365 Yesterdays and Tomorrows

No one ever keeps their New Year's Resolutions, do they?

This was the rhetorical question posed 365 days ago, to no one in particular. The few readers I did have back then were certainly doing other things than surfing the internet that night, but I write as much for myself as anyone else. I went on to list things I should do this year, but knew I wouldn't. With the exception of upgrading to DSL, I didn't in fact accomplish anything on that ambitious list. I didn't ”LOSE THIRTY POUNDS”; I gained ten. I didn't ”BUY A NEW CAR”, but 2005 proved to be a great year for my old one without any of the problems it had in 2004. I didn't ”GET A GIRLFRIEND ALREADY”, but some things are beyond my control, even when I do try. I didn't ”MOVE OUT OF MY PARENT'S HOUSE”, though I am seriously considering some options.

Now, here I am 365 days later looking back to see what things did change this year. We lost my mom's cousin as well as my music teacher. The world lost the Pope, Bob Denver, Ossie Davis, James Doohan, Peter Jennings, John Spencer, Vincent Schiavelli, and many other beloved individuals. I started playing with a digital camera and picked up a new hobby this year. I picked up a few extra musical gigs too with a band leader that was once partnered with one of the other leaders I play for. Besides the extra outings from this new group, I even witnessed firsthand the creator of the “pizza dance”. I attended the wedding of a coworker, fellow blogger and friend. Not one but two old college friends announced they were each expecting their first child with their respective spouses. My friend Curt and his wife had their first child, while my old buddy Rey and his wife had their second child and first daughter. If that wasn't enough, Rey also had seizures a few months later. It's been some year.

A calendar is such an arbitrary thing, and yet there's something about THIS night, and the first day of the year, that puts us in an odd mindset. We look back and review, contemplate our life and where we've been, and think about where we're going and what changes we need to make. I've always felt pressure to go out on New Year's Eve, but I've not always had a girlfriend or even friends to hang out with. The one year I did try to go to Time's Square, the train platform was packed and it was freezing. I didn't want to stand out there any more than my girlfriend did, and we ended up driving out East instead, to a quiet little restaurant, and later sipped champagne before a roaring fireplace. Rhodester wrote something earlier that reminded me that sometimes the quiet ones are the best. That being said, there was one year an old high school friend performed with his band for the occasion, and another time my girlfriend and I ran a gamut of activities in Boston ranging from independent films to violin quartets to fireworks above old galleons in the harbor. Those were probably my best New Year's Eves.

Most years when I don't have anything as exciting to do, the prospect of having Chinese food with my folks can seem a little depressing. New Years Eve was second only to Valentine's Day to me as the worst day to be single and alone. Maybe I'm getting more mature, or just a little desensitized, but this year I've found myself consciously reminding myself what today is. It just doesn't FEEL like anything other than a regular Saturday, even if we did have Chinese food for dinner. I did give some thought last night to actually going somewhere this year, even searching for events, to see if there were any fireworks in the area. The results seemed sparse. I wasn't about to go to a bar, nightclub or cruise on my own and I was amazed how many of my search results included speed dating events. Yikes. I even considered going to the city. So what if I have no one to go with? That shouldn't stop me. However, when a gray, rainy day turned into a gray slushy day, I quickly thought better of it. And so the night ends with me writing, as do most nights.

It's hard not to look back, and even the mail conspired to get me to do so. I ended the year with the largest credit card bill I've ever received, over $500. That might not sound like very much, especially during the holidays, but when I first got a card my bills used to be under $100 since I mostly used it to fill up my car with gasoline. In the last few years, gas prices have gone up, I've added DSL and Netflix, and picked up a healthy DVD addiction. Way too many shows I was looking forward to finally came out this month, and while most of my bill included Christmas presents, close to $200 were DVDs for myself. Ouch.

Memory is both a curse and a blessing, an ability to revisit the past whether we want to or not. The most important thing to realize is that we can't change what has gone before, only learn from it. Looking forward, I don't think I'm going to set any lofty goals, even with the consideration that I won't meet any of them. Instead, I'm going to keep doing the good things I'm already doing, and add as many as I reasonably can. I will continue writing every day, as much as possible. I will continue taking pictures, my camera forcing me to explore the world outside my room. I might even get a new and better camera this year. Maybe I'll lose weight, get a place of my own, and get a girl; maybe I won't. One thing I'll work on is my attitude, especially one I've harbored that I was “too old” and it was “too late” to accomplish certain things. I can't measure myself by the things my peers have done by the same age, and I can't rule out anything for the future. I don't KNOW what tomorrow will bring. That shouldn't scare me as much as it always has. Instead, it should excite me. I think the advice I got about making a list for work can apply to my life as well, if approached in smaller, realistic increments. Often the reason I feel so lost and disoriented when I'm away from my job for more than three days is because I don't know anything else, don't have a structure for my downtime. I'm not saying fun should be a rigid thing adhering to a schedule, but I think if I went to bed on a Friday knowing the next day I wanted to go to a specific hiking trail, or beach, or movie, or museum, I might actually do it. Many days when I have nothing planned and nothing I HAVE to do, I do nothing. I sleep for over 12 hours like I did last night, I take naps when bored like I did earlier today, and I spend a lot of time lying in bed and staring at the ceiling. Once in a while, this is fine and necessary to rejuvenate, but after last weekend and this one, it's a little too much. I want to LIVE, damn it!

What am I going to do next year? I don't know. What am I going to do tomorrow? Now that's a question I'm going to think about every day.

Congratulations once again to all the 2005 BEST winners, and I hope you all have a blessed and safe New Year.


MCF's Year in Review 2K5

BEST New Movie:
Batman Begins

BEST Remake:
King Kong

BEST Movie based on a prematurely canceled television series:

BEST Movie based on a book:
Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
(with Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire a close second.)

BEST returning dramatic series:

BEST new dramatic series:
Prison Break

BEST canceled dramatic series:
The Inside
(honorable mentions go to Tru Calling and Blind Justice)

BEST returning sitcom:
Family Guy

BEST new sitcom:
How I Met Your Mother followed closely by My Name is Earl

BEST new song:
”Doesn’t remind Me” by Audioslave

BEST animated series:
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

BEST web comic:
Questionable Content

BEST web site:
Homestar Runner

BEST trade paperback:
Ultimates 2 Vol. 1: Gods and Monsters

BEST bible resource written by an asthmatic, epileptic Dominican:
The Bible Archive

BEST blog written by a happy husband and new father:
The Happy Husband

BEST ramblings from a recently-married part-time comic book writer with a beard and thick glasses:
The Write Jerry

BEST prolific commenter with the most unique ideas for blog parties:
Lorna in Wonderland

BEST central source of movie news, television reviews, comic book information, hot women, and NSFW photos and videos:
Swimming in Champaign

BEST aptly-named short-lived blog
There’s No Real Reason to Read This

BEST new blog from a recently-engaged college graduate and former R.P.G. writer:
The World Wide Neb

BEST blog written by someone concealed by bandages and not by a cloak:
The Unseen Blogger

BEST Scottish egg blog:
The Boiled Egg of Infinity

BEST West Coast humor blog:
The Chronicles of Rhodester

BEST use of pineapples:
Jamie Dawn's Mindless Blather

BEST overall humorous educational snarky menu-esque blog:
The Art of Getting By

BEST use of a tiny Santa hat:
Willow Crossing

BEST link resource(s):
Sarcasmo’s Corner
Dosetaker’s Weblinks

BEST Photographs:
The BLOG(Cube)

BEST least-updated blog on my blogroll:
From the Mind of Dave

BEST paradoxical and often humorous blog:
Paradoxes and Problems

BEST blog written by a comic book character:
Hulk’s Diary That is on the Internet

BEST inspirational family blog lacking only a blue grid:
The Bayer Family Blog

BEST pop culture blog:
Xtine Files

BEST short story, science fiction and humor blog:

BEST blog set in a fictitious Texas town:
Peachwater, Tx.

BEST banner:
Tales from the Dorkside

BEST attempt to unmask me:
The Southern Conservative

BEST movie blog:
Film Geeks

BEST Best Blog Party Blog Party:
Best Blog Party Party 2K5

Were you voted an MCF BEST in 2K5? Want to show that fact off to your friends for some inexplicable reason? Feel free to let them know with the above graphic! Post it proudly!

Disclaimer: These arbitrary awards were based solely on things I liked this year, are completely fun and meaningless, and in no way were decided upon by an impartial jury of cyborg monkeys.


Lost my luggage...

After the breaking point at work I briefly touched upon yesterday, the frustration I felt at having spent most of the day on one page of my catalog while stopping to work on other things, while time spiraled down the drain, I got some good advice from some coworkers today. There were basic common sense practices that I already employed to some degree, but not far enough.

At the end of the day I do make a checklist of things I haven't completed, to take care of the next day. I e-mail it to myself and leave it unread, so it remains bolded in my inbox. While not a bad practice, a coworker suggested taking it to the next level and actually printing it out so it's in front of me, a physical checklist to keep me organized and steering in the right direction instead of letting the currents set me adrift. I also organize my work into folders, but I don't deal with them in priority order. It was recommended that when something new lands on my desk, I put it aside or beneath the other folders if it's not urgent, and finish one thing before moving on to the next. Perhaps the hardest bit of advice though was that I should make my checklist at 4:45, and leave at 5 NO MATTER WHAT. I've fallen into a pattern of increasing workload and decreasing ability to go home with things unfinished. It's hard for me to drop what I'm doing and just leave. I don't think I'd ever depart as early as 5 anyway since I go to gym after work and I'd rather not go when it's very crowded. Besides not wanting to wait for equipment to be available, I'm somewhat self-conscious when I exercise. Still, employing some of these practices, I left around 6 tonight which for me is a decent time, and a start.

I don't really want to write about work tonight. To be honest, I feel it's safer to say little or nothing about one's career on a blog. I want my writing to be a separate part of my life, but sometimes work just bleeds out and becomes so significant that my life story here would be incomplete without at least mentioning the impact of my job. I'm off for four days now, so I honestly can say my unfinished tasks will have to wait until next year. Tonight I'm suffering from a bit of writer's block, but not from lack of ideas. I was given a very apt analogy about the way I approach my work today, that the way I jump from one thing to another I have too many “connecting flights” and risk “losing my luggage” along the way. That's what happened tonight. I thought about what to write, tossed and turned, played a game, lay back and thought some more, sat up and surfed through other blogs for ideas, and all the while the clock kept ticking. That's when I realized I was doing the same thing and I had my title, albeit to a light post.

The next two days will probably consist of some sort of year-end wrap-up that I'll iron out tomorrow when I'm rested and thinking more coherently. Everybody’s doing it. Sean listed his favorite trade paperbacks form the year. Xtine ran a “Best of 2005” series this week, while Janet listed her favorite posts from the year. And of course there are those year-end contests like Mister Snitch's and the Best of Blogs. I've already covered my personal favorite posts in an Essential MCF entry based not on the calendar year, but my blogging anniversary. The bases are covered, but I can find something to contribute about THIS year before 2006. At the very least, I'll probably revisit my Unresolutions, to see which things I didn't do.

I have my game plan to wrap up the year here and as long as I follow it, I shouldn't lose my luggage again. Thank you for flying the Nexus of Improbability.


PBW: Reckson Effects.

Not long ago, my friend Rey said I was a “tool”. Obviously such a remark would merit me taking a swing at him, and I'm sure readers are confident that I immediately rendered him unconscious, gave him a bloody nose, or at the very least removed an ear. However, I did none of these things for the following reasons:

1) The last time I attacked him, about 12 years ago when we were stupid college kids, I ended up with my face mashed against a radiator so fast I didn't know what happened. We're both older now and although I go to the gym regularly, I also eat a lot more. I'm not sure who's in better shape, and I wouldn't want to find out the hard way.

2) In addition to asthma, he recently suffered some petit mal seizures. Should anything seriously harmful or fatal happen to him, if his wife didn't kill me, his son would hunt me down seeking righteous vengeance in about 14 years when he was an adult with martial arts training in the tradition of the best kung fu movies. It's not something I should risk.

3) He wasn't actually speaking in a crude sense, and went on to elaborate that the way I live my life, I provide functions for my job, my parents, and my band leaders and then put myself away in my room until it's time to be utilized again, the way someone puts a tool in a drawer. To some degree I did that this weekend and wasted many of my days off doing absolutely nothing, waiting until it was time for me to go back to my job. Today I was completely inefficient. I had a game plan, but kept letting myself get distracted. I knew what I had to do and by when, but it was pretty late before I finished something I wanted to get done by noon, and something else I wanted to do this afternoon is going to have to wait for tomorrow since I didn't want to skip going to gym again tonight. At one point in the afternoon I vented my frustration aloud, to the chagrin of my colleagues, and questioned why my mind was so fuzzy after so much time off. I felt like I was pulling cobweb strands from my mind the way Dumbledore pulled memories for the Pensieve in Goblet of Fire. I had five solid days away from work. Normally, I come back from a long weekend and tackle whatever needs to be done. Insurmountable odds from the week prior don't seem as daunting. I should have been refreshed and razor sharp. I'm paraphrasing, but Rey responded that I didn't maximize my time off, or something to that effect. I didn't really think about work at all this weekend, but I didn't exercise my brain either. There has to be some mental stimulation.

At least yesterday, when I was really feeling the effects of my extended vegetative state, I forced myself and my camera out to collect enough images for not one Photo Blog Wednesday, but two. My second stop will appear in an upcoming PBW, but my first one is appropriate for the season and thus the subject of tonight's post.

Every year, Long Island's Reckson center, a large glass office complex with a skating rink next to its parking lot, boasts a tree to rival the one in Manhattan, as well as a plethora of decorations. I haven't skated there since I was a child, and I wasn't even aware that the name had changed; I had always known it as the “EAB Plaza”.

Despite the steel cables holding it in place and the sandbags at the base of it, I wondered if it would withstand the strong winds. As I stepped back toward the building, I noticed some interesting displays in the windows.

Beyond a family of polar bears, I thought I saw falling water. I ventured inside the lobby, amazed at the tropical environment in stark contrast to the weather outdoors, and was shocked to discover a family of musicians frozen in Carbonite!

I don't know what villain or crime lord could perpetrate such a horror, but I wasn't going to hang around to hear a throaty chortle or suffer the same fate. The indoor waterfall beckoned, and I soon had a close-up view, followed by one taken from an escalator on my way up to the next level of the complex.

The indoor tree, while not the behemoth outside, still loomed impressively, with far more decorations. The thing looked like it could devour the tree in the lobby of my office, and use my family's sad tilted tree as a toothpick.

A family of captive snowpeople were on display, restrained from the public and cruelly forced to shovel piles of cotton over and over and over again.

I might have set them free but the folks at the security desk were already giving me some odd looks. Instead, I settled for a bird's-eye view of the ice rink and a funky sculpture outside.

Finally, I headed outside for a last look at the tree before returning to my car with the holidays behind me, and other destinations ahead.



Today I...

....mailed my “Thank You & Happy New Year” cards to various friends and family.

...cut my hair. The moment I turned the razor off I heard a mournful inquiry from my mom in the other room asking, “Why did you do that? You were starting to look so nice...” If she had her way, I'd still be parting my hair and wearing a bow tie. Short hair is just easier to manage for me, especially since mine curls in unflattering ways if it grows too long. Given a choice between Wolverine on a bad hair day and Matt Lauer, I think the choice is obvious.

...drove through sunshine and breathed outside air. The weather was far too crummy and I stayed in my room far too much this weekend. I've realized in the past that my brain turns to pudding when I don't go out for extended periods of time, but sometimes I forget on these long weekends.

...took some great pictures for tomorrow's post. I guarantee they'll be better than lame pictures of melted snow.

...hoped I was about to hear ”The Unforgiven”, only to have the opening chord shift as ”The Unforgiven II” played instead. The only thing worse than an inferior sequel to a great song is the bait-and-switch of having the first sound be exactly the same. Why DO I listen to the radio?

...had a rock tossed at me by angry birds. I was walking on the beach slowly toward some seagulls, and a few started to run. As I quietly told them it was okay, I heard loud cries overhead. I looked up and at first thought there were a pair of geese circling me. They were brown, larger than the seagulls and smaller than geese however. Something fell from one of them and my first panic stricken thought was that it was relieving itself. I jumped back as something hit the sand with a loud “THUD!” and sunk a bit under it's own weight. When I realized it was a chunk of broken asphalt, I got the hell out of there.

...discovered that my favorite online game would not be returning. A while back, the creator of the game shifted his focus to a newer version, but kept the old one open for people who still wanted to play that one. At some point, when he closed that edition to new members, we should have seen the signs. Still, nearly 200 players still logged on every day. A week ago while performing upgrades on the new game, he took the old one offline. There was no word on whether or not it would be back up, and tonight he finally revealed its fate officially. I spent a long time, far too long, building up my character's statistics and while I'm sorry to see the game go, especially so abruptly, in a way it's good. I won't be playing the sequel, and the time I once wasted on the original can be devoted to better, more creative pursuits. Starting next month I'll be taking a 10-week online writing class that hopefully won't impact my posting here too much. Extra time can only be a good thing now.

...organized my sidebar a bit better and added a link to a ”BEST POSTS OF 2005” call-for-entries. I read about it over at Janet's, who's actively campaigning in The Best of Blog Awards herself. Feel free to cast your own votes and nominations if there are any posts or blogs you'd like to share.

...ended tonight's post with a list of my favorite Christmas movies, as promised in a comment elsewhere. In no particular order with or without reasons:

Home Alone(“The old man got to me!”-George Costanza)


Mickey's Christmas Carol(the definitive version of this classic)

Die Hard(“Yippee-ki-yay, m***erf***er!”)

The Nightmare Before Christmas(“I AM the Pumpkin King!”)

Jingle All the Way(OK, not really. But I did catch it on television a few years back and it wasn't terrible)

The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus(note that it shares voice talent with Thundercats)

Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer(Is this long enough to count as a movie? If not, then I might have to compile a second list of Christmas specials, with this at the top closely followed by Charlie Brown)

It's a Wonderful Life(I was late coming to this party, peering in over the years but never actually going. When I finally saw it, I loved it.)

There are probably others I've forgotten, so feel free to comment with any I may have missed, intentionally or otherwise.


M.C.F.A.T. IV: Answer Time

Well it's been a disorienting day for me, as most company holidays are. Christmas falling on a Sunday has my schedule all out of whack, and I don't start work until WEDNESDAY! Is today Monday? It feels sort of but not quite like a Sunday. It went very fast, with meals close together as a result of a late breakfast and an early dinner, and a rainy day with darkness falling early didn't help. Nevertheless, this many hours indoors, with little human contact and conversation, my parents notwithstanding, can make a guy go stir crazy. No work and no play make MCF something something. It's time to give my brain some much needed exercise by answering my own M.C.F.A.T. IV. But first, let's see who came to the party:




Kev Bayer




Scott Roche


Sean(also with a late entry to the previous test)

My answers:

1) Does the departure of any one radio disc jockey, no matter who it is, merit a radio station changing its name, firing some DJs, and hiring others as they rearrange their schedule? I'm thinking specifically of 92.3 KROCK, soon to be known as “92.3 FREE”, but readers are free to answer the question on general principal.
Darrell and several others answered this question so thoroughly, it left me little to add. When I first realized the station was doing more than finding someone to fill in Stern's morning slot, that they were in fact changing their name and DJs throughout the entire day, it baffled me. Maybe it's because I was only a casual listener of the show, having the station as a preset in my car predominantly for the music. “Who on Earth still listens to radio?” asked Kelly, to which I'd this point I'd meekly have to raise my hand. It was the only place to hear new music, the kind of music I like, and do my best to keep up. Since Stern's announcement that he was leaving though, the station had already modified its format, having new songs streaming online while the radio played slightly older songs. It wasn't quite classic rock so much as a lot of the things I listened to in college and in my early 20s, and I'm not ready to deem those songs “classic”. I guess it's been months since I've heard new stuff anyway, but I like songs when I drive to and from work so I guess I'll be searching for a new rock station in the area. Initially, I thought such a radical change over one five-hour block of programming was extreme, as big as Stern is. But if people are switching to satellite or listening to their own MP3s and CDs, then I guess I have to accept the change, not that I had a choice. I'm glad I raised the question though.

2) What's the absolute worst last-minute gift you've ever given someone, and how do you feel about it today?
This is so horrible. Up until I was about 10 or 11, I didn't get my parents presents for Christmas. They took care of it, and simply labeled the presents from me. It was a cute little thing that parents do that went on too long, perhaps exacerbated by my being an only child. As it is I'd be well into my late teens before I started buying gifts for aunts, uncles and cousins on my own. One year my mom decided I was old enough that she didn't have to buy presents for my dad and say they were from me. My parents didn't coordinate on this effort though, and I guess since my dad still got things for me to give my mom I didn't take her seriously, even though in hindsight I think she told me several times. Somehow, I awoke on December 25th and realized, too late, what day it was. I looked frantically around my room for something since the stores were closed and I wasn't allowed off my block unsupervised yet anyway. The only thing I found was a football, about the size of my thumb, made of solid green plastic with a loop in the top that a hook could fit into. I had probably gotten it for a quarter from a vending machine. I grabbed a napkin and some tape, and wrapped it up, then went out to the living room where my parents were waiting to exchange gifts. My dad seemed really hurt and didn't say too much to me for the next few hours, and my mom just seemed very angry with me. After that I “woke up”, and started taking responsibility for buying my own presents. It was a painful but important rite of passage.

3) Which song would you say most influenced and/or changed your taste in music?
After a friend in high school loaned me a dub of Nirvana's first mainstream album, and I heard Smells Like Teen Spirit for the first time, I started paying attention to bands and listening to the radio. I'd never heard a sound like that before, and it influenced the way I listen to music for the past 15 years.

4) You can either have a passive mental super power, or an active physical one. Which would you prefer and why?
I'd love to have super charisma, to be able to influence and charm people. I think physical strength or speed would be wasted on me, and I'd be so comfortable with those abilities I'd never use them. With super charisma I'd have more friends, especially female ones, and I'd have the motivation to keep going to the gym and stay healthy and alive for as long as possible to enjoy their company.

5) Would you be comfortable with fame?
I want the whole world to someday know the name of MCF, and for this blog to dominate the Ecosystem. However, I don't want anyone to know my real name, what I look like, or who I truly am in real life. I'd like to be able to walk down the street and go shopping and not be mobbed. Despite my answer to the previous question, I don't think I'd enjoy being a rock star and surrounded by twenty women. I get very shy in large groups. If the MCF name became large however, I could always share my secret with a select few. If fame could get me one woman, I think I'd be comfortable with that.

6) Since people thought the last test was too hard, I'll throw in an easy one: list as many prepositions as you'd like.
You can thank my 7th grade English teacher for the following, sung to the tune of “Jingle Bells”:
At, In, To,
Of, Down, Up,
Among, Under, Like, Below (and) Beyond!

About, Above,
Across, Against
After (and) along!

Around, Before,
Beneath, Beside,
Between, But, By, For (and) Except,

During, With,
From, Off, On,
Over, With, Throughout (and) Toward!



Phantasmic Links 12.25.05

Well, I hope everyone's Christmas was as PHANTASMIC as mine, whatever that means. I overdid everything today, but with my last erg of energy I'm still going to crank out this week's PHANTASMIC LINKS:

First up, an old friend croons a new spin on a holiday standard, courtesy of J-No.

Next, can you guide Mario through 20 levels of increasing difficulty?

Dosetaker invites us to escape “The White Chamber”...

I hate to share bad news on an otherwise fine day, but I know I'm not the only fan. I think we all knew this was coming though, and I have no regrets since the film gave the series a satisfactory conclusion. Could this really be the end, though? Would it be the first time in history a canceled series spawned countless books, movies and spinoffs? Only time will tell.

Just to cheer yourselves up after that last link, make Santa do your bidding.

Uh-oh...Santa's not happy now...

Thanks to me, it seems the Film Geeks are now MAKING films of their own. For this, I apologize.





A Christmas Eve Timeline

10:30 AM
I awake from a bizarre dream in which I find myself in a parking lot at night, driving several friends somewhere. I really have to find a bathroom, despite my idiosyncrasy of not using public bathrooms if what I need to do requires sitting on a foreign toilet seat. Spotting a freestanding McDonald's in the distance in the middle of the parking lot, I unlock the car in case my friends return from wherever they are, and run in. It's very crowded, and I make my way into a hallway that ends in slime. For some reason the situation is so dire I begin to crouch over the slime, only to notice I'm still in full view of the restaurant, including an old security guard waggling his finger in disapproval. Mortified, I head outside to a booth, and while the facilities inside are pristine it also has windows and I have a nice view of the drive thru. No one seems to notice me, but a tasteful time lapse prevents me from learning if I ever overcome my stage fright. Suddenly the dream shifts to daytime as I'm walking back to the car, where my friends are inside sleeping. They wake up and look at me questioningly, but I simply say “Don't ask.” as I drive off in the dream and wake up in real life.

10:55 AM
I enjoy a bowl of cereal as I watch the original Assault on Precinct 13. It's good. Something shocking happens, something that would never happen in a movie today. It seems like a joke, so I back up the DVD and watch the scene again to make sure I saw what I thought I saw. I did. I begin to understand why the film is regarded as a cult classic.

12:45 PM
One of the special features is an interview with writer/director John Carpenter and star Austin Stoker. At one point they take questions from the audience, and a geek asks Stoker if he's aware that on an episode of Angel, the gang is pinned down and one remarks that he feels “just like Austin Stoker in Assault on Precinct 13”. Not surprisingly, neither Stoker nor Carpenter have any idea what the audience member is talking about.

1:15 PM
I venture out to Pathmark to pick up some food presents for my parents. The traffic isn't as bad as I'd expect, nor are the lines when I get to the store.

1:45 PM
As I leave the supermarket, I note not for the first time how unseasonably warm it is. I still need a jacket, but I don't need to zip it and I don't need a hat and gloves. At the corner of the strip mall, a Starbucks beckons. Dare I answer the call? I try to have little to no caffeine after being advised to quit by a doctor last year, and so I've only had one Mocha Frappachino this year, back in September. I decide it's time to give in, and get myself a present.

1:50 PM
As I wait on line, a small woman with a cane enters the store, walks past me and waits alongside the guy in front of me, fumbling with money in her wallet. Earlier in the week, I experienced a similar phenomenon in a pizzeria, when the orders of two people who came in after me were taken while the guy behind the counter ignored me completely. Surprisingly, today, the cashier asked me what I wanted first and I actually hesitated for a second, feeling bad that I was cutting off this old lady even though I was there first.

2:00 PM
I'm in brain freeze heaven as I get in my car. There was a time in my life when I'd have a Frappachino at least 3 or 4 times a week. Having only two during the course of an entire year, I have to say that each one was as good as the first one I ever drank. I guess there's a moral in there, that indulging too often in good things diminishes the treat aspect of them. Life is pacing.

2:08 PM
Driving home, I get the spontaneous urge to finish my beverage down at the beach, since it's so warm and everyone is out shopping or decorating.

2:15 PM
I arrive at the local park, where it's eerily quiet despite a few cars in the parking lot. Down by the beach, seagulls and geese sit in silence, looking out at still water. There's no breeze. There are no waves. Though a family of four is gathered by a nearby swing set, the children are also quite calm and quiet. I find a nice spot on a seawall and sit in solitary contemplation. A seagull walks over and looks out at the water with me, feigning disinterest but likely creeping up to see if a Frappachino might be something he'd like. We both sit and enjoy the sun reflected over the still waters. Eventually he gets bored and flies out to join his brethren on the beach.

2:30 PM
Another family walks by on the path behind me, as a little girl insists to her father that the birds are speaking to her. “What could they be saying, daddy?” she asks. With a smile in his voice, he responds with “Merry Christmas!” which elicits a hearty giggle. “Bird's don't say ‘Merry Christmas!', daddy! That's SILLY. You're SILLY daddy!” She goes on to talk about a squirrel with a full belly, but by then I've jumped off the wall onto the sand, and I'm soon out of earshot.

2:45 PM
As usual, I've gotten into trouble. The rock jetty is uneven, with very few flat surfaces, and I wonder how fishermen walk out as far as I've seen them on it. I've gotten pretty far myself, but some of the lower rocks have slippery green moss, and there's not much further I can go. I'm not exactly sure how to get back either, as the rocks behind me seem a lot farther away and more uneven than they did when I began the journey. Somehow, I get back to the beach. I've wasted enough time in quiet solitude; it's time to go home and wrap presents.

3:10 PM
My mom is downstairs using the “wrapping station”, a table she set up with paper, scissors, tape and more. While I wait, I decide to play Belter, and end up spending an unhealthy amount of time in my quest to get to level 100 and achieve the highest blaster upgrade available.

5:20 PM
It's dark outside, and I'm tired. I've reached level 43, a new record, but I still haven't beaten the game. I think my parents said they were going out to visit some friends and drop off gifts at some point, but I have no idea when that was. I don't feel like wrapping, or playing anymore Belter, so instead I pop in the 2005 version of Assault on Precinct 13. I watch about a half hour of it, taking a break when my folks return home with dinner. It seems like a decent movie, though definitely different from the original.

6:05 PM
Dinner restores any energy spent on real life rock climbing and video game rock blasting, so I head downstairs with my gifts to begin wrapping. My dad reminds me that church is at eight, and that he wants to leave “NO LATER THAN a quarter of.” I bring a watch with me, and assure him that I'll be ready. He repeats that he doesn't want to walk in late “like you people”, referring to my mother and I. We do often arrive five or ten minutes late, which drives him crazy. He prefers to go to church in the morning at 7, even though the first mass doesn't actually begin until 7:30. I think at some point in his childhood he was late for something, and something traumatic happened as a result of it, causing him to obsess for the rest of his life about being places on time.

7:15 PM
I still have a few more things to wrap, but I have to take a shower and get dressed. I come upstairs and as I walk past the living room, my dad asks me if I know what time it is. I don't answer, which these days is an excellent technique since his hearing isn't what it used to be. If ever called on it, I could say that I did respond and he must not have heard me. I realize I'm going to hell, but probably for worse things than dishonoring my parents.

7:30 PM
I turn off the water and hear my dad yelling in to my mom that he's going to leave without her if she's not ready. He shuffles back down the hall muttering things to himself.

7:35 PM
I'm dressed in record time, and decide to wrap the remaining presents. I tell my dad I'll be back up in ten minutes and he tells me again what time he wants to leave, and that he's leaving no matter what. He hasn't noticed that I’ve taken his keys. Besides ensuring that we go to church as a family, I also don't want him to drive at night. He has trouble seeing the lines in the road, and all day yesterday was complaining about seeing “floaters” as he decorated the tree. At one point he mentioned the problem to my mom, who took his glasses and examined them. She brought them over to show me the paint, dust, and spackle dotting them before cleaning them and returning them to him. Later he admitted that his vision had cleared up, and he hoped that the problem wasn't anything more serious than dirty lenses.

7:44 PM
My dad calls down that they're leaving, so the last two presents will have to wait. I head outside and start the car, and after helping my mom into the front my dad hops in the back. We're on our way, and on time, with no major fights beyond my dad's annual grumbling.

7:56 PM
We get a great parking space and head into church. It's not as crowded as I would have expected, and I begin to wonder if it's an 8:30 mass.

8:06 PM
The priest was just a little late in getting started, and six minutes of my dad clasping his hands and shifting impatiently comes to an end.

8:30 PM
Our Pastor speaks about how a child changes anyone's life, how even proper business executives make faces and talk in funny voices to a baby. New parents are in awe of everything a baby does, while older parents argue over whose turn it is to get up when the baby cries. Grandparents simply spoil children, and he references an old joke about people wishing they could skip being parents and just be grandparents. I think about a Christmas card I'd gotten earlier in the day, signed by an old college friend, his wife, and “baby (June ‘06)”. It was a really cool way to get such news, though not as cool as being visited by an angel.

9:07 PM
On the way home, my dad asks me if there's such a thing as angels, and how we know about them. It's not an easy question. There are the biblical accounts which, according to our faith, should be enough. He asks if anyone today speaks to angels or sees them and I really don't know. I hate when my parents ask me theological questions. I should have the answers, especially if someday I'll have children of my own asking the same questions, but I don't. More importantly, since they taught me I find the role reversal challenging.

9:31 PM
As I play even more Belter instead of finishing my work downstairs, my mom makes us all hot chocolate. Christmas Eve is all right.

10:07 PM
I finally go downstairs and do what needs to be done. I've color-coded the presents, using one kind of paper for my dad and another for my mom, and I bring everything up and arrange them under the tree. It's time to blog or finish my movie, but first I'll play a bit more of my game.

11:45 PM
Even though I basically had the concept of tonight's post mentally mapped out for several hours, only now do I sit down to write. I should be able to get it done by midnight though.

1:04 AM
I guess I'll have to lie and label the post “11:59 PM”. The movie will have to wait for tomorrow since I'm tired. All in all, it's been a pretty good Christmas Eve. Tomorrow should be fun, and then at last it will be over for another year.


Trimming & Meming

I felt a little bad about my rant yesterday. It's easy to get frustrated this time of year, and sometimes I just need to vent. Today was a much better day. With some difficulty, we put up the tree, which for some reason is shaped like an arc. This led to quite a bit of discussion with my parents as to whether or not it was straight as I adjusted the screws in the base. The final solution was to face the curved part to the wall, so that the tree appears perpendicular to the floor from most angles. It's not perfect, but as we added lights and ornaments, we made sure to put the heavier items in areas where they might bend the tree into an upright position. For many reasons, for many years, I've argued in favor of getting an artificial tree.

As far as I was concerned after last night, my shopping was done. My mom had other plans however, which she told me about at 5 PM. Her theory was that traffic would be light, and stores would be empty, since people would be having dinner at that time. I really didn't want to go out, especially since her theory struck me as thin and outdated, but she asked for company and it wouldn't be right for me to let her go out at night by herself. Our first stop was the local supermarket, which was bad. I waited in the car, observing the lowest aspects of human nature. People are inconsiderate sheep. Four shopping carts were behind a parked car. An old man, upon completion of his errands, shoved a fifth one toward them. It veered off course but he managed to catch it, and position it next to the others before walking away. Five shopping carts now blocked the parked car. A few minutes passed, and sure enough another man, appearing to be in his 40s, added a sixth cart. More time elapsed, and a woman opened her trunk in the adjoining space. After unloading, she turned to add her cart only to see another woman staring in disbelief that somehow six shopping carts had accumulated behind her car. The first woman quickly changed course and made it seem as though she was putting her cart alongside her car, and though I couldn't hear what was said I got the sense that she was making small talk about how terribly inconsiderate people are. The second woman shook her head, took the first of the carts, and shoved it toward the empty parking spot in front of me. She must have noticed I was there, and she ran and caught it before it struck my front bumper. The other carts were added to the empty space more carefully. When my mom arrived, I told her the tale, and as I was backing out of the parking space a loud obnoxious beep warned me to stay put as a sportscar zoomed down the aisle. No one has patience. No one is thinking about other people. The prevalent attitude is, “Make way! Coming through! I don't have time to wait for you; you watch out for ME!”

The other stores weren't quite as bad as that supermarket, but it would be another four hours before we got home. I called my dad at one point to let him know to eat dinner, but since dinnertime had already passed he was way ahead of me. He did say he'd have ravioli waiting for us, so coming home was all the sweeter. I guess tonight's family tale of tree trimming turned into another rant against the ugly side of humanity. Perhaps this meme Wendy tagged me with will make for more appropriate holiday fare:

1. Hot Chocolate or apple cider?
Hot Chocolate.

2. Turkey or Ham?

3. Do you get a Fake or Real you cut it yourself christmas tree?
Real. And it must remain up until all of our extended family as seen it, and certainly NEVER before Little Christmas. I'm not sure what would happen if we took it down sooner. I assume I'd be sweeping up less dried needles. Maybe someday I'll convince my parents to get a fake one.

4. Decorations on the outside of your house?
Yes. Lights, garland, and a pair of Noel candles my folks have had since their second or third wedding anniversary. Given the amusement park extremes of some of our neighbors, who could guide airplanes in an emergency, our house isn't that noticeable.

5. Snowball fights or sleddin?
I always preferred the latter and got hit with the former.

6. Do you enjoy Going downtown shopping?
No, there's nothing downtown. There are plenty of stores out of town, but I'd say in general shopping is a necessity, not a pleasure.

7. Favorite Christmas song?
Silent Night.

8. How do you feel about Christmas movies?
Sometimes they're a little forced, and they're definitely better in moderation. I like them, but years need to pass between repeat viewings. I did enjoy A Christmas Story, Christmas Vacation, Home Alone and The Nightmare Before Christmas.

9. When is it too early to start listening to Christmas music?
Anywhere between two weeks to a month before the actual holiday is too soon.

10. Stockings before or after presents?
My stance has varied over the years. Usually I would say before, since the contents are more or less “appetizers” to the main course. Now that I'm an adult and I know there will be deodorant, shaving cream, toothpaste, shampoo and other grooming supplies instead of little cars, I tend to get to the stockings later.

11. Carolers, do you or do you not watch and listen to them?

12. Go to someone elses house or they come to you?
We always have Christmas here and one of my uncles comes over. Usually some time before the end of January we coordinate with other aunts, uncles and cousins and make arrangements to visit their homes before they take down their decorations.

13. Do you read the Christmas Story? If so when?
No. We hear it in church of course, the night before Christmas. We used to go to midnight mass but our parish changed it to 8PM a few years ago, which works out much better.

14. What do you do after presents and dinner?
The day starts with presents, then breakfast, then throwing away wrapping paper and putting away gifts and getting the house clean before my uncle arrives. After we eat dinner, we exchange with him, then watch some television until dessert.

15. What is your favorite holiday smell?
Any kind of baking, from cookies to apple pie, ranks very highly.

16. Ice skating or walking around the mall?
I wish I did more of the former, but now that I'm an adult I'm pretty much restricted to the latter. If I ever have kids, maybe I'll have an excuse to skate again.

17. Do you open a present or presents on Christmas Eve, or wait until Christmas day?
When I was younger I couldn't wait, and would badger my parents. My dad just wanted to go to sleep after church on Saturday night since it was so late for him, and my mom didn't want me opening gifts too soon, especially if they couldn't both enjoy my reaction. Some years I've managed to get permission to open one gift. These days, I really don't want anything else. The things I really want I buy throughout the year, and most of the time gifts are just things to take up more space in an already crowded room.

18. Favorite Christmas memory?
The year my parents bought me Castle Grayskull will probably never be topped.

19. Favorite Part about winter?
It's not shoveling or freezing or skidding on the road or having very few hours of daylight so, like Wendy, I'm going to say “when it ends”.

20. Ever been kissed under mistletoe?
I've never gotten so much as a handshake or pat on the back under the mistletoe. Is that tradition still in practice? Do I not go to the right parties? Or any parties?

21. Tagged...
Unlike Kelly, my gift to you all is that anyone and everyone who reads this may choose to take on the challenge. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!


Most Wonderful Times.

I love this time of year. I love the way people frantically weave in and out of traffic, or make any number of illegal turns without signaling. It's just super the way someone in the far right lane will make a left turn, cut everyone else off, and shoot into a parking lot. The parking lots are grand too. Pedestrians pushing overstuffed carts meander out in front of cars at random points, pretty much anywhere on the asphalt BUT the indicated crosswalks. Perhaps the best aspect of a parking lot in this festive season is the way cars pull three-quarters of the way out of the side rows before the drivers stop and look. Nothing beats taking twenty minutes to drive as many feet.

At a time like this, Target is the place to be on a Thursday night with two shopping days left. Being invisible to girls is an ability exacerbated when they're pushing wagons around. There's nothing to do but stop short of being run over and give a chivalrous wave of the arm, since they're pushing through no matter what. Of course, guys are just as bad, with our bulky coats and inexplicable refusal to use a shopping cart. Have an armful of boxes? Walking through the narrowest clothing racks is the way forward.

The locusts clearing the shelves faster than the eye can follow will often swarm around cash registers, where their frantic motion has come to a dead halt. Aisle after aisle of lethargic cashiers ring people up gradually, their eyes glazed over as they look slightly over each person's head at nothing in particular, in a zombie state. After a long day of work, customers are somewhat zombified themselves. Even I'm not above feeding my credit card the wrong way into a reader.

Bags in tow, with nearly all shopping finally complete, what obstacles could await me? The odds of setting off an alarm after nodding to the half-awake security guard aren't as slim as one might think. Granted, in many stores on many days such a thing has taken place, so common that most of them glance at my receipt and/or simply wave me through. This would not be the case tonight, no. This guard would perk up and interrogate me, studying the receipt and checking each item ONE AT A TIME as he walked back and forth through the detectors. Once the culprit was found, I'd be dismissed, to set off the alarm once more and continue on my way without looking back.

As much fun as driving to stores and walking through them is on a night as marvelous as this one, heading home around 9:30 is even better. After all, what could possibly get in the way? Surely no one would wave me around into oncoming traffic rather than let me continue along the right, would they? And if I got past that individual, frantically waving his arm and giving me the judgmental look of one beholding a moron, the back exit should be wide open. Why on Earth would a woman in an SUV be driving the wrong way into a parking lot, at so late an hour, so late in the season?

There's no place like home around the holidays, the gruff reminders that dinner is getting cold a substitute for a welcoming embrace. Late at night, past an old man's bedtime, also seems to be the best time to mention that I'm thinking about getting a co-op. “What do you want that for? You want a HOUSE! You don't want a co-op. What if you get married? And nothing is free. Maintenance must be part of the mortgage. And you'd have to pay taxes. You better think this through, but you do what you want.” After my dad has gone to bed though, it's the best time to show my mom the jacket I bought him, just like she advised me. “That's not what he wanted! That has a stripe! I said SOLID. And what color is that? It should be black; he wanted it for parades. You paid HOW MUCH for this? That's a sin; take it back.” I’m hoping to stay home and do all my wrapping tomorrow, but I suspect she’ll need me to drive her to a few stores for some last-minute shopping of her own.

I love this time of year. I hate this time of year. I can't wait for next year. Wait...do I smell cookies baking? Truly these are wonderful times...


PBW: A Beautiful Sight

This is not the time of year when snow melts, when birds emerge and the air grows warmer, ever so slightly, but not yet oppressively hot. The storms we've had are only the beginning, and it will be some time before the sights in today's Photo Blog Wednesday become permanent. Still, the last vestiges of melted snow remind me of Spring, of a time when I can once more visit the beaches I love, and wander the wilderness away from the harsh eyes of society. It is a magic time, and perhaps my favorite time of year.

Our home is currently a popular place for birds to visit on their journey South. As I left for work this morning, and little birds pecked at the seeds my mom left scattered on the sidewalk, I had no idea what I would soon see. A fluttering in the bushes nearby indicated something decidedly larger. Was it one of the neighborhood cats, the strays who prowl our yard? As it flew up and landed on the hood of my car, my next thought was pigeon. It was a little larger than a pigeon though, brown with black spots, and a tiny hooked beak. As it flapped its mighty wings and soared off my car and up into the taller trees in the nearby woods, I turned to the house in disbelief, mouth agape. My mom opened the kitchen window and answered my unspoken inquiry: “Yes, that was a hawk.” If only I had a fast camera, or my camera was on, or I had it on me at the time. Oh well. At least I still have my melting snow.



Did you need to know...?

• On some episodes of Thundercats, S-S-Slythe often pronounces Jackalman's name very quickly, not emphasizing the two syllables, so it sounds like a surname.

• Every time I hear bells on the radio, I hope that I'm about to hear For Whom the Bell Tolls, and nearly every time I get Hell's Bells instead.

• In 1976, a remake of King Kong introduced the world to a lovely young Jessica Lange and a man in a very bad rubber suit. To give you an idea of the quality of the film, at one point Jeff Bridges warns that “There is a girl out there who might be running for her life from some gigantic turned-on ape.” Lange's character is named Dwan, and she makes a point of spelling it out and explaining that she changed it to “D-W-A-N” from “Dawn” to make it more interesting. This version also features a flaming Kong leaping across the World Trade Center from one tower to the other. As bad as it was, it apparently spawned a sequel which did little for Linda Hamilton's career and featured a man dressed as a giant female ape, complete with swinging, sagging breasts. Peter Jackson's version was sorely needed, more than anyone realized.

• I'm taking a vacation day on Friday to wrap presents and do some ultra last-minute shopping. I'm sure I won't encounter any crowds in Target.

• When I was younger, my parents would occasionally buy me a comic book or two. In high school I started saving my own money, either from musical gigs or by not buying as much with my lunch allowance. For eight years I collected comics seriously, and tallied them along the way. At last count, my stacks numbered 4,137. This does not include any comics I received as gifts in the last ten years, so with stacks passed on to me from the likes of Rey, Jerry, and Curt among others, the collection is probably closer to 4,200. Despite my justifications to concerned parents and relatives when I was in high school and college, I probably will never sell them.

An innocent joke by Darrell led to a horrible, horrible rap....

• When I was 14, I missed a train to school. I ran to catch it futilely, not realizing a small pebble had somehow, improbably, gotten inside my dress shoe and was slowly wearing away the skin on the back of my foot. After returning to the station and calling someone for a ride, excruciating pain would lead me to peel back my sock as skin fell to the ground, revealing a red spot of exposed inner skin layers the size of a quarter.

• The things on the end of your shoelaces are called Aglets.


M.C.F.A.T. Volume IV

Hey kids! Do you know what time it is? What could be the ultimate goal of the pulse-pounding magnificent Mysterious Cloaked Figure's Astonishing Test? How many will there be? And once I have ALL the answers, will I possess blogospherical domination? Stay tuned to find out....

1) Does the departure of any one radio disc jockey, no matter who it is, merit a radio station changing its name, firing some DJs, and hiring others as they rearrange their schedule? I'm thinking specifically of 92.3 KROCK, soon to be known as “92.3 FREE”, but readers are free to answer the question on general principal.

2) What's the absolute worst last-minute gift you've ever given someone, and how do you feel about it today?

3) Which song would you say most influenced and/or changed your taste in music?

4) You can either have a passive mental super power, or an active physical one. Which would you prefer and why?

5) Would you be comfortable with fame?

6) Since people thought the last test was too hard, I'll throw in an easy one: list as many prepositions as you'd like.



Phantasmic Links 12.18.05

This has been a strange day. My mother and I returned from church to find my dad shuffling around the kitchen with one of his old automotive tools, a metal rod with a swiveling magnet tip. Apparently while hanging some Christmas decorations in the kitchen, he dropped a thumbtack. In order to ascertain where it bounced, he decided to drop a second one. We arrived to find him in the process of looking for, of course, TWO tacks.

My mom swept. I pulled the refrigerator out. The flashlight proved inadequate but I did the best I could to look behind and under furniture. My dad insisted that with socks on, he would have felt it if he kicked a tack anywhere. Neither parent would let me move the stove, for fear of breaking a gas line. In the midst of the mayhem, my dad mentioned that my mom's friend had called while we were out, and said she'd be over in fifteen minutes with presents. There's nothing like a little pressure.

Suddenly, there was a knock at the door. My dad was moping in a chair, because my mom had scolded him for putting out too many decorations and he had called her a “scrooge”. I called in to my mom in the other room that her company had arrived. When I walked back down the hall, my dad was still sitting in the chair. “What? No one knocked yet?” asked a partially deaf 75-year-old man. I ran and opened the door, seeing no one though more urgent knocking had just ensued. I looked down to see the little girl next door, who breathlessly explained that her mommy was packing things and needed boxes and newspapers. As I went to the basement to look for boxes, I heard my dad telling her “Go behind the liquor store. There's plenty of boxes there!” After she left with the boxes and newspapers we were able to spare, I questioned his advice. “I didn't mean for HER to go...she'll tell her parents to look there.” It sure didn't sound that way to me.

My mom's friend arrived soon after, and along with the gifts had some old watercolor paintings my mom had made when they worked together at the phone company in their early twenties. After she left, I watched some movies, felt a little drowsy, and then suddenly four hours of the day were gone and I was dizzy. Now, a few hours after dinner and after a quick trip to the post office and it's overstuffed mailbox, I'm wide awake and clearheaded. I should go to sleep though because tomorrow is the start of another work week. Before I do, here are this week's PHANTASMIC LINKS:

”Pass the CHRONIC--WHAT?! I caught this by accident last night, and had to find it online to share with the world. Does anyone know when that show got funny again? Apparently this bit was the creation of a Channel 101 alumnus...

Ever wonder what was inside your favorite cartoons? Hat tip to Rey.

Dosetaker brings a heartwarming new GROW game, just in time for Christmas.

People who get both references in this comic are my kind of people.

It's about time that Star Wars® was redone with bunnies. Thanks, Sarcasmo!

Darrell loses some of us in translation, and hilarity ensues.

I'm not one to brag, but check out this video of my Christmas lights!

I am Eeyore
Which DISNEY character are you most like? brought to you by Quizilla
I found this at Kev's.



Shot in the Face

When a coworker suggested indoor paintball, I viewed the photos of the tiny field with concerns. The three or four times I'd played before had always been outside, in heavily wooded areas. When a learned a few people were going, and one offered me a ride, I decided to take a chance and try it out, despite my initial reaction to the photos. I knew playing in such close quarters, pain was to be expected. I knew the odds of being on the field more than five minutes were slim to nonexistent. I didn't know how much fun I'd have.

We arrived bright and early, just after 10 AM, at a nondescript brick building with a single sign noting that we were in the right place. The friend we were meeting wasn't there yet, delayed from missing a train after a wild night, but his friends recognized us. Before long we were ready to play, and as I donned my mask and stepped through the door from the preparation area to the “field”, my concerns returned. It looked EXACTLY like the bad photos on the internet, albeit less grainy, and the inflated “barriers” didn't look too sturdy either. It was fortunate I'd worn boots with solid treads, since the astroturf-like carpeting was soaked with paint, and treacherously slippery in places.

The one good thing was that not many people were there yet. With five in our group, we were pit against another group of five, which meant the game might last longer than it would with more people. Unfortunately, while we were a group of veterans all over the age of 30, who'd wait for clean shots behind cover, our opponents included younger children with automatic weapons and the video game mentality of “infinite ammo”. As the ref blew the whistle, a barrage of sound erupted as innumerable spheres crashed into the flimsy barriers. On my first run forward I took two to the chest that I never even saw. At close range, they really do sting more. As I walked off the field to the safety beyond the netting, I wondered how long I'd have to wait. I need not have worried. The games averaged between five and ten minutes, with very little time in between. Five hours later, even with a party coming in and playing every other round, and even taking a pizza break, we still got in about thirty games, if not more.

Probably the most painful hit I received was, in true improbable fashion, friendly fire. Walking off the field after getting hit in the second round, I felt a sharp pain erupt on the right side of my back. I winced, but kept walking, and by the time I was off the field I was seeing stars and feeling very woozy and lightheaded, Fortunately, the sensation passed, and when the round ended one of my friends apologized and offered me a free shot in an upcoming round, which I declined. His gun had gone off by accident, and I couldn't very well hold it against him. As of now, I still bear a pretty impressive golfball-sized welt.

No two matches were the same. Sometimes more people played; sometimes less. Sometimes our group would split up and mingle with other players. At times the refs moved around the barriers, which one frequent player had names for. Personally, I was shouting out “left!” or “right!” as well as the color of the barrier concealing an opposing player, but this one kid used nicknames like “dorito”, “taco”, “snake”, and “house”. I remember at one point I made a heroic run and slide to a barrier at the middle of the field, and knocked it over. I lay crouched as low as I could as deadly spheres whizzed over my head, and desperately tried to pull the thing back up so it would offer better cover.

We won some and lost some, and there were plenty of rounds in which I lasted the entire time. There were a few disputable “kills” since they had a rule that a hit on the gun counts. At one point a ref was shouting at me to get off the field. I looked at him quizzically, and he pointed at my gun where paint had erupted on the hopper. It wasn't my favorite rule. In another round toward the end, as I was getting bolder, I charged and slipped, miraculously not getting hit before I could crawl behind a barrier. Some of the players had very good aim. In one match I looked up from my position and never even saw the shot that hit me. Suddenly a paintball exploded dead-center on my visor. My limbs shot out in four different directions as the force of the impact sent me flying back to the ground a few feet away.

All in all, it was an amazing day and a different experience from the games I've played in the woods. I'll probably do this again, but not for a few months, and definitely not before my bruises heal.


MCF Returns.

It feels as though I’ve been gone from the ‘sphere as well as my home, but here I am at home on my own computer at long last after staying with a friend in need. In some ways, coming home tonight made this entire week feel like one long day, that I only left this morning, even though “this morning” was in fact Monday.

I commuted to college. I’ve only been on 3 or 4 camping trips with friends, no longer than a weekend or so. When my girlfriend moved to Massachusetts, I’d crash there before driving home the next day, and when a buddy of mine lived in Manhattan I’d stay on the occasional Saturday when karaoke lasted well beyond the Long Island railroad’s limited evening service to where I live. These last four nights may well be the longest I’ve slept in an unfamiliar place in 31 years, and I realize how lame that sounds.

My house seems smaller, as do my parents. My mom gave me a big hug when I came in, and a little while ago wouldn’t stop talking, even though she was telling me things she told me on the phone two days ago. I understand that she missed talking to me, that my dad is hard of hearing, but I didn’t need to hear that he burned a sweet potato or was obsessed with a jigsaw puzzle more than once, especially when I had tons of places to visit and comment on here. I’m used to my own keyboard, as cool as my friend’s laptop was, and i navigate and compose far more intuitively. At work, I just concentrated on getting stuff done during the day so I wasn’t there too late since I had to drive someone home at a normal hour. There just wasn’t room for too much surfing, although there was the occasional regression.

My bed feels tiny. I’m not that tall, and though I remember my feet sticking out at the end of the mattress I don’t remember it being this bad. I got spoiled with a bigger bed. The clutter and dust are encroaching on me now as well. After staying in immaculate surroundings, especially in an apartment that normally has two small children in it, this place is just embarrassing. Cleaning and throwing things out will be a huge and emotionally taxing undertaking, but it’s one I think I need to tackle, even if its just a little bit at a time.

The big question is, will this brief experience away from home be the catalyst that finally gets me to move out? Even with money saved, real estate is a daunting and life-changing entity in my path. On the other hand, like an animal that grows only as large as his cage, after a prolonged period outside of my self-imposed prison, I feel somehow larger. I’m definitely in the thinking stages right now, although I’ve been here before, gotten discouraged, and shrunk back to my safe corner. There’s also my parents to consider and, if I do leave, I need to be far enough away to be free but close enough to take care of the heavy work around their house.

There’s a whole world outside my room, though I won’t be venturing too far into it in the next few weeks. Tomorrow I’m trying indoor paintball for the first time, “speedball”, which I understand is quite fast, and more painful than playing out in large wooded areas. Wish me luck. After that, it’s time to finish my Christmas shopping, time to buckle down and try to get my work done within normal business hours(since I discovered so many more hours in the day this week in both getting to work and leaving on time), and finally wrapping and tree trimming.

One thing is certain, one thing I can assure you, is that whatever I ultimately decide, wherever I go, here is where I will be found.


Thursday Highlights

• Getting to work early yet again, and discovering that even on a day with multiple meetings, I can still maximize the time in between.

• A surprise visit from Mr. and Mrs. Happy and infant Tater, whom I got to see for the first time.

• A soda, a Sicilian slice, and a buffalo slice, all for just over five dollars.

• Learning the origin of "Bobtail", who apparently was the horse.

• Returning from lunch to find the lobby windows completely steamed over, smoke billowing out the doors, and a flood of scalding hot water spreading out across the sidewalk, all from a busted pipe.

• A satisfactory resolution of a work issue from a few days ago.

• The incomparable new King Kong. I want my own giant gorilla. I wouldn't mind Naomi Watts, either. WOW.

What were some of your Thursday highlights?


PBW: Clouds in October

Back around the middle of October, I didn’t let a cloudy day keep me from heading to the beach in my continuing quest to find images for Photo Blog Wednesday. Here are the results of that journey:



Odd Vacation

Greetings, loyal readers! I'm coming to you tonight live from my remote office, A.K.A. using my friend Rey's iBook and WiFi connection. Unable to drive for six months to a year due to his recent seizure, I'm crashing here while his family is away for the week, to keep an eye on things but mostly to play chauffeur since we work together. People at the office are already making Odd Couple jokes. There was some dispute earlier today over who was who, but considering the guest room is already covered in clothes, DVDs, spare change, and other MCF-clutter, I'm pretty sure I know which one I am.

Posting may be brief to sporadic this week, but I'll try to have something to say every day as always. In a way, it's kind of like being on vacation. Yesterday was an actual vacation day, during which I saw the outstanding Chronicles of Narnia. I stayed here last night and tonight we watched Mr. and Mrs. Smith, which proved far better than I expected, was over-the-top cool and funny, and in a twisted way, said some positive things about marriage, despite a comment I made to the contrary when I first saw the trailer with The Happy Husband.
It's only been a day, but my mom already called me at work at the end of the day to see how I was, and ask if I remembered my parents. I don't know how they're going to handle it when I move out for real. It should be an interesting week, and I'll probably get spoiled having free cable and a 15-20 minute commute instead of the usual half hour plus it takes from my folks' place. Granted, the very first thing I saw when I turned on the television this morning, without even changing the channel, was the gruesome discovery of a body across the street from Rey's co-op. Police thought it was a brush fire, but upon extinguishing it found a guy with a gunshot wound to the head. Rey assures me that this neighborhood never has things like that happen, so I wonder if I've twisted probability again. It was really odd that I'd turn on the television at the exact second that story was being broadcast.

I should get some sleep now. If my commenting on other sites seems sparse, worry not. I'm still reading when I can, and checking from work from time to time. Tomorrow there will be photos, since I set up a Wednesday post over the weekend from home. From the field, this is MCF, signing off.


M.C.F.A.T. III: Answered

When M.C.F.A.T. III made it's debut, my reader's didn't disappoint! Here's who took up the challenge this time around:




Paul, just this guy, you know?


Kev Bayer



And now, my answers:

1) What, in your opinion, was the best finale to a television series? I know these things are frequently difficult to narrow down, so if you cannot choose one, narrow it down to a reasonable number, perhaps three.
I found the ending to Beast Wars to be remarkable and epic, bringing three seasons of the show full circle to a satisfactory conclusion, something rarely seen in animated series, especially the one it was based on. Angel ended on an excellent note that many fans hated, and I was ambivalent about at first. The show was canceled about a year too soon in my opinion, its creators given very short notice to wrap things up. They did so in such a way as to tie up loose ends and leave a cliffhanger that, in my mind, says that the fight against evil never ends. I loved the endings to Newhart and Cheers, and honorable mention has to go to Coach for the unexpected appearance of a trio of Newhart characters. It was a great surprise and a greater laugh when Larry, Darryl, and Darryl showed up.

2) You wake up to get the morning paper when you notice something is wrong. The sky is green and the grass is blue. Birds are swimming and fish are flying. Explain.
Some unseen arch nemesis must have me strapped in to a machine attempting to read my thoughts and creating this reality in my mind. This enemy cannot be human, and by getting such details wrong, has tipped his/her/its hand/claw/tentacle. The Cloaked Figure will escape and be victorious!

3) How did you lose your first tooth?
I remember it being loose, and playing with it, and having it hanging by a thread for the longest time. Then one morning I excitedly called to my mom that it had fallen into my bowl of Cheerios. Another memorable tooth loss include the first time I was allowed to be the goalie for my soccer team and a ball to the face knocked it out and stopped the game while I searched for it. Then there was the time I accidentally swallowed one of my baby teeth....

4) What's the strangest thing you or someone you know has made out of snow?
I once built an igloo on my lawn after a big blizzard. I packed snow into a cardboard box, added water, let it sit and then made blocks. It was pretty cool and lasted a while. In college a friend of mine used to tell us about the giant snow penises he and his friends would make on people's lawns, but thankfully we never saw them. I thought it a pretty unique thing before reading Neil's answer.

5) What's the best superhero lair and why? Feel free to provide examples.
I don't know if the Autobots count as superheroes, but I always thought The Ark was a cool headquarters. These giant robots crash into a volcano in Oregon 4 million years ago, and when an eruption awakes them in 1984, they simply convert the whole thing into a base. Eventually they'd even have an entire transforming city. If that answer doesn't count, then I'd say The Batcave, in any incarnation. I just think it would be great to have a super computer, car, jet, souvenirs and gadgets hidden beneath my mansion. Having the mansion wouldn't be too shabby, either.