Monthly Archives: January 2008

Logtar wants to know how someone becomes an expert on marriage proposals:

What makes him a expert on the subject of proposing? that is the question that still lingers in my head. I could see a jeweler maybe knowing more than him, because he is actually the person that gets to hear the stories of proposal before they happen. I could see maybe someone that did something really outrageous and was turned down… but a cook?

Just being famous does not make you an expert in my eyes, but more and more people with fame get to have a voice. I think that is the real danger of the celebrity culture, that maybe we are getting information from sources that are not very reliable. Be careful of where you get your expert advice, and next time you see one on TV, ask yourself if the person talking should really be considered an expert on the subject.

I’d imagine that proposals is something that it’s very easy to become an “expert” on. Proposals are one of those things that you can ask virtual strangers about and a lot of them will open up about it. Heck, I considered making last weeks Ghostland piece a look back on planned proposals (and the one of course I executed). Collect a few hundred stories, find out which ones worked and which ones didn’t, and voila, you’re an expert. I know that I’d certainly listen to what the person had to say, if only to get some ideas.

That being said, this guy does sound like an idiot. There is no single right way to propose, but he seems to be offering one. Advice should start with questions about him and her and be more in the form of “Maybe you should consider…” or “Maybe something along the lines of…” rather than “You should … You shouldn’t …” Some girls love the idea of being proposed to in a very public place. That sort of thing would horrify my wife.

One such example is something that Logtar says:

I now see that step in a relationship more logically and think it should be a decision made by both and not a surprise… I remember somewhat being pressured to propose on my first marriage, and we all now know it did not work out.

I disagree. I think that surprises along these lines are a good thing. Sure, hint around it, try to make sure you’re on the same wavelength… but once you think that she’ll either say “yes” or at least won’t blow up at the proposal, make it a shot in the dark. But that’s how I wanted to go about it and how I think that the significant significant others would have been on board with. I have difficulty contemplating going about it any other way, but presumably it was just what the doctor ordered for him and his wife.

The other comment is that pressured proposals aren’t necessarily a bad thing. If she wants to get married and wants the relationship to be headed there, I don’t think that she should just wait for him to get around to that mode of thinking. I know a lot of time lost by women being too passive about fishing or cutting bait. It often brings to light issues that could have laid semi-dormant for very long periods of time.

Category: Coffeehouse

An article in the Wall Street Journal about a cookie that I’ve never heard of called the Hydrox:

“This is a dark time in cookie history,” wrote Gary Nadeau of O’Fallon, Mo., last year on a Web site devoted to Hydrox. “And for those of you who say, ‘Get over it, it’s only a cookie,’ you have not lived until you have tasted a Hydrox.”

Still reeling from their loss, Mr. Nadeau and other “Hydrox people” have yet to accept their fate. Some have started an online petition demanding that Kellogg bring the cookie back. They have collected 866 signatures. Others in recent months have reported Elvis-like sightings — and tastings — of the defunct product. {…}

Eating Hydrox was “a badge of honor,” says 54-year-old Charles Clark, who processes records for U.S. Army reservists in St. Louis. He remembers receiving a package of Hydrox cookies on his sixth birthday and sleeping with it under his pillow. “Oreo had all the advertising, but those in the know ate Hydrox.”

Hydrox eaters tend to be independent-thinkers, favor underdogs and be skeptical of corporate marketing, he says.

I’m not sure I’ve been witness to people identifying themselves by what foods they eat. The closest that I’ve ever come is when my friend Clint and I would make a big deal extolling the virtues of obviously unhealthy manufactured foods. We’d talk about how the breakfast burritos “transcended the genre” of breakfast foods because its eggs weren’t quite eggs, it’s sausage not quite sausage, and where one ingredient ended and the other began is a delightful mystery. We also had something going about Easy Cheese being a scientific marvel (“It’s not solid, it’s not liquid, and yet somehow it’s cheeze or something comparable to it!”) and how we were supporting the scientific community by indulging.

Those are mostly jokes rather than any sort of posturing. It seems to me that when it comes to food, most people posture not by what they eat, but by what they don’t eat. They don’t eat meat or they don’t eat inhumanely grown meat or they don’t eat at fast food restaurants or chains or anything with corn syrup or 100,000 other things. That’s how people set themselves apart.

The Hydrox people are sort of doing that by not eating Oreos, of course, and I suppose with Hydrox gone they too will join the ranks of at-least-I-don’t-eat-_______.

On a sidenote, is it me or does Hydrox sound more like a toilet cleaner than a cookie?

Category: Coffeehouse, Kitchen

Spungen writes on what she hated most about not having money… and it wasn’t the lack of stuff:

The problem with a lot of people who promote the downscale, simple lifestyle is that they assume it’s all about decreasing consumption. They assume that being poor is merely about living without luxury goods. That’s never what I hated about not having money, though. No, it’s the people you have to be around, and the lack of insulation from them. People who have always been around other functional, educated, upper-income people just don’t get it.

Given that Spungen’s backgrounds are in modest in nature and that she’s had to live around less desirable folks, it’s no surprise that you see that as one of the big benefits.

Thus far I have not really used my resources to insulate myself from the undesirables for the most part. I live in a poor black neighborhood right now, lived in an immigrant community in Colosse, and lived among poor (and largely criminal) whites in Deseret. In Deseret we finally did move in part because of how un-safe we felt where we were living, but that was much more the wife’s issue than mine. On the other hand, if we had kids my attitude likely would have been very different.

Which sort of gets to the points of it. Though for a variety of reasons (thriftiness, convenience of location, etc) I choose to live where I do and when I have kids I can choose to live somewhere else. My situation is different from someone stuck here.

The biggest advantage for money to me is also not so much stuff, but rather security. Making the sort of money that we do and being as relatively advantaged in the job market as we are means that we can stockpile some money and if we have to go a little while without a job, we don’t get desperate and don’t have to take the first job that comes around. That right there is worth a heck of a lot of stuff. I’ve lived without stuff and I’ve been fine. I’ve never lived without security (if worse can to worse I always had my folks house to go back to) but the security that the money has bought me is extremely valuable.

For Clancy the biggest thing that money buys her is independence. When she got her full-ride scholarship to the University of Koroa, more important than the money was the fact that her parents couldn’t hold anything over her. Her career path buys her a degree of autonomy at work because of the nature of the medical profession, but the money she makes also buys here the ability to have more choices that fewer people have any control over. She doesn’t need to worry as much about satisfying the government for Fannie Mae, she can afford to pick up and relocate if she doesn’t like her job at any particular place or we don’t like our neighbors. The only person she has to work with on these decisions is me (and, as we’ve come to discover, the various state medical boards).

My primary use for money and Clancy’s primary use for money aren’t all that different in the greater scheme of things. That’s one of the things that makes our marriage work. One of the more alarming things about Julie and I back when we dated was that she loved her stuff. It was an issue with Eva, too, though she liked money for doing stuff and giving stuff to others.

None of this is to say that I don’t like my stuff. One of the better things about having money is that I can get stuff that I want without having to worry too much about it most of the time. My Pocket PC breaks? I can get another. The car stops running? I can fix it or if I have to start putting money down on another. I can do these things without having to worry about being financially devastated. That sort of brings me back to my security thing (I am insulated from the sound of my Pocket PC breaking) and Clancy’s independence thing (we don’t need to ask anyone for money).

Category: Coffeehouse

My mother married for the first time in Carolina. Her husband was a classmate at Carolina State University studying to be an aeronautical engineer. As was not uncommonly the case, after they got married she quit her job and supported him through school.

Their marriage was a difficult one from the get-go because of her husband’s alcohol problems. When Mom proposed that they move to California, she talked of “new beginnings.” In fact, she wanted to get further away from her family because that would make leaving him a lot easier from a social standpoint.

They divorced. Mom regretted a lot about that marriage, but one of her biggest regrets was how he got out of it with a masters degree in engineering while she was still a lowly secretary. She had no real career ambitions and hated working, so it irked her all the more that she had to spend so much time clock-punching. Worse, because he was too much of a drunk to hold on to a job, couldn’t even get alimony out of the arrangement.

She met my father while they both worked for McClellan Forrester, a defense contractor. She said early on that if there was one thing that she would never do again, it was pay to send another husband through school. Dad was perfectly fine with that because he didn’t have any aspirations of going to graduate school.

Then California A&M University came calling. They were starting a new military economics major that was available only to folks with engineering degrees. Because he had experience in the defense industry, they would cut him slack and he could do something else (I don’t remember what) in lieu of a thesis. Dad was tired of working on fighter planes and was looking to get into administration and this was his golden opportunity.

He talked to McClellan-Forrester about their tuition reimbursement program. As luck would have it, they’d just discontinued it. Not only had they just discontinued it, they were asking employees to back-pay previous reimbursements that they’ve gotten. There was no legal way for McClellan-Forrester to do this, but all they had to do was lay out the threat of laying terminating their employment.

McClellan-Forrester was in a position of great power at the time. They were a defense contractor and their employees were exempt from the draft. Any employee that happened to lose their jobs that happened to be the right (or wrong, depending on how you look at it) age was likely not going to be unemployed in the United States for very long. The few coworkers that Dad knew that had tuition reimbursements were scrambling to find the money to give back to their employer in order to stay on their good side.

With hat in hand, Dad came home and explained the situation to Mom. he refused to ask her to support him through school, but it was pretty obvious what he was getting at. She agreed and because he was getting a degree in a military-related field, Dad remained exempt from the draft.

After Dad got his degree he got a job with the Department of Defense almost immediately. The DoD knew just as well as MF that they were in a position of power, so they only agreed to pay him as much as they would if he hadn’t gotten the extra degree. It was still worth going back to school, though, because at this point things were desperate enough that you needed a masters degree to get a bachelors degree job.

Mom was able to milk Dad’s guilt for years. As soon as he got his job with the government, she was able to quit work and be a full-time housewife in a house with no kids. The way she saw it, they both got a pretty sweet gig.

Category: Ghostland, Office, School

Time-Warner is considering restructuring how it provides Internet service, focusing on use rather than a flat, monthly fee.

Company spokesman Alex Dudley said the trial was aimed at improving the network performance by making it more costly for heavy users of large downloads. Dudley said that a small group of super-heavy users of downloads, around 5 percent of the customer base, can account for up to 50 percent of network capacity.

I’m the king of that 5%. They do this and I’m hosed.

My feelings about it are somewhat mixed.

On one hand, I am likely costing the company more money than I am paying. At the very least I am paying considerably less for my use than are most users. As such, it hardly seems unfair that I should be expected to pay more.

This is also preferable to one of the alternatives currently in place. Advertise for “unlimited downloads” and then start placing limits on certain kinds of downloads. File-sharing services such as BitTorrent (which has legitimate uses in addition to illegitimate ones) are frequently targetted. Or advertise “unlimited downloads” and then dump users that are actually taking advantage of that offer. I know some people that have had their contracts terminated for that reason.

At least this way I can simply pay for what I use. I don’t have to live in fear that they will decide that I must be a business to be using what I am or simply to note that they are losing money on me and disconnect me. Having above-the-board policies for aggressive users in that sense allows users to choose to be aggressive and pay for it or scale back.

There are at least three hesitations, though. First is that I strongly doubt that light users will be paying much less than they are paying now. I’d imagine the lowest tier would be comparable to current rates. So this would be less an attempt to have a fairer price structure and more an attempt to raise prices on some users and make some extra dough while leaving the rest alone or giving them a relatively insignificant break.

The second hesitation is that this provides a way to really screw some customers over. Presumably if someone buys X-megabytes of downloading, anything over X will come with some nasty charge per meg. The goal will be to get people to sign up for more than they need if only to avoid fear that they will go over. This is what cell phone companies do. They don’t charge by the minute, they get people to buy minutes that they won’t need and then when they have a burst of usage they take them to the cleaners. It’s not a pleasant thought. They could circumvent this problem simply by putting them in the tier of what they used, but they won’t.

The third hesitation is that I’m not sure how smart a decision it is from a business perspective. In the current model, most people don’t have to worry about how much they use it or don’t use it and that’s a good thing. Once they start feeling that they need to limit their usage it becomes less fun and they decide that since they’re doing less they don’t even need it to be that fast at all. I personally adjust pretty quickly when I’m in a situation where high speed Internet isn’t available. Part of the recent success of broadband is that they’ve convinced people that they need it. Attaching a charge to its use might undercut this success.

Category: Server Room

“Walmart” is one of those few words that can inadvertantly change the course of what was previously an unserious conversation. I was reminded of this when I mentioned the store in passing to my brother Mitch. Mitch is about as Republican as they come so it didn’t really occur to me that he might get hot-and-bothered by the fact that I shop at the Great Retail Destroyer.

I have read a lot of good pieces on the reasons that Walmart is a force for evil in this country. I’ve read about a lot of things Walmart does that I don’t approve of in the slightest. I’ve also read a lot of good defenses of Walmart and why they are a boon to the economy overall and a force for good. I honestly think that both sides make very good points. I would support a number of actions by the government to do a better job of keeping Walmart honest, though I haven’t seen enough yet for me to believe that it would be good for the overall economy if Walmart were to be driven off the face of the earth.

I do know, however, that I would not be better off, and the reason has almost nothing to do with prices.

Back when I lived in Colosse, I only rarely shopped at Walmart. It was only if I needed something that I was told that Walmart had and I either didn’t know what other place would have it or I needed to do it at an hour that Walmart was the only place open. Even though I’m sure there are a hundred locations in the area, I could only list off the locations of two Walmart Supercenters. At that point Walmart could have been shut down for good and I would not have cared.

That changed when we moved to non-urban Deseret. Zarahemla and Mocum, the town where I lived and the town where I worked, were (by my standards) small towns with relatively few shopping options and a very early bed time. If you needed to do any shopping at any point past 9 or 10, Walmart was really your only safe option. It was the only place in town to get a whole lot of things on Sundays. Living out there taught me that not every place had all of the options that Colosse did and it gave me a greater appreciation for those options that I had. First and foremost was Walmart.

It is said that Walmart is often the only place to get those things because they drove the retailers out of business. Maybe that’s true. Maybe once upon a time there was a place to get each and every thing that Walmart offers. That may have been true where I was in Deseret. That’s not true in a whole lot of places as well, though.

As Clancy and I look for a place to settle down, we’re looking in relatively remote places. We’re looking in places of 10,000 and 20,000 and 40,000. These are often places that can’t support a Home Depot or a compehensive specialty equivalent. The Mom and Pop’s often have restricted hours and restricted selection. It’s simply not true, out in the rural west at least, that there is always some other place to go. It’s definitely not true that there is a place as convenient as Walmart.

A lot of Walmart opponents like to prop up CostCo. Leaving aside the fact that CostCo is more a competitor of Sam’s Club than Walmart, there aren’t nearly as many of those around. If I’m in a town that has both a Walmart and a CostCo equivalent, I’d be more than happy to shop at the latter. But Walmarts are everywhere and CostCos are not. Whereas CostCo is apparently spending its money paying its employees a more liveable wage, Walmart is pumping its back in to expansion into places that don’t have a whole lot of retail options. It’s great that CostCo has the HR policies that it does, but living out in BFE it’s Walmart and not CostCo that is providing service.

For me it isn’t about price, it’s about convenience. I really like being able to have a shopping list that can almost entirely be satisfied by going to a single place. I can get some headphones, some sliced cheese, some cool aid, and some shoe inserts all at the same place. A shopping trip that used to take me four stops and two and a half hours is now forty-five minutes. I can stop on my way from anywhere to anywhere and if I see that sign, I know that I can get a wide array of products. I don’t even have to know where in the country I am. I know what’s there (for the most part), I know where it is (usually), and I have a pretty good idea what it costs. As we look at different places to live, how close the nearest Walmart is will be a selling point since it would otherwise take a great deal of time to find out what all is available in the area. The fact that I pay less for all this is merely an added benefit. One that I would gladly give up if I got to keep the convenience.

I believe that every independent American that works deserves a liveable wage. I am generally supportive of laws that make that happen. I’d support laws that would hurt Walmart if they are means to that end, but I’m not convinced that going after Walmart explicitly would be a means to that end. With the exception of Mom and Pop stores that they put out of business and people who happen to work for factories being put out of business by their Chinese imports, I am not convinced that anything would improve if Walmart disappeared tomorrow. I don’t see Walmart employees suddenly being able to find jobs elsewhere that pay more. I see a lot of people in a lot of rural places have a lot fewer options. I see people’s paychecks being stretched thinner.

So by all means, let’s close whatever loophole’s Walmart may be using to give it an unfair advantage if it will make the average joe’s life better off. But I don’t give much quarter to arguments about how hurting Walmart is an ends unto itself rather than simply a biproduct of our march towards greater social justice.

Category: Market

Though I only proposed to one woman, I’ve planned scenarios for proposing to three different people over the course of my life. The first was Julie. I hadn’t figured out the specifics, but I was going to go into another conversation about how averse I was to the term “girlfriend”. At first she thought that my aversion was a cute personality quirk, but after one, two, and three years it became cause for alarm. She feared that it was a lack of commitment on my part. There were commitment issues involved, though that wasn’t indicative of them. Anyhow, I would start the conversation about how I didn’t like that term and that I preferred the terms “fiance” and “wife” and then I’d sandbag her with the ring.

As Web pointed out, Prudence’s column from last week didn’t seem to demonstrate the Dr. Lauraesque hostility of some of her more recent works. Web and I both zeroed in on this one:

I was reprimanded once because my boss overheard my conversation with a co-worker about my girlfriend. She poked her way into our conversation, asked me some probing questions, and left, then later confronted me in private. She was disgusted that I was talking about my inappropriate and immoral relationship. She said that because I mentioned my “girlfriend,” she could only assume I’m a pedophile, because a “girl” is a prepubescent woman. As the rules of the office stated, what mattered was that she was “impacted.”

I don’t know if this letter is real or not (I have some doubts), but whatever the case it’s true that if people want to find a reason to be offended they will. This is true of both liberals (“I don’t care what the dictionary says, ‘niggardly’ is a slur and you’re a racist for saying it”) and conservatives (“What, you say ‘happy holidays’ because you hate Christmas and Christians?”).

What was a bit head-scratching is not that someone would be offended by the term “my girlfriend”, but rather that the “girl-” part was what was deemed offensive. I would have thought it would be the “my”. The “my” can imply ownership. When I say “my car” it’s assumed that I have ownership or control over it. I don’t own “my apartment” but I am renting it with my wife. Mine, mine, mine!! It’s not always meant to imply ownership or control (I have little or no claim to “my hometown” or “my country”), but given the long history of male-female relationships wherein the woman was considered property, I could see someone wanting to be offended pouncing on that.

Of course, we talk in possessive terms about regular friends all the time, so that doesn’t make sense, either. Also, anthropological male-female relationships as they pertain to property don’t understand my equal aversion to the term “boyfriend” except there I envision a shrew demonstrating domination over a whipped guy.

In retrospect, my biggest problem with the term “girlfriend” may have been that I never had one and my problem with “boyfriend” is that I never was one.

Yet even when I got my first really serious girlfriend Julie, I still didn’t like the term. I was with Julie for over four years and I maybe called her my girlfriend half a dozen times. A lot of that was a holdover to the whole possessive thing, though the loopy logic there had dawned on me by that point. My rationale shifted from possessiveness and towards another rationale: referring to someone as your girlfriend or boyfriend reduces someone that you presumably care about to a position in your life.

That doesn’t make any sense, either, though. When I call my father my father I’m no more reducing him to a title than I am assuming possession of him. It’s a title, in a certain way, but it’s more of an immediate identifier. I don’t have to say “Bill Truman, military economist” or “Bill Truman of Ouchita”. I call him “my father” and people get a marker as to why he matters in regards to whatever it is that I’m saying about him. Is it somehow less respectful to refer to him as “my father” than it is “this guy I know”? Why would “girlfriend” be any different?

In retrospect, my problem with the term was really that I had gone so long hating the terms that I needed to find reasons to continue hating them.

Eventually that logic began to wear so thin that I couldn’t logically keep it together. I’d gone nearly five years without referring to Julie as my girlfriend and though Evangeline spared me of that whole quandary by keeping our relationship maddeningly ambiguous, the notion that I had and would continue to have people that I date exclusively on a regular basis meant that I needed to stop positioning myself as the romantic outcast. But I still don’t like the term and did not once refer to Clancy as my girlfriend while we were dating (not hard, we were engaged in pretty short order).

So with all logic on my previous two rationales sent out the window, what reason do I give? Ironically, the same reason as the dyke. I haven’t dated a “girl” in an exceptionally long time. Prior to Clancy, I dated women and not girls. Boyfriends and girlfriends, now that I was finally ready to admit that they were pretty useful terms, were no longer remotely accurate. As it turned out, Clancy felt the same way. We settled on “this guy/woman I’m dating” or more frequently “my lady friend” and “my gentleman friend”. I’d introduce her name in pretty short order so I could avoid that awkward phrasing.

Category: Coffeehouse

I spent this past weekend in Delosa with my folks. Dad had found a few pictures that he was anxious to show me. Most of them were pictures of my ex-girlfriend Julie and I, but a few were of me and another girl named Andrea Carmine. “When were these taken?” I asked Dad.

“I don’t know. There are notes on the back. How’s she doing, anyway?”

Sure enough, on the back of each of the pictures were notes and commentary. “Pretending not to notice that a fake waterfall was fake sure was fun!!” “I call this picture The Giant and the Dwarf because you’re a giant and I’m a dwarf!!” “If vampires can’t have their picture taken, are you a vampire when you’re smiling because you never have your picture taken when you’re smiling!!” She always had to explain every joke that swept through her head.

If I were to have made a list of everything that I could have wanted in a girlfriend, she would have met nearly every bullet point. She had the figure that I craved at the time. She had nice, straight blond hair. She rarely wore jewelry or make-up. She was a spark-plug of energy. She was extremely easy to talk to and had a way of making me open up and smiling. There was nothing in the way of scars, excess weight, obvious disfigurements, or nail polish. My parents loved her. There was just one thing…

Andrea was a freshman when I was a sophomore and we met in theater class. I’d developed something of a crush on her friend Tanya. As I sometimes tried to do when I developed a crush from afar, I made friends with one of her friends and tried to meet her that way. I called it “pivoting”. It was the closest thing that I had to a tactic at the time and it was bolstered by the fact that I seemed to be attracted to shy girls that seemed to have at least one outgoing friend.

One of the stranger things about it all is that prior to putting my plan into action, I never once considered simply grabbing at the shorter-hung fruit… the more accessible one. I saw Andrea as nothing more than a means to an end.

Once everything was in motion, nothing worked out quite like I thought it would. I discovered that not only was Andrea Tanya’s only real friend in the class, but she just about dominated her friends. It was difficult to talk to Tanya without Andrea turning the conversation away from Tanya and back on to me or on to herself. Tanya didn’t seem to mind since she was a pretty quiet person, but it thwarted my plans.

Also thwarting my plan was that Andrea and I became really good friends really quickly. Within a short period of time, Tanya was being frozen out altogether as Andrea and I bonded. Tanya was the ultimate goal, but not only did Andrea steer conversation away from Tanya and I, I enjoyed talking to Andrea a lot more than I enjoyed talking to Tanya. I also enjoyed simply having a female friend where there was nothing else involved. She was teaching me that females are just people, too.

Classmates, who didn’t like either me or Andrea, took notice of the two of us and decided that we should be a couple and goaded the two of us. It seemed less like “you two would make a cute couple” and more like “you two losers belong together”. The class was dominated by jocks and cheerleaders. It escalated when Andrea and I did an emotional duet where she had aborted my kid and we were putting the pieces back together. Our chemistry together was great and even people that didn’t seem to loathe us started asking questions.

Then for the next round of duets I got to work with Tanya. It’s a long story, but the end result was that it became perfectly clear that Tanya was not interested in me and that was fine because after working with her I no longer liked her on any level. By that time there was a fourth person in our group named Laren. Laren always had an acerbic tongue, a cute way of rolling her eyes at anything and everything that lacked sufficient cynicism, and bug spray that she put in her hair. She was just crazy enough that I had begun to dig her a lot. I eventually did ask her out. She declined and extricated herself from our little grouplet.

Since I didn’t want to talk to Tanya anymore and Laren was gone, it was just Andrea and I again. Our friendship lasted up until my senior year when I went off to college, but nothing else ever happened. The strangest thing wasn’t that nothing happened, but rather that despite all the talk of those around us and despite how close we were it took her dating my friend before I even asked myself why that was. For a little horndog like myself, that was very unusual. I’d either want to be with someone or there’d be some very specific reason why I wouldn’t.

Clint and I discussed the matter. Though he got to know her a little bit as well through me, he’d never thought about making a move, either. As I thought about it, the thought of kissing her made my stomach feel quite queasy. I couldn’t figure out why, though, since she met all those all-important criteria. “Something about her face,” Clint noted. I nodded in agreement.

We took a picture of her that I had with me and started blocking out portions of her face. Mouth? No. Hair? No. Eyes? Holy moley… it was totally her eyes. Even then I couldn’t explain what exactly was wrong with her eyes. They were not of any unusual color or shape. The only unusual thing about them was that they almost had a Japanese double-eyelid quality about them, but I didn’t have any issues with Asian girls.

As I looked at the pictures over this past weekend, I asked myself “What is it about those eyes?”

All these years later, I still don’t have an answer.

Category: Ghostland, School

Tonight I spent 4 hours watching two movies back-to-back on Lifetime.

The first one was about a babysitter that got involved with her employer whose wife ended up dead. At first I thought that the babysitter did it, but no it was the employer and there was a big sequence at the end where he was trying to hunt her down. I missed the beginning of the movie and didn’t realize that I was watching Lifetime. If I’d known I was watching Lifetime, of course, I’d know that the woman couldn’t have done it and that it must have been the man. The wife from The Cosby Show played a detective, the actress for Felicity (prior to her stint as Felicity) was the babysitter, and the pastor-dad from 7th Heaven was the bad guy.

The second movie starred someone familiar with Harry Hamlin of LA Law. Hamlin was a sex addict and it was about whatsername trying to help him through the ordeal. I initially started watching cause I wanted to see her bust him. By the time she busted him for good the movie was halfway through and I was watching by inertia. The satellite went out so I didn’t see the end.

The lesson I learned watching movies on Lifetime is that women like guys that are psycho-killers or sex addicts. I wish I’d known that when I was younger…

(Yes, I’m totally kidding. Not about the movies or the wasted time, though)

Category: Theater

There is the way that the world should be and then there is the way that it is. There is the way that our ideas should abstractly work and then there is how they work in reality. There is the disaster we foresee when our grand ideas are thrwarted, and what we actually see when that happens. When confronted with this dissonance, we are left to admit that (a) our original idea was wrong, (b) whatever unexpected good/bad we see must not be that good/bad after all, or (c) whatever good/bad we see was actually caused by something other than the success or failure of the policy on which we stand so firm or firmly against.

In short, sometimes reality intrudes on our ideas.

I’ve noticed this happen on a couple of issues recently and I haven’t really decided on whether I am falling on the side of (a) or (b).

The first involves smoking bans, which I’ll address tomorrow, and the second involves toll roads, which I’ll address today.

Ideally speaking, toll roads are one of the best forms of government revenue in existence. People that use it pay, people that don’t do not. Most of the time there is an alternate route someone can take if they don’t want to or don’t have the means to pay. In Delosa, there’s always an adjacent frontage road or even a freeway (that traffic usually sucks on). Does it get any more perfect than that? Voluntary tax!

There are a number of ways that toll roads go awry, though. Many have been “temporarily” set up as toll roads in Colosse but in my lifetime I have never seen toll booths get shut down. It’s originally supposed to fund the building of the road, then it’s for maintenance and the extra money goes towards building other roads. So much for the ideal of taxing for use, though the money does have to come from somewhere I suppose. Increasingly, toll roads are privatized and the profits don’t even go into the pocket books of private enterprise than to further expansion, though in that case the toll company is paying the city or state something.

Even setting those aside, though, one thing that I’ve noticed is that toll roads can serious impede development. Santomas, the city where I currently live, is building a toll road look around the inner part of the city. Santomas is a north-south city wherein traffic on the north-south freeway is so bad that half of the time on my drive home I’ll spend half an hour or more on backroads to avoid three miles or fewer in the Interstate.

One of the goals of the loop is to create more east-west development so that the city becomes less north-south and getting from Point A to Point B in the city doesn’t always involve going on the dreaded Interstate. This plan is failing miserably. New developments are going up further north and further south rather than east or west. Why? Because developers don’t want to build houses and then have to tell people that to get to work they’re going to be needing to pay an additional $3 on toll roads.

Even though the economics say that the $3 is a bargain, people won’t do it. They’d rather spend fifteen minutes more on the road going north-south even if the economics say that thirty minutes of your time is worth far more than $3. People’s inability to recognize the economics of commutes are a subject for a different day, but the perception is there. People are used to free roads. It’s difficult to get them to pay for what they’re used to getting for free, no matter how much you explain to them it makes sense.

Category: Road, Statehouse