Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Redpanda's Fucking Awesome Pasta Salad

I made pasta salad last night that easily, without any effort at all on the part of said pasta salad, kicks the ass of all other pasta salads in existence. In fact, this pasta salad is so freaking good, and there is so damn much of it, that I would like to extend the invitation right now to anyone who happens to be in the area and perhaps has a hankering for some Fucking Awesome pasta salad to come by and be my guest for an evening filled with Pass the Pigs and Pasta Salad. After the first helping of pasta salad, the game of Pass the Pigs will be thrown aside, pigs strewn helplessly about, forgotten in everyone's haste to make it to the kitchen and get a second helping of pasta salad.

It's just that good.

In case anyone is a lazy bastard and just doesn't feel like coming out to have a plate of Fucking Awesome pasta salad, I'll even provide the recipe, so you can make your own at your leisure. However, you must refer to it as Redpanda's Fucking Awesome Pasta Salad. If you don't, I will both find and cut you.

It should be noted that this particular recipe is SeanSafe, meaning that if you happen to have in your residence a picky, food-pushing-around Sean, he will even eat the pasta salad, although not necessarily with the amount of gusto reserved for things like plain baked chicken and sticky rice with soy sauce. That would just be silly.

It should also be noted that all measurements are approximate as hell, seeing as how I don't measure a damn thing. Taste it and see if it needs more.

Ok, so without further ado:

Redpanda's Fucking Awesome Pasta Salad

1 (or so?) box pasta (I used 1/2 a box of whole-wheat rotini and 1/2 box of tricolor fiori--switch it up, says I!)
1 bunch asparagus
1 wee can black olives
1 big honkin' red pepper
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
basil (fresh)
italian seasoning
ground oregano (or, whatever)
garlic powder
dijon mustard
parmesan cheese (however much is left in the bag, or the can, or whatever)
red pepper flakes

Wash and slice the red pepper into about 2" chunks. Put on a roasting pan or cookie sheet that has been pre-sprayed (I recommend olive oil spray). Drizzle with just a wee bit of olive oil. Put under broiler until skin starts to blister, +/- 3 minutes. Flip and allow the other sides to blister a bit. Remove, place on a plate, and stick in the freezer to cool off.

Wash, trim, and cut the asparagus into 2" or so pieces. Blanch in boiling water for +/- 3 minutes, just till the color brightens. You don't want it to be mushy, ewww! Immediately place cooked asparagus in cold water to cool it off and stop the cooking process.

(I used a steamer attachment and used the same water I blanched the asparagus in to cook the pasta!)

Cook the pasta, al dente if you please, and drain/rinse with cool water.

Rinse olives.

Dump pasta in a big bowl (no, not that one, you'll need a bigger one.). Add blanched asparagus, olives, and chilled roasted peppers. (Cut the peppers smaller if needed.) Add capers to your liking, I probably used about 3 tbsp. I LOVE me some capers!

In a smaller, seperate bowl, combine olive oil (I used about 3 tbsp?), balsamic vinegar (I used +/- 1/2 cup?), dijon mustard (about 1 tbsp?), seasonings (italian, red pepper flakes, whatever), and garlic powder. Whisk the fuck out of it until it's all combined.

Dump over the salad. Mix it all continously for a good amount of time. Realize you didn't make enough dressing. Make more.

Add parmesan cheese and torn fresh basil (I just happened to have some on hand, it's not really THAT crucial I guess...). Stir some more.

Serve and watch faces light up!!!

Other things, most of which are NON-SeanSafe, that I could have added (and think would be waaay yummy!) but didn't include:

artichoke hearts
tomatoes of some kind
cucumbers (jury's still out on how the cukes would've been)
spinach (This IS SeanSafe, I just didn't happen to have any on hand)
Feta cheese (again, probably SeanSafe, but didn't have any)

Yum! Give it a whirl! Change it up, as long as you still acknowledge that it is, in any form, still Redpanda's Fucking Awesome Pasta Salad.

Perhaps you could even invite me over for some. I'll bring Pass the Pigs.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Shamelessly Exploiting My Own Junk Mail

Having ripped open the XXX! Jenna Jameson poster!, I was greeted with a very special report. I knew it had to be for me, because the glossy flyer looked rather like a medical file (right down to the manila-ness) and had "CONFIDENTIAL" stamped across the top of it in red letters. Whew! Good thing it was confidential. If there's one industry you can trust, it's the adult toy and video industry.

I will now quote for you, verbatim, the contents of this glossy "folder". However, take note--to avoid lawsuit (not that anyone of any consequence actually READS this, but it's nice to cover one's ass), I will refer to the advertised product in question not by its given name, but as Promaxi-mum Wee-Wee Rx. Understood? Good. Let's proceed. (For simplification purposes, the quotation marks around the following are implied.)

Another Promaxi-mum Wee-Wee Rx Success Story.
Remarkable New Pill Reported to Help You GET BIGGER...BETTER...LONGER!

*Increased Length
*Increased Thickness
*Rock-Solid Erections!
*Long Lasting Erections! Why "Rock-Solid" got a dash and "Long Lasting" did not I'll never understand...
*No Need for Prescription!

(Open Booklet...)

"Every time I saw Diane my heart started to pound. those eyes, those legs, those huge perfect breasts"... (picture of what can only be "Diane" in a bikini top displayed to the right of that message)

"Man, I wanted to approach her. But I knew, even if I had a shot with her...if I was lucky enough to get her in bed...I was facing a catastrophe.
After All, I've Been Ridiculed For Years About The Small Size Of My Penis. (To the right of this message is a picture of what can only be our hero in utter small-penis misery, his head in his hands--wait, is that a wedding ring???)

It was frustratiing. I'm not a bad looking guy. Many women are attracted to me...but it always ended the same way...with a dissappointed (sic) look and an excuse to leave. I hated my curse of a small penis, but there was nothing I could do..Or so I believed"...

(Next Page)

"Then I read about Promaxi-mum Wee-Wee Rx --an amazing new pill, reported to Dramatically Increase the Size of Your Penis. I was skeptical, but I knew I had to do something"... (Next to this is a picture of what must be our hero's doctor, looking very doctorly with his stethoscope and white lab coat.)

"So I made an appointment with my doctor and asked him for a prescription. He thought taking Promaxi-mum Wee-Wee Rx was a terrific idea and said he had heard a lot of good things about it...

But the biggest surprise was, since Promaxi-mum Wee-Wee Rx is 100% Natural - There's No Need for a Prescription. I ordered Promaxi-mum Wee-Wee Rx immediately that day."

What Happened Next Was Truly Astonishing.

(Next page, on what is supposed to look like a Legal Pad...)

Promaxi-mum Wee-Wee Rx Growth Diary

Aug 1st: Began taking Promaxi-mum Wee-Wee Rx. My Penis measures a miserable 4.7 inches...embarrassing!

Aug 19th: I think I see some changes in the size of my penis..too soon to tell for sure.

Sept 8th: Definitely a difference today. Now 4.9 inches..Promaxi-mum Wee-Wee Rx is amazing!

Oct 7th: O.M.G., It really works! I now measure a full 5.7 inches. Not huge to anyone else, but a "MIRACLE" to me!

Oct 28th: I am proud to say I am past the 6" mark (6.3" to be exact) and I'm ready to use it at last!

Nov. 29th: I saw Diane again today...she said there was something different about me, that I looked confident. SO I DID IT, I asked her out! At 6.8 inches, I AM confident!

Dec. 21st: Today was the big day. My date with Diane was finally here. I was ready...I measured a respectable 7.5 and really feel like a man!

Diane was mine!
But so was Cathy and
Brenda and Jill too!
I Love Promaxi-mum Wee-Wee Rx!

(Next to that is a picture of a half-naked girl with the caption 'You are Amazing, "Hot-Boy". Love, Cathy'

Ahh. So all is well that ends well with our hero, thanks to Promaxi-mum Wee-Wee Rx.

Take that, Mailman-Guy.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Providing Hours of Entertainment for the Friendly Neighborhood Letter Carrier

We've been convinced for some time that we have the Angriest Postman Ever. This is best demonstrated by the effort the postman in question clearly exerts in stuffing our mail into the mailbox in the manner that will crush it into as small a ball as is humanly possible. In fact, the glee with which the postman clearly folds and crumples our bills and magazines and credit card offers is matched only by the skill it must take to shove a quantity of mail, not vertically (this is key), but horizontally into the mail slot. In this way, even a single letter sitting by its lonesome can appear crowded.

Since the mail doesn't usually even come till 4:00 pm or later, we haven't had occasion to run into one of our illustrious letter carriers before. But today, on the way back from a last run to the grocery store before the cars start piling up in DNC gridlock never to be set free, I happened to be walking up the steps toward the door as the same time as the Mailman-type guy.

He was young and cheerful, and in an effort to try and extend the proverbial olive branch, I decided to be my friendliest. I shot him a winning smile to go with my: "Hi there! How are you today?"

He smiled in return and replied with a typical: "Good. How are you?"

"I'm fine." I grinned. "So, are they making you guys rush through and bang it all out before they start closing 93?" I asked, sympathetically, my face the picture of empathy and perhaps a pinch of please, please, for the love of GOD stop crushing my mail you mail-crushing freak.

"Yeah," he nodded, "We can't park on this street. The post office is right there, up the street, but we have to park on side streets. Not to get all political or anything, but I'm a Republican."

Sean had joined me by this time, and we both laughed the nervous laugh that you laugh when someone says something that you realize should be embarrassing to them (something like: "Yeah, my ass cream really isn't working too well today. I'll have to use a baking soda poultice later on...") but for some reason clearly isn't.

"Are you on the third floor?" He asked.

We nodded, and he handed us a stack of mail and said his pleasant goodbyes. We walked upstairs and Sean assured me that he would begin putting the groceries away while I checked my messages and washed my hands.

When all was finished, I joined Sean in the kitchen to help sort through the produce. "So," he began "Isn't it nice that now that mailman can put our faces to our names?"

I looked at him quizzically. "I guess. But I'm not sure if he is the evil mail crusher. I mean, you subscribe to U.S. News. That's pretty conservative..."

Sean grinned knowingly. "Look at the mail. Isn't it nice that now the mailman can put your face to your name?"

Annoyed, I looked down at the mail. A U.S. News, a bank statement, a credit card offer. All for Sean. "I don't follow. I have no idea what you're talking about---"

At this point, I lifted up the U.S. News and saw what was under it. That would be a big, glossy envelope, addressed to me, promising Jenna Jameson's favorite naughty treats inside! XXX for adults only! For a limited time! LAST ISSUE!! 25 Free Videos with order! Free Pin-up poster of Jenna inside!


Thursday, July 22, 2004

A Very Special Blog

Today's entry is brought to you by my illustrious Best Friend Since Birth, one Brandy. It began in e-mail form, appearing in my inbox today with the subject line: "farts and the farting farters who fart them".

I knew then that it was going to be a good e-mail, one that made me chortle unselfconsciously and perhaps lean way back and point at the monitor, but I was totally unprepared for the level of "good" that this e-mail was.

It was so good, in fact, that I felt that I couldn't in good conscience go on living unless I had shared it with all of you. So, without further ado, I give you my guest blogger of sorts, Miss Brandy.

I must thank you, Redpanda, for your recent blog. My
co-workers looked on in wonder as I turned fire-engine
red, snorted, drooled and guffawed my way into an
aneurysm. See, I laughed so hard that I don't even remember
how to spell that word!

It took me over 2 years before I would fart...scratch
that, it took me 2 years of living together before I
would fart in front of my boyfriend. By then, we'd already
been dating for 3 years before that.

Guys, farting is just one of those things that women
like to make men think they don't do. Belching!? Well,
that just means we've enjoyed a delicious meal. Why, in
some middle eastern cultures it's consider polite to
belch. But farting! Well, that would imply that we
have a gastrointestinal tract and actually have to
shit. Shitting, c'n'est pas chic! We'd like you to
think that that food we chew so cutely while stroking
your leg with our foot just burns right up in our slim

So men must forgive women for not wanting to cross the
line of public farts. In fact, we find them quite
hilarious. Pre-teen girls have been known to sit
around at slumber parties and have contests for the
loudest, wettest, most rumbly or most high pitched
farts. Extra points go to the girl that can scare the
dog out of the room. Hours of fun, I tell you.

But please, be careful what you wish for. Once we
girls break the vow of anal silence, you may be sorry.
Today's little non-farting china doll may just turn
into a gas-blasting bitch with a penchant for
dutch-ovening kittens and passers-by.

Thank you, Brandy. All kittens in the Redpanda-Sean household will be safe this night. From me, anyway.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

The One in Which I Fart in My Sleep

SETTING: An apartment in the suburbs of Boston, MA. REDPANDA and SEAN, a twentysomething couple, sits on their couch, laughing and engaging in a conversation while the TV drones in the background.

SEAN (excited): I keep forgetting to tell you! You farted in your sleep the other night.

REDPANDA (aghast): I what?

SEAN: Farted. In your sleep. (Snorts.) It was really funny!

REDPANDA: I farted in my sleep?

SEAN (still laughing): You totally farted in your sleep! It was so funny!

REDPANDA: Farting in my sleep does not count as farting!

SEAN (still laughing): You totally farted in your sleep! It was so funny!

REDPANDA: What night was this, anyway?

SEAN: The other night. You totally farted! In your sleep!

REDPANDA: Was it really really loud? Like, a big booming tooting fart like a tuba or something?

SEAN: No. You totally farted, though!

REDPANDA: Did it smell really bad? (laughing) Did I give you a Dutch Oven?

SEAN: No, it didn't smell at all. So, no possibility of a Dutch Oven.

REDPANDA (seems disappointed): Oh.


REDPANDA: So, what did it sound like? Like, AWWWOOOOGAH? Or what?

SEAN: Kind of just ppphht-phhht-phhht. At first, I thought you had cracked your back. I was going to wake you up and say "Nice crack, honey!". But then I realized it had gone on too long to be a crack. It HAD to be a fart!

REDPANDA (incredulous): So you didn't even recognize it as a fart at first? That's so lame! What a waste of a fart!

SEAN (defensively): It's still really funny! You've never farted in front of me before!

REDPANDA: I'm not sure that farting in my sleep "counts" as farting in front of you. Especially if you weren't even sure it was a fart.

SEAN: It was a fart! You totally farted in your sleep! It was really funny.


Tuesday, July 20, 2004

When it Rains....

I was on the Zakim, heading for work this morning, when the Check Engine light came on in my car.

Which is Ok, you know, because Sean and I don't really need to get from A to B. We can just sit around our apartment all day. That's effing peachy with us.


Saturday, July 17, 2004

In the Wee Hours, Pt. II

There was a strange buzzing in my dream. It made no sense at all, really--there was no reason that the parking garage in my dream should have been buzzing. But it buzzed and buzzed, and then buzzed and buzzed some more, until finally I started to seep back into a state of semi-consciousness.

But I could still hear the buzzing, coming in short spurts like an insistent bumblebee.

I rolled half over, opened one eye a narrow slit.

The buzzes were still coming.

My hand reached out, sliding against the parts of Sean that were entangled with me. "What's that?" I asked in a slurring mutter.

"Mmmph.", was his reply.

A few more buzzes asserted themselves before Sean finally raised his head the smallest iota. "It sounds like the doorbell.", he mumbled sleepily.

Yes, it did. Why hadn't I thought of this before? Of course. It was the doorbell. I looked at the clock. A digital "4:28 am" flashed at me in red L.E.D. Why was someone ringing our doorbell at 4:30 in the morning?

"You'd better go down." I offered.

Sean looked at me blankly. "It's probably just some kids..." he protested. The buzzing continued.

"So. Go down and be 'Old Man Hussey'."

He swung his legs over the bed, waiting to see if the buzzing would continue. It didn't.

But the phone rang.

Sean disappeared to answer the phone while I lay, trying to bridge the gap between consciousness and unconsciousness.

After an eternity, he reappeared in the bedroom, pulling shorts and shoes and a shirt from various parts of the bedroom. "What's up?" I asked.

He sighed tiredly. "It's the police. Someone hit my car. I have to go down."

I looked at him blankly. "Did they stop?"

"I'm not sure. I guess so, or they probably wouldn't have known it just happened."

"So they hit a parked car?"

"I guess. Go back to sleep. I'll be right back."

"Wait. Do you want my camera?" I stumbled into the hallway, groping around for the table where I had last seen it. "Too bad your digital is still in the shop."

Camera in hand, Sean began his descent. I lay with my arm thrown over my head, not asleep and yet not not asleep, either; until Sean's footsteps on the stairs and the great groaning creak of the door announced his return.

I opened one eye the smallest bit in an attempt to appear lucid. "How bad is it?" I asked.

"Pretty bad. It's not driveable."

"It's not? How could it not be driveable? What?"

"The side is scraped up pretty bad, but it's the rear drivers'-side tire--it's bent in at a really sharp angle."

"Your wheel is bent in?"


A beat passed.

"What happened? Was the guy drunk?"

"I don't think so. He said he swerved to miss a raccoon and lost control of the car. He scraped up our neighbor's jeep a little bit, too. He was parked right behind me."

"A raccoon? He hit a parked car because he swerved to miss a raccoon?"

Sean nodded helplessly.

"Did he have insurance?"

"Yeah. I've got all his info here."

"What kind of car was it?"


"His car. What kind was it?"

"Some kind of camaro thing. Let me see..." Sean flipped through the papers in his hand. "A 1981 Chevrolet--"

"Some guy in a twenty year old car hit your car?"


"Oh. My. God. I bet he has really crappy insurance! We're so screwed!"

"It says....some kind of crop insurance."

"Some kind of crop insurance?" I flopped back onto the bed. "Oh well, I guess we'll get it sorted out..."

"Yeah, that's what I told them. No one was hurt, we could deal with it tomorrow. A bunch of our neighbors were there. The guys across the street called the police for him. And the woman next door--you know, the one with the other Beetle?--she said she heard the whole thing. The screech and the bang and all that."

Eventually, we fell into an uneasy sleep. We awoke around 8:00 (Or rather, Sean did. I slept for some time after that.) so Sean could help Super-Moglia move (Super-Moglia because, my GOD, you should see the man move stuff! He is an icon for movers all over! His picture should be displayed on the sides of moving trucks, him smiling a wry and ironic grin while making a little A-Ok symbol with his index finger and thumb. Moglia loves to do cutesy little things like that.) to his newest digs.

Since I was now providing transportation for Sean (who still hasn't learned to drive a stick), I got to see our poor little wounded Gunther firsthand this morning. And let me tell you, you have never seen anything like it. The front of the car? Pristine! The front drivers'-side of the car? A mere scrape! The rear drivers'-side of the car? A more severe scrape, but that's it. The rear drivers'-side tire? FUCKED. And I do mean FUCKED in the most FUCKED sense of the very word, "FUCKED". The rim has a giant piece missing, sloughed off like extra reptilian skin. The wheel well is scraped and dented. And the tire--oh, the poor tire. It's bent in at a most unfortunate angle, looking not unlike Joe Theismann's leg all those years ago.

How the feat of leaving almost the entire side of the car unscathed while mashing in the wheel like a bendy straw was accomplished, I have no earthly idea.

I have a terrible feeling that it's a terminal injury, and that the insurance company will try to say that it's not a terminal injury, just because the car is so new. (Gunther is a baby still--only 7 months old!) But a tire at that angle just screams "BENT FRAME" to me.

For now, Gunther the Passat is very, very ill. I will keep you posted as to his condition as more information becomes available.

Freaking 4:30 am.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Underutilized is an Understatement

The monotony of too much time to occupy, too little to do was to be broken up by an hour-long meeting with a list of attendees comprising myself, my direct supervisor, and the three other people in the same position as I. In the meantime, I filled the vast spaces between activity that was directly work-related with research.

One of the main topics I've been researching of late is that of Best Practices guidelines in disease management. How does our program stack up? How could it be improved? Exactly how much and what kind of research has gone into establishing these guidelines? What research could later be attempted to get a better idea of the effectiveness of disease management interventions in general?

In the process of researching that topic, I came across a conference in Boston. Next week! With a talk devoted specifically to the successes of disease management in affecting health behavior! I plunged deeper into the conference's page, only to find that it was a talk being given by someone from my company. Someone who I have never heard of. Someone who probably doesn't even work in the same building with me, but spends her days plugging numbers away deep inside our Main Office. Someone who has zilch familiarity with the day-to-day workings of disease management.

The cost for the conference was $2095. I never even bothered to ask if I could go.

Scrolling away from that page, I decided to start thinking of my optional work-from-home day assignment. (My Department is being oh-so-generous and allowing us to choose one day during the clusterfuck of the DNC to "work from home".) The topic assigned to me is humiliatingly basic, something akin to What I Did on My Summer Vacation, or at least it seems that way to me. I had decided to branch out from the topic (actually, something like Describe in words (as opposed to what, interpretive dance?) the style you use to engage people into the program...) into the actual behavioral change theories utilized by designers of health messages (like myself) to best engage people into listening, and subsequently making, changes in their behavior.

My plan: to make a ridiculously in-depth, professional presentation where they expected just a silly fluff piece, (I mean really, can one describe one's own personal style?) thereby blowing minds and opening up future opportunities for me.

Following me so far? Good. To that end, I began flipping through some of the texts I still have from grad school and taking notes on active v/s passive cognitive functioning, and how best to design a message that causes the recipient to cognitively "switch gears" and take part in a more active learning process. For example, using novel approaches (putting something we've all heard in a different way, or in a completely different context) or words that suggest spatial immediacy ("this" instead of "that") have been shown to lead to more active, and thus more permanent, learning.

This is all great information, information that everyone on my disease management team should be privy to. I smiled, thinking of how successful the eventual fruit of my labors would be.

When I tired of that topic, I decided to do a bit of research on the Framingham Heart Study parameters we use in scoring the risk level of our own disease management enrollees. I found the original Framingham Risk Probability scoring information and began sizing up the algorithms we're running here, in my department. Hmm. I was just starting to make note of pertinent questions I should really ask about the design of our program when I was, at last, summoned for the meeting by an insistent Outlook message.

The meeting opened with a rehashing of how 2 of the 4 of us are aiding a group of lower-level employees by doing some of their lower-level brainless data entry work. They will soon be needed to do more. I uttered a silent prayer of thanks that I am not yet trained on the mainframe system they use to do the data entry. I'm safe for now...

The next item up for discussion was how the contractor currently doing the bulk of what will eventually be our job is going to be doing it for another few months. (This means another few months of unending boredom...) The contractor's report was passed around, my co-workers glancing at it with expressions of disinterest. I flipped through it, glancing at the results.

"Wait. Are these numbers accurate? Contractor has enrolled 4200 people, but has been turned down by 2300?" I interjected. "Those results are terrible, compared with ours! We've got more like a 90% enrollment rate! And they've been rejected by a third of the potential enrollees?"

"Yes, I know. You guys are much better..." my supervisor began, "and you know I've been pulling for you in countless meetings. But things just aren't ready to come to fruition yet..."

I sighed gently, began drawing a few more things in the report to her attention, discussed the cost-effectiveness of hiring a contractor with a high failure rate v/s hiring more People Like Me.

Things moved on. The next agenda item my supervisor brought up was the exact same topic I had introduced at the last meeting. I had brought it up gently, proposed a solution, and suggested a bit of education for the entire team, offering to personally go over the steps with anyone who requested I do so. My supervisor asked if we knew the steps and proceeded to go over them with us--listing out the steps I had hammered home at the last meeting.

I sighed inwardly. "Do you think this could be brought up at the next team meeting, so everyone is aware of the solution, like we talked about at the last meeting?" I asked, gently.

The meeting drug on. "I have trouble with the medical information, sometimes.", the crazy stupid awful girl I can't stand piped up with. She looked at me accusingly. "YOU don't have a medical background, either. How come you don't have trouble?" she asked with a scowl.

I faced her glance dead-on. "I have a graduate degree in health." I said without emotion. "I've gone through a good amount of medical school coursework, public health courses, and countless professional medical journals."

"Yeah, and I have a degree in Exercise Physiology." my friend and co-worker piped up. "I had to take anatomy and physiology, medications classes, you know. Stuff like that."

"Yes," my supervisor smiled, "he is kind of in a field that is more 'along-side' of nursing."

We discussed the scoring of members, whether we should use the Framingham data (which is nearly useless because it's mostly comprised of default values) or the scoring mechanism that was designed for this program in particular.

The meeting went on. "Does anyone have anything else?" my supervisor asked.

Everyone looked at each other, and I prepared to segue into my questions about the Framingham parameters. "I'm turning 40 this weekend!" my friend laughed, keeping the conversation going. We all smiled, wished him a happy birthday. Then we gathered up our things and left.

I am sitting here at my desk, my unanswered questions about why our version of the Framingham Risk Scoring doesn't consider smoking or systolic blood pressure for men, or whether or not we are in any way tracking the ethnic background of enrolled members (Framingham was based on an almost entirely caucasian population, therefore does not generalize well across the board. We have an opportunity now to compare results from different ethnic backgrounds with the original study parameters...) still staring at me from my little steno pad.

But I know the correct procedure for answering the phone.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

And Now I, Too, am Blue

Sean took me to see Blue Man Group for the first time in the spring of 2002. We had just started dating, and he thought it would make a great birthday surprise. It did--I loved it. He even bought me the painting from that night's performance, and I hung it up in my bedroom even though it didn't, doesn't, and never will match anything.

BMG was always a great thing to take Boston visitors to--everyone loves it. It wasn't just that it was a cool visual and aural experience--althought that definitely was part of the appeal--it was that it made people see things in a different way, and made them look deeper into things they had never even looked at before.

I best explained it by telling people that it was "accessible performance art".


Over the weekend, we had a slew of visitors--some of my college friends and their significant others. They were psyched about the idea of scoring some BosTix to see a performance of Blue Man Group, and we were (as always) psyched to see it again--especially since they had made some "changes" and "additions" to the show.

Sean left early Saturday morning and drove downtown to hit a BosTix kiosk. He waited patiently in the holiday-weekend line, and low and behold, managed to score six front-row balcony seats--all together, no less. Now we were really psyched.

The time came, and we proceeded to the Charles Theatre with a spring in our step. We were going to see BMG again!!! And everyone was going to love it!!!

Bah. Beware--semi-spoilers ahead.

Before, one of my favorite segments of BMG involved an animated projection with accompanying voiceover--about fractals. Fractals. As the voiceover stated, fractals are a "total mind fuck". But, wow! Who has ever given fractals, and their place in the universe, a second thought?

Now, that's gone. GONE. In it's place, there is a short spiel about "animation". The quality of the animation is even lacking. Bah.

Do you guys remember the fish? The fish art exhibit? Changed. Bad now.

The big flipbooks, all three of them different? I loved that segment because I could read all three, then go back and compare. So I noticed that it was shortened, and quite different. Another change for the worse.

They don't even play "The White Rabbit" anymore. But there is a shiznit joke.

Worst of all--they did away with the segment(s) about urban isolation and message overload. Now the L.E.D. screens flash simple, funny sayings. Ha ha! And the closest thing to a statement about urban isolation was a comment about going to an internet cafe and not interacting with anyone around you because you are interacting with people not around you who are not interacting with people around them. And that, for this show, was deep.

Everyone still loved it--it's still a cool show. But it has lost its edge--lost it completely. Now, I no longer have any desire to go again. I don't feel compelled to tell friends and family "You have to see this show!" and then take them while they're visiting. Nope. I don't care if I ever go again.

Bottom line--they've dumbed-down the show. A lot. To the point where I'm kind of ashamed to be a person living in this society--where it's assumed that anything that makes me think a bit too much would be unpalatable.

Why did they do it? I'm at a loss. The show was in no danger, as far as I know--I've never been to a non-packed house there. People are thrilled to shell out the $60 to see it.

I'm still bummed. Hopefully I can see it at other venues and feel my old warm fuzzies.

Friday, July 02, 2004

In the Wee Hours

I woke with a start last night, irritated and unsure what, at the most unpleasant hour of 4 am, had dared to thrust me out of slumber and into a state of semi-alertness. My questions were promptly answered with a searing-bright flash of lightning and a booming thunderclap. "Crap!" I mumbled at a nearby Sean-lump. "Did you hear that???"

"Wow, yeah." he replied sleepily. (Know that it is indeed a LOUD storm if it wakes Sean up...) "I'd better make sure the cats are Ok."

This is an amusing paternal urge that has crept up in Sean. Amusing for the most part because anyone who is familiar with cats knows that they need nothing we puny humans have to offer. Food? Bah. If we didn't put it out, they'd get it elsewhere. Water? Please. They can just drink out of the fish tank. Pats or cuddles? Are you kidding? They can rub against your leg themselves when any of that is desired. But Sean stubbornly went off in search of the (potentially distressed!) cats.

He returned with a plump armful of black-and-white fur. "Tivy is a little scared." he commented.

I reached out, awkward in my nighttime wrist braces, and stroked his head a bit aimlessly. "Does he not know he's large? And in charge?" I yawned.

Tivy decided he was indeed both large AND in charge, and lept from the bed to brave the storm on his own.

It raged on, lightning white-hot and bright against the fluttering curtains, hurting my eyes with its nearness. The thunder (which, incidentally, often followed the lightning with less than a "one-one-thousand") was some of the loudest I've ever heard, loud enough to make me jump a few feet off the bed more than once.

Sean got up to shut down and unplug all the computers (the main reason we should get renter's insurance), and I rolled over sleepily, glancing at the clock. Half an hour had passed. I threw my arm over my eyes and sought to find sleep once more.

I did, eventually. I know that because the insistent jangling of the telephone woke me next. I glanced again at the clock. 5 am this time. Could my traveling friends Sarah and Jumar be lost somewhere in Western Massachusetts? "Hello?", I muttered into the receiver.

"We're HERE!" a triumphant Jumar greeted. Ten hours. They made it in ten hours. Unbelievable.

"Wow, really?", I asked (I ask really stupid questions at 5 am), "Ok, I'll be right down to let you in."

I fumbled around the floor for a pair of shorts, groped around the closet for a tee shirt. Then I slid my feet into my favorite pair of cheap rubber flip-flops and clomped down the stairs, where two pairs of eyes lit up and two pairs of arms wrapped around me and three pairs of feet jumped up and down with excitement.

The weekend has begun.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Solomon's Island

There's little escape from the stifling quiet that is my parents' house at night. You have your choice of watching my dad's new high-density TV as it shows high-density movies from the high-density dish, going upstairs to read while the ceiling fan spins endless loops above your head, or flat-out leaving and finding something else to do.

We chose that latter; me clad in khaki cutoff cargo capris and a sliver of black tank top, Sean in a retro-hip striped polo and long shorts. "Where are you going?" Dad inquired mildly, glancing up from the high-definition movie he was watching on his high-definition TV.

"We thought we'd go by the Tiki Bar, have a drink, you know, whatever." I replied noncommitally.

"oh." he said, looking terribly disappointed.

"Well, you could come, too!" I quickly added.

"Your mother wouldn't do that." he said sadly.

So we set out alone at 9:30, heading back towards civilization.

The bridge to Calvert County (Maryland is very much seperated into COUNTIES) is vast and lovely, sprawling across the sky in gravity-defying fashion. Even once you are driving on it, it appears to be nothing more than a road in the sky with a few scant scattered pillars holding it up. It seems impossibly high, the lights of Solomon's twinkling far below.

We pulled into the parking lot, easily found a space, and set out walking on the boardwalk. It was quiet that night, especially for a Friday. The waves lapped at the piers as I gestured to the bit of bustle across the street. I pointed out what used to be the Rhumb Line, which had a great view of the docks in the back but a postage-stamp sized dance floor. Next, there was Catamaran's, which was one of my favorites, if for no other reason than that it had a big deck on the second floor where I could escape cigarette smoke and the endless pawing of drunken rednecks.

We came down further and passed Solomon's Pier and Bowen's Inn, where I used to go for all-you-can-eat tacos on Tuesday nights. Since I was a vegetarian then, my tacos were a bit plain. But it was great after the bunch of us from my then-work had finished rollerblading.

Down and around the bend, by this time on sidewalk instead of boardwalk, we finally made it to the Tiki Bar. People sat on wooden railings and benches, hovered in little groupings on the asphalt, chatted loudly and swilled drinks.

We looked at each other doubtfully. "We could walk down the pier" I suggested, waving my hand at the long pier over the bay that sat directly opposite the bar. Sean nodded encouragingly, and we strode down it. The voices carried over the water, laughter and whoops. We stood on the far end, looking down into the bay's inky blackness and balancing against pylons. "I used to come here a lot" I offered.

Sean looked at me, a half-grin on his face. "I already met you," he volunteered, "I don't need to go there to do it again."

I smiled broadly. "Me either, I guess."

We walked back down the pier, back up the hill past the Tiki Bar, heading towards the causeway. I pointed at the last bar/restaurant on the strip, a place I had sat in more times than I care to count. Sometimes, I was laughing at what some man I had just met had to say. Sometimes, I was sitting at a table, head in hands, wishing I were anywhere else in the world. That's how most nights there were, either one scenario or the other.

Turning back towards where we were parked, we walked past the Tiki Bar once more. "I can't believe women wear shorts to bars here." I exclaimed incrudulously with my learned Boston Snootiness.

"They're comfortable. It's outside." Sean replied mildly. I rolled my eyes and pulled him the rest of the way up the hill, showing him a book store, an antique store, more restaurants. We walked a bit in comfortable silence.

"Boy, you weren't kidding about the New Englanders loving their ice cream thing, were you?" Sean stammered. "I keep thinking to myself as we come up on these little clusters of stores, this one will be the one with the ice cream shop. But it never is." He pouted.

I laughed. "I told you! We could go across the bridge and get something at Ruby Tuesday's or some unearthly chain like that, if you like."

Sean nodded gamely as he unlocked the car. "Ok."

So back over the bridge we went, the past behind me, the future up ahead at a lousy chain restaurant with a tall smiley boy. Who really likes ice cream.