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Thursday, January 06, 2011

Little Zomby Abroad: Zombyboy Goes to School Edition


Here’s another scan for the masses.

The young gentleman on the left would be me walking from school. At the time, we lived in Bulawayo and I was phenomenally happy.

I’m also pretty sure that I never quite grew out of that same shade of pallid. 

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Grandpa, Salida Park, 1980


I took about a dozen trays of 35mm slides home with me from Arkansas. These date all the way back to the mid-70’s.

I purchased a flatbed scanner with a slide attachment last night and tonight got around to trying the scanner. The film seems to be deteriorating. The clarity has suffered, the color seems to have shifted heavily toward red, and, of course, there are a good number of marks and scratches. This is the first one that I scanned and saved, so I’m still in the learning stage, but I’m worried that some of the older slides might be beyond saving.

I worked the curves on this to reduce red and introduce a bit more blue back into the mix and I’m reasonably happy with the results. It is still far too red in some areas, though, and I’ll need to establish a decent workflow if I want these to be done before 2012.

Still, I like this picture. It was likely taken by my grandmother (or perhaps my Uncle Billy) and my grandpa is seen walking their little poodle. Sadly, they are all gone and no one is there to tell me about this trip. He passed away back in 2005 and I still miss him.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Arkansas Christmas Miscellany

Merry Christmas to you all just a little bit late. I hope you’ll forgive my tardiness.

Darling girl and I spent Christmas in Hot Springs with my parents. It’s the second time we’ve made the trip, although it was complicated a bit this year by the awkward (for us) placement of the holidays. The trip home was done in one, long fifteen hour drive yesterday so I wouldn’t miss any work after we decided that it wouldn’t make much sense to leave late on Christmas to start the drive home. It wouldn’t have been fair to my parents since they only see me once every few years.

This is a series of notes about the trip.

Firstly, Hot Springs is a fun little town. It reminds me of Colorado’s own Manitou Springs only, perhaps, a little bit nicer.

We stayed at the Embassy Suites and it was absolutely wonderful. I used to work at an Embassy Suites and have stayed at a few here and there across the country, but this really was one of the nicest I’ve seen. The rooms were great, the setting beautiful, and the staff was uniformly warm, friendly, and helpful. I had chosen the Embassy Suites because I needed a place with a desk, enough room, and high speed Internet access so I could work for the first few days that we were in town. I wasn’t much disappointed.

Not much but just a little. See, the hotel was wonderful, the free breakfast in the morning was perfect, the bar with some of my favorite vodkas didn’t hurt matters, but I did have an issue with the “high speed Internet” service. Two issues, really. The first is that most hotels (like the Hampton hotels that I normally choose) offer free high speed Internet, but the Embassy Suites charged for daily access. At the price of the room, I’m surprised that the service isn’t included in the deal. I won’t complain too loudly on that front, though: I made the reservations knowing I had to pay extra but decided that it would probably be worth it since I was also able to make spa reservations for my wife on premises, there was more than enough space for my needs, and it the location was good for us.

But, having chosen to pay for something that I normally get for free, I was surprised at the flaky, slow connection that I got. The service was slow, when I logged in daily it offered an extra paid upgrade for faster download speeds, and it dropped connections somewhat regularly. The work that i was doing required me to be sending 70+ meg files to a printer and I ended up missing a few soft deadlines. Luckily I was working with a friend (if you ever need a printer in Denver, Bob at RM Printing is the most reliable and hardest working man that I know in the business--I can’t recommend him enough) who was more patient with me than I deserved. I did end up getting the work done, but it was much harder than it should have been.

The kicker was that the wireless connection was so bad and so inconsistent that I ended up going old-school: wired connection to a data port in the wall. While my reliability went up, the speed didn’t see much improvement.

If the network service hadn’t been so flaky, it would have been the perfect place for the first half of our stay.

Secondly, I got my mom a Kindle for Christmas. I got her one because, largely, I couldn’t afford to get her an iPad but I knew that the Kindle would be something she would really love. That meant helping her with the set-up and showing her a bit how to use the thing.

I like the Kindle. It’s responsive, it works well, and it is really nicely priced--I think that my mom will love it.

I can’t love it, though. I can like it, but not only is it too limited in comparison to my iPad, but even on its own terms it has some design compromises that really bug me. For instance, the tiny keyboard is hideous. The sub-chiclet sized keys are ridiculous and I can’t understand why they didn’t have room for not only larger buttons but more buttons. Why doesn’t it have a set of number buttons? Why do I have to use an odd, on-screen pop-up for numbers and the alt-keyboard? I also, stupidly, mistook the “back” button for the “delete” button a number of times while I was setting up her account information--my fault, certainly, but it still bugged me.

Much of what I didn’t like about it came down to unfavorable comparison to the iPad, though. While it was responsive and it had a very nice screen, while it was light and very nicely sized, it didn’t have the same mix of size, convenience, and incredible breadth of capabilities of the iPad. I know it isn’t a fair comparison (the Kindle is built for reading and nothing more), but I couldn’t stop myself from making it. The same way that I judge netbooks negatively in comparison to my MacBook Pro, I can’t help but judge the Kindle a little negatively in comparison to my iPad.

This has lead me to wonder, though, that with an iPad in my life, do I really need my iPhone? I might actually downgrade to a phone when my current contract is up.

That also brings me to my thirdly, too: the iPad played a big part in this trip, too. Instead of using my dedicated GPS, I used MotionX-GPS Drive HD. It provided a larger screen with bigger maps and instruction, a great set of extra features (a few button clicks to find a list of the nearest coffee shops), voice directions, basic iPod controls, and the option to pre-cache all of the maps that I would need for the trip. I bought a mount for it (that proved useless) and ended up with what I will term a field expedient method of mounting that involved a design feature of my 2008 Ford Taurus X and the particular case that held the iPad. It worked shockingly well.

Since it was hooked up to the car stereo, the music volume dropped every time the voice instructions came along to tell me where to turn. That was a nice change from the stand-alone GPS where the directions would sometimes get lost against the music.

There were a few negatives, though. We ended up a little confused in Hot Springs when we missed a turn and it couldn’t find a new path for us against the quick turns we made to try to get back on track, for instance, and had a few other situations where it had a hard time finding a new route when we went off script. The stand-alone unit seems to be quicker in mapping new routes when necessary. Like the stand-alone unit, though, the MotionX app found some imaginary roads near where my parents live. Apparently the maps for the roads near Hot Springs Village have a few glitches.

The biggest issue came when the app crashed, though. About eight or nine hours into the trip home, the application froze. It came some 80 miles before my next turn, so it wasn’t a big issue, but it was a surprise. A quick restart had it back directing us in just a few seconds, so there was no damage done, but it doesn’t inspire the kind of confidence that you want from a GPS system. I’ll be using it again on my trip to Vegas next month and I’ll see how well that works out.

And, still on the subject, fourthly, the iPad makes a better workmate than you’ve heard. I was thrilled that I bought the 3G version on this trip. Whenever the flaky Internet service (and access at my parents’ home was spotty, too) my cell service was fine. I answered emails, I took notes, I sent links to pdfs through the Dropbox application, I used the contact list and the task manager (I use Manage, a great .99 todo application that balances a nice interface and features with simplicity of presentation and some useful export options) to keep me in touch and on task. I won’t be making my next 36 page brochure on the thing, but it’s not just useful for entertainment.

What I found most surprising was that I was only out of cell phone contact a few times during the entire trip. Where 3G wasn’t available, it was rare that I didn’t have EDGE coverage. For all that AT&T is maligned for its network--and that isn’t entirely undeserved--the breadth of coverage for me was still impressive. And for a good chunk of my stay in Hot Springs, the 3G connection was more reliable and faster than the “high speed” Internet connection that plagued me.

It’s hard for me to spend $900 on a non-essential bit of electronic kit without feeling even a little bit of regret, but I can honestly say that I don’t regret the iPad purchase at all. It has done more than I imagined it would and it has really changed the way I view tablet-based computers. It has a few shortcomings that I would like to see addressed, but the overall device is startlingly good.

After all that chatter, here’s what I really wanted to say: it’s good to be home.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Glad to be Home

I’m not a big fan of LA. The traffic is hideous, everything is expensive, and where I have to stay is about an hour away from the ocean. Flying in and out of LAX is fairly miserable (although the security lines are much quicker than what you find on a bad day at Denver International Airport) and you tend to run into people talking loudly on their cell phones about the TV shows that they’ve been involved in recently.

That isn’t to say that the place doesn’t have its charms. The weather was wonderful and there are some truly wonderful people in the area. While I never really think of it as a friendly town, the truth is that I usually have some great conversations with absolute strangers and in the most odd places.

The young lady who worked the front desk, the lovely lady and her son who were seated with my co-workers and me at Tokyo Wako one night (a place similar to Benihana), a serviceman coming home from a trip to Australia with his family, and a Rhodesian gentleman who left his home country after Robert Mugabe’s government took his home all helped make my days a little happier. LA will never be my kind of town, but, if I were to be honest, there are far worse places to spend a few days.

Anyhow, these are a few pictures from the trip. All were taken with my iPhone and were then modified either on the phone or on my laptop.

This first picture is dark because I was more interested in the shapes and the shadows than I was in the colors. The view is from the hotel and the gentleman to the left is the Rhodesian man I mentioned earlier. After fleeing Zimbabwe in the early eighties with only what he could carry on the plane and a few dollars in his pockets, he made his way to the US and started a business. He provides limousine services and says that business is great. We chatted a bit while he waited for Doctor Suchandsuch and I waited for my ride to the office. Typically I rent a car when I’m in town but decided to let my co-workers shuttle me around this time. I’m glad I did.


I’ve never flown American Eagle, but after my last few trips on United I decided I needed to find a new carrier for my business trips. I wasn’t disappointed. The folks at American and American Eagle were wonderful and the flights got me where I was supposed to be with minimal fuss and very nearly on time. Through my own stupidity, I also managed to miss my flight Friday morning but making changes and finding a later flight was easy and painless. It did leave me spending a good portion of the day at LAX, though, so I spent $50 for a day pass to the Admiral’s Club where the seats were nice, I had high speed Internet access, and where I could find a clean bathroom. I don’t fly often enough to need a membership, but it made the wait much nicer.

I plan to fly American again when I head to Vegas in January and look forward to giving them an opportunity to keep my business.

One of the odd things about flying American Eagle into LAX, though, is that the planes go into a small terminal a few minutes away from the main terminal. Passengers check in and go through security just like anyone else, but then they board little buses that shuttle them to the little building after driving around the runways. When we flew in, the bus driver played a canned tape that explained that we would be going to the main terminal and that the trip would take a few minutes. “Airplanes have the right of way,” the recording helpfully explained.

This next picture was taken in that little terminal. I snapped it when I noticed that people had started to gather around when Bill Clinton came on to explain why Democrats should embrace the Obama-negotiated tax deal. Most of those people had been ignoring the TV until Clinton showed up and I was struck by a few things: first, that in the world of former Presidents, Bill Clinton is a bit of a rock star, and, second, for all that President Obama has been lauded for his speaking skills, he has nothing near the skill of Clinton. Clinton has warmth, humor, and an easier manner, he showed a better grasp of the political situation, and, simply, he has a charisma that our current president can’t match.

Now, Clinton was also in love with the sound of his own voice (and his State of the Union addresses were testimonies to his own unbridled ego), but it was interesting watching him working the press corps with such skill.

I still can’t decide whether it was brilliant to bring in Clinton to help sell the deal or if it was tremendously self-destructive because it showed President Obama to be a much weaker politician. It felt a bit like a Hail Mary pass from a president who still has two years left in his first term and that speaks of an administration willing to take a big risk for a small win. Perhaps that’s not how the Democrats see it, but my Republican mind is smelling a little desperation.


Notably, that Christmas tree is very nearly the only holiday cheer that I saw in the town. It was surprisingly un-Christmasy throughout.

This last shot is taken from my seat while I was flying out. It never translates quite right, but it was a beautiful sunset and a great view.


I’m glad to be home.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

When Burqas Attack

From the Daily Mail:

(Jeanne) Ruby, who is accused of aggravated violence, is said to have ‘lost control’ when she saw Ms al-Suwaidi choosing furniture in a department store.

‘I knew I would crack one day,’ said Ruby. ‘This whole saga of the burka was really getting to me.’

Speaking in English to her victim, the retired teacher, who taught in Morocco and Saudi Arabia, said: ‘I told her to take off the veil she had on her face. I grabbed and pulled it.

‘To me wearing a full veil is an attack on being a woman. As a woman, I felt attacked.’

I would suggest that Ruby is a little confused on the subject of the definition of “attacked.” She might have, dumbly, felt attacked, but she sure as hell wasn’t the one who was attacked.

I’m no fan of the burqa. What it symbolizes is repulsive and the treatment of women in some Islamic nations is horrendous. That doesn’t make it in any way okay to attack a woman for wearing the thing--physically assaulting a woman isn’t such a great corrective to what many consider to be a symbol of women’s subjegation and abuse. In fact, it left the victim feeling terrified, humiliated, and abused.

After allegedly slapping Ms al-Suwaidi, Ruby bit her hand before successfully removing the veil, shouting: ‘Now I can see your face.’

Security guards had to separate the women, with one describing the fight as being motivated by ‘pure burka rage’.

Ms al-Suwaidi suffered cuts and bruises and had to take two days off work. She was so upset that she has now left France and returned to the Emirates, and will not attend today’s court case.

Lovely work, that.

Read the rest.

Friday, October 01, 2010

The Not So Bright Life of Zomby

I’m listening to a song that hasn’t been on regular rotation in my iPod for years. Maria McKee’s “If Love is a Red Dress (Hang Me in Rags)”, which I absolutely love. Great stuff.

However.

However, it plays to the worst of my own personal mental defects. It plays to the bits of me that movies, music, and literature to adore the idea of suffering instead of savoring the happiness that life has handed me. When she sings, “If love is shelter, I’m gonna walk in the rain,” I’ll be damned if I don’t want to fall out of love so that I can taste a little misery.

I’ve often said that happiness is overrated--and I am pretty happy--but I meant it in what I thought was an entirely different context. I’m coming to the conclusion that I might just be emotionally allergic to happiness.

And, boy, is that stupid.

Watch it here on YouTube if the embed isn’t working for you.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Give to a Good Cause

This, reported by KTVB.com, is simply unacceptable.

Strangers are stepping up to help the widow of a north Idaho veteran who received the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Vernon Baker died at his St. Maries home in July and will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1941, served and was wounded in World War II. Vernon was 90 years old.

But Baker’s wife of the last 17 years, Heidy Baker, can’t afford to attend the burial of her own husband’s ashes.

I will be donating to the cause. No CMH winner should ever go to his final resting place in Arlington without his family in attendance. I would feel ashamed if his service meant that little to us.

Read more about Vernon Baker here.

I will work to find information about donating after I’ve left work today. I will post details as they are available.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

That’s Not Right

I was going to lead this story with something like this: “I found myself wondering if they had been inspired by So You Think You Can Dance.” Then I realized that it doesn’t really fit my mood right now; not that there isn’t room for humor, but that it isn’t how I want to see this story today. So, instead, this:

I continue to insist that I not only can judge other cultures, but I must judge them so that we maintain a clear-eyed understanding of what distinguishes us from them. We’re told we aren’t supposed to judge and we aren’t supposed to think in terms of us and them--I know this because, like the rest of you, it has been hammered into me from the time I was a child.

It just isn’t done. The problem is that what we were taught is wrong. It is vital for us to be honest and open about other cultures in the world--not in deifying or demonizing those cultures, but in being earnestly critical in the same way that I hope we consider our own culture and politics. With that said, imagine what I think about the culture that gives us a news story like this:

A group of young Muslim men have been publicly flogged in Sudan after they were convicted of wearing women’s clothes and make-up.

The court said the 19 men had broken Sudan’s strict public morality codes.

Police arrested them at a party where they were found dancing “in a womanly fashion”, the judge said.

We need to judge because we need to constantly remind ourselves of what it is that we value as a society and what it took to create something as grand and diverse as the United States of America.

Read the rest.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Bravery

My wife and I laugh and mock when Hollywood types pat themselves on the back for their bravery. They choose a role designed to get them critical applause and an Oscar and they tell us how brave they have been by, say, playing the role of a gay man confronting bigots, for example. There is nothing brave in that and their well-practiced gravitas and denunciation of the straw men that they build up in the movies are just an extension of the make-believe worlds in which they live and work.

That isn’t to deny artistic merit or even to say that there aren’t truly meaningful movies or is it to say that all of their words are playacting; it’s merely to note that there isn’t much bravery required to cash big checks, denounce racism, and collect awards.

Bravery is something else entirely. If you want bravery, then look to the cover of the latest Time magazine and you will see the face of a brave woman.

Our cover image this week is powerful, shocking and disturbing. It is a portrait of Aisha, a shy 18-year-old Afghan woman who was sentenced by a Taliban commander to have her nose and ears cut off for fleeing her abusive in-laws. Aisha posed for the picture and says she wants the world to see the effect a Taliban resurgence would have on the women of Afghanistan…

If I ever seem proud of my own bravery--or overly proud at my small accomplishments--someone slap me and point me back to this young woman.

Read the rest. Beware: it is, very honestly, a disturbing image.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Al and Tipper

No cheap shots at Al Gore today--at least, not from me.

Al and Tipper Gore, whose playful romance enlivened Washington and the campaign trail for a quarter century, have decided to separate after 40 years of marriage, the couple told friends Tuesday.

In an “Email from Al and Tipper Gore,” the couple said: “We are announcing today that after a great deal of thought and discussion, we have decided to separate.

“This is very much a mutual and mutually supportive decision that we have made together following a process of long and careful consideration. We ask for respect for our privacy and that of our family, and we do not intend to comment further.”

Separation is almost invariably the first step in a divorce. I’m not a particularly wise person and my ideals aren’t shared by everyone. That said, I recently told a friend, and I believe it to my core: divorce is very much like war. That is, it is the worst option until it is the only option.

The structures that a couple builds in 40 years of life together--the good and bad experiences together, the dreams still unfulfilled, the friends and the family that grows over those decades, and the mutual support that comes from knowing someone that intimately can all be burdens and blessings. It’s hard to lose all of that (sometimes even the bad bits).

Whatever it is that has brought them to this point, my best wishes to the couple that they can find a way to hold their marriage together. Failing that, I hope that their friends and family help them through what will be a rough time in their lives.

Read the rest.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Easter Thoughts

Not my thoughts--which, being religious in nature, I tend to keep quietly to myself--but Jay’s thoughts and insights.

One of the things that I have most enjoyed about blogging is the cultural cross-pollination that has happened in my world. Another thing that I enjoy is that someone like Jay, one of my oldest and sharpest blogging friends, can still find something to surprise and interest me. 

Weekend Inventory of Events

Duke is going to the finals. The Nuggets won. I’m married to a beautiful and wonderful woman.

Rockin’.

Monday, March 29, 2010

A Life of Zomby, Part 1

Can you guess the era? Can you guess the place? I’ll tell you this much, as a young Zomby, I had the opportunity to see a part of the world that many Americans never will and, likely, have little desire to experience.


image

I have, indeed, lived a blessed life.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Imagination Time: The Catholic School v/ Lesbians Edition

Okay, let’s play Imagination Time for a moment.

Imagine that you are a lesbian living in the Denver area (imagining liking girls is pretty easy for me; imagining the change in plumbing is a little tougher). Imagine that you are also a parent of a pre-school age child and are looking for a good school for your kid. Now, tell me what that school would look like?

Would it be a Baptist school? Why or why not?

Would it be one of the Denver Waldorf schools or a Montessori school? Again, why or why note?

Lastly, would it be a Catholic school? Why or why not?

Whether I like them or not, the religious schools very well could have policies against accepting or keeping students who are living in families that don’t adhere to their standards of conduct. Not only is it legal, it’s entirely understandable. Yes, I also understand why the parents might have wanted their kid in a religious school, but that doesn’t really change the other side of the equation.

The story of a lesbian couple whose kid is not being allowed back into a private Catholic school is raising a bit of noise around the area, though. Even school staff is voicing (anonymously) disappointment in the Denver Archdiocese decision.

According to the Archdiocese, parents who enroll their kids at Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic School are expected to follow the Catholic Church’s beliefs.

“No person shall be admitted as a student in any Catholic school unless that person and his/her parent(s) subscribe to the school’s philosophy and agree to abide by the educational policies and regulations of the school and Archdiocese,” the statement said.

Because this student’s parents are homosexual, the Archdiocese says they were in clear violation of the school’s policy.

School staff members, who asked to remain anonymous, say they are disgusted by the Archdiocese’s decision.

For those staff members who disagree so strenuously, I suggest that you tender your resignations. For parents who disagree, I suggest you withdraw your children. Register your disagreement in the best way you know.

Still, the “disgust,” especially on the part of the staff, is either incredibly naive or merely over-dramatic. What did they really think would happen? They do happen to work in a Catholic school. For that matter, for the parents, I feel fairly sure that they must have been actively subverting any code of conduct and policies that they had to agree to before placing their child in the school.

I say again: what did they really think would happen?

Last year when I was looking for a new job, I came across one that I was reasonably well-qualified for at a local Christian college. I started the application process and came to the code of conduct that I was expected to agree to and live up to as a requirement of employment.

Now, I really wanted a job and the idea of working on a Christian college campus appealed to me to. I know that this will be shocking to some folks out there, but I truly do take my religion seriously; I mean it when I call myself a Christian. That doesn’t mean that you’ll be able to find me to be a perfect fit for the teaching of any one church, and I have a hard time reconciling the areas of disagreement with my desire to be involved in a church.

When I came to that code of conduct, though, I knew that I would not be able to sign it in good conscience. It might not be readily apparent to anyone at the school and I might well be able to talk my way into the position, but it would be starting my employment based on a lie. I could not sign that code of conduct because it would have been a lie.

I have enough respect for myself to stand up for those things in which I believe. I have enough respect for others to not lie to them about the same.

Read the rest.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Sadly Saying Goodbye to My Aston Martin Obsession

Since I was a little boy watching James Bond movies, I’ve loved Aston Martins. Fast, exclusive, and beautiful cars. I obsessed over them for years and, when it looked like they would be another casualty of the self-destructive tendencies of the British auto industry, I applauded when Ford stepped in and rescued them from the dustbin of automotive history.

In the early 90’s, I bartended at the Embassy Suites near the Denver airport. One of the bonuses of living in Denver is that you occasionally see cars going through their high altitude testing regimens. Engineers and cars with strange paint jobs and camouflage, would show up in our parking lot on a semi-regular basis. The guy from Lotus didn’t like to be bothered and would talk about his car. The occasional domestic manufacturers didn’t interest me because, well, their cars were the kinds of things I could actually expect to drive within my lifetime. Which, by its very nature, doesn’t have the kind of drama or interest that something out of reach like a Lotus or a Bentley.

One day, I showed up to work and there was an Aston Martin DB7 in engineering garb. A little computer set-up inside for diagnostics, a few bits sticking out here and there to gather information, and one of the most beautifully pure shapes of any car I’d ever seen. Real artistry in auto design is rare--which isn’t to say that I don’t enjoy looking at even fairly common cars, but that the forms that made up the DB7 were close to perfection both in the subtleties of its curves and in the cues that brought it in line with the rest of the Aston Martins through history.

This was after the car had been introduced at an auto show (Geneva auto show, if memory serves), so I knew what it was. After staring at the thing for a bit, I walked in and told anyone who would listen that there was a real, live Aston Martin in the parking lot. The kicker was that later that night, while I was working the bar, a group of a few British engineers came in, talking about cars and beer and where they had to go the next day. Someone said something about Tom Walkinshaw Racing--and it clicked in my head. I knew that Aston Martin had farmed out engineering work on the DB7 to TWR--these guys were the engineers. These were the guys that got to drive around in that car.

I comped them their drinks. I talked to them about cars, impressed them with my knowledge of the British auto industry, chatted about politics, told them about my truck (at that time I was driving a new Mazda B4000 extended cab). I listened to them tell me about the car, about Aston Martin, and about how many free drinks that thing got them while they were driving through all of their testing grounds.

Over the next year or so, they dropped in for more testing. They brought a few cars each time, they had a rotating group of engineers, and we got along spectacularly.

The comped drinks helped.

Then we started going places in their cars. First it was to a gas station down the street just so I could get the feel. Then it was to a bar where my wife was working. Then it was me driving the test car to my apartment complex to show the car to my wife and then it was a buzzed engineer asking if I wanted to drive the car while we went out drinking. Which I did.

Oh, boy, did I. I had the thing going over a hundred by the end of an on-ramp at one point--a ridiculous and unreasonable speed that I was sure any police officer would understand if he I could only get him to imagine what he himself would do if he were in my situation. Luckily, I didn’t have to test my theory.

The last time I saw the crew--Nigel, Steve, Martin, Dan, Chris, Mickey, and Phil--they gave me some gifts (including their autographs on the box of a Maisto Supercar Collection model of the DB7). I treasure those gifts. I won’t say who let me drive those cars since it might have some effect on their jobs, but I was in contact with them through 1997 and probably would have kept contact if it hadn’t been for the brutal dissolution of my marriage getting in the way of my normal life.

And I continued to lust after the car I couldn’t have. As it grew up into the DB9 and the same design basics extended to the rest of their line-up, I lusted after Aston Martins. The new DBS doesn’t have quite the same perfection and beauty of the DB7 and the DB9, but it inspires warm, tingly feelings in me. When a new Aston was demolished in Casino Royale, I groaned. Loudly enough that my wife gave me dirty looks in the theater, in fact.

I tried to explain to her later: “Beautiful things shouldn’t die senseless deaths.” She didn’t really understand.

Now it is time for me to stop loving Aston Martin. Not because I’ve grown up or become a better person or because their cars have suddenly become horrible, but because they have committed the unforgivable sin. If your brand is built on exclusivity, if your brand is built on beautiful design, if your brand is built on the perfect melding of old British charisma and forward-thinking design and engineering, you damned well cannot sell out and have your brand plastered on overpriced, ugly, supposedly collectible Nike Hyperdunk shoes.

It’s embarrassing. It cheapens the value of the logo. It’s an immature venture for a mature (or, at least, wealthy, mid-life crisisey) brand.

When your brand is associated with the mystique of James Bond, that’s just good decision-making. When your brand is associated with pitifully designed, empty marketing efforts like the Hyperdunks, then someone should be fired.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Midnight Musical Interlude No. 1

It’s been a dreary day here in Denver. A gray, weepy game with drizzling, cold rain and snow. For a melancholic soul like me, it’s a catalyst for the worst of my own mind. Fears, worries, and a creeping, spidery awareness of my own failings poke at the back of my head, needle sharp and insistent. Much of it comes from memories that play in my head as if the I was living through some of the worst moments of my life again.

I can see, hear, smell, and feel everything that happened in those moments. Sometimes I think I understand junkies and alcoholics. If you can’t turn off the noise in your head by shear force of will, if you can’t find a way to get away from the most vicious bits of yourself, then drugs and booze are a hell of a temptation.

Which is one of the reasons I stopped drinking at one point in my first marriage. Not that it saved us, but I started to understand why I liked drinking so much, and it wasn’t a very happy realization.

Some of you know that I lost a friend when I turned 21. He died an ugly death around the same time I started bartending--a death directly attributable to his alcoholism. I had been drinking since I was about 13, but his death was almost like someone firing a starter pistol and I was racing to the bottom of the bottle. Most people that I knew then were drinking because it was part of the party; I was drinking because I wanted to kill myself. I had a very specific view of myself and I wanted to destroy the person that I saw, I wanted him to sink away and never come up for air.

Of course, it wasn’t always that way and it wasn’t constant--which is why I never quite made it to either addiction or suicide, why I still had friends, and why, when I grew up some, I found out that I could be okay. That I could start shaping my life to be something better, something happier and more full. I think I also learned that loneliness is largely a self-fulfilling prophecy.

But some nights, old habits crawl back in.

Which, if you know me well, probably explains my taste in music. If I have to relive the worst bits of my life, then the soundtrack should fit, right?

With that introduction, here are a few songs that I’ve been playing today. Enjoy.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

In Praise of Progressive

I’m not shilling for anyone here--and I’m certainly not getting paid to express my opinion--but I wanted to say a public thanks to Progressive Insurance Company.

Last year, after about fifteen years with MetLife, I decided to shop for a better price on my insurance. Progressive saved me about $300 a year, gave me the same coverage, and every interaction with the company has been a pleasure. My wife, who has been on a multi-car account with her family, just switched her coverage to my account and, in the process, saved us about $400 more per year over her current coverage. Again, the young lady that helped me change the account tonight was tremendously helpful, patient, and a pleasure to talk to--if I had thought to ask her name, I would be commending her to her supervisor.

Point being, Progressive has not only saved me a good chunk of money over the last year, but they’ve given me superb service. It’s not often that I would say something like this, but I’m really liking my insurance company right now.

Their ads, on the other hand, are skipping happily past their sell-by date, aren’t they?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Haiti Needs Our Help

And De Doc shows how we can help.

I know that there are a lot of good charitable organizations that are well worth your dollars. This is where I’ll be donating, though.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Happy New Year

Here’s wishing you and yours all the best in 2010. May you find happiness, health, and opportunity.

For the curious, blogging resumes next week. For the incurious, well, it still resumes next week, but you probably won’t much notice.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

I have much for which I am thankful. I am thankful for my wife and family (and thankful that my wife was willing to wait so long).

I am thankful for a very short period of unemployment, and, of course, looking forward to proving that I deserve the job I was offered last week. I feel blessed to have found the job as quickly as I did--it seems to be the exception and not the rule right now.

I am thankful for friends--the blogging kind and otherwise--who have enriched my life over this last year.

There is a lot to worry about in a bigger sense, but this is the kind of day where I’m going to focus on the positives while desperately fighting off the tryptophan coma that’s heading my way. Thanks, all, for the part that you’ve played in my life this year.

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