Saturday, June 29, 2013

Pride and Weddings

It's Pride weekend in Minneapolis (and a bunch of other places, like San Francisco and New York City) this weekend. And everywhere I turn, people are asking me if I'm going to be at the festival or the parade.

I'm not.

I think we've discussed, in the past, that I went to Pride numerous times when I lived out in Baltimore and was in my 20s or early 30s. In other words, back when hot weather, big crowds, and port-a-potties actually sounded like a fun way to spend a day.

I know that this is a fairly monumental year for gay rights and gay marriage. The Supreme Court rulings on DOMA and California's Prop 8 in the past week, coupled with the passage of gay marriage in Minnesota has been huge. But I still find those things to be kind of private.

A friend of mine is in San Francisco this weekend and has been posting on social media pictures and video of people getting married. And a friend of mine actually posted that he and his partner of 14 years were married today, as well. (Congrat's, guys!)

And that's really cool. I mean... really cool.

Even so, instead of going to the festival and celebrating in the massive crowds of people, Christopher and I will be in a smaller crowd, tomorrow, celebrating a wedding. A straight wedding.

While that's probably not earth-shattering news for many people, it is certainly going to be life-changing for the two of them. And, considering that it's an inter-denominational wedding, it's also something that would have been unheard of a couple of generations ago.

So I guess that, tomorrow, we'll kind of be thanking the past for creating the present. While we all look forward to the future.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

What's That On Your Chin?

In the list of "questions you probably don't ever want to be asked," the question "What's that on your chin?" certainly seems like it should be up there.

It's not as bad as being asked "When are you due?" when you're not pregnant, or "What's up with your hair?" when it looked fine before you left home, but it's still not good.

First, there's the whole "I have no way of looking at my chin to check on it" thing.

Then, there's the frantic "What have I eaten, recently?" thought process, which is frequently followed by "Did the pen I was holding leak?"

As someone with a beard, the self-doubt can be even worse. For instance, the chin area of my beard has already gone grey, while the rest is dark, so did the question mean that the person was wondering what had happened to my beard? Or did it mean that something which I had eaten not so recently had stuck around?

I should probably explain why this came up. You see, I was at the doctor's office, yesterday, for a physical. It was a new doctor (I've been having a hard time finding a doctor I like, so I keep going to the same clinic and trying out new ones each year), and we were about half way through the exam.

We'd already dealt with the "inhale... exhale..." part of the exam. I'd already found out my blood pressure was good, but my pulse was a little high. And he looked at me and said "What's that on your chin?"

First thought: Is this a problem with the fact that my chin has gone white-grey, but the rest has not? (I guessed no.)

Second thought: I've been fasting for 12 hours, so it's not food. Did I get toothpaste in my beard and not notice? (No way to check.)

Third thought: I'll raise an eyebrow, questioningly, and hope for an explanation. (Which is what I did.)

"That bump thing, there. Have you had that for a while?"

Yes. Yes, I have had that bump for a while. When I was a little kid, I had three moles on my chin in a triangle. Sometime in my 20s, one of them got a little bigger, and turned into a bump. It hasn't grown. It hasn't discolored. It hasn't gone away. And, since I seldom actually go at my face with a razor, it hasn't gotten shaved off.

Long story still sorta long: I now have an appointment for a dermatology consult in about 6 weeks. So the next time someone says "What's that on your chin?" the answer might possibly be "a Band-aid."

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Random Tuesday Things

This is my third attempted blog post for the evening. Hopefully I'll make it far enough in this one to decide to actually upload it.

Since I don't seem to be able to create a coherent "long form" post, I'm going for some seriously random stuff. It's been that kind of week. Not a good thing, since it's only Tuesday.

 - Christopher is down with a summer cold, which - according to the friends who have had it - could stick around for a while. They're suggesting that I should move out until it's gone. (I won't be doing that. Although I have started taking a lot of "Airborne.")

 - I had some of the leftover Confetti Salad for dinner last night, and I have to admit that it was still pretty darned good - although it's getting a little watery, which I assume is due to the tomatoes, although I'm not sure. I figure it's only got another day or so of life in it, so we'll try it again tomorrow night (maybe). I didn't have any tonight because I opted to make a modified spaghetti carbonara for Christopher, and they just didn't seem to pair well together.

 - Someone at work brought in the new "Watermelon" Oreos, yesterday. They're horrible. Possibly the most disgusting mass-market pastry I have ever had. I thought that, maybe, the vanilla cookie with the kind of "Jolly Rancher" watermelon filling was the problem. So I tried some of the filling by itself. If I had been at home, I totally would have spit it out. I think the fine folks at Oreo really need to stay away from the fruit flavors.

 - I really need to stop talking about food. I've got a physical tomorrow for which I'm "fasting" for 12 hours. Nothing but water until after they draw my blood to tell me that I have high cholesterol. (Yes, I assume that's a given.) And right now I am totally craving regular Oreos and a large glass of milk.

 - After my physical tomorrow I plan to stop at the McDonald's next door to the clinic and either get an Egg McMuffin or an Apple Pie (depending on whether I'm done while they're still serving breakfast). Yes, I realize this could be part of the cholesterol situation.

Dang. I'm talking about food again. Perhaps I should just post this and be done with it before I mention the new "Peanut Butter" PopTarts I bought today, which I'm excited to try sometime when I'm not fasting... Oh. Too late.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

8/28 Cooking Challenge - What's Cooking In Scotland

For my birthday last month, a friend of mine - we'll call her "La Bicycliste" - gave me one of those gifts which result in "Where did you... How did you... Wha...?" questions when you unwrap it on the sidewalk outside your work. She had, apparently, been at an antique show/sale in Iowa, and had come across the following from 1987:

I think I've mentioned, in the past, that I am originally from a small town in South Dakota named Scotland, right? And, yes, the school colors are orange and black, with a Scottie dog as one of our mascots. But - even better - I know both of the women who put this cookbook together. (In a town of 1,100 people, it shouldn't surprise anyone that I also went to school with their kids - and still hear about them on a fairly regular basis - either through my parents or through social networking.)

So... I flipped through the cookbook and got a little excited. There are recipes for baked goods and desserts that I grew up with - but that we never had at home. You see, my mom is not from South Dakota, so while we had amazing food when I was growing up, we didn't often have kolaches (p17) and kuchen (which we only had when we were with my dad's side of the family) (p18) or Malted Milk Bars (p31) or Salted Nut Roll Bars (with mini-marshmallows and Rice Krispies) (p34).

On the other hand, we also didn't have a lot of "salads" that had no vegetables. And black pepper was just something on the table with the salt, it wasn't considered "too hot to put into food." (Mom made salsa from scratch, since when I was a kid you really couldn't get it in a small town grocery store. You never knew how hot it was going to be, so eating it was kind of a culinary Hispano-Russian roulette.)

Although I was originally worried about it, earlier this week I got kind of excited about the prospect of taking a stab with my 8/28 rule. With only 10 columns of Index, I thought my odds were pretty good at getting one of those cool desserts from the back half of the alphabet. And then I realized the Index is broken out by course. The eighth column fell squarely into "Salads" and although I could have landed on Butter Mint Jello Salad (p93) or Cream Cheese Dressing for Fresh Fruit (p106). I landed on Confetti Salad.

I debated the "one up or one down" option, but those would have given me Calypso Coleslaw or Mexicorn Salad, so I just stayed with what I got. And I immediately warned Christopher that he wouldn't want to eat what I was making.

From page 101
Unlike last time, when the ingredients were all easy to find - we just didn't have any of them in the house, this time we didn't have any of the ingredients in the house AND I had a little trouble finding one of them. (Have I mentioned that we don't eat a lot of fresh vegetables?)

I was ready for the fact that this cookbook wouldn't really have amounts in it (what size is "1 bottle" of dressing? how much onion is a small onion?) but I totally hadn't thought about the fact that some ingredients might not exist any more. I completely couldn't find any "creamy cucumber" dressing. So - consulting my mom via phonecall while standing in Cub - I opted for the Kraft Cucumber Ranch. It was only available in a huge bottle, though, so I simply measured out 10 ounces, hoping for the best. 

Also, I don't like green pepper, so I went with yellow.
Next came the assembly. Lots of chopping and slicing and guessing what to do with things. You know, like deciding that I probably shouldn't put the pepper and tomatoes in without chopping them, first, even though the recipe ignored that step. 

This is what happens when the radishes get irradiated.
(Or when they reflect the flash... one of the two.)
Usually I'm a "break it into florets for dipping" guy with cauliflower.
But I have to admit that it looks kind of cool when you chop it. 

As I might have mentioned, I couldn't find a "normal-sized" bottle of the Cucumber Ranch dressing, so I measured it out and mixed it all in a measuring cup.  

Honestly, I thought I'd have trouble finding the "Italian Dressing Mix" -
but it was right on the shelf next to the dressings. 
After it looking so pretty and colorful with the first set of things in the bowl, the cauliflower and mushrooms - and dressing - started to make it look like a bowl of off-white ick.
Gotta admit that, at this point, I was really pretty worried. 
I admit that I only put in one large tomato, instead of the "three ripe tomatoes" requested. Why? Because... well... I was looking at the second tomato I had bought (the first one was definitely big enough to have counted for two) and thought "Hmm... Tomato and Egg on Toast would be lovely for dinner tomorrow night..." and put it back off to the side. 

Okay, so it doesn't look too bad once it's all stirred up. 
If you notice any small, pimiento-looking flecks in there, it's because the olives I used were, technically, "salad olives" instead of just regular jarred pimiento-stuffed green olives. What's the difference? The salad olives are kind of the "seconds" - they ain't as purty. And, well, they don't all have their own pimientos in them. Luckily for us, I had those leftover ones from last week... (By the way - who knew there were so many pimiento fans? I think those got more comments than anything else I've ever posted about!)

It chilled in the fridge while the chicken with Greek Seasoning was baking (in a foil pouch) in the toaster oven. I plated it up and realized that the salad kind of looks like brains when you photograph it. I tried multiple shots - with and without flash - but this was as good as it got. 
Healthy Chicken Breast with Semi-Healthy Confetti Salad
Here's the strange thing: It was actually pretty good. Yes, more tomato probably would have helped. Yes, the celery which I left out (not buying a whole thing of celery for just two ribs of it, sorry) might have added some nice crunch. Yes, it would have killed Christopher if he'd tried it (not just because of his disdain for cauliflower, but also because he's allergic to mushrooms). But I actually kind of liked it.

Or, maybe I just liked it because it's doused in a kind of Ranch dressing, which I never let myself eat. I suspect I'll find out whether or not I actually like it over the course of the next few days while I try to eat through the 3 quarts of leftovers...

(Thanks, again, to La Bicycliste for making this possible. I haven't dug around to see what the next cookbook is going to be. Fingers crossed that I get to bake something, soon, or at least work with some ingredients I actually have in the house...)

Friday, June 21, 2013

Seeing Red, Happily

I would have loved to have taken a picture of our new peonies all out along the house blooming in red, pink, and white. But with massive storms overnight last night, all of the established peonies that were already blooming have collapsed from waterlogging. (The ones at the front of our walk kind of look like the greenery is dragging a bunch of white dish mops on the ground.)

The new ones are smaller, so their blooms aren't as heavy, which means that they didn't get totally pummelled last night. In fact, the red one that was budding and had just started to open, actually did open today.

And, happily, it truly is red. Most of the time, "red" peonies are actually a dark pink, verging on kind of a purple. But we found these this year, and - I'm happy to say - this one is not at all pink.

We debated leaving it outside, since it's the only bloom of that color that we're going to have this year. But, as we got home from dinner and realized that the next storm was rolling in, we opted to cut it so that we could enjoy it a bit longer.

It looks like this (unfortunately, that one petal is down, but check out the cool color):

Hopefully next year we'll have more of them - and fewer storms destroying them just as they bloom.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Doing Good when Doing Good is Possible

Have you ever offered to do some good, and been turned away? 

Well, as someone who is (to quote the Red Cross blood donor restrictions) "a male who has had sexual contact with another male, even once, since 1977", I'm not allowed to give blood. Because, apparently, even though I've been tested at various times in my life, and have been in a committed relationship for almost 8 years, that puts me (in their eyes) into a high-risk category for HIV infection. 

This is especially frustrating since, the one or two times I was able to give blood, I was told I was "a really good pumper." I don't pass out at the sight of blood. I have good veins. I like orange juice and cookies. 

But, even though the Red Cross tests every drop of blood that they collect, and even though there are people with much riskier lifestyles who can give blood whenever they want, I would have to lie about who I am to donate blood. [For the record, I'm also not welcome on the national bone marrow registry for the same reason (because a primary component of that is run under the same regulations as those which the Red Cross uses).] 

(Yeah... For as far as we've come, there's still a distance to go in the whole Equal Rights arena...) 

This might not be a big deal to a lot of people, but if you've known someone who needed blood - or a bone marrow transplant - and you were told that you could not donate because even though you're perfectly healthy - and can take the tests to prove it - you are supposedly in a risky group, would that make sense to you? 

Say your best friend was in the hospital, and you were a perfect match for a kidney transplant. You went in to offer to donate your kidney, and were asked if you had ever eaten raw spinach between 1980 and now. When you say you have, you're turned away because there was a big e coli outbreak caused by tainted spinach in 1992. You weren't personally impacted by the outbreak, but you have eaten spinach. The doctors can tell that you're not sick, and they know that your kidney could save your best friend. But they send you away, anyway. 

That's what it's like to be told that, because I am a "practicing gay male" (I've always been amused by that phrase, I must admit), I can't give blood. I can't even be part of the bone marrow registry. I can't offer to do my part to save people's lives. 

Well, I finally found something I could do. I heard, on the radio a week or so ago, about a Cancer Prevention Study being conducted by the American Cancer Society. They were looking for volunteers to be part of a "20- to 30-year" study. Basically, they're just going to track the participants. Every 2 or 3 years, I'll get a letter asking me to tell them things like my weight, my exercise and eating habits, and whether or not I'm smoking or drinking. And whether or not I have cancer. 

So I went online and filled out the forms. Then I went in and finished signing up, today. Filled out a survey. Answered a few questions. Had my waist measured. Gave them 4 vials of blood. Promised to update my address with them whenever I move over the next couple of decades or so. 

It's not much. It's not giving blood on a monthly basis or donating bone marrow. But it's something. Do what you can with what you've got, right? 

If you'd like to learn more about the study or see if you can sign up in your area, the link to the Cancer Prevention Study-3 is here.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Movie Monday - The Words

I promise not to give any spoilers. But I will say that I liked this movie up until about the final 15 minutes of it.

The Words bases itself on an interesting premise. It's a story within a story within a story.

Dennis Quaid is an author who has written a story about Bradley Cooper, a writer who has found and published a story by Ben Barnes without giving Ben Barnes any credit. But then Jeremy Irons shows up to say "Wait. I'm Ben Barnes." and things get all wonky. But, of course, this is all happening in the story which Dennis Quaid had written. So there's actually no Bradley, Ben/Jeremy in the "real" world.

And, you know, I was perfectly okay with that for most of the movie. I thought it was all handled really well. I liked the characters (for the most part), and I thought the movie was styled really believably (we watch Bradley's character go from unemployed to best-selling author - and his hair styles changed with him, which is something that usually only happens to women in movies).

There's a very cool kind of morality play happening throughout the movie, too. Not only are we watching Bradley deal with the fact that he's taking credit for someone else's work, but we're watching the characters around him react and deal with it all.

And then there's the whole writerly aspect of it, too. That was cool. Watching the different writers and their processes.

But then there was the end. Which just left me wanting... something different.

Still, I'd recommend the movie - and I'd recommend it for watching at a time when you can truly focus because the first 3/4 of it are quite beautiful at times.

Overall rating: B-

Bonus review: Oblivion. As with The Words, I recommend this movie, but I'd also recommend leaving this one about 15 minutes before the end. Unless, of course, you have any fantasies of... well... boinking with Tom Cruise and, let's say, a stunt double Tom Cruise. In which case, watch the whole movie. (And, no, there is no Cruise on Cruise boinking - that's just... well... you'll understand what I mean if you watch the full movie.) Overall rating: C, because it wanted to be more than it was and simply didn't live up to its potential.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

8/28 Cooking Challenge - Jiffy Cooking

With today's blog, we start the "8/28 Cooking Challenge" which I mentioned a few posts ago. This is where I pull a cookbook off the shelf, turn to the Index, and choose a random recipe to cook using one of the following procedures: 1) Go to the 8th Index page, find the 2nd column, and count down 8 recipes; or, 2) (for books with smaller indices) Go to the 8th Index column, and count down 28 recipes.

I was trying to figure out what cookbook to start with. After all, I'm trying to randomize this to some degree, so I didn't want to simply pull my most-used cookbook off the shelf and go from there. So I looked around and decided to go with the cookbook that has been in my collection the longest. This is not the oldest cookbook in the collection (which would be the 1950 Betty Crocker cookbook), but the one that has travelled with me from home to home and is still in the collection. And, as near as I can figure that is Jiffy Cooking from the Better Homes and Gardens collection. 

Now, I feel a pang of guilt, here, because I know that I had cookbooks that were given to me prior to this, such as the Pooh Cook Book, but I don't have that with me. (Note to self: Bring that back from my parents' house the next time I go home.) But when I opened Jiffy Cooking, I was greeted by an inscription from my brother-in-law's parents - written by my brother-in-law's mom (I recognize the handwriting) - dated May 29, 1977 (so, before he was actually even my brother-in-law). Yep. I've had the cookbook for over 36 years. (Which is odd, since I'm sure I'm only 25, now...)

Thumbing through the book, the one recipe that actually jumped out at me as something I definitely had made in the past was "Stuffed Burger Bundles" - packaged stuffing mix surrounded by hamburger, browned, and then served in a "pepped up canned soup" gravy. Kinda like a Juicy Lucy, but stuffed with stuffing instead of cheese.

The book is amazing. Along with sections of basic themes (dessert, main dish, etc.), it has recipes set out in "servable" sections like "family dinner," "company brunch," and "teen-age party." For the purposes of the 8/28 Cooking Challenge, my finger landed on "Turkey Amandine on Toast" - which happens to be in the "Luncheon" section. This is the recipe (and, yes, it's supposed to be served at Luncheon with the Cranberry Relish Squares, French-style Green Beans, Celery Sticks, Coffee or Tea, and EITHER Lazy Day Grasshopper Pie OR Easy Apricot Souffle - no choosing two desserts, please):

So... I printed out the recipe and headed for the grocery store because... although you may be surprised... we don't often have cans of chicken gravy or pimentos on hand. We also don't have leftover chicken or turkey (we cook for two - that usually means... well... cooking for two), nor do we have sour cream, slivered almonds, or poultry seasoning on hand. I did have bread, so I was good to go on the toast points. (phew)

In case you're wondering, this is what a jar of diced pimientos (which I did not realize had an "i" in it) looks like. Sort of the color of maraschino cherries, but with the texture of over-cooked roasted red peppers - which might have made a good 21st-century swap.

After some last-minute prepping this morning, I set about to make my luncheon. (Okay. I admit it: I didn't have much faith in this, so one of my errands was to pick up a quick snack/lunch from Wendy's for Christopher and me before coming home. Just in case this was a total flop.)

Since it's Jiffy cooking, there aren't really a lot of steps to show you. Here are the ingredients and the cookbook (on the left-hand page is a picture of "Deviled Ham Pie" with asparagus spears on top): 

Yeah... I didn't take any pictures of me throwing it all in a pan and waiting for it to heat through. Nor did I take any pictures of the bread toasting. (I'm learning about this food blogging thing as I go.)

Since I don't have poultry seasoning in the house, I went with even parts oregano, rosemary, and tarragon, then added some garlic powder and red pepper flakes because... well... the only other spice in this was going to be the "flavored with sage and black pepper" gravy. Which, as with most Campbell's products, smelled amazing, but was blander than I could ever hope to describe. 

After getting a slight eye-roll from Christopher as I explained that this needed to be served on some china, I plated it up. It came out looking like this:

The pimientos added basically no flavor, but they did make it look nice. 

Now, Jiffy Cooking is kind of like an early "semi-homemade" thing. Lots of canned ingredients. Lots of quick-and-easy cooking for people who are either beginning (as I was at age 10... err... negative-10?), or were dealing with trying to plan and execute meals in a hurry. After all, this was the late-70s, when fewer moms were stay-at-home, so there wasn't time to cook for 8 hours for dinner.

I'm guessing that the same meal, today, would take at least twice as long to prepare. We'd be roasting our own red peppers. Toasting the almonds. Growing the parsley and free-range chickens, and making our own gluten-free whole-grain ethically yeasty bread. 

But I have to admit that I kind of liked the results. In fact, I think I'm going to make some rice and take it to work for lunch this week. It would probably also make a good starter base for something like a pot pie or a "chicken and dumplings" recipe. 

Tune in next time, when the recipe is going to come from the cookbook I was given most recently - which does *not* mean it's a recent cookbook. This promises to be interesting... (Christopher - you may want to order pizza for the next one. We'll see.)

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Bringing This Into Focus

I'm very happy to say that it seems that the new layout of the blog is meeting favorable reviews. I've had 3 or 4 people contact me to say that they like it. And even Christopher approved. So I think it'll stay around for a while.

I've also had one person ask me whether I changed it so that some of the readers who are getting a bit older would have less trouble reading it. I'd love to say that I was thinking of other people when I did the re-design. But I'd be lying.

You see, I did the re-design for me. I simply decided that I needed something different to look at every day. And I thought this new style was kind of fun. (And I'm still contemplating changing out the top photo, if I'm being honest.)

But, okay, here's the thing. When I first chose the template, the main post text was supposed to be white on a black background (as it is in the right-hand margin). And I find that to be really annoying and difficult to read when you have to read a lot of it. I used to work in computer systems that were white on black (or orange on black, or green on black), and I just don't really ever want to do that, again. So I swapped it out for black on white, leaving the right-hand columns in the reverse for contrast.

And then I looked at the main text and thought "but in italics... or when I put in a small caption... that's going to be really small." At which point I bumped the font up a size, at least for the main text.

So... yeah... I guess I did change the font, in part, for the reader who is getting older and finding some of the text harder to read. It's just that the reader in question was me.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013


Have I mentioned, lately, that we've been getting a lot of rain in the past month? We've had enough, in fact, that the damp grey ick from outside has begun to permeate into the house.

Unfortunately, our dehumidifier decided that it was done with us last fall. And while we didn't need to worry about it over the winter - when we actually have to humidify the house - the basement has become a tad damp this spring.

The house, as a whole, seems fine. It's just the basement where the musty is threatening to set in. And, well, considering it has felt a bit swampy outside the past few days, I'm very happy to say that the new dehumidifier showed up, today.

It's not the most attractive of household appliances. Definitely not "sexy" or anything. But it's a nice enough size, and it has a handle, and it's on wheels. And it even has a little indicator on the front so you can see how full the tank is. (Our old one would just shut off from time to time to indicate that it was full.)

With any luck, now that we have the new unit, the weather will also turn around and the city of Minneapolis will stop feeling like Seattle, or Savannah, or some other damp, foggy, humid place that smells faintly of feet.

Although I'm not sure the dehumidifier is *quite* strong enough to take care of all of that.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

1,001 - A Fresh Coat of Paint

Christopher defined it best, yesterday, when he said that I was putting a "fresh coat of paint" on my blog, so I give him credit for the title of this post.

There's something kind of exciting about starting out, again, with a new background and new fonts and new color-schemes - and even some new text in those weird margin boxes. It's kind of like getting a new desk at work - the job stays the same, but it's amazing how much good a new view can do.

With that said, while there are a lot of old habits which I don't expect to go away any time soon (not all of which I apologize for), here are two things I plan (and really *hope*) to do in the near future:

 - The 8/28 Cooking Challenge. Using the 8/28 as a jumping-off point, I'm planning to try to grab a cookbook off the shelf, turn to the 8th page of the index, go to the 2nd column, and count down to the 8th item. And then cook it. (And - fingers crossed - take pictures to post with it.) If the book is small, and doesn't have 8 pages of index, I may do something like go to the 8th column of the index and count down 28 items. I dunno. It's in flux at this point. And I totally reserve the right to go one slot up or down in the index list if the item I land on is just awful. My hope is to do this at least twice each month.

 - The Bad Quote Quotient. I've been known to share, in other forums, some of the bad writing that I have to work on. I think you might enjoy some of that, so I plan to share them here, too. (With identifying characteristics removed to protect the not-so-innocent violators of the English language.)

I also hope to post more photos when appropriate. And to try not to navel-gaze too much. And to strike that fine balance that keeps us all (yes, me included) interested in this blog from week to week.

So, as one of my favorite lines in cinema asks: "Are you ready? Here we go!"*

*Points to you if you know what that's from. Granted, the points aren't worth anything, but I'll give them to you, just the same. 

Friday, June 7, 2013

Post Number 1,000! A Tiz List Before Moving On

It's been a while since I've posted a "Tiz List," and before we launch into the next thousand posts (after all, we start with 1, not 0, when counting), I thought I should clarify a few things.

For those of you unfamiliar with my Tiz Lists (or if you've simply forgotten over time where the name comes from), I've named these "lists of random things you may not know about me - or random things which at least I don't believe I've explicitly said about myself in the past" after the friend of mine who writes the "Tiz and Ass" blog. Why? Because each December she has written incredibly personal lists of things people don't know about her, and since that spirit is what prompted me to write my own lists, I decided to give credit where credit is due.

So, with an eye on wrapping up the past 999 posts in a bow so that we can move forward with 1,001 with a relatively clean slate, here we go: 

1. I haven't ever named "the pup" in the blog. And I don't plan to. Not sure why. I guess it's sort of for the same reason that I don't name people without their consent. She can't give her consent, so I'm not naming her. I also don't plan to name where I work, but that's totally different.

2. I know that I kind of have stopped blog-sighing over John Barrowman since meeting him. Don't get me wrong -  I would still invite him and his partner over for dinner if given the opportunity, and I'm sure he'll show up from time to time in the next 1,000 posts, but I wanted to let you know that I know that I've been talking about him less. 

3. Yes, I'm a Gemini. Although I think I have it "tamed" much more than I did in my 20s.

4. I am on various social media, but I don't connect with most people on them unless I actually know them. I kind of feel like if I wouldn't invite them over for dinner, I don't need them knowing what I'm doing all the time. 

5. There are people I've "met" through my blog, their blogs, or a combination of the two, who are now friends of mine on social media - even though they've never been to my home for dinner. And there are people who have been over to dinner who, even so, are not connected to me on social media.

6. I'm a huge proponent of having people over for dinner. My first date with Christopher was a dinner in my apartment almost 8 years ago. 

7. We ordered pizza, but the "in my home" was, I think, the important part.

8. I firmly believe that you can be great friends with people you have only met for a moment. Even if you don't see them again for a very long time. Or ever. And sometimes those same people leave bigger imprints on you than anyone else.

9. I think that some people - no matter how much time you spend together, or how much of an impact you make on each other - will always just be acquaintances. 

10. Some of my best friends are people who live in other parts of the world and I only hear from a few times a year. 

11. I think that's okay.

12. Since I started my current job, I find it harder and harder to read for fun, and to wrap my mind around writing anything longer than blog posts or emails. Even so, I think that some day I might publish a book or twelve of my own. 

13. There are days when I really miss being around the performing arts. 

14. And the artsy arts, too. 

15. No. Christopher and I are not planning to get married on August 1st when it becomes legal in Minnesota. (I had another person ask me that, earlier today. Totally out of the blue.)

16. I really would like to win the lottery and try to prove the "money can't buy happiness" people wrong. 

17. When I see movie stars with greying beards, it makes me happy, because I don't feel so bad about the grey in mine. 

18. I cannot imagine ever using any kind of color in my beard. That would be weird.

19. I have problems realizing that the grey is in my beard because I'm in my late 40s. I always kind of feel like I'm in my late 20s or early 30s - old enough to not have the pressure to go out and run around constantly, and content enough to not feel bad about that. 

20. I have come to prefer aggressive-aggressive over passive-aggressive. And I fully admit that when people are being passive-aggressive I'm happy to exploit the holes in that to my advantage. (Look, I said the Gemini in me was more tame than in my 20s. I didn't say it was gone.)

21. When I started this blog, I didn't think anyone would read it. I also figured it would probably last about 3 months - or until I got a job, whichever came first. 

22. I'm still under the impression that - most days - no more than 3 or 4 people read this blog. Two of whom are my parents. (Hi, Mom and Dad!)

23. When I write, I tend to imagine it as a conversation - which makes it a pleasant surprise when people respond in conversational fashion. 

24. I have already started looking at new layouts for this blog, and am planning to launch them with my next post. The writing style will probably stay mostly the same.

25. I suspect you really have no idea how much I appreciate those of you who read this blog. Writing in a vacuum is a little weird. So just being able to see that at least someone has seen my blog on any given day is nice. 

And, there we have it: my one thousandth blog post - a mere 4 years, 9 months, and a handful of days after the first one.

Hmm... I had kind of expected fanfare. Maybe trumpets or confetti. Or at least cake. In lieu of that, I offer you the following three minutes of video which - to me - are pretty much pure joy:

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

CMLXLVIV - Some Show With the Tell

I know. I'm horrible about putting up pictures on my blog posts. And it's really bad when I'm talking about something visual and don't do it. I'm hoping to get better at that, but I offer you no guarantees.

However, in honor of using the CMLXLVIV as a way of "showing" the number of this post, instead of just telling, I figure I'll try to do some showing of other things.

For instance...

Here is the house a few years ago with all of its 1950s greenery (after a summer hail storm):

And here it is, about a week ago (this is before the second snuffleupagus of mulch, because it's mainly been raining ever since I put the new mulch down and I haven't wanted to go out with the camera):

(If you're paying attention, you've noticed that not only are the plantings different, but the house is now a different color as of about 2 years ago.)

Here are some things from various gardening attempts, which give me hope for the future:

From 2010
From 2011

From 2013
And, finally, a quick look at how I've changed over the past nearly 5 years...

From early 2008 - before I started blogging
And an unfortunately close-up shot from just last week.

If you've been paying attention over the past few years (or even just during the past few posts where I've been going on about the past 1,000 posts), you know that this is the basic write-up of my blog (found in the left-hand margin of my blog): 

Under-employed Writer, Under-travelled Traveller, Under-listened to Raconteur, and Slightly under-done Baker... Happily partnered, but unhappy in the realm of career fulfillment, Robert (that'd be me) decided to look for an outlet for his conversational needs. And, thus, this blog was born.

There was a time when that actually started with "Unemployed" but I updated it when I got work. (Coincidentally, I believe that the unemployment started just after that 2008 picture was taken. If I'm not mistaken - although I may be - my job went away the day after I came back from that trip...) 

I kind of wonder what that will all say - and what pictures my accompany it - five years from now? 

Monday, June 3, 2013

T-minus 2 - Just Write

I learned long ago that the hardest thing about writing is, frequently, putting the first words onto a blank sheet of paper. Or - in this day and age - putting the first pixels onto a screen.

Back in the days when I was teaching writing (a lifetime or three ago), I would tell my students to simply write whatever came to mind, first. That way they would have something in front of them that cut into the vast blank space. Once those first words were on the page, I could pretty much guarantee that the rest would come easy - and that they could then go back and delete the initial crap.

Some nights tossing things onto the screen which I know I'll delete later works for me for blogging. Some nights it doesn't. There are nights (and some days) when I stare at the screen and wonder what the hell I'm going to write. And why I'm doing it.

Honestly, the "why" is usually more difficult than the "what."

So I remind myself that there are two primary reasons that I started this blog:

1) To force myself to write. On an almost-daily basis. Just write.

2) To share what I'm doing in my life with people who will listen - and who will, hopefully, enjoy the stories. Remember, when I started this blog, I was unemployed and spending most of my days in the house with no one to talk to. Which is a hard situation for someone who likes to talk and tell stories and who enjoys the company of other people. (Yes, I fully admit that when I started this blog I had hoped that I'd also have a lot of people reading and responding to my posts. I've learned that very few of the people who read this actually respond on here. Sometimes that makes it a bit like writing into a vacuum - which, at times, is incredibly liberating. It's amazing how much more honest you can be when you're not sure anyone is actually ever going to read what you've written.)

I suspect that I also hoped that, along the way, I'd find the germ of my own Great American Novel. Or get a ton of people following my posts. Or get to meet some of the people I talked about. Or at least hear from some of the people I talked about.

But over the course of nearly 1,000 posts, reality set in, and so these days I try to remind myself to focus on those two original main goals: Writing and communicating. (Which - as a lot of people seem to forget - are not the same things.)

I know I've said that I'm hoping to do some revamping of this blog as I go forward. One thing I hope to never leave behind is that a desire to write and communicate is what got me here.

Who knows? Some day it may even take me somewhere else.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

9-9-7 Mulch A-Two

One of the things I've noticed along the way is that I have a tendency to come back to the same topics from time to time.

A lot of those are things which I've turned into the "Labels" that show up at the bottom of the posts. Some of them are kind of broad (like "travel") while some are more specific (like "John Barrowman").

Well, today I offer you something that is even more repetitive than any of those things. Under the heading of "Gardening" in late 2011, I wrote about mulching the planting beds around our house after the 50-year-old bushes had been taken out. (See the original Mulch Ado About Nothing, here.)

And, when I got home from work on Friday of this week, we had another huge Snuffleupagan mound of mulch in the driveway. It took me a couple of hours on Friday night, and another hour or so today, to move enough of it to cover the areas that needed some re-filling. And then to fill in a few areas to make the colors match. OH - and to move enough of it off the driveway so that Christopher can get his car in and out of the garage.

Thankfully, this year's Snuffleupagus was a bit smaller than the one from 2011. So my body doesn't hurt in quite as many places. And, thankfully, the rain has been light the past 24 hours, so the mulch didn't get too wet and heavy while I was working on it.

As I proceed toward (and beyond) post 1,000, I'm sure that I'll find myself repeating topics from time to time. I really hope that those pieces of repetition are less painful for you to read than the second round of mulch was for me to move.