Community Post – MidWeek

A camel in the desert, facing to the left, head up.
Is Wednesday a good day for camels?

It’s the middle of the week. If you were to graph people’s interest, at least people who work the standard Monday through Friday work week, this is the peak of the graph. It’s all downhill from here. The graph would rise up from Monday, hit today, and then drop down towards Friday. Like some kind of… bump? There’s probably a better word for this but it is not coming to me.

I was going to round up some links of things to talk about, but I spent my lunch break tapping out words for NaNoWriMo instead. I still want to do regular posts where I let y’all talk back to me, or talk about your own projects and things you’re excited about, so this is that post.

Feel free to say hello, promote your own stuff, or tell me where the best Taco Tuesdays are. Or whatever else you want to talk about! TACO BOUT. Get it?

Weekend Community Post – Sunday 3 November 2019

A curtained window taken near sunset. The lighting and color is intensely golden-yellow, inside and outside.
Took this last Saturday. I was on my computer when I suddenly realized just how golden the light was outside, and how it had transformed my office. Within 5 minutes, the light had faded, but I’m glad I was able to capture it in the moment.

I want to open regular posts to comments, and so I’m starting with this one. I’d love to hear from you if you’re an old friend or a new reader! Let’s build a community. This is especially important to me since I deleted my Facebook account. I’ve been spending time on Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr but I would also love it if visitors felt comfortable here.

It’s Sunday morning in my time zone. I’m in front of my computer, full of oatmeal and bacon, with a half-pot of coffee, and no outstanding plans except to write as much as my little fingers will manage. That means I’ll be in and out of the blog.

Leave a hello! Ask me anything. Or comment on some news you saw this week—I’m more partial to good news than bad, but speak your mind.

I’m still writing a full comment policy, but for now, just know that I’m not opposed to disagreement. I am, however, going to dump in the trash any obvious spam, hate speech or pro-fascism. There may be other lines I won’t allow commenters to cross, but for now, that’ll do for some ground rules.

NaNoWriMo Day 1

I managed 560 words this morning before work. Was busy all day and had to work late (monthly server patches), then happy hour with Terry and Ken. Then a short visit with Max before he starts his new job. Then a stop at WinCo for food to get me through the next week.

And now I’m home and exhausted and feeling spent, too spent to write the next scene.

I wrote something today. I’ll write tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow.

G’night. I love you all.

The Coldness of The First Floor

I had something for this. I swear I had an idea for a topic earlier but it’s gone now. I’m just tapping keys and putting one word after another until something magic happens, looks like. It’s your lucky day!

It was ridiculously cold in my office today. I had on four layers and a hat and was still very cold. I came very close to firing up a laptop and running it as a handwarmer (actual space heaters are not allowed in the office for safety and fire danger reasons.) I had to go out to my car at lunch and again later in the afternoon and sit in there with the heater going to warm up. Does that sound extreme? Maybe it is extreme. Extremely cold.

Didn’t help that I had to finish off some of the Halloween candy that Val had given me last week. I’m sure the sugar hit caused me to crash harder after it wore off.

Lunch was soup from the Thriftway across the street, which was nice and piping hot. Today was a steak and bean soup; very tasty. But I also had a brick of cornbread; while delicious, it was also another big dump of carbs, and probably didn’t help with keeping my insides warm.

If it’s cold again tomorrow I’m going to find a way to work at a different building; there’s another office I can use in a different building that has giant windows that face north, and is filled with working computers, but is not a server room. It is always very toasty warm in there. It’s wonderful. I am sure I can pull a few outstanding tickets for that location and work on those for the whole day, assuming nothing else important comes up.

I’m cold right now just thinking about it, and now I’m home and have the heat going. I’m even upstairs, which is nearly always warmer than my first floor. Might have to get the space heater going. I have two space heaters that Tracy lent to me last winter when my furnace was broken and it took a couple of weeks for the property management company to repair it. Might have been as long as a month or more… time blurs. Bottom line, I still have those space heaters, and I use them, and then always think “I should give these back to Tracy because she may need them.”

(Tracy if you’re reading this, I still have your space heaters. I should get them back to you soon. Let’s make arrangements.)

I can hear the furnace running but it’s not warming up yet. After I finish my blog post for the day I will go get the space heater, and I will probably also take a shower, and also also turn up the heat a bit. I have to go downstairs to turn up the heat. I never thought that a Nest or computer-controlled thermostat would be useful in an apartment until I moved into a two-floor apartment. Something that saved me from going up and down the stairs would be a nice-to-have.

Do they make remote-controlled thermostats? I don’t need the logic (or privacy invasion) of a Nest, but being able to control it from my phone sounds like a great idea. Oh! I’m talking about home automation. Remote-controlled lights and things. Yeah. Yeah, that would be fun to install.

Thank you, dear reader, for sticking with me. I’m going to jump into a hot shower now. Goodnight.

Something Something Unity

I spent most of the weekend fighting off some kind of illness. I don’t know exactly what I had, but it made me tired, dizzy, and short of breath. Not a head cold, that’s for sure. I’m pretty sure it’s mostly gone, just in time for me to return to work Monday morning, yay.

I don’t have a topic for tonight, so I will just talk about things as they come to mind.

NaNoWriMo approaches quickly! By the end of the week, actually. Just a reminder for any and all of my readers, I won’t likely be posting as much on the blog during the month of November; gotta use all my writing brain for NaNoWriMo. I will post here, but it will likely be quick links and updates on my writing progress, as well as any cute stories or pithy comments I can think of. Basically, I’ll post here the things I tended to post on Facebook.

Because, oh, yeah, I’m leaving Facebook forever as of the end of the month, too. That’s a thing that’s happening. Facebook is apparently dead-set on collecting money and eyeballs from right-wing extremists, to the detriment of democracy and United States government. And in response, I’m leaving and I encourage anyone else who can, to leave as well. There are other communities in which you can find your friends and family, I promise you. For a small instance, I offer you this one.

I watched a Vlogbrother video today, from Hank, and he repeated something that I had heard him say before but haven’t really internalized. He said that we now live in corporate spaces. What does that mean? To me, it means that while we may connect, and have fun, and have interesting discussions in them, we are subject to corporate rules—not government rules, not ethical rules, but the rules of the corporations that run the space. We don’t have voting rights. We don’t even have human rights that digital people may have.

Extending that analogy, then, the only impact we can have on corporate spaces are leveraging the things that corporations care about, and Facebook cares about only one thing. Well, it cares about money, because it’s owned by a billionaire, and billionaires are dragons who sit atop a mountain of pilfered wealth, but Facebook also cares about reach and engagement. OK, OK, that’s three things, bear with me here, I’m improvising this.

Bottom line, if we want to change Facebook, it’s unlikely our government (or any government) will ever have the will or power to regulate social media. In the meantime, we can bend it by denying it our attention or engagement. I know many of you can’t leave, because of communities or people you have to stay in contact with and can only do so through Facebook. I am potentially losing track of important people to me, but I am committing to finding other methods to do that. Because leaving Facebook is a moral imperative for me.

Monopolies always seem unbeatable, until they are finally beaten. Just like bullies, or tyrants. But we have to do it together. In some kind of… united… state. I think you see what I’m saying. Right?

The Philosophy of The Outer Worlds

The sign and logo of the town of Edgewater, an "employement commnity": a man with the Moon as his head wearing a top hat and tuxedo, and the logo for the company Spacer's Choice.
Welcome to Edgewater, weary employee. Rest awhile, but if you rest too long, we’re taking it out of your pay. (Game spoilers at linked page.)

I crashed into bed about 23 minutes after I posted yesterday’s post, and there I remained, feverish and hazy, in and out (but mostly out) of consciousness. I was better but not 100% and the morning was mostly a blur of sitting on the couch watching videos. After Noon, I was tired again so I napped. Woke up hungry, as I knew I would be, so went out to get some food.

When I came home, I dived into playing The Outer Worlds, Obsidian’s new action RPG.

I’m only an hour or two into it but I already love it. Wandering around on a colony world with the design aesthetic of Firefly (with a tiny bit of Fallout mixed in), the game itself is gorgeous and rich in those small details that really bring a place to life. The brand names, the way NPCs speak and dress, and the background philosophies are all working together to paint a particular picture.

Some small spoilers for early game lore ahead. I’ll hide them below the cut.

More

All Times When Old Are Good

Tonight I am feeling mellow and nostalgic. As much practice as I’ve taken over the years with reading and writing and re-writing and trying to tell stories, I don’t know that I have the ability or skill with which to convey the feeling I’m feeling right now, to anyone willing to listen. Despite that, I have to write tonight, and this is the topic.

Went out for Taco Tuesday with my friend Terry and he was in a good mood. After we had our fill of tacos, I let him talk me into driving to a dessert place, Lauretta Jean’s, over on SE Division, for pie. I know that too much sugar lately will literally make my body ache in various ways, but I still can’t resist. That’s what addiction is, I guess. 

On the drive over there (we took Terry’s car), he was playing, of all things, some of the musical hits of Earth, Wind, & Fire. Some funk/disco. Normally I get a bit grumpy, but the whiskey warmed my belly and my soul just a tiny bit, and I fell into the melodies and danced in my seat. We sang along—me, as best I could; Terry easily hitting the higher notes—as we drove through the sodium-lit streets of inner Southeast Portland. My favorite neighborhoods.

It was just what I needed. At the pie place, I ordered a slice of bourbon pecan (with whipped cream); Terry got a pear streusel and mocha. 

Earlier today, I had been listening to an episode of the podcast You Are Not So Smart, this one titled “The Friendship Cure,” in which the host interviews a scientist who has studied the effects of friendship on human lives. The conversation ranged over a wide variety of topics, but one, in particular, held my attention: the relative distance and emptiness of most male friendships. Men in our culture are never encouraged towards intimacy, for various social reasons. However, the scientist and the host did mention one of the best fictional male friendships ever (and I could not agree more): JD and Turk, on the TV show “Scrubs.” 

JD and Turk shared a warm, close, and, most importantly, funny friendship, the likes of which are rarely seen in fiction or in life. Sure, they caught some shit for it from other men on the show; but it never stopped them from being the best of friends to and with each other. 

Terry and I are like that. We are not romantic partners. Both of us are not inclined that way at all, not towards each other. But we have known each other for a very long time, through good times and bad, and we are comfortable being our truest, most authentic selves with each other. 

Neither of us is perfect, but, to paraphrase the words of the scientist on the podcast whose name I can’t recall right now, we allow space for our flaws, as well as our strengths. 

After he drove me back to my car and we goofed around and then said our goodnights, I got in my car for the drive back to my personal Tatooine (which is, in itself, a reference to both nostalgia and a shared experience with Terry, that of seeing Star Wars together when we were kids.) Instead of more podcasts, I opened up Spotify and found a playlist of hits from 1983, the year we graduated from high school, and then I let those songs stoke my feelings and memories of being young and dumb. 

In my head, as I sometimes do, I imagined meeting younger me and asking him how he was doing, and try to let him know how life was going to turn out for him. I don’t think he could possibly have foreseen the paths life would take him, but I do firmly believe he would still recognize himself in the 54-year-old Brian who stood before him. I still have his sardonic but somehow sincere humor. We share a curiosity about lives and people who are not ourselves. And inside both of us hides a deep sadness about the limitations imposed on us by living in the physical world.  

Dancing and singing to songs from my youth as I navigated the streets to my apartment, on a dark autumn night, I felt the pull of all three of those emotions, overlaid with the joy of having made it this far, and knowing that there is a least a bit more story left to tell.

I’ll leave you with this last tidbit, a message from 18-year-old and 54-year-old me:

Mama say, mama saw, mama koo saw.

Goodnight, dear reader. 

I Could Make Tacos Every Night

Just a quick post tonight because it’s late and I don’t have it in me to write something more in-depth. I’ve gotten good at making tacos for dinner. Turns out it’s super easy to do! Just one main ingredient, plus some condiments, and it’s filling and delicious. And I can make the perfect servings for eating solo.

Tonight it was steak tacos. I’m starting at an advantage because I keep a bunch of stuff on hand: I always have corn tortillas, for example. I buy a lot, and they keep forever.

I have a bunch of spices: coriander (in Spanish it’s cumin), chili powder, hot chili powder, oregano. Sea salt and black pepper.

I always have some fresh garlic and white onion in my drawer (they keep better if you keep them in a dark, cool place.)

Another helpful ingredient is a 2 lb bag of shredded cheese. Again, it doesn’t go bad very fast at all, and it’s excellent for garnishing just about anything I cook. Like, say, tacos!

When I go grocery shopping, I always buy some thin-cut steak for carnitas and a bag of frozen chicken breasts. The chicken comes in a zipper bag; I can pull out one or two breasts at a time; I can even cook them from frozen, if I have forgotten to thaw some out, and I haven’t been able to tell the difference.

The steak I package up into 3-4 slices per bag and toss them all in the freezer. This morning, before I left for work, I took one bag of the steak out of the freezer and let it thaw out in the fridge while I was at work.

On the way home, I stopped to get some sour cream, a bunch of fresh cilantro, and an orange bell pepper. When I got home, I realized I had a Roma tomato that was still good. I pulled the steak out of the fridge to warm up (beef cooks better when it’s at room temperature) and then spent the first hour washing, chopping, and slicing all the vegetables and getting them ready.

When the vegetables were ready, I used my cleaver to cut the steak into strips, against the grain (makes the bites easier to chew). Next, I heated my wok very hot (on the 1–8 scale, I turned my electric stove up to 6 1/2—you want the wok hot) with two tablespoons of olive oil (non-virgin, since I was going to be stir-frying.) As soon as the oil started to smoke a little, I dropped in the chopped white onion and some chopped garlic cloves and stirred until they were beginning to turn translucent. Then I added in the steak strips.

I cooked that whole mixture until the steak was starting to brown, then pulled out the steak and let it rest on a plate. While it was resting, I added in the bell pepper and some spices (cumin, chili powder, oregano, salt, and pepper) with the remaining oil, garlic, onions, tossed in some fresh chopped cilantro and mixed it all up on medium heat.

That’s when I added the steak back to the wok, and mixed it all around to let the flavors soak in.

I turned the heat down to low, then put a bunch of tortillas in the warmer with some damp paper towels, and heated them in the microwave, 30 seconds at a time until they were warm and pliable.

At that point, it was just a matter of assembling the tacos. Tortillas, some meat, then add on some chopped tomato, some chopped onion, shredded cheese, sour cream, and a sprinkling of chopped cilantro, and settled down to watch some TV with delicious tacos!

Just Send an Average American Postcard

I have already written 1200 words tonight, but I’m not going to post those, because it felt a bit too personal. I’m saving them, though, and they totally count for my daily writing project. 

Look, I did warn you that the goal is writing, not posting. Don’t look at me like that. 

I don’t want to break my habit of daily posting, though, so here’s a little something to keep that streak going.

I can’t hear the song “Pink Houses” by John Cougar Mellencamp without hearing Mr. Cougar Mellencamp growl, “And then we paint the mutha pink.” It’s just something I remember from wayyyyy back in the day on MTV, back when MTV was cool and played lots of music videos and also had great contests. 

Me and Val were sitting in the office today and listening to Spotify and “Pink Houses” came on, and even though each of us were deep in our own work, I growled out, “And then we paint the mutha pink,” just because. 

Val looked at me like I’d grown a second head, and I laughed, and tried to explain that it was from a long-ago commercial. Then I went a-googling, and sure enough, I found this ancient cultural artifact from the long-ago time of 1984. Watch, and reflect on how very different the world was back then.

I’d watch that at my girlfriend’s house (because my dad refused to pay for TV, so we did not get cable for a long time. My mom finally just called the cable company and made an appointment to have it installed, a few years after that, making an end-run around my father’s financially-motivated Luddism.) and I’d laugh. But who would want to live in Indiana?

I am 100% certain I entered that contest. Sadly, I did not win. I probably only sent, like, one postcard. It cost a stamp, which was $0.20 back then, which, honestly, even then was a bargain. Not sure if that was before the Republicans decided to kill the US Postal Service or not. It was the Reagan years, though, so likely so.

Anyway, enjoy imagining what your humble writer looked like back in the era of big hair and New Wave. No photos of me from then have survived. NONE. I SWEAR IT. NO, DON’T GO LOOKING CAN’T YOU TAKE MY WORD FOR IT?

A Place of Two Ambiances

I love the Limelight Restaurant. I’ve been going there for good diner food forever. What the Hell?! It’s been in existence for 20 years! I assumed it was older than that. In that case, I can confidently say that I’ve been eating there since they opened.

In 1999 I started my job at Multnomah County after having moved back to Portland from my failed experiment in Austin, Texas, trying to get hired as a “white badge” (non-contractor) at Apple. From the early days, I remember two exceptional menu items: the black bean salad, and the Santa Fe chicken sandwich, both of which reminded me, faintly, of the food in Austin. Portland versions of the food. A mere shadow of the fantastic Texas food. I digress.

The black bean salad was a green salad but included corn, black beans, tortilla chips, chicken, salsa, and sour cream. The echo was of a much better salad I would often buy at a shopping mall in Austin. When I saw it on the menu at the Limelight, I had to order it, and it became a favorite item for me. At some point, though, Limelight staff dropped it from the menu, and it has not returned, more’s the pity.

The Santa Fe chicken sandwich is still on the menu, although it has changed over the years. In its original form, it was served on a kaiser roll, with a spicy green chili sauce and pepper jack cheese on the chicken slices. So good. I would always (and still to this day) order it with a side of ranch dressing to dip it in. The roll had a hard outer crust that made biting into one a sensory delight. The modern version of it has a much more pedestrian roll, and the sauce has lost its boldness. It’s still a good sandwich, no longer a superior one.

Technically the Limelight has a restaurant side, and a lounge side, with different ambiances. The restaurant side is pure American diner, with deep booths and a couple of great window tables you can use for people-watching. Situated as it is right next to the Moreland Theater, an independently-owned, single-screen neighborhood movie house, there are times when I can gaze at the foot traffic in and out of the theater under the neon marquee, for an hour or more. 

There’s even a shuffleboard table along one wall. I have never played it.

The restaurant side is family-friendly, open and inviting, a big space for lively conversations and kids running around underfoot.

The lounge side is a windowless brick basement (even though it is not underground, merely next door), with one section of tables slightly raised by one step, several tall round tables near the tiny (but clean!) bathrooms, and two pool tables in the very darkest back corner. 

There are a few TVs scattered around, and a tiny lottery machine nook right up front by the door. The atmosphere here is cozy, and the mood can either be summed up by a group of regulars huddled at the bar reminiscing, or a crowded weekend night with no standing room at all.

The wait staff is consistently competent and charming, and they pour stiff drinks—at least for me. Can’t speak to anyone else’s experience. The ones who have been there longer know me by my name and can generally guess what I’m going to order: if it’s Tuesday they realize I want tacos (their Tuesday special tacos are terrific and cheap.) 

I am glad The Limelight is there. It is one of the places that makes Sellwood feel like home to me. I love it very much.