Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Thank You, Run Again!

I HAD A WEIRD-ASS dream last night. Like the last couple of dreams I had (or at least those I recall in the morning), it took place at work. Similarities end there.

To set the scene: My office occupies one quarter of a floor of a block-sized Depression-era office building. It is possible to circumnavigate the office via a hall formed by the outer walls of the space and the borders of the cube honeycomb that fills the inside. The overhead look is that of a racetrack. In my dream, this was literal.

Many of the employees in our information-technology department are from India. They comprise a very small, if hardworking and talented, percentage of the total headcount. In my dream, however, fully a third of the company was Indian.

And they were running.

I came into the dream, as I usually do, in the middle of the plot. Every Indian employee in the company was running around the racetrack-like outer pathway of our office. Workers of both sexes and all ages were there, in Western business dress as well as Subcontinental garb, pacing just short of a sprint in a tight formation. I actually had to get out of their way as they barreled down the hall, and I stood on a desk at the edge of the cube farm as they passed, laughing and panting, their ID tags bouncing and flying at the ends of their lanyards.

I was evidently late to the show, because they made one more half-revolution around the office and then slowed down to a jog, and then to an exhausted, smiling halt. They spoke excitedly among themselves, and some of them were talking on cellphones to our other offices, confirming that the Indian employees there, too, had done the same thing. This made me try to remember whether this might have been an Indian or Hindu holiday, but I didn't have a copy of the Indian holiday list (which in real life we do have; we have outsourcing contracts and there's almost no correspondence between our holiday schedule and theirs). They eventually dispersed to their desks in small groups, still happy and chatting about the run.

So what the hell is up with that? Am I concerned that our Indian employees will run rings around us? Those folks in our office are in no danger of taking my job; we're in different departments. I did find a stapled PowerPoint printout in one of our conference rooms that detailed the capabilities of a Bangalore-based typesetting firm. My immediate boss said this didn't pose a threat to the newsletter crew, though, or at least as far as she had heard. Compared to some of the slackers in the other parts of my department, and especially in the department in which I started in this company, the Indian IT guys and women bust their asses. I never see them lingering except over their lunch, which they tend to bring from home (mmmm, curry).

Who knows. Perhaps I was using the original source of the juggernaut in a very literal sense. In a more Quagmire-esque vein, perhaps it's just a desire on my part to see one particular female Indian employee, who is proportioned with a generosity I have only ever seen in Nature one other time (Ratatosk, Fyrefly: think RV in Colorado), running with pulchritudinous gusto. But she didn't appear in the dream. And depressingly, my dreams tend not to be so explicitly lowbrow.

So that's my puzzle for the next few days. The broader question of why I am dreaming of friggin' work so often surely could be solved with a couple of 4-day autumn weekends. I have to say, that prescription's looking mighty tasty.

Finding Myself in My Car Trunk

MY HUNCH PROVED CORRECT, if a few weeks late. I dug into my trunk this evening upon returning from work, and lo and behold, I discovered my old work IDs and transit passes deep in its recesses. Moving the folding chair must have dragged out the PATH pass and exposed the rest to plain sight.

I wouldn't have even dreamed the passes could be my trunk! In trying to retrace my steps, I can't see any context in which I would place them there, short of being zipped up inside my work bag.

The PATH passes I can use, because they have many remaining rides still on them. The September 06 NJ Transit pass is good for the rest of the month — all of 2 days — but I bought a weekly pass already to replace the monthly, so it's superfluous. As for the work IDs, after more than 20 months, they're actually pretty beat up and faded, so I will surrender those at the office and rely on the new ones I had made up.

Next mission: not losing the replacement ones!!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Remembrance of Train Tickets Past

I TOOK A HALF day today to make the second of my yearly cleaning/checkup pilgrimages to the dentist. In recent years, these have uncovered no new problems, and this one fit the pattern. Both the hygienist and I agreed that visits as boring as mine are the best for all parties concerned.

My dentist's office is only a 10-minute walk away, which afforded me a luxurious stroll through the early-autumn afternoon. When I returned to the apartment, I retrieved a book from upstairs, bought some spicy tortilla chips from the Trader Joe's next door, and sat outside for an hour as the sun shined its late-afternoon rays on my neck. As I was folding up the beach chair to return it to my trunk, I noticed something very familiar amid the dead leaves next to my parking spot: a New Jersey PATH ticket. I didn't recall either taking anything out of my shorts pockets or even bringing any of my usual pocket crap downstairs with me, so I bent to retrieve what I assumed was a windblown, expired pass.

It was not expired. It was, in fact, the pass I lost as described here. My name and the promised reward for turning the pass in were on the back.

I retraced the past several days. Could this pass have been in this parking spot since I lost it earlier this month? Not likely. It has rained since that time, and the pass I was holding was intact. My actions during the week I lost it didn't seem to include any actions that would have gotten my transit passes and work IDs into my trunk, but perhaps I did it unconsciously. Perhaps, in pulling the lawn chair from beneath some crap in the trunk, I snagged the PATH pass and let it flutter into my parking space. Before I had a chance to dig through my trunk, however, I got an urgent call of nature (damn spicy chips), so I came back upstairs.

So now I have some archaeology to undertake. The loss of those tags has irked me since I posted about it, not for the money it cost to replace the transit passes as much as the sheer mindlessness that allowed the loss. Just knowing how I lost them would be key to avoiding such an error in the future. Already I am keeping my passes more secure: My building pass is tethered to my work bag with a lanyard, my office pass has a tag for shirt-pocket wear, and I keep the transit ones in an inner bag pocket unless I am using them. One loss in 7 years isn't so bad, though losing them all at once points to a fatal flaw in keeping them all in the same vulnerable place. No more of that. If I turn up anything interesting in the trunk, I'll bring you all up to speed. Should it turn out to be a chunk of a long-missing union boss, it might be some time.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Coffee, With Occasional Science

I SHUFFLE OVER TO the coolerator and scrounge a bottle of water. I pour it into the carafe of my coffeemaker. The lines denote the quantity as 5 cups. In my math, that's two mugs, with milk. That's my dose.

Coffee contains caffeine, an addictive alkaloid. Caffeine causes racing heartbeats and spreads jitters across the finer nerves. Caffeine is a stimulant and fosters weight loss. Caffeine has no ill long-term side effects. Caffeine is a crutch for those who shun sleep. Coffee is the axis around which home and office morning socializing turns. Coffee contains more than 100 mg of caffeine per cup. Few people drink what used to be considered a "cup," instead choosing double-dose ceramic or travel mugs. Coffee should be avoided. Coffee is harmless in moderation. Everyone should drink it. Nobody should.

From a Starbucks bag, I scoop 2 tablespoons of glossy brown beans into my grinder. The aroma wafting from the bag makes me salivate. Starbucks beans are fine as long as you don't get the extra-dark ones, as they tend to over-roast them. In particular, the straight coffee served at the stores often tastes burnt. I have also selected beans from Whole Foods, which are roasted daily and bear freshness dates.

Starbucks has become a shared space in many communities. Starbucks is an all-devouring corporate octopus whose tentacles drive local indie coffeehouses out of business. Starbucks creates a space where people can work, chat, or listen to music while enjoying an inexpensive and satisfying indulgence. Starbucks rivals Anheuser-Busch as one of the country's biggest legal drug pushers.

I press the grinder button and watch the beans disappear into a cloud of brown grit. I tap on the lid of the grinder with a spoon to keep the grounds from gathering therein. Grabbing the gold-plated basket from my coffeemaker, I delicately shake the grounds out. A swipe of the spoon clears any remaining grounds from the grinder. No stragglers are allowed.

Starbucks partners with local coffee growers across the globe to forge fair-trade agreements that justly compensate impoverished agricultural regions. Starbucks could bankrupt wide swaths of the developing world merely by ceasing to buy that area's beans for a single season. Starbucks is evil. Starbucks is a corporation and has no emotions. Starbucks employs tens of thousands across the world. These are McJobs in green aprons.

I pour the water into the maker's reservoir and click on the power. The machine burbles for a second, then begins to cycle the water through the basketful of grounds. While I retrieve sugar and soy milk, the kitchen fills with that familiar, rich scent. Ask the average person what smells remind him or her of breakfast, and you're most liable to get "coffee" and "bacon" as your responses. Both can lure you from a deep sleep and into the dining room like a smoke hand from a Warner Bros. cartoon.

Sugar is safe when used in moderation. Sugar is an insidious additive to more foods than most folks realize. One teaspoon of sugar contains 16 calories. Sugar contains little else than calories and should be shunned. Sugar in soft drinks and other sweet foods has largely been displaced by high fructose corn syrup. Sugar is still abused by, among others, coffee drinkers, who typically pour 2 or more packets into their joe. Sugar in low doses amid a balanced diet is harmless. A balanced diet requires nothing that sugar provides: calories, withdrawal symptoms when denied, and greater vulnerability to metabolic syndrome and diabetes.

A soft click from the coffeemaker alerts me that the brew is complete. The mere thought of the coffee brewing has awakened me from my post-sleep languor. I scoop the last of my Sugar in the Raw into the mug, follow it with about half of the coffee in the carafe, and lighten it with a stiff shot of soy milk.

Soy has backboned the Asian diet for millennia. Much commercially available soy is now genetically modified. Organic soy can be found easily and is a staple of a healthy vegetarian diet. Soy is rich with phytochemicals and healthy fats that fight cancer and promote heart health. Soy estrogens grow bosoms on me. Soy estrogens are plant based and leave men flat chested. Omega-3 fatty acids in soy are less effective than those from fish in fostering proper serum fat levels. Eating protein and fat from soy is, pound for pound, healthier than eating the same amount in animal protein.

I sink into the warm mug of coffee and pull a deep draught. Science slides away, unneeded in this quiet weekend moment.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Straight Downhill From Monday

MOST PEOPLE LOOK FORWARD to every day that follows a Monday. So far, this week, I've been looking back to Monday nostalgically.

I had a trip planned to visit my parents in Wildwood Crest on Tuesday and Wednesday. Monday was therefore best spent in deep labor to clear the decks. I did this with gusto. I managed to lay out and send to their editors three sets of proofs, leaving my inbox entirely clear. I like leaving as few loose ends for my coworkers as possible, especially in this case for my immediate supervisor, who was still recovering from the pile of work she accumulated during her extended Labor Day vacation.

I got home in good time and watched the Manning Bowl with some ice cream. My departure time on Tuesday was after the morning rush, so I didn't need to awaken as early as usual. I rode out the slow unwinding of the Giants until late in the fourth quarter, then hit the hay.

The next morning, I hit the gym for a leisurely workout and 30 minutes on the treadmill, packed what few items I would need for an overnight stay, got my Atlantic City casino cards and some of my bankroll ready, gassed up on the newly cheap petrol now available in the area, and got rolling down the Garden State Parkway.

It was around Exit 74 that it dawned on me that I had brought neither contact lenses for Wednesday nor my glasses. To my credit, I merely issued an "Uh-oh" and kept driving. What could I do? To turn around at that point would shift my arrival time toward 5 or 6 in the afternoon, and possibly enmesh me in whatever commuting snarl develops on the lower half of the Parkway. I decided to visit whatever drugstore I could find, buy contact solution and a case in which I could store the lenses I was now wearing, and hope for the best.

This forced me to consider scratching my poker trip on Wednesday afternoon. My original plan was to leave Wildwood Crest around 2:00 or 3:00, get seated at the Borgata or Tropicana poker room, play for a few hours, eat, then head home after the evening rush. Now, with only one set of lenses to last me 2 days (I wear daily disposable contacts), I couldn't take the chance that ambient smoke, protein buildups, or allergies might make them unusable by the time I hit the road after gambling. So I was now leaning toward an early Wednesday departure. Vexing but not fatal.

When I drove over the bridge between the Jersey mainland and the Wildwoods, I splashed through a giant puddle outside a gas station. I noticed, when I stopped at a drugstore to get my eye supplies, that the drying water was leaving a schmutzy residue all over my car. Fearing that this was some sort of fucked-up petro-acid that would eat my finish, I found a car wash and got the basics. (You can see this was becoming an expensive overnight trip already!)

I finally got to my parents' motel by, oddly enough, my predicted time of 3:00, despite all the delays. This was the same place they stayed when I made this post around a year ago, and the gorgeous blue skies and sea wind were calming and helped me unwind from the minor hassles I had faced to get there.

But they weren't done yet. Dinner was, unfortunately, better for the company than for the fare. We went to an Italian place that claimed a multi-decade heritage in the area. I have to say it was among the worst Italian food I have ever had. I got eggplant parmigiana with meatballs. The sauce was made with whole tomatoes and chopped onions, which I spent much of the meal extracting from the layers of eggplant, and the meatballs were garlicky and also floating in the same sauce. I use no onions in my sauce aside from any caramelized ones might have clung to the meatballs, and I have a very low tolerance for garlic aside from the salt one might use on garlic bread. The eggplant itself was only partly done. I gave no indication to my parents of how little I thought of this favorite destination of theirs, but I will lobby against it next time I go down there.

Bedtime followed soon after we returned to the motel. I have had mixed results with the fold-out beds in this property. Up until last year, I had no problem with the mattress. In 2005, however, I woke up sore and stiff from where the bars of the couch had poked me. I got the bed unfolded, gingerly placed my contacts in the solution-filled storage gadget I had bought, and dropped off to sleep.

My cellphone alarm woke me up at 6:00 a.m. Immediately I knew something was wrong. The room was spinning. I knew it was the vertigo. In rolling to turn off the alarm, I nearly tumbled out of bed. Moving in itself was a stiff, awkward endeavor. When I got up to hit the john, I found myself veering to the right, walking into the wall twice. The vertigo seemed centered on that side. Hoping my parents wouldn't see me in this debilitated state, I took care of business, then wheeled back to the bed. I could feel the room whirling even as I sat there. Had I contorted myself into some imbalance-inducing position due to this shitty sofa bed? No way to determine. I had told my parents, when they brought up my coming down for a visit, that I would have preferred to stay in Atlantic City or somewhere along the highways leading to it, to avoid the beaten-with-soap feeling I got the last time I subjected myself to that sort of abuse. But they encouraged me to try it again, because they had a different room booked this time, and the motel had done extensive renovations that might have eliminated the poorer couches.

None of this was helping me now. I gave the exercises I had done in November a try — what else could I do? — and went back to sleep for another hour and a half.

Upon awakening, I noticed the symptoms had diminished but not entirely disappeared. I walked to the bathroom again — this time without colliding with the walls — and successfully inserted my lenses. No real problem seeing through them or tolerating them in my eyes. Had I slept with them in, I would be clawing at my sockets at this point, so I was happy to have taken some time to grab the supplies.

With the added attraction of the vertigo, however, I decided finally to rule out the poker trip. I did actually stop at the Borgata on the way home to marvel at its expanded, enormous poker room, but in an act of discipline and self-interest that would boggle some of the more impulsive members of my poker circle, I threw not a single chip in anger. This joint would be open when next I returned, rested, fully supplied, and intact in body.

Breakfast with my dad (my mom was still stacking zzzz's, having slept fitfully due to painful sciatica) went well, as did the hour or so I spent with both parents before my departure. I wished silently that I had had the motel's French toast for dinner the previous night instead of the subpar Italian grub. I made my goodbyes and headed home without incident or delay. My contacts held firm through an end-of-journey pit stop at Paramus Park and Barnes & Noble, and I finally extracted these journeyman slivers of plastic upon reaching my apartment. It's good to see that, if all else fails, this plan is viable and I won't go blind as a result.

Thursday had another gentle surprise for me. While getting my ass in gear for work this morning, I could not find my transit passes or my work IDs. I have two of each. Normally I keep them in my work bag when I am home, and in my pants or shirt pocket while at work. After 20 minutes of increasingly frantic searching, I came to the possible conclusion that I left them in one of the shirts I brought to the dry cleaners on Tuesday before heading south. I had written my phone number on the back of the transit passes, along with reward promises, but when I called the cleaners this morning they reported no returned items of that nature. They also said, however, that items identifiable as belonging to a specific customer would return attached to the order, so I might have a shot at retrieving them when the job came back. As of this evening, however, they are not back, so I will have to wait until Saturday to determine if I need to dig deep for a new round of ID and passes.

Cutting short a vacation because of visual and balance issues is one thing, irritating (if, in the first case, self inflicted) but not damaging. The first was resolvable upon return home, and the second was shown in the past to fade with time and the exercises I did during the 2005 incident. I was not eager to lay out more cash for new transit passes. Granted, I could buy shorter-term passes and not be on the hook for a full month's worth, but still, it's cash I would much rather save for the future. Paying the reward I had posted on the original passes (I figured I needed to give the finder an incentive not to use them or sell them) would set me back $30, still less than what new passes will cost. So I am very much rooting for a nice surprise this coming Saturday.

Ultimately, however, these are minor issues. I still have my overall health. No lives were lost, nor were more important IDs, like my driver's license, or a credit card. It took me 7 years of travel in and out of the city to lose any of the passes I use on NJ Transit or to get into the office. Most folks lose at least one MetroCard every couple of years. If after 3 years of eating in a college commissary didn't steel me to the occasional shitty meal, then I've clearly been very sheltered. I did get to see my parents and the shore. I fully realize that having these as my biggest problems is a vain boast in light of the grinding poverty, rampant disease, and grievous social injustice facing millions of people across the world. It's just having these things happen one after another without pause that gets to be a drag. I did pull myself out of the morass of negativity over the course of the evening, though, and writing about it has helped vent it. With any luck, I can make this Friday much brighter, address the result of the lost ID/passes this Saturday one way or the other, welcome my parents home from the shore, and enjoy their irreplaceable selves on Sunday for dinner. I have a ton of good in my life, and I can take lessons and survive these bumps in the road.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Money Gathers Deepest in Patient Hands

AS I SUSPECTED YESTERDAY, I received a call from the Maywood host, Danny, asking if I was entirely sure I wasn't going to play tonight. From having put this game together originally, I suspect I could show up at random and a place at the table would open up. But I'd never impose like that. Danny's had to fend off drop-ins in the past, and because he is a tremendously giving guy, he finds it tough to say no. Plus I know how tough it can be to fill a table up, above and beyond the erosion of dropouts. So I told him I would be there, which made him very happy.

It turns out that a seat opened up tonight because just such a drop-in actually dropped out this time. S. is a young guy who got into the game through one of the current players. Apart from a job waiting tables at a south Bergen sushi buffet, he seems to have only one other source of income: poker. The problem is that his play is wildly inconsistent, to the point where his initials might as well be ATM.

S. is what we call a maniac in poker. He bets wildly with marginal hands, bluffs with nothing, and on occasion hits big hands in huge pots with this crap. This slows some folks down from calling his bets when the board cards suggest an unlikely, yet massive hand. He knows he has this rep and tries to push it as much as he can.

People took a while to realize this about S., and he put a number of our steadier players on bad tilt when they had solid hands go down in flames to S.'s unlikely inside straights or rivered flushes. When S. gets away with a bluff, he has a tendency to rub it in by showing it, which drove these solid players nuts. Some of them then bet heavily against S. with a vulnerable hand like top pair with an Ace kicker, and get their asses sliced and diced when S. shows down a legitimately good hand and pulls in a huge pot. This led one guy to threaten S. and another to storm out of the game in a fury.

This is wrong. Never antagonize a poor player. Any losses to a fish like S. have to be perceived as loans, temporary displacements of money that diligence may win back. If you continually allow shitty players to force you to play anything less than your top game, you will keep losing not only to them, but to other, more perceptive players who see you going on tilt. I have four 3 × 5s on my wall, above my computer, where I could see them while playing on Full Tilt Poker. The one most pertinent to my point here said, "Shitty opponents do not justify shitty play on your part!" You might widen your range of starting hands, you might play draws differently, but you must still do both optimally and dump hands with no future when your odds of success disappear.

One of my greatest virtues is patience. I have lost two large pots to S. because he had poor hands hit on the river. It;s frustrating. I didn't waste my time or breath yelling at him. I gritted my teeth, rebought, and sat back to look for an opportunity to take a big hand up against him. My records show me that this worked. In one instance, I was dealt 22 in the hole. I was in early position, so I merely called. S., who was to my left, raised it, as he often was doing, and he got a couple of calls, including mine. The flop had a 2 on it. I checked, he bet at least half the pot, and everyone folded except me. I flat-called with the expectation of betting the size off the pot with any non-coordinated turn card.

Well, the turn was in fact coordinated, being the fourth 2. Figuring I was going to get a bluff bet either here or on the river, I checked. S. instead went all in for a significant amount. I called and smiled as I turned up the quad 2s. With the mortal nuts, I took a $235 profit home that night, a record for me in that game and a massive win on a single $50 buy-in. An extreme example, perhaps, of what patience can get you, but long term I will lose less from my discipline than S. will from what he probably still thinks is a winning strategy of recklessness and legendary suckouts.

So I have to admit, though I'm happy to play tonight, I do hope Danny will get an 11th-hour call from S. asking to sit in as well. As Danny puts it, "Your money is always good here!" Good in the game; better in my bankroll.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Schizohedron Bullet Points! for 9/6/06

  • BUGGED WHILE AT WORK: Now I know my peripheral vision is working well. While typing away at the thinkbox, I noticed a stirring out of the corner of my right eye. A full-on look confirmed the dreadful, initial assessment: A roach was walking across my desk. I bisected it with the edge of a pint Chinese-food container — the first item at hand I could afford to discard — and, dying bug twitching its last between the plastic rim and the September 3rd box on my desk calendar, I called HR to inform them of the infestation. Their speculation: Recent construction on the floors above and below us stirred up vermin. I'd prefer the mice we had in the office during the first few weeks of occupancy. Four legs good; six legs bad.
  • THEY'RE CUBES, NOT CELLS: Anyone see the Family Guy movie? I believe it was rerun Sunday night. The depiction of pathetic future-Stewie as a dead-end employee of some Best Buy/Staples amalgam called to mind how much I despise Dilbert. The interaction between older Stewie and his female coworker had the same rhetoric of job-as-prison and boss-as-evil-overlord as the crew in Dilbert does. What always goes unsaid in Dilbert, as a friend of mine once pointed out, is that all of these workers could quit, flee this job that is damaging their spirits, and find fulfillment in another position. Are they really all so incompetent that the anonymous company in the strip is the only organization clueless enough to employ them? More important, is this an example a real-life worker should follow? As office rebellion goes, Dilbert is about as subversive as the Elks. My first boss at my current company had walls festooned with Dilbert comics and gear. Had my current department not poached me, I would have quit within a year. Should you walk into an interview with that sort of cube art, just consider it practice, leave a fake phone number, and run.
  • EIGHTEEN IS TOO OLD: The season premiere of The Simpsons is coming up this weekend, surprisingly avoiding its usual fate of relegation to November by Major League Baseball. If only I cared. The past three seasons of the show have been lackluster. Both Family Guy and the dearly departed Arrested Development routinely trounced the episodes of The Simpsons that preceded them. This season opener is playing the guest-star card, snaring the voice talents of Michael Imperioli and Joe Pantoliano for an ep in which Homer joins the Mafia. Good to see they're getting on the Sopranos bandwagon so promptly. I'm sure we'll see an ep in which Lisa becomes a pro at no-limit Texas hold'em real soon. At this rate, I don't know what original killer material they would consider holding out for the upcoming Simpsons movie. Time for FOX to tell this 18-year-old to move out of the house. I'll instead spend the evening preparing to watch the Duel of the Mannings in the Giants–Colts game, quite possibly with barbecue at my parents' house once they decamp to the shore. And on that point . . .
  • EAST-COAST CASINO BINGE: The current plan is to go with, at minimum, Steve and Felix to Foxwoods this coming Saturday, then on Tuesday, to visit my parents in Wildwood Crest, stopping at some unsuspecting Atlantic City venue on one leg of the journey, So I'll have the chance to play poker twice in five days, in casinos no less. Were I not on a better-sleep kick, I would have taken the host of the Maywood venue up on his offer to host the game tomorrow. As of this evening, he reported to me that he is light on players, so maybe I'll end up going down there and hitting a poker trifecta over the next several days. On the other hand, I can't win a couple of extra hours of sleep in any of these games, and if the sleeper sofa down the shore is anything like the one I dropped my bones onto last time, I'll spend the night flipping around like a salmon in a bear's mouth and arise with a mighty hump.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Wind Whispering Autumn in My Ear

OUTSIDE, IT'S WHAT MOST Labor Day planners would call a miserable day. Intermittent rain, driven by stiff wind from Tropical Fugue State Ernesto, with cool air and whited-out cloudy skies over all.

I couldn't be happier.

With each passing September day, the dead heat of summer heads further toward the horizon. I will be able to take long morning walks without dehydration and long evening walks without being a mosquito snack bar. I will be able to sleep deeply, with the windows open, and not piss away nearly $100/month blasting my Korean War–era air conditioner.

I feel some sympathy for those who had been planning cookouts, reunions, beach outings, or sun-drench drinkfests today. As a New Jersey resident, I am especially conscious of how a summer with ill weather can dent our state economy due to reduced beach patronage. And I do have to grant that August, of all months, actually offered up some comfortable and gorgeous days in its latter half.

We will be treated to more such days, however, as September unfolds. Between today's gloomy Hamlet of a day and the punishing humidity and heat we suffered earlier in August, the sweet spot lies. Were it not for this little quirk I have of needing to work for a steady income, I would curl up in that sweet spot every day from nippy morning through slanting sunset.

For now, however, I am taking advantage of the crummy day by shedding some paper clutter, transferring my poker records from Word to Excel, and otherwise maximizing the chance to be inside. I have the benefit of Monday's holiday to accomplish more outside-based chores when the weather is rumored to improve. I also avoided the temptations of crappy mall food and cooked myself a bowl of whole wheat penne with fresh broccoli, topped with ground pepper and a spoon of extra-virgin olive oil. With the potential for some boardgaming mayhem tonight — which is traditionally accompanied by some meat-topped pizza to get the killer instinct flowing — and a siege of Chinese food coming tomorrow, I want to notch a couple of decent, healthful meals while I have the chance. Eventually I will venture forth to the gym, which I will follow with a fruit/protein smoothie, another checkmark on the side of nutrition.

In all, I am taking this day at a lazy pace and enjoying not being on demand for job or heavy chores. The cool air and grey skies are, for me, a catalyst to all of this rather than a limit.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Motherfuckin' Snakes on a Motherfuckin' Plane

YOU WANT TO HAVE yourself some real fun? You miss the days when film distributors would shamelessly book grade-Z films for drive-ins and third-string suburban screens so kids could go and have a blast with an R-rated exploitation fest? Go out and see Snakes on a Plane before it slithers out of the theaters.

I just got back from a showing at my town cinema with the gang, including the new girlfriend of one of them, whom I had the pleasure of meeting for the first time tonight. The movie theater itself was a subdivision of a sector of a slice of what was once a single-screen house. This lent the room an intimacy that accentuated the feeling of this all being an in-joke, a flick that, though made with some gravitas as a horror film, was swiftly overtaken by the pop-culture hype that grew up around it.

I needn't rehash that whole saga. I will merely say that the film pulls in the standard set pieces of both horror and disaster movies, and delivers exactly what it promises: crazed, kill-happy snakes on a plane. Innocents will die, as will unrepentant assholes. And through it all, with constant cool and growing exasperation, Samuel L. Jackson will walk the path of the righteous man.

My throat was sore from laughing my ass off, sometimes at it, sometimes with it. With shitty movies arriving by the shovel-load every week from the Hollywood crap factory, I am an infrequent moviegoer. But this I had to see in the theater, along with fellow lunatics, in the midst of a crowd that was in on the joke. At least some of the younger folks there were of a like mind. The forked tongue of this film was, much of the time, in cheek.

So if you know a bunch of Mystery Science Theater 3000 fans, get them drunk, make your way out to that little theater where you'd never dream of seeing the $150 million special-effect lightshows, shut off your brain's disbelief centers, and see this batshit-zany film.