Thursday, July 29, 2004

Ah, shaddup! 

Have you checked out Brown Equals Terrorist like I told you? I've been finding it quite interesting--watching as the word gets out and seeing the response of people to the site. The latest thing to catch my eye was the responses to The real terrorist threat entry. One of the comments utters the classic line "if you do not like it, leave this terrible country." I've been noticing that attitude more and more, whether it be expressed by cantankerous message board denizens or officials of the Democratic convention. But, y'know, it's starting to make sense. Words have power. So shut up or go away before I start thinking.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Mmm mmm good 

What with all the griping I do about my employer, Bloatmeal, I thought I should mention that they just gave everybody an ice cream bar. Sometimes work ain't so bad...

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Knock it off! 

Just a note to all of you who might read this, whether I know you or not, Don't die! I got word this morning that a few hours before Hiker passed away, a lady from my church--one of the contenders for the sweetest soul on the planet--died in her sleep. She was older and had had some health issues, but still, the news was another smack in the nose. I'm getting real tired of this and really don't have time to attend a lot of funerals.

Friday, July 23, 2004

The answer was "no" 

Hiker died this morning, around 9:30 am. Sleep well, my friend. The world is a poorer place without you.
I hoped that the doctor was mistaken. That there was nothing wrong.
But You said, "no."
I hoped that human strength and wisdom could beat back the invader. That renewed health and strength was a sign of victory.
But You said, "no."
I prayed for a miracle, either a spectacular or quiet defiance of dark expectations.
But You said, "no."
I hoped for a noble passing, from a body unmarred by chemotherapy or infection.
But You said, "no."
I hoped for a quiet, peaceful resignation. A loss borne without tears or that dread, gnawing emptiness.
But You said, "no."
I wanted an exaltant funeral, with strangers respectfully stopping their daily routines and thousands of voices raised in lament.
But You said, "no."
I cried out that I had no hope. That I couldn't bear the loss, couldn't face another day. That my tears would never end and that I would never see him again.
But You said, "no."

I'm so tired 

I had thought about working late this evening (since I'm turning down another chance to work weekend overtime), but when shift's end rolled around I decided against it. I've been on the go since I got up this morning, though watching the choir kids play at Chuck E Cheese's isn't really all that strenuous. Even work was somewhat busy, as I didn't get my usual break whilst processing pdf files. The jobs tonight required a lot of assembly work, but since they were vector art, they processed quickly. I also spent a lot of time checking up on the Seattle Weblogger Meetup, which took place Wednesday night. It's fun to click on the list of attendees and see what kind of weblog artistry is around town. I'll probably never go to one myself--working second shift and all--but it's fun to eavesdrop. Kind of like my relationship with my neighborhood council, who meet on Tuesday nights. Anyway, it seemed like a lot of this month's bloggers were also photographers. Or at least they pack a lot of pix on their blogs. I could do that if I was willing to pay for the server space. And bought a digital camera. And had time to take and clean up pictures.

Speaking of cleaning up pictures, which is part of my job and all, I had my annual performance review today. Basically, I fill out a self evaluation and then my supervisor makes her evaluation (with the input of her second shift subordinate) and then we sit down in a closed room and discuss it. 'Tis rather lame, because we have a generic form for everyone, so I have to evaluate my corporate ambitions, even though the only way I could get promoted is to switch careers. Fortunately, my boss also recognizes the absurdity of it, so we can skim over the unimportant bits. Anyway, I apparently have pleased my masters yet again, even though I feel that I lag behind the first shift guys in skills and attitude. Of course, being satisifed with second shift is probably a plus. That and my attitude lends itself to writing funnier e-mails, which is the only thing for which I received a specific pat on the back. And Noodles thinks all my blog and message board writing is a waste of time...

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

A quick two 

I heard about the whole Linda Ronstadt thing--you know, how she got booed off the stage for praising Michael Moore and Farenheit 9-11. (Though Democracy Now reported that some of the crowd applauded. Lou Pate on KIRO never mentioned that. Hmmmm.) Methinks this is the time for regular folks to speak up. Politely, perhaps quietly, but we should all speak our minds. Especially when the group is leaning the other way. I think we need to remind folks what dissent sounds like. Now I think I'll go home, pull my copy of Democracy in America off the shelf and reread that bit about the tyrrany of the majority.

A quick one 

Biker called today. There's been no change in Hiker's condition. I think that's due to all his family and friends keeping vigil over him. I know if I had such a crowd about me, I'd be in no hurry to leave.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Another day older... 

Ah, we survived the weekend. Dinner guests on Saturday and the Kids Choir concert on Sunday...in addition to the other tasks and commitments. Noodles, who had to do more of the running about, is really questioning the value of letting the kids participate in the choir next year. We figured that they did about 30 hours of practice in the past month. It paid off with a fairly good performance (relatively speaking), but we also all had our moments of stressing out. Ah, if only Bloatmeal had moved to that South Seattle locale, she could have had the car. Ironically, 10 years ago, I was the one over committing myself and Noodles was the one telling me to simplify my schedule. So easy to say, so difficult to do. Oh, well. Now for this week's madness.

Saturday, July 17, 2004

When you're making other plans 

I was planning on blogging something on the Brown Equal Terrorist weblog tonight, but something came up. Suffice it to say that it's fascinating and at the very least you should read the artist statement. 'Nuff said.

What came up was Hiker. He gave up on the chemo Wednesday night and currently has some sort of fungal infection that spread from his sinuses to his brain, blinding his right eye in the process. Nobody's expecting a miracle. (Though I must point out that one is still possible. I may not be hopeful, but I'm never hopeless.)

Noodles got an e-mail about it tonight, aroung 6:15. We've got another hectic weekend planned and she was feeling a strong urge not to wait until Sunday evening to go visit him. She called me at work to tell me the news and ask if I wanted to come pick her and the girls up and tag along. Having learned to trust her hunches, I took a long lunch and did just that. I got to experience rush hour on the 520 expressway for the first time in years. Bleh. Anyway, I finally made it home, the ladies piled into the car and we ventured over to Swedish hospital. We were told that we had to put on a hospital gown and wear latex gloves in order to enter Hiker's room. Biker sent out her mom and Tyker, and they took the girls over to a visitor's lounge while Noodles and I robed up. Why she did this, I don't know, but hey, I wasn't going to quibble. While all these arrangements were being made, Poodlepums cracked a couple of jokes, like a true Hamburger. I had actually been slightly worried about her. She had been uncomfortable the last time we visited Hiker in the hospital because about a year (two?) before that we had gone to visit a friend from church at the hospital and found out that he had just died. She had been worried about a repeat performance, though obviously that never materialized. (Ah, the emotional scars we cause our children...) This time, however, she seemed to be cool with it all.

Anyway, I'm drifting again. Hiker's brother and another family friend were also in the room. Hiker was asleep, which he's been doing a lot. Biker woke him to tell him that we were there. He acknowledged our presence, but soon drifted off again. Biker then gave us the lowdown. It was quite a change from last time, when the undercurrent of conversation was about fighting the damn leukemia. Now it was Hiker's death. .... I hated writing that last sentence. .... Biker seemed rather peaceful about it all, though obviously there were moments when her coversation was punctuated with sorrow or weariness. She's set up camp in the hospital and she's not leaving until Hiker does. They had considered bringing him home, but the doc talked them into staying at the hospital, where nursing care was always available. At least Hiker had been able to move out of his previous hospital, which, according to him, had lousy food.

Oh, yeah, that brings me to the next point. At about the middle of our visit, Hiker suddenly woke up and had to go to the bathroom. He did so, and then Biker offered him some peaches which he had ordered earlier. With Biker's and brother's help, he adjusted himself and the bed to an upright sitting position. He had one slice of peach, attempted to start a conversation with us and... drifted off to sleep again. It was like a microcosm of the whole ordeal. He makes the effort to live his life, even though it's a struggle and even though the triumphs are small. He hardly was able to say a word to us during our visit, but to quote Noodles, he said volumes with his eye. What an amazing creation you made, God, this spirit that burns undaunted by the crumbling flesh!

Anyway, we visited some more and eventually the kids came into the room, too. Hiker didn't awaken again, but their presence added a lighter spirit for the rest of us. Eventually we left, doffing our protective gear and scrubbing up afterwards. (I'm assuming it was to protect the other oncology patients on the floor.) It was like venturing to a different world--from the hospital, where Hiker's family is focused on him, his comfort and his passing, to the outside where thousands of other lives were being played out. Friday nights have always been slightly surreal to me--with the world seemingly engaged in the weekend while I'm still working--but tonight was even more so. We drove home through the warm summer night in relative silence, and I sped back to work in the same. (Well, I did sing out the first verse of "Amazing Grace" at one point, but I kept the radio off.) If this were an elegant essay, I would make some sort of point here. But this is a weblog--my weblog, with no pretentions of quality--so I'll just let the rambling peter out and (yawn!) go home to bed. Life goes on, death goes on, .... um, whatever.

Monday, July 12, 2004

Wherever there's a hang up.... 

To ease my disappointment over missing the library branch grand opening, I decided to take the opportunity Sunday to waste some precious free time and experience another new amenity in South Seattle: the Columbia City Cinema. This theater, the only one between downtown Seattle and Renton, recently opened and I've been meaning to check it out. It's been one of those low priority entries on my to-do list. So I headed down to check out Spider-man II. That movie wasn't automatically on my list, but I had heard a few good reviews here and there.

The theater was great. Keep in mind this is Hamburgerland, where a dinner at Matt's Chili Dogs is to be preferred over one at Anthony's Home Port. So when I mean great, I mean that it was plain and functional. The theater was up on the second floor of an older building. I walked up a red carpeted, wooden bannistered stairwell to the box office--basically a tall desk stuck in the corner of the landing. After paying my $5, I received a generic ticket from a large roll. I then ducked out to kill time at a nearby bookstore. Upon my return I walked past the small concession stand. Since I had bought a book, I exercised fiscal restraint and didn't buy any goodies. I did notice that the popcorn was served in brown paper bags and the sodas in simple waxed paper cups, neither displaying any sort of logo. The auditorium was likewise simple, albeit a bit more modern that the building and furnishings. The simplicity of it all really hit home when the lights dimmed. There was one trailer and then -) BAM! (- the movie started. No little clips advertising the theater chain. No clips announcing the presence of THX, Cinerama, VistaVision, Dynamic Tension, or any other sort of cinematic technology. And NO #$%^& Coca-Cola ads!!!! I knew right there that I loved this theater.

The movie, on the other hand, was kinda lame. The sfx were great, of course. I especially liked the way they animated Doc Ock's mechanical arms. But the story and acting were heavy handed. The dramatic pauses were a little bit too long. The plot twists were quite predictable. I realize that the film is based on a comic book, but come on guys, at least offer some subtlety. I think the worst aspect of it all was that while the film captured Spidey's nebbish-ness, it forgot his humor. Except for the elevator scene, none of the jokes in the film really captured the humor of the original comic. At least I don't think it did. Guess I'll have to go back and reread those early Lee and Ditko tales to make sure.

Libraries for all... during regular hours 

One of the things we chose to miss on Saturday was the grand opening of our neighborhood barnch of the library's new building. It was a grand event including cultural performances and the obligatory opening ceremonies attended by civic dignitaries. Not the big guns, of course. We only rated the deputy mayor and a single city council member. But that didn't matter. It was our party and a neighborhood potluck party was even set up outside to capitalize on the event. Unfortunately, we had already scheduled a hike with my in-laws, so instead we were at Mt. Rainier National Park, communing with nature. At least until nature got tired of us and dumped a cloudful of rain on us to send us scurrying back to civilization. We figured that there would be other parties and we could always stop by the next day to bask in the glory of our new library building.

Of course, nobody told us that our branch was going back to its old schedule of being closed on Sunday. We just assumed that the Sunday hours that our branch had been running due to closures of neighboring branches would be carried over to the new building. Alas, this was not so. Our basking yesterday was limited to trying out the new book return slots and peeking into the new windows. We immediately pledged to visit it today when the branch opened at 1 pm. Upon further reflection, however, we decided to make life easier and so Noodles and the kids will go visit the inside this afternoon. Me, I'm holding out 'til the more convenient morning hours on Wednesday.

Sunday, July 11, 2004


Sunday, just after midnight. Can't sleep, so I figured I'd get up and either write or watch TV. Fortunately, the pen was closer. Unfortunately, I then felt compelled to go to the computer and type this up. So now the TV's playing in the background. Anyhoo, I had spent some time before bedtime reading the book of strangers. The class of '79 from my high school celebrated their 25th reunion this summer and had included the classes of '77 through '81. I didn't attend, but today, in the mail, I received the reunion booklet. Being in the aforementioned class of '81, I had never even met those from '77. Nor had I hung out much with my elders from the other classes. Even amongst my own, I knew these kids for a mere four years--a mere tenth of my life. Of those listed in the booklet, the only one i was in contact with, the only one I knew, was Jelly. And now she's dead, her funeral having been yesterday.

Even though most of those folks were just names to me, I appreciated the chance to peek in their lives. It's fascinating how many of us have migrated away from Chicagoland and what a variety of accomplishments and lifestyles we've had. It's better than watching one of the Seven Up documentaries, since I can relate to some of those high school memories. (It's also interesting to see the different style of responses to the questionnaire, but that's another rambling.) But I'm kind of schizo on the whole thing. In one sense, high school was just one leg of the journey. Even at the time I never got caught up in my school, holding the institution and peopl at arms length. (The fact that school was a half hour's drive from home helped.) Not counting my siblings, I'm in touch with exactly three--oh crap, two-- of my high school friends. For some dumb reason, however, I find that a tad depressing. Why, I don't know. Maybe it's regret that I let some of the real relationships I had back in high school lapse. Or maybe it's just jealousy of those who seemed to make better connections in those high school days. Or maybe 'tis just the realization that you can't keep everything, that life is a continual loss of things, moments and relationships. I dunno. All I know is that the ghosts of a quarter century ago are running amok in my mind, and I gotta get up in the morning.

Friday, July 09, 2004

Who left the light on? 

Have you heard a Motel 6 commercial recently? They've been catching my attention this past week. They start out the way they have for years--the fiddle music swells and the folksy tones of Tom Bodett comes on with some topic that he hooks into the plain but comfortable amenities of Motel 6. It's a great campaign. I almost always suspend disbelief and think of ol' Tom is just a simple, local hotel owner offering high quality, personal service to the weary travelers out there. (Of course, I've never stayed at Motel 6. But I always include it in the list of places I check when pricing a hotel room. Unfortunately, I usually find something cheaper or more convenient to whatever I'm visiting.) But this past week, I've noticed that at the end of the commercials, Tom has taken to saying "An Accor hotel." For me, this blows the whole illusion. He might as well say, "By the way, I'm just a paid spokesmen for a national corporation."

I don't get it. I mean, I understand one business acquiring another. And I understand the whole branding thing, how a corporation will preserve the old name of an acquisition so as not to scare off its current customers. But this seems to defeat the purpose. If you want to keep marketing Motel 6 as its old, inexpensive self, then do so. But don't go sneaking the corporate name in there. If you want to "rebrand" the company and create jobs for design and printing people, then do that instead. Have a big party, throw around some big advertising bucks and let Tom Bodett start talking about Accor hotels' "clean, comfortable rooms." The way you're doing it now bugs me.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Soccer Mom Hell 

What is the worst thing that could happen to an overbooked soccer mom? To have two conflicting activities on one day, and then have one of those rescheduled to a less busy day so that you can participate in both. This Saturday, July 10th, has become for us Activity Day. We have at least eleven distinct activities in which we could participate. (We learned about number 11 this afternoon.) Actually, make that twelve, I forgot about Noodle's ESL class. Thriteen if you want to count relaxing around the house. Anyway, it would be one more, except that the practice for the kid's choir, which we were going to blow off, was rescheduled for Friday, so that our kids could participate. A nice gesture, assuming you survive it. ;-)

Oh, well, at least we were able to make time to go out on our boat today.

Monday, July 05, 2004

Ashes to ashes, Dust to dust 

I lost a friend today. No, not Hiker. Things are looking bleak with him, but as of this afternoon he was still with us. He still hasn't given an inch in his fight with leukemia. No, the friend who passed on was Jelly, a friend of mine from high school. (These nicknames may seem rather stupid when I try to talk seriously--they probably are--but this one actually predated the weblog.) She was 43, was injured in a motorcycle accident back in June and died this morning from complications after surgery. A stupid, senseless death.

Anyway, I just spent about an hour avoiding writing to her sister. I reread the e-mail bearing the bad news, I read the other mails we had got today, I looked at the last few mails I sent to Jelly (I was really meaning to write her again soon, but you know how that goes), then I read the first electronic letter I wrote her back in 1992. Despite having taken the time to do a mound of dishes, I was still in shock. What do I say? I haven't spoken to any of Jelly's family for over fifteen years. And I've never met her husband--only spoken to him briefly on the phone. (My father-in-law died right before their wedding, so we weren't able to attend.) I've learned enough to keep such messages simple, though the temptation to crack a joke or wax poetic did make a slight nudge. So I ended up sending our condolences and letting the family know that they're in our prayers. I'll have to find a halfway decent card and send that to Jelly's husband, since I have his real-mail address. The problem is, I don't know him well enough to know whether to send him a sappy, generic boo-hoo-hoo card or an in your face, f**k death, Jesus is gonna raise us up again card. That's the problem of not being there, mourning with the loved ones. Human feelings and the words (or silence) they need to hear change with the passing moments. Ah, well, better to say something stupid than to not say at all.

Another thing, I feel like a whore, posting this all in a weblog. I mean, even though I have cause to mourn, it truly is someone else's story I'm writing here. But then, I really don't think I'd be able to concentrate on my planned post concerning yesterday's activities. Real life doesn't wait for me to post in my blog. Heck, maybe one day the posts will just stop, a silent clue that it was my turn to go. Quite selfishly, I hope that happens before I get word of another loved one's death. But "the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name oif the Lord."

Saturday, July 03, 2004

This land is your land 

Last night I was listening to the radio when KBCS's Teen Talk program came on. Given the proximity to Independence Day, the show had an appropriate theme: "What does America mean to you?" They started out with a general survey of teens and I found myself chuckling with a condescending attitude at their simplistic answers.* But then my brain kicked in and I had to stop when I realized that I didn't even have an answer.

If you had asked me when I was a kid, I probably could have rattled off catch phrases like freedom, liberty, democracy, truth, justice, and the American way. I was growing up in a conservative, middle class household in a homogenous, middle class suburb. America was the land of heroes--men who were strong, brave, honest and independent. As I grew up and started reading, some other ideals started filtering in. The concepts of equality, diversity, peacefulness, and charity were tacked on to my cultural identity. But over time, I began to become more aware of the ways of the world, the gaps between ideals and reality. It was a gradual change, and just like the G. I. Joe of the 1970's transformed from a soldier to an adveturer and explorer, my values shifted from the right to the left. I never really thought too deeply about them until I hit adulthood.

Probably the first problem came during the Reagan era in the early 1980's. I was all ready to come of age and take my place amongst the hippies, only to find that everybody else was getting haircuts and waving flags again. It seemed to me that America was rushing to feel good about itself again without having tackled the problems of the last two decades. And the more I learned, the worse it got. I realized that America had problems going back way before 1776. I felt that I had been fed a line by those who molded me in my childhood. Then I soon realized that my newer role models were also flawed. As Bob Walkenhorst put it: "The generation that would change the world is still looking for its car keys." I grew into the cynicism that I had attempted to mimic in my teen years.

I was content to stay there for a decade or so, to get caught up in the day to day. But various things--raising my kids and digging into my family roots, learning about other cultures, growing into my faith--pushed the cultural identity thing back onto me. I've tried to recognize and celebrate things of my heritage, aware of the shortcomings of human forebears and the institutions they created and preserved. So what is America? The melting pot metaphor is still one I like. All sorts of people and cultures, coming together, agitated by the flame of personal and community trouble. And just like you can't throw an ingredient into a pot and expect it to retain it's unique flavor, so each and every American--even the rich white guy--is changed by the other peoples of this land. We have the freedom to be ourselves and even to try and press that identity onto our neighbors, but that also means we run the risk of facing counter pressures which seek to change that identity. As for those ideals of my youth--justice, freedom, love--they aren't the province of Americans, but can rise among any people. Or be equally lost.
*The biggest laugh was the response "sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll." The interviewer had astutely questioned further and the respondents had to admit that they weren't getting much, if any, of the three.