Tuesday, May 30, 2006


And now, it's time for a Post-Weekend Q&A --

Q: Why did you go to Cleveland?
A: Because there were direct flights and neither of us had ever been.

Q: Will you go back to Cleveland?
A: Not unless there's someone to visit, or a specific event to attend, because quite frankly, there didn't seem to be much to do there. We went to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But otherwise, there didn't seem to be much to attract tourists. There were museums, but given how many there are here, that's just not something we seek out on our travels.

Q: How was the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame?
A: It was enjoyable. It has a wealth of information together with some neat exhibits. Probably my favorite was a large temporary one focused on Bob Dylan, 1957-1966 -- we could have spent hours there listening to all the music and watching all the film they had available.

Q: You couldn't have spent the whole time at the Rock and Rock Hall of Fame, so what else did you do?
A: We visited a beach along Lake Erie, and walked some of the many trails in the area. We saw X-Men 3 (don't bother). Of course we checked out brewpubs.

Q: So you had a bad time?
A: Not at all -- we had a great time. It had been a couple of months since we'd gotten out of town, and many more since it'd just been the two of us (I think it was London last August), so we really enjoyed breaking out of our routine.

Q: Any pictures?
A: Glad you asked -- here's a great shot of Kathy showing off her belly on a gray morning out on Lake Erie.

FWIW, the position she was in and the maternity shirt she was wearing really accentuated the bulge -- she hasn't looked that pregnant in the three days since the photo was taken.

Thursday, May 25, 2006


Just posting to let folks know that I'm alive and well. All is fine, but it doesn't feel like there's anything interesting to say. Kathy's progressing through pregnancy -- she's starting to show, but is at an awkward stage where she feels like the slight bulge doesn't make her look pregnant, just fat. I have a feeling that in late August, when she's seven months pregnant, she'll be wondering why she didn't appreciate the slight bulge stage more.

Summer travel has begun -- Chattanooga last weekend for a beer meet-up was fun. Friday night I stayed at a fellow beergeek's place ~75 minutes from Chattanooga. His house is beautiful, it's on 300+ acres in the middle of nowhere, and I have to admit I was jealous of the natural beauty and tranquility. Kathy and I talk from time to time about moving to the middle of nowhere, and regularly indulge that little fantasy by looking at ads here. On the flight back from Tennessee, the guy next to me and I talked about beer, and he said that when his wife was pregnant (and this happened a lot -- he has 5 children), he'd wanted to give up beer but never was able to bring himself to do it. And he figured that with his wife's hormones out of whack due to the pregnancy, he didn't need the added stress of not drinking to complicate his marriage. It sounds like a good theory, but I can't say it's the reasoning I used. Basically, I have few interests in life, and enjoying good beer, together with traveling to enjoy it, are among my favorites. I'll be cutting way back on these soon enough, so I figure I may as well enjoy them now.

This weekend the two of us are going to Cleveland. No idea what we're going to do there, but I'm sure there's more to do there than see the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I don't expect to see a burning river, but maybe a Burning River Pale Ale.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

The Bad News Just Keeps on Coming

Relax, I'm not talking about Kathy's pregnancy -- that's going fine. I was thinking more about all the bad news that keeps piling up concerning the governance of the good old U.S. of A. I hope the election that's scheduled for a couple of days after the baby is due throws out enough of the Republican rubberstampers that things improve. In the meantime, here's the latest crap in a long line.

I'll start with the NSA domestic surveillance stuff. It's supposed to be a compilation of who called whom rather than a review of content, which is bad enough, but given that just the other day Kathy tried calling home from work and we got this painfully loud tone (and yes, painful -- each of us had a sore ear for 10 minutes afterwards) and couldn't hear each other, and given how "unforthcoming" the Bush Administration has been about such matters (acknowledgement only takes place once the news has been made public), I have trouble believing that the full extent of domestic spying has been revealed. And it does bear repeating that General Hayden, up for nomination to head the CIA, was in charge of the NSA when this surveillance program was launched.
Then there's what passes for fiscal policy, which was summed up nicely thusly:

To recap -- $70 billion in tax cuts that actually are deeper, because the bill offsets the cuts by a measure that creates bigger liabilities in the future. Average benefit for a middle-income household is estimated at $20, while those who make more than $1 million would see an average tax savings of $42,000.
And here's something that seems to have slipped below most people's radar. Suppose you're in charge of a large garden and your employer thinks some of your staff has been filching some of the fruit. So you hire someone to look into it, and lo and behold, your employer was right -- some of the staff has been stealing. How would you handle it? Apparently, if you're the President and the Republican Congress, your garden is operations in Iraq, and your employer is the American people, you'd re-direct funding for Iraq so that it could no longer be subject to those pesky audits that have been showing lots of fraud and abuse. So I guess we won't have to worry about any more stories on that subject.
Rather than be all negative, there is one tiny kernel of good news, and it's that there's new hope that DC will get a vote in Congress. Admittedly we still would lack a vote in the Senate, but better to have one in the House than what we currently have, which is none at all.

Monday, May 08, 2006


If it rained every day,

Languorous weather all the time,
Our love would be as sunshine,
Voluminous strands of light
Encircling us in the gloom.

You work wonders on me,
Offering a fresh spring
Undiluted by the rainwater.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Tepid Pitch

So I went to the Nationals game last night. This would be rather unremarkable but for the fact that part of my identity is the guy who plays fantasy baseball without actually having gone to a major league game since the strike of 1994 (#94, to be updated). I've been to minor league games since '94, just not the big leagues. Sheer stubbornness tinged with principle has been what's kept me away so long -- of course baseball is about money, but when the owners and players allowed the World Series to be canceled, it became clear that they really don't care about anything else.

On top of that, these are the Nationals, the team that screwed up the field for DC United because they now share the same stadium (though I must concede that after the first few games things have run fairly smoothly), and which the city is paying out over $600M in a sweetheart deal to build a new stadium for multi-millionaires.

You might ask what drove me to this decision, to which I respond that all the principle I've been holding onto has no place in resisting the wishes of Kathy when it's her birthday weekend -- a friend of hers had invited us, and amazingly enough, it was she who wanted to go. Later I constructed a rationalization that really I was simply attending the nearest minor league game -- the Nats were hosting the Pirates, and the two teams entered the weekend with a combined winning percentage (not batting average) of .288, at 17-42.

So after all that, the question remains whether I enjoyed myself. The answer is, not really. It wasn't because there was resentment at Kathy for making me go -- I was actually in decent spirits, and enjoyed the company. Among other things I was working with Kathy's friend to teach her to keep score (it was the friend's idea). I was underdressed for the game (it actually got pretty nippy), but I survived that ok. The problem was that these teams were simply bad. The Nats' pitcher labored through five innings, throwing over 100 pitches in the process. The Pirates' catcher had the dubious distinction of making two errors on the same play (threw it into center in trying to throw out a runner, letting the man on third come home, then misfielded the return throw, allowing the runner who started on first to make it to third). At least the Pirates' pitcher settled down after giving up four early runs, at one time retiring 10 straight batters. Another weird thing about the game was just how much the fans relied on the loudspeakers and scoreboard to induce them to cheer -- there's no piped music or anything at United games and we still cheer plenty, but then again, there's much less down time in a soccer game than in baseball.

After nine innings, Kathy was ready to head home -- the pregnancy leaves her exhausted and it was already past her bedtime. Sadly, the game went to extra innings, so we left without knowing who would win, but truth be told, neither of us really cared. Kathy says she's not inclined to go back, and I can't say I'm itching to return. But I guess I can no longer say never.

Friday, May 05, 2006

The First Happy Birthday

May 5, 1998. She got up early, like she did every morning, like it was just another day, to walk her puppy before getting ready for work. As she made her way to the front door her roommate was coming back in from her morning jog.

"Have you been outside yet?" the roommate inquired.

"No, not yet."

"There's something out there for you."

She went outside their rowhouse and saw that her new boyfriend had chalked the sidewalk out front -- chalk balloons surrounding "Happy Birthday" in large letters. Her heart melted.

Who was this guy who would do such a thing? Their first date was but three days earlier. It seemed a bit early to consider him a boyfriend, but how else could she explain their first date, a Saturday lunch that lasted 12 hours, followed by a quickly scheduled Sunday get together that also lasted 12 hours? Why else would she have invited him after that to her birthday party where he'd be subject to her friends' scrutiny and wouldn't know another soul?

Maybe it was better not to think about it, and just go with the flow.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

The Name Game

Arthur? Bonnie? Clyde? Daphne?

Many times during the first few years of my marriage, Kathy and I discussed baby names. That being said, most of the discussions involved Kathy wanting to have a discussion and me throwing out silly names. Our last name begins with G, so sometimes I played on what the initials would spell -- Peter Ira, Nora Ashley, Damien Oliver, Beatrice Ursula -- you get the idea. Other times I proposed naming a child after famous people -- for example, Malcolm X comes with the middle initial already on display, and would sound pretty catchy with my long German-Jewish last name. Sometimes I threw out completely wretched names for the simple reason that they're wretched, for example, Millicent and Octavius (apologies to any readers out there with these names -- they're horrible because of our last name, but I'm sure they're great for you).

Needless to say, most of these conversations ended as soon as Kathy decided that it was better to drop the subject. (Actually that's wrong -- she wanted the conversations to end at that point, but I would torment her with additional awful names until she cut me off with one of her infamous "tones," which she's stopped using on me but which I expect to reappear by the time junior is 6). Despite all the inane attempts at humor I tried during these many dialogues, we did occasionally stumble across names that connected, but it's fair to say that we haven't made any decisions yet. And though there's still lots of time, it's an issue that looms on our big event horizon.

In deciding on the names, I'm encountering two problems. The first is what I learned when we bought our car -- in our family, names can stick. At the dealership while we were completing the paperwork, Kathy said we needed to name the car. I thought this was silly, but she insisted. "Ok," I said. "Fluffy." She said ok, the discussion was over, and so, for the past 4 1/2 years we've owned a car named Fluffy.

The second problem is that this time playing the name game actually matters. The kid will have enough trauma in life as it is -- the last thing I want to do is add to it needlessly. I don't want to give the kid a name s/he won't like, or that one out of every three same-gendered kids in her/his class will have. Should we wait until the baby is born, to find out if he looks like a Stewart or she responds to Penelope?

Fortunately, the web is a great resource, and by typing in "how to" name baby, I came up with approximately 92 million hits (no exaggeration -- try it yourself), which has to be at least as many hits as there are potential names. Because I'm lazy and didn't want to check each site, I decided to select the name by clicking on the first one, which provides a simple checklist for how to pick a baby name. Kathy's been very busy with all sorts of baby things, so I decided to take it upon myself to review the process, and figured I'd let her know what the winners are.

Applying this simple checklist yields some useful results. The winners are [censored for fear that a wayward attempt to be humorous, witty or sarcastic will result in the equivalent of Fluffy G].

Monday, May 01, 2006

As Simple As Snow

Gregory Galloway's debut novel is part mystery, part coming-of-age story, telling of Anna Cayne, a quirky new girl in town who disappears in the middle of the school year (and the middle of the story). The narrator is Anna's boyfriend, someone whose life was enriched by her presence and who becomes nearly obsessed with finding her once she vanished. Anna is eclectic and well-read, knows an immense range of music, and never stops thinking. She also has the unusual hobby of writing obituaries for everyone in town. But there are some disturbing things about her as well, like some trouble that seems to follow in her wake, and some bruises on her arms. The narrator has no idea what she sees in him, as he thinks of himself as hopelessly bland, but regardless, he is mesmerized by her presence before he becomes haunted by her disappearance.

The title is a reference to a conversation Anna had with the narrator, observing that snow is anything but simple. Also, it's part of the code they developed for each other, for communication from beyond death, just in case (apparently something Houdini had wourked out with his wife).

The telling of the tale is a little heavy on the foreshadowing, which first annoyed me before I realized that a high school narrator would probably write like that. All told, however, it's an entertaining read which can engross you in its clues and mysteries to the extent you wish to be engrossed. There is no clean resolution, just swaths of coincidence and gobs of ambiguity that the narrator can only hope to resolve.
Rating: 8/10.