Saturday, September 30, 2006

RIP Oriana Fallaci, 1929-2006

This past September 15th, Ms. Fallaci, known for her frank observations on society, politics and rational thought, passed away in Italy. I'm not sure how many of you are familiar with her work, but she was one of the few writers whose commentary not only made me think, but clarified things on an international level, much like Thomas Friedman does on a regular basis in the pages of the New York Times. Her commentaries, whether in essay or book form, have, however, been much more combative and much less politically correct. That is not to say that her abilities paled in comparison to Mr. Friedman's, however; on the contrary, her writing, which was exclusively in Italian, was very much in favor of rational thought, and she focused much of her later years, and her writing during this period, on the struggle in the Middle East. Specifically, she addressed 9/11, the Islamic bastardization of Europe, and the repulsive nature of Muslim's front liners, who essentially call for the conversion to Islam or the death of those that refuse.

Below is a paragraph from her book "Rage And Pride:"
"In this world there is room for everybody, I say. In one’s own home, everyone is free to do what they please. If in some countries the women are so stupid to accept the chador, or the veil where they have to look through a thick net at eye level, worse for them. If they are so idiotic to accept not going to school, not going to the doctor, not letting themselves be photographed etcetera, well worse for them. If they are so foolish as to marry a prick that wants four wives, too bad for them. If their men are so silly as to not drink beer, wine, ditto. I am not going to be the one to stop them. Far from it! I have been educated in the concept of liberty, and my mother used to say: “the world is beautiful because it is varied”. But, if they demand to impose these things on me, in my house… and they do demand it. Osama Bin Laden affirms that the entire planet Earth must become Muslim, that we must convert to Islam, that either by convincing us or threatening us, he will convert us, and for that goal he massacres us and will continue to massacre us. This cannot please us. It has to give us a great desire to reverse roles and kill him. However, this will not resolve itself, it will not be exhausted with the death of Osama Bin Laden. This is because the Osama Bin Ladens number in the tens of thousands now and they are not confined to the Arabic countries. They are everywhere, and the most militant are in the West. In our cities, our streets, our universities, in the nerve centers of our technology. That technology that any obtuse can manage. The Crusade has been underway for a while. It works like a Swiss watch, sustained by a faith and a malice which compares only to the malice of Torquemada when he led the Inquisition. In fact it is impossible to deal with them. To reason with them, unthinkable. To treat them with indulgence or tolerance or hope, is suicide. Anyone who believes the contrary, is deluding himself."
For anyone who, on any level, understands or agrees with what Ms. Fallaci was hoping to explain in the above passage, I'd recommend picking up a copy of one or more of her books. Or, at the very least, starting by doing a Google on her and what she spent her life attempting to accomplish. Like Ayn Rand, George Orwell and Harriet Beecher Stowe, her writing managed to capture the sense and the senselessness of the world in which she lived, and while I mourn her passing, I hope that with same it encourages a new generation of readers and thinkers to research her writing and broaden, or sharpen, their focus on what our world presents to us today.

I found the above passage, as well as the news about Ms. Fallaci's passing, on a site called Jihad Watch. I've updated my links to include this site, and I recommend a visit there as well. The site director, Robert Spencer, attempts to make sense of the worldwide conflict between Islam and the West, and despite the fact that understanding it doesn't make it any easier to address, it is a bold, and commendable, first step, and, again, I highly recommend a visit to that site as well.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Something's Missing

Now that the second full week of sickness is, in theory, far behind, and I'm wrapping up being back in the office without that nagging, overwhelming sense of not feeling right, I'm strictly focused on a variety of business and personal tasks which I keep listed in my Palm. Between the time spent out of the office and the fact that all that time was spent semi-consciously pacing between the computer, the couch and my bed (as well as the bathroom), I'm still not quite myself, though who I actually am is still up to debate.

One of the reasons why I remain in this sort of post-sickness limbo is the physical fact that, despite my best efforts to the contrary, I'm still not quite back to 100%. My sleep patterns are still not normal, meaning I find myself waking up at ungodly hours, eg 2:30AM or 5:45AM, for little or no reason. On some level, I think it has to do with temperature change and the fluctuating performance of my A/C; it seemingly works when it feels like it and shuts off arbitrarily, leaving little or no cool air and, in its place, a thin sheet of ice over the interior unit's coils. On the bright side, if I need shaved ice for mixed drinks while having company over, it's far more efficient at producing this confection than is my freezer.

Except I rarely have friends over at 4AM during the week when I'm actually trying to catch up with sleep. But I can still be optimistic, even if I know, as I write this, that I'll hear the A/C fuse misfire and shut down, leaving me with the dreaded silence and stuffy, humid air that, for whatever reason, pervades my apartment whether it's 80 or 50 outside.

Meanwhile, I've actually been enjoying the new version of iTunes, which Apple released out of nowhere (and on which I commented) several weeks ago. At first glance, iTunes was simply a computer-based version of the contents of one's iPod, but the iPod, like many of Apple's products, is a better thought-out version of other companies offerings. The best example of this is Apple's building in certain intuitive features into iTunes (and thus, the iPod) like tailoring randomly-created playlists which somehow manage to follow what stuff you enjoy hearing and what stuff you don't. To that end, they embolden iPods with the ability to allow the user to rate songs on the fly, and now, iTunes tracks not only those songs you listen to but those which you skip past, so you can actually create random playlists with a criteria that accounts for not including songs you frequently pass by. The bottom line is Apple, yet again, has managed to redefine the ideal portable music experience with a very sensible but very creative, and very simple, feature. My apologies to those who find my focusing on this particular fact as boredom-inspiring; it's just that I appreciate great products whose design is clearly well thought-out.

In the meantime, speaking of well-designed, I've been suffering silently with regard to my ever-burgeoning DVD collection. It's got to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 600 or more titles, and while I struggle to keep it organized and dust-free, I've noticed as my current DVD rack sags with the weight of more and more discs. A friend of mine who is moving has the same problem, and he mentioned that his new apartment has built-in shelving that he plans on using for his collection, with numbers more than 1,000. Lucky for me, he offered to give me his old rack, which is made by a company called Atlantic and pictured to the right. It's called the Penguin (a reference to its feet) and it should be a marked improvement over my old, sagging rack (yes, that phrase refers to a piece of furniture which is designed to hold things, and not a part of my anatomy). So sometime this weekend, most likely Saturday morning, I plan on taking delivery of a new rack, transferring the titles from the old rack to my bed, swapping out the old rack and leaving same in the garbage area in the basement of my building, and populating the new rack with my collection. I'm guessing the entire process, once the rack is in my place, should take an hour or two; between that and dusting off the cases, I'll have a brand-spanking new setup and the revitalization of my apartment will plod onward, yet another step towards apartment nirvana. Despite the fact that Kaia and I plan on finding a place sometime in the next six or so months for a June 1st move-in date, I'm still trying to keep my place safe for human consumption. So as my apartment goes, so do I; sometime before we actually move in, I'll actually, on some level, be living like a bona-fide adult :)

In the meantime, with all the early-morning insomnia, I've ventured forth into auditory exposition that somewhat varies from my typical musical taste. It's sort of hard to bleed an amp at 5:30 AM, not simply because of whatever respect I have for my neighbors, but simply because I'm not really looking to test the capabilities of my speakers before the sun comes up. So aside from that Johnny Cash album I've been listening to, I fired up John Mayer's second album, "Heavier Things," and while I can't not really dislike his music, I still stand by my initial reaction to him, which is that his stuff is a tad too girly for my tastes. But, the more I listen to both of his albums, I must admit he's definitely a decent guitarist, and his second album has quite a few introspective tunes that deserve respect. The first is "Clarity," which is, on one level, about a relationship with which he is eager to move forward:
And I will wait to find
If this will last forever
And I will wait to find
That it won't and it won't
Because it won't
And I will waste no time
Worried 'bout no rainy weather
And I will waste no time
Remaining in our lives together.
As I listened, it occurred to me, at least in one of my few remaining brain cells, that this song isn't about a relationship with a woman but instead his relationship with fame and celebrity. He's no one-hit wonder; but he would also be far from the first or the last performer, with talent, who winds up in bargain bins at the local Walmart. And I commend him for seeing things as clearly as he apparently does. Hence the title of the song, "Clarity."

The next one, "Bigger Than My Body," echoes these same sentiments, ie about remaining the same person even after the fame departs:
Someday I'll fly
Someday I'll soar
Someday I'll be so damn much more
Cause I'm bigger than my body gives me credit for
Cause I'm bigger than my body now

Maybe I'll tangle in the power lines
And it might be over in a second's time
But I'll gladly go down in a flame
If the flame's what it takes to remember my name.
After listening to this tune, especially against the backdrop of the very public and very messy former relationship between he and Jessica Simpson, I chuckled at how different they are, and I gained some respect for him, not just for the fact that his lyrics seem to really introspective, but that he seems to be a real person who looks past the celebrity and the fame and the other bullshit that accompanies it.

I think these are songs I once skipped past and will, from this point forward, be listening to more often.

And as I sit here, in a futile battle with some misplaced insomnia, I hear the lyrics to "Something's Missing" and plan on hitting the shower.
Something's missing
And I don't know how to fix it
something's missing
And I don't know what it is
At all.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Don't Know Why, But No Problem

This was a weird weekend. The weather was perfect, I got a bunch of stuff done or at least addressed, and I managed to survive another NFL Sunday and another atrocious Giants loss.

First, as I mentioned in several earlier posts, I've endured, over the past couple weeks, a lingering cold/infection that can be characterized as virulent, popular and stubborn. This particular bug nearly outlasted a half-dose of methylprednisone, standard prednisone, levoquin and a shitload of hydrocone cough syrup. I'm pleased, however, to say that, happily, it did not survive. It did persist, however, for 12 days, making my life hellish. Whether it was the medicine or the actual virus, I was unable to sleep through the night over the last couple weeks, and between the coughing, the headaches, the cold sweats and the anti-fever (I ran about 96 or 97 over this period of time), I am glad to say me and this virus are no longer living the symbiotic life.

As for the other notable accomplishments I've managed over the past 48 or so hours, I got a new telephone (my old one met with a grisly and untimely death), and as the picture to the right shows, it's a new-fangled cordless Panasonic combo unit. It's got an answering machine, a speakerphone in the base, and another, separate cordless phone that automatically finds the base. On top of the basic stuff -- making calls, answering calls, etc. -- it's got a colored antenna light that lights up in different colors, so if some asshole from Iowa calls me to see if I want a credit card or some life insurance, the unit, sensing the caller is "Unknown" (thanks to CallerID) will light up red (or green, or yellow, depending on what color I pick) and can even play a different ring (the unit has a dozen different ring-tones). It's got a phonebook that holds up to 250 names and numbers, which is probably more people than I want to even formally involve in my life, let alone call; and each phone handset has its own speakerphone, so I can take a handset with me into the kitchen and not have to shoulder the phone every time someone calls. Some of the excessive stuff: it has some sort of "voice slower," which makes it easier to understand people who talk really fast (I have no idea how or why or what it is, and I doubt I ever will), plus it's got talking CallerID, which means that every time someone calls, it will announce who it is without me needing to check the phone's display. I think it's pretty damn wild, although I'll probably keep that feature disabled as well; I'm not that lazy -- yet. All in all, it's pretty wild.

Other'n that, I spent the entire weekend sleeping, cleaning, showering, watching TV, working on the PC and organizing (albeit not at the same time). For the most part, my place is pretty good these days. But I had some suits and other clothing prepared for this past weekend for the New Year I didn't use (since I wound up not hitting New Jersey) so I did a slight purge of the closet. In the process I came across some clothes that had been buried or otherwise ignored -- some of which fit and some of which either didn't fit or no longer were relevant (no acid wash jeans, just stuff I would no longer wear). So I got it all ready for delivery to a nearby thrift store (it's called HousingWorks NYC -- highly recommended) and will get it over to one of their locations sometime later in the week. On top of that, I cleared the fridge of anything unidentifiable, furry or about to escape. Basically, that means I tossed a few items and left the rest to their own devices. Since I've been sick, I've been eating very plain, basic stuff -- mostly chicken, turkey and plain pasta, so there was really not much in there that needed to be tossed. It always makes me wonder when I come across something I can't even identify what I was thinking putting it in the fridge in the first place. Like George Carlin says, I guess I feel good saving food -- so I put it in the fridge -- and then, ten days later, when it's looking more like a petri dish than food -- I feel good saving my health by tossing it and cleaning out the fridge.

In any case, I spent most of the weekend speaking to Kaia and keeping in touch with family. Since we're both recovering from pretty serious sickness, it was nice to be able to call her if I felt shitty and hear her voice, which always makes me feel better. And knowing she would call me just to hear my voice to make her feel better made me smile as well. We jokingly discussed how someday we'll be sick -- together -- in the same space, and we'll have to deal with the entire scope of the other's sickness, not just the occasional phone calls. We were laughing over what we'll do if we only have one bathroom and whether we'll draw straws. I told her unless she's pregnant I get first dibs on the potty. She laughed -- nearly snorted -- and said "Think again, funny guy." I quietly thought to myself, without needing to say it out loud since she knows me as well as I know myself, that having to wait for her to finish in the bathroom is a problem I would scarcely, if ever, mind having.

Meanwhile, I felt very strange not being in a synagogue at all this weekend -- which is very much unlike me, especially on the high holidays -- but on the other hand, the way I've been feeling, even through Saturday, pretty much assured me I would have had a serious problem sitting in a temple, especially wearing a suit, and trying to not go out of my mind. Today, despite feeling lots better, I was jittery and anxious, though I attribute that more to coming off a variety of anti-biotic and other heavy meds than to anything relating to sickness.

In between being busy and napping and everything else I touched base with a few friends here and there and wrapped up another week of Fantasy Football. Thus far, I'm undefeated and look to win another Fantasy Football trophy, although today's win was a squeaker. And despite my clear embarassment to admitting I even participate in Fantasy Leagues, I was relieved to hear Ron Jaworski and several other guys on ESPN discussing their Fantasy Teams. I figure if Howie Long, a former NFL linebacker, can happily admit he plays Fantasy Football, then I've got very little about which to be embarassed. Then again, if someone made fun of Howie Long and called him a geek, odds are good he'd take the person expressing said criticism and rip off his arms and legs. So I'll say this: anyone who wants to give me shit for playing Fantasy Football should first talk to Howie Long. If, after giving him shit about Fantasy Football, you still want to bother me about it, I'll be more than happy to discuss it with you. In the interim, go Hookaburn!

One final note: since we switched our office ISP and the e-mail and web host, we've gotten about a tenth of the spam we had been receiving with our old ISP. But despite the switch, we still get e-mails offering replica watches, stock IPO's and revolutionary sexual prowess in a bottle. Despite all I've learned about penis enlargement, stocks, mutual funds and replica watches, I must say I will not miss receiving the spam. I spoke to a techie at our new ISP and have been reporting all our spam. In three days' time, I've already noticed that what was left of the spam is slowly but surely disappearing. Reporting spam is something that most people don't bother doing, since most people accept it as a part of online life. But I've found that -- whether because I'm stubborn, optimistic or naive -- I'd rather try and do something about it rather than just accept it. In any case, here's a tip -- anyone who wants to send me e-mail about penis enlargement, a stock tip or a replica watch -- or even a combination thereof, like an e-mail offering a stock tip for people that need penis enlargement and buy replica watches -- save yourself the trouble and send the FCC $1,000 now and cut me, the middle man, out of the equation ;)

Saturday, September 23, 2006

The Man Comes Around, Early

Sometime around a few years and about forty-five minutes ago, I underwent what I now regard as some sort of musical epiphany that convinced me that Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and the Allman Brothers weren't the only sources of legitimate music with which I should fill my life's soundtrack, and I branched out to songwriters like Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Johnny Cash. Despite the ridiculously early -- or late, depending on your perspective -- hour, I fired up Johnny Cash's "American IV: The Man Comes Around" more to help me get back to sleep rather than to keep me from doing so.

I'm not sure if my mood is affected by the fact that today is the first day of the Jewish New Year, together with the significance of this day; but with the quiet, restrained promise of fire and brimstone in the first notes of "The Man Comes Around," I was hooked. In fact, whether it's me maturing in general or somehow seeing things in different ways, I can't say; but I'm finding, more and more, that I actually enjoy listening to the later Johnny Cash stuff than to a lot of the crap that kept my ears ringing long after I parked the car in high school.

So as I contemplated forgiveness, redemption, penitence and absolution -- in the shadow of the holiday and my love and respect for my family and my friends -- I had Johnny Cash's Opus of retribution and reckoning in my auditory and emotional background. And it continued with "Give My Love To Rose," a song that tells the story of a man who finds another newly-released convict from prison trying to get home to see his wife, Rose, and his son, only to find himself dying before he fulfills his mission. The man implores the narrator of the song to take the dying man's money and his love to his soon-to-be widow. Thereafter, "Bridge Over Troubled Water," "Personal Jesus," the Beatles' "In My Life" and "Desperado" manage to take on some sort of almost other-worldy , ethereal significance through the cracking, strained complexity in Mr. Cash's aging voice.

Maybe it's the hour, or perhaps it's my increased appreciation for each approaching year, or perhaps it's just the obscene cavalcade of medicines I'm taking these days; but I feel, on some level, that the last hour or so was, in part, religious.

Yep, must be the meds.

Either that, or there are way too many lousy informercials broadcast at 5AM on Saturdays.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Dancing On Puppet-Strings

There are times, for all of us, I think, when we go through the motions as if we're directed by some higher power. That isn't meant to invoke some sort of Calvinistic Predestination or some verification or support for Manifest Destiny; it's more the fallout from the fact that I've been sick for the past week and a half and it feels like I'm basically a product tester for Kleenex.

I'm not sure how or where this all started; last Tuesday, the day Kaia was due to leave, saw me wake up around normal, feeling completely shitty. I had planned, originally, to take the day off, but because I had work piling up I figured I'd go into the office to address what I needed to handle, especially considering Friday was a filing deadline, and then leave a few hours early to see her off to the airport. Ah, plans have a way of manifesting themselves like the contents of a baby's diaper.

It turned out I wound up in bed for the entire day, only getting up to use the bathroom and to wave to her as she taxiied to the airport. Since that day, I've been feeling shitty -- cold, sneezing, headache, the cold sweats, breathing issues, the whole nine -- and while I always feel a sense of "loss" when she goes back to San Fran, this last week or so has been, obviously, far different. I've been barely able, at times, to even get out of bed, and what's worse, between the cold or the bronchitis I've endured thus far, I've had work piling up that I've tried to address, to little or no avail.

With e-mail, cell phones and voicemail, not being in the office, on and off, for the past week or so isn't a death sentence for a small business; that's the good news. I've kept up with all my clients and addressed things from my desk at home, but I haven't been able to maintain the type of focus I need with regularity. The bad news is that my dad has the same coughing and overall shitty sickness that I've been fighting. On top of that, Kaia's got it too -- and hopefully the three of us are starting to come out of it now.

I've gone into the office here and there, and I've gotten a lot done, all things considered. But it's a very bizarre feeling; it's like Life Light. I'm doing work, but it's just a matter of leap-frogging from one matter to another, rather than taking a real, active role in each of the matters I'm handling. So it's almost like, with work the last week or so, I'm on a mental treadmill and just going through the motions, solving problems and handling things that pop up like gophers on the arcade slam-it board. And what's more strange is that when I'm not at or concentrating on work, I'm basically moving from the bed to the couch to the shower back to the bed. It's sort of like being a prisoner to mortality. And with the upcoming Jewish New Year, I've been getting piles of e-mails wishing my family and I well, and I have next to no energy to even send a shout-out to my friends and family near and far to check in and say howdy. Again, it feels like I'm just going through the motions; it feels like I was pulled over by a cop and am watching the world speed by on a six-lane highway as I wait for Joey Bag O'Doughnuts to check my papers out on his in-car radio while I wait and watch the rest of the world go by.

At any rate, without degenerating into a self-pity pose, which was and is not my intent herein, I wanted to let people know where I've been and where I'm at. Being MIA for one reason or another is understandable, but even if I don't apologize, I wanted to make sure people knew where I was coming from (or where I've been). So if you celebrate the Jewish New Year, I wish you and your family and friends a happy new year. If you've come here in search of wit, acerbic sarcasm and biting social commentary, well, you'll just have to keep waiting. And if you wanted to know why I've been so quiet over the last week or so, there 'tis.

For everyone that has checked in one level or another, I sincerely appreciate the concern and the good wishes; even without individual thank-yous, you know who you are and I apologize for the lack of more personal acknowledgement. But the fact is that I am continually getting better, and your sentiments and good wishes have absolutely helped. I'll soon reconnect with most of you, just as soon as I manage an entire night's sleep without waking up to take medicine, drink tea or a half-liter of Fiji water, and hopefully, this episode will be one for the permanent archives never to be rerun.

For me, personally, I'm hoping my father continues feeling better, and I am hoping Kaia continues improving as well. I'm not too worried about myself; I've endured worse, so this -- while being as sick as I have been in awhile -- is just a hellish reminder of what I've gone through. It'll pass. I guess I'm just looking forward to moving past this, finally, and getting back to actively participating in my own life.

Either way, I'd like to again wish everyone a happy, healthy, safe New Year, and thank you for your good wishes.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Hello From The Home Office

So, only five days later and I'm, basically, in the same place I was. I'm home, sick, near or in front of the PC, handling work and office stuff as best I can despite this cold/flu/infection that has now taken root not only here but across the country at Kaia's as well. She didn't get it as badly since she was ingesting airborne gummy-chews (the aforementioned used shoe-leather flavor) as soon as I couldn't get out of bed last Tuesday morning, and it's paid off, although she, too, is sniffling, coughing and not feeling great.

Despite the fact we're both sick, we've been spending most of our waking hours on the phone together. I actually miss her more, not because she's not here taking care of me, but because I wish I could lie in bed next to her and whisper without having to hold the phone. To those who suggest we should be separated until we both heal -- I say bullshit. We've both got the same thing, so we should share it as vigorously as possible -- with plenty of kissing and loads of hugs and touching -- so it takes off twice as quickly. Okay, so my reasoning might not have the most comprehensively up-to-date medical technology behind it; but I bet we'd both be lots happier in the same bed being together than this TLC from 3,000 miles away.

There's other stuff a-happenin,' of course. I've managed to survive a bunch of On-Demand movies over the past few days: The Ice Harvest (John Cusack, Billy Bob Thornton, Oliver Platt), Walking Tall (The Rock, Jonny Knoxville) and The Fantastic Four (Jessica Alba, A Skin-Tight Body Suit). All were pretty decent, but I can't say I feel badly I missed any of them in the theaters. On top of that sheer unbridled excitement, Apple basically reinvented the wheel yet again by releasing new iPods and a brand-spankin' new version of iTunes. The former isn't a shock because Microsoft also recently released their version of the ipod (a portable audio device called the Zuna), so for Apple to do all this around the same time is far from a shock. What is a shock, however, is that Apple decided to make some significant changes to iTunes. First, they have a new interface therein which cleans everything up and makes it more intuitive; essentially, if you're a dumb-ass (and odds are good you are since the iPod is the most popular audio device out there these days), it will be that much easier for you to navigate your Air Supply, Abba and Gino Vanelli albums. Not only can you do it with improved lists, it lets you do so by browsing through cover art, which nicely mimics the old-fashioned flipping through LP's one at a time, from left to right. The one thing I've subconsciously noticed in downloading and listening to music without having an actual physical product (other than my iPod) on which to focus is that I forget what the actual album art looks like (even if it is on the iPod, it's still not a real, "tangible" CD case or LP like that with which I grew up. So now this enables users to have a bit more personal connection and comfort with their music collection; nice move, Apple. They even implemented an auto cover art option, so if you're too lazy to go get the cover to your "Barry Manilow's Greatest Hits" disc, it'll do it for you -- so now you have yet another reason to be lazy, incompetent or both.

More importantly, though, Apple finally bridged the divide -- between tracks.

The newest feature to hit iTunes, and the newer devices, is something called "Gapless Playback." People who have audio players from iRiver have had this feature for awhile; what it is, essentially, is the ability to play one track right after another without a skip or a pause (ie a gap) between the two songs. So if you're listening to a piece of classical music, or perhaps The Wall or Dark Side of The Moon or Wish You Were Here (or some crappy dance mix your friend Ned did in his basement while he was recuperating from that planter's wart), now you don't have to tolerate the skip between songs. Also, more importantly, somehow the iTunes people managed to figure out that the "Genesis" album can have skips between all the songs on it except for "Home By The Sea" and "Second Home By The Sea." I'm not really sure how they managed this one, but I do know that the software seemgingly took overnight to adjust my almost-full 60GB Video iPod from just a regular iPod into a gapless playback powerhouse. While this might not sound like that big a deal, I now have another 30 or so albums -- including Dark Side of The Moon, Meddle, The Wall, Eric Clapton Unplugged, Jimmy Page & Robert Plant Unledded and Van Halen's Live Without A Net to queue into my iPod. Before, I'd listen to them and there would be those distracting pauses which, in turn, wound up sending me (and many of my fellow iPod listeners) headed to another playlist. Now, I can sit and listen to anything from Pink Floyd in its entirety without hearing nary a pause, skip or whimper. It's -- gasp -- as if I am actually able to enjoy the entire album as Floyd actually envisioned it in the first place. And it's only been 33 years since they released Dark Side.

Now, despite the intended sarcasm above, I was amazed when I saw this feature was -- finally -- implemented in this recent update of iTunes. Initially I was kind of irritated because I'd only recently gotten my new iPod, and here I was expecting that mine would not be capable of this feature I've been awaiting since, well, I got my original iPod. Since I roof-tested that one, I at least hoped this new one would be with me for awhile; but since this gapless playback feature was really something I wanted, I silently considered whether I could sell my video iPod on Craiglist and get ahold of one of the new iPods with this gapless playback feature. However, as I did the upgrade, it became clear that my iPod, because it's relatively new, can indeed handle gapless playback. In other words, Apple did all this work, put some real thought into their product, released it, and upgraded and improved the functionality of their product, without getting me to spring for a single thing (other than all the money and time I've sunk into the world of the iPod thus far). So a double congratulations to Apple; it almost brings a tear to my eye to think they managed to almost convince me they're not as greedy, money-hungry and interested in screwing the consumer any less than Microsoft, Intel or Dell. Of course, I fully believe they are right up there when it comes to screwing the consumer; if they were not so bad, they would offer a reasonable trade-up program for old iPods rather than count the "replacement" iPod numbers (it's generally assumed that an iPod's basic shelf life in a person's use is about 18-24 months). I'm not complaining, however; with this new update, they've revolutionized they way I see the product, and I am predicting now that their main competition to date, the aforementioned iRiver, loses its foothold in this market. Now that Apple has instituted the "gapless" feature, iRiver has very few if any counterpoints to the iPod and it just begins to bcome a question of saving $50 and/or being different. Unfortunately, if I were CEO of iRiver, I would not bet my entire company's future on people looking to save $50 here or there or be different. I'd be future-proofing my resume, actually.

In the meantime, I'm logging off and calling Kaia. It's been an hour or so and I'm looking forward to hearing her voice accompany me on another late-evening/night nap. I'd much prefer if she were there in bed with me, keeping me warm and smiling at me through red eyes and sniffles, but, until November arrives, that's where we're at.

Hope everyone is hanging in through this past couple weeks of sickness / colds / flus / infections / reruns of Jerry Springer.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Hello and Goodbye, For Now

Two weeks later, she's nearly landed in Oakland; meanwhile, I'm esconced in darkness in a neat, comfortable apartment revealing traces of a Pottery Barn Bergamot candle, the scent of Tazo orange spice tea and honey, the newest Audioslave album on my CD player and my head pounding from a Summer/Fall cold that stole my sleep last night and much of today, which had me in bed for much thereof.

Two weeks ago today, I came home to Kaia in my apartment; today, as I fought through fits of coughing and pounding headaches and tried to stay awake, I watched as she packed and brought me tea and Halls mentholated lozenges. The Cherry flavor is nearly as repulsive as is this cold, but at least the Halls are part of the solution, so I'm not complaining. The Airborne gummy chews are effective too, but they taste like shoe leather -- used shoe leather.

The tea I made, whether as a result of leaving the bag in too long or using bad honey -- as if honey could go bad -- tasted even worse than the used shoe-leather Airborne gummy-chews. I think, in general, being sick is shitty in general, and having to watch her leave while in this awful state is a blessing and a curse. Obviously we hate when geography and reality, at least temporarily, dictate our relationship, but at least the cold waited until she left to appear. Plus, while she was nothing but wonderful at making me feel as good as I could despite how I felt, I would feel terrible if I coughed through the entire night and kept her up and/or got her sick. So all in all, I'll get through tonight and be satisfied by knowing she'll at least be somewhat comfortable in her own bed, even though I know she'll be as weirded out as I will be knowing we're not lying next to each other, not until I head out there or she comes back to NYC.

Six weeks to go.

Meanwhile, I'm not going into any specifics because I'm feeling shitty, but -- again -- suffice to say we're pining for the days when we share an address and a home phone number. In addition, while we saw a bunch of people and ran around and got a lot done, it's difficult fitting everything and everyone in. We didn't get a chance to see a few people we wanted to see, as per usual, and while we both spent a lot of time out of the office working (nights and weekends, and a bit on Labor Day as well) we still managed to only get done about two-thirds of our "list" of stuff to accomplish.

The pros and cons, of course, of a long-distance relationship is that everything feels new and fresh for a couple of days, especially when it's been a month or two between visits. But because we are constantly in communication, we're never out of mind, even if we are -- occasionally -- out of sight. But this past visit -- replete with a heavy workload on her end and a seemingly infinite of potential technological catastrophes on mine -- just confirmed that we, together, manage to do better facing the world as a unit than as two separate entities. Even when the heaviest pressure hits, having her there somehow makes me smile and puts me at ease. And even when she's facing pressure as well, I'm hoping that, on some level, me being there for her makes things better as well. We're both realistic enough to know that we can't snap our fingers and make everything better, but having a "safe place to land" reminds me why I miss her so much when she's gone and why I am so happy when she's somewhere nearby.

At some point tomorrow, I'll wind up tossing the pink and white roses on the coffee table; they're starting to wilt and since they're fully bloomed they'll be drooping noticeably by tomorrow morning. Throwing them away, though, just is another reminder that she's there and I'm here, and as is my wont, I want to put that reminder off as much as possible.

Tomorrow, or the day after, or the day after that.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

In Recognition of Patriotism and Stupidity (aka Donald Rumsfeld doesn't care what you had for breakfast)

With Patriot's Day approaching, everyone knows what to expect. The day will be filled with somber reminds of September 11, 2001, including veterans marching in remote cities and towns, video footage and clips on CNN and every other news channel, quiet acknowledgements on AM news radio stations, and a variety of evening/prime-time news specials dedicated to the memory of the people who died on that day.

And as much as I understand the significance of that day in our history and participate in mourning the people lost on that day, as well as feeling a sense of loss and sadness regarding the attacks and their aftermath, what routinely gets to me is not that a good friend has his birthday on 9/11, but the amount of Internet douchebags who continue to populate and regenerate stories of 9/11 conspiracies, suggestions that it was Israel or the US government that perpetrated these attacks, and that Osama bin Laden is a figment of someone's imagination.

I'm not sure when it occurred to me; perhaps it was when Princess Diana's death became a worldwide phenomenon that seemingly captured an entire planet and held us rapt with the details of the tragedy (and the senselessness) of her death. Or perhaps it was the immense outpouring of grief which drew throngs of people to lay flowers, candles, photos, cards and notes at the gates to Buckingham Palace in her honor. Upon hearing of her death, I was saddened, I acknowledged her death was tragic -- and I moved on. Conversely, there were people -- not her relatives, friends or family -- who wept and felt the loss over days, weeks, and even months later. As the aftermath unfolded -- trials of the paparazzi who apparently contributed to the traffic accident that claimed her life -- people rallied against the overzealous pursuit by photographers eager to get pictures of celebrities. And there are more than just a handful of people who, if asked, would swear -- to this day -- that the paparazzi murdered Princess Diana.

The point is -- in this country, and in much of the world, apparently -- we humans have this unique need to celebrate and acknowledge things, even if same are deaths or unhappy things. Of course Princess Diana's death was awful; 9/11 was also an incredibly dark day in our nation's history. Even Steve Irwin's recent death, which too was tragic, inspired so much web traffic in his native Australia that half of the sites featuring tributes to him shut down or experienced critical overloads. People, whether on the north or south side of the globe, apparently have the same need to be a part of something, whether it's a celebration -- like the wedding of Charles and Diana, or the ceremonial burial of Princess Diana. From Zimbabwe to New York to Newark, NJ, to Beerwah, Australia, people want to give a shit and have their sympathies be a part of something, apparently, bigger than them.

Which is fine. I understand how some schlub from North Dakota feels the need to fly to London to get a glimpse of Diana's coffin as it morbidly makes its way from a Church to a cemetary. I understand how Australians flocked in droves -- some of which undertaking hours of travel -- to the zoo Mr. Irwin and his family operated simply in order to place memorial items -- the aforementioned cards, letters, photos, candles and other forms of memorabilia -- at the zoo's entry gate.

Personally, I snicker in the direction of anyone who feels it is his or her responsbility to mourn a celebrity. Many of us jumped on the bandwagon after Mel Gibson made the fast-track to Whackoville, but well before that, we all knew he was shit, it was just a matter of him demonstrating it so perfectly and in such a public manner. However, the point is -- Mel Gibson, were he to simply disappear from public life with his family, never to be publicly seen nor heard from again, would be fine. He has enough money and enough residual income to never have to work another day in his life. And just because he's made himself look like a complete asshole in only an hour-long episode worthy of "Cops" in Malibu, he'll never regret saying what he said, only that he said it to the wrong people at the wrong time. He'll never change and he'll never "see the light," so why should I, or anyone else, give a shit about some asshole who, ostensibly, feels the same way about me that I do him?

What interests me more, however, is the group of people who follow these events with the same scrutiny as the above-described "professional mourners" with a decidedly different intent. Instead of mourning any and all causes, this second group dissects all aspects of these events to uncover conspiracies.

Conspiracy theorists have been in full bloom most likely since Watergate. Between the Nixon Administration cover-up of a failed burlgary and the slew of science fiction movies that was released thereafter, people began wondering what else might be happening behind the scenes. Whether it's ET, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, or even Fletch, there's always someone quick to suggest the possibility of institutional wrongdoing, police brutality or military inappropriateness. How did President Bush defeat Al Gore? He didn't, the government switched the numbers. Why are there crop circles in Witchita? Aliens sending us coded messages. If OJ didn't do it, who did? Bruno Maglia? Perhaps some conspiracy theories are more plausible than others.

The motherlode of all conspiracy theories is that of September 11, 2001. There have been more web sites dedicated to alternate theories of who really was responsible for the attacks on 9/11 than there have been to women's boobs; well, okay, that might not be the case, but any site dedicated to 9/11 conspiracy theories would be that much better if instead it was dedicated to women's boobs.

Since that day, I've encountered a number of theories as to who was ultimately responsible for those attacks. I've heard it was the Israelis, who wanted to reinforce America's fear and distrust of militant muslims in the Middle East; I've heard it was Larry Silverstein, the developer of the World Trade Center, who wanted to collect $200 billion in insurance money; I've heard it was the North Koreans who managed to remotely control four planes with new technology and take down the towers so this technology would not be discovered; and I've heard it was the US government who wanted to invent an excuse to attack nations of Islamic descent. One of the few names who hasn't been suggested as the culprit for 9/11 was, of course, OJ Simpson. Apparently there were photos of him on the golf course around the time the attacks occurred looking for the real killers of Ron Goldman and his ex-wife, Nicole.

Why do we, as Americans and as citizens of the world, care so much about being a part of these events? Does it make us feel safer to mourn a celebrity's death or take part in the trial or public celebration -- or downfall -- of a celebrity? What is the weird fascination with people like Michael Jackson, OJ, Mel Gibson, or even Paris Hilton?

If nothing else, we have these questions to ponder this coming 9/11.

And, hopefully, answer.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The Beat Goes On

There are way too many little things to mention that have happened since I last dropped in, but some of these merit mention. First and foremost, of course, was the remainder of our weekend. We putzed around, hung out with friends, ordered in, visited the Met, did a lot of walking, enjoyed being together without work looming over our heads, and, essentially, appreciated the fact that we had all kinds of time to spend together. The weather, for the most part, cooperated, so we basically could come and go as we pleased without worrying about extreme heat, rain or anything else that might warrant us to stay home and just hang out. We did find time between runs to Soho or to restaurants to spend some quiet time together, and while we had a little sleep hangover from Friday night, we really had a wonderful time with our friends and each other.

The news, of course, was the untimely passing of Steve "The Croc Hunter" Irwin, a father of two, killed by a stingray at the age of 44. There's not much for me to say on that beyond the vast amount that's already been said, but it certainly blew us both away. My friend Dave, perhaps, summed it up best when he observed, "Wow, who would have thought that Steve Irwin would have been killed by a wild animal." All kidding aside, it's terrible that Mr. Irwin died so young and in such a bizarre, odd manner; I feel badly for his kids and his wife, but at the same time he died doing something he truly loved and his legacy, aside from a multimillion dollar empire of television shows and theme parks, will make kids around the world happy for years.

It didn't take long, by the way, for someone to complain. Germaine Greer, a feminist writer who is known for social "commentary," in an article on, expressed her dissatisfaction with Mr. Irwin's "exploitative" treatment of animals and, during an interview on an Australian news channel, actually said "It’s no surprise that he came to grief." Ms. Greer, who as a print journalist has made a career of complaining and, essentially, being a whiny bitch much like Andy Rooney has as a TV journalist on 60 Minutes, has criticized The Lord of The Rings trilogy, David Beckham and reality TV as well. But when I read her comments and more about her, she explained that she deemed his treatment of animals as exploitive rather than educational, and his physical handling of animals -- wrestling with alligators, manipulating snakes, etc. -- as a negative rather than a productive, positive thing. With all due respect to Ms. Greer, I disagree. Mr. Irwin's antics were not always easy to watch, but I think his exuberance and enchantment with animals was a positive influence on children, who instead of being frightened by these animals, learned to respect their existence. Ms. Greer lamented Mr. Irwin's characterization of Australia as a bunch of wild, simple people and lots of dangerous animals. Unfortunately, Ms. Greer couldn't or didn't appreciate Mr. Irwin for what he did and instead revealed her own bitter, critical personality. I'd much prefer visiting an Australia populated by dangerous, wild animals and people who respect and appreciate them than an Australia populated by angry, critical, negative people. And frankly, based on the worldwide response to Mr. Irwin's death, I think most people would agree.

Rest in peace.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Bursting The Bubble Lounge

The week went really quickly, but not in one of those "Wow, this week went so fast" kind of ways; instead, it was like "I can't believe I survived this week." Every conceivable thing went awry in some way, shape or form, and aside from Kaia's safe arrival, we both have been going top-speed since she's been in. As of this writing, my apartment is swathed in candle light and the glow from the muted television; it's somewhat indicative of where my head is at this point.

First, we had originally planned on assembling a half-dozen people Tuesday night to get together with a good friend who'd arrived in NYC from LA the day prior to celebrate his 40th; however, because Kaia had gotten very little sleep the night before her flight, and I had stayed up way too late cleaning the dungeon, we both wound up taking a light nap at 6:15ish that wound up lasting until midnight. We both woke up briefly around 9:15 or so and realized we weren't going to make it to our friend's mini-bash downtown, and in my cloudy state, I spoke to a couple friends I knew were going to be going and told them to let him know what was going on with us, ie that we were both completely shot. My mistake was not calling our friend directly and letting HIM know what was up, so when a large majority of people never showed -- because of rain, because it was a Tuesday night, whatever -- he wound up hanging with a friend but not with a bunch thereof, and never having heard from me what was going on, he was, understandably, pretty disappointed. In my cloudy state, I remembered him telling me he was going to dinner with his family so I shouldn't call and just expect to run into him later; but even still, I should have just sent him a text message or called to let him know directly we were out of commission. Not doing either was a bad move on my part. Both of us felt terrible and when I spoke to him the next day I let him know that I had my head up my ass and apologized numerous times, and even though he and I are each fairly quick to forgive, I couldn't blame him for being pretty disappointed and a little hurt. In either case, we wound up setting up a similar mini-gig for Friday night, knowing most of the same invitees would be far more able to head downtown for fun and festivity, and we basically adjourned the matter until then.

The rest of the week, work-wise, proceeded completely against plan. First, we were still without internet access until yesterday afternoon. Apparently, our proprietary ISP service had the rug pulled out from beneath them by Verizon, which means that all their lines to the Internet were simultaneously disconnected. In short, an Internet Service Provider whose entire connectivity is yanked in one swift motion is not going to remain an ISP for very long. We went the entire week without any connectivity whatsoever; it wasn't until the prior Monday before we regained server access (ie our files, data and ability to use applications) so not being able to read e-mail or check the net for external data was merely an inconvience, although we missed some crucial e-mail and were unable to provide the necessary City tax data which we would normally be able to access while online. What's worse, of course, is that we had a power failure -- another one -- which ended up throwing our voicemail offline and kept us without phones for awhile. So we had no e-mail access, no phones and no fax. Essentially, we could have been completely inaccessible to our clients for awhile; that is a no-no for a business that wishes to remain in business.

Eventually the power came back on, and the next morning our telephone hardware consultants addressed and resolved our voicemail problems. We were still without the internet but at least we had lights, phones and a working fax machine. At this point I began negotiating with another ISP to get us back up and running while our old service worked out the kinks, so to speak. It turned out we settled on Time Warner business-class cable, and we wound up getting all set up and installed Thursday. Of course, nothing -- especially as it pertains to the events I'm describing herein -- goes as planned. It took our off-site PC consultant and the purchase of a new switch/router to finally get us back online, connected to our server, with functioning voice mail, fax and phone capability. As for the electrical problems in our building, the building management company explained that there would be an electrical shutdown on our side of the building today (the 2nd) so all our equipment should be turned off. That's not the worst thing in the world, considering it's the Saturday before Labor Day. So before leaving the office, I shut everything down, including the voice mail, to insure nothing would be damaged over the weekend.

Just to make sure it would be fine, I reactivated the voicemail to see if it would work on Tuesday morning. Deader than Nixon.

Happy Damn Labor Day.

In the meantime, we arranged to hang out with our friend Morph to celebrate his 40th; about 15 people ended up coming to celebrate at Bubble Lounge downtown. Two cabs later, we arrived and we knew it would be a perfect place. When I spoke to the invitees I told them I knew it was awful weather but that this was a birthday celebration for a good friend and we wanted to make sure it was special, and I give credit to all the people who showed up in the rain to celebrate; it really wound up being a blast. Bubble Lounge, incidentally, was the perfect spot for us; plenty of space, yet cozy, with music pumping throughout the night (but not too loud), and the alcohol -- including a variety of champagnes and special drinks -- flowed freely. I was relieved to know that we all had a great time, but specifically the guest of honor seemed to really enjoy himself. At some point during the night I talked to him and let him know I had screwed up and felt shitty about Tuesday night, but he very graciously let me know all was cool; when it comes to friends, I don't screw up often, but when I do, I'm proud and thankful to have such good people as my good friends.

We took a bunch of pictures and celebrated, thanks to Trippy, with two cakes -- one cheesecake, one oreo cookie-esque -- because one of the guests had her 40th today -- and all in all, despite really screwing up Tuesday, I think everyone had a nice time. And most importantly, we got a chance to hang out with a good friend of whom we see far too little.

And we got a chance to take a mini-tour of the city, courtesy of a gypsy cab driver who was not quite all there. I'd go into more detail, but suffice to say we all went to bed happy. So a big thanks to all the attendees, a bigger thanks and happy birthday to Morph and to Dara, and a shout-out to Ralph Waldo Emerson, who wrote "the only way to have a friend is to be one."

Friday, September 01, 2006

No Reason To Cry

Where to start...well, this will be mighty quick because we're heading downtown to Bubble Lounge -- a friend is in town from LA and we're getting a dozen or so close friends together to hang and to imbibe some mighty-fine champagnes. Work-wise we've both been going balls to the wall and fun-wise we've continued smiling in one another's presence. This has been a pretty crappy week for me work-wise -- a lot to do and much of it having to do with solving problems other than specific work ones -- but I've gotten through it with a smile or two, mostly because Kaia's been here. As for her, she's kicking ass in a major project on which she's been focused, and while the work is never-ending for each of us we're finding time to, um, do other things as well.

So tonight is something to which we're looking forward, and I'm guessing that we'll have lots more to divulge when we get back, including some pics and more.

In either case, we'll be around for most of the weekend if we don't decide to head out of town. Between the weather and the fact that we are happy here, there's not much reason to go anywhere else. Museums, movies, dinner and bed -- not much more to ask for than those four things when you're with someone who makes you smile 24-7.

More later.