Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Bad words

Online Dating

This should come as no surprise at all to anyone who has met/talked to me for any length. I don't use "impolite" words very much, although I'm not opposed to using them. And according to the analysis, the only bad words on this blog were "sex" (twice) and "dead" (which probably referred to something other than human death).

I suppose part of the reason is growing up in the South - call in Southern gentility or whatever, but public swearing is definitely a lot less acceptable than here in the Northeast. The other day I was going into the mall and there was an elderly couple standing just outside the door, and the woman (who was almost old enough to be my grandmother) was dropping f-bombs like it was WWII all over again. You just don't hear that kind of language in Houston, unless there's blood in the streets or something.

The other reason is that my parents didn't curse, at least in English. My dad once told me that when he was in the Chinese Army, he and his mates used to swear a lot, and for some reason decided to reform themselves by fining themselves for using bad words. So by the time I came around, the strongest epithet I heard growing up was "goddamn". It wasn't until I was well into high school that my dad felt like it was safe to say "bullshit" around me, and he's never used the f-word around me. And I've never heard my mom say any word that you wouldn't hear out of a nun's mouth.

When I was in college I wrote an editorial that was published in the school newspaper about how the f-word is overused and that it has lost its power to shock, and hence, it's whole reason for existence. Why do we even need expletives if they fail to convey the power of what we are feeling at the time? My thought is, if you can save the f-word for when you really need it, it gives you more dynamic range to express your feelings. So someday, when I'm really riled up, I'll whip out the f-bomb and people will take notice. That is, unless they've gotten so used to hearing it that they think everyone just talks that way.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Beach weekend

First off, happy belated midsummer to everyone - the solstice was last Thursday, and we were thinking of going to the Met on Friday to celebrate as we did last year, but in the end decided to mark the occasion differently.

Wednesday night my friend Agnieszka and I went out to dinner with one of her new friends, Carol, at a sushi restaurant in Caldwell, NJ. Carol works at one of the many large pharmaceutical companies in this state, and she's newly single (two months) after ending a 10-year relationship. Coincidentally, my last relationship also lasted 10 years (officially) although the breakup was a lot less painful than Carol's obviously was, with a lot more anger than sadness on my part. But I've pretty much let it go since it wasn't much of a relationship except in appearances by mid to late 2004, which is almost three years ago.

Friday night I created a Porcupine Tree mix CD for Bee that I had previewed for her on my iPod last week on the way down to Sneddon's. I had to make some adjustments to fit on a music CD, so the final track lineup goes like this:

Fear of a Blank Planet
Arriving Somewhere But Not Here
Open Car
Blackest Eyes
Collapse The Light Into Earth

Saturday Bug went to the hospital to visit her ailing grandmother, while I went out shopping during the day for some essentials and to find a new backpack-style purse. I went to Willowbrook Mall to look, stopping at Sephora to pick up some Stila eyeshadow for a case I thought I still had (but later found out that I'd forgotten it had been discarded after the 2007 fire), plus some of my Clinque mosturizer and a new scent by Vera Wang in a roll-on applicator. I think I prefer this method to keep the spray from irritating my sinuses, which have been giving me trouble lately. I also found some lavender massage oil at The Body Shop for Bee, her favorite scent. No luck on the purse though, and I was getting a major case of shopping fatigue, so I went home for a while to cool off.

I went out again and stopped by TJ Maxx on my way to my family's house and found a suitable purse - it's tan leather and has zippered compartments. I would have preferred magnetic clasps, but zippers are more secure, so that's okay. Back at home, we took advantage of the cool, dry weather to have a backyard barbecue, grilling hot dogs and veggie burgers as we watched the sun go down and the fireflies come out. In the evening I gave Bee a massage using her new oil while Bug went to Blockbuster to get a copy of Dogma, which we decided we could all sit together and watch. There seems to be a bit of a Kevin Smith vibe here lately that carried into Sunday.

Bee minding the backyard grill, sort of

Sunday Bee, Tara and I went out to Sandy Hook beach while Bug stayed home to get some writing done. This time I took extra-special care to protect my face from the sun, wearing contact lenses so I could wear sunglasses all day, and borrowing hats and visors from Bee to shade my face. Luckily it worked, and I suffered no ill effects from being out in the sun all day long.

Our first stop upon reaching central Jersey was to pay a visit to the Quick Stop where Kevin Smith filmed Clerks. There was a poster of Clerks 2 in the window that he had autographed for the store owners. We went inside to buy some food and drinks, and it looks pretty much the same as it does in the movie, except in color. All the time I'm in there, the classic lines "salsa shark" and "cancer merchant" are floating through my head. The clientele of the current store are of a similar bent as in the movie - one guy came in without a shirt and with his pants slung low around his hips, and a young woman came out with a miniskirt and cropped top that left little to the imagination.

The most famous Quick Stop in New Jersey

Next we visited the Twin Lights Lighthouse, which has a commanding view of Sandy Hook and the New York skyline in the distance. We climbed up the steps of one of the lighthouses, and it reminded me on the climatic scene in The Rock - I think it's the first time I've ever been inside a lighthouse. On the way down, we indulged in a little freegan-ism by picking up an antique telephone chair that someone had left on the side of the road with their other discards, intending to clean it up and reuse it.

View of the sea from one of the lighthouses
Me and Bee in the light room
Stairs up to the light room-watch your head!
The light itself weighs nine tons

We eventually made our way to the beach, where Bee and I took a dip in the surf, which was cold but not as cold as we expected. We all took a walk along the beach to look at shells and rocks, and watch the seagulls drag dead fish onto the beach and fight over them. Afterwards we had hot dogs and fries at the snack bar and strolled over to the bay side of Sandy Hook to look at tidal pools and saltwater marshes. We saw horseshoe crabs and even a little bunny rabbit running among the shrubs and reeds. After all the walking in the sand, we were pretty exhausted by the time we got back into Yoshi for the trip home.

View looking up at Twin Lights from the shoreline

A tree on the bay side of the shore

We stopped at Stewart's for dinner, and while we were waiting at the counter for our food, our public displays of affection among the three of us evoked mixed responses from other patrons - some positive, some not so much. In the end, it made us all realize how much we love our lives and our family, and what a rare thing such happiness is in a world of close-mindedness and conformity, and how important it is for us to continue to build on it each day.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Subway story

While I work on my big post with photos from this weekend, here's a piece on the op-ed page in the New York Times that caught my eye today. I love this kind of compact, evocative writing that captures so eloquently what we all feel in our day-to-day lives.

The City Life
The Subway Beat

It’s nearly always a mistake to think of the subway as a public conveyance. This is a mistake that out-of-towners often make. They overlook the essential privacy of the subway, and by that I don’t mean the young woman at my end of the car who has made up her face in a compact mirror between 86th Street and Times Square. I mean the very fact that this is my end of the car at my end of the train. It’s 7:30 in the morning, and this isn’t just a subway ride. This is going to work. Nearly all the people on this train are in their usual spots, within a few minutes of their usual time, and the ride is not separable from the larger and more complicated rhythms of our private lives. It is possible to be on this train and not yet be in public.

“Please watch the closing doors,” comes the announcement. The doors close. Everyone here knows just how long the delay should last before the train begins to slide forward. We could count it off: the doors close, then comes a single beat, and then we feel that horizontal gravity as the train picks up speed. But on this one train the one beat passes, then another and another before we finally start to slide out of the station. It happens at every stop. Three beats, four beats too many. Perhaps the driver adds these extra beats to allow riders to find a seat. I like to think it’s a tiny, intentional perversity.

This has happened many times before. After the one beat, the whole train leans forward mentally. We are urging ourselves on our way. If the train ran by some kind of synchronous psychological impulsion, we would be moving by now.

We know how to be stoic when stuck between stations. But there is something heartbreaking in this added pause. It interrupts the privacy of our thoughts and shows us what the other passengers are thinking. It holds us back from flinging ourselves headlong into the morning. It shows us, if just for an instant, how deeply we have internalized the pulses of this city.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Sneddon's and skin rashes

It was a pretty up and down weekend with some very pleasant parts in it, especially Saturday night when Tara and I stayed up late and brought back memories of 2005 when I used to visit here from Houston.

On Sunday we drove down to Lambertville on the Pennsylvania/New Jersey border to eat at a favorite luncheonette called Sneddon's, which was like stepping back in time to the 1950s with its open grill counter, short bar stools and genuinely homey service (plus Bazooka bubble gum at the counter). I had blueberry pancakes, a sausage omlette and hash browns, hot chocolate and a Diet Coke.

Afterwards we ran some errands that were mildly unpleasant but necessary and drove back home. Unfortunately, being out in the sun for the full day triggered another skin rash on my face like I had two weeks ago, which seems to happen when I use anything other than my usual Clinique Superdefense SPF 25 moisturizer and get too much sun. So Sunday night was a bit of a downer for me.

I did get to listen to two new Sheffield Lab CDs that I found on this site. One of these two titles, Harry James' "Still Harry After All These Years," was a replacement for the limited edition vinyl direct-to-disc recording I used to have, and the other, Tower of Power's "Direct Plus!" I got because of a family connection with that group, so I thought I'd give them a fresh listen. While I will miss the incredible analog sound from those original vinyl records (which were recorded live to disc without using a tape recorder, a big deal in the old days) it's nice to hear songs like "Caravan" and "Moonglow" through Harry James' trumpet once again.

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Friday, June 15, 2007

Photos and putt-putt

Here's some pictures of the weekend trip to the American Museum of Natural History:

Green frog
This guy was cute!
Poisonous blue frog - the ones that make poison darts for blowguns
Gold nugget

I had a fun time with my family last night playing miniature golf at a new course that was recently remodeled. I don't mean to brag, but I'm pretty darn good at mini golf - in fact, I can't remember the last time anyone beat me, although I know I have been beat before. The final score last night was me in first place (48), then Tara (54) and Bee and Bug tied for third (56) on a par-54 course. Bee had the highlight of the night with an amazing hole-in-one, but she also hit a ball into the water once that we had to fish out with our putters. It was a great way to enjoy the recent cool weather we've been having this week until it gets warm again.

Bee makes the Sportscenter highlight reel

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

A Sunday at the Museum

I've been remiss in posting because I've been waiting for an opportunity to post some pictures I took this weekend with my new camera. But as it's Wednesday already, and I'm expecting the next two days to be very busy at work, it's now or never, and maybe I'll post photos later as a separate entry.

So I did buy a new camera, a Sony DSC-N2, which is a pocket-sized 10.1 megapixel snapshot camera with a large 3-inch touchscreen on the back. It's a cool little toy, and should provide an easy way to document some of activities I write about in this space. I'm still undecided on whether I want a full-blown digital SLR as well, but we'll see how I feel after using this camera for a while.

I took last Friday off, the first voluntary day off I've had since coming back to work in February after my surgery. I ran some errands in the morning, and then met up with Agnieszka at Garden State Plaza Mall in Paramus to do some shopping. We walked around for a bit, but didn't find much to buy (she bought a pair of shoes) so we went back to her place to look at her photos from her recent trip to Prague. I came home for dinner and my family surprised me with a visit, and we went through a little lingering drama stemming from the previous night's events having to do with the dark period in our lives between Thanksgiving and Memorial Day weekend. Eventually we worked our way through it, and hopefully it will not continue to be a dark cloud over our current happiness.

Saturday morning was mostly spent in bed but we eventually gathered around the television (or radio) for Roger Clemens' second debut as a New York Yankee and enjoyed the win with seven strikeouts. Afterwards I went home to clean my apartment, which seems to get messier on its own because I really don't spend a lot of time there. I also received in the mail my new Gund Snuffles bear, a replacement for one of the two such Gund bears I lost in the fire of 2005. The other one, a giant-sized, three-foot tall version named Uncle Bob, has been discontinued by Gund so I can't replace him until they decide to make more of them. The new one is named Oz (because of all the Buffy the Vampire Slayer-related names in my family) and here's what he looks like:
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To celebrate his birthday, please consider signing this petition to help stop polar bear hunting in Alaska.

Some of you reading this may know I have quite a history with this particular model of Gund bear, which was introduced more than 25 years ago. The first time I saw a photo of him was on a bulletin board in the bedroom of one of my first crushes when I was in high school. I didn't actually own one until many years later, when I found a platinum edition Snuffles at a toy store in the Galleria. Since then, I've given different versions as gifts to many people, including my brother, Pearl and my cousin Linda. I got Uncle Bob in 1995 and lost both bears (along with many other stuffed animals) ten years later. In hindsight, I feel fortunate that I sold most of my oldest stuffed friends to a collector at a garage sale about a year before the fire, so I like to think they are patched up and in a museum somewhere (like Woody was going to be in Toy Story 2).

Anyway, Sunday we took a trip to the American Museum of Natural History where I bought a contributing membership, which gives us all free admission for an entire year, so anyone who wants to visit the museum for free only needs to have me along :) We had a productive discussion about money on the way in, which I felt was more positive than those we've had on the subject in the past. Once there, we saw all three special exhibits on Frogs, Gold and Mythical Creatures, and the IMAX movie on dinosaurs, plus our favorite rooms (many of which are seen in the movie A Night at the Museum). We all had a great time, and we are looking forward to making this a regular field trip stop during our future visits to the city, which currently includes the Met and the Cloisters. Sunday night was hard for me after such a wonderful weekend, and I really couldn't bear to see it end, which resulted in our last bit of drama before being put to rest with a goodnight call on the phone, and further soothed by some private time Monday night (i.e. sex).

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

One test to rule them all

So here's an interesting personality test, taken from my friend Aleks' LiveJournal. I'd have to agree with most of the findings, although I'm working on some aspects I'd consider negative, and a lot of the sex findings are skewed from my personal history.

The Everything Test

There are many different types of tests on the internet today. Personality tests, purity tests, stereotype tests, political tests. But now, there is one test to rule them all.

Traditionally, online tests would ask certain questions about your musical tastes or clothing for a stereotype, your experiences for a purity test, or deep questions for a personality test.We're turning that upside down - all the questions affect all the results, and we've got some innovative results too! Enjoy :-)

You are more emotional than logical, more concerned about self than concerned about others, more atheist than religious, more dependent than loner, more lazy than workaholic, more traditional than rebel, more engineering mind than artistic mind, more cynical than idealist, more follower than leader, and more introverted than extroverted.

As for specific personality traits, you are romantic (71%), intellectual (56%), greedy (55%).

Old Geezer67%
Young Professional50%
Life Experience

Your political views would best be described as Libertarian, whom you agree with around 32% of the time.
Your attitude toward life best associates you with Upper Class. You make more than 95% of those who have taken this test, and 46% more than the U.S. average.

If your life was a movie, it would be rated PG-13.
By the way, your hottness rank is 55%, hotter than 29% of other test takers.

brought to you by thatsurveysite

Monday, June 04, 2007


It was an all-too-short weekend for me, after a short work week that felt longer, and my four-day weekend over Memorial Day. I'm really beginning to feel the effects of not having any vacation time this year, having blown it all in January and February. Plus, all the recent happiness and love that has infused my life lately has made it difficult to focus on work because I'm enjoying my home time ever so much more than I did a month ago. When things weren't going as well at home, I threw myself into work and was probably heading down a path that got me into trouble earlier in my life. Fortunately, things turned out differently this time.

The weekend started out pretty miserably because Friday during the workday, I started coming down with some inexplicable rash on my face, perhaps from getting too much sun during my lunch break. By the time I went home, my face was covered with pink welts that itched and burned, and it was all I could do to keep from clawing my skin off. I had planned to see my friend Agnieszka (the one from the Polish Film Festival, not the girl of the same name I knew in college) that night but had to cancel. I spent the rest of the evening on my couch watching videos and putting cold compresses and itch medicine on my face.

Saturday morning most of the swelling and itching had subsided, and I was starting to look normal again. I used some foundation to cover the residual blemishes and went out to run my errands with Tara. We went to Borders, where I picked up Day of Vengeance and Copying Beethoven on DVD. I've been on a Beethoven kick lately if you haven't noticed: I picked up a copy of Immortal Beloved at a Duane Reade drugstore in the city last week as well. At Costco, Tara spotted all the Star Wars movies in the limited editions with both the old and remastered versions in the same case for only $9.99 each. I bought Episodes I-III for myself, and she resolved to come back later to get Episodes IV-VI to complete her collection.

Afterwards we went back to my apartment to amuse ourselves until Bee got off work and joined us for a dip in the pool, our first use of it since I moved here last July. We got cleaned up and came home where Bug showed us her work for the day, a collection of short writings she had bound into a small book. We took turns reading it and talked about it over dinner, and it showed me a side of Bug that I hadn't really seen before, which was enlightening and led to a wonderful discussion about creativity, love, religion and art while Tara and Bee went out for a walk.

Sunday was hot and muggy, so we decided to take a drive down to Princeton to see the campus art museum and visit my family's old haunts. We specifically went to see Frederick Church's exhibition of Hudson River School paintings, but it was a wee bit disappointing compared to the outstanding Asher Durand exhibit we saw at the Brooklyn Museum back in March. On the way home we stopped at one of our favorite diners, the Omega, for dinner, and drove through the leading edge of Tropical Storm Barry, which made the ride home rather harrowing. But we arrived safely and settled in to watch an exciting Yankees-Red Sox game which lasted a little longer than I'd have liked it to, but A-Rod hit a game-winning homer with two outs in the bottom of the ninth to win it, so it's all good. After a bit more quiet family time, I dragged myself home in the pouring rain to get ready for another week of drudgery.

Not much to write about during the week unless something interesting happens, so look for my next weekend entry for more news.