Thursday, December 28, 2006

Ghosts Of Christmas Past, Present, And Future

So Christmas is all over and I am once again safe and sound back in Chicago - just in time to celebrate another New Year's Eve with The BF. Come to think of it, it's been ages since I celebrated two NYEve's in a row with the same person. It's gonna be fun.

I journeyed home for a few days to be with the family. It was a bittersweet trip as I could really see time taking it's toll on some of my older relatives. Ever since I can remember, on Christmas Day we all travel to my Aunt Susie and Uncle Bill's house. They put out a pretty large spread of food and we all gather to eat and talk - what my family does best. On Christmas Eve, Susie and Bill celebrated their 59th Wedding Anniversary. My aunt is 78 years old, and she admitted to me that for the first time, this Christmas Day was a pinch more than she could handle (my uncle is 83 and has been in failing health for a few years). It was nice, as always, to be in their home, however I couldn't help but wonder if this would be the last time Christmas Day would be hosted by them.

It panics me slightly to see them age. These two have been heroes of mine since childhood; generous, thoughtful, and loving people who opened their home and their hearts to everyone they knew. Uncle Bill taught me to ride a bicycle. Aunt Susie introduced me to Sinatra. I sang in their daughter's wedding and hosted their 50th Anniversary Dinner Party. I have 40 years of memories with these two people, who were more like an extra set of grandparents than an aunt and uncle. And with each trip back home, I can see them both becoming more frail. And it breaks my heart each time.

It was hard not to realize that there would not be too many more Christmases with everyone together. My family has been lucky in that we have all stayed relatively healthy for many years. The last funeral we experienced was an uncle passing in 1991. My mom's 7 brothers and sisters are now in their 60's and 70's, and my sister and I understood that beginning soon, we will be saying goodbye to each of them one by one.

But as sad as this thought is, it also made me appreciate my time at home more. And it caused me to reflect on the wonderful life I had as a kid, and the friends these people became as an adult. This Christmas perhaps has meant more than Christmases past, and will be reflected upon in Christmases future.
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Thursday, December 21, 2006

I'm Outtie!

Going to be taking the next several days off from posting. Traveling back home on Sunday night to spend a few days with the family.



Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Birth of Jesus - Lego Style

If you aren't a gentile, Jesus Christ might be a mystery to you. And you could be wondering who he is and why Christians celebrate his birthday. Or, indeed, why the entire world marks the passing of time from the moment this one man took his first breath of life. It is without question that this man existed. But who he was, and who he thought he was, is still speculated 1,972 years after his death.

If you are interested in learning more about the "reason for the season", here is a fun site I found that tells the story of Jesus, as well as a few other stories in the Bible, with the help of my favourite childhood toy, Legos.

Legos make everything more fun!
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Monday, December 18, 2006

A Wish For Peace From The George Bushes

Borrowed from Zoe's mom. It's interesting to note that ever since "W" was originally "sworn in " on January 20, 2001, the world has not been at peace at Christmas. Less than 9 months later, the U.S. would be attacked. From that point on, the U.S. was at war.

And remember, Daddy was sworn in on January 20, 1989. By December of that year, the U.S. invaded Panama; and the Persian Gulf War started shortly thereafter.



"...a world at peace" indeed. More like "a world in pieces".

12:00 Noon Update: Yes, we are all quite familiar with "W" and Jeb and Neil and Happy and Sneezy and Dopey (oops, I just metioned "W" twice). But who is Marvin?

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Thursday, December 14, 2006

Pray For Me

Recalling my blog post last year about the hell that is usually my Christmas gift from my parents. During a phone conversation this week, my mother told me that she was very exicited over the fact that she bought my sister-in-law Brenda a chocolate fountain.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.
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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Winter Songs

I am not crazy about the idea that there are some songs that have been classified as Christmas Carols (or Holiday Songs, to be more PC) that have nothing to do with Christmas Day. Because of their wintertime imagery, they have been labeled as Christmas Songs. For example:

Baby, It's Cold Outside. This songs sounds more like a case for statutory rape than a Christmas song.

Good King Wenceslas. The feast of St. Stephen is celebrated in the Czech Republic on December 26th. That's the only reason this is considered a Christmas song.

My Favourite Things. Taken from the Sound of Music where it's sung during a springtime thunderstorm.

Frosty The Snowman. Snow people are built as long as there is snow on the ground. That can be as early as late October and lasting until early May, depending on where you live in the northern hemisphere.

Jingle Bells and Sleigh Ride. Two songs about a mode of transportation that became outdated at the beginning of the last century. These songs have nothing to do with Christmas Day. Actually, the mention of pumpkin pie in the latter song reminds me more of Thanksgiving than Christmas.

Jingle Bell Rock
. Seems to be mostly about a party. But not necessarily a Christmas party.

Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow. 'Nuff said.

Winter Wonderland. There's not a word in this song that has anything to do with Christmas. It's all about winter, which I was always told lasts until March 21st, officially.

It's a shame that these sweet songs can only be enjoyed for less than a month. Time spent outside on snowy days, sitting in front of fires, cuddling and nuzzling, good times with friends; these are not Christmas traditions. And perhaps it would continue the feeling of "peace on earth, goodwill to men" if we could listen to these songs longer than just 25 days a year.
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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

My Grown-Up Christmas List

Penned by Linda Thompson Jenner and David Foster, someone else was clever enough to set Michael Buble's version of the song to scenes from the Harry Potter series. It's kinda sweet, and the song couldn't be more relevant in today's times.


Do you remember me?
I sat upon your knee
I wrote to you with childhood fantasies
Well I'm all grown up now
Can you still help somehow?
I'm not a child but my heart still can dream

So here's my lifelong wish
My grown up Christmas List
Not for myself
But for a world in need

No more lives torn apart
That wars would never start
And time would heal all hearts
Every man would have a friend
That right would always win
And love would never end
This is my grown up Christmas List

What is this illusion called the innocence of youth?
Maybe only in that blind belief, can we ever find the truth

No more lives torn apart
That wars would never start
And time would heal all hearts
Every man would have a friend
That right would always win
And love would never end
This is my grown up Christmas List

This is my only lifelong wish
This is my grown up Christmas list
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Monday, December 11, 2006

December 12th

To understand what this entry is all about, click here.

2005 - My first day at work at my current job. Attend Blue Man Holiday Party with The BF.

2004 - Dinner at Ella's for Eric's birthday, then go to Tom-Tom for gifts and cake, then go to JR's to round out the evening.

2003 - Vacation day; go to parents' place to help them finish Christmas gifts being made in Dad's woodshop.

2002 - Day 2 at Bolger Center in Potomac, MD for Empower conference. Go out to JR's that night with Aaron, Bruce, David, Greg, Chuck and Chris.

2001 - Help friends Gregg & Keith move.

1999 - Out with friend Geoffrey; meet new friend Bill M. while out; get drunk.

1998 - Night of a Million Christmas parties with Ex#3: Office Christmas party, followed by Todd's Christmas party, followed by Jeff's Christmas party, followed by Pascaline's Christmas party.

1997 - Go to club Millenium in DC with friend David F. Meet Bill S. there. Date for a few weeks.

1996 - Work until 6, then go to Sign of the Whale with co-worker Frank.

1995 - Mail out Christmas cards; lunch with datee Ron L; college friends Kathy V. and Ron M. visit me in DC.

1993 - Watch "The Color Purple" with at Kathy's with Jeet, Tom, Rick, Brian, Kathy and Hank.

1992 - Exchange gifts with Ex#2 (before college break); dinner at Castiglia's with Ex#2 and Kathy; Deer Park Lodge with Ex#2, Matt, Bill, Josh and Rick.

1991 - Last day at Department of Education; drive to Ex#2's.

1990 - Bowling night with Matt, Jeff, Joe and Steve. Go to DC Eagle afterwards

1989 - Shop at Country Club Mall with friend Jim K.

1988 - Ex#1 returns from New York business trip; dinner out; shop at Tyson's Corner afterward.

1987 - A rare Saturday night staying at home. Must have been sick. Yeah, that must be it.

1986 - Office staff at hotel moves into new offices on site. We go drinking at Henny's to celebrate upgrade. Joy drinks me under the table.

1985 - Go to Bloodmobile on Kelly Blvd.; work 5-10:15; Christmas party at Brenda's beginning at 7:00

1984 - Lab practical II; Persuasive speech due in Speech class; work 6-Close

1983 - Wrestling practice at 3:30; play practice at 6:00

1982 - Day trip to Bedford Village with Ex-fiancee; Fire department Christmas dinner (Dad was the Fire Chief).
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Thursday, December 07, 2006

Let Nothing You Dismay

I work at an ultra-conservative insurance investment management firm - it reeks of Republican. But I can see the good in what we do, which is to invest money for insurance companies so that they have enough money to pay their insurers should disasters like 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina occur. At least, that is how I rationalize it to myself.

The people with whom I work in my immediate department are pretty cool, though. They know I am gay and most of them have met The BF at some point during the year I have been there. The issue of my sexuality has never been, well, an issue. I seem to get along with everyone because I think there is a blissful ignorance that hovers over my office.

That ignorance has recently been put to a test, however. The reason: the annual office holiday dinner party. Everyone seems to be taking a spouse or a date. But then, everyone else is straight. I kinda dipped my toe into the situation when I told a co-worker that I wasn't sure if I could bring The BF or not. She quickly came back with, "Yeah, that would not go over well." She's been working there for 8 years, longer than anyone. So I am pretty sure she's right. I then addressed it with my immediate supervisor, and she basically agreed with my co-worker.

The BF takes me everyplace, his work holiday parties among them, and I think it's completely unfair that I cannot take him to mine. Well, in essence I can take him, but I just don't want the hassles of it all. Plus, I will not be the one they are looking at all night long, it will be The BF. Of course, The BF has no problem with that and lights up at the possibility of the attention. "Bring it on!" he giggles. No one told me that I can't bring him, but telling me it "would not go over well" is essentially the same thing.

What bothers me more is that this actually bothers me. I shouldn't have to worry about this kind of thing, but I do. I seriously don't care what most of these people think of me, but yet I don't want to rock the boat. I have accepted the fact that there is a time and a place to take a stand. And I think your office Christmas party is neither of those.

So The BF and I will go to HIS company Christmas party and have a blast. And we don't need the stuffiness of my office's function to justify our relationship to a room full of people I mostly don't care about. But still it makes me sad - sad that there are still those out there who are so close-minded and insecure as to not want to see two people who are happy and committed, and even more sad that said people will never get the opportunity to meet The BF, who is truly one of the most remarkable men I know.
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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Fake Pals

The other day, I received an email I had received before. Last time I received it, I fell for it. As savvy as I think I am about online scams, this one fooled me.

The email was from "PayPal", with whom I have an account. It told me that there had been some questionable activity on my account, and that in keeping with basic security issues, it reminded me to change my password from time to time. The email didn't ask anything from me, it just suggested I do something. So naturally, I thought I should change it right away.

I clicked on the link, the PayPal screen popped up, and I signed in to change my password. And almost immediately, my savviness kicked back into gear and I realized I had been duped. So I had to go to the real PayPal and change my password - oddly enough, just as I had been instructed by the fake PayPal.

But check out the two PayPal windows. I compared them and was amazed at the work that went into creating the fake site. Of course, millions of dollars are at stake, so it pays to be painstakingly accurate about creating a fake site. But I thought the similarities were pretty impressive:











Can you tell which one is real and which is the imposter?** Hard to tell, right? The layout, colours, fonts, links, logo - all the same, or pretty accurate facsimiles thereof. However, the thing I noticed was that when I clicked on the real PayPal, my account name and password were already entered for me, because they had been stored by PayPal. The fake PayPal had none of that. And going back to the fake PayPal site, I discovered that none of the links on the page worked - they were just blue, underlined fonts. But how many people would check them out anyway? The first thing you would do - or I would do, rather - is sign in and go from there.

When I heard stories about how people are duped into handing over their life savings, I wondered how gullible these people must be? But then I was victim to something like this. Granted I realized the mistake almost as soon as I made it. But many don't.

Yeah, it's pathetic that there are people out there who create these things. And I think hell will be 20 degrees hotter for them when they die. But until then, I think it's our civic and social responsibility to bust as many of them as possible.

** the one on the left is the fake.
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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Pringles

Pringles are my favourite potato chip brand. I dig the shape, I dig the packaging, and they are handy to eat while driving. As a neat freak, I like how easily they fit together. As a romantic, I adore how they spoon each other in the can. Yeah, you still get some broken ones, but by and large you still get a good many chips for your buck.

Mostly, I dig the flavours Pringles come in: Original, Loaded Baked Potato, Sour Cream & Onion, Jalapeno, Chili Cheese, Pizza, Cheddar Cheese, Ranch, BBQ, Salt & Vinegar, Pizza-licious, Spicy Guacamole, and the Reduced-Fat and Fat-Free versions of the same. There are even Pringles with movie trivia printed on the chip. Talk about a party!

If only Pringles made Onion & Garlic flavour, my life would be worth living.

But I have recently discovered that my favourite chip manufacturer has been cheating me out of sampling some pretty great flavours of chips, because there are some flavours that are offered in other countries that are not available in the U.S. Such as: Paprika flavour in Finland. Ketchup in Canada. Smoked Bacon in Australia. Cool & Hot in Brazil. There is also an Aroma line of Pringles with flavours like Red Pepper with a Touch of Olive Extract (Great Britain) and Red Paprika (Deutschland).

Man I am jealous!

And there are some flavours that seem to be in the wrong countries. In South Korea, you can get European Tomato. In Great Britain, you can get Texas BBQ; same in France. In Japan, you not only can get French Consumme, but also Spanish Salsa. And in Deutschland, you can get Spicy Thai and Greek Style Cheese. Can you imagine a Greek Style Cheese chip?

Someone pinch me!

Christmas is coming and I've been a very good boy. So if there is anyone living in South Korea, England, Israel, Japan, Finland, France, hell even Canada that would like to send me a few cans of your specialty chip...
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Monday, December 04, 2006

Who's Sorry Now?

Yesterday, I read that the "Michael Richards' Mea Culpa Tour" is traveling back to the scene of the crime so that Richards can apologize in-person to the club goers he offended that crazy night with his racial outbursts.

I agree that what he did was horrendous. But I have to also wonder if the club goers will also be forced to apologize to Richards and/or to the rest of the people in the club that night, if not the rest of the entertainment world, for causing this ruckus in the first place?

Granted, no one deserves to be called names, specifically those names dealing with your race, gender, religion, and sexual orientation. Those things that one cannot control should not be used against him for any reason. However, the men attending the club that night were loud and abrasive. They were disruptive and obnoxioius. Richards was there to perform his stand-up act - to do his job. The rest of the people in the club paid their hard-earned money to see Richards and be entertained by him. They did not deserve to be brought into this melee. The men were rude and provoked Richards' inexcusable behavior. And now they are just sitting back and waiting for an apology as well as a possible cash settlement from Richards. That's right - they might get money too. So once again, in America, bad behavior gets rewarded.

As the worst of two evils, Richards is not traveling the circuit offering his apologies for offending. However, more than one man was to blame for this fracas. And I think all parties should be held accountable.
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