Thursday, August 30, 2012

Purgatorial Ponderings

I think I might be dying.

Or dead.

Well, probably not either of those things, really, because I'm really hoping that being dead is not even remotely like sitting and working on my laptop. Although, I guess working on my laptop at home is a lot more like Heaven than sitting at work working on my desktop (which is really more like Purgatory).

You thought I was going to say "Hell," didn't you? Yes, I realize that there are some days that are pretty hellacious, but I figure there has to be an end to my time at my current job. Hence the Purgatory thing.

By the way... Whatever happened to Purgatory? I think it was mainly a Catholic thing when I was growing up. Purgatory - as I remember it - is not the same as Limbo (which is so not the "how low can you go?" thing), but is, instead, a kind of metaphysical holding pen for people who weren't quite up to par for Heaven, but nowhere near bad enough for Hell. I'm not really sure who made the judgments on that, though - or who came through with the clipboard to say "Okay. You're good to go." And now that I'm thinking about it, I'm also not sure how often they send Clipboard Guy through on those rounds, either.

But, back to the point - not the main point, but my semi-recent one - Why doesn't anyone talk about Purgatory any more? Why do we only talk in the absolutes of either Heaven or eternity with the same people that put all the reality shows on TV? (And, see, there you thought I was either going to say "Hell" or "The Republican National Convention" didn't you?)

So, anyway, I'm worried that I might be dying (umm... not really... don't worry) because I've had this weird pain in my left butt cheek and thigh for a while, now. Originally, I thought I simply pulled a muscle in picking up the pup improperly. (Well, I know I did that. I scooped her up off the ground while walking, and I felt my "left lower back" go OUCH. See? Simple.) But the ouch hasn't gone completely away, since.

I think there might be an "I need a new chair at work" situation contributing to this. I've tried wearing different shoes on a daily basis, but that doesn't seem to make a difference. Or maybe it's a call for a new mattress. But I think it might simply be, at its base, some kind of wonky muscle-nerve issue. Ibuprofen helps, but sometimes - when I move just right - my lips kind of tingle. Which strikes me as odd, since my lips don't otherwise seem to be connected to the muscles and nerves of my left lower back.

Which is part of why I think I might be dying, as opposed to dead. Because, after all, no one ever talks about how, when they were dead and going toward the light, their lips tingled.

At this rate, I'm sure I probably only have decades to live.

Unless I get hit by a bus. Which would probably also cause my left lower back to hurt - assuming, of course, that I don't learn to limbo before then.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Travel Tuesday Times Seven

Today, we have a list which is in no particular order, other than how it came to me (read to the end and you'll figure out the "why" of it all):

Mile Marker Zero
The Dry Tortugas
The Southernmost Point
Quebec City
Le Stade Olympique (all the way to the top)
Mont Tremblant
Le Plateau
L'Academie (a.v.v)
Scotland (the one I call home, at least)
Disneyland Paris (in the hotel)
Walt Disney World
Los Angeles (the city and the metropolis)
Catalina Island
The Upper West Side
The Top of the Rock
The Smithsonian
Lockport Marketplace and Deli
Griffith Park Observatory
Cocker Spaniel Resources (Hudson, WI)
Land's End
Wild Country Maple Syrup's shack in the woods
The Passerelle des Arts
La Maison du Chocolat
Hoover Dam in a convertible
Studio 54
Le Relais d'Entrecote
Charm City Cakes
The Minnesota Zoo
The Eiffel Tower - Las Vegas
Avenue Q
The National Sports Center in Blaine
Oak Park Heights
Gooseberry Falls
Grand Portage
Grand Marais
Sony Pictures Studios
Olvera Street
Ninth Street Espresso
A Little Night Music
Phantom of the Opera
Wishful Drinking
Songs for a New World
The Minnesota Opera
So many restaurants
A number of hotels
Various rental cars
Some Delta Sky Lounges

It's kind of amazing the places you can go, the things that you can do, and the amounts of joy you can experience when you get to spend seven years with someone, the way Christopher and I have done. And I didn't even start listing local restaurants... or specific people we've seen... or the everyday-ish things we've done... or the weddings and celebrations we've attended. Or the quiet times when we were just home and enjoying being home.

(And, as I try to complete this, I keep thinking of more things I should add in. But I figure the list is long enough as it is.)

Makes me pretty excited about what the next seven years might hold (and the seven after that... and the seven after that... and...).

Readers' poll question: If you - without checking a calendar - had to list a top ten for the past seven years, where would you start? Post a comment, here, please (not on FB) - I'd love to know what sticks in your mind from the same period of time.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

You Might Like...

Because you liked "Wallace and Gromit" you might like "Cujo."

People who searched for "Mary Poppins" also looked at "The Nanny State: How much regulation is too much?"

Based on your interest in FoodTV, we recommend Christian Mingle.

And the list goes on. And I will never understand it.

If you're on any Internet site that has advertising and tracks your visits, you've seen these ads. The ones that look at what you've done in the past, compare it to other people's histories, and then inter-/extra-polate what they think you should be interested in, next.

What really gets me, though, is when - on some sites, at least - you mark an ad as uninteresting, and it wants to know why. I've had ads like "Christian Mingle" (a real site) and ads for "Sexy Women in Your Area," as well as ads in languages I don't speak. And then there are the really fun ones, like attack ads which are against things that I've actually told the sites I like.

I kind of like clicking on some of those and then choosing the reason why I don't like them. I use a lot of "Other" for those, because then I can write in things like "I'm a happily partnered gay man, so I don't think I care to date any of the Sexy Women in my Area" or - as I wrote earlier this week in response to one that was in Spanish "Yo no hablo espanol." (Oddly enough, I've never gotten an ad in French.)

I fully realize that much of the money made by Internet sites comes from those click-throughs. So, each time you click on an ad, the company (either the referral, the refer-ee, or both) might make money. That's why so many of them are so salacious - and why so many of them make it hard to figure out where the "close" button is.

Earlier tonight, I clicked on something just as my screen refreshed. Suddenly, I was looking at a photo of someone I didn't know, instead of looking at an email. I'm sure that now I'll get solicited for all the things that he likes, since I clicked on him.

Of course, there are those people who suggest you get some software that blocks all ads. (Really, stuff does exist out there.) But I just found out about a new movie that's coming out later this year through one of the rare well-targeted ads. So I guess I'll keep them around for a while.

Oh, and by the way, see all those blogs listed in the left-hand margin? If you like mine, you might like those, too...

Friday, August 24, 2012

Friday Food - Marvel Bar Marplot

Hmm... That doesn't work quite as well as "Marvel Movie Monday" did, does it?

I guess that's kind of appropriate, since the "Marvel" in question for this one is the Marvel Bar in Minneapolis. Of course, this also means that this is more of a "Friday Drink" post than a "Friday Food" post. Although... I probably ate more than I drank there.

But I get ahead of myself. And I haven't even explained how the Marplot fits in.

The Marvel Bar in Minneapolis is one of the most-talked-about bars in town these days. It's in the basement below The Bachelor Farmer (one of the most-talked-about restaurants in town these days), and has this kind of "in-crowd" chic going on.

And I have to admit that this is part of why I was excited to go. Christopher and I have been talking about it for a long time, and he went for the first time a while ago as an extension of another happy hour. But last Sunday was my first time - and I was pretty excited to go with Christopher and some friends.

Part of the in-crowd chic aspect is the fact that the entry door isn't marked, so if you don't know where you're going, you'll basically never get in. It's at the back of the building, kind of at the end of a parking lot, and it looks like a security door - complete with just a peephole. And the mystique carries through the entry foyer, which looks like you've come into a service entrance (which, really, you have), as you walk toward another unmarked door (which at least does look nicer than the service doors).

Inside there are big booths, as well as some armchairs and loveseats in the middle of the room, and stools along the bar. The wall behind the booths is glass and showcases the wines for the restaurant upstairs. The lighting is a little low, and it does have a bit of a swank vibe.

On the table, there were a couple of drink menus, as well as a very small "beaker" of Cheetos (the only food they serve - so don't go there hungry).

Christopher knew what he wanted, and our friends had gotten there earlier and already had drinks, so I tried to make sense of the menu. Unfortunately, as someone who does not drink a lot, I didn't know what some of the things were. (Yes, I know that "Gordon's" is a liquor brand, but that doesn't mean I know what kind. That kind of thing.) Since I didn't want to order blindly off the menu, when the waiter came over I asked for an Amaretto Sour.

Now I know that the Marvel Bar is known for making specialty drinks and tweaking recipes. I get that. And I've ordered Amaretto Sours in different places where they make their own Sour or whatever. But when I ordered, I found out that the Marvel Bar does not have any Amaretto.

Our waiter, trying to be helpful, says "But we can do something else. We could do something like a Walnut liqueur, instead." I said I'd think about.

He came back a moment or two later, and started to offer other suggestions, starting with "We could do a Brandy drink..." I cut him off, and explained that I'm not a fan of Brandy, so those would be out of the question. Instead, I said I thought I'd try the Walnut liqueur and Sour.

A while later (for some reason, even though the place was *not* busy, everything we ordered took a while), he showed up at the table with something in a cocktail glass. He says "It's peach, walnut liqueur, and brandy," and walks away.

Everyone at the table looks at me, and says "Didn't you say no brandy?" (Yes.)

I tried the drink - really hoping to like it. It was foul. I offered it around the table and everyone grimaced. If we'd had a spittoon, it would have been in full use.

The waiter came back. "What do you think?" Before I had a chance to say much more than "I really don't like it," Christopher said "He specifically said he doesn't like brandy, and this is a brandy drink."

The waiter honestly looked shocked at the response. He said "Well... What can I get you, then? We could try something else." I told him I'd just stick with water, because it was easier.

To give him credit, he did reply with "I don't want you to be disappointed, though." But, I have to admit that that sounded more like a "Well, you just don't understand what a good drink is, but I'll try again if you're going to complain."

At which point, I was kind of done, so I said "Too late." And he took my mostly-untouched drink and walked away.

We stayed for a while, though, and Christopher's second drink was an "Improv Whiskey drink" which he said was quite good - although he'd probably never order it again.

Even so... I don't think I'll ever be clamoring to go back there. I mean... I'm thrilled that so many people apparently want to go and have someone else make all of their decisions for them. But, for me, when I say that there is something I specifically do NOT want, and that's what I'm served - and then the response is shock when I don't like it... well... If a place doesn't want my opinion, I'm guessing they also don't want my business.

Of course, if people we know want to go there in future, I can always hang out, eat the Cheetos, and drink water. After all, that's a much cheaper night - and a guarantee that there will be a designated driver. But I'm pretty sure I won't be ordering any drinks.

**Oh, and I think that, in this situation, the bartender would be considered the Marplot (which was last Monday's word of the day).

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Homework Flashbacks

Someone at my work is going into law school, and her orientation started last week. Her first classes are tomorrow.

So, since she's stepping down from full-time to part-time, we've been trying to fete her a bit - or at least do those little "final time" things to make her feel that she's been appreciated and will be missed.

Okay. That sounds bad. I mean... She has been appreciated and she will be missed. But she's one of those people who occasionally suck all the positive energy out of a room, so there are aspects of working with her that I do not appreciate and will not miss. Even so, she is one of the few people I can have over-the-computer-monitor conversations with in the office (the other person in my line of sight wears headphones, so you can't really toss one-liners back and forth), so I'll miss that about her.

Today we ordered Jimmy John's and sat in the office of the newest employee in the company (whose supervisor has been out all week, and so I've been kind of half-training her in on a job I haven't done in about a year - yeah... it's been a challenge some days, and it took me two days to edit a twelve-page [yes, 12-page] manuscript because of it), and chatted about whatever - including school.

She's talking about how worried she is about how much of a time suck this is going to be. And I'm remembering what it was like to be in grad school and how we were constantly supposed to be reading a novel in a week (or less), and every instructor assumed that you had 40 hours to dedicate to his or her class each week. And I gotta admit that I do *not* envy her.

Of course, I've got homework at the moment, too. I'm in book club, and have about a third of a novel to read before Monday night. Oh, and I'm expecting some freelancing in the next day or two. And I have some novel excerpts that I'm scoring for a competition which I had planned to have finished and sent off about 3 weeks ago, and which are now coming very close to their deadline. (To the reader of this blog who asked me to work on them: I *promise* that they'll be there before the deadline!)

I guess it all makes some sense, though. It's that time of year when school supplies are in all the stores. Yellow buses are starting to do practice runs. And parents' faces are showing equal parts relief and anxiety over the impending changes.

I wonder if I could write off a box of crayons as a work-related expense? If I got one with a built-in sharpener, maybe I could call it office equipment...

Monday, August 20, 2012

Marvel Movie Monday - The Avengers

Yes. I like alliteration. Why do you ask?

So I finally made it out to see "The Avengers" last week. I waited long enough that it was at one of the cheap seats movie theaters and - even better - it was one of the cheap seats places where you can get real food at your seat.

And, with all that in mind. I thought it was pretty much what I expected it to be. It was funny, and actiony, and explosive, and even witty (which might have been a surprise for some people, I admit).

Let's see... plot... umm... Bad guy from another world shows up, turns some people evil, begins mayhem. Good guys from around the globe assemble and bicker because they've got wackily different personalities. Bad guy escalates. Good guys come together for a massive battle scene that lasts for about the final 20 minutes or so of the movie.

Lots of fairly muscle-y guys (Chris Evans, Robert Downey, Jr., Jeremy Renner, Chris Hemsworth) in tight costumes . Scarlett Johansson kicking butt alongside them. Special effects. NYC getting mostly destroyed. Basic superhero movie stuff.

And, since I was expecting a basic superhero movie, I had a great time. I ate my dinner and listened to the kids ooo-ing and ahh-ing around me, and just let all the noise and color and all that wash over me.

Oh, I should mention that - as a bonus - the movie was directed by Joss Whedon, so the witty factor was very high. Lots of throw-away one-liners, and such.

But... well... Because I was enjoying the wit, when we got around to the huge battle in the final 20 minutes, I started to get really bored. I felt bad about that, actually, since I was pretty sure that was the part of the movie that they paid the most money to make.

So... rating: Solid A-. It would have been an A if they had carried the humor all the way to the end.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

How to Feel Totally Uncool

I have always known that I wasn't one of those guys. One of the "in-crowd, guy's-guy" kinds of guys. And I do mean I've *always* known that.

Yet, as I've gotten older the reminders seem to come more frequently and - often - with more punch. Because they're coming in places where I haven't ever felt quite so out of the loop in the past.

Yesterday's assault to my cool factor was completely situational. And it was in a situation where - frankly - I've never aspired to be "one of the guys." But, at the same time, I've never felt quite so out of place.

You see, yesterday, I went to get my oil changed at one of the places where you actually just sit in your car while the crew work on it.

Now, I've never been a car guy. I mean... I know the basics. I know where the various fluids can go in. I know how to change wiper blades and lightbulbs. And I even know how an internal combustion engine works to propel a car down the road. But I've never known cars.

Which was fine when I was younger. I'd go to get my oil changed and the guys (because 19 out of 20 of the people who work in these places are guys) would kind of politely ignore me while they worked. I'd sit and read a few pages of a book and turn the car on and off as requested, and then I'd leave.

They didn't expect me to have any extra money for the add-ons they wanted me to get. They asked me questions and were fine with half-answers. And my oil got changed and I went on my way.

Now that I'm older, though, they seem to have decided that since I don't know about cars, I must have money. So when I declined all of the extra "recommended" services, yesterday - and said I could change my own wiper blades - I was met with... well... indifference. I suddenly became invisible to all of the 20-something guys in the shop.

Was I hoping to be their friend? No. Was I hoping to have a great conversation and leave with a feeling of simpatico (I don't think I'm using that word right)? No. Was I simply hoping to not feel like a complete dork? Yes.

All I can say is that it's a good thing I've got at least 3 months or 3,000 miles to bolster my internal cool factor before going back.

Thursday, August 16, 2012


As I see it, I figure that calendars, being cyclical, must also be "calendrical."

And, at the moment, Christopher and I are in a very tightly wound calendrical period.

A couple of months ago, we were talking about how we never seemed to do anything social, and how we were kind of feeling disconnected from some of our friends. So we started trying to schedule more events.

Of course, everyone is pretty much available on the same days each week. Which means that our Friday-to-Sunday times have been crazy. And that has been spilling over into the rest of the week.

We've gone from having empty calendars to having to block out days on the calendar so that we can have evenings at home together.

It's a good thing, though, because it is really great to be able to connect with everyone and also to get our minds out of work (and off the computer).

Even so, this weekend, if the calendrical scheduling plays out, I think I actually get to sleep in on Sunday. Which -- as much as I love all of the people we're seeing over the next few days -- might just be my favorite block of time on the calendar this week.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Travel Tuesday - XXX Olympics Version

No. I didn't go to the Olympics in London. In fact, I didn't even watch that much of them. I did watch the Opening Ceremonies. And, right now, I'm watching part of the Closing Ceremonies (yes, I recorded them).

I'm a big believer in the ideas behind the Olympics. The idea that these athletes who are there for the love of the sports. The idea that political differences are put aside for the sake of games. That's kind of cool.

But then I tried to watch them on TV, and the folks at NBC spent so much time doing replays and commentary that we would only get to see about 1/3 of the actual competitions. And along the way I just started to get frustrated.

I tried to watch some of my favorite events, but frequently couldn't find them on TV at workable times, or would find listings that said things were going to be on only to find them pushed aside because some "marquee" person was doing well in another sport, so that got shown, instead.

The secondary and tertiary NBC networks kept showing replays of soccer and basketball all evening in the final few days - instead of playing any of the other sports.

In other words, the whole reason why I like the Olympics - the idea of being in it for the Sport of it all, and not the money/fame/prestige was right out the door.

Although... I have to admit that the Olympic Closing Ceremonies - with the NBC commentators mostly shutting up in favor of the music and festivities - were/are actually really fun.

You don't suppose they could learn from this for the next Games, do you?

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Signs of the Times

I'm very proud to say that, as of yesterday, we now have a "Vote No: Don't Limit the Freedom to Marry" sign for our front yard. Neither Christopher nor I had had a chance to get to one of the MNUnited offices to pick one up, and a friend of ours got an extra for us. So, finally, one of the gay households on our block (there are at least 4) will have one.

It's kind of funny, really, that there are already 3 of those signs on the block, but none at the "gay" houses. I have to say, though, that it's nice when I'm out walking to know that there is support for equal marriage rights for all.

Granted, if the amendment to the MN constitution gets voted down in November, it won't mean that gay marriage will suddenly be legal in Minnesota. You see, it's already illegal in the state. The amendment is, basically, just a way to rub salt in the wounds of the people who have been together for longer than most Hollywood (or Vegas) marriages. It's another way for a portion of society to say "Nyah nyah. We hate you enough that we're going to make it harder and harder for you to get equal rights."

Of course, a lot of these people will also say "We don't hate you. We just feel that gay marriage will devalue marriage - and it's not what God wanted." Apparently, for those people, the 48-hour marriages, and the 7th marriages, and the Kardashians are fine and upstanding in the eyes of the Lord. And it also means that those people are probably picking and choosing which Bible passages they live by. But... anyway... that's a whole different set of fundamentals.

What does bug me, though, is the number of people who don't realize that it's not *just* this amendment that we're voting on this November. We're also voting on gay rights, in general.

President Barack Obama is the first sitting president who has spoken out in favor of equal marriage rights for gays and lesbians. His opponents are running on platforms which - among other things - very specifically state that they are anti-gay rights.

I know that, in a political world, it's bad to base your voting on single issues. But, if your options are to vote for someone who is *for* equal rights for people like me and Christopher who would like

  • to be protected equally under the law,
  • to be able to visit each other in the hospital,
  • to be able to own property together without penalty,
  • to be able to maybe even stand up in front of our families and friends and solidify the relationship that is already longer than that of many of our straight friends' marriages...
Well, then I think that maybe voting against Minnesota's "Anti-Marriage" amendment and re-electing Obama in the fall is probably the right thing to do.

If you're not in favor of helping Christopher and me gain equal rights, or if you think that it's really not that bad if you don't take a stand because this issue doesn't directly effect you... Well, then I feel kind of sorry for you. Because the next time someone's rights are being taken away through fear and hatred, they could be yours.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

I'm [Fill In the Blank] Sorry

At work, today, someone asked me for my opinion on how to punctuate the sentence "I'm very very sorry." She wanted to know if there should be one comma "I'm very, very sorry," or maybe two commas "I'm very, very, sorry."

Unfortunately, she asked me on a day when I had been spending time trying to get "very" taken out of a whole lot of places in the manuscript I was working on. So I suggested that taking "very" out of the sentence in favor of another word would be better. I offered her "I'm incredibly sorry," "I'm tremendously sorry," and "I'm terribly sorry."

But then, as I thought more about it, I started to think that maybe there are better options. For instance:

I'm unspeakably sorry.

I'm horrendously sorry.

And maybe some not-exactly-better options...

I'm serendipitously sorry. (For those times when you're sorry, just not about that.)

I'm herbaciously sorry. (For an apology with real pith.)

I'm supernaturally sorry. (As if there were a ghost of a chance about that.)

I'm ironically sorry. (Because you're feeling kind of flat, emotionally.)

I'm suspiciously sorry. (Since you're not really sure what went on.)

Well, you get the idea. It was enough to make me chuckle for a while on the drive home. But, then, it had been a long day and I may have been having blood sugar issues.

Even so, I strongly suggest that the next time you need to offer an apology, you find a good adverb toss into the mix. If the recipient doesnt find it funny, you can always go back to "very" in a pinch.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Time Travel Tuesday

There is something about not getting enough sleep at night that makes the ensuing days exponentially worse than they ought to be.

Two nights ago, I stayed up late to watch Curiosity land on Mars. Or, rather, I stayed up late to watch people in the control room watch Curiosity land on Mars. But even they weren't truly watching it happen, because we weren't seeing any images. And even if there had been images, I think they said that all communications were taking about 14 minutes to get from Curiosity to Earth. So we were all actually watching an event that had already taken place almost a quarter hour earlier.

Which makes my head hurt. So I'll move on.

It wasn't awful for staying up late. It landed at about 11:31 our time, so I could have been in bed by midnight. But, of course, I sat and watched the celebrations and then still had to get myself off to bed so I could still get 7 hours of sleep before work.

Wait... I seem to be forgetting something...

Oh. Right. Christopher has been travelling this week, and wasn't home to be the first one up in the morning. So I was awakened by the dog at... oh... 5:35 or so on Monday morning. After not quite 5.5 hours of sleep.

I do not do well on 5.5 hours of sleep. Even when I was in college I did not do well on 5.5 hours of sleep - but at least then I could go home in the middle of the day and sleep between classes. I don't get to do that at work.

So I struggled through yesterday at work. And thought, "No problem, I'll catch up after I get home."

But then I was watching the Olympics. And taking care of a couple of freelance things. And the phone rang after 9 and I (very happily - if a bit groggily) talked on it for half an hour or so. And I got to bed around 10:30 or 11. Which would have gotten me a good 8 hours of sleep if not for... What was it again?

Oh. Right. A pup who is used to going out sometime before 6am.

Christopher gets home tonight. And aside from the fact that the pup and I are both excited to have him home, I have to admit that I'm looking forward even more to tomorrow morning when - after his alarm goes off - he'll be the one letting the pooch out for her early morning constitutional.

Either that, or I'll be taking a pillow to work with me.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

On Being the Back-up Dad

There is a very particular pecking order in our house where the pup is concerned. And I have learned to live with the fact that I am not "pecked" first by her.

In a particularly Cocker Spaniel way, she is all about having "her pack" with her at all times. When we're all at home, but in different rooms, she gets very frustrated having to go back and forth to check on both Christopher and me. It's much easier when we're all in the same room and she can keep an eye on us.

He's out of town for a few days, and last night she wouldn't even settle down in bed. She kept jumping off, walking over to the bedroom door to see if he was here, and then jumping back up. That was my fault, to some degree, because she was hearing more outside noises than usual since it was cool out and I had the windows open.

But, even if it's just for an evening, when one of us is gone, she's never quite able to settle down. She misses that third wheel and looks for him all the time. If she hears a car door close outside, she looks to the kitchen to see if someone is coming in. If you're talking - either on the phone or to her - and say "Hello," she'll actually run into the kitchen to see who is here. (In fact, she did that last night when I was on the phone and the connection dropped. I said "Hello? Hello?" and she immediately ran for the kitchen.)

While Christopher insists that she does this when I'm gone for an evening, I suspect that it's a much bigger deal when he is gone. Or at least that's my guess. But that's because I'm home alone with her more often than he is - and she always seems to be looking for her dad when he's gone.

Yes. That's right. Christopher and I refer to him as the pup's dad. I've never really been one to do that kind of thing with a pet (even though when I was growing up the cats were members of the family - they just weren't... well... familymembers), but there are things you pick up from the people you are with. So Christopher is "Dad" and I am "Tall Dad." And, since I'm the one with the qualifier, I kind of think that says a lot.

This evening, after an exciting day of watching me do housework and then waiting for me to come back inside from yardwork, she's actually settled down enough to nap. But I suspect that when we head for bed it will be the same as last night. Tomorrow night she'll probably start to settle in - just in time for him to get back on Tuesday and her to be wound up and too excited to go to bed that night.

Such is the sleepless life of a back-up dad.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Friday Food - Aida

No, I'm not being witty and talking about an opera (or a Broadway show) as food. I would never do that. Okay. Maybe I would, but not today.

Aida is the name of a new Mediterranean restaurant that has opened in Richfield (just south of Minneapolis), where Christopher and I went with a couple of friends earlier this week. It took over an old Taco Bell location, and... well... I wasn't happy to have my closest fast food go away, but now that I've tried the replacement, I'm no longer upset.

The place is small (it was an OLD Taco Bell, after all), and they've opened up as much of the space as possible, even allowing customers to watch what's going on in the kitchen, if they want. (We didn't, honestly... we were too busy talking.)

The menu isn't huge, but it covers all of the bases - you can get everything from hummus to falafel to gyros, as well as various kabobs. And here's the great thing: Everything we tried actually had FLAVOR. The hummus wasn't just paste - and it had a dollop of jalapeno in the middle. The falafel weren't just weird clumpy fried balls. Even the (perfectly cooked) french fries were flavorful.

Oh, and Christopher tried the "fiery red" sauce. When he asked the guy behind the counter about it, he was warned that it was "very hot," but we weren't sure if that was Mediterranean hot or Minnesota hot. So Christopher got some, and we all loved it. It's hot. Actually hot. And perfect on the fries, and... well... almost everything else.

It's so great to go into a place that isn't stuffy and isn't expensive and still be treated to a meal made by people who really know the food. In fact, if you read my blog on Wednesday and remember that I mentioned a restaurant having sundown feasts for Ramadan, this is where they are happening. (While you're perusing their regular menu, here, you should also look at their Ramadan menu...)

If you're thinking of going - and you really should be - always check their website, because they seem to have rotating promotions. And they have a "frequent buyer" club, too. (Yes, I plan to be one of those...)

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Freedom of Speech, Chik-fil-a, and Stone Throwing

You know, I don't really care if a company says it was founded on religious values.

I don't care if Chik-fil-a is closed on Sundays because that's a day of rest. I also don't care if the place we went for dinner last night has big feasts every evening of Ramadan after sundown. In fact, both of those things kind of make me happy.

It doesn't bother me to have businesses contribute to churches or vice-versa, as long as any attached strings don't reach into politics. It doesn't bother me that someone might want to say prayers in the storeroom of their store, as long as I don't have to pray with them (and they don't get preferential treatment to do so).

And I really don't care what any of those people do when they leave work and go home afterward, as long as they also promise not to care what I do.

Because that's where I draw the line. I don't care about any of that until it starts to infringe upon other people's rights. And, among those rights are - above all - life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

I don't want a company telling me (or anyone else) that I'm not worthy of taking the liberty of pursuing happiness in my life.

You see, when the fine folks were framing our country, they talked about three inalienable truths which they felt to be self-evident. And those were them. The three truths. Life. Liberty. The pursuit of happiness. End of story.

At no point did they say that there is an inalienable right to being bigoted or hateful. At no point did they say that giving money to hate groups which threaten the lives of others was an inalienable right. (Yep. The folks at Chik-fil-a have done that - although it probably doesn't show up on their ledgers that way.)

But, at the same time, those framer guys also never said that if you disagree with someone's business practices you can scream and yell and force them out of business. Instead, since the society they were crafting was to be capitalistic, they probably figured that people would simply not spend their money at places they didn't like. No demand = no customers = no income = no more business you don't like. Capitalism at one of its most basic levels.

Don't like a business? Don't do business with them. They'll either learn, or they won't.

Of course, this means that individuals have to take their own stands. It means that each time one of us wants something to change, we have to stand up for what we feel is right and good. And - since we've also got that whole "Freedom of Speech" thing going on - we can do that.

If we don't like someone's business practices, we can tell them so. And, if they don't like our way of life, they can also tell us so. That's the way it works since that whole "Freedom of Speech" thing also goes both ways.

Which is not to say that I think that people - and the companies they own/work for/represent can do anything and everything they want. After all, there are laws in the country expressly forbidding a lot of things.

In most places, there are laws against discrimination - especially in the workplace. Their are laws against causing others harm. There are laws against hate speech. (And, frankly, if you look at most religious texts you'll find that there are laws against harm and hatred there, too, although many zealot-types tend to forget that - but that's another topic.)

So, as people are either calling out in support of or opposition to Chik-fil-a today, I'm a little torn. I can see that there are people in favor of them taking a stand for what they feel is right. And they can do that.

But I, personally, am on the side of the people who think that they are a bigoted, misogynistic, homophobic blight on the surface of American culture. And I won't ever go there for food again. (Which is a big deal for me, because I honestly love their chicken sandwiches.) That's why I've joined with people to point out to online media that what Chik-fil-a's "supporters" are doing is using hate speech when they attack others.

But, to get back to my point, I don't care that Chik-fil-a is a company which prides itself on Christian values - after all, if I worked there I'd be thrilled to be guaranteed Sundays and Christian holidays off. Of course, that's because I'm Christian. If I were Jewish, would I be thrilled with that? Probably not. So I probably wouldn't work there.

I just wish that companies like Chik-fil-a who want to put their hands on the Bible to justify their hatred would realize what it means to truly be Christian, and stop throwing stones until they do.