Infiltration

The dream:

I’m encased in hardened battle armor, from my head to my feet, strong thick slabs of metal, and the outside is be-weaponed with lasers, slug-throwers, grapples. I’m floating just above the surface of a dead planet, shades of gray. In my sights, separated from me by the inky-black airless vacuum, is an alien, also protected by its own battle armor, also in shades of gray and black, and also studded with weapons of all kinds, low- and high-tech. The alien is a cylinder shape, no legs, tapered on the bottom, and rounded on top, with triangle-shaped eye-slits and pointy sensors on top of its rounded head. It’s buzzing menacingly.

It’s closing in, and I feel claustrophobic inside my armor. The alien shoots at me, a tangle-cord, and it wraps around my chest armor and squeeeeeezes me. It actually is stronger than my armor! The ropes constrict and begin crushing my armor against me. I’m trapped! I’m frantically firing off lasers, trying to cut the alien into shreds; they seem to hit, to score its armor, but the alien just laughs it off and keeps closing, reeling in the ropes and crushing me, closer, closer, can’t… breathe! The buzzing gets louder and louder…

The Awakening:

Smacky is laying on top of the covers, right next to me, causing them to wrap tightly around me, pinning me under them. His face is right in front of mine. He’s purring loudly, and trying to tuck his head into the nape of my neck. “Ack! Get off of me!” I cry, and I fling the covers back and grab Smacky and put him out in the hall and close my bedroom door and go back to dreamless sleep.

Yes

Tracy asks:

“Are you ever going to blob again?”

Short answer: Yes.

Slightly less short answer: Yes, when I think of something to blob about. I did change the POTW, though. Nice, eh?

87.34% snark-free thanks

  • Thanks to my family for reminding me where I come from and for always feeling like “home”.
  • Thanks to my sister’s in-laws for never even noticing that there’s a distinction.
  • Thanks to my friends for being the most honest, straight-forward, and ethical people I know. Plus, you’re all hilarious. Have I mentioned that lately?
  • Thanks to my coworkers for always trying to just fix it.
  • Thanks to Smacky for being about as “cat” as anyone can be.
  • Thanks to Apple for making such sexy sexy hardware and software.
  • Thanks to my negative voice. Without you I wouldn’t have a challenge to overcome.
  • Thanks to the netroots for finally becoming a progressive, political force.
  • Thanks to everyone who voted Democratic in the last election. I was so scared that… shudder… well, let’s not think about that.
  • Thanks to redheaded women, everywhere. Just thanks. Damn. Yes, even the crazy ones. Especially them.
  • Thanks to Brooks running shoes for making the perfect shoes for my feet.
  • Thanks to the framers of the Oregon Constitution for all the free speech protections. I appreciate and use them almost every day.
  • Thanks to the New Atheists, like Daniel Dennett and Richard Dawkins and James Randi. It may take another 500 years but ours will be the majority view someday. Or we’ll be dead and unable to care.
  • Thanks to the Iron Horse, Maya’s Tacqueria, Backspace, Twin Paradox, the Limelight, the Acropolis. It’s not just the food that keeps me coming back, although that’s excellent, too.
  • Thanks to all my favorite living authors, too many to mention, but here’s a few: Tim Powers, Bruce Sterling, Carl Hiaasen, Arthur Nersesian, Neil Gaiman… the list goes on and on and deserves it’s own post, if not it’s own site (but www.bookslut.com is already taken). You inspire me, amaze me, and fill me with envy and I would read every word you write. Fuck that – I would pay for every word you write.
  • Thanks to God, for not existing or showing any evidence of ever having existed, in spite of everyone looking for You. You’ve got everyone fooled, and boy, is everyone going to feel silly when they realize You’re not there. Then we’ll all have a good laugh and finally get around to that whole “world peace and love” thing people have been promising for centuries.
  • Last, but not least, thanks to each and every one of you who reads this, or anything else I’ve ever written. I do it for myself because I’m a selfish bastard, and I’m still amazed that anyone else even understands it, let alone enjoys it and wants more. I wouldn’t stop even if I could.

…I’m sure I’m missing people. I’m sure there are people out there who would prefer a specific mention rather than being included in a broad category. I’m sure that I will think of much much better/funnier things to say immediately after clicking “Publish Post”.

But I’m also sure that you’ll understand. Happy Thanksgiving.

Shifting perspective

Walking in to work one morning with Tracy, another group of employees were heading out. One of them is a lady I’ll call H. H and her co-workers were in charge of a county work group – people working off minor crimes and misdemeanors through community service work. As such, H was dressed in grungy work clothes; baggy jeans, old boots, a sweater, down vest, hair tucked up under a baseball cap, everything looking worn out and dirty from use.

I’d talked to her before on a normal, “I’m here to fix your computer” basis, but before she started with the work crews, so I was used to her wearing business casual clothing, very conservative business casual clothing. In fact, H struck me as conservative in personality, friendly but mostly quiet and polite and practical.

Even that morning, seeing her in completely different clothes, after I had the shock of recognition, I didn’t see her as anything other than a co-worker whose computer I’d fixed from time to time. She recognized me and said “Oh, hi, Brian” and I said good morning back to her.

Tracy asked me about her, later, and after my memory had been jogged (it was eight hours later when Tracy had asked) I told her.

Tracy mentioned that H, even in no makeup, struck her as very beautiful. Tracy mentioned a resemblance to Jennifer Garner.

I gave Tracy a look, because, as I said above, I had never seen that in H at all. H was older than Ms. Garner, for one reason, and there’s a mental space that movie stars occupy that’s separate from the space everyday people occupy, which is why it’s difficult sometimes to recognize a star encountered unexpectedly on the street (have I ever told you the story about flirting with Heather Locklear?) As Tracy’s thought percolated my mind, however, I could feel my perspective shifting a little bit. Remembering H in the previous setting and clothing I knew her from, I joked, “She could probably pull off the ‘sexy librarian’ look!” Tracy agreed whole-heartedly. But eventually I shrugged it off.

The next night I had a dream about H. An intimate one. It startled me. I laughed about it the next day with Tracy, who offered me a high-five in return.

“Right! ON!” she said.

Later that day, I was leaving the county motor pool and I saw H again. She was crossing the street heading in to the parking lot. She was dressed similarly (or exactly; the clothes are so generic I couldn’t tell the difference). As she walked, her back to me, I noticed that her hair, even though it was pulled through the back of the baseball cap and held with a Scunci… it was very long, hanging down to her backside (hidden, dammit, in the oversized jeans). Again, I felt the contradictory mental images of her clashing, in this case several images: H in make-up and glamorous Hollywood clothes (like Jennifer Garner); H in generic business casual clothes (the librarian before she lets down her hair and takes off her jacket that hides her curves); H in glasses, a white blouse, and short skirt, hair flying wildly (sexy librarian post-revelation); and H as I saw her before me, in dirty grungy baggy work clothes, but with her hair falling down her back.

Trying to reconcile all these images, I nearly rear-ended a Porsche Boxster S. While driving a county car.

Damn.

A shifting perspective is a wonderful thing to experience. Even if nothing comes of it, I’m going to remember that moment when my consciousness changed how I looked at someone else. I live for those moments; they are as special to me as moments of epiphany are to a spiritual or religious person.

So much of what we see is filtered through our expectations. Change your expectations and you can literally change how you see the world.

In this case, you can learn to see a hidden beauty you had never before noticed. The value of that shift is incalculable.

A private note

Dear Marlene,

Please do not ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever admit that you are wrong on anything.

Not only would doing so make you “management material” no longer, my head would asplode.

Signed,

Brian

Windfall or stay of execution?

I sent FlexCar, the car rental service that I use instead of owning a car, an email last week. I’d noticed that somehow, my billing had changed from the Advantage 10 (base fee for 10 hours of usage in a month, gives access to cars limited to 7 or 10 hours of use per day, no charge for the hours between 11 PM and 7 AM) to the Standard plan (which charges a flat rate by the hour, does not give access to hour-limited cars, and charges for all hours of the day) without my knowing it.

I asked their billing department how that had happened. If I change my billing I get a confirmation email from FlexCar, so I’m pretty sure I didn’t accidentally switch it.

That change would result in a much larger bill for me, so I was concerned.

I never got a reply to that email, but I did receive my bill this week and the bill shows no charge at all for last month’s use. It also shows no actual use, even though I did, indeed, use FlexCar in the month of October.

I can’t tell if they’re being nice because of a billing error on their end, or if there’s a problem with their billing software and I will, eventually, be charged for October’s use. It kinda feels like a windfall (assuming I was on the Advantage 10 plan, as, um, planned, I would have owed $144.50) but I’m still concerned that they might charge me later.

Hello, FlexCar? Can I get a reply to my original question?

Update: I got a second bill in today’s mail. It explains that there was a billing error, and that my card will be charged. They’re holding off for two days for some reason – they claim it’s for my convenience or something.

Good thing I didn’t spend that money, huh?

Overheard in the cafeteria

“You know, women are just like cars. They both come with strings attached.” – some hairy guy in a cheap suit, to a companion.

…whaaaaaaaaaaaaa?

  1. I can see that this gentleman probably has relationship issues.
  2. What kind of car comes with a string?!
  3. For that matter, there’s a whole world of social awkwardness in considering women and strings together, but since I am a gentleman I am so not going there.
  4. As a simile/metaphor… it doesn’t even make sense!

The Big Apple

Generally, every Christmas season, my family (me, my sister and her husband and kids, her in-laws, and my dad and his girlfriend (my aunt – long story)) plan a trip somewhere.

Generally, we go somewhere warm – we’ve been to Mexico a few times, and Hawaii once. They’ve been to Aruba (I didn’t go that year). We’re not a cold-weather kind of family.

The past couple of years we haven’t gone anywhere. The last trip was to Puerto Vallarta, and that was at least two Christmases ago.

So when my sister called me and left a message saying that she’d made some holiday plans, I was curious. At this late date, any trip out of the country is going to be expensive – usually we have stuff locked down by October at the latest. This year, because of a general lack of funds, I had assumed we’d just be going to the beach or something cheap.

It was a bit of a disappointment, because a good friend of mine, and my sister’s brother-in-law, David, had made comments about marrying his long-time girlfriend Jackie, at Christmas, wherever we ended up. I felt a bit sad at missing that opportunity. Oh, did I explain that David lives in New York City? So he wouldn’t be flying himself, Jackie, and their two kids out to Portland just to go to the beach.

When I called my sister to find out what the plans were, it’s amazing, for all the above reasons, that I hadn’t seen the obvious solution:

We’re going to New York City for Christmas.

Staying with David and Jackie in Long Island (on Long Island? Which is correct?)

I haven’t been to the Big Apple since early 2001 – pre-9/11. Um, OK, actually, that was the only time I’ve been to New York. At that time, David was still dating Jackie but was living in a one-bedroom, sixth-floor walk-up in Spanish Harlem, on (I believe) 102nd and 10th, with two other guys. That was a fun trip, and I would not have believed that three straight guys could share a one-bedroom apartment so easily. Not to mention having a guest for a couple of nights. But having different work schedules helps tremendously.

On that trip I went to the Museum of Natural Science and History, walked up to the top of the Statue of Liberty, and walked around Times Square. This was all pre-digital cameras, at least for me, so I don’t have pictures online. But it was a great trip.

I’m really looking forward to going back to New York. Christmas, my birthday (my 42nd, actually), and, if I can stretch it out, New Year’s Eve.

I know I’ve said this before, but I personally believe that the most romance-filled night of the year is New Year’s Eve. When did Harry meet Sally when they finally got together? New Year’s Eve. Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan in “Sleepless in Seattle”? New Year’s Eve.

I could go on and on. And it’s my blog – it’s not like anyone’s going to stop me. But for now I’m just going to sit here and ponder all the really cool things to do in New York City during Christmas…

Feel free to leave suggestions in the comments…

Cure

Randy Milholland, creator of online comic Something Positive, claims that a Google search for “baby penguins” can cure a bad mood.

I’m just passing that along. No linkie – you’ll have to do the hard work yourself.

Numbers

My weekend, in numbers:

  • 3 day weekend (thanks, Veterans!)
  • 4 – surprises for the author in my NaNovel
  • 10 – miles run on Sunday
  • 12.75 – dollars spent on food at Sunday’s Blazer game (thanks, Gina!)
  • 97 – points scored by the Blazers on Sunday(no chalupa)
  • 103 – points scored by the Dallas Mavericks (which brings their record to 2-4)
  • 6,293 – seconds it took me to run the above-mentioned 10 miles
  • 6,992 – words written on my NaNovel. A marathon!
  • 7504 – calories eaten (not so good)
  • 20,333 – total words written on my NaNovel