24 April, 2009

Nothing to say

I was going to write a blog complaining about a bunch of stuff. The internet, communications corporations, airports, people, traffic, Seattle, office politics, etc. I could complain about any or all of these, and it would, at best, be mildly amusing. And more likely, it would be same old story from your moody blogger friend. After writing that little preamble sentence, I then thought I would write instead about how actually the world is not a bad place, and things are okay, and looking up, even. Or that I’m happy to have the things coming in the future that I have. But then I think about it, and realize that would probably be just as annoying as the complaining blog, though perhaps even more annoying, because when I become all Mr. Positive, I start to sound like I have been abducted by aliens and had an implant put in the back of my neck. Next thing you know it, black oil substance will be swirling around my eyes, like Kricek, from The X-Files.

I started to tell a story about the band, and the studio, and just deleted an entire paragraph because I decided that, too, is boring. Seems the blogger’s block is somewhat upon me again. I don’t know if I am supposed to push through this, or just live my life and wait for the inspiration to return. I had some idea the other day where I wanted to research how we use water in this country. But I started doing the Google searches, and realized that it was going to be a pain in the ass to find the type of info that I wanted to find. I was interested in knowing how much water is run down our kitchen sinks, showers, toilets, lawns, vegetable gardens, throats, factories, farms, etc. But the research that I would have needed to do got boring before I could even start to compose the story that would ultimately be boring to you, as well. So why bother?

There’s a woman sitting across from me with a large plastic bag containing no fewer than 20 bottles of various prescription medications. That is interesting to me. But I cannot possibly figure out what any of them are. Though it is interesting to note that, looking at this ~60 year old woman, I could see her being a glimpse into the future of a certain other someone whom I no longer know, who would be likely to carry large bags of drugs on an airplane with her. Looking through the bag to select just the right mind or mood-altering cocktail. Xanax? Clonazepam? Valium? How long is the flight, anyway? And in case the pills don’t knock her out, she’s got “Travel Yahtzee” to play on the plane!


It really sucks being paranoid by nature. I never knew I was. But I guess I always have been. Not sure if it was painfully obvious to everyone but myself. The point in time which I came to believe it was when I did something that exacerbated my natural tendency in a way that resulted in behavior that transitioned into the realm of abnormal. In some ways, I want to believe that was the start of it all, but I know that’s not true. I have always been this way. I think paranoia can be a by-product of self-absorption. If you walk around thinking that everything is about you, then it stands to reason that you might think that everything is organized against you. It’s straightforward logic. Things that are perhaps miniscule or routine in the minds or actions of others become “master plans” in my estimation. Everyone is out to get me. People are trying to squeeze me. To make my life harder. When I leave the room they’re talking about me. And they think I am annoying. They think I am not good enough. They don’t trust me. The first chance they have to get rid of me, you know they will. Work. Music. Relationships. Friendships. Even when I go to a restaurant, and the server takes a long time to serve me, the little thought goes in my mind that she probably doesn’t like me – never liked me.

It takes a lot of energy to walk around in this state. And the problem with it, really, is that when circumstances arise that trigger these feelings, I can go way down the path of self-destruction. I imagine that I am being treated differently than everyone else. And it is not fair. Even as I write this, telling you of my propensity for paranoia, I still believe that I am not treated the same.

I don’t know if everyone goes through these same trials and stresses. Silently, privately freaking out, and worrying that there’s a big problem, when maybe it’s nothing. I don’t know if my standing in my various endeavors is more tenuous than most of my peers, or friends, or if it’s merely my perception. But I am someone who relies heavily on harmony. I need to feel like what I am doing in my life is “okay” and when I do not feel this, I become very uneasy. So I am easily fallen victim to the different communication styles of the people in my life. If they cannot give me the peace and harmony of knowing my standing that I require, I start spiraling into paranoia. Stress. Dreams. Grinding my teeth. Moodiness. I suppose there could be other people who live the exact same life as I do, but they just do what they do, and don’t worry, wonder, second guess, stress, doubt. They just live, and trust that everything is okay.

I wish I could do that.

How did I manage to miss so much?

How did I manage to spend my teens and twenties listening to Bananarama and Huey Lewis when I could have been listening to The Jam? I want to attribute it to small town America. But I didn’t grow up in a small town, really. And there were plenty of people in my high school who were listening to The Three O’Clock and Echo and the Bunnymen. In fairness, I did like some good music. The Cars, The Police, Devo. And a lot of the mainstream rock like AC/DC or Aerosmith, that everyone got in large doses. But it seems like anything that would be non-mainstream, artsy, or otherwise not played on the hit radio stations, I feared and avoided it like the plague.

But it wasn’t just the music. It was food too. The extent of my cuisine experiences at age 21 probably included nothing but Italian, Chinese, and American. Now, that’s probably because this had been the extent of my parents’ experience as well. But why would I limit myself? I suppose that in these suburbs where I lived, there just were not any Thai or Indian restaurants until around the time I moved away. And to me, the concept of Mexican food was defined by “Chili’s”. And it really wasn’t until my late 20’s that I had tried all these cuisines and realized that other people made good food – in fact, most non-American food was better than anything that was traditionally American.

I guess I am glad that I didn’t miss these things forever. The food story is one that is easy to recover from. You eat the food, you learn the good restaurants, and you can become an expert just like anyone. The music is a different story. No matter how many bands I discover, or am introduced to through members of my band, or other friends, I will never have that music engrained in my existence. People grow up on music. They can tell you how they remember riding their skateboard and listening to early Nirvana. Or partying at a Dandy Warhols show in college (though, of course, I am pretty sure that when I was in college, the Dandy Warhols were probably in middle school). Music becomes an integral part of our history and who we are. And I am stuck with Madonna, Wilson Phillips, and The Bangles in my formative memories. Of course, I also have The Kinks, Kiss, Rush, and The Rolling Stones. But who didn’t? As far as I can tell, I was walking living proof of the life that lives without exploration or delving for anything unique or interesting.

The other types of experimentation, I can barely even bother to mention. I never tried anything when I was at the age that people tried things. And it’s not, again, that there were not people around who were probably trying them. So it was not impossible. I think it just had to do with the family environment in which I grew up. My parents, being much older, had me pretty well sheltered. And for some reason, I grew up deathly afraid of doing anything I wasn’t supposed to do. I rarely just did things because I wanted to do them, without fear of consequence. While that may be an admirable trait, I think it probably causes me some difficulties in rationalizing my choices even to this day. And now I wish I had the experiences, and the stories, the battle scars, the knowledge and “street cred” of many people I know. But I can’t justify starting that education at this point in my life. That would be even more lame than the simple fact of having never done it when it was the appropriate behavior, if you want to call it that.

To add to my list of regrets…

I wish that I’d been writing songs these last 25 years. Actually, I did write songs when I was in junior high school, and even into high school. And they were mostly terrible. But I wrote them. And finished them. Probably wrote more of them between ages 13 and 18 than between ages 18 and 40. Not sure if it is perfectionism. Not sure if it is lack of inspirational influences (having listened to mostly mainstream things, and then being surprised when everything I play or write sounds like something else). Not sure if it is that I never did the other kind of experimentation, that could have led to alternate perspectives or, at the very least, lowered the volume of my inner critic.

I’m not unhappy with who I am. Or maybe I am. I really don’t even know. I just wish that I had a little more to show for my life than I presently do.


What does it get you?
How often is it really the best policy?
Versus can upon can of worms
That are ultimately fed to you
On a bed of your own words

Subjective and overrated
Does anyone value it anymore?
Or is it becoming such that any information
Is too much information?
We operate on a never-need-to-know basis

Why do I even ask the question?
Look around and the answer is everywhere
Nobody wants to know what you think
Nobody wants to know the reasons why
Nobody wants to know anything.

Trust someone for no good reason

The other day, I was sitting outside at a cafe, and working on some files on my computer. I needed to use the restroom. I didn't want to pack up all my stuff. So, I turned to the woman sitting next to me, and asked her if she'd mind watching my things for a moment. And I went to the restroom, and came back.

She could have taken my computer which, actually, is a work computer. And that would have been a very serious problem. There is no reason to assume that someone won't do it. But there's also (other than the sad reality of human nature) no reason to believe that someone would do it. So I took the chance. I decided to trust a stranger for no good reason. And she didn't take my computer, of course.

There is a decision process one must go through in evaluating risks. The so-called "cost-benefit" analysis. And, in most cases, one would have to say that the risk of leaving a very expensive item with personal importance in the care of a stranger, would not be a good risk to take. But I don't know. Sometimes you have to just trust humanity to be at its best. I know that I could be trusted to do the same for her, or for anyone else. And I feel, in some small way, like offering that trust to someone else is a tiny way of "upping" the karma of the universe.

23 April, 2009

Should old acquaintances be forgotten...

The beauty of true friendship is that it is timeless. It knows not calendar of the year or, as the case may be, hour of the day or night. There are people in my life who are dear to me, who have moved away. Some of them I see occasionally. Some extremely rarely. But when I do see them, whether it be 1 year later, or 20 years later, it is as if we never were apart. There is something almost magical about that. There's no need, in some cases, to "fill each other in" on things. Maybe you do. Maybe you don't. Maybe you just pick up where you left off, because the bond was not about the day-to-day. The bond was about the who-to-whom (presuming I have properly grammaticized that). It's interesting because the people that are in my life all the time; for those, it really matters what they believe, and how they live. I wouldn't spend a large percentage of my time with people who were radically different from me. I just don't think I could. But those close friends that we hold over the years... it almost matters not at all what direction their lives have gone, though I guess, if I think about it, we've largely remained on the same track. It's easy to say that it makes no difference, but I suppose that the amazing thing is the fact that our core identities remained similar through space and time. And recognizing that, without mutual influence, it was just inherent; that strengthens the awareness of the bond.

I may only see you for a few hours. Or a day. Or a night. It may be when you visit town to see family. Or when you are here briefly for an interview, for a job you probably aren't going to accept. Or it may be when my band passes through your town while we are on our miniscule tour. We will enjoy a fleeting moment together again, and the friendship will be as it has always been. Pure. True. Real.

I wish I could hold all these people who are so dear to me, and not let them go. Not let them move away. I am tired of people moving out of my life. Moving on. One day, I may be the one who moves on - out of the lives of others. Perhaps someone will miss me, and ask why I had to leave. Perhaps not. I may not be that important.

I just don't know.

19 April, 2009

Loyalty versus ?

I have a hard time with questions of loyalty versus just doing what's best for me. I am not sure if it's a value judgment, as to which is the way to be, or if it indicates an inherent selfishness on my part. But the trend seems to track not only in relationships and friendships, but also in other arenas of my life. It is not to say that I do not value loyalty, because I do. Deeply. But I think that loyalty to me, while appreciated, can only be reciprocated (by me) if it is warranted on the merits of the situation. I have walked away from friendships, bands, relationships, and other non-personal situations because they no longer served me. I guess you could say that I operate in a mode of perpetual upgrade possibility. But that's not to say that I am not loyal, or cannot be loyal. Just that I am not always.

I had a conversation recently with a dear friend about loyalty, and some choices they were making that were clearly stemming around that attribute. And I reflected on how, in similar circumstances, I had chosen the opposite - namely, to turn my back on a situation, because the list of other positives (as short as it may have ever been), was dwindling further. And it made me wonder, "Am I a bad person?"

Another realm in which loyalty has recently been on my mind relates to products that I use. Because of my place of employment, there are a number of products that I should be using, because they would be consistent with company loyalty. To use the competitor product would not only be putting money in the pocket of the competition, but would also be sending a message that did not reflect well on the company. And in this area, I am conflicted. Because it is not as simple as choosing Mobil versus Shell; two indistinguishable entities. In some cases, one of the products is, at least in some ways, better than the other (read: the competitor product better than ours). So what do I do? In the name of "efficiency" it would make most sense to use whatever tools are best. In the way of "loyalty" I should use only my company's product. In addition, understanding my company's product could enable me to offer suggestions for its improvement, or explain to others how to get the most out of it.

Perhaps a compromise is to use both my company's product, and the competitor product. Because then, I am doing a bit of both: supporting my company, while at the same time, knowing what the competition can do (and, the added benefit of getting things done efficiently). But the split between which is primary, and which is secondary is the one that challenges me.

Back to the original topic, because I think that both are related; there needs to be a reason to stick with something. Not to say that I have not stuck with some things that I should not have.

The worst date ever

First off, this is delving back into the archives of, perhaps, April 2006. As you're probably aware, I am off the market, so if I want to give you good dating stories, I need to go back in time.

In April of 2006, I decided to join Match.com. Maybe it was March. It had been 8.5 years since I had been on "a date" and I didn't know what to expect. I also didn't really know what I was doing anymore. I thought I was "good with women" but it's a very different thing flirting with your friends, versus trying to meet new people. And the idea of online dating made me a bit nervous in the first place. The main thing I decided when I started was that I should be very open-minded. Don't do things the way I used to do them. Don't judge the book by the cover. Give people a chance.

Bad idea. But we'll see why.

So, after a few days on Match, I was a bit daunted by the fact that none of the women I was writing to were responding to me. Perhaps because they could sense the desperation! At any rate, I didn't know what my market value was, and I guess I also had not (yet) learned any of the tricks of communicating in a way that would entice responses rather than scare people away. It probably didn't help that I was not smiling in any of my photos, and my profile probably sounded serious and intense in ways that are only appealing to a select batch of insane women.

So, finally someone connected with me on Match. It's like fishing. You throw your line and hook (and sinker) and see what you catch. Sometimes it's tuna, and sometimes it's an old shoe. I cannot even remember if this girl (who I'll call Lisa, though I honestly cannot remember her name) contacted me, or vice-versa.

So, from her pictures, I was "suspicious". There was one photo, and it made her look like she could be okay, or she could be "not okay". It was one of those "neck up" photos that make you wonder what is below the neck. Anyway... open mind... books... covers... judging... no... no... no... We communicate via email online, and decide that we will go on a date. She lives near Greenlake. I remember the emails were a bit tense, and weird, but I am keeping open mind, right? I don't think that we decided what we'd do in advance. Or maybe we did. I cannot really remember. But I am going to make you wait a moment to hear what we decided to do, because that's the best part of the story, and probably will give you some insight into just how clueless and stupid I am!

So, day of the date, I am driving over to her condo. I decide to give her a call on my way to make sure everything's cool on the timing and everything. When I call her, she is crying (let the show begin). More like sniffling, really. I ask her if everything's okay. She says, "I don't want to cancel. I really want to go on this date. I am just worried that I might not be at my best right now." Voice inside my head begins yelling "Run away!", but alas, the voice in my head is from afar, down a long corridor, and there are many people talking in the hallway, it's a morgue, and there are many gurneys with corpses being rolled around to various refrigerators and incinerators. So I do not hear the voice in my head. Woe is me.

I ask her what's wrong. She says "My cat, Princess, just died, and I am just having a really hard time with it". I ask her if she's sure she wants to go out, and she says yes. Okay.

I park my car near Greenlake, and begin walking in the direction that I think her condo must lie. I reach the building, and as I am walking by the lobby of the condo, which has glass front windows, I see a woman waiting in the lobby. Inner voice screams "Keep walking! Keep walking! Don't slow down. Pass go! Collect $200! KEEEEEP WAAAAALLLLLLKIIIING". It was one of those "Everything you need to know, you have just seen, in the 200 milliseconds it took for the photons to go from her person, to your retina, converted into electrical impulses, racing through the optic chiasm, through the thalamus, and to the back of the cerebrum, crash-landing with a nauseating thud, in primary visual cortex". Did I listen to the voice? Unfortunately, no. Instead, "stupid me", which I believe honestly was my superego speaking, in this case, since my id would never be so counterproductive, thinks "Here we go... it's just dinner..."

"It's just dinner" is not a phrase to be uttered or pondered without thought of consequences.

So, committed to my fate, the "date" began. One in a series of bad decisions. Next bad decision? "Hm... what should we do? I have an idea! Let's cook dinner together!"

Yes, you are not reading that wrong. On a first date that was already 7 notches beyond precarious, I decided that it would be a good idea to go to the supermarket, buy groceries, then go back to her condo, and cook! Yes, cook! Some people would say that this would be either a big deal or a bad idea even if you'd been dating someone you like for weeks. But someone whom you wanted to flee? What was my problem?

So... it is painfully awkward, and I want to spare you some of the details. Suffice it to say, we went to Albertson's and she had zero input into what we should eat, but was behaving more like someone who could not believe that they were the guest star of The Twilight Zone, and were waiting to be transported to an alien ship at any moment. For some reason that is also unclear to me, I decided we should eat spaghetti and meatballs. I am a retard. The last time I made meatballs was probably in like 1995. Actually, that's not true. In fairness, I think I had just made swedish meatballs for some sort of potluck only a month or two earlier, and was proud of my meatball-cooking abilities. The thing about meatballs, though, is that you have to stick your hands in meat, which is sort of a bizarre thing to do on a date. If I had been with someone I really liked, it would have been bizarre in a different way, and probably led to all sorts of perverse humor about putting my hands on the meat, and all that. But this was demented.

But wait, the story gets worse.

We return to her condo. And ascend the stairs or elevator, or whatever it was. Then we enter her unit, which is clean and not disgusting in any way. There's one saving grace. We walk into the kitchen area. And in the middle of the floor is "Exhibit A". There is a dish of catfood, a candle, and a greeting card, standing neatly on the tile floor. I stand there, staring at it. She is also staring at it. There is silence. For quite a long moment. Then she says "This is where Princess liked to eat her dinner".

This was a shrine to her dead cat!

(Ruuuuuuuuuuun Awaaaaaaaaaaay!!!!!!!)

But no. There is 24 ounces of ground beef that needs to be formed into greasy spheres and put into this crazy woman's oven. The conversations shifts to some small talk about her. She informs me that getting on Match.com is good for her, because it gave her a reason to get out of sweatpants for a change. She also informed me that she's been on some type of disability leave from work for a fairly extended period of time, and she implied that the leave was for psychological reasons, not physical. (Run?)

Comes time to prepare "The Last Supper", since I am sure this date will end in my death due to mortification. And Lisa (was that the name I gave her?) informs me that she doesn't really want to help. She would rather watch me cook in her kitchen. I think she said something like "I'm having a great time watching you work". So there I am, in this woman's kitchen, shaping the meatballs. I prepare the meal, while she tells me about the various medications that she takes. Then, we eat. Actually, it would be more accurate to say that I eat, and she pretends to eat. She said she wasn't really hungry, which I assume means she was too nervous to eat, or didn't want me to watch her eat, or was a vegetarian, or did not think it was good. Who knows. I thought it was good.

So, the date ends, right? We finish dinner, and I leave, right? It was probably like 8pm, so the date's over. Right? I only wish. Because I felt bad for her, I wanted to at least try to make the evening enjoyable. I did not want her to feel like I was running for the hills. Actually, I recall that during dinner she mentioned that she had a previous date where the guy just suddenly said he had to go, and took off. Yep! Smart guy. Inner voice said "Run away!" and he ran! Unfortunately for me, hearing her say this made me feel like there was no way that I could run away any time soon, because I didn't want her to feel worse about herself. What a martyr I am.

So we hang out after dinner, and we're talking, and it's all awkward. And somehow we end up on the couch (please tell me that you don't already know where this is going?) and we're listening to music on her laptop. By this time, she's at least relaxed to the point that the conversation is idly interesting. But she was honestly among the least attractive people I have ever met, in ways that defied her age. I feel horrible saying this, because it wasn't like she was deformed, or morbidly obese, or anything. The best way of describing it is that she was a 35 (supposedly) year old woman who had the body of a 65 year old.

So we're listening to music, and something clicked in my head. Something very moronic. It occurred to me that there was no way I could end that date without kissing her. And I did NOT want to kiss her. It would be like kissing the old woman in the bathtub in "The Shining". Just like that. With dry, cracked, split, and crusty lips. And all kinds of unpleasantness. But I had to do it. I had to make her feel that we had a better date than we actually did.

So I kissed her. And it was horrible. And then I ran away.

I am not sure if I did her any favors or not...

13 April, 2009

Obama less fun than Bush

I hate to say it, but I am having less fun now than I was for the past 8 years. I don’t even really know what Obama is doing, because I am too bored to pay attention. Our economy is screwed, and it was before too. They’re doing “stuff” to try to fix it. And maybe that stuff will work, maybe it will not. But the problem with all of this is that now it’s “my guy” in office. If things continue to suck, then the finger points at the Democrats for being unable to turn it around. Of course, if you put a bunch of 12 year old girls on a basketball court, up against the Lakers and let them run up a score of 130-4, then I am not sure bringing the Celtics in to substitute in the second half is going to make a difference. But people have a short term memory for who is responsible.

One of the things that I enjoyed most about politics was complaining. I complained when Reagan was in office, as soon as I was old enough to care. I complained when Bush #1 was in office. I complained a little bit about Clinton, though ended up liking him. Though, I did get to complain about how much attention was being paid to his sex life, so that was fun. Plus, during that same period, I got to complain about how the media was so obsessed with OJ, and that took up pretty much the entire middle of Clinton’s terms.

Then, the mother lode (or is it “load” – I think it is “lode”) of all lodes (or is it “loads” – I think it is “lodes”):

George. W. Bush.

He was elected illegitimately, offering immense opportunity for complaining, both about the mere fact of it, as well as about the media treatment of it. Hell, the whole thing made me into an activist! Then, there was the man himself, who shouldn’t have been qualified to run a shitty baseball team, never mind an entire country! Then there were the unfathomably horrifying selections he made for his cabinet. Complain, complain, complain. Very happy times, indeed, for the complainer! Then, as if his term wouldn’t have been absurd enough without a bifecta, or trifecta, or whatever fecta you want to have; there was September 11th, 2001, which enabled complaining in so many realms, that I actually had to write a complaining schedule, just like one would make a workout schedule.

Mondays: Complain about how Bush handled things idiotically and unpresidentially
Tuesdays: Complain about why they’re focusing on this supposed mastermind, Bin Ladin
Wednesdays: Complain about how the media is allowing discussion of Iraq
Thursdays: Complain about Dick Cheney (plus: all-you-can-eat Mac & Cheese night!!)
Fridays: Complain about how many fonts can be used by networks for “The War on Terror”
Saturdays: Complain about how the US keeps pretending none of our planes are being shot
Sundays: Complain about how this is being turned into a race/culture/religious war

It was great!

And then, Bush won AGAIN. Still on sketchy terms, though this time, it appeared the Republican machinery figured out how to make a fraudulent election appear less fraudulent. No more sophomoric mistakes like having all the Jews in Palm Beach vote for Pat Buchanan, for example. That was worth another year or so of complaining.

Then, I got to complain about McCain and his two-faced lack of integrity as a human being. And Sarah Palin, you betcha! All ripe ground for incessant mockery, bitterness, and whining.
Then the economy tanked, and of course, that was because of corporate greed. And who doesn’t like to go on and on about that? Every day, when I would check the Dow Jones Industrial Average, I actually found myself cheering when the market went DOWN, and subtly disappointed whenever the market went UP. Why is that? Well, partly because I took all my money out of the market last September, and want it to stay down for a good long time. But it’s also because I think complainers don’t want things to get better. They always want them to get worse, because worse = more complaining.

So, that leads us to now.

Barack Obama. President.

George Bush. History.

We have a leader who sounds presidential. He’s out there every day, making sense, and doing things that appear to be logical. He’s trying to make things “less worse”. And he’s fucking up my complaining. Furthermore, if he fails, for whatever reason, whether it was bad planning, circumstances beyond his control, oppositional resistance, there really won’t be anything fun to complain about. It will be mostly complaining of the moping and whining variety.

I have this theory that Sarah Palin took a bullet for the Republican Party. The brilliant strategists who knew how to take the White House away from a party that had ruled over prosperous times, and hand it to George W. Bush – they could hardly have let McCain lose by accident. I think that Palin was chosen to make sure that the Republicans DID lose. Nobody should have wanted to preside over the situation we now have. Chances of succeeding are slim. Throw Palin out there, and please the extreme right, while martyring her, and giving the mess to Obama. Then, in four years, the Republicans can say that Obama’s ideas didn’t work. And they can cut taxes again, and cut programs, and give more handouts to corporations, who are still not even being slapped on their wrists for irresponsibility – but rather, are being gently reprimanded and given more free lunch.

When will I get to complain again?

Dear Alaska Airlines

Dear Alaska Airlines,

There are many reasons that are okay to relate to passengers, regarding why you might be delaying boarding of the aircraft. These include, but are not limited to, the following:

There is a moose on runway 25R, and we are trying our best to remove the moose peacefully

On the incoming flight, someone really made a mess of the restroom and we are hosing it down

There are no more of those baggies of mixed unidentifiable snack cracker/crouton/pretzels, and we are awaiting a truck to reload the aircraft before boarding [Addendum: they are called “Gourmet Party Mix” and consist of Pretzel Twists, Barbecue Corn Sticks (??), and Cheddar Cheese Squares (helpful to know the shape in advance, don’t you think?) Net Weight: 0.5 ounces. Nutritional Value: ZERO. Purpose: Water retention, so passengers don’t use restroom]

There was just a crash and the runway is aflame with blazing jet fuel, engine parts, and lots of burning plastic luggage and fleshy debris

The pilot has been hospitalized for vertigo, and we are waiting for another pilot to arrive

The airport is closing because China has just declared war on the United States

We have established new FAA policies that prohibit children under the age of 15 from flying, and we need to take a few minutes to send away those families who had planned on traveling with small children

The front landing gear snapped while the plane was resting at the gate, and we cannot takeoff

We are determining whether or not we will be earning or losing money by allowing this plane to travel. Our accountants are running the numbers now, and we will be back with you shortly

Alaska Air was just purchased by Northwest, and we need to delay boarding while we paint the aircraft gray and apply the new logo

TSA has determined that they accidentally allowed someone to go through security with a 4.2 ounce container of Magic Bubbles™ and all flights are being held until the airport is secured
All of these reasons, while wild or unlikely, would be things that I would tolerate, and understand should be related to me via the “receptionist” at the gate.

Here is a reason that is NOT okay to announce over the intercom to passengers, regarding the delayed boarding of the aircraft:

We will be delaying boarding, because we think something might be loose on the aircraft.

And it is also NOT okay, for Vanna to come back on the horn 15 minutes later and say:

We are going to wait another 15 minutes or so, because the technicians are still trying to figure out the problem. If you have any questions, please feel free to come and ask

Okay. I have a question: “What the fuck is loose on the aircraft?”

Can’t say, huh? Okay, then how about this: “Why are you using the words ‘still trying to figure out the problem’ when referring to the large metal object that will be transporting us 5 miles above the ground, at a speed of over 500 miles per hour?”

Oh, you can’t answer that one either? I have another question for you then instead: “Why the hell are you telling us that something might be loose on the aircraft? What possible use could that information have to the passengers?”

If there is something potentially wrong with the aircraft, send your school nurse up to the microphone and have her LIE and tell us that they’re restocking the pillows and blankets (of which there are never enough, and it would be completely believable). Then sort out the problem with this loose wing, or engine. If you cannot sort it out, then put the nurse on the air-phone, and have her tell us “the flight is being CANCELLED because of mechanical problems”. There is no reason to give us cryptic updates about things that may or may not be about to cause our plane to fall out of the sky.

If the problem was with the handle on the inside of the baggage compartment, you could have said to us “We’re having some minor issues with the baggage compartment door”. If you do not specify, then I am going to act on the assumption that you are talking about one of three systems: engines, wings or tail. Because if it were a broken seatbelt, we would not be having this conversation, right?

Seriously? Why did they tell us this? Maybe they wanted to see if there was anyone who could have a look and see what might be loose? “Are there any aeronautical engineers in the terminal, please? If so, please come to Gate 11. And bring your gyroscope and a wrench.”

So now, I am here, at 30,000 feet, and I am waiting for the engine to fall off. Or for the rudder to deflect hard right, and cause the tail to snap off the plane. Or for the right slats to go into their full down position, causing the plane to bank hard to the left and go into uncontrolled descent, breaking up over the deserts of Nevada.

I’ve never really been afraid of flying. But thank you, Alaska Airlines, for keeping me informed of the nitty-gritty of your ground-crew ongoings. I’ll sleep better tonight… except for the nightmares.

12 April, 2009

Time dilation and compression

It's no surprise that time flies when you're having a good time. And it's also no surprise that minutes and hours can seem interminable, when one is bored. How to write about this in a non-trite way, so that time does not dilate for you, my fair reader, is the big challenge.

My mother died exactly one year ago. And to me, it's amazing how quickly that year passed. This weekend, I wanted to try to do something "special" to mark that memory. I wanted to go someplace beautiful and just "have a moment". But much like when you go to the zoo, and try to see the snow leopards feed, usually the snow leopards are hiding in their holding pen behind 4 feet of concrete. The only way you get to see the snow leopards is when you are not telling everyone for weeks about your plans. And then, of course, the battery in your digital camera will undoubtedly be dead.

Like my mom. And, like the snow leopards, that magic moment of emotion and catharsis did not come. I did go someplace beautiful. And the moment was everything that it should have been. But I did not get to have my emotion. Ironically, I am sure, that emotion will happen while driving down I-405 some morning, on the way to work, while listening to a Rolling Stones song (possible candidate: "You Got The Silver").

You don't get to pick your moments like that.

But back to time. A year flew by, and so much did happen, much of it bad, some of it great.

Reminds me of a great quote of my grandmother. She always said: "As I get older and older, the days seem to last forever, but the years fly by"

I always liked that quote, and it portrayed a certain kind of wisdom that one is only allowed to exhibit when they've been around about 80 years, I think. And I guess I like that sentiment, though it is kind of a bittersweet one. Is it that time is escaping us, in a grand sense? Or is it a simple numbers game? The more years you are alive, the smaller and smaller the percentage each year is of your life. But does that really explain the days? I guess not. And maybe it's just that our memory is failing us? Maybe the granularity of memory decays year by year, so that our ability to piece together just how much time this past year was gets progressively worse with age.

The fact that last year went so quickly... does it mean that I am getting old? Forty. That's halfway to eighty.

I wish I could make certain moments last forever. But I can't. The beauty and perfection of a moment comes and goes and all that preserves it is our ability to retain it, revisit it, or recreate it. And will it ever be the same? I don't know. Everything changes.

But I will try very hard to hold some of these memories, while trying similarly hard to let go of others. It's like panning for gold in the mind.

Time is precious, so I will stop here, so we can all continue with our lives this evening.

09 April, 2009

Things that I don't know

I don't know how many days, weeks, or months it is before I stop untying my shoes, and begin slipping them off? What's the algorithm? What's the criteria? I know, when it comes to running shoes, that I meticulously will tie and untie them, and never slip them off, because you know that's gonna beat them to shit. But there comes a point where you stop doing that, and you don't care anymore, right? But when was that point. Is it based on time, physical condition, the apathy resulting from a period of depression? I don't know. And I realize that I am presently unlacing my running shoes, but I only bought them about 5 weeks ago, so I guess it's too early. When will I change? I don't know.

I don't know when I bite my lips. I know that I sometimes do it. And I sometimes don't. More often than not I do. Same with my fingers. But there might be a week where I don't, and I wonder is it because I was not stressed, or because I was too busy, or because I was happy, or was it just random? I don't know.

I don't know. I don't know. I don't know.

I don't know what I don't know.

That reminds me of a poem by Richard Feynman. If you don't know who he is, then Wikipedia him because I am honestly far too busy to tell you. His poem went like this:

I wonder why, I wonder why
I wonder why I wonder

I wonder why I wonder why
I wonder, why I wonder

Or something like that. But you get the point. I never come up with anything that clever. All I can do is write haiku. And that requires like a third grade education. I wonder why that is.

Tomorrow I go
Places unknown yet not cold
Or so I am told

See. That's what I can write. Haiku. And I am not Japanese. As if that's a necessary condition.

Why are you reading this.

One more thing I don't know... why I am writing this.

08 April, 2009

Don't bring your stinky fish to our meeting

I don't ask for much, really.

I don't ask for people to be on time for meetings. I don't even get particularly upset if people fail to show up for meetings, unless we're really on a crunch for a deadline. Rescheduling is fine. I don't mind if you need to leave early. I don't mind if you bring your coffee to my office. I don't mind if you bring your lunch to my office.

All I ask is that you do not bring your stinky fish to our meeting.

Or is that too much to ask?

06 April, 2009

Airplanes and Airports

I like airplanes because they take me places that I have never been. They take me places I want to go. They go high in the sky, and the earth seems like a tiny model planet, like you'd see when you played with one of those little train sets as a kid. I like airplanes because of the sheer awe of the fact that something that weighs hundreds of thousands of pounds can float in the air. I like airplanes because they're the closest thing to magic that I have ever experienced; you walk in the door, sit down, wait several hours, walk out the door, and you are in a completely different place, with different terrain, different people, different climate. Different worlds.

I especially like airplanes when they bring good things to me.

I like seeing the planes on the ground, in their giant parking lots, and being awed by the size of the engines, the height from the ground, the beauty, the colors of the paint on all the different planes. I like the anticipation of meeting someone at the airport. It feels like the best thing you can do for someone: "I'm going to pick her up at the airport today". What sounds better than that? Nothing. Whether it be a friend, family, lover, coworker. No matter what, the airport pickup has a feeling of kindness to it that is hard to surpass. People are always tired, and stressed after traveling, and there's nothing better than to have someone "there for you".

I like the long conveyor-belt walkways in some of the larger airports. Though, in truth, I rarely use them. I like to walk next to them, lugging my heavy bag, passing all the people who are standing still on the beltway, and feel righteous about how I'm not lazy. I like the giant digital bulletin boards that list the arrival and departure times except, of course, when the word next to my flight is "Delayed".

But what I don't like is when airplanes are taking things away from me. Or taking me away from things. Or taking me back to places I am not yet ready to return. I don't like leaving a beautiful, warm, tropical place. Getting on the plane from Hawaii felt like I was being torn away from someplace I belonged. Getting on the plane from Paris felt like I was leaving a magical "other" world that I had barely yet explored. I don't like waiting in lines when the anticipation is not there. Leaving. Bad.

I don't like dropping people off at the airport. Saying goodbye. And it is always that feeling that in a few minutes the distance between you will be growing, and growing, rapidly, moving apart at 150, 250, 550 miles per hour. Your love is lifted high into the air, 30,000 feet, and vaulted to some distant place, where you cannot touch, cannot kiss, cannot look into each other's eyes. Apart. I don't like that. Saying that goodbye, and having that hug on the curb at the departures, and trying to get one last deep look at each other, hoping that if you look hard enough you can actually store extra memories of their details. But you can't. You can't "gulp" that kind of input, like you drink a large glass of water in a hurry. It just doesn't work. I don't like the drive home after dropping someone off at the airport. They're not here anymore. And now it's probably back to whatever it was like before they were here. Back to alone. Back to missing. Back to only being able to communicate through electronic means.

I don't like airports when I'm leaving. The security bothers me more. The wait at the gates. The idiotic boarding schemes. The food courts with their horrible and overpriced selections. The unpredictable and often nasty restrooms. The long walks with heavy bags, tired, dirty, ready to just be home, but knowing there's all this technology and space to traverse.

It is amazing how the same exact experience can be perceived entirely differently depending on internal states.

One year ago...

One year ago this week, I could not possibly have known that I would be here today, writing about what I was doing one year ago this week. It goes to show you how pointless it is to answer questions about "Where do you see yourself in one year?"

Though, I guess, had I constructed some fantasy future that did not, in any way, stem from where I was a year ago, it might have looked like this. But I am not writing about the present here, because right now my thoughts are reflecting on the past.

A year ago this week, I auditioned for my band. I did write the name of the band here, but then I realized that it would undoubtedly result in this blog being found in a search engine for stories about our band, and this is not a story about our band, so I'll let it be anonymous, not that I don't like to have attention for the band. But it was something that was very important to me; monumental, in fact. I had invested quite a substantial amount of time preparing for the audition in the week before it happened. That was unusual for me, because I am a fast enough learner, that usually I would just "wing" auditions. But this one was different, because I didn't want to be "good". I wanted to be "the only option". I wanted to play well enough that they couldn't possibly consider anyone else. So, for one of the first times in my life, I worked really hard.

A year ago this week, I was in the conflicted throes of the last week of my mother's life. She was probably dying, not sure, but likely, and I was here in Seattle, confused, and angry, and frustrated. In a holding pattern, with part of my family telling me I should get on a plane right this minute, and the other part of my family telling me there was no point, and that I should sit tight, but be prepared to come quickly. Basically, the split was between those in denial, and those not. Those in denial were telling me to come immediately, to see her. Those who were not... they knew that she was already gone, and it was all over but the dying. I didn't really cope with it well. I didn't know what to do. It seemed pointless to go home to visit someone who is in a coma, with no certainty as to how long I would need to be home. What if I went for a few days, then came back, and then she died? I'd have to go back again. This all sounds callous and selfish, but I really was confused. The flip side was that it seemed equally pointless to wait for her to die and then go home for a ritual in which I don't really believe - the funeral. Especially a religious one, which means little to me. In the end, I realized that it was about supporting my family, mostly my father. And I did go, coincidentally at the right time. And I was there for him. And I felt okay with what I had chosen to do, but felt a little guilty about how lucky it was that I had been there at the right time. I felt selfish because I did stay in Seattle to do my audition, and then I went home. I probably wrote about this in a blog before. I can't imagine I didn't.

A year ago this week, I was in the downward painful spiral of a relationship that was disintegrating under the reality of circumstances, coupled with my personal crisis with my mother, and her personal crisis with depression. The feeling of having a "significant other" during a crisis, but not being able to turn to them is actually far worse than not having a partner at all. It draws attention to the lack of support, because the support should be there, and it's not. It was during that time that I thought of the lyric "Being alone is like being with you, without being together". Unfortunately, I never did anything with that line, but it's a pretty good one.

It's weird looking back at that week - this week - one year ago, and all that was happening simultaneously. I didn't give myself any "credit" for the shitload of pressure that was on me. And for the better part of the remainder of the year, I didn't pull myself together. The only thing that was absolutely solid for a good chunk of 2008 was the band. Out of the crash and burn relationship and my mother's death, like a phoenix rising from the ashes, I landed the position in the band. And the band kept me going. Not by providing any active support, because I didn't ask for it. But by being something on which I could direct my energy and passion. Something that I could not afford to fuck up or lose. A reason to not just give up and become woefully depressed.

This weekend, I will "celebrate" the one year anniversary of my mother's death. I guess it's called "Remembrance Day", which I think is sort of ironic, since ideally we remember people we've lost whenever we remember them. But this is a day that I guess I will stop and try to feel some of the feelings that I might typically repress or ignore, or set aside for a rainy day, or a hot sunny day, or any day that the mood strikes to go in the places that are easier not to go. I won't be spending the day with my family in Boston.

I feel really good about where I am now. I feel like the band is now not the only good thing in my life. In fact, I can't complain about anything in my life now (though sometimes I still do).

03 April, 2009

Cure cancer, or make Excel easier... which has greater impact on the world?

I am not really sure what the answer is to the above question. And of course, it is somewhat of an absurd question. But it is one that certainly relates to my life experiences. I studied biology and genetics, and had the opportunity to pursue a career in research. At one point, I did research at a renowned cancer research institute. I would not say that I did good research, and I would not say that I did very much research there at all. But I was there. And the greatest impact one could imagine having would be to unlock the secrets to curing some type of cancer that afflicts many. Or to mitigate the pain, or prolong the life span of those who suffer. That's a noble cause, right?

I left all that to work in the software industry, also as a researcher. People have asked me why I did it, and if I felt some sort of moral weakness for having gone to "The Evil Empire", as they put it. My response, while somewhat facetious, is actually tongue-in-cheek serious: Perhaps I have a greater chance of impacting the world by making Excel better than I did by working in biological research?

How could I say that?

Well, the reality is simple. There are thousands and thousands of researchers working on disease, and basic science, trying to answer fundamental questions. The knowledge we obtain is at best incremental, save for rare breakthroughs. And much of the knowledge is just mental masturbation. We can make a mouse that glows in the dark. Big fucking deal. True, that technology was also used to do things like tagging molecules in living organisms so we can track their progress during development or other cellular processes. But much of what comes out of academic research is a lot of "Gee Whiz" without actually curing anything, or producing anything that will have a direct impact on anyone's lives.

Contrast that with being one of a handful of people in the world whose job is to engage in research and design of a software product that is utilized by hundreds of millions of people. If I can do research, even quite simple and modest, that leads to my product becoming easier for people to use, I have the potential to reduce stress, and increase job satisfaction for an enormous number of people around the entire world. It doesn't require killing animals. It doesn't require wasting large amounts of plastic. It just requires evaluating designs, and then testing them on a handful, or a few dozens of people, to see if our thoughts about how to design the product were correct or incorrect. Ironically, making people's work lives less stressful could actually have a greater impact on health than studying medicine or biology could have done.

Of course, there's an assumption that the improvements we make will be appreciable enough to actually make people's lives better. But with hundreds of millions of users, and just a few of us researchers, I feel like the odds are actually pretty good of having an impact.

How can I complain about that?

02 April, 2009

Obsession with The Rolling Stones

For the past however many months, I have been totally in the land of the Stones. And there's really no way out, except for complete indulgence, overplay, and eventually musical fatigue. You'd think it would be hard to say "The Rolling Stones are one of the most underrated bands of all time". You'd really think that it would be a silly thing to say. But it goes beyond all the hype. It's irrelevant that they've had an insane number of hit songs. They've made countless albums. They've gone through stylistic changes, without ever becoming completely un-Stones.

People always talk about the Beatles as the greatest band of all time. The ones who influenced everything. And they certainly have influenced everything that we hear in pop and rock, including The Rolling Stones. But The Beatles lasted only 8 years. And they had only 12 studio albums, depending on how you decide to count (Please Please Me, With The Beatles, Beatles for Sale, Hard Day's Night, Rubber Soul. Help, Revolver, Magical Mystery Tour, Sgt. Pepper, Yellow Submarine, White Album, Abbey Road, Let It Be; okay that was 13 albums, but I would exclude YS, since it was mostly a piece of shit). The Beatles could not keep it going because their personal pursuits tore them apart. The concept of "band" did not outweigh the ambition and individuality of the members.

The Stones, for a large portion of their career, certainly well into the early 1990's (a span of 30 years!) were the same set of members, minus one personnel change: Brian Jones, who killed himself, and then was replaced only twice. First, by Mick Taylor, and eventually Ron Wood, who is with them to this day.

The thing about The Stones that is so amazing to me is that they started around the same time as The Beatles, but they started doing their best work around the time The Beatles broke up. Not to say they didn't do comparable, and excellent work throughout the 1960's. But from 1968 to 1978 (or more accurately, from 1968 to 1974, and then once again in 1978) The Stones were on fire.

Lately, I have been listening obsessively to the album Beggar's Banquet. It is not possible to say enough good things about this one. It is undoubtedly (in my mind) the best album that they ever recorded (with Some Girls and Exile on Main Street in 2nd and 3rd place). And I would put it up against anything that The Beatles ever did, if what you're looking for is "An Album". A collection of songs that holds together and is unpretentious, takes you somewhere, and never breaks stride. The Beatles had great collections of songs, but only in little spurts did they ever manage to successfully get you into a theme and hold you there. Sgt. Pepper was obviously aimed at doing that, but it was such a quirky and nutty theme, that you had to practically step outside your world to step into it. Beggar's Banquet is a place that you can get to by doing nothing more than letting your mood and your mind slide a little bit. The songs all hold together, and never give you a jolt that says "Whoa! Where'd that come from?"

It probably has something to do with musical control. The Beatles were always a fight between several musicians, writing songs, and putting their own stamp on things. And there was probably not that much enthusiasm, especially as the years passed, in putting 100% into someone else's song. The Stones were a different story. From my read of things, large chunks of their repertoire was written entirely by Keith Richards, especially in the case of Beggar's Banquet and Exile. And most of the guitar work on these records was also done by one person (in both cases, they were essentially without a second guitar player because of Brian Jones having become less and less involved, and eventually, dead).

Okay, I don't want to talk about this anymore.

Swiss Army Disengagement

That's really the right name for it. Because, getting out of that relationship served so many purposes, that it was like the Swiss Army knife of life decisions. I got my life back. I got my friends back; particularly my best friend. I got my living arrangements back to something that I wanted, namely being in Seattle. I got my freedom back, to do things that I wanted to do. So it seems fitting to refer to it that way.

But that's not the reason for the title of this blog.

When I broke off my engagement with the Russian that we'll call Katya, just for the sake of pseudo-anonymity, I was left with a couple of things: a $4100 diamond and platinum engagement ring, and a $900 diamond and platinum wedding band. I'm embarrassed to tell you these things, because I know that I should never have purchased them. It was impulsive, and rebound-y, and I was trying to do something I wasn't ready to do, with someone with whom I was not ready to do it. I don't even believe in diamonds! I never have, and I never will. Rubies or sapphires? Maybe a different story. But diamonds are just so trite and full of dark history and things that I don't wish to support. I suppose that all gemstones have unpleasant back story, but diamonds must be the worst. Or else that movie with Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Connelly (meow!) would be called "Blood Emerald" or "Blood Topaz".

So, I had all this crap when we broke up. And it was worth a lot, but hard to get rid of. I should say that it was a show of a fair bit of integrity that Katya returned everything to me without my asking for it. She was kind of nuts, and definitely a very difficult person to live with, but she had integrity in some important ways. That was one of the things that I appreciated. Though, I do realize, in hindsight, that part of the reason I thought she had so much integrity is because she was constantly telling me how much integrity she had. So perhaps, a more careful objective look would reveal a different character.

Back to the crap.

The engagement ring, I managed to (mostly) get rid of via the same place I bought it online. They allowed me to consign the stone, and get close to the value of it, minus a commission. I think I got $2700 for a stone that I paid $3600. All things considered, not tragic. It is scary to think that some woman is wearing the stone of another woman's failed relationship on her hand. Is there some sort of curse or karma that goes along with that? Possibly.

The ring in which it was set, however, could not be sold. And who is going to buy a setting minus the stone? Nobody, that's who. So that will rot forever, and I could not possibly even tell you where it is. I should probably just donate it or something, if I find it.

The wedding band - the one that would have been Katya's if we were living on Neptune where all backwards things are possible - that, I was able to trade in at the jewelry store where it was purchased. For some bizarre reason, they allowed me to trade it for full store value. I am not sure why. Maybe they were being nice. Who knows?

So I thought long and hard about what would be the best thing to trade for - what would be marketable? What could I move on E-Bay or Craigslist, or something?

The decision?

Swiss Army Watches.

For the price of that ring, I was able to get 4 Swiss Army watches that each had a unique design. I thought it would be easy to sell them! They were not that expensive in the first place, and people would want them. Right?

Wrong. Looking on E-Bay, it seemed that people just weren't bidding. And the ones that did sell were going for prices like 25% of what I paid for them. Not worth selling them. So they sat in my closet. For years. Then last summer, my friends Ellen and Mary heard about them, and were interested in getting them for their significant other and father, respectively. I decided to sell them for the same price they'd have gone on E-Bay. Rather give a great deal to a friend than to a stranger. Two down. Two to go. The other two sat in the closet for another 9 months.

Today, I was getting dressed, and I looked in the closet, and saw the boxes of the two watches. I couldn't even remember which ones were remaining. I opened up the boxes, and looked at them. The black one looks nice, actually. I always liked it. Why I haven't worn it for the past 2 years is something of a mystery.

So I'm wearing it today.

01 April, 2009

Singing with a deadline

There are many things in life that I have done with a deadline, or against a clock. I've studied for exams. Written reports. Prepared for interviews. Got paperwork together for things. Prepared meals for a party or dinner. Exercised to try to get in shape. Learned songs for an audition or rehearsal. Tried to finish a race in my fastest time. Completed quests in computer games. Shopped for a present for someone. Try to get to work in time for a meeting. I could go on and on.

What I have never had to do before is sing with a deadline.

And that's the situation that we are currently facing in our recording project. There's a small amount of pressure on me. But there is a significant amount of pressure on our lead singer. We've been working for months and months, and everything is coming along great. But when you get near the end, you need to fix mistakes, and there are still songs that have not had enough attention paid to the lead vocals, because they can't really be finalized until we all finished our instruments. The problem of the deadline is because we need to go in the studio to have the CD mixed in a couple of weeks. And the recording engineer would like to have 1-2 weeks to listen, and get the "project" (i.e. the hundreds of .WAV files) loaded into ProTools (the recording software) to prepare for mixing. If we went by the 2 week request, that would mean we need to give him everything by the 5th of April. That's this weekend. And it ain't gonna happen. Guitarist still has 3 songs to go. I still have backup vocals (though less important) on about 5 songs, and our singer needs to sing parts of, or all of about 6 more songs. And he just got over a cold. And you typically can't do more than one song a day due to vocal strain.

As the songs get more and more filled up with instruments and vocals, the other problem is that there are fewer and fewer available tracks in our 24-track recording setup. It becomes some type of jigsaw puzzle trying to figure out what tracks are blank, which ones have things recorded, which ones have junk, etc. And the stakes of messing up are huge. You record on a track that you think is blank, only to discover later that it actually had a guitar solo that started 3 minutes into the song. You just blew it away, and now your lead guitar player needs to come back and spend 2 hours recording it again! If you use a computer-based recording system like ProTools, you get to see all the waveforms on your screen, all pretty and everything, and you will never make the mistake of recording over someone's guitar solo. But, alas, it's at least a $3k investment to get into that world, and we're not quite ready. Probably the next CD.

So, if you combine deadlines, too much to do, too few tracks to do it, poor lighting, late nights, lost sleep, stress, typical flightiness of musicians, and a substantial amount of whisky, there's no telling what we're gonna end up with here.

I feel like a leper or a red-headed stepchild

At least, that's how I feel in the eyes of the mortgage industry right now.

One year ago, I was the golden boy. I was the perfect candidate. I was what every bank or mortgage company dreams about. I have stellar credit. A decent paying job. No outstanding debts. And my objective was to live reasonably within my means. I did not want to by an ostentatious 2600 sq. ft. mansion on Lake Washington, or a penthouse condo in Capitol Hill. I just wanted a modest place that I could call my own. I even planned, by design, to move with my housemate, so that I could manage expenses. 

All was good, yes?

When the housing market really took a dive recently, and interest rates plummetted to insanely low levels (sometimes under 4.5%), I thought that I would be a shoe-in for refinancing, to save a couple hundred more a month - which doesn't hurt. Well, unfortunately, it's not that simple. The reason, of course, that the interest rates are so low is because banks are hurting. And the reason banks are hurting is because of bad loans and poor economy. And the result of all that is housing values dropping. And the result of all that is I don't have enough equity anymore to qualify for the exact same loans I could have obtained one year ago. So, there's this beautiful opportunity for killer interest rates, and I cannot get them. It's a simple reality. And it's sort of no different than me saying that if I had bought $100,000 worth of Apple stock, I could have made $100,000 in the last month just by buying and selling Apple over and over again. Because I didn't have $100,000 to buy it, and therefore I could not make the investment. It's just hard when it's an equity that is already in your hands, but it's not worth what it was.

It seems unfair that banks have suddenly decided to adopt stricter lending policies. A year ago, I would have been all for it. Now I want them to return to their previous fiscal irresponsibility, so that I can get my good deal!