Monday, December 29, 2008

xkcd... Painfully too Funny Sometimes

Although I know that my own marriage was on the decline long before I started blogging here, I could see where casual readers of relationship blogs might be tempted to think this way about blogging.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Should I Out the Troll?

I received a nasty comment from a reader yesterday afternoon. I don't know who the person is, but I think it might do the person some good for them to realize that anonymity is not absolute. I'm tempted to post the Sitemeter log entry corresponding to the visitor, which was the only hit at the time that the comment was posted, but that might be too retaliatory. I've opened up a poll in the sidebar that will remain open until the 3rd. Let me know what you think.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

I'm Pretty Sure I Didn't Sign Up for This...

Today was the day I was supposed to do lunch with my mom, and I did, but at a steep price.

In addition to lunch, I had made plans to run some errands, which included dropping the spiral slice ham off at STBX's apartment, getting a power strip and extension cord for the kids' new electronic gaming hardware and a gift bag for the kids' gift to the STBX.

STBX asked me if I wanted to take the kids with me to see my mom. I thought it was a good idea, checked with my mom to see if she was OK with it, and then proceeded according to plan. This seemed like the Right Thing to Do at the time because it allowed me to have some time with the kids so that they could help decorate the gift bag to give it their personal touch and then fill the bag.

At the STBX's request, I took her minivan because she thinks my car is too clunky to haul the kids across town, and she does have a point because I do need to get some new tires.

We stopped by my mom's apartment, and then we followed her to a casual dining establishment not too far away. Service was slow, so we were there for about two hours even though we had been seated right away.

After lunch, I loaded up the kids in the van and tried starting the engine. No dice. Dashboard lights came on fine, but the fuel gauge did not budge when I turned the key. Moreover, the engine doesn't try to turn over. On the way up, I noticed that the gauge registered at half a tank, so unless the gauge was lying earlier, I still had plenty of fuel.

I call my mom and she comes back to help. Several years ago, she had worked the service desk for an auto dealership, so she knew about basic troubleshooting. She drew a blank.

I finally had to call STBX to come up with my car to pick us up. I contacted a nearby towing service to haul the van to a car repair shop not two blocks from the site. One of my mom's friends had been a customer of theirs for a long time and had good things to say about them.

STBX drove me home and dropped me off a little over an hour ago. She has my car now, and is eating dinner with her best friend's family. After that they will head over to the friend's church for a Christmas Eve service.

The working plan is for her to pick up the dog and me after they are done socializing, which should be around 10 pm. I'll be staying the night over at her apartment, sleeping on the floor, so I can be there when the kids wake up and open presents.

The repair shop is open on Friday, so with some luck maybe they can diagnose and fix it in time for STBX to have her van back by the weekend so that we can use it to travel down to The Small Town together for my family gathering on Saturday.

The self soothing skills are stretched a bit thin right now.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Catching up to Christmas

rezult said...
Yes. 2am, what is up with you? working too hard? seasonal blues?

Anais wrote...

If you would update more often, it wouldn't take you as long to write and polish!

Expectantly yours,


the Drunken Housewife said...
Saturday??? You mean the one over a week ago?

anais-pf said...

Sixdegrees said...
Tick, tock, tick, tock...

I have no idea what you're talking about... so here's a reindeer with some antlers on its head.

I photographed the reindeer on display on the Circle during lunch hour today.

But seriously... I get the message... Sorry about the lack of updates.

I started writing a post on the 13th, but it was taking way too much time to get everything written out, and it got hard to organize all of the parallel story lines, so I took a break. That was a big mistake because I had trouble mustering the energy to return to it. Now that things have hit a bit of a lull, I'll try to flush out the backlog of information.


The job continues to go well. I survived the big Not-Safe-For-Work mess that I wrote about on Nov. 16. We wound up delaying the release until the following week so that I could get a rudimentary content filter working.

The code went live on the following Tuesday, and it has been doing its job pretty well. I have noticed that our own employees have been writing posts using some of the links the content suggestion system has been recommending, so people must find it useful.

The filtering code is set up to log every time it blocks an RSS item based on a filter match, and some of the entries have been very amusing.

I had mixed feelings about the inclusion of the word "gay" on the list, given that it can be used as a term of self-identification in addition to an epithet. What would happend if we landed a client that caters to the GLBT market for something like travel and tourism? Wouldn't most of their content recommendations get blocked? If that happens, I'll probably have a stronger case to make for removing the word from the list.

Some other quirks for the filter... hits involving the names Dick and Mick are omitted because they appear in the list as potential racial epithets. References to "ho" both in the Christmas and name contexts get blocked.

Then last week, there was a side-splitter. For one of our own keyword searches, the following article turned up in the content suggestion -- "It's A Wonderful Orgasm: Violet Blue's list of hot holiday gifts we can all afford". It was an article on the San Francisco Chronicle, and it included a survey of gift ideas for adult toys. So the word orgasm has been added to the filter list.

Although things have been quiet on this blog, I have been in a good streak of writing posts for my work blog. I had gotten somewhat lazy over the summer, putting up only a few posts each month at best.

At the beginning of November, the marketing team sponsored a contest to encourage content creation, offering a catered lunch to whichever department created the greatest number of posts. Our department lost by a few, which was a disappointment, but I continued to blog, putting up 30 posts in November without any fanfare about NaBloPoMo.

The effort paid off, and at the monthly company meeting in mid-December, I was awarded the "nifty gift" for individual blogger output, which was a $50 gift card with the big online book seller in the Emerald City.

The company Christmas party was held on Dec. 5, and it was quite a deal. The CEO hosted it out at his house in the east rural suburbs. A Tapas style meal was prepared by a chef, with each mini-course paired with a beer and wine selection, which helped moderate the alcohol consumption.

I had my quarterly review on Dec. 9, and I got pretty good marks. My boss said that he has noticed that I still have a "reluctant leader" streak, and he wants me to assume more a more prominent leadership role within the group. So the action items from my review are designed to force me into that role and take on some new things to build my confidence. I found his assessment to be pretty accurate, and I'm glad he's continuing to push me in a direction of growth.

On the 15th, a coworker of mine and I walked to the State House to see our state's electors meet and cast their ballots for president. Given that it had been 44 years since our state's electoral votes swayed this way, and that it was the election of the first African American president, I wanted to be a witness to this little piece of history. We were not disappointed.

The meeting took place inside the House Chamber, with access granted to those holding tickets. We weren't sure about the basis for handing out tickets, but our guess was that they were handed out to party loyalists. We were told that if not all the tickets were taken, we'd be allowed to sit in unfilled seats.

As we were waiting in the hall, we saw this tall guy in glasses and a dreamsicle orange sweater walking around. My coworker told me he thought the guy was Mo Rocca. I thought he was BSing me because he is so good at the deadpan humor. We debated back and forth why in the world would this guy be at the Indiana electors' meeting. It just didn't make sense.

It was a good thing that the coworker asked me to get some photos with my cell phone because it turned out that not only was it Mo, but he also wrote about the experience on his blog over at AOL's website. The picture I hasd snapped was when he was talking to the alternate elector identified as John Bonecutter on his blog.

As the meeting was called to order, we were asked by an elderly woman whether we wanted tickets to get in. We didn't have to have our arms twisted too much. We took the tickets, offered up our thanks and rushed to find our seats.

The meeting took about an hour and a half, with some parts of it being way less formal than others. As the ballots for president were distributed, one of the electors belted out a question to the state Secretary of State who was officiating, "Do we need to show photo ID?" The question was a barb making light of a law that has been on the books for a few years, which requires proof of identity at the polling place.

Our department had some holiday festivities of its own on the 18th. Back when I hired on with the company, I wrote in my introductory e-mail that I made a great pot of chili. Throughout the year, my boss ribbed me, saying I needed to make some of it and share with the department. I decided to finally follow through by making a batch of it that morning and bringing it into the office so that we could eat it after the daily status meeting at 11 am. Other coworkers joined in, making sides and desserts. It was well received.

Our boss planned an afternoon outing at the same multistory bar/theme park establishment that the big blogger get together group went to exactly two months prior. We played some pool and enjoyed some appetizers.

Then we had a White Elephant gift exchange with a twist. An attempt to steal someone's gift could be challenged by the person from whom the gift was being taken. All the person had to do was agree to perform an "Act of Shame".

Some of the acts included proclaiming the love for the defended gift to a total stranger on the premises. I had to portray a dancer getting mauled by a bear. There was a competitive challenge that involved a crab walk race.

The gift I put into the exchange was a set of humorous food containers that I figured would be a hit because there are a number of people who bring their lunches in to work. The gift got stolen three times.

I wound up with a nice ensemble that included one of those drinking birds and two hand made items -- a rubberband powered airplane that used a styrofoam egg carton parts for wings,

and an insect made of pipe cleaners for legs, a watch battery for the body, and some LEDs for eyes.

When the bug is jiggled, the antennae make contact with some wires that complete the circuit to which the LEDs and battery are attached, so the LEDs flicker. The kids loved it!

I barely missed getting my enrollment paperwork for health insurance done. The deadline set by our benefits administrator was Dec. 19th. I had to overcome a lot of inertia to puzzle my way through the maze of two network plans and the four variations of each. Further complicating things was that the network that I had chosen the prior year was no longer being offered.

I wound up going with the new plan because it allowed my kids to continue seeing their pediatrician. The downside is that the monthly premium for comparable coverage for my old plan is $72 more per month. I spent the night of Dec. 17th filling out the paper work and then exchanged e-mails with the benefits rep to verify that I could run the paperwork over to their offices up on the northeast side of town on Friday. But then the STBX IMed me at work asking to use my car on Friday because she wanted to take her minivan into the shop to have a noise checked out.

I agreed to let her do that and wound up faxing the paperwork in because the instructions listed that as an option. I got an e-mail from the benefits rep on Friday morning acknowledging receipt of the fax but then said that she needed originals of two of the forms, so I had to mail those out. Fortunately I was still able to get enrolled in the plan.

As for the holidays, I have the rest of this week off. Next week, we have New Year's Day off.


Moving to the personal front, on the day before Thanksgiving, the STBX and I took the kids to see The Lion King musical, which was making a tour stop in town. I spent Thanksgiving day with my brother's up in the northeast burbs, while STBX and the kids had their own celebration.

I picked up the girls on Thanksgiving night so that they could spend Friday with me. Originally, STBX had planned on working a concession stand for the girls' dance school at the big football stadium for the high school football championships, but they didn't have enough volunteers, so she got the day to herself.

I took the girls downtown on the night of Black Friday to see the ceremonial powering on of the lights at the monument. Rather than deal with the massive crowds and chilly air, I took them up to my office, part of which overlooks the area, so we had a prime view. We passed the time leading up to the lighting by watching DVDs on my laptop. They were amazed by the size of the light strands, but they were disappointed that they couldn't see the fireworks being shot off at the end of the show.

Although this picture was taken about a week ago, it gives you an idea of what the lights on the monument look like. Those of you who came to the get together in October may remember me leading you for a walk around the circle that chilly Saturday evening.

Over that weekend after Thanksgiving, I developed a pretty awful cold that wiped me out so badly I took Monday off and stayed home. The STBX played co-dependent sent me a text on my cell phone in the afternoon, asking me where I was because she didn't see me signed onto work IM. I replied informing her that I had taken the day off due to a bad cold. She wrote back sarcastically saying, "Wow that must be some cold. I hope that are able to manage without you for the day."

Later that evening, I got an e-mail from her.

I suspect you are dating and I know you are on a dating site. Some items on your dating site felt hurtful to me, regarding that I had you on a tight leash and I forced my friends on you. I am fairly sure you won't have to worry about my friends wanting to be friends with you any further. Hopefully you can find someone who caters to all your sexual wants. However I do think we need to get a divorce because I definitely don't feel ok dating or looking for someone else until I am divorced. I know you had said you were compiling paperwork. Is that something you are still doing? If not I can look into getting a lawyer if that is what is the next step.
I really just need to get the divorce started so that I can move forward, like you obviously have.

I have no idea when or how she found my profile.

I wound up taking the profile private rather than have to deal with that drama. I also wrote back to apologize for the way my remarks made her feel. The last thing I needed to do was have this process turn hostile. The next few times that I saw STBX in person, she didn't say anything further about it.

Our kids weekends changed up a bit in December. Because STBX's mom was coming up for the weekend of Dec. 6 - 7, STBX asked if she could keep the girls that weekend, which I agreed to. I still met up with them on Saturday last weekend so that we could go to my older daughter's school's "Snack with Santa", which involved pictures with Santa, lots of mini crafts, and a pizza.

Late that evening, I got a call from my stepmom letting me know that they had driven from The Small Town, about an hour south, to the hospital in my town, the one with the large lighthouse beacon on the roof. My dad had not been feeling well for the evening, and complained that part of his face felt droopy. A blood pressure check showed high numbers, so they were afraid he was having another stroke.

They opted for the hospital in town because they didn't trust the local hospital to take the situation seriously. After all, this was the same place that had sent STBX's dad home back in May 2005 when he was having a stroke, claiming they couldn't find anything that would indicate this.

The hospital's ER was very responsive, getting a CAT scan and X-Ray done within a couple hours of their arrival. They got him on pain medication and he got some rest, admitting him early Sunday morning. He stayed at the hospital until Tuesday afternoon while they did some additional tests. A doppler test showed that his arteries were fine.

They weren't sure what caused his problems on Saturday night, but they were certain that whatever it was, it wasn't a stroke. The high blood pressure might have been due to his stress level contributed to the high blood pressure. Thankfully, he has been doing fine since his release from the hospital.

I didn't get a chance to come up and visit while he was up here. The Sunday while this was all happening, my older daughter developed a nasty flu bug that had her getting sick and feeling puny, so I came over to STBX's apartment to watch her while she took her mom and our younger daughter back to The Small Town. Before she left, STBX made mention that although she had been angry about the ad, she thought I was till being a good dad to the girls.

On the 9th was my daughter's Daisy Girl Scout Christmas party, which included a pitch in dinner. Ironically enough, on the same day that STBX sent the nastygram about the dating profile, she had sent me an e-vite to this event. I volunteered to make some chili, which seemed to be well received because there was not a bit of it, nor the cornbread with which it was served, left.

My daughter's Christmas dance show was on 19th. The older daughter did a tap number to "Here Comes Santa Clause", and my younger daughter did "Jingle Bells". Both had a blast.

The STBX's job ran out on the 13th, as I mentioned in a prior post. I believe she has filed for unemployment, but she didn't start applying for jobs until the 21st, and even then I'm not sure if she was filing those applications in good faith.

She asked me for help with writing her resume over that weekend that she filed the applications. I had given her a copy of mine to use as a template, but she had not gotten far with it. I went through old pay stub records to deduce when she worked at which roles at her old employer so that she had the time line accurate, and I wound up helping with a cover letter.

My dad had high blood pressure over the weekend as well, so he went to the ER in The Small Town. They couldn't find anything wrong otherwise, so they gave him some nitro and pain meds. He saw his doctor on Monday and seems to be doing better. It bugs me that they haven't been able to pinpoint the cause for this yet.

As far as Christmas plans go, I am having lunch with my mom today. I am spending a good chunk of Christmas day at STBX's apartment with her and the kids. On Saturday, STBX, the kids, and I will be traveling down to The Small Town to spend it with my dad and stepmom. I have been invited to go down to The Small Town to celebrate Christmas with her family on New Year's Day, but I haven't committed to that yet.


Have-the-T-Shirt joked in a comment that I had way too much time on my hands and needed to start dating. STBX's protestations aside, I haven't really been out there shopping around. I have made a few friends from the dating services.

One works in the software biz, and we've met for dinner a few times, but that is strictly platonic. She has been looking to strike up a relationship with a coworker who is leaving the company at the end of the year. We kvetch about travails of spouses estranged and talk shop, but that's about it. It's kind of nice to have someone from around this area who works in the software biz, but she will be moving up to the north side soon to shorten her grueling commute, so there is a good chance that this friendship may wane with distance or the kindling of her desired relationship with the other guy.

There is someone with whom I've chatted pretty regularly over the past couple of months. She works at a small private college about 40 miles from here, and there may be a chance we might meet up for drinks, but we are at different phases of our lives, and the age gap is a bit too far for comfort. She is the person I can count on for the overanalytical conversations.

Finally, there someone up in the north burbs who is in the limbo stages of divorce herself. She works downtown, a few blocks away from my office. We've met a few times after hours. Her estranged spouse has already fallen in love with someone else and is itching to get married to her. Neither of us are looking for anything serious, so that could wind up being a recurring FWB situation.

Once the divorce is final, I will probably start dating more actively.

That's about all the news with me. Did I leave anything out?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Can We Get a Moratorium on 2.0 Things?

Perhaps there is just a wee bit of latent bitterness within my core, but I just had to roll my eyes at a website that was promoting today as Spouse 2.0 Day. Go on over there now and take a look at it yourself. I'll wait.

(sits patiently humming Jeopardy theme)

Ah, you're back. What did you think? (nods) Yeah, I thought so. I'm sure there are some people out there lucky enough to have significant others who are actually supportive of their spouses' efforts to develop a career and provide for their families. That seems like such an alien idea to me.

For those of you who were unimpressed with the keyword analysis of my blog, you'll be pleased to know that I am working on a post contains a lot more substance about things going on in my life over the past month. I am too tired to polish it off tonight, so it will probably go up sometime Saturday. Keep an eye on your RSS feeds until then.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

My Blog, As Yahoo Sees it

I created some scripts to parse the Atom XML document that I exported from Blogger recently and then feed the individual posts to the Yahoo Term Extraction Service. After aggregating the keywords, I wound up with 4,166 distinct keywords. I pared back that list to include those keywords which were found in five or more posts on the blog and then sorted the list in descending order. Here is the final result.
e mail30
passionate marriage19
best friend18
job search17
couple weeks16
phone interview15
silicon valley12
marriage counseling10
nice guy10
joint session9
t shirt9
pacific northwest9
job offer8
phone call8
auction company7
few days7
younger daughter7
phone interviews7
therapy session6
cell phone6
couple of days6
sense of self6
online auction6
dance class6
hiring manager6
new york times6
david schnarch6
east coast6
long time5
good question5
hour and a half5
friday morning5
friday afternoon5
mid day5
voice mail5
phone conversation5
loan co5
personal integrity5
several times5
contract position5
hr person5
comfort zone5
five love languages5
sexual relationship5
software company5
little bit5
marriage counselor5
frame of mind5
couple hours5

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving "Tell Me More" was Pretty Powerful Show

On Thursday, I drove up to the northern reaches of the greater metro area to visit with my brother's family and have Thanksgiving dinner with them. As I made my way up, I listened to the NPR program "Tell Me More", which was devoted to the subject of Gratitude. I only got to hear the first two segments -- those of Iyania Vanzant and Leon Bass -- but both of them had powerful messages to share... messages I needed to hear when I become a little too self-absorbed.

This One is for All the Blogger Get-Together Folks...

The Zero Punctuation video game reviews by Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw are as wickedly irreverent as they are fast paced. Usually he trains his acerbic wit upon first person shoot-em-up games, but this week, Yahtzee takes aim at Guitar Hero World Tour. If you're a Guitar Hero fan, I highly recommend watching the clip. Be forewarned, his reviews tend to be laced with vulgarities and sexually themed line drawings. Watching this clip at work is strongly discouraged.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

2am now over 2 Megs

I was playing around the with Blogger API to see whether I could extract and back up my posts. It took some tweaking, but I was able to do it. When converted to an Atom XML file, the blog posts alone make up 2.1 MB of data. I'm thinking about running the content through Yahoo's Term Extraction service to retroactively compute tags for each post so that I can obtain some sort of tag cloud.

White Castles, White Wine, Another Saturday Night -- I'm Such a Douchebag!

Make You Crazy feat. Femi Kuti - Brett Dennen

I don't know where it came from, but my loneliness anxiety was acting up this evening. Sometime around 7 pm, I headed out to get a bite to eat, but there was nothing that sounded good. I wound up burning an hour or two at two bookstores, perusing the computer and philosophy books and leaving empty handed. I settled for dinner at the White Castle next to the second bookstore I visited.

I came home, sifted through aging e-mails, and caught up on IM with a recently made friend who had a harrowing week. I met her via one of the online dating services, and we have yet to meet in person. Our situations are similar in that we live in that space between marriage and divorce, and we both work in the software field, but so far this has proved to be a good friendship, and I'm OK with that.

I'm currently sipping the remains of a bottle of 2006 Australian Riesling that doesn't have the same character that the bottle I polished off a couple months ago has, but the buzz is nice nonetheless.

This was a week that blew by and put my nerves to the test both on the personal and professional fronts.

First, on Thursday, the STBX IMed me to let me know that it was official, her employer would be terminating her position on the 13th of December. She said she had talked with one of her friends back over in the Land of Lincoln, who was a onetime employee of the same company and keeps in touch with several coworkers.

One employee, who had been there even longer than STBX by a couple years, had her annual salary chopped by $6K. Another longtime stalwart up and left. There are a couple of others whose status is still unknown. It sounds like they are really trying to purge some of the long time employees who are at the top of their payscale.

Her plans after the termination are undecided. She talked about drawing unemployment for a few months so that our younger daughter can continue to attend the preschool co-op.

She is eyeing a certification program for physician medical coding. It's a once-weekly evening class that meets for a few months at the beginning of the year with a certification test offered in late April. It would cost her on the order of $2,700 for tuition and testing fees. She said she might ask my dad and stepmom to loan her the money, which seems a bit weird given the circumstances.

As for me, the big news was that we delayed pushing the new release of our application to production not once, but twice. What should have gone out Wednesday this past week will go out instead early this coming Tuesday. The reasons for the delay were based on some observations made while I was testing a new content recommendation system for our application.

To help bloggers overcome writer's block, we thought it would be nice to fetch search results based on their focus keywords and display links to the results on the page where they write their posts. Well, it turns out that one of the search engine services we used turned up inappropriate results for a seemingly innocent combination of keywords. In case you were curious, the link title contained the word douchebag.

This required a rework of the user interface, complete with legal disclaimer warning the user that the results did not reflect the views of the company. Moreover, I got the job of writing a simple filter that would scan search results for bad words and cull them from the list returned to the user. Compiling a good list of naughty words is a bit more challenging than you think.

I spent Thursday night and Friday morning implementing the new filter. The list of bad words got generated on Friday afternoon and wired into the filter. I spent the afternoon and evening reviewing the results for 25 customers that we consider very important. In addition to the filter, we decided to omit one of the two data sources we had planned on using because the results were just too unreliable.

The end product should be nice, and I've learned a thing or two about the wiley ways of RSS feeds and distributed caching systems, so that is the bright side. Yet the downside is that this past week looked like a blur.

But as Arlo Guthrie would say, that's not what I came to talk about. I wanted to talk a bit on the notion of unity among Christians. Writing on his Unsolicited Advice (Wordpress) blog, Digger Jones offers up a video clip of a fight between Armenian and Greek Christians in Jerusalem as a reason he believes that unity is a fool's errand.

(2:41 am takes a break to jam out to "Tainted Love" on WTTS-FM)

Digger's case-in-point is what I was referring to in my comment on Therese's blog almost two years ago, asking what sort of unity should one pray for. It is the inherent paradox of unshared truths.

Faith is the unwavering belief that there exists a set of truths that are as non-negotiable as they are beyond proof, and that you have knowledge of them. What happens when someone claims a similar affiliation but has a similar level of confidence in a set of beliefs that are not fully compatible.

To abstract further, let there be two people who have belief systems which we call C and P. Both lay claim that they are members of a superset of E. The member of C believes that the set of propositions {BC,1, BC,2, ...} are indisputably, but unprovably, true. The member of P believes in his own set of propositions {BP,1, BP,2, ...}.

Now let's assume, without loss of generality, that both sets of propositions are identical save for the first propositions, BC,1 and BP,1. Moreover, let us assume that BC,1 and BP,1 are mutually exclusive. In other words, if BC,1 is true, then BP,1 cannot be true and vice versa. What does unity mean here?

The naive approach, which takes the union of the two sets of propositions, results in a system of propositions that have a contradiction. In order to maintain consistency, one of three things must happen:

  1. Remove BC,1 from the set.

  2. Remove BP,1 from the set.

  3. Remove both propositions from the set.

While the third item may be the most symmetric in terms of sacrifice, both sides are going to prefer that their belief makes the cut. To agree to do away with one's own belief sets up the fear of further disillusionment because that raises doubts over just how unshakable those beliefs are.

At this point, it is east to see why fights break out. Members of C and P are called to stand unwaveringly for their beliefs. In the presence of the other's doubt, what is to be done? When a believer concludes that the defense of Truth is a military calling, the probability of violence grows because the believer sees him or herself the agent of the Almighty's wrath.

The anxiety that animates the conflict can be mitigated with self soothing, an understanding that we are in essence separate beings with differences in thought processes and assumptions. The ability to accept separateness in the pursuit of togetherness is a larger form of the process of differentiation that takes place in the microverse of monogamous relationships.

A couple years ago, when I read Schnarch, I could see how this dynamic played itself in the ideological and cultural wars. At this point, I found myself decoupling from the political assumptions I had held for the past 25 years and moving into a space where those I might have once considered enemies were now friends.

Coming to terms with this paradox is an offshoot of the question of existential loneliness -- our separateness as individuals makes it impossible for each of us to be in universal agreement with one another. Like loving, to believe is to be lonely.

Schnarch touches on these themes in the closing chapter of Passionate Marriage. He speaks of a spiritual axis orthogonal to the relationship axis, where one must balance self-transcendence and self dissolution.

I was reminded of this as I read a post by Andrew Revkin on the New York Times blog Dot Earth that cited the writings of Charles Darwin and Vaclav Havel on the idea of self-transcendence. The passage the blogger quotes from Havel's 1994 speech seems remarkably farsighted.
[I]n today’s multicultural world, the truly reliable path to coexistence, to peaceful coexistence and creative cooperation, must start from what is at the root of all cultures and what lies infinitely deeper in human hearts and minds than political opinion, convictions, antipathies, or sympathies - it must be rooted in self-transcendence:

Transcendence as a hand reached out to those close to us, to foreigners, to the human community, to all living creatures, to nature, to the universe.

Transcendence as a deeply and joyously experienced need to be in harmony even with what we ourselves are not, what we do not understand, what seems distant from us in time and space, but with which we are nevertheless mysteriously linked because, together with us, all this constitutes a single world.

Transcendence as the only real alternative to extinction.

The whole post is worth reading.

It's 3:42 am, and I need to get some rest. As if with some sense of dramatic coincidence, I just heard WTTS-FM play Semisonic's song "closing time", which brings us back to that theme of loneliness anxiety.
So gather up your jackets,
and move it to the exits -
I hope you have found a friend.
Closing time -
every new beginning comes from
some other beginning's end.

Tonight I will sleep alone, but I will live through this.

The Waiting - Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers

Friday, November 07, 2008

Perhaps the Last Conversation I Needed to Have Today...

Below is a transcript of an IM conversation I just had with the STBX. My guess is she is not in a good space right now.


Me 1:38 Via what medium?

STBX 1:38 IM

Me 1:38 No.


Me 1:39 That's not good.


1:39 Why are they cutting you?


Me 1:40 I'm sorry. :-(

Me 1:40 Would you like some help with your resume?


Me 1:41 I know this is going to be tough because it will be the first time in a long time since you had to look for a job.

Me 1:42 And it will probably mean rearranging some commitments.

Me 1:42 But you can do this.

Me 1:43 Did they say how they could help?


Me 1:45 I would take them up on whatever help they can provide.

She has been with this employer for over 12 years, except a 5 month stint in 1997 as a secretary over at the big university located over in east central Lincolnland. Since moving to the Circle City in 2000, she had enjoyed a pretty cushy arrangement, working remotely doing work on her laptop while she watched TV. She had taken advantage of the flexible work schedule, squeezing in work between things she was doing for preschool and kindergarten.

Although she interviewed internally for different positions within the company in the past, she hasn't had an interview where she's had to truly sell herself since May 1997. I feel bad for her, and it's going to be a struggle to resist to bailing her out. The truth is that there are women out there who make do on a lot less. This is just a part of what Have the T-Shirt alluded to as "putting on the big girl panties."

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

As Seen on the Circle Today...

I love working downtown! You never know what you're going to see on lunch break.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Sunday Morning Sing-a-Long: Purely Wonderful Edition

I can't make it through a conversation about this presidential election without someone bringing up how historic and unusual this one has been, and it has.

For the four or five folks out there who haven't developed that awareness yet, today's New York Times sums it up well in a week-in-review story aptly titled Extraordinary Election Season Nears Its Conclusion.

There was one paragraph that makes an interesting musical contrast between Bill Clinton and Barack Obama:
There’s more generational, cultural and stylistic difference between Mr. McCain and Mr. Obama, ages 72 and 47, than between rivals in most presidential contests over the last half-century.

Bill Clinton and the first President Bush were three years closer in age, and while Mr. Clinton’s victory marked the ascension of baby boomers, Mr. Obama’s election would be emblematic of something more profound: that the multicultural, postracial society so often discussed in the news media but so seldom affirmed in public life was now, literally, the face of our nation. Mr. Clinton was Fleetwood Mac. Mr. Obama is India.Arie.

Indeed the India.Arie song "There's Hope" was among the songs played before the rally here a week and a half ago. However, I have to say that my personal favorite from this artist is a flowery gem called "Purify Me".

To me, studio recorded Neo Soul, which relies heavily on minimal electronic rhythm tracks, is no comparison to when it is performed live with real instruments. It's warmer, and the unprocessed vocals are so more organic. This song is no exception.

I think in some sense, this song expresses the kind of hybrid sensual/emotional/spiritual connection that many of the relationship bloggers on my blog roll are looking for in their spouse or significant other. Within the proper context, the hotness of the intimacy is recast as a path to the purity of the divine. Or as Therese put it oh so well with her rephrase of the Ben Franklin quotation about beer...
sex is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy

The View from my Driveway on Saturday

Snapped this shot before heading off to the polls.

Nothing Gold Can Stay
Robert Frost

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

Political Partying

A blog reader asked me in private correspondence today how I thought the election would go. Here is a revision of my reply to her.

This is indeed a most interesting election. My prediction is that Obama wins both the electoral and popular vote, most likely by as much as an 8 or 9 point margin. My home state still might be a stretch, but my gut tells me that this state flips blue in spite bass ackward folks like the ones you have to deal with. Obama's team has mobilized in this state and I think they are proving to be effective at getting out the vote.

I think we're seeing something akin Reagan in 1980. The country was in a very down state. We felt adrift. Reagan's thesis that paring back the social engineering role of government, reducing tax rates, and boosting national defense would revitalize the country resonated with a lot of people who felt that the excesses of the 60s and 70s had left the country depleted and vulnerable.

At present, the country's economy doesn't look as bad on paper as it did in the late 70s, but those who would take comfort in that are missing the point. Many large corporations, once considered unsinkable, are failing or faltering swiftly, with potentially horrible consequences.

The costs of energy, health coverage, and higher education take much bigger bites out of our paychecks. More people are invested in the stock market now than in the 70s, so the erasure of wealth from plunging stock prices affects a broader cross section of people.

Although there is a growing chance that Iraq may not fall apart, Afghanistan and Pakistan are becoming more volatile. The total cost of pursuing primarily a military strategy has cost much in treasure and blood.

My read on the nation's Zeitgeist is that all these things have left us feeling weary and frayed of nerves. Our pursuit of the material... ever bigger houses, more luxurious kitchens, huge entertainment systems, etc., all built on a mountain of debt, orchestrated and promoted by companies led by people who are seemingly immune from any consequence of a bad decision they make, have left us in a state of duress which may linger for years to come.

Against this backdrop, the GOP mantra that sounded so good back in 1980, seems so irrelevant in 2008. Their narrative is unable to address the questions and perceptions that matter to voters.

The picture taken below is only a few of the many flyers I received in the mail over the past couple of weeks. They were all paid for by the McCain campaign or the state party.

Depleted of ideas, all they have left is labels of varying kinds to tack onto Obama... radical, liberal, fanatical[1], (soft on the) criminal. Supertramp's "Logical Song" some 30 years ago almost sounds prophetic in this respect.

I feel as if these smears, official and unofficially approved, have sown awful seeds.

As I waited in line to vote today, I heard a conversation between two women behind me. One identified herself as having just moved here from the Volunteer state and knew nothing about the local government or those running for office. She was interested in voting only for president.

The woman behind her, dressed in a long denim skirt and a hairstyle that identified her as being among a more fundamentalist Christian tradition, spoke to her in a low voice, "Well, we could talk about which is the more Godly candidate. I don't want no President swearin'in on no Core-un."

If one wants to oppose a political candidate based on their ideas, I can understand that, but to buy into and propagate false witness is anything but a Godly act.

Obama's success is that he has been able to provide a story about how we might recover from this current state of misdirection. He has made no bones about things being bad, but he has delivered a positive message that reaches out to everyone. There is hope.

[1] -- I couldn't find the word "fanatic" in any of my flyers, but I did see see an ad on TV today, put out by the National Republican Trust, which seems to follow that vein.

Was My Franchise Violated?

This is the question on my mind at this hour, and the more I think about it, the more I am inclined to believe that it was. On Saturday, I decided I would go out and take advantage of the early voting that is allowed by my state of residence, and the closing experience has me in a none too good space.

Early voting is implemented as a mass absentee ballot collecting operation wherein the voter passes through several stations. The first is the application for the ballot itself. The second is the verification of identity and matching you up with your precinct. At the third station the precinct appropriate ballot is retrieved and passed off to the fourth station where the ballot is folded to fit into an absentee envelope affixed with a tracking sticker. The voter is given the ballot and escorted to a small cubicle where the ballot is filled out. Once the ballot is complete, the voter is supposed to hand the ballot off to an exit station, which is my point of contention.

It was not communicated to me that the exit station did anything other than receive the ballot. I read the instructions on the ballot, completed the ballot, and double-checked my work. I prepared to sign the line on the envelope when I noticed the language adjacent to the line: the signer was swearing that he or she had completed the ballot therein, sealed the envelope, and that no one else had seen its contents. Noting this, I went ahead and placed the ballot in the envelope as it had been folded, sealed it, and then signed and dated it.

The exit station was positioned next to the voting cubicles, a panel of two or three people seated next to one another in plain view. As I submitted my ballot to one of the men at the exit station, he looked at me like I had made a horrible error. He told me I shouldn't have put the ballot in the envelope and sealed it because now he couldn't verify whether the ballot has been properly filled out.

Moreover, he said, there was no way to correct this because the envelope had been sealed. I pointed out that the language on the envelope, to which I signed my name, clearly stated that no one else was supposed to see it, but he would not acknowledge the validity of my point. He took the ballot, and assuming that it gets processed, it should be counted because I am well familiar with the fill-in-the-oval ballots they have used in this county since 2002.

The experience left me with a feeling of violation. I can understand why they might have people scanning over the ballots to make sure that there are no over- or under-votes, but to me having another human being do it is a violation of my franchise. The ballot is secret. That's why they have cubicles and why the old lever machines had curtains. In a normal polling place, the validity of a ballot is checked by a machine which knows nothing about how I look or what I am wearing, let alone my mailing address.

I mentioned my experience to others who agreed that something wasn't right. So I did some digging in the state laws and turned up the section of state election law pertaining to paper ballots, IC 3-11-11. The relevant section is quoted below (emphasis mine)

IC 3-11-11-9
Voting to be private; rights of voter in casting vote
Sec. 9. (a) A voter shall mark all ballots while screened from observation. The exterior of a voting booth or compartment and each area of the polls must be in plain view of the precinct election board. Each voting booth or compartment shall be placed so that a person voting on the opposite side of the railing or a person on the outside of the polls cannot see or determine how a voter votes. The inspector, judges, and poll clerks may not remain or allow any other person to remain in a position or near a position that would permit them to see or ascertain how a voter votes.

(b) As provided by 42 U.S.C. 15481, a voter casting a paper ballot under this section must be:

(1) permitted to verify in a private and independent manner the votes selected by the voter before the ballot is cast and counted;

(2) provided with the opportunity to change the ballot or correct any error in a private and independent manner before the ballot is cast and counted, including the opportunity to receive a replacement ballot if the voter is otherwise unable to change or correct the ballot; and

(3) notified before the ballot is cast regarding the effect of casting multiple votes for the office and provided an opportunity to correct the ballot before the ballot is cast and counted.

I don't think it's unreasonable to say that a hostile man sitting in plain view of other people waiting to have their ballots checked by other staff clearly fails the tests of privacy and independence for ballot verification, and his additional spiel about not being able to replace the ballot anyway just adds insult to injury.

I plan to contact the ACLU-IN on Monday morning to make them aware of this.

Thursday, October 30, 2008


That's the number of lines of code attributed to me in our web services thus far. That's 7,963 lines of code over the past two months and 10 days.

Spent the morning working from home. The igniter on my furnace failed on me last night, leaving me without heat and a nice crisp wake up temperature of 55 oF.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Fall On Me [1]

(a quasi poetic interlude)

On this chill morn did my inbound bus driver reveal unto me that he had seen between the third and fourth hour some snowflakes aflurry. I lamented the bitter cold's premature arrival as I fed my 12 bits for fare.

The chill seemed to sap the energy of all who claimed stride upon sidewalks of this city. The skies were overcast and dim for most of the day. Yet as I set foot from my homeward bound bus onto the drive of my residence did I notice that the sky had taken an appearance most odd.

The cloud cover had thinned in places, exposing a faint blue, reminding me that amid all this, her azure splendor did still dwell above all else. Yet evenso, the blue was so faint that you might not notice in the dimming moments of twilight.

The primitive reaches of my mind posited the supersition that the cold air was so vast in its hunger that it had devoured the sweet day's rays.

Loneliness... It is hardly coincidence that we do associate friendly company with warmth and isolation with the chill. I live alone now, save for the presence of my beloved wayward canine of seven years. I feel the isolation as I walk the drive from my bus route to my home.

I see the stately trees as they begin their colorful descent into a barren slumber. A breeze may ruffle the leaves here and there, with the gentle rasp of lifeless biomass across grass. This haunting scene brings forth an understanding of the ease with which our ancestors bound death, decay, and fear to this season.

Why do we despise the isolation? Perhaps it is because we know deep down that few of us could truly survive as an island. We need the din of others to drown out the vulnerability.

But why survive? This is the question so few of us can answer. Scholars tell us we are matter animated by energy through processes so complex that we cannot fathom, let alone fully replicate.

Through our beings we sustain life in the present and for the future, but in our brief existence here we have become so much more skilled at the destruction of life, but the a priori creation eludes us, probably for reasons of the better, given our penchant for folly.

We know that this universe is vast. We know we are insignificant in both space and mass. Our existence is fleeting. The energy that propagates us is a blink of an eye to the stars which populate in the heavens.

What is so special about our existence that it should merit preservation? Is it the rarity of such complex and organized systems? If so, who aside from us, is out there to treasure its scarcity?

It is this mystery which leads us to resolve this paradox with the divine. Some cultures have ascribed to divinity many attributes... jealousy, benevolence, omnipotence, destructiveness, omniscience, wrathfulness, forgiveness, self sacrificing, indifference...

Over the past few years, my faith in the divine has been shaken, but not abandoned. If he will not break the reed so bruised, nor will I. When people ask me what flavor of belief I am, I say, "Lutheran in Exile". At one point I went so far as to accuse the Almighty of my upbringing as being stricken with mental illness.

There are many in my trade who do not acknowledge the divine. Although most are tolerant, there are those who would seek to discourage belief out of the assumption that many of our ills are created or prolonged by disagreements over the Truth and a distrust of reason.

To these, I say that even in the rational constructs of computing, we indulge in regular use of useful illusions. We speak of them as real, as if they are there, but are not. The notion of the window in a graphical user interface is but one example. There is no window there as there are no buttons to press, but we rely on these metaphors to give us the ability to work with data on a higher level.

When they balk at me, I bring up perhaps their own pet constructs: data objects, sockets, or even pipes. It at this point they can sometimes see my point. We all rely on these things to help us do our job. If we were forced to work manually with the countless transistors on a single chip, we would certainly get little done throughout the day.

So even if there is no significance to our existence, I would rather live it believing that there is a purpose that drives us, than to be utterly adrift. I don't know the purpose. I don't know if I ever will, but just believing that one day it will be known helps me to act as if.

[1] -- Apologies to R.E.M., but only out of deference to their early years... before the Stipe went bald and the releases became tripe.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Whither Blogging?

In a comment, Digger Jones poses a deep question:
Just another random question for you: Is blogging of this type going to continue to be be viable in the next 5 years? I'm seeing more stuff happening in video with embedded links and annotaions. The stuff going on at Voicethread is also very interesting, but it makes me think this might be a dying medium. How does something like this compete with something like YouTube?

Just wondering about your take as an industry insider.

This one requires an essay to answer, so you know this is going to be a longer post. :-) To make this a useful discussion, we need to know to the meaning of the phrase blogging of this type and the definition of viability.

For the purpose of this discussion, I'm going to define "blogging of this type" in two senses.

  1. The content conveyed on a blog and the structure used to present it to the reader.

  2. The services or applications that bloggers use to create and host their content.

The first definition is motivated by your references to video and semantic web technologies that make finding non-textual content easier. The second is motivated by my own professional experience and some other essays that I have read.

When asked to define the term blog, most of us would probably point to a diary as a reference point, because a blog typically contain entries organized in reverse order of entry. Many blogs resemble real-world diaries because they contain very personal thoughts and experiences, but blogs are used for much more than that, and those uses vary according to who is creating and hosting them.

Personal blogs written by individuals have been used to:

  • Keep friends and family abreast of day-to-day events.

  • Express emotional reactions to personal experiences.

  • Digest and comment on current events, especially politics.

  • Entertain readers with passages of original creative writing.

  • Share links to other interesting content.

  • Track progress in a personal improvement effort like training for a triathlon or losing weight.

  • Chronicle a life changing event of significant duration, like pregnancy or cancer.

  • Engage in citizen journalism.

  • Share the contents of memes and hoaxes that are usually propagated by e-mail.

Professional and corporate blogs have been used to:

  • Write about emerging issues within the author's domain of expertise to build a reputation and achieve "thought leadership".

  • Open up a direct conversation with customers about company initiatives.

  • Provide a behind-the-scenes look into the company.

  • Add perspective to current events.

  • Post official announcements and marketing messages.

Blogging started out as a mostly one-way textual medium. I can remember when Blogger offered no built-in facility for reader comments and when the ability to post images was a value-added service that you had to pay to get.

The rise of broadband and the support of video in Flash brought video embedding to the masses in a way that QuickTime and RealVideo had failed in years past. YouTube made it fairly easy to upload short clips, and people seized on that to post the following:

  • Home movies to share with family and friends.

  • Clips of people engaged of acts of intentional inanity.

  • Alternate interpretations of popular songs through cover performances and music videos.

  • Transfers of music videos, movies, commercials, cartoons, and other copyrighted content from old VHS and Beta collections.

Also lowering the barrier to entry has been that YouTube is free.

Digger makes mention of efforts to add semantic information to video clips that would aid search engines and wonders if this might be a replacement to blogging.

Besides video, there have been other communication media that have been perceived as competition to blogging. Podcasts have been around for several years, both as a supplement and as an alternative to blogging. People have also pointed to the rise of microblogging sensation Twitter as another threat to blogging.

So now that we have surveyed the landscape of traditional blogs and the potential successors, we're now in a place to speculate about where things are headed.

In order for the standard text blog to be replaced by the newer technologies, a couple things would need to happen:

  1. Those writing standard blogs start to use non-blogging media instead or lose interest in blogging altogether.

  2. A monotonically increasing percentage of new content creators opt for non-blogging media.

If you look at all of those purposes for which people blog that we listed above, how many of these would be better served by the other technologies?

Twitter helps people keep in touch with neighbor nodes on the social graph, and it can be a great way to propagate reactions that fit cleanly into a sentence or two. Unless you are gifted with the ability of creating engaging blurbs on a regular basis or you are famous, most people are going to be of the same opinion that was expressed so bluntly by my ex-coworker at the Titanic, "I just don't find much use in following my friends and knowing when they're going to take a dump." Twitter feeds have also been the birthplaces of some petty insult matches between people, even high profile personalities.

Although it takes less time to speak words than to type them, podcasting can require more effort than composing a blog post. Podcasts can run for several minutes to the better part of an hour, and filling that time with something that is coherent and engaging requires preparation. Moreover, unless you are just a flawless extemporaneous speaker, you're going to make mistakes as you make your recordings, which may require some editing.

Podcasts make sense for people who have built up a readership that is eager to her his or her thoughts on a subject area. They are a great add-on for the thought-leadership blogger. But for the personal blogger who may write about a lot of things, a podcasting series or audio blog is probably a bridge too far. See for example, FTN's foray into podcasting, or the dabbling in audio posts that Desperate Husband engaged in before he ceased blogging altogether.

Video creation raises the bar even above and beyond the podcast. You have to make sure that either you look good, or your accompanying visuals are compelling[2]. Dumping the contents of your camcorder or webcam up into a YouTube clip is one thing, editing footage into a coherent work on a regular basis is another thing completely.

I think video posts make a lot of sense for personal bloggers, like citizen journalists or family bloggers, who have a need to put the reader live on the scene of an event. It's also helpful for those who might use it in a corporate blog to illustrate a dynamic process that isn't easily described in text, or to demo a new product. Digger's DDR posts aside, video isn't a place that anonymous bloggers would have a lot of attraction.

In some instances, video can seem just downright gratuitous. Although not really an instance of blogging, job ads can be good example of this. Back during my Great Job Search of 2007, I noticed that one area recruiting agency started adding "click here to view a video about the job" links to their job board posts. These videos were clips of a recruiter sitting in his[3] office pimping the job with a modest amount of preparation. The presentation was not much less inspiring than a PBS volunteer pledge pitch[4], and most of the time, the clips just drove home the message that headhunters can be vapid and shady.

Semantic web technologies will help non-textual content to be searchable, but in the short run, this will involve adding tagging information. As wonderful as this is, I don't place much faith in video bloggers making use of this diligently for the same reason that software engineers are bad about entering meaningful messages as part of their source code commits. For too many, adding summary information in a consistent manner is just too much work.

I think blogs also make a lot of sense from the content consumer perspective. Many of us bloggers read a lot of blogs ourselves, oftentimes managing the onslaught with RSS feeds. Since the volume of content is large, I have to do a lot of skimming to filter out what's truly interesting. The human eye and the brain can do this well. You can't do it with audio or video.

Whether new entrants into this space choose blogging or some other content technology is not clear. If anyone has any statistics, I'd love to know. If I had to guess I'd say that blogs haven't lost their edge, especially within the scope of financial and political commentary, where there is so much demand for clarity and analysis.

I think there are some questions about the viability of the major blogging services and their competitors.

Blogger offers an easy and hosted way to blog, but it survives by virtue of it's backing by Google. The financial turmoil is putting a crimp on online advertising revenue, which is a big source of money for Google. If advertising continues to remain in a slump for an extended period of time, would it be unreasonable for Google to reconsider whether its ownership of the blogging company, especially since it has a lot of blogs that do not host ads? What then?

Some are arguing that despite being ahead of the curve in many areas in the past, blogging service LiveJournal has made some bad choices that leave it left behind in the area of social networking web services.

SixApart (MovableType) and Automattic (Wordpress) offer standalone and hosted blogging products. Both have garnered funding over the past year or two, and each views the other as a hostile competitor. Both have found loyal users in the consumer and professional blogging spaces. However, a good part of their strategy is hinged on scoring ad revenue for their subscribers. If online advertising dries during this slowdown, that could force them to restrategize.

Twitter's unreliability earlier this year made it the stuff of countless jokes. Yes, they continue to secure funding, but the punditry is skeptical that it can survive in the long run with it's current form of operation.

For all of its popularity, YouTube is still something of an enigma from the business standpoint. Google has made no secret of the fact that it has been trying to figure out how to monetize the site. And there has been some recent analysis showing big media-backed, which doesn't focus on user-generated content, has been doing a better hob of "selling out its content" than YouTube has.

From all of this, it should be clear regardless of which side of the divide one sits, there are challenges to the viability of both the blogging services and their competitors. I don't think that the blog is doomed to obsolescence, but there may be some turbulence that weeds out weaker competitors.

My employer is pretty bullish on the future of blogging from the corporate standpoint. They take a different viewpoint, arguing that encouraging employees to set aside time for blogging will result in better organic search rankings[5]. Better placement leads to reader clicks to the blog site. The blog site becomes a customer acquisition tool.

When done right, the corporate blog has relevant content, written by authentic voices, and frequently updated. It provides a more compelling introduction to the customer than most corporate websites, which are sometimes nothing more than sleek digital brochures. From the corporate standpoint, blogs may not be threatened by other technologies, but they may threaten the prominence of the standard model of corporate websites.

[1] -- Face it, people tend to be drawn to content if the presenter is hot.

[2] -- For an example of a recurring video feature that has compelling visuals, take a look at the "Zero Punctuation" video game review series by Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw over at The Escapist. While the reviews are side-splittingly funny, they are laced with profanity and sexual references.

[3] -- No, I'm not being sexist. All of the videos involved male recruiters.

[4] -- Relax, I'm a fan of both PBS and NPR. The pledge drives just drive me nuts. Although this past pledge drive with the local NPR station had a howler of a plug from the host of "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me" and the guy who does all of the "Support for this program comes from..." voice overs for NPR. They hypothesized about what life would be like without NPR, and they had the voice over guy taking orders at fast food restaurant, acknowledging each customer order item with a description of where the item came from.

[5] -- This shouldn't be too hard to envision with one of Digger's blog ranking in the top 10 for Google's search against the keyword "Schnarch". Several of my own posts have ranked very high on topics in his books. I believe that my own blog ranks higher than Schnarch's website and the Google Books copy of one of his books on the term "Normal Marital Sadism".

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Therese Asks About My Karaoke Choice

AUTHOR NOTE: Edited post at 11:17 pm EDT on Oct. 25 to remove redundant sentence.

Therese asked in a comment:
It was just a guess, but I wondered if your karaoke song choice had any personal relevance to you right now. It was very fun watching you sing in any case!

For as much as I am a maven of symbolism, I did not consciously make a choice to sing this as a symbolic act.

I picked the song for a couple of reasons...

I've always loved the song "Tainted Love". The "bomp bomp" riff that repeats throughout the song is very addictive, and it's always struck me as sort of musical anachronism. Yes, there are little bits and pieces of 80s synthesizer, but to me this song looks and feels like mid-60s British Invasion artifact.

Second, I figured that if I was going to step out of my comfort zone and make a fool of myself, I might as well do it in the most comfortable way possible. :-) This is one of the few songs you might catch me trying to sing along with on the radio.

I was bummed that the karaoke version didn't use the longer version of this song, which includes a breakaway into a cover of the Supremes song "Where Did our Love Go?"

A Mild Lament on this Saturday October Morn

Tonight, one-time Talking Heads lead man David Byrne is giving a concert the city renowned, acoustically perfect performance venue on the old northside of the city.

I really wished I was going to this show, but I also know that it is my weekend with the kids, so I'd feel like I was not keeping up my commitments to them by going, given that I had a good-sized "me" weekend with the blogger gathering.

Byrne's promoting a new album that he and Brian Eno recorded, Everything That Happens Will Happen Today. Here is a video clip for one of the tracks, "Strange Overtones", that is getting airplay on XM.

I first heard the track about a month ago and fell in love with it. I also really like the description of this music as "electronic gospel."

Those of you who have read my backstory posts will know that I've been a Talking Heads fan for some time, but I don't think I've talked much about Eno in this space.

I remember back in 1985, as a high school student, going on an invited tour of the really big liberal arts college over in south central Hoosierland. I was sitting in a lecture hall as they were discussing some college information, and I noticed that someone at one time had scrawled the phrase "Eno is God" on the table surface.

The more I have become familiar with Eno's works, both as a producer and as a musician, the more I have come to appreciate just how much of a creative genius he is. You can see his signature on U2's Unforgettable Fire, wherein the music takes on a more ethereal sound. With respect to his own works within the ambient genre, "Triennale" stands out as a one of my favorites.

Triennale - Brian Eno

It can be either soothing or haunting depending on my frame of mind and the time of day.

My mother's 59th birthday was on Thursday, so my daughters and I will be treating her to lunch today. We also might make a trip down to my pet coffee shop for a smoothies and a game or two of Candy Land.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Yes, I was There This Morning...

Made it to the Obama rally held today at the American Legion Mall. Here is the view from my cell phone camera...

'Twas a beautiful day, even if it meant standing on my feet for about four hours straight. He is indeed a powerful orator, and the crowd was moved by his calls to change not only the way our government runs, but also how we run our own lives.

With the intensity at which staff and volunteers were encouraging people to join in to get out the vote, it's pretty clear that Obama is taking this state, which hasn't cast its electoral votes for a Democrat in 44 years, very seriously.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Sunday Morning Singalong: Searching for a Mood Groove

I got to sleep around 4, woke up before 8, and I couldn't get back to sleep. I can already tell that the energy levels are going to be really interesting.

It's a Sunday morning, and I want a song that just captures the state of mind that I want to have. The Commodores' "Easy" comes to mind, but that's not really the kind of groove I'm craving, so I'll pull one from the Lionel Richie post-Commodores canon, "You Are".

You Are - Lionel Richie

As far as hits go, this was not Richie's biggest success. Indeed, his best years in terms of sales were still yet to come. What does it for me is the backup vocals that lead into the refrain. This song was recorded in the early 80s, when synth was taking over everything. To me, those low, smooth harmonies take me back to an earlier time, early-to-mid 70s soul, just before disco was about to really take off.

I was reading Digger's post about exposure after finishing up my own post about the get-together. He seems to be facing an virtual existential crisis, wondering what to do with his blogs as the real converges upon the virtual.

It's a question that anonymous bloggers, myself included, can seldom avoid. Our blogs attract readers. We read others' blogs. Friendships form. The friendships arc across the HTTP barrier into the world of SMTP[1], IM, and POTS[2]. Hell, Digger's blogging is the conceptual hub that links together most of the people who showed up last night.

I've become less seclusive about my blog identity. Indeed I met three bloggers in person over the course of 2007, two from the Bay Area, and one from here. One one of my kid-free weekends in the not-so-distant future, I'm planning a trip to the Big Apple to meet up with another anonyblogger who is not part of the Diggersphere, but clued me into Digger via his post about the top 10 signs of a low libido spouse.

I've kept in touch via IM with one of the bloggers who showed up at the gathering. All of them know my name and what I look like. All attendees of last night's gathering have my meta-number now, so they can reach me on my home or cell phone. So, yeah, the barriers are breaking down. I still don't think I will ever post my full picture on here, which is probably a good thing because a "rate my picture" system at a dating website show that after 66 votes from women, I'm ranking 3.91/10.

But the bigger question for me is this. How much more life is left in 2amsomewhere? In terms of output, posts have been a lot less frequent in 2008, but in all fairness, most of the posts have mostly been of great substance, giving a lot of updates about my life.

The original charter for this blog, trying to revive a rapidly flagging marriage, was inoperative from July 2007 onward. All that was left was to see how things would disintegrate. Granted, the divorce is still to take place, but two months and change into a separation, it's pretty clear that neither STBX nor I want to go back.

Yet this blog became bigger than the scope of the original narrative. The dissatisfaction with my marriage was really a symptom of a widespread malaise that had overtaken my life. I just hadn't gotten a handle on it.

The job search became a cause for me to channel my energy, and that helped me to grow and change quite a bit. The volume and intensity of the interviewing process, painted against a background of a faltering startup with it own set of foibles, made for compelling drama. While I have had some ups and downs at work, the discussion of building websites doesn't have the same universal pull.

So where does that leave this blog? If Google Analytics is to be believed, for the past couple of months, I still have a die-hard core of maybe 10 - 20 readers. A little over half of my traffic is returning readers. About half of my traffic is from direct visits, meaning someone has either bookmarked me or typed my URL in. Only about 10 percent of my visitors land here because of searches. The rest, about 40 percent, get here by hitting someone else's blogroll or clicking on a link to a post.

I think that I need to push this blog at least until the divorce is final and then decide where to take it from there. Unless there is a full blown damaging breach of identity, I will leave 2amsomewhere up for perpetuity, or at least as long as Blogger remains extant. I think this story is worth leaving behind for others who may be facing a similar crisis.

So the bottom line is that 2am stays up. I will try to keep posting to keep you informed, but there may be a day where new posts cease. If and when that time comes, I will make it clear with a farewell post.

I need to jump in the shower now. The meeting is a little over an hour away.

[1] -- SMTP = simple mail transfer protocol, the means by which e-mail messages are transmitted from one user account to another.

[2] -- POTS = plain old telephone service

Blogger Get Together Post Mortem

Overall it was a good time, but there were some bumps and scrapes on the way there. First of all, I misread the final e-mail, thinking that the gathering was at 7 pm. When I went to check my e-mail on arrangements, I realized it was 5 pm. The time? 5:24 pm. It was like one of those nightmares where you're running late for a final exam.

Feeling the anxiety creep in, I tracked down the number of the meeting place and asked the hostess to track down the person in charge of the gathering. I let him know my situation. He told me not to worry because only half the group was there. I raced to get ready, and rushed out the door at around 5:45 pm.

I got about just inside I-465 up on Meridian St. and I realized that I didn't have my wallet. So I doubled back and looked all over the house. If I was any more stressed out, I was going to hyperventilate. I looked up and down, around and around. Feeling defeated, I called the gathering place again to summon the organizer, this time to tell him that I wasn't going to make it at all.

As I paced the house waiting for him to get on the phone, I saw a small brown object located in the shelf next to the shower. It was my wallet. When the organizer got on the phone, I told him why I had called, that it was fixed, and that I was going to make it after all, but I would be late.

I rushed into town and made it to the pub where the festivities were going on. Everyone was in the process of getting their dishes delivered. I asked for the biggest glass of Killians they could bring me and a menu. Soon thereafter I got my meal.

There was lots of talking, lots of photographs being taken, a couple of voice recorders made the rounds for reasons I still don't understand, and there were a lot of cell phone calls placed to other bloggers who could not make it to the event. As I watched all of this unfold, the only thing I regret having not done was bringing my work laptop so that I could have live blogged the occasion. I think it would have been possible, too, because the restaurant next door had free WiFi.

We were at the pub until shortly before 10 pm. There was some discussion over what to do. Some wanted to do karaoke, but the only karaoke downtown on a Saturday night was at a gay friendly sports bar about a mile and a half away. We finally settled on the multistory bar/theme park establishment and headed down that way. The place was charging a $5 cover to get in because of a pay-per-view fight, but after some grimaces, we decided to fork it out.

The establishment had bowling lanes, but they were all taken with no waiting list, and no guarantee that we'd get a lane. The group split into three subgroups. Some went to the arcade floor to play games. Some played billiards. The remainder chilled out on the couch. I got my booty kicked in a friendly game of air hockey, did somewhat decent at the skee-ball, sucked royally at the speed boat and stock car race games.

I had an interesting conversation with a somewhat inebriated late 20-something guy who was celebrating a friend's bachelor party. I tend to do well having dialogues with drunks for some reason. Perhaps it's the joy of exploring how thought process become a mixture of declaring the obvious and reaching offbeat conclusions.

We wrapped up our stay there a little after 11 pm. Some wanted to go back to the hotel, but I managed to coax most of the party to walk on up to the Circle and make a trip around it. It was nice to get out into the fresh air and enjoy all of the people out and about, but even moreso, I felt like I was getting a rare chance to share my world with them.

After the stroll, we headed to the organizer's hotel room and played some games on his Wii. Guitar Hero and American Idol were the games of choice. Those who were brave enough to try their hands on the axe did a remarkably good job. No one scored below 60 % accuracy, and no one got booed off the stage. As for Idol, everyone did pretty well, save for me.

I tried doing the best rendition of Soft Cell's "Tainted Love" that I could do given a scratchy throat, and I bombed it big time. Not even Paula could scrape up any redeeming qualities. Moreover, my warblings had grabbed the attention of the bachelorette party next door and moved some of them to stop by and offer up their commentary.

One of the bloggers had brought her 4-month-old puppy to the room, and he was adorable. As I expected, my doggie was quite jealous of the scent I brought home. He's now snuggled up next to me, snoring away as I compose this post.

By 1:20 am, everyone was off to bed. There is supposed to be a gathering around 11:30 at a nearby park, and I'll go to that as well.

As I started off the post, it was a pretty good time. I've never been one to handle large gatherings well. I tend to get very self-conscious, sometimes just cowering into the role of passive observer, or possibly firing up a neurotic conversation within the reaches of my mind about whether I'm trying too hard to get attention. In some sense, I feel like I let down the group by not offering a more decisive plan for what to do because there were times in between activities where there was considerable indecision.

These bloggers are a fun bunch, and I am glad I got a chance to meet them. Moreover, I am grateful to the organizer for having chosen my city of residence as the location. The time went by too fast, and I wish I would have had more time to speak with everyone on a more individual basis. I tend to do better in one-to-one or one-to-few conversations because I feel connected. At some point, the crowd gets so large that I feel lonely amidst the chatter. Oddly enough, the most engaging conversations I had were with the spouse of a non-blogger.

The walk from the hotel back to my parking lot was a long one, taking about 20 minutes. There was still a lot of life on South Meridian, with lines formed at some of the hipper clubs. It's a very different world from the otherwise sleepy landscape that I see when I walk those sidewalks on my way the office.

I did manage to help out a couple from Chicago who was visiting the city. They stopped me as I was drawing near and asked me if I was from around here. They were looking for a restaurant or bar that played a lot of 80s music. I told them that I couldn't be certain, but I pointed them southward, saying there was a retro themed bar just down the street off to the left and that there was a 24/7 restaurant just across from that on the right. They thanked me and complimented me on the city.

As I made my way down to the parking lot, I did see a lot of couples, out on the town. Many of them holding hands and affectionate, some of them perhaps the same age or older than me. Prior to being married, I used to look upon such sights with jealousy. Now being out on my own, I don't feel that way, but I do feel loneliness on the emotional and existential levels.

When I courted my STBX wife some 16 years ago, I put a lot of energy doing things that I thought would make her want me more. All of that drowned out the question of what I might have needed from a relationship. I think I've developed a greater awareness of what I want, and I've also come to realize that I am unique in a sense that makes me a hard person to match.

I know many things, but I still too often live within my head rather than doing things. I find myself at a loss at times making connections, usually trying to be humorous to bridge that chasm. You see this played out in the contrast between my solemn tone on this blog and my lightheartedness in comments. It's also very difficult to turn my brain off and just enjoy the moment. I don't know if I can ever truly let go.

It's almost 4 am, and if I don't go to bed soon, I will never make it to the gathering in seven and a half hours. Good nigh... er uh... morning.