Thursday, November 25, 2004

Outta here 

Haven't had time to write. The boss was asking for overtime so we can all have a four-day weekend. (Our customers were attempting to thwart that by cleaning off their desks by the end of today.) So I've been working late. And then the daytime has been busy with holiday preparations--having the kids' Christmas photos taken and renting vids for the Thanksgiving gathering with my in-laws. We thought to rent a few classic TV shows for a mini-TV marathon. I can't describe how painful it was to go to Scarecrow Video and let my wife pick the vids. No Farscape or silent films this turkey day. Of course, I do have to return the vids on Friday and could always rent some more...

Not that I necessarily have time to watch anything. All sorts of little events planned for the four-day weekend--seeing Balkanarama (again) at Winterfest, going to a brithday party (mmm, dim sum!), and *urg!* shopping. The birthday season is coming up and the kids need toys. Or books. Or something musical. I don't know. That's why I must shop.

Anyway, have a Happy Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Goin' to the chapel 

My day today was essentially taken up by a wedding. A couple from church, Wai and Kai, had looked at the calendar, decided the time had come to start having kids, so they decided to tie the knot and begin that process. Anyway, my role in this started about 10:40 this morning as my breakfast is cooking. The phone rings and Noodles, who is supposed to be teaching her ESL class at church, is on the line. She says that the couple needs some candle holders for the unity candle part of the cermony. Since there's none at church, could I grab ours from the keepsake shelf and bring it at 11:00? I had a brief, silent protest over interrupting my breakfast, but then said I'd be there. A rushed breakfast won't kill me. So in the five minutes before the food's ready I throw on some clothes, put the candle holders in the car and then throw a dust rag in the car because the things are covered in dust. A bit before 11:00, I buzz over to the church and Noodles sets them up. Then we head back home, I bathe and break out the wedding/funeral three-piece suit. (Actually, it's my only suit. But the only times I seem to wear it anymore is at weddings and funerals.)

We get to church plenty early, seeing how the only responsibility my family holds is that Poodlepums is lighting the candles. Noodles, however, decided to worry about things and was running around to try and take care of them. She also took time to talk to a few old friends who, like me, had decided to plant themselves. (Weddings are great for catching up with people.) Anyway, while she was doing this, the church filled up. One of those old friends showed up and started to sit in the pew with Bunnah and I. There was plenty of room, so I let her do so. Then the rest of her family shows up and fills up the rest of the pew. Noodles finally returns to the pew and with a shrug, sits in the pew behind us. Poodles joins her after completing her appointed task. So the ceremony starts and the bridal party is looking absolutely bridal. Kai and Wai were having a sort of bi-cultural wedding, mixing traditional Chinese and American customs. They were wearing the traditional western bridal outfits, but the bulk of the service is in Chinese, with only a few things translated into English. It was interesting to be on the other side of the things, because our bilingual services tend to skimp on the Chinese translations. Anyway, the important event needed no translation. One of those traditions unique to the American side of things is the kissing of the bride. Apparently in the Chinese ceremony, such a kiss would be a wee too informal. Such shenanigans are reserved for the banquet, later on. Anyway, the kiss was one of those details that hadn't yet been addressed at the time of the rehearsal. At the appropriate moment in the ceremony, Wai had tried to plant a practice kiss on Kai, and she forcefully shoved him away before he could get away with it, to the amusement of everyone there. So we didn't know if the actual ceremony was going to go Chinese or American in that detail. Me, I was kind of hoping I'd get to see the shove. But alas, the couple had worked out that little detail and Chinese sensibilities held the day.

After the ceremony, we went back home and I frittered away the hours with sundry tasks. The invitation announced that the banquet started at six, so at the appropriate time, we headed to the restaurant. We arrived and stood around, waiting to be seated. Everyone had an assigned place, but nobody had yet fetched the list and took on the responsibility of seating the guests. Noodles' feelings of ownership had passed, so she didn't charge in and set things aright. Instead we milled about the doorway. Some of our churchmates had alredady entered and were seated at a far table. I suggested we just go and stand by them until the seating commenced, but nobody took my advice. Soon the list arrived and we were seated.... at the same table where the churchmates were sitting. The twist is that they were assigned to a different table, so they then got up and moved. Oh, well. We later discovered that the list had been messed up and we were actually sitting at the table assigned to the couples' friends from WWU. (We sort of qualified, since Noodles had actually lived on campus back when she was a year old.)

Somewhere in my readings of Chinese culture, I probably had read that Chinese banquets do not start at the scheduled time, but I had forgotten that. We sat and chatted, chatted and sat. After about an hour, the discussion turned to the topic of food and the fact that there was none at our table. After another half hour, the bridal couple made their formal entrance. There was much applause as they were seated and the crowd was formally introduced to the various family members in attendance. There would have been greater applause had they introduced the first course, but I digress. Eventually the food did come. There was a platter of cold duck and spiced jellyfish for the first course, followed by all sorts of goodies--shark fin soup, crab, quail, lobster, veggies, chicken, prawns, rice, fish and some sweet bean curd for dessert. I repented of my whining about the food at about the fourth course. I might have lasted longer, but the vest of my three-piece is way too small. Or maybe my appetite was put off by the little quail heads on the platter. I don't know. Suffice it to say that my tummy was content and I skipped about a third of the courses.

As for the rest of the festivities, a great time was had by all. Kai was only slightly more open to osculation at the reception. When folks started tinking their glasses, Wai would jump up and pucker, while Kai would demurely turn a cheek to him. As the evening progressed, especially after all the toasting (it's customary for the bridal party to walk to each table and offer up a toast), Wai's performance grew more flamboyant while Kai retained her reserve. I figure that when they finally get alone together, she'll either scold him for all his foolishness or start making up for laost time. We'll have to see how tired he looks in the morning. Anyway, folks seemed content as they departed, though Noddles was slightly disappointed that there was no dancing. (We ended up having a quick dance at home.) Kai and Wai greeted us as we left, thanking us for attending. I think everyone there had been thanked about twelve times for attending. But that's a good thing, since that gave me twelve times to return the thanks for the pleasure and honor of attending.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

To everything, there is a season 

I came across a interesting blog yeaterday, done by an English teacher in China. (Okay, I didn't really just "come across" it. I lifted the link from Slumberland. I never find anything interesting when I do my own cyber wandering.) Given Noodles' own ambitions to teach in China, I just had to read the whole thing. It brought back some memories of our adoption trip (riding the train, the challenge of crossing the street, being a "celebrity" in the streets of Maoming) as well as planting some seeds of anxiety. ("Oh, crap, what if I need to get a key fixed in China!") (Better get those language tapes I was thinking about back in January.)

Being pointed to this blog now is rather good timing. Noodles has started the application process, thinking that we might shoot for getting to China by next fall. For some bizarre reason, the Sauerkrauts want me to fill out an application as well. Which means that I have to dig up three references. As well as find a phone number for my former employer whom I think might be out of business. (Hmmm, I suppose I should try to call the number and see if it's in service.)(Then I suppose I should say hello and all that.)(Oh, the things I must suffer for the cause...) Anyway, since the application requires me to provide employer contacts, I've sent off an e-mail to my boss to let her know what's up. This is the second time in my life that I've given "six months' notice". I suppose I should be thankful. I'm sure it beats getting laid off.

Monday, November 15, 2004

So long and thanks for all the fish 

Yesterday in Bible class we had one of those comments that just strikes you as being wrong, but you need to figure out exactly why it strikes you that way. The comment was "If your church disappeared tomorrow, would anyone in the neighborhood miss you?" Just about everyone in the class sadly nodded their heads, noting that, indeed, Dry Bones Lutheran Church could up and vanish with nary a ripple in the lives of our neighbors. The implication, of course, is that we need to "do something" to make a more positive impact on our community. Like I said, the whole concept struck me as flawed somehow. But after raising the question whether that was a bad thing and pointing out that we should be promoting Jesus rather than our congregation, my brain froze and I had no further explanation. (And that's why I'm inflicting this manifesto on you, rather than the more appropriate audience.)

Thinking about it, I guess I accept our congregation as it is--small and somewhat removed from the community. As an organization, we aren't a major player in the neighborhood. We don't run a school, or a food bank, or rally scores of volunteers. All our contributions in such areas are made to programs run by others. Even in our core purpose--to tell and teach others about God--we're only one of a number of Christian churches in the area. If we vanished, all the work would still continue, albeit the handful of individuals to whom we do minister would be affected. I have to question if that is a state of affairs that needs to be changed. The Bible really doesn't offer any self-evaluation tools to judge one's performance, but there is the parable (prophecy?) in Matthew 25, where Jesus judges humanity. The judgment spoken is on the basis of how individuals relate to other individuals. "For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat" not "and you established a feeding program, daily providing hundreds of nutritious meals to the hungry." So as long as the "hungry" get "something to eat" (to use that as a metaphor), I don't think it should matter if the church gets noticed or not. In fact, perhaps it's better that we don't get the credit. After all, Jesus says that when you receive earthly honors, you have received your reward. (Matt 6:2-4)

Of course, I should be cognizant of the log in my own eye. (Matt 7:5) I could have kept all these words to myself, rather than posting them on the web, and I certainly would be delighted to get favorbale comments about them. No one is perfect, not even me. ;-)

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Night on the town 

So tired. I stayed up late Friday night to watch the latest episode of Enterprise, despite the fact that I knew I had to get up early on Saturday. And then last night we went out to catch Balkanarama at Georgia's Greek Restaurant. We've been meaning to do that for a while now, but never got around to it. In the past we've been catching the free performances at festivals and Third Place Books. It's not that we didn't want to support the band at a paying gig, it just never seemed to work out. Perhaps I was subconsciously trying to avoid trying authentic Greek cuisine. Anyway, this past week Noodles said she really wanted to go catch them at Georgia's, despite having just seen them on October 23rd. So in the interest of maintaining a happy marriage, the children and I braced ourselves for exotic tastes and we went out for dinner.

It was great. Georgia's is a small joint--at least compared to the malltopian restaurants we usually patronize. We squeezed in around our table and pored over the menu as the music started. I wasn't too brave--I ordered Kota Lemonati, a lemon roast chicken. I also ordered a Coke, despite the fact that the wine menu is almost as long as the one for food. Next time I'll go for the vino. Noodles and Poodlepums each got skewers of grilled meat, called Souvlaki. (I'm reading this off the website, in case you're wondering.) Bunnah stuck with a salad and a few tidbits mooched off of the rest of the family. I quite enjoyed my dinner, despite my fear of sauces and cheese. Nobody bothered with dessert, but I did try a Grecian beer later in the evening. I picked Aris, "a true lager from northern Greece." I figured that was the closest to Germany.

The music, of course, was hot. For some unexplained reason, Amir, the guitarist, wasn't there. How that affected the playlist, I don't know. They played a few unfamiliar tunes, even pulling out a tambura for some. (I hadn't seen one of those since Jana Rickel left the band.) Maybe they were just adapting the playlist for the audience. Anyhoo, it also seemed like they really let their violinist, Matty Noble, strut his stuff. They did a great number where Matty started solo with only a soft drum back up. Bit by bit the rest of the band came in and the volume increased. I was hoping Poodlepums, our budding violinist, would be suitably inspired. But alas, on the way home she started singing Celtic/Appalachian tunes.

Speaking of Poodlepums, she, of course, had to dance. There was dancing, despite the closeness of the room. Sometimes the wait staff had to wait for the line to shuffle out of the way. And then a couple of times the wait staff joined in. (Note to self: next time, find a job which allows dancing.) Poodles, of course, didn't join the line, but did her own thing. Once again someone noticed and commented, this time inviting her to join the Radost Folk Ensemble. I thought it was some community dance club, but when I checked the website today, I found out it was a serious organization that gives performances and everything. Oy! Guess Teacher Sandy's ballet classes at the Jefferson Park Community Center were worth the investment.

The evening ended around 10:30. In true Hamburger fashion, we closed the place down. (Grandma and Grandpa would be proud.) At the end, there were three groups--friends of the owners, friends of the band, and us. The band friends left, and Mike Gordon and Ferko Saxmanov followed them out the front door to bid them farewell. (The advantage of not being wired into the sound board.) They came back, finished the song and then decided to do one final number. We applauded appropriately, paid for my beer and headed home. A great night out for less than sixty bucks. (If you don't count tips for the band and waitress) I will never waste time and money on some arena concert again.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Bring the family 

I think it's going to be another late night. Tonight, I was able to make the rounds to all my favorite blogs and message boards, so I went over to Meetup.com to see what was up with the Seattle Weblog Group. I then started poking around and made the "well duh!" discovery that Meetup serves far more than bloggers. So now I'm browsing around and found some really unique groups. I signed up for the Classic Films group, even though I don't have time for such things. Just couldn't resist getting second in line. I did not sign up for the Ex-Chicagoans Meetup Group, since there's none in Seattle. I don't know what I'd do at one anyway--complain about the lack of quality hot dogs in Seattle? Anyway, some more observations:

--I was surprised that the Seattle Burlesque Meetup Group only has one member. I would think there would be all sorts of guys signing up for that.
--I can't understand how the Luddite group manages, since I would think that a good Luddite wouldn't own a computer.
--It was disappointing to discover that the Bad Customer Service group wasn't a "how-to" group.
--Pirates Groups. Aarrgghhhh!
--Nobody has got around to starting a Seattle Procrastinator Meetup yet.
--There are even Lutheran Meetup Groups. Of course, in my day, we called that "church". :-/
--Of course, the weirdest of the weird is the Meetup Meetup Group. Isn't that like a Support Group support group?

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

You can't serve two masters 

I got a chance to take a business trip today, and turned it down. This is a first for me at Bloatmeal. Back when I was doing A/V at Doghouse Productions, I took a few road trips, but the furthest Bloatmeal has sent me was to the next town for a client meeting. Until today, that is. Today, our production manager asked me if I'd be willing to spend next week at one of our Chicago shops. He didn't give many details as to why, and I didn't ask. My thoughts consisted of "Cool! Free trip to the Windy City!" and "What's on my calendar?" The week was free, save for a wedding on the 20th. (Not mine, of course.) I ended up saying that I was interested, but 15 years of experience led me to add that I needed to double check with Noodles. I expected her to have misgivings about the trip--Noodles is usually reluctant to accept last minute changes--but I thought that maybe we could swing it. I called home and got the answering machine. I left a message and went back to work.

As I worked, I started to recall those two younger personages in the household. Ooops. Somebody needs to watch the kids on those days when Noodles works. Well, I figured that we might be able to swing something, though my expectations were lowering. Over an hour later, I got the return call. I reiterated the deal and Noodles replied that she wasn't crazy about the idea but would be willing to deal with it if I really wanted to go. A bit better response than I had been expecting. But then she mentioned how Poodlepums wailed in protest when she heard the message. Ah, my desire to go declined somewhat, though Poodlepums' wailing is hardly an uncommon experiences. Then she mentioned that Bunnah had the "mad/sad face" on. Bam. Kiss that trip goodbye. I can handle Noodles' reluctant approvals. I can talk myself into ignoring Poodlepums cries of dramatic anguish. But when Bunnah gets that mad/sad expression that will soon melt into tears, I am completely defenseless. So I immediately, without regret, told Noodles to forget about it. I wasn't going to go. The conversation then switched to church gossip. Later, I told the boss I wasn't available and he was cool with it. Back to normalcy.

I like to travel, but I gave up being a business-first spouse and parent a long time ago. I guess today I just had to be true to my calling. It would have been nice to have snagged some more Salerno Butter cookies, though.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Lazing on a Saturday afternoon 

Well, I dispensed some "Daddy Time" to the girls today. For a couple of hours I was at the girls' beck and call as they decided what fun thing we should do together. Bunnah wanted to do some web surfing--something she's not really done before--to see what pictures Atwater-Donnelly, Balkanarama and Lynn Johnston had on their respective sites. Poodlepums, however, insisted that I write in a joint story that we haven't been writing in. Okay, actually she's been writing in it. I've been remiss. Anyway, it was a slightly frustrating time, as she had introduced a sad secret which she expected me to reveal. I didn't want to, so the hour was spent with each of us avoiding telling the secret and then leaving a hook for the other to make the revelation. I emerged from the session victorious, though I had to resort to breaking the milieu and hiding the revelation behind a faux emergency alert. Defeated she finally did reveal the secret, which was the unexpected death of a roadie named Rosa. I didn't find it all that sad, myself, at least not to the point of breaking into tears when I heard the tale. I guess you had to be there.

Poodlepums' rebuttal: By the way, Rosa didn't really die. Daddy will have to give some reason for the woman who's narrating this entire thing to be standing with this acclaimed Rosa, who happened to "die" at an Atwater-Donnelly concert, no insult intended.

Friday, November 05, 2004

'Tis the season to go shopping 

Here it is November 5th and I'm thinking about Christmas shopping. Not for my loved ones, but for me. Various loved ones endeavor to buy things for me, but they usually get exasperated in the process. The problem is that they ask me what I want, but there's nothing I really need. What's left are those gifts that would be too expensive or those that are too esoteric for my suburban family members. For example, tonight I learned about The Bob Walkenhorst Online Shop. Bob used to front a band called The Rainmakers, who made themself my favorite band back in the late 80s. I'd love to get a T-shirt, but the only place to get them are via the internet--a place that is terra incognita for my gift buying elders--or maybe Kansas City. I don't feel comfortable asking for something that would put them to so much trouble. Likewise, I wouldn't send them out for Sluggy Freelance books, Rez CDs, selected comic collections, a Harvest Logos gift certificate, or old computer junk from RE•PC. (Well, I suppose I could get them used Macs for Christmas and help them get online....) It would be a lot easier if we could skip the gift thing, but tradition is tradition. And I also know how fun it is to spoil your kids. Ah, well, I suppose I could always ask for socks....

Thursday, November 04, 2004

The cure for what ails ya 

Went to the Eastside Weblogger meetup tonight, and it seemed to work wonders for my mood. Makes sense, sort of. I mean hanging with your friends tends to put one in a good mood, right? So why shouldn't hanging with a group of total strangers do the same? Okay, that's weird. Anyhoo, I went and managed to talk even less than I did last time. There was a smaller turnout than last month--only 10, including myself--and that seemed to be the right number to include everyone in a single conversation. The discussion was slightly more eclectic than last time, certainly less technical. It included things like the dark side of NPR and the concept of a "work boyfriend". We had to compete with Crossroads Mall's Open Mike night, but that only provided another topic for converstaion. All in all, another good time, even if it did mean that my shift extended past midnight. Anyhoo, Anita Rowland, our master of ceremonies, has a list of attendees which you can check out. I know I will.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Now what? 

Poop. I listened to the candidates, considered the issues, psyched myself that the Bush administration was evil incarnate and then... George Bush won anyway. So now what do I do? Last night I was depressed. Today I'm more angry. (I forget what comes next in the grief cycle... sneezy? No, that's the 7 dwarves.) I don't know why I'm reacting this way. I've only managed to vote for the winning presidential candidate twice in my life. I should be used to this. Maybe my depression stems from the fact that I've recently been on the losing side in church politics, too. Or maybe I just listened to too much progressive spin and ignored the polls that said Herr Bush was gonna win. I don't know...

I suppose the question now is, what's next? I suppose the activist would advise to get a good night's sleep and hit the ground running tomorrow. I'm feeling a bit too defeatist to do that. I also have to question if I'm supporting the right battle. A few weeks back, the thought occurred to me that maybe the best way to fight for the folks in Iraq would be for us "good guys" to put our lives on the line, go over there and help out directly. Work on building some infrastructure rather than building coalitions or whatever else the politicos are advising. Of course, I personally don't have the cajones to do it myself. Isn't that a battle cry for a doomed cause?