - 9 to 5

Christopher and I went to see "9 to 5 - The Musical," yesterday in St. Paul.

In case you didn't realize it had been made into a musical, it has. It was even up for some Tony awards a couple years ago. But it had a pretty short run on Broadway, and then it was re-tooled and sent out on the road, apparently both beefed up and slimmed down.

It's strange seeing a re-envisioning of a show you already really know. And not in the way that "The Wizard of Oz" became "Wicked" - this is, for the most part, a literal translation of the movie onto the stage (with some songs thrown in).

I'm going to skip discussing the plot, under the assumption that you all already know it. (If not, you REALLY ought to go rent it. The movie - from 1980 - is a hoot!)

Sadly, that same action, though, is what the writers of the musical seemed to have done, as well. They assumed that their audience already knew the story, and kind of jumped in mid-stream. The backstory in the play didn't come from character development, it came from Dolly Parton appearing above the stage (pre-recorded - not actually her being suspended above the stage) during the opening number and explaining who everyone was. And, to make my point, Dolly makes a great joke when pointing out Dora Lee that "well... you know who she is..." And, of course, most of the audience does.

Oddly enough, the lack of backstory aside, the first act of the show seemed a bit rushed. Like, even without having to tell everyone's stories, they still didn't have quite enough time to get all of the details in that they wanted to include. My question, then, is why they didn't clip a few more out?

But, if I'm not careful, I fear you're going to think I didn't like the show. And I did. I really did.

I laughed. A lot. I came just a little close to tears once or twice (for happiness as much as for sadness). And I was pretty darned impressed by the three lead actresses. Violet (Lily Tomlin's character) has the most dramatic range, and was a lot of fun. Judy (Jane Fonda's character) kind of pulls the "back-up" straw for much of the show, but the actress proved she's got major singing ability in her solo piece in the second act. Dora Lee (Dolly Parton's character) was played with just enough Dolly to make it recognizable, but without making us compare her all the way through.

So, let's tally this up... Was I able to leave there humming any tunes (other than the theme song)? No. Would I go to it again? Yes (if the tickets were free). Would I recommend it to any of my friends if it rolls into your town? Yes - It really was a fun time - updated nostalgia and all.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Soggy Sunday

I was awakened, yesterday morning, by thunderstorms at about 4:30. I can usually sleep through anything like that, but the lightning was so bright - and the thunder so quick and so loud - that it woke me up.

I did a quick "house check" then headed back to bed and, thankfully, to sleep.

The day, yesterday, started mostly cloudy and there was a palpable foreboding in the air - a definite feeling that we were heading into a massively hot and sticky zone.

Errand running was easy in the morning, but as the day went on, the temperature and the humidity both climbed. By the time we walked out of a friend's house to come home at 9:30 last night, walking outside felt like we were walking into a sauna.

Then came this morning.

I woke up around 6:30 (thanks to the dog), and as I walked out into the house I was suddenly aware that something was wrong. No storms. But also no visible sun.

EVERY window in the house was covered in condensation. Not on the inside, but on the outside. And we don't exactly over-air-condition the house. The interior temperature was something like 76 degrees.

I opened the door to let the dog out (after all, that's why we were up), and it felt like I was opening a steamy blast furnace. I took the opportunity to look out at a couple of neighbor's houses - and was happy to see that their windows were also covered in moisture.

Back inside, I checked out for some details:

6:55am - Temperature: 80 degrees - Dewpoint: 77 degrees - Relative Humidity: 91%.

It's now almost 8:30. The temperature is creeping up through the low 80s, and the sun is starting to "melt" the condensation from the windows. And a whole lot of people are getting out early to walk their dogs before this gets much worse.

I've heard that it's supposed to stay basically like this for the next 5 days. I suspect it's going to be a long week...

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Say It Like You Mean It

Sometimes I really wonder about the people I work with at my job. Yes, I wonder about my co-workers, but I also wonder about our clients.

We've got a new person who started about a month ago in probably the most difficult position in the company. She's doing pretty well, all things considered, but there are some things she hasn't learned, yet, simply because there's SO much to learn.

Today, after she'd already been dealing with multiple rounds of questions from the same author - to which she'd already explained exactly what is happening with one of her services - the author sent another response. But, for absolutely no reason, the author decided to copy me on the email which she sent.

Now, here's the thing: A lot of our authors copy random people on emails. I don't think they do it by accident, and I don't think they do it to truly try to get help. I think they figure they'll either catch the first person in a lie, or get people to gang up and put pressure on the first person to get things done.

So, when she emailed saying that she "didn't mean to be rude or disrespectful" and then was exactly that, I'm pretty sure that she copied me on the email to point out how "bad" my co-worker is at her job, and to get me to jump on the bandwagon of getting more done. Boy, was she wrong.

You see, as anyone who has worked with me in the past knows, I'm pretty protective of the people I work with - especially those who are in some ways in need of help.

I decided to take the time to respond to the author. I congratulated her on how her process has gone. I thanked her for her kind words about how well we all have been doing our jobs. And I praised my co-worker on how great she's been doing, even though she's new. Basically, I just spread a ton of sunshine. No "tone" in any of it, except for saying that my co-worker was new, but had been hired because we had faith in her abilities.

And then, in a "ps" after my signature, I pointed out that the author - though certainly not meaning to be rude or disrespectful - had been misspelling my co-worker's name in every single email she had sent.

Apparently she got the point. She replied almost immediately saying that she apologized for any perceived "tone" in her emails, saying that she really hopes that we can all work together and move forward.

I wonder if she'll ever blithely copy me on any of her emails, again? After all, we're all getting along so well, now.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Tiz List #10 - Travel-ish

Alright, it's been about a month since the last Tiz List (check the left-hand column for older posts and an explanation of the name), so since it's Travel Tuesday, here is a quick list of some of the travel-related things I've come across, lately.

1) While in traffic the other day, I saw an older gentleman in the car behind me. He was smoking a pipe, and wearing an eye patch.

2) I think he might have been a retired pirate.

3) There is something kind of quaint about seeing people on streetcorners asking people to sign petitions and such - so much more polite than telemarketing.

4) I would probably not stop for the on-street solicitation any more than I would pick up the telemarketer's phonecall.

5) Part of my morning commute goes along a stretch of I-35W which has a "MnPass" lane - one of those HOV lanes which allows you to pay to get to drive in it to avoid traffic.

6) I have one of the MnPass accounts, but they are not active during the MN State Government shutdown.

7) I'm not sure why an automated - and revenue-producing - system isn't active during the shutdown.

8) It really bugs me to watch people cruise in those lanes without having 2 or more people in the car when you know that the lanes are supposed to be "off-limits," since I'm having to leave 5 or 10 minutes earlier every day to make that commute in the "normal" traffic.

9) It bugs me even more when I'm paying to use the lane and other people show up in it without the passes.

10) I saw a guy on a motorcycle this weekend who was wearing no helmet, a tank top, shorts, and flip-flops.

11) I think that motorcyclists who don't wear helmets and full body covering while on the roads are idiots.

12) I really hope that I don't have to help cover any medical bills for non-protective-gear-wearing motorcyclists who have accidents.

13) I realize that drivers of cars need to pay more attention to the world around them and look for cyclists (motorized or not), but I also think that cyclists (motorized or not) should have to take responsibility to dress appropriately.

14) The dude over the weekend in the tank top and shorts was someone who should never leave the house in a tank top and shorts.

15) Ever.

16) When our house was painted last week (well... sorta last week, sorta two weeks ago, sorta this weekend...), they painted our garage door to match the house. It looks great, but it's still weird to see when I'm driving up.

17) One of my friends came over last weekend and almost drove past our house because it was "the wrong color."

18) Do you suppose we could alter the color of our house on Google maps to match the new color?

19) When friends of mine bought a house in Idaho they were told by people that they can never paint it because it's pink and people use it as a landmark.

20) It was really pink.

21) No. Even pinker than what you were just thinking.

22) They left it that way for a while.

23) They gave up and eventually painted it - dusty rose.

24) I'm sure people still use it as a landmark, but now they probably call it "the house that used to be pink."

25) Why do people think that directions like that will help someone who has never been there, before?

26) I actually know what it means to "turn north at the section line."

27) I also know how to "turn west at the shelter belt."

28) I was probably 10 years old before I realized that not everyone gives directions based on compass points and landmarks.

29) I still give directions based on compass points and landmarks, but I appease people by throwing in "lefts" and "rights" from time-to-time to see if they're paying attention.

30) I think people do the same thing in politics.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Signs of the Times

Driving home from dinner at Christopher's parents' house, tonight, I noticed two roadside signs that kind of point out the world around here at the moment.

One of them was a Lottery sign which usually lists how big the MegaMillions and Powerball lottery jackpots are. The slogan on it is something like "What would you do...?" (Honestly, I see it every time we drive that way and I have no idea what it says.) But, this week, since the MN State Lottery offices are closed as part of the shutdown, there are no numbers on the sign. It's just a big black space. Basically, the sign is telling us that there's no money. How ironic is that?

The other sign is a little weirder for me. It's a sign for the "Be The Match" marrow donor registry. It's a non-profit group which is trying to establish a marrow donor database in an attempt to match up people with blood diseases who might need transplants. I think they're an amazing group. I would sign up in a heartbeat. Heck. I've even looked into applying for work there.

But here's the thing: Because I'm a gay man, they won't take a donor application from me. They base this on the fact that the Red Cross won't take blood donations from gay men. Why? Because of an out-moded fear that all gay men have blood-borne illnesses.

Do they test every single sample of blood that comes through to make sure none of the blood is tainted? Yes. Would this catch just as many illnesses in gay men's blood as in anyone else's? Yes. Do they stop all African-American men from donating because they are the second-highest carrier group for some of the same diseases? No. Does this make any sense? No. Basically, it's just one more area of bigotry that refuses to go away.*

So, there you have them - within about a mile of each other - two signs of the times.

Here's hoping that - some day soon - those signs they will be a-changin'.

*I may not be thrilled with the business practices at, but I do believe in what they are doing. If you're able to sign up to be a part of the registry, I think it would be a great thing to do. Tell them a gay man who would donate if they'd let him sent you.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Friday Food

Although we have a knack for buying foods that sound good and then putting them in the pantry and never using them, Christopher and I tried something new tonight: A Vindaloo sauce from Maya Kaimal (purchased at Williams-Sonoma).

Spicy, ginger-y, tomato-y. Served with chicken over white rice.

It was quick. Easy. And really yummy.

We might have to try this "buy it AND use it" thing more often.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Survival of the Glibbest

Last night, thanks to my boss's really strange sense of "how to keep employees happy," I found myself at the Britney Spears concert at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

My boss decided a while back that - instead of raises or bonuses - buying a suite at the concert was the best way to make everyone happy to work for him. After all, a short-term, one-night flash-in-the-pan event is *so* much better than extra pay, right?

Well, I came into this week pretty much dreading the concert - as did the people I hang out with at work. (Yes, I'm happy to say that over the past few months I actually have begun to have "people" I hang out with at work, and not just "person.") We plotted ways out of it. We debated what would be worst: the Hummer limo ride there and back, or the concert, or the drunken co-workers, or simply having to go back to work the next day.

I couldn't ride in the limo because I had to come home to walk the dog - a chore for which I have never been happier. But that didn't mean I could avoid the rest of it.

The pizza (from Black Sheep pizza in Minneapolis - SO good) was scheduled to arrive at 4, the limo to arrive at 6, and the opening acts for the concert were to start at 7. That was the plan. But, at 3:30 the limo showed up - because, of course, that was the one piece my boss actually "organized - and so everything was a little up in the air. He threw an extra $150 at the limo (yeah... because he does that kind of thing), and suddenly we had time to eat, but everyone had to eat - and drink - so they could leave by 5.

Of course, this mainly meant that we had something to laugh about as the evening started.

And, well, the evening kind of continued like that. I showed up at the concert (with one passenger who also didn't want to ride in the limo), and we laughed about the people stuck in the bar because the Suite wasn't available when they got there. Then we laughed about the food and drinks in the Suite and the fact that no one could get the bottle opener to work. (Although... the shredded Buffalo Chicken sandwiches with blue cheese slaw were no laughing matter.)

We laughed about being unable to hear ourselves think during the opening acts, and we laughed about the 45-minute intermission before Britney started. And, yes, we laughed our way through her set, too.

Oh, and we laughed nervously as we watched the fetish-y, bondage-y stuff happening on the stage and the backdrop screens, thinking about the little kids in the audience.

And, thankfully, it was eventually over. Now we can laugh about it as a "Do you remember when we...?" topic.

We laughed. We survived.

That's life.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Travaux Tuesday

Driving back to the Cities, yesterday, I found one of the side products of the MN State Government shutdown.

Sure, I found out yesterday that I was going to have to try to find a way to get new license plate stickers for my car.

And, yes, I realized that I couldn't buy a lottery ticket while stopping at the gas station on the way home.

But what really bugged me was when I realized that all of the state-managed Rest Areas are closed. They've got big barricade barrels blocking the exit ramps, signs saying "Road Closed" and "Rest Rooms Closed."

I'm guessing that the fast food places along the route were very well patronized.

And all I can imagine is the families on huge long drives over the weekend having to say to their kids "Don't worry - South Dakota is only another 150 miles away, and I'm sure they have restrooms there."

Monday, July 4, 2011

John Barrowman Sighting

Wow. It's been a while since I've had a John Barrowman sighting blog posting.

This time around it came kind of by accident.

While I was home at my parents' this morning, my sister was looking at the USA Weekend from yesterday's newpaper, and I saw a photo of John Barrowman over her shoulder. Later, before I'd had a chance to read it, my dad actually held the article up and said "Did you see this?" (At which point, okay, I admit that I felt a little like a fanatic - but I'm over that, now.)

The photo was accompanied by a quick blurb about the return of Torchwood (coming to the Starz network this week). Which is great, but I don't have Starz - although I do now have BBC America - which would have been great if Torchwood was still being broadcast on BBC America... but... well... Bugger.

It also says that Barrowman is one of the current hot stars in Hollywood. Now if only the Hollywood studios would realize it...

Anyway... It's amost dark enough for Christopher and I (grammatically "me" is correct, here, although "I" sounds better) to go outside to light the few fireworks we have (we already did the oversized smoke bombs - which are SO cool), so I'll wrap this up.

I guess it's been a day for shining stars all over the place.

Happy Fourth of July!

Saturday, July 2, 2011


If all goes well, by the time this posts, I will be in South Dakota at a family reunion.

Because it's the Fourth of July weekend, apparently a LOT of people will be reun-ing in and around my home town. There are a couple of high school class reunions going on - for people who graduated in years ending in either 6 or 1.

My dad's school (he grew up in a town about 18 miles from where I grew up) is having an "all-school" reunion this weekend. It's not a great big town, but when you invite everyone who has ever graduated from the school over some 100+ years, you can bet there will be a big crowd.

So it could be kind of interesting who we all run into at "home" this weekend, along with the 40+ members of my dad's family who will be there.

I'm guessing that (again, if all goes well), by the time this posts I'll be having a glass of something alcoholic, sitting and chatting with a bunch of cousins (all of us trying to remember either the last time we saw each other or who shot off the "wiz-bang" that burned the picnic blanket at the Fourth of July picnic in my grandma's backyard way back when).

There will be much food, and much talk of food. There will be many relatives and talk of many more relatives. And, yes, I expect there will be fireworks in the streets at sundown. (Hopefully all of the literal sense, and not the metaphorical.)

There's something kind of amazing about reunions. There's the mix of dread and excitement going in. There's the feeling of being part of a shared experience. There's the combined relief and angst - and talk of the next one - when they end.

Should make for an interesting weekend.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Friday Foot

Yes, I know it's usually "Friday Food," but this week has not been a normal week.

After venting to everyone in my last post (thanks for listening), I got up yesterday morning and, while doing some things around the house, proceeded to stub my toe on the dog kennel.

Not the big toe, mind you, but the second toe on my right foot. I kind of jumped up and down a bit, then looked down and thought "Wow. That kinda hurt." Then I went about my day.

When I started to get ready, I had my glasses off, and looked down and saw that my toe was kind of... well... dark. I thought "Gee. I must have stepped in something and gotten it on my foot." Never mind that I had not been outside all morning, and that there is nothing I could have stepped in in the house.

So I put my glasses on and realized that - when stubbing my toe - I apparently also whacked my toenail pretty good. And, yep, that "darkness" was well-oxygenated blood.

I spent most of yesterday limping just a bit. Partially because my toe hurt. Mostly because the Band-aid (really - I use Band-aid brand) was just not quite right on my toe and kept getting caught in my sock.

Today, I'm walking without a limp. And without a Band-aid. I'm also walking without about 1/3 of that toenail, but... well... it's Friday, so I can deal with that.