February 2005 Archives

Just wild about saffron

Update: I added a gallery of sixteen more photos of The Gates from this past Saturday.

The Gates in Central Park by Christo and Jeanne-Claude will soon be a memory. Disassembly of this massively-scaled work begins later today. Although mere photographs do not come close to doing this project justice, those (and video footage) will be all that we have to remember it by.

view of one of The Gates from a supine position

This is not a work that an artist can display in a museum because the components of the work, themselves, are rather mundane—a woven saffron canvas suspended from a minimalist saffron three-sided vinyl frame, weighed down by two black steel footings. However, repeating this mundane element over 23 miles of walkways, allowing it to become one with both the beautiful natural environment of Central Park and the vast community of roaming visitors created a spectacular and memorable visual experience.

The Gates stand out against the winter backdrop

The freshly-fallen snow made the walkways a bit icy and slushy in places, but the snow allowed these gates to stand out from their environment even more, which made for a great photo op.

a head-on shot of one of The Gates

If one was lucky enough to spot one of the uniformed monitors, identified by their “The Gates” vests and their tennis-ball-adorned staffs, one could request a free 2.75-inch-square saffron-hued fabric swatch—a simple, but pleasing memento.

Lottery ticket


The multi-state lottery is up to $112 million, so I bought a ticket. This, of course, is silliness in its rawest form. The odds are no different for a big pot or a small one. I doubt I would be any less happy winning a one million dollar pot versus a pot ten or hundred times that. So why am I so much more willing to throw my hard-earned money away when the prize gets up into the triple digits?

An old army buddy used to say that the lottery is a tax on those who are bad at math. Maybe. However, it is also a tax on those who allow delusional hope to blur the line between the rational and the irrational, between the possible and the impossible.

Sometimes I will build up an elaborate fantasy around what I would do if I won—how I would spend the money, how long before I quit my job, whether I would gloat and to whom, etc. Of course, when the winning numbers are announced, and I lose (which, considering the odds, is not that unexpected of an outcome); the fantasy bubble bursts, and I tear up the ticket and get on with my life. The hopeful fantasy is fun while it lasts, but there is little sense in dwelling on my loss when the odds were so significantly stacked against me.

The fantasy bubble does not always burst so easily. I have been carrying around a losing lottery ticket, so to speak, for far too long. When the prize-winning numbers were announced, I was devastated and have refused to accept the outcome. The sad reality is that the ticket was always without intrinsic value; I just did not realize it until I compared the numbers. Months later, though, the irrational is not just staring down the rational across a blurry line; the former is consuming the latter. The worthless ticket continues to fuel innumerable delusions, which once were a harmless distraction, but now are negatively impacting all aspects of my life—professional, personal, and spiritual. Fortunately, this has so far been a private struggle, hurting no one but myself; however, I fear that if I let it linger on, it may cause me to hurt and alienate those I care most about.

I even tried to tear the ticket up once, but quickly dug the pieces out of the trash and taped them back together. “Well,” I rationalized, “what if they announce all of a sudden that the drawing was in error, and they pick new numbers.” The cold, hard reality, though, is the drawing is past. I lost. I need to run that ticket through the shredder, and be done with it. I need to stop playing that particular lottery entirely and maybe try one with better odds. Unfortunately, I doubt that is something that I will be able to accomplish without help.

Random bits

  • Google Maps (the coolest web application…ever) now works in Safari. Yay.
  • I’m finally starting to get the hang of using the del.icio.us social bookmarks system. I’m not sure if I like that everyone can see what I’m bookmarking if they can figure out what username I’m using, so I imagine that I will self-censor what I bookmark a bit, but it is still a useful tool.
  • Upon the recommendation of The Impulsive Buy (one of my daily reads because I am an impulsive buyer), I bought a box of Chocolate Lucky Charms. They truly were magically delicious. I even ate them while watching Saturday morning cartoons. Sometimes when the world drags you down, it’s good to pretend you’re a kid for a little while.
  • Slashdot linked to the first photo ever posted to the World Wide Web. Freaky.

Inner Monologue Guy


My inner monologue will not let me get to sleep. Usually, he just provides much-needed and extremely quotable comic relief, or he acts out entertaining “alternative universe” fantasy scenarios (like what would have happened if I actually said what I wanted to say when I was talking to her, or him, etc.).

Lately, though, monologue guy has developed a self-deprecating mean streak, and he refuses to just shut the hell up. To make things worse, tonight he chose to have a raucous party deep within my psyche. He’s brought along some friends, including inner turmoil, self doubt, angst, regret, and panic. Unfortunately, they have also decided that tonight is movie night, so they have dug out reels and reels of cringe-worthy memories to repeatedly show as twisted home movies.

I have kept these guys bottled up for so long, they have become increasingly restless. Emboldened by their successful escape from the depths of my soul a couple of weeks ago, they have since made repeated escape attempts. Fortunately, each time I have been safely alone within the confines of my home. After each attempt, though, considerably more effort is required to lock them back up, and the damage left in their wake is harder to repair. I just fear that they will choose an inopportune moment to make another such attempt and seize control—those I care most about will most certainly be caught in the crossfire.

I have been trying to distract the lot of them by watching a little TV, reading, surfing through other blogs; but I cannot concentrate on any of these things. It surprises me that they are actually allowing me enough peace of mind to write this blog post, although I fear that I may only be taking dictation from these guys, who seem temporarily bored by the home movies, and seem to have thought that it would be raucous fun if they tricked me into writing a ridiculous metaphorical blog post…

Never say never


It’s been awhile since I’ve done a list meme, but figured I’d try this one after seeing it first on Michelle’s blog, then Jenniy’s.

The ones that I have truly never done are in bold. Explanations available on request.

I’ve never kissed a member of the opposite sex
I’ve never kissed a member of the same sex (romantically, I’m assuming)
I’ve never wrecked a friend’s car (rental cars…different story)
I’ve never been to Japan
I’ve never been in a taxi
I’ve never been on a train
I’ve never been in love
I’ve never had sex in a public place
I’ve never been dumped
I’ve never done cocaine
I’ve never shoplifted
I’ve never been fired
I’ve never been in a fist fight
I’ve never snuck out of my parent’s house
I’ve never been tied up
I’ve never regretted having sex with someone
I’ve never been arrested
I’ve never made out with a stranger
I’ve never stolen something from my job
I’ve never celebrated New Years in Times Square
I’ve never gone on a blind date
I’ve never lied to a friend
I’ve never had a crush on a teacher
I’ve never celebrated Mardi Gras in New Orleans
I’ve never been to Europe
I’ve never skipped school
I’ve never slept with a co-worker
I’ve never cut myself on purpose
I’ve never had sex at the office
I’ve never been married
I’ve never been divorced
I’ve never had sex with more than one person in the same week
I’ve never posed nude
I’ve never gotten someone drunk to have sex with them
I’ve never killed anyone
I’ve never received scars from my sex partner
I’ve never thrown up in a bar
I’ve never taken a hallucinogenic drug
I’ve never purposely set a fire
I’ve never eaten sushi
I’ve never been snowboarding
I’ve never had sex at a friend’s house while they were throwing a party
I’ve never had sex in a dressing room
I’ve never flashed anyone
I’ve never met anyone from online

Miyazaki fans rejoice

I have been a huge fan of Hayao Miyazaki’s films since I was a junior in college. In fact, he is the namesake of my work computer. My Neighbor Totoro was my first exposure to his brilliance; my roommate did a paper on the film. “You only see him when you’re very young…” (…or you’re very drunk). Although Totoro is one of his more charming films, the artwork in his other masterpieces is positively breathtaking. (My favorite is still Mononoke-hime.)

So it is no surprise that I am waiting with baited breath for my pre-order of Porco Rosso, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, and The Cat Returns to ship. The Region 1 release date for all three is tomorrow.

Porco Rosso DVD cover Nausicaa DVD cover The Cat Returns DVD cover

These DVDs have been delayed for so long; I remember when Porco Rosso had a slated release date of April 2004.

Now if Disney would just announce a date for the replacement of that awful Fox Home Video version of Totoro since Fox’s distribution rights have finally expired.

In other cool Miyazaki-related news, it looks like there will be a live-action version of Kiki’s Delivery Service.

Too skinny? Part deux


One of the advantages of losing a significant amount of weight is that it provides one with an excuse to buy a whole new wardrobe. In many ways this has been tremendously gratifying fun. Occasionally, though, clothes shopping for a reasonably trim six-foot-two male body can be a frustrating pain in the ass.

I have mentioned before the difficulties I have encountered buying jeans. Any pair with a waist larger than 31 inches feels baggy and uncomfortable; however, these jeans must also be loose-legged because my thighs are sort of muscular. Just try finding pants like that with a 34-inch inseam. Not…easy.

This, however, is a cakewalk compared to buying a suit. I suppose it is some consolation that I am not alone in my newfound struggle—“Slim pickings in a weighty world”.

Before we begin the chronicle of my futile quest for semi-formal ware, a quick men’s fashion primer may be in order. A “regular cut” suit by an American label has a six-inch drop between the chest and waist, meaning that a jacket with a 44-inch chest (that’s my size) comes with 38-inch-waisted trousers, and the jacket is shaped accordingly. European labels often increase the regular cut drop to 7 inches because Europeans eat fewer Big Macs. ;-) The “athletic cut” suit has an 8-inch drop (although some have as much as a 10-inch drop) and the jacket tapers a bit more nicely, instead of hanging down loosely like a boxy tent. Just in case you were curious, there is also a “portly cut” that has a 4-inch drop.

Even with the “athletic” cut, I knew that I would have to resort to alterations and/or separates (some stores have a limited selection of “mix and match” jackets and trousers). I obviously don’t expect to find any suits with a 13-inch drop (although, that would be great); I would like to at least start with an athletic cut jacket, because the more you alter a jacket, the worse it tends to look (and the more it costs to alter). Okay, I need to rant—what the hell is “athletic” about a 36-inch waist. When I reached rock bottom this past summer, and I realized that I no longer wanted to carry around 65 extra pounds of fat, I was a size 36. Grrrr.

Of course, such an argument about whether an athletic cut suit is actually “athletic” is moot because I could not even find such a suit around this area. Men’s Wearhouse? “We don’t carry anything in an athletic cut.” At least the guy in Jos. A Bank was a bit more helpful. (BTW Jos. A. Bank was where I recently bought the absolute best pair of dress pants I have ever owned—a charcoal merino wool/cashmere blend pair with a 31-inch waist that fits like an oh-so-comfortable glove.) He said that they no longer sell athletic cut suits because this area has become corporate central (Merrill Lynch, Dow Jones, and scads of drug companies). The salesman then added that if I gained some of my weight back, they might be able to help me out.

Ha, ha, ha. Ha, ha. Ha, ha, ha. Ha, ha. Bite my size-31 ass.

How about Macy’s? Yes, they actually had one athletic cut suit in a 44-long, but it was taupe. Taupe? Whiskey Tango Foxtrot? Taupe?!? Whatever. As I exited the store, I walked past the underwear section, bedecked with rows of boxes with black and white pictures of bare-chested, well-muscled pretty boys, and I pondered, “Where the hell do you guys buy your suits?”

I guess my answer, of course, is the city. I’ll probably end up paying through the nose, and then paying NYC taxes on top of that. I suppose if I had already gotten my physique to where I wanted it, I might spring for a custom-made suit. I don’t know.

Here’s the rub, though. I am not an athlete. I do not have the body of an athlete. I look at myself in the mirror—at the rolls of fat that still spill over my waistband and my still poorly defined chest and arms—and I think to myself that if buying a well-fitted suit now is this difficult, what about in six months or so, when I finally do have an athletic physique?

To do (or not to do) list

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I have given myself a four-day weekend, so in order to make best use of my time, I’m making a to-do list. I’m normally not that organized or proactive, but sometimes I can pretend to be (somewhat). This weekend I need to:

  1. Sleep in (mission accomplished there).
  2. Clean my apartment. Funky may be good for music, but not for living spaces.
  3. Rethink my lesson plans for the next few weeks of my adult school class. This semester, unfortunately, a couple of my students are having a great deal of difficulty keeping up. Hand-coding HTML pages is not an undertaking for people who lack even basic computer skills. I feel bad as I look upon the bored faces of my other students as I stretch Week Two’s lesson plan into a second week, and then a third…
  4. Buy a new suit. No man’s wardrobe should be without one, but mine is. You can alter a suit when you drop two inches off your waist, but not six. My little brother is now the proud owner of my over-sized Brooks Brothers cast-off.
  5. Visit the Gates exhibit in the city. Although, I will very likely save this one for next week. Tomorrow’s weather will be unpleasantly brisk. For now I will be content to enjoy this high-res satellite photo of Central Park and this one with Tony Danza.
  6. Attempt to implement sIFR (Scalable Inman Flash Replacement) on one of my sites (perhaps here). sIFR is a brilliant standards-compliant hack that embeds nicely typeset, fully selectable Flash-generated text headlines into a web page without sacrificing usability. [found via CSS Vault].
  7. Create (or begin) at least one piece of visual art.
  8. Do some serious thinking about the next three to four months of my life. Ironically, the day after I made the decision to accelerate my future plans, I found out that one of the three major factors which led to this decision might soon no longer be a factor. Now I have to decide whether to fall back to the previous timeline, or make another life change that will up-end things even more. Stop the world; I want to get off.

Shuffle ’em up


I came across this blog meme a few weeks back, but now I have forgotten where. First, set your iPod (or iTunes) to Shuffle Songs; then list the first ten songs that come up (no cheating). Thank God, no Yanni popped up — (hey, I’m sure your ’Pod has a few skeletons, too).

  1. “Anthem for Doomed Youth” by 10,000 Maniacs; Hope Chest
  2. “Lovin’ you (Rob Searle Club Mix)” by Vinyl Baby; DDR 6th Mix
  3. “Rocky Raccoon” by The Beatles; Anthology 3 — Disc 1
  4. “Hope and Memory” by Howard Shore; LOTR: The Return of the King
  5. “Here Today” by The Beach Boys; Pet Sounds
  6. “Love is Blindness” by U2; Achtung Baby
  7. “Sonata #10 in G Major - Allegro” by Vladimir Ashkenazy; Piano Sonatas - Disc 3
  8. “White Summer/Black Mountain Side” by Led Zeppelin; Coda
  9. “The Gentleman Soldier” by The Pogues; Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash
  10. “Cloudburst” by George Winston; Plains

You know, the closer my iPod gets to attaining sentience, the more eclectic its tastes get. (What? You thought Shuffle Songs was purely random?)

I need therapy


…Chocolate Therapy that is. Yes, unfortunately, the 2005 line-up of Ben and Jerry’s flavors is here. I figure that I owe it to myself to allow myself to try each one of them at least once (not in one sitting, of course).

Chocolate Therapy pint

First one up (or should I say down) was Chocolate Therapy. The clever carton has a thermal sensitive color-changing picture of a mood ring on the front. The calorie-laden contents inside include a rich chocolate ice cream, swirled with a richer chocolate pudding ice cream, and chewy chocolate cookies (not the Oreo variety). Quite yummy.

I usually prefer the bittersweet flavors (because life, itself, is bittersweet), but this one would be worth another taste (eventually). Only nine more to go.



Wednesday night all of the negative emotions that I have kept bottled up inside for so long came rushing out. For the past week and a half, I have been over-compensating a bit; trying to force myself to be cheerful, wrapping myself up in my work, trying to ignore the things that are eating away at my soul. Hell, I even drew a fifteen-foot diameter smiley face in the virgin snow covering the plaza in front of my workplace (it did look kind of cool, but melted two days later).

I am thankful that I have a mother, whom I can call at any time of night and pour my heart out to, and receive understanding encouragement sans judgment in return. Still, though, it would be nicer to get that support from someone close by, whom I could hold as she held me, but for now that scenario remains an elusive fantasy.

I have decided that I need to make drastic changes to my life. I may have set certain things in motion Thursday morning, and if that doesn’t pan out, I will actively seek out another solution. Some changes can be extremely frightening…

Happy 4703!

Happy Chinese New Year! So it’s now the year of the Rooster. I’m a Rat, myself.

Blogiversary - six months

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It’s hard to believe that my first official post to this blog was six months ago. Technically, my first post was July 23, but I only used that one as a basis to build my template and then deleted it.

I had been playing around with Movable Type on an extremely limited basis since the fall of 2003, but it wasn’t until this past summer that a good friend and fellow blogger talked me into starting my own blog.

It had been a crazy summer, and I had a great deal on my mind to unload. For one thing, I was quite distressed that I had backslid so significantly from my last successful weight loss attempt. Also, my five-year college reunion had started out the season, and reunions, for me, always seem to bring doubts about the tapestry of my life rushing to the forefront. A couple of weeks later, I traveled to Vancouver for a conference, where I got into a car accident. No one was injured, but I smashed up a rental car (and the other car) pretty badly.

Rachael Ray nude


…not quite. It started with a completely innocent entry about my plan to cook her “60-minute Thanksgiving.” I soon noticed her name popping up in my search engine referrals, and I figured that, okay, there might be a few people out there who fantasize about her in various states of undress, possibly even slathered in EVOO.

Sidenote: For those not “in the know,” Rachael Ray is the host of 30 Minute Meals and $40 a Day on Food Network, and she is the author of at least twenty books:

Anyway, the Rachael Ray floodgates opened when I posted a humorous rundown of the craziest search engine phrases that people type in before stumbling upon my humble site. (I’ll probably make this a regular monthly feature; February already has some doozies.)

In less than one week, 77 visitors arrived here looking for cheesecake photos of Rachael Ray (46 alone were for “rachael ray nude” and 15 for “rachael ray maxim.” (Mmmmm, cheesecake. Is anyone else ticked that Godiva Chocolate Cheesecake ice cream is no longer available in supermarkets? Oh, but I digress. Focus, Michael, focus).

My curiosity was piqued, especially since I know that she was never in Maxim. Yes, I confess that Maxim arrives in my mailbox monthly. I sent away for a free subscription thanks to Ben’s Bargains awhile ago. Trust me, its barely worth the paper its printed on; its frat boy style writing rarely rises above the level of a college humor magazine.

So, anyway, I just had to do the Google search myself. Oh…my…Gawd. Well, I was right that she never posed for Maxim. However, back in October of 2003, it seems she did pose in FHM. Oh…my…Gawd…

Bizarro TiVo

I just got done 30-second-skipping through the Super Bowl so that I could watch the commercials. Unfortunately, none of them really stood out; they all seemed like they were trying way too hard. I suppose the one with the cat that knocks over the pot of tomato sauce was somewhat clever.

I soon found myself 30-second-skipping through both the game and the commercials.

The trailer for the new Batman movie held my attention a bit. Although, the idea of little “Joey Potter” as Bruce Wayne’s love interest just seems a bit odd.

Apparently, there were half a dozen or so web addresses that I was supposed to visit; I can’t remember any of them now, though. Millions of advertising dollars well spent.

Too skinny?


“You’re getting too skinny.”

I’m sure many of you out there who are struggling with your own personal fitness programs would give anything to hear those words, and I must admit that the first couple of times, I responded with a smile and a mumbled affirmative response. I am also sure that there are many among you who have experienced, at your own workplaces, those who make the same comment over and over again in a joking fashion as a substitute for small talk.

It can eventually get old, even for someone with thick skin, especially when such a comment picks at a sensitive area like body image. There are three ladies at work (heavyset, middle-aged) who did this for more than a month every time I saw them by the coffee machine, in front of the elevator, etc. They sort of stopped after I once responded with a distant coldness on a day that I felt particularly crappy. However, this past Thursday, yet another woman made the same comment when I dropped by her office to drop off a purchase receipt.

These are all incredibly nice women, and no malice was intended. They may have, in some way, meant for it to be a complement, but it still bugged me. I have never been happy with they way my body has looked. I reached rock bottom and worked my ass off (literally) to get back to a healthy body weight. I have maintained my weight between 182 and 186 and size 30-32 jeans for close to two months, so I am in no danger of wasting away to nothing…so why the “too skinny” comments?

Oh well, I did the weight loss thing for myself, and I am reasonably happy with my progress. I know that I’m not perfect (yet), but I am not obsessing about it. Monday, though, I have to return to the Bowflex after more than a month and a half of laziness. It is finally time to evict Mr. Lovehandles to allow Mr. Washboard to move in.

Ask me anything...


Below we have yet another blog meme. Feel free to try and see if you can get me to reveal my deepest, darkest secrets. A slight modification, though—I think part C should be optional.
[via LiL, who got it from Profgrrrrl and wolfangel]

A. First, recommend to me:
1. A movie:
2. A book:
3. A musical artist, song, or album:

B. Ask me three questions, no more, no less. You may ask me anything you want (however, I reserve the right to weasel out of answering if I feel it’s necessary!).

C. Copy and paste this into your blog.

Spring semester


Tomorrow begins the spring semester of my class at a local adult school, “Web Development With HTML.” The class has full enrollment, so it will be nice to get to know more than a dozen new faces over the next eight weeks.

Now I have to finish preparing my class materials. Fortunately, this time I can re-purpose much of the content from the last semester.

Maybe Bush isn’t quite so bad...


…relatively speaking, of course, compared to certain other world leaders.

AP Photo of Kim Jong-il

Indisputably, the looniest of them all is North Korean despot Kim Jong-il, who recently launched a campaign to ensure that his country’s citizenry is neatly groomed [news link now broken].

As part of the short hair campaign, the locks of North Korea’s male population should conform to “socialist style” and be no longer than two inches.

The quote that really had me laughing:

 The dictum claims that long hair hampers brain activity by taking oxygen away from nerves in the head.

Hmmm, so if I don’t have any hair up top, maybe I’ll be rilly smart. Looks like it’s time to get the razor out again (even though a classroom full of Japanese schoolchildren confused me with David Beckham the last time I shaved my head—long story).

This also solves another mystery of the universe—why dem dar lib’rals is jus so stoopid… Here I thought it was the rampant drug use; now we know that their hippie-length, oxygen-sapping coiffures are to blame. (Please excuse my silliness and realize that my tongue is firmly planted in my cheek throughout this entry.)

As for the long-haired women out there, well my guess is that Mr. Jong-il figures that they’re already a lost cause. I mean, we all know what Harvard’s president said about women.

I am thankful that I can sleep soundly at night, secure in the knowledge that so many rational, intelligent, well-educated, short-haired men are in positions of power.

Hiatus? Maybe not.


All last week I was planning on taking a break from blogging for at least the first two weeks of February. Blogging has consumed a considerable chunk of my time lately, and I have neglected a few other areas of my life. Also, when I’m feeling down, and troubled, I tend to draw inward. However, I don’t think I’m going to do that this time.

February starts off with a rather painful sixteen-year anniversary for me, and for some reason, I have been taking it harder than usual this time around (at least last week I was). Perhaps it is because this year, I have been dwelling on a convergent anniversary of a different sort. Unfortunately, both anniversaries are much too private to discuss in any detail here (or anywhere else).

For some reason, though, this Monday I didn’t feel depressed. Maybe it was the slightly warmer weather. Maybe it was the fact that my eyes are starting to adjust. Maybe it was a web design mock-up I created that turned out really well. Maybe it was pleasant conversation with a coworker. Or just maybe it was a weekend well-spent wandering and writing in the blogosphere.

In one of my first entries here, I referred to my blog writing as a means of cheap, dubiously effective, self-administered psychotherapy. Now I’m not so sure whether its effectiveness is that dubious.

It has become clear to me that I need my blog—not in the way one would need a cigarette, per se; but in the way one needs to feel oneself wrapped in the arms of a loved one.

During this month, I am going to step down the frequency of my posts so that I can catch up on a few wayward projects, but I promise not to be absent for more than a few days.

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