Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Apropos of not very much...

Camila works as a hostess in the restaurant of an upscale hotel. I mentioned that she tells me what happens every day – thought I’d write down how her shift went today (Boxing Day)...

6am: Bryan drops Camila off at the hotel. James, the waiter, who usually arrives at 5:30am isn’t there. Camila starts doing the setup herself.

6:25: Restaurant opens in 5 minutes. Camila and the chef, Angel, are still setting up the buffet. Still no James.

6:26: Bellhop Zeke comes into the kitchen to tell Camila that she has customers already. She thinks he’s joking, but he’s not. She takes them coffee and menus and says their waiter will be with them shortly. She hopes this may actually turn out to be true.

6:35: James still AWOL, customers are ready, chef tells Camila she’ll have to take the order. She has learned some of the menu by osmosis, and the customers are waiting, so...
English is C’s second language, and the customers’ as well. The stars have stubbornly failed to align to produce a convenient synchronicity whereby Camila and the customers share a first language – hers is Spanish and theirs is apparently Hindi, or possibly Urdu – but she smiles her friendliest and asks them what they would like.
The man orders an omelette – so far, so good; Camila writes it down on her makeshift waiter’s pad (a piece of notepaper from the hostess’ station). Then the woman points to something on the menu called “choice of danish with cream cheese or fruit”.

Camila has no idea what “danish” is, but she smiles and takes the order, and asks the chef. Angel is pretty sure danish is a bread thing, but since it's not an order that ever finds its way back to the kitchen – the waiters just get it themselves – he’s guessing wildly as well. He gives C a plate to take to the customer.

6:45: The husband’s omelette is a success, but the wife indicates that a flat roll with cream cheese on the side isn’t exactly what she ordered.

6:46: Camila tells Angel he’ll need to talk to the customer. He does his best (with less English than Camila), but fails to convince her that a roll with cream cheese is the hotel’s version of a Danish. As the husband tucks into his omelette, Camila offers the wife fruit from the buffet, anything she can think of. The customer says never mind, she’s not really hungry anyway. Camila says she’s very sorry that the chef doesn’t know how to make “danish.”

6:55am: Customers are ready to leave. Camila has no waiter’s charge pad to write up a bill for them. Other hotel staff are sympathetic, but similarly lack a charge pad. Finally Camila says to Angel “How about we give them their breakfast free because of the problem with this “danish” thing?” Angel agrees it seems like a good idea.

7am: Camila tells the customers their breakfast is on the house, and apologizes for not being able to produce the mysterious “danish”. Customers are all smiles and go away happy.

7:05: James finally arrives. He shows Camila what a danish is. He asks if the customer left a tip, and generously offers to let Camila keep it if so.

7:06 – 9am: No customers.

9:01: The Korean Lady arrives. She is always neat and well-groomed, and always wearing the same clothes. She arrives by bus, but sometimes she brings a rollaway suitcase and appears to be a hotel guest. She’s very very thin, with long black hair; Eric, the busboy, thinks she’s a witch.
KL sometimes likes to make conversation, and since today she’s the only table, Camila chats with her.
The KL’s topic of choice ranges wildly, and changes in an instant. Today she asks what Camila thinks of Princess Diana’s boyfriend, Dodi Fayed, and also how many nights “the senator” stays at the hotel. Camila says she’s not really sure. She asks what nationality Camila is; upon learning that she is Mexican, she asks “Do you have family in London?” KL says that sometimes people can impersonate you, get plastic surgery to look like you, learn to sign your name, etc. Camila allows that this is probably so.
The KL never seems that tightly tied to the same reality as those around her, but out of the blue she says “Are you wearing Victoria’s Secret?” Camila says “Yes, how did you know?” KL smiles enigmatically and says nothing.

9:10 – 11:30: KL eats a mountain of fruit from the buffet, occasionally laughing at her own private jokes. She finally leaves when the restaurant closes at 11:30. For the first time ever, she leaves a tip ($2), which James gives to Camila.

12pm: Two tables the entire morning. Camila helps clean up, clocks out, and goes home.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Xmas, Kwanzaa, Chanukuh, Ramadan, Winter Solstice, whatever...

misc and cetera

My daughter, the ninja.

Sam got tired of the smoke coming from our little cooking grill, so she improvised a face covering...

In Spanish, a goatee is sometimes called a barba de candado, or "padlock beard". So this is what Sam painted me for Christmas:

Saturday, December 23, 2006


As humans, we're addicted to the idea of things having an identifiable cause, a reason. We like things to be the result of planned, structured action. We're extremely uncomfortable with "bad stuff just happened to X person for no reason." We are terrified of chaos, we crave stability and order and things being under control. This brings about a very great reluctance to believe things that don't fit into our A-therefore-B model.

- we don't want to believe that X% of people are wrongly convicted by our courts, because it erodes our sense that things are right and just and under control. and it would mean we’re ALL vulnerable to the whims of fate and erratically applied laws, and that obeying the law doesn’t ensure our own protection from the state. That’s scary, so we’d rather believe 99.9% of convicted people had it coming.

- we want to believe that an addict's actions are all choices. Which on one level they are, but they may be "choices" that 99.99% of human beings (including us) would decide in exactly the same way (ie, show me da drugs!) in the same situation. To believe that at some point we could lose control of our own will to drugs is a scary thing to contemplate, so we prefer to believe addicts are morally weak and flawed and therefore deserving of their usually sucky lives.

We're not very comfortable with things just happening. So we make up reasons whenever possible, including when we don't actually know the answer. The phrase "Mind your Ps and Qs" is said to come from typesetters needing to be careful not to mix up the p and q, which in the days of lead type they of course would see backwards.
Unless – as others contend – it was about bartenders minding their Pints and Quarts.
Basically, we just want to mark one more small victory in our Quest to Conquer Chaos. In fact, we’re so mad for this kind of thing that we’ll actually get into an *argument* with someone else about the origin of this phrase. What could it possibly matter? What are we defending, other than our need for certainty, our need to be *right*?

We are never so content as when we believe things are under control, in their place, and that powerful cosmic machinery is firmly in gear. “I believe everything happens for a reason,” we say. How comforting to imagine that our fortunes – or even more importantly, our misfortunes – form a key part of God’s inexorable and perfect plan. To imagine that He permits anything to happen without a reason makes us altogether too nervous and afraid.


In totally random order, here are a bunch of pieces of the human experience and how they fit with the idea of a need for Security and Significance.

Rules in general. We’re mad for rules, whether they make sense or not. We’re so afraid of the slippery slope that leads to anarchy that we’ll permit grave miscarriage of justice in the name of The Law – we say things like “Yes, it seems unfair, but he broke the law.” The Bible says law was made for man, not man for the law, but as often as not the law is our master rather than our servant. Especially in the USA, Rule of Law is a big deal. Why do we have traffic lights? To avoid accidents. But at 3am when we’re the only car on the road, we STILL obey the light because we know our society is so nuts for rules that – absurd tho it may be – a cop may actually ticket us.
We try to control fate by passing silly laws (eg, drowning warning label on 5-gallon buckets), thinking we can legislate security.
We attach part of our tranquility to rules about *grammar*, for heaven’s sake. As if how someone else pronounces “often” is actually important to our own lives.

Religion. You can fill in the blanks here as you like.

War. Talk about a sense of purpose! A Cause! Honor and heroism! It’s true that war goes against our Security/Survival instinct, but usually it’s only a fraction of the population who are actually in danger of losing their lives, and guess who those people are? A large percentage of them are people for whom Significance carries even more importance than for the average person.
And if we feel we’re *forced* into war, that’s the best of all, because it puts war on the side of Survival/Security as well as Significance. Guess if leaders ever try to drum up support for war by making it feel inevitable, or necessary for national security…

The 3rd Reich. By setting up a common enemy, Hitler simplified life for the population – besides allowing people to externalize their unhappiness, he gave them Certainty.
But that aside, think of the sense of Significance – the Nazis had awesome uniforms, their marching kicked ass, and the Group Membership aspects of being a stormtrooper must have been incredible. Imagine being part of a group of fighting men, 5,000 boots hitting the street at exactly the same instant, admired and feared by everyone – it would be hard to overestimate the draw that would be to people. Especially if you didn’t know anything about the camps, and felt aggrieved anyway about real and imagined wrongs committed against your country by the rest of Europe after WWI.

Sports. We play because sports are fun, and they’re good for us. But we bring more passion to it because it provides us with community/group membership, meaning, purpose.

Fandom. People attach completely irrational amts of emotion to events and teams that they have no actual interaction with in real life, and whose won/loss record wouldn’t affect them in any meaningful way if they chose to ignore it. They decorate their homes and bodies with team paraphernalia, they exult or mourn according to the fortunes of players they don’t know, they sometimes get in actual fistfights with opposing fans. What could they possibly be getting out of this? Hint: meaning, purpose, significance.

Blame. We do accident investigations in part because we want to know if we can do something to prevent a particular type of accident in the future. But even when that’s not relevant, we *still* want to know what happened, because we want a reason. When a crime is committed (or if someone is badly hurt, or a lot of property destroyed), we want to see someone pay. In fact, there’s often a temptation to just punish somebody, anybody. If someone accidentally shoots his friend, why charge him with manslaughter? What good does it do? Mostly, it just makes us feel like Justice Is Done, and Actions Have Predictable Consequences.

Formulas. When we watch a movie that doesn’t follow the standard Hollywood formula, it sometimes makes us feel uncomfortable, dissatisfied. Same with books. We like familiar forms, the customs, the archetypes we’ve grown up with.

Clubs. Elks club, Rotarians, Shriners, etc. Group membership/identity and a sense of purpose, of belonging.

Uniforms, ceremonies. We hold little ceremonies all the time. Why? Because it gives us a feeling that something meaningful took place, it grants significance to our actions. You might think it’s just to give credit where it’s due (to graduates, let’s say), but if it really were just that, we’d have private celebrations with the one graduate we know personally. Instead, we stand for hours and clap for people we don’t know, and don’t care about (we probably wouldn’t loan them 5 bucks if they approached us on the street).
We’re goofy for fancy uniforms, for parades, for honoring people and events.

Destiny. We’re so afraid of randomness, of chaos, that we invented words – “destiny”, “fate” – to suggest that the events of our lives are predetermined. If a tree falls on our family, we’d rather believe the gods have it in for us than that something sucky just happened to us at random.

Literalism. People want to take the Bible at its most literal, because that's easy and simple and doesn't require us to try to establish a spiritual connection with God to develop an inner harmony and peace and love for life. if we've got the Big Rule Book, we don't have to search our consciences or pray for guidance or meditate or bring a peaceful spirit to our choices or evaluate individual situations on their merits, etc. It's a lot easier to say "Adulterer? Stone her. World in six days? okay." etc.

Party loyalty. We continue to support Clinton or Bush, and even defend their mistakes, because part of our identity is tied up in being a Liberal or Conservative, because changing our mind costs us some of our certainty, and because we like things to be Good or Bad, not a confusing mix of both.

Justice. When we think of justice, we think of when it’s applied. We call our legal system “The Justice System.” Whether intentionally or not, we don’t consider the fact that much (most?) of the time, justice does not prevail. I’m willing to bet only a minority of murders are actually solved. People abuse, cheat, harm each other all the time with impunity. Seldom if ever are people rewarded/punished in exact accordance with their behaviour. But since we need to feel that things are in order and under control, we don’t believe the above – or at least, we don’t think about it very much.

Drama. I don't care for Keanu Reeves’ acting. But rather than just accept it for what it is, or worst case, don’t see his movies, I turn it into a big deal: I say "I HATE Keanu Reeves; he sucks, he ruined the move Point Break with his terrible acting. Anyone who likes him must not know movies that well." And what did I get out of that? I created an us-vs-them (with me on the good side, of course) and now i have a cause, a banner, a rallying cry.

More later* when I'm not falling asleep...

*I'm sure you're happy to hear


You might be tempted (because the idea is uncomfortable, and you like Certainty?) to say something like “There’s a lot more to human behaviour than that.” And you’d be right. All human behaviour doesn’t fit in a blog post.

But don’t forget that – to quote Scott Adams – our minds are delusion machines. We are emotional creatures first, logical ones second; what we love (ie, need emotionally) will trump what we believe. IOW, we will believe what we want to be true. Examples:
a. My boyfriend loves me.
b. I’ll go to the lake for the weekend with my friends, and I’ll work on my paper in the evenings at the cabin.
c. She wants to sleep with me.
d. This long-shot investment will pay off.
e. The good qualities of person I love outweigh the bad.
f. He cheated on his first three wives, but he’ll be faithful to me.
g. She won’t get pregnant.
h. He won’t hurt me.
i. I can make it home on this much gas.
j. Father O’Malley is a man of God, he wouldn’t fondle my son.

The point is: if we really really really want/need something (let’s say, to feel Secure and Significant), we’ll do just about anything to make it true. Or failing that, we’ll *believe* what we need to believe to feel like it’s true.

You *think* you’re far more logical than that, and probably sometimes you are. But I’ve noticed that we often do what makes us feel better and then we make up reasons/principles for it afterwards because our brains also want to feel like we're operating as part of a master plan (ie, Secure & Significant).


Some things we do satisfy both our need for Security *and* our need for Significance – how cool is that?

Community: we form groups – religious, social, political, whatever. This is both a Security/Survival instinct (we need the tribe), and a Significance issue.

The Group grants us protection, and in a way, even immortality: We don’t want to cease to exist. We’re desperate for a belief, a message, a philosophy that allows us to escape oblivion. That’s one of the reasons we align ourselves – identify ourselves – with things that we believe are larger and will last longer than we would on our own.

A group provides us with Identity*: we define ourselves in large part by our context, by things outside ourselves. We are Catholics, or Masons, or Dallas Cowboys fans, or Canadians, or Feminists, or Teamsters, or Conservatives, or Queer and Proud, or White Aryans, or People of Color, or Irish, or Jewish, or or or… Our group gives us a sense of belonging, it may give our lives meaning, a cause, a raison d’etre (I don’t speak French, sue me), a sense of being part of something important, something with a purpose, something bigger than ourselves.

*Try saying who you are without resorting to “I am a _____” (ie, without stating where you fall in a larger group.) It takes away a lot of what we typically use describe ourselves.


We need a purpose. We need to matter. We need our actions to have consequence.
We hate the idea that we may be insignificant, we absolutely reject the idea that our lives have no purpose; we fear irrelevance.

Our desire for significance is so powerful that it will override even our desire for survival; we’ll give up our lives for our country, for honor, for principle, for a cause we believe in.

We need a purpose so badly that we’ll allow ourselves to be convinced that aliens landed on earth 20,000 yrs ago and told us we need to get “clear”, or that we can hitch a ride on a comet, or that we should all drink poison Kool-Aid.

And if we don’t have a cause, if we’ve not discovered a Purpose or Ultimate Truth, we almost always make one up.

I further contend that this need for Significance has increased in importance relative to our need for Security, because now in much of the world security concerns are less a part of our lives than at any time in history. Since we’re not spending all our time looking for food & shelter, we need a purpose now more than ever.


Another way to think of Security is to call it Survival. What we want to secure most is our own lives.

Consider a paraphrasing of Maslow’s idea of a Hierarchy of Needs (most basic first):
· physiological needs (air, food, water, sleep)
· safety needs (protection, order, stability)
· social needs (friendship, belonging, love).

But Security is about more than just survival – survival is mostly about the first level, and we desire Security in order to preserve ALL of the above.

Stability: Stability represents security; when things are stable and predictable, we feel safer. And stability really *is* important – even critical – to our existence. Even when it’s not a life-or-death issue, Stability almost always means greater efficiency.

Imagine if there were no conventions for meeting strangers, no standards for communication, no agreed-upon rules of public conduct or dress. We would waste trillions of man-hours every year trying to figure out what we wanted from one another, whether our intentions were hostile or friendly, and so on.

A stable political/social context means we can grow crops without worrying that bandits will steal them.

Stable, predictable social customs allow us to interact more safely with others – even strangers. We don’t have to handle every encounter with suspicion and mistrust.

A stable environment means we don’t have to spend time and energy constantly analyzing and re-evaluating our surroundings and protecting ourselves against unknown dangers.

We fear chaos; while we may chafe at constrictions on our individual behaviour, we are absolutely in favor of order and control when it comes to everything else – we want the people and things that form our world to be predictable.

Knowledge: Knowledge is power, knowledge is survival – we must know – if we don’t, we may die. Water is wet, rocks are hard, fire is hot, tigers will eat you.

Certainty: But we want more than just knowledge – we want to be *sure*. We can’t afford to say “Maybe today fire won’t burn me,” or “Maybe today I can breathe in the lake,” or “Maybe *this* tiger is a vegetarian.”

To quote David Gerrold – or at least, one of his characters – again (from his novel A Rage for Revenge):
“Whatever circumstance we’re presented with, we make a decision about it. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Yes or no? Is this a threat to my survival? Or not?
If something unknown presents itself, we’re hard-wired to treat it as a threat until proven otherwise. Everything that your mind does – that whole conversation in your head, no matter what it’s about – that’s the mind considering its decisions for survival.
…this places an incredible burden on the mind to be *right*. Because in the mind’s view, the alternative to being right is being dead. The mind equates rightness with survival and wrongness with dying. …we, as individuals, have to be *right* whatever we do.”

The familiar, the known, allow us to relax a little. Change takes effort, and it makes us stupid – we used to know how to operate in our environment, now we don’t. We used to know what’s safe, good, desirable, enjoyable, and what is threatening, dangerous, unpleasant. If things change, we can no longer be certain. At the most basic level (as Gerrold points out), uncertainty can be fatal: if you don’t know how to treat a particular food item, or animal, or social situation, you may die.

We fear the unknown. In fact, our fear of the unknown or the uncontrolled is so great that we will go to virtually any lengths to avoid it. We stay in abusive relationships, bad neighborhoods, dead-end jobs – anything rather than risk the unknown.
“Better a devil you know than one you don’t,” we say.
Night is scarier than day, not because it’s more dangerous but because it’s mysterious.
We fear insane people, not because of what they’ve done, but because we’re not sure what they *will* do – they’re not bound by the rules, they are unpredictable.

And we crave moral, emotional, and intellectual certainty, for a number of reasons besides survival:
Thinking and learning take energy; self-doubt is unpleasant; we want emotional peace and rest, not angst, unease, disquiet.

Our very language reflects our desire for predictability: consider the words Unreliable, Inexact, Indefinite, Unfaithful, Duplicitous, Deceitful, Ambiguous, Vague, Imprecise, Hazy, Unsure, Unclear, Indistinct, Uncertain, Flaky, Confusing, Doubtful, Inconsistent, Unpredictable, Shifting, Fickle, Traitorous, Betrayal, Infidelity, Perfidy, Disloyal, etc etc etc.
What do all these negative words have in common? The fact that something was not *predictable* – someone said one thing and did another, or something behaved one way one day, and another way the next.

The traits above make us feel disapproving, uncomfortable, angry, annoyed, afraid. We are displeased with things that cannot be predicted, contained, controlled – and with good reason – we know that an inability to predict future events can result in loss, injury, or death for us.

Consider some of the qualities we admire in others: Consistency, Loyalty, Honesty, Integrity, Honor, Decency, Morality, Constancy, Fidelity, Devotion, Allegiance, Trustworthiness, Frankness, Candor, Truthfulness, Reliability, Dependability, Steadfastness, Sincerity. These terms describe things that ARE as they seem; they imply a resistance to change and conformity to an established code; in a word, they mean *predictability*.

We cling tightly to the comfort of the familiar, we fear and resist change, and we place a tremendous value on predictability, because of our basic instinct that predictability=security: the unpredictable is dangerous, the predictable is safe.
We’ll endure all manner of difficulty, we’ll tie ourselves into philosophical knots, we’ll even give up loving relationships rather than relinquish our sense of Certainty about things.

PART I – Introduction

There's no need to get your hopes up that this post (or the ones that will follow it) will be interesting. Just warnin' ya.

But anyway, this is why you do what you do, whether you know it or not.

As human beings, we have two powerful overriding needs that are present at some level in nearly everything we do. Satisfying these needs is the primary motivator of human behavior.

They are:
1) Need for Security (ie, safety, survival)
2) Need for Significance (meaning, purpose)

These needs occasionally conflict, and may be temporarily overridden by other desires – we seek adventure, stimulation, power; we enjoy admiration, beauty, sensual pleasure; we feel greed, hunger, jealousy, lust, pride, anger, love, compassion, etc. But nothing else so completely and reliably drives – and predicts – our actions and our attitudes as our quest for Security and Significance.

Which may be an earthshaking revelation, or not – but the *way* in which most of our behaviour ties back to these two things is interesting to me.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Lights! Heat! Yay!

Power finally came back on yesterday afternoon. It was inconvenient, but at least it didn't last thru Xmas, as originally feared.

We actually only spent one night in the house, but that was enough (40 degrees -- we dressed in layers of jammies and covered ourselves in blankets).

The next day I built a little firepit in the back yard and we cooked chili and hot dogs because we were tired of cold food. A couple days later I realized that approx. eight feet from the firepit I built was our gas BBQ, with full propane tanks...

Anyway, all's well that ends well. I'm out about $400 for hotels and I lost all the meat in the freezer. But at least I don't have cancer (that I know of) and no one is bombing my village...

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


The facts about beauty are known
And well-learned by those who are grown:
Beauty is thin,
It lies on the skin,
But ugly goes down to the bone.

- Thanks to David Gerrold

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


Watched Mel Gibson's move Apocalypto recently.
I thought it was fascinating and I liked it a lot, even though there were no Jews in it.

NOTE to anyone thinking of taking kids: it has a *lot* of graphic violence, which I suspect is pretty true to life in that place & time...

i'm dreaming of a warm christmas

As Alan mentioned, high wind, snow, rain, freezing temps have resulted in thousands of people without power in the Seattle area.

No heat, no lights, no internets.
No school, and for a while no gasoline or groceries.
Can't buy a generator for love or money.

Cleaned the spoiled food out of the fridge & freezer, then spent one uncomfortable night in the freezing house before throwing in the towel and going to a hotel (rooms not easy to come by, either).

City of Seattle seems to be operating at full power, but many surrounding areas are still without. News last night said ~200,000 homes still dark (down from ~700,000) -- our town may not come online until Saturday.

Happy Holidays! :-)

Friday, December 15, 2006

this is like amway, only not satanic

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Well, exactly

From the menu at the Irish pub/restaurant where we ate last night:


bright college days

When I was at university, I occasionally played floor hockey. One day I was "practicing" in our apartment (ie, I was shooting the plastic puck randomly around the living room). After I had hit my brother and our roommate a couple of times, my brother indicated his preference for me doing that somewhere else. Roommate didn't say anything at all, until I hit him again. Then he picked up the puck, walked out the patio door, and threw the puck as far as he could (over several fences and into some trees). Then he sat down. I felt his position was eloquently stated.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

pay attention

One of the things I remember fondly about my marriage was when Hannah (or occasionally, I) would say "Pay attention to meeeeeee..."
I'm being serious, here. It was funny, it was honest, it was clear, it was non-accusatory, it was endearing.

One of the things we need from the people we love is attention, reassurance that our life and our concerns are still important to them. Which brings me to my conversation with Samantha last week:

Sam: DAD!
Me: Sam! When I'm working on the computer you have no right to shout at me to get my attention.
Sam: But if I don't, you won't respond.

And she's basically right; I have a strong ability to concentrate on what I’m doing and shut out everything else. But AFAIC, it's unreasonable and self-centered to expect people we love to always drop what they're doing and immediately give us their full and undivided attention just because it suddenly occurred to us to ask them about, say, lip gloss or what color we want to paint our bedroom. In my world, we should ask the other person gently for their attention, and be willing to wait if the only urgency is in our own mind.

It reminded me of other situations where Hannah and I didn't communicate nearly as well. From conversations with other married people, I think this scenario may not be uncommon...

PersonA is reading the newspaper. PersonB, who wants to talk, sits down nearby.

Talker: Honey, what do you think we should do about X?
Reader: [no response]
Talker: Honey!
Reader: Huh? What?
Talker: I’m talking to you. What do you think we should do about X?
Reader: Um, I don’t know. I haven’t really thought about it.
Talker: Well, I think we should do Y.
Reader: Okay.
[Period of silence. Reader resumes reading newspaper.]
Talker: But if we do that, what about Z?
Reader: [no response]
Talker: Honey!
Reader: What?
Talker: What about Z?
Reader: I don’t know! Do whatever you want!

By this time, both parties are frustrated and annoyed, and little communication has taken place.
Talker feels insulted and ignored, that his/her concerns are not important to Reader, that the newspaper is more interesting than they are, etc.
From the Reader’s POV, Talker is expecting him/her to drop the activity they were in the middle of, wait while Talker thinks through something, basically just sitting there with hands in lap in case Talker should want to address him/her, as if they had no other function or interests of their own, but were merely there as a sounding board for Talker.

On the occasions when I was Reader (okay, it was most of the time) I wanted to say something like
I’m reading the newspaper right now. I really need a few minutes of peace and quiet and mental relaxation because I’ve been solving problems all day. And when problem-solving I usually do this talking part internally, so your way (ie, talking things through out loud) is frustrating for me and makes me tired. But if this problem really must be solved right this minute, rather than just interrupting my reading as if my activities are of secondary importance to yours, why don’t you say “Honey, do you have time to talk about X right now?” and I’ll put down my paper and we’ll solve the problem. But half the time you don’t want me to fix it anyway, you just want to talk about it and come to your own decision, and you want me to listen. Which I can also do. But when you pause for a long time, sometimes I think we’re done, which clearly we weren’t, I realize that now, that was stupid of me. But I feel I’m not really needed here anyway – my job is kind of just to go “Uh-huh” at the right time, which I mistakenly thought I could do while continuing to read the paper. If you’re asking me to put the paper down and just sit here staring at you as you think through this, that feels a bit like my needs are of no importance to you, that whatever I was doing is irrelevant just because you feel the need to talk.
Or something like that.

Of course, in hindsight I realize that sometimes it wasn’t about the problem, it was about connecting, which is why “pay attention to meeee” was so effective. When it’s that direct, we get it, and there’s happiness all around. Maybe it seems odd to some people (ie, women), but when you bring up a problem, we (men) think the issue at hand is the problem you just brought up (especially when we’re young, we are not perceptive creatures.)

And if we don’t feel we have anything to contribute to the problem, or that our opinion won’t matter anyway, or if the problem doesn’t seem too urgent or important, or if the outcome isn’t anything we care about one way or the other, or if we’re not ready to attack that particular problem right now, we’re not going to talk. We’ll be all “Whatever, hon” and we’ll think we’re great husbands for not being controlling and you’ll think we don’t care about you.

And being older and less stupid now, I know enough to build in time to listen. Camila chatters on about her day, what happened at her job, what haircut she wants to get, what her girlfriend did, how her nails look chipped, etc etc and I know there may not be any action items for me coming out of this conversation – I’m just there to listen.

And if she happens to complain in a way that I feel reflects on me, I just tell her. But rather than getting defensive, I simply tell her how it makes me feel (eg, “When you say that, it feels like you’re saying you’re unhappy because I haven’t done a good job at X.”) Without fail, she says “Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean that. You’re wonderful.”

My old way was to either tell Hannah she was too negative, or to say nothing and feel unappreciated and resentful. I like the new way better.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Glory Days

Most guys who have played sports have a mental trophy case, a Greatest Hits hallway of the mind where they keep some of the memories of favorite games or plays they were involved in.
Since I can, I will inflict such a story on you now. I can only hope I never posted about it before. It’s one thing to admit having such a trophy case, it’s another to take out the trophies and rub them in public too often.

Anyway: I’m in my early 20’s. Drop-in 5 on 5 basketball at the college gym, mostly the brothers but a couple white guys too. I am (naturally) on the second 5, the guys who did NOT make their free throws. We are shorter, we are scrubbier, we are uglier than the 5 tall, muscle-y, graceful first-teamers.

First time we break down the court, I'm open in at the baseline as the guard hits the top of the 3-pt line. He dishes it to me, and my guy lays off me because
a) we're still kind of running, and
b) I'm a white boy who appears not to be a significant factor in the world of basketball.

Anyway, I take a minimal setup and launch a high jumper from 3-pt range that hits nothing but net.

When we get the ball back, we head down the court on break #2 of the game. Again I am open on the baseline, and this time the guard feeds me right away. Again, I let go a long-range jumper that rips the net and my guy is standing there flatfooted.

After that, I could do no wrong. I played most of the rest of the game inside, blocking out, dishing elbows, pulling down boards, a couple of putbacks, a layup or two. I was not a shooting factor, but I played outside my body, and we win going away.

At the end of the game the guard slaps my hand (this was in antiquity -- pre-knuckle-touching) and says "You got a nice shot. I c'n respe't dat." Ha! Little did he know I had just put together a string of luck to produce the game of my life.

I should have just retired from the sport right then...

What's wrong with this picture?

Samantha: When are you picking me up?

Me: In about 30-45 minutes.

Samantha: What am I supposed to do for that long?

Me: Walk across the street to [clothing store] and pick out some clothes. I'll come and pay for them.

Samantha: No, I have enough clothes...

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Truck of my dreams

Well, not quite. But closer now.

Cool thing #1: I got so tired of not finding a canopy for my pickup that I bought a cheap aluminium one until I can find a fiberglass one that actually matches. Put carpet in the back, finally have somewhere to put all my car tools, don't have to cover my hockey gear with a tarp when it rains on game nights, etc.

Cool thing #2: put in a new CD player (old one was not working).

Installer guy did a double-take when he saw the speakers I already had, and said "Dude, these are blahblahblah speakers! Those are like top shelf speakers, dude." He fiddled around with the massive and mysterious amp under the seat, discovered I had two *more* rear speakers I'd never noticed, tuned everything up and now it rocks. Guy said "Whoever put this stuff in paid at least two grand for this setup."

Now I make my truck go boom like I was 16 or something.

what am i missing here?

There's a "reality show" about a magician named Criss Angel, and another one with David Blaine. I've heard people talking about them. They seemed impressed, and I utterly fail to see why.

I thought the appeal of magic tricks is that you can't figure out how the magician could have done it. But this is on TV, people. TV is fake, remember? It's not the same thing as real life.

Are we supposed to be impressed with a trick that anyone could film? See, Criss Angel didn't just do a trick for you. You just watched some video footage where he may have done a trick, or he may have *pretended* to do a trick, and a bunch of people *pretended* to be really impressed. Here is an example.

It reminds me of a show out of Mexico called Infarto. You're supposed to think it's a hidden camera show (altho they don't actually say that), but it's clearly all acted. There's no lens distortion or color loss, and each scene has multiple camera angles; often they use a shot that would only be possible with a large camera in close proximity to the action.

It also reminds me of Ripley's Believe it or Not in the newspaper. Along with stories of people with two heads (or whatever), you'd see a caption like "An Onion That Looks Like A Dog!", accompanied by a terrible pencil sketch vaguely resembling an onion resembling a dog.

What is that about? A pencil sketch doesn't mean anything -- you may as well say "Sometimes some things look like other things" or maybe "One time a lady saw a potato and said it looked like her grandmother." We don't know what either item looked like, do we, so how are we supposed to know whether we "Believe it or Not"? Since I can't see the d*** potato, I'm going to have to say "Not."

Anyway, the popularity of the magic shows is a mystery to me. Maybe the people who are so impressed are the same ones who think pro wrestling is real.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

gay schlafen, my darling

There are Morning People and Not Morning People.

Some NMP become MP through discipline and practice, but I think most MP just kind of pop out of bed feeling fresh and ready to attack the day, while the rest of us feel only semi-human for the first hour or so.

I've always hated when MP act superior about how they get up and, like, restructure Europe or something every morning before breakfast, when I think often it's just luck that they got wake-up-early genes.

On the other hand, I can sleep anywhere. Never have trouble falling asleep. On the plane, in the car, on gravel if necessary. It's possible that this is just the luck of my genes also, but I prefer to believe it's about skill and personal virtue...

Not that there's anything wrong with that

Client's Holiday Luncheon, complete with elementary school choir singing Xmas carols. No one died this time, but I noticed they sang "don we now our fun apparel" instead of "gay apparel". All I can think is that they were unable to complete rehearsal for all the giggling and decided to change the lyric -- otherwise, I don't see the point...

not that again

Male vs Female brains...


"Part of the contemporary predicament of an old one; it is that we cannot have everything: we cannot live in a society that is materially rich, individualistic, open to all currents of ideas, one that allows and encourages free expression and mobility of every kind, where we can shop around for our favorite religion, experiment with new identities, and sample available options and life styles and at the same time also enjoy the benefits of stable communal ties, sustaining beliefs, taken-for-granted values, and a solid sense of purpose."

-- Paul Hollander

If I already posted this, sorry.
If I stole it from your blog, sorry.
Just read it again today and felt the need to inflict it on other people.

Friday, December 08, 2006

I find this *really* convenient...

Bring up someone's blog.
Add a comment.
Log in using your old (pre-beta) acct info.
Put in the word-verification string.
Click Submit.
Machine tells you your acct has been merged with Google acct such-and-such, gives you a button to log in with Google acct.
Log in with Google acct.
You're no longer anywhere near the blog you were on, and your comment has disappeared.

Well done, guys!

christmas cheer

This isn't a happy story, but it's different enough that I found it interesting...

A friend of mine went to a big Xmas pageant. Santa came out and was jitterbugging around with girls onstage, then made his way down the aisle in the middle of the audience, whereupon he had a massive heart attack and died, with his lapel mic picking up his last labored breaths.

My friend said it was the most surreal thing he'd ever seen. I think most of the audience probably converted to Buddhism to shield their children from further pageants.

There might be a lesson in there somewhere, but I doubt it.
Happy Holidays.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

I'm barely a grownup

My grandmother sent David $10 for his birthday, which was very nice of her, and much appreciated by him.
(Side note: he wrote her a thank you note the same day. I think it's the first time in history I've been able to get this to happen.)

But back to the point:
I took the check to my bank. They said I couldn't cash or deposit it because he doesn't have an account. Now, I know banking regulations are more strict than they were 30 yrs ago, but c'mon. Most of the rules in a bank -- especially those having to do with risk -- are breakable by someone with sufficient authority and a good enough reason. Bottom line: unless it's about a lot of money, when they (ie, a bank officer) says they can't, what they usually mean is they won't.

So I made a little speech. I said "This check is made out to my son. He has the same last name as me, and the maker of the check. The check is for ten dollars. It says "Happy Birthday" in the note field. I think the likelihood of fraud here is low. But even if the check comes back, you have enough money in my account to cover it. I expect my bank to look at this situation and accept this check for deposit." So they did.

But why did I have to be 41 years old before I was able to make such a speech calmly and without feeling stressed and embarrassed? I know people who were able to do that at 15. I wish to believe it's because I'm such a nice guy, but deep down I know it had more to do with insecurity and wanting everyone to like me at all times.

How about you? Do you like me? No, I meant to say: are you able to handle little disagreements with merchants, neighbors, etc and get what you want without getting mad or flustered?

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

you better not shout, you better not cry

I don't actually remember ever believing in Santa, so i don't really get why some parents make such a big deal about "preserving the magic", or whatever it is they call keeping your kid believing a fairy tale for as long as possible.

Those of you who DID believe in Santa: was it really that special? Was it terribly disappointing to find that your parents bought you gifts because they loved you rather than that they were brought to your house by a nosy, controlling, sweatshop-owning fat guy?

Okay, i'm just kidding about the sweatshop thing, but I'm serious about the keeping-the-secret part. David was in a group of people including several smaller children recently when he made a comment that might be interepreted to suggest that Santa wasn't real, whereupon he was angrily shushed by one of the Moms. And that's the part I don't get -- why is it important to keep the kid fooled? What does the kid get out of it? A chance to look stupid in front of his friends who know the truth?

Your wisdom is invited.

More timewasting when I should be working

I find this really funny.
If you do, too, you can find the guy on myspace (warning: profanity).

Monday, December 04, 2006


I'm on a new hockey team. Since I joined them, we're 0-4.

When i went back to Target about the extra chairs, it looked for a minute like they were just going to pat me on the head and send me on my way, but at the last minute the manager decided if i was dumb enough to come back in I should pay them some more money. Which i did.

Went out to supper on Saturday night; at the next table a young boy threw up. They hustled him off to the bathroom, but no one cleaned up the mess for at least 5 minutes. I felt sorry for him, but even more sorry for myself having to try to eat my dessert 3 feet from a big puddle of sick. I really have no idea why I would want to share that with you.

David turned 14 yesterday.

On my flight home from TX:
20-ish girl in row in front of me: Is that seat empty?
Bryan: Don't know yet.
TGIRIFOM: If no one shows up, do you mind if my mom sits there?
Bryan: Is your mom good looking?
TGIRIFOM [worried look]: Um, she's married...

Mom did turn out to be a very nice lady. Unfortunately, she used up all the yarn she had brought to knit with before I finished my paperback. Which meant that since *her* entertainment had ended, mine must perforce end also. So in spite of my best efforts, we chatted, and she gave me TGIRIFOM's business card, and TGIRIFOM turned around and told me that I looked like the kind of person who might be interested in a good business opportunity, and that she would check with her business partners and see if they were interested in taking anyone else on and call me. I refrained from telling her how much I hate multi-level marketing, but just barely.

Friday, December 01, 2006


Had a really nice Thxgvg holiday. Took the kids to CA to my parents' place, all my sibs were there, Camila & her daughter flew out to meet the family. Went mtn biking with Dad again, ate too much, played games, sang songs, laid around, a good time had by all...

Red beans & rice didn't miss these two.

Cuzzins... these are a rather scruffy lot, but we love 'em.

You're just jealous because you don't have the right tools...

On the way to the airport at oh-dark-hundred...