Living 'softly.
a look into Zach Robinson
"As I grow stagnant, I shall be a slave...", Goethe, Faust

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Last night I went to the Fourth Annual Haiku D'Etat Poetry Slam with Kate and a bunch of people I didn't know. Our friend Derek Zumsteg has consecutively placed fourth, third, and second, so we were hoping he would win this time around (alas, he didn't). I wrote down a bunch of the night's poetical highlights. I don't have my notepad with me though, so I'll have add them to this page later. General thoughts on the night:
* There's nothing sexier than intelligent vibrant women showing their intelligence and vibrance within the liberal arts spectrum. I am a complete sucker for actresses or poets.
* Presentation matters more than content. A number of the poets (including Derek, alas) got shafted because of their presentation. You simply HAVE to read a title to for every poem. This isn't because we care what the title is, "Untitled Number Seven Thousand Four Hundred and Fifty Six" is fine, it's because we need a chance to shut up so we can listen to what you're saying. If the poem preceding yours in the slam is really good, for god's sake take your time in reading yours! Sit there and sagely ponder. Then ponder some more, and then maybe ponder what pondering sagely should look like. The key is that the audience and judge are going to forget some of the impact of your opponent's poem if you take a little extra time. The guy who beat Derek did this. He was a ridiculous one tone ponderous hack, but by the time he finally got around to reading his poem, everyone had largely forgetten Derek's poem.
* Speak really really really clearly. Got that? Keep getting it. Every single poet I heard had at one line inaudible due to not speaking into the microphone clearly. You only get one chance to read your poem in a slam, make it count. Saying the title is a good chance to make sure you're at the right distance from the microphone.
* Being good on one topic is interesting for about three poems. After that, the audience is going to start laughing AT you. There was one highly sensual beat poet that I and others were starting to roar at because he had become a caricature of himself through reading the same tone of highly sexually electric poetry each and every time. Likewise, the guy who beat Derek was one tone centering on Indian affairs. It's just too easy to lose your artistic credibility if you won't sway from a single vein. Everybody who was monotoned either lost early or lost the crowd. When the Indian affairs guy beat Derek, the crowd hissed like a den of snakes and the emcee offered the judges a five minute head start after the show.
* Woo everyone. If you want to win, you need to play the crowd. Be a good loser, enjoy your poetry, enjoy your opponent's, enjoy the night! Be excited while you can. A lot of people seemed mellow or haughty: those people left the contest early. Don't be a spaz, mind you, but show that you're having fun. It'll be contagious and you'll suck least a few of the crowd into your spell, and every single person on your side helps.

If you can't tell, I'm planning on entering next year. I think I'll attend a couple more poetry slams in the interim to get a better feel for how things work, but I was pretty unimpressed with the quality of the entries in the Haiku Slam (besides Derek's). They weren't terrible, but it certainly didn't seem like too much effort had been made.

I stopped by Eliot Bay Books before the show. My shelf has been so barren lately that I've been rereading the same ~four novels for a couple weeks now. For my serious reading, I picked up a bunch of politics (a couple Chomsky, Zinn, and the new Kalle Lasn book) and a book on manners. For the other side of the brain, I picked up Octavia Paz, Eliot, and a couple others. Interestingly, the woman helping me had near the same literary tastes as I had. (Note to self: hug next woman who reads me a poem.) I thought of asking her to come to the haiku slam with us, but I didn't want her to misconstrue the invitation as a pick-up, so didn't say anything.

Another Thanksgiving day, another day in hell for us vegetarians. I don't even need to see the turkey now, I automatically lose my appetite as soon as "Happy Thanks..." begins on someone's lips. My mom prepared really nice fare, including a wide vegetarian selection, but my stomach had already locked up by the time we started picking up food, so I had a small snack plate and that was all. I can never eat much on Thanksgiving day.

I was really distracted by my break-up. I felt terrible. I don't get too spend much time with my family - all of us boys are either off in college or in the work-place now - and in the past several times we've been together I've consistently had something on my mind.

That being said, my family is wonderful. I have a really strong sense of self, but it means a lot when someone says to you that you deserve better than what you've got. We spent a fair amount of time talking about what I was getting out of my relationship, why I was in it, and what I should be expecting out of life. I'm still trying to puzzle out exactly what I want from a relationship.

I wasn't heart-broken by the breakup... I expected something like this, so had prepared really really well by the time we actually even talked this past Sunday. I just want to be a friend to my friends, and we're at that awkward post-breakup pre-reestablishing-the-friendship phase. So far things between us have been fine, but I think you have to be a little leery just after a breakup. My biggest concern right now is that I want to give her space. I really like to talk to certain people, and by default right now I think I'd want to talk to her, but she's got a lot of stuff going on right now for school so I don't want to initiate conversations outside of Regularly Scheduled Friend Times. I'll save my random late night phone-a-thons for somebody I'm on firmer ground with.

Hmm. I think Nostradamus wrote "Zach Will Always Get Back Together With His Ex-Girlfriends" in his books of prophecy. He should have. It seems inevitable, and I'm going crazy trying to figure out why.

Anne and I were going to go skiing together with another couple of people, or maybe go to the coast if they didn't want to go skiing. As luck would have it, they just didn't want to go. We ended up going to the Sound Garden instead since I hadn't been there in a while. Unfortunately it was completely silent. We clambered along a rock walkway for a while together. It's nice to be out with someone agile. Unfortunately I had on decent clothes - including an overcoat - , so I was a little hesitant. Oh well.

We tried getting dinner together, but NOTHING we wanted to go to was open or tasty that day. We finally ate at our fifth choice restaurant, Cedar's. Much like Tuesday night, the conversation was good. One thing I'm a little concerned about as regards the communication between us is that it seems to be a lotta me and littla her. I'll see how it is the next time we hang out together. I've become more and more aware of our communication as she keeps mentioning it in various fashions. She's said that she likes to be challenged via "enigmas" and wants me to share what I read with her. The former I don't clearly understand (riddles? puzzles? interesting problems or ideas? what does it mean? I've asked what she means but still don't have an understanding) and the latter... well, I think I do, she just doesn't seem to want to extend on the ideas, so I drop them for fear of lulling her to sleep. Aaaanyways, I think we had good dates together this past week. It's still obvious we're in different places, but I felt in much better rapport with her than I had in a while.

I dropped her off at home after dinner (she had a bunch of stuff to do). There were probably fifty crows around her house in Montlake: it was wonderful. I kind of wanted to just stay there, reading poetry and watching the crows, but alas impressions are important so I forsook the crows in order not to have her think I was hanging around for her. Retrospectively, I should have seen if there were crows around Washington Park, but hindsight is 20/20. Oh well. They'll be more crows soon.

Sooooooo... status between us. Hmm. We napped together early in the day - we were both pretty tired - and realized we were still attracted to each other. Things didn't go too far, but it did raise the question of what the status between us was. I replied that I didn't really have any expectations from her, and that all I really was interested in with her was "dating" her right now. Not "Dating", not boyfriend-girlfriend, just two people that can go out together and if things go right, maybe smooch. She seemed okay with that.

My ex Marie stayed over last night. She came through town visiting a couple friends. It's always really good to see her... there's an amazing amount of synergy in the relationship between us. We're great friends (I think), treat each other equally in the relationship, and, errrrrr, I give her two thumbs up all around. Unfortunately, when there's so much positive between two people, the inevitable question comes up: "Why aren't you dating?" That was okay when it came from Anne, Kate, *and* my parents (all of whom asked me this independently), but when it came from Marie... it was a little harder to answer. I realized I don't have a good answer. It's one thing not to be able to give an answer to your friends, but when it's the person in question... ulp. Thankfully I'm a little bit bigger than her so she didn't kick my ass THAT badly.

We played Boggle together. I really like playing games with friends. I'd forgotten how good she was at Boggle. I very much like having my intellect challenged in games. The winner of the Boggle tourney got a massage, which I'm looking forward to receiving (I won by ~16 points). A lot of my friends say I'm competitive (or tenacious), which is somewhat true, but I more just enjoy the mental challenge. In a game like Boggle, you have the opportunity to see how someone else was thinking at a problem, and you can learn from them. Plus Boggle provides almost real-time (every ~2 minutes) opportunity for mental growth, whereas chess takes half an hour or so, minimum, for a good game.

It's interesting to note that competitiveness runs in my family. On Thanksgiving day, my brother Dustin was bragging about his skill at checkers, so of course my dad and I had to trounce him. There's a very high very enjoyable level of competition between Dustin and myself, I quite like it.

I finally figured it out. I was at crayoning talking with Ken and Kate about life, my journal, and etc., and I finally came to the answer of why Marie and I aren't dating, why Anne and I were, and what I really seek out of my girlfriends. The answer is simple: inspiration. Marie and I have dated so often and know each other so well that while things are largely perfect between us, I don't currently feel inspired by her, and this is something I've subconsciously required in all my relationships in the past couple of years. As soon as the sense of inspiration has left, I'm out of the relationship. Anne is interesting and still a bundle of surprises, so I can chew on her for a while. That's why I didn't require much from her: in many ways I just wanted a romantic outlet in the emotional/psychological senses of the word. I'm not sure if this a recent thing or not. I know with Anne I put on serious blinders, which I think I've now at least partially taken off. I do know this is why I would be hesitant to pursue things with Marie. I AM self-content, I am my own person, but at the same time I've always noted that coming to grips with the true nature of the world is a cold and bleak affair. I never previously noticed that I've used the flame of romance for inspiration. I'm going to have give this a lot of thought. I think inspiration is important, but I'd like it to come more from within, and I need to rethink what I want out of relationships.

Everyone I feel comfortable and easy talking to is far away. I've been in an extremely talkative mood lately - I always feel extra talkative after a break-up - but almost everyone lives thousands of miles away. Fah.

I'm assuming that if you're at all interested in Seattle you know everything you need to know about the WTO summit and why the WTO is something you should be frightened of. If you haven't been paying attention, this is a good overview. If you think somehow that global trade decisions should be left out of the hands of the general populace, you've been remiss in your reading and you are hereby sentenced to read The Work Of Nations by Robert Reich and The Machine That Changed the World: Lean Production by James Womack, for starters. Note that both these books are pro-trade. Knowing both sides of the story is critical to any intelligent analysis. In this case, those two books together are a good cornerstone to understanding the pro-trade position, Reich for the whys and Womack for the hows. I'll leave you to find your favorite book on the need for ethics within economics: there is such an incredibly wide spectrum, you'll probably find a book that fits exactly within your pet cause. From cultural imperialism to women's rights to child labor to environmental destruction, the WTO's actions (or inactions) can cause profound changes within those spheres. Anyways, I'm going to see how things play out this week. I'd recommend checking your favorite newsfeed regularly... this should be a very rare opportunity for lots of politically relevant information to reach an unusually broad spectrum of the populace.

Last week was frenetic. I've been noticing that the mellower I expect a week to be, the more actually happens that week.

Last Sunday Anne and I broke up. It was a mutual thing... we really needed a clearing of the air. I needed to stop being complacent, and she needed... not to be in a relationship? I don't know. It was good for me. What else would you want? We went out again Tuesday night, and it was really good. We talked well together, had fun, and I left the night thinking that she is an attractive woman. I think that's a winning date to me. Downside is that a full relationship with her isn't really viable for another couple of years. I might still be single then, but I've never been the kind of person that would want to wait several years for someone. A year, maybe. Life is just too short to ask for more. Don't get me wrong, I'm the ultimate romantic and believe in story-book love where you go and disappear for five years to return to the chaste arms of your lover (Princess Bride), but I'll save that kind of treatment for that kind of love, and this relationship is not a Wesley-Buttercup type of relationship. I likened it to a Hemingway-Parker romance, due to our differing personalities.

Hey, you know, no matter what kind of asshole I am, at least I'm an asshole that respects other people's privacy. <grin>. I keep having people mention Alison's The Secret Page web journal (I'm interlaced through the '98 and '99 entries) to me. I was talking to Kate about how I thought Alison was a cool person, and Kate recommended I go look at the journal page before I cemented any judgements. I'm really loathe to read other's private journals: they have a tendency to contain information you're not going to like. Even when things were going well between Alison and myself, I just did not want to know what she didn't feel comfortable telling me. This became a point of contention between us: I wanted her to directly tell me things, she wanted to forward me e-mails or et cetera. I only bring that up because it serves as the only warning I got that our entire e-mail converation was up for public consumption. That really bothers me. When I talk to somebody offline, online, or in person, I try to protect their privacy. It's not even that I really care so much about my privacy, it's that personal communication is a form of intimacy between two people. At what point does that private bond become public? If I had compromising pictures of a friend (and my tongue is firmly in my cheek at this point), would it be appropriate for me to post those on the Internet, say right here? <grin>. No, that wouldn't be appropriate: if I want someone to be able to be honest and open with me, I need not to violate their trust. For any friend of mine, past, present or future, regardless of how things end up, I will maintain your trust.

Beyond just the issues of privacy, there's also the issue of context. It's nigh-impossible to share within the confines of a journal the lengthy background for any communication between two people. Sharing the missive itself therefore becomes largely a matter of framing. Since you're framing an objective message within the confines of a subjective critique, I think you violate the integrity of the communication. If you knew you were going to be 'framed' for public consumption, I think you'd definitely change your words. If you don't know ahead of time, you don't provide the (undisclosed) public audience with the full background: you're writing your communication to an audience (your so-called friend) that should know the background. If not, they can ask you themselves. Alas, in excerpts in web journals, you don't really get a chance to defend yourself.

I'm sure you've noticed I write a web journal myself. The privacy issue really is a difficult one to sort out. I've dealt with that by adding the Snoop/No Snoop option, the Adult/No Adult option, and generally never referring to any love interest by real name. I think the combination allows me to strike a fair balance between privacy and being able to communicate adequately.

Nightmare Before Christmas is such genius. I'm happily listening to the soundtrack as I type this.

I'm disappointed that the WTO protests devolved into violence. I would be extremely pissed off if someone I was protesting with decided to destroy property. I've got to admit that McDonald's is generally fair game in my book, but breaking windows at Radio Shack? C'mon, at least have the decency to pick on a big fat corporate whale like The Gap. As Ken put it, the protesters "are mostly a bunch of punk teens acting like it's the anarchist Mardi Gras". I thought that was pretty fair. The point of protest in my eyes should be to enlighten and educate, not to strike mortal fear into the hearts of those in power. This picture from MSNBC in particular is disgusting: the representative has just ripped free from the ARMLOCK of a protestor. That's reprehensible. It encourages future host governments to host the WTO meetings as secretly as possible, to block protest, and marginalize as much as possible the WTO opposition. It gives me chills just thinking about how regressive that kind of violence is.

However, the WTO is giving a lot of people the chance to think about corners of the political spectrum that are usually ignored. The Stranger, the Times, the PI, the Weekly... every Seattle paper worth their salt is giving you at least a handful of good political fodder. More importantly, it's helping show a lot of people that there really ARE problems with transnational corporations (TNCs) having powers over and above that of the average citizen (or citizen's group). Getting some groundswell behind the reformation of the WTO is I think a crucial step in world economic policy. You would think it would be accepted at face value that economic concerns can not exist in a vacuum, but unfortunately that's largely how the WTO is run currently. The downside of course is that the WTO could in turn become a vehicle for cultural imperialism, and quite possibly the birthplace of a new monoculture. But what do you do? If national barriers to trade are going to be thrown down, then the legislative rules affecting TNCs have to moved to a correspondingly higher legislative body, and the WTO may be (or need to become) the best adjudicative body. However, it's a concern that rules on child labor, treatment and political empowerment of women, environmental ethics, caste issues, and etc. are in many ways indicative of a society's culture, so forcing everyone to subscribe to a particular economic ethic might not be plausible. It'll be an interesting century.

Marie called tonight.... She's revisiting whether or not to move to Seattle. She seems actually to be leaning towards the idea now. I think that's good, we're great friends. She did want to know what I Really Wanted between us. Why do people ask me these things? I said I don't know right now... things obviously click between us, but is that enough? I told her about my feeling that I'm not really inspired by her. We discussed what that meant, discussed how the first couple months of the relationship have a special fuzz to them. A male friend and I talked about it later and we proposed that maybe that's what we've (he and I) have been wanting out of relationships. Once that early bliss is gone... I just haven't really wanted to pursue things. And to have a real relationship, you've got to be able to maintain things when that early surge has subsided. It's a nice myth to think that it'll last forever (happily forever after...), but that's just not the case.

So the question remains... what do I want? What do I need? I think what I said last week still holds true: I want my partner to be intelligent, athletic, attractive, with libido, and I want someone who makes me feel attractive and makes me soup when I'm sick. How do I differentiate the first-rate from the also-rans? I don't know. I wish I did. Unfortunately, the heart isn't a logical thing.

It just seems everybody wants to know what I want, and why I want it, and I just don't really have any answers right now. For my own sake, though... I'm going to least try to clarify what I currently know I want.

First off, I don't really want anything right now in the way of relationships. For about the past half year, I haven't wanted a girlfriend. I've been dating - this seems as much a part of me as breathing - but I've made sure that my partner knew we were keeping things within clear boundaries. I'm open to possibility - I would like to find a life partner - but I don't want or need to force things.

Secondly, I want to grow in the relationship. I've tried making a point of extending myself in each relationship in new ways, so I can grow as a partner. There's always some facet of romance that you haven't touched upon, and I've enjoyed exploring.

That does raise the issue: is the romance there because of the relationship, or is the relationship there because of the romance? I think in general I've been good about being involved for the right reasons, but at the same time I think I *have* pursued the idea of romance inappropriately in regards to the real relationship between the two of us. It's hard for me to take life casually. Don't get me wrong, I love life, but this is my only life, so I want to live it fully. I think I've wanted to create an atmosphere of romance even where things were only casual. That's not a terrible thing - I think most people are flattered and surprised to be wooed - but it can be easy for your partner to get the wrong impression of how you feel (been there) or what you want (done that).

Romance and love makes the world sparkle, the stars dance, the moon scat. It's the twinkle in my eye, the reason for the bounce in my step. Its continued absence from my personal life is puzzling. I think you should be able to be a neat enough person that good things happen to you naturally. I know it doesn't work like that, yet in many ways I find that I really do expect life to work that way. I tell you, when I'm king of time and space, things are going to change big time.

"My dearest friend, if you don't mind
I'd like to sit by your side
Where we can gaze into the stars
And sit together, now and forever
For it is plain as anyone can see
We're simply meant to be"

-Jack and Sally, Nightmare Before Christmas: Finale

I feel really sheepish. I bought what I thought were 35 pound and 40 pound weights to work out some while I was at work. There's times when you're developing that you need to step back and think, and I thought I would use that time to be physically productive as well by lifting a little. So I've been lifting these weights and feeling really out of shape because they were so heavy. Thankfully everyone coming into my office thinks they're pretty damn heavy too, but still - it's my body and I'd like to think I can lift 40 pounds easily. Turns out I can: the weights were marked in *kilograms*, not pounds, for some reason. So I'd actually been lifting 88 pounds all this time. That makes me feel better about my strength, but I'm abashed it took me two months to figure out why "40 pounds" were so heavy. Ah, the dangers of careless uses of measurement unit. At least I just felt weak, whereas NASA destroyed precious equipment due to the same type of mistake.

Jessica.... She was a big source of inspiration for me at one point: I was feeling very let down by the people I'd grown up with. I'd always been an honors student, and by the third year of my college I'd watched my fellow national merit scholars begin losing their way:
a. one started dropping out of classes, generally fleeing from the world
b. one I went to college with. He tried to get involved in politics too (I'd been part of the Associated Students Board of Directors (ASBOD) for a year by then), but it was starkly apparent that he didn't have much drive or desire... I still don't know what he was trying to do... he came and went like a ghost in the night.
Then there were Todd, Jess, Nate - some of the most brilliant minds at Western again just slowly wasting their lives away not aiming for anything whatsoever. Nate at least had an excuse - he'd gotten too far into metaphysics and philosophy and the reality is that at a certain point you have to make to choice to either hold firmly to your wrong notions of how things work or realize that you really can't know a damn thing and that existentialism is pretty much the only way to go. He always warned me about reading Nietzsche. Most troubled minds I happen to run into delve into Nietzsche. <grin>. I've read Nietzche as well, but I think I resonated more with Dostoyevsky's Notes From the Underground.

So there were all my fellow idols and mentors and no one was on a fast track, or even slow track, anywhere positive. Mike dropped out of West Point, Bart got married and became a cop, Andrew started working at a liquor store, Tres - brilliant political thinker - started flunking out of school.

I understand that you have to play the hand you're dealt in life, but it seemed to me a lot of these people weren't even trying. There was so much possibility for more, and maybe they wanted to do something different, but there was no passion or desire I could sense in the lifes of those I'd grown up and surrounded myself with. Linda was probably the sole person at Western I'd met who I could truly deeply respect. She was an extremely brilliant thinker and a radical feminist and remains to this day probably the person I have the best intellectual synergy with. Unfortunately, we'd dated and broken up, so I'd also seen the small petty side of her - and she'd certainly seen my small petty side as well.

So I felt myself without positive role models, without inspiration. I don't count Public Figures for inspiration - people aren't real until you seem them regularly. Robert Reich and Noam Chomsky might be some of the greatest minds I'd known at that time, but they weren't going to be real until I'd seen how they were as *people*, not myths.

Jessica really helped with that. She was 18 and just finishing college (in retrospect, I think I will always regret not taking the opportunity to skip ahead in my schooling), planning on going off to med school, a soft witty funny person, loved music (she is a great singer and has been in various Seattle productions)... absolutely everything I *thought* someone should be able to do if they pushed themselves. She's toured the world, done studies on breast-feeding in New Zealand, other things the scholarly elite do... that perceived drive, that perceived initiative - that was a huge source of inspiration for me as I headed into my third year of college and was in large part responsible for my rededication to college & youth politics. Her family in general is really gifted, this is about her younger sister for example.

I wrote her a story. She and Rebecca are the only people I've ever written stories to. Everybody else gets a poem. :-)

Anyways, that's Jessica. The idea of her is important part of my life.

And I realize that I had huge cultural prejudices at that point in my life (and probably do now). I've always strongly believed that you have to make a best of faith effort to give back into the world the same amount it put into you. So it disappointed me to see people doing what I considered slacking. Maybe they were lost, maybe they were confused, but I like to approach even my confusion with strength and audacity: you've only got one chance at this life, so if you're not going to approach life with zest and vigor, why are you here? In the end, it wasn't the lack of drive or ambition that disappointed me, it was the lack of passion. I frankly don't care what any of my friends does with their life, but I want to believe that they're trying to do something with their time, and not just wasting it. One of the people I really respect in life has been floundering around taking college classes part time for years now, works at a job most people would mock, but she's actively pursuing what she wants out of life, and that's what I love to see my friends doing.

My friends and parents are the best. Yesterday was my birthday, and I couldn't have had a better day. It showed that the people I love and care for are really nice thoughtful people. I've got everything I really need in my life, so when people were asking me what I would like, I asked for something from them, something that reflected them and made me think of them. So now at work I'm surrounded by warm fuzzy reminders that my friends are cool people. In the ZachCam you can see my pony and my postcard rack (!) in the background. You can't see the picture I had drawn for me, which also really makes me happy. These things were so cool I have to explain them...

I like to say "I want a pony" when people ask what I want. Lately I've changed to "to recover my lost kingdom", but that's a different story. <grin>. So my parents got me a pony! Not really: the closest I've ever come to having a horse is my aunt Donna's farm. And I did get to name a pony at a local park when I was a kid, which was quite exciting. Anyways, my parents got me a little pony pinata. Okay, it's a donkey, not a pony, but that makes it even cooler: one of the nicest things I ever got in junior high was a crayon drawing of a couple kids riding a burro together. I've got a soft spot in my heart for donkeys. Now a crayon drawing of couple kids on a burro might not mean much to you, but I really like small heartfelt gifts. I think it comes from reading a lot of the Littles, the Borrowers, Ms. Frisby, Ralph (the Motorcycle mouse) and etc.: I like small gifts from friends. The chest of drawers in my bedroom is covered in small knick-knacks I've gotten over time. The only sad thing is that there's candy in my little pony, so I'll have to be careful Kirt (my boss) doesn't find it or he's sure to eat it all (including the pony). I brought a bag full of Fruit Snacks to work and he went through three boxes in just the first day.... The guy is voracious.

I went to New Mexico with my friend Jen and sent about ~65 or so postcards during the week and a half trip. I really enjoyed going into some tourist trap and finding some postcards to send to my friends. I like to show people that I care for them: I think life doesn't have enough positive feedback. But when we got to Texas, they didn't have postcards anywhere! I kept looking, but never found any. It did make me think, though: wouldn't it be cool if *I* had a postcard rack? Then you could come visit my office, and send a postcard (with a picture of me or my office) to friends: "At Zach's: Wish you were here!" or some such other silliness. The idea delighted me. Kate actually did this for me! It was her birthday present to me and it's the coolest thing ever! She got a postcard rack at a supply store and printed up eight different kinds of postcards! She used to have her own graphic design firm, and they really are postcards: they have the little dividing line, address lines, place for the stamp, quirky captions on the back: they're just great! Everyone so far who's seen them at work loves them, but I'm still too enamoured of them to actually let anybody send any. I'll have to figure out how Kate made them and make a zillion more.

Anne has her entire downstairs decorated in postcards, cartoons, drawings, and et cetera. I really liked some of the drawings. I thought they were done by a friend of hers, though. Then I saw her drawing board and realized that she had made the drawings on her wall. I was really impressed: I love creative talent. So when she asked me what I wanted for my birthday, I asked her to draw me something. She did and now I have a delightful picture of the two of us laughing and sharing time together. Every time I see it, I like it more. It's just so cool and thoughtful and personal... it really makes me happy.

And the rest of my friends called or sent e-mail... I felt loved. It was a great birthday.

So my friends and parents are all really thoughtful... and now there's just no way I can compete with their coolness when it comes to Christmas. It's certainly not a competition. But I'd like to think that I could do something as nice for others as they do for me. This year though... I'm just flamboozled. At least with a girlfriend you can think to yourself that you make up for it with massages or being extra romantic or some positive change in the relationship. How do you say to your friends that you think they're the coolest people?

My parents, my brother Dustin, and I went out to dinner last night at The Painted Table. It was really enjoyable. My mom talked to me about how strong the connection between her and my dad is, and I was just melting. I love people talking about romance, and since I think I have the greatest parents ever, it's thrilling to hear how much in love they are. I couldn't have been born into a better family.

And sure there's probably some cynic noting that I wasn't born into this family and that my mom remarried. But I think that was one of the best things that has happened in my life. My mom's ex-husband is out there somewhere, but he's just that: her ex-husband. David's been my dad for as long as I knew what a dad was.

We had s'mores and fancy food and the waiter wanted to make sure I "wasn't driving tonight" when I ordered my third glass of root beer and it was fun. The waiter was flirting heavily with the two women at the table across from us. It was a delight to watch (the woman on the left and he were hitting it off quite well). Then at the end of the night the woman on the right of that table approached me to talk about my birthday, since it was her birthday too. But I was feeling really woozy (world spinning any time I moved too fast), so I gave her some quick answers and trotted out the door. (I only had two hours of sleep Monday - I've been working very hard to complete a project - so while I was okay for most of the day, late at night I felt as off-balance as if I had been at the waterslides all day).

And then today I get the happy news that my Cupid TV show tapes have arrived! Yay! I loved that show and was really disappointed when they took it off the air. Recently though I managed to trade somebody for the episodes I didn't already have taped. Yay! Cupid! I haven't even seen some of these episodes yet. It's almost 1 a.m. right now and I still haven't left work yet, but I just know I'm going to have to watch at least one of the episodes when I get home tonight. :-)

As usual, soapbox entries are in red... this one's somewhat technical and on a pet peeve so I'd recommend skipping it, but I still wanted to say it at least once. I have such a hard time keeping quiet sometimes. Whatever the results of someone's thought process , I want them to have all the facts before they make a decision. So now I'm biting back my tongue, but still: it's really hard not to make sure all the facts are on the table. I was out searching for a way to change file associations in Navigator without modifying the plug-in binary, and I ran across a page of questions and comments about the Apple file association issues. <frown>. There's this misperception that somehow people at Microsoft must have Private Knowledge that we refuse to share... sadly, that's not the case. I had to sweat out how everything actually worked myself, and some of the intricacies of the interactions still baffle me... Navigator in particular is a really confusing beast. I really need to bite the bullet and just write some code that modifies a plug-in's version block structure (where Navigator file associations are stored). The problem with that is that the user is then forced to use your interface to control file associations. The basic concept is as evil as the "Take File Associations Without Asking" options some players have. I think it's fair to have your own interface for taking over and relinquishing file associations - that allows for additional browser registration, associativity back-up, and et cetera - but it should be a value-ADD, not something the user is forced into. Sigh. It's frustrating that the interactions on file associations between MS and other companies have been at virtual gun-point. The very companies that could get together and present a solid policy on file associations to the world are unable to talk as reasonable adults to each other. Multimedia associativity is a hyper-contentious space - as the Department of Justice and the Senate Judiciary Committee can attest - but there's clearly a vacuum on clear cross-browser cross-platform dictates for file assocations, so let's step into it instead of fighting each other.

I got home very late last night, but still managed to fit in a couple Cupid episodes before I hit the hay. That is such a wonderful show. I'm so jaded to other television shows - I watch at most twenty minutes of T.V. a week. Cupid is so charming and magical, though: it hints of the way I'd like the world to be. I wrote down some of the quotes that really struck me last night...

"We have been raised on fairy tales. We expect one for ourselves."

"Get in the game! You're going to get hurt? Have a beautiful train wreck!"

"For a date to be truly romantic, it's got to sneak up on you."

"Let me tell you a story... this college professor chased after young co-eds for years. New quarter, new woman. Then one day he meets Her. She completes him. Made him the kind of man he could have been. And he gives himself to Her in ways he never has anyone before, he lets Her in. And then one of the woman he's tossed over tells Her of his past, tells Her that She's just another in the long chain. And She believes it. So she takes sleeping pills. She figures the more she takes, the longer it will be before it hurts again. So Sleeping Beauty is lying there in his arms, and he's crying. And all of Prince Charming's kisses couldn't wake her up again."

"I'm going to make her understand that I love her, even if it's pointless. I'm going to be the guy who pushes the rock up the hill: Sisyphus."

"Life has endings, Trevor. You just learn to deal with them."

"I got a quick look at the fear you all live with. You know, of dying. It's a motivator. It makes you want to go after life hard, every minute."

-various, Cupid: Pilot, He's in Heaven

So many of those, so much of the mentality from the show, reflect how I feel. I'm a sucker for romance: I cried happily at the beauty of He's in Heaven. That episode's story focuses around a man who's so glad to be alive that he's dancing and singing everywhere he goes - which is scaring his wife away. I'm not going to do that - I can't dance like Astaire, and I'm only a middling singer - but that's how I feel. We are so incredibly lucky to be alive, to be this particular combination of quirks and quarks, that if you were self-centered enough you could be happy for the rest of your life just being *alive*. Breathe in: feel the air moving into you, filling you, giving you the strength to live and carry on: breathe out and begin again.

And people wonder why I can't hold grudges. <grin>. It's such an amazing wonder that we are sentient, let alone able to interact with the world and people around us: to be able to turn in a circle, kiss, lean over, lift a rock, make origami animals, eat a peach... these are *all* as good as it gets. I love life.

I was cleaning out the e-mail folder containing the exchanges of me and an old friend today. It's sad to see the downward arc of a love affair over time. There's that three month period where neither of you can seem to do any wrong, where anything can be forgiven or accepted... and then there's the rest of your lives. Lawyers have to get involved just so you can "Hi" to each other properly, and your private fights blow up to affect your friends. I've got Don Henley's The End of the Innocence playing in the background. It seems quite appropriate. I would say that the three month Perfection Period is symptomatic of infatuation, not love, but I think it's more than that. <grin> - and now The Heart of the Matter is playing: "I think it's about forgiveness...". When things stop working, I gradually go from love to affection, but it's not natural for me to ever feel less than affection for a former flame. I care for the people I care for because I think they're wonderful people. I care about them after the relationship ends because they're *still* wonderful people. There's no magical turn of events by which they became less than the person I once knew. Things might change, feelings might fade, but I always knew them when they were that star to me, and I think forgetting that person in them would mean I would be losing sight of the person I once was. I've certainly made my mistakes, but I'm a better person for having (usually) grown to understand them, comprehend why they happened, and changing myself so that I don't do That again. I think part of my problem is that I see life as being full of infinite possibilities. Unfortunately, I only can influence my half of the possibilities. If someone doesn't want what I want or if they feel it necessary to try to hurt me, that really tends to bring possibilities to closure.

I went to a friend's party last night. I ran into Patrick from Splunge (one of my favorite groups). We've never really been close friends ourselves, but we've both been good friends with Luke for a long time, who is one of the coolest people I've ever met. Patrick and I started talking and we connected really well. That's unusual for me: I typically have far better communication and interactions with women. He invited me to go to a party at his place next weekend, which could be fun. It's the same night as my division's party, though. A friend's party would probably be more fun, but there's usually something uniquely unsettling about Microsoft parties. It's weird to be in popular locations (Seattle Art Museum, Four Seasons, etc.) for parties. I'm so used to feeling a certain amount of awe and respect towards these great places, yet for one night a year... we're allowed to play there. We still have to follow the rules - they are not going to allow any "Redecorations" ala the Joker in Batman the movie - but for someone like me who highly respects an area's cultural history... it's fun and unsettling to be romping around in these places. Anyways, it was nice to finally have the chance to talk with Patrick. We have a lot in common. We had a good talk about the East Coast versus the West Coast (we both highly prefer the West Coast), women (we both had gone out with very young women recently), and just general life stuff. It was nice: I don't talk with enough guys.

It's interesting to watch yourself change and develop. Communication has been a big issue in my life of late. I've been giving it a lot a thought, paying attention to how I communicate with others, watching how others communicate with me, and generally reviewing interactions with friends. I've realized that I tend to have the ability to put my feelings on a relationship in stasis while I go do other things, return to that relationship, and pick up emotionally where I left off. That doesn't work, though, when other people change their view of things.

I thought this song was wonderfully appropriate. I'll leave how it's applicable open to interpretation (suffice to say a lot has been going on recently), but I will note that this ever-so-appropriate song is the Cupid theme song.

I play a good game
But not as good as you.
I can be a little cold
But you can be so cruel.
I'm not made of brick
I'm not made of stone,
But I had you fooled enough to take me on.
If love was a war
It's you who has won.
While I was confessing it
You held your tongue.
Now the damage is done.

Well there's blood in these veins,
And I cry when in pain,
I'm only HUMAN on the inside.
And if looks could deceive
Make it hard to believe
I'm only HUMAN on the inside.

I thought you'd come through
I thought you'd come clean
You were the best thing
I should never have seen
But you go to extremes
You push me too far

See, I bleed and I bruise
Oh, but what's it to you
I'm only HUMAN on the inside
And if looks could deceive
Make it hard to believe
I'm only HUMAN on the inside
I crash and I burn
Maybe someday you'll learn
I'm only human on the inside
I stumble I fall
Baby, under it all
I'm only HUMAN on the inside

-The Pretenders, Human

Still haven't had much time to write recently. Humph.

I really like Kathy, the woman who cuts my hair. We enjoy the same kind of humor and things just flow between us. It's not just a hair-cut, it's a gab-fest. <grin>. We were talking about our respective New Year's plans today. She's heading some place cool with her boyfriend. I'm still not sure what my plans are. I told her that as a romantic at heart, I'd always expected to share my New Year's 2000 with someone special. She said "So... umm... where is she?". I thought that was cold but pretty funny regardless. I understand that it's just another day, but I do try to seize the romantic occasions (anniversary's, birthdays, etc.: anything can be a good excuse to show how you feel for someone) where possible. Ken is going to Las Vegas, which I think is as good a place as any to await the Impending Apocalypse. I figure when Aslan stands in front of the gates to the new world, anybody in Las Vegas *starts* in his shadow. (Reference is to C.S. Lewis's Narnia book, The Last Battle.) There's at least one religion that is sure you're going to H*ll for your actions, so you might as well be start doomed in Las Vegas and be able to skip the lines.

Can you imagine the lines when Judgment Day comes? And Gina was unhappy about the lines at DisneyWorld. Yowza. I'm thinking ahead though... I'm going to get a pick-up truck filled with Port-O-Potties, books, pop, and snacks and have that on stand-by. I figure I'll probably be able to get hundreds of people to sell me their souls in order to have a little relief from the wait. Then when it's my turn to be judged, I'll keep handing the judgment guy souls until we come to one that ISN'T damned, and that'll be my ticket in to Paradise...

I discarded the idea of Ragnarok a long time ago... there's just not any place big enough to host a world-wide rumble, and frankly if there's not lots of close combat (which I rule right out in this nuclear age), Ragnarok just wouldn't be very interesting and you know that any pantheon worth its salt is going to make sure that The End is damned exciting (pun intended). Judgement Day doesn't make the most sense either, but it's at least more plausible. Or at least more fun to think about. I'm really interested in seeing how the Pope and the cardinals react to century long lines. Everybody has to have their downtime, time where we do things we might generally regret or feel silly about. Being fallible is part of what makes us human. To be stuck in the longest line in all eternity surrounded by a bunch of punks trying to goad you to do something to damn yourself... that's going to be awfully challenging. And some guy is going to keep mentioning to the pontiff how many of the old popes were damned to Hell in Dante's Inferno: after a couple of months of this, isn't the Pope allowed to smack that guy? I also enjoy thinking about the crowd control possibilities. What kind of system do you use to keep people in line? What happens to people who cut (literally rushing to Judgment...)?

If you're really evil, it would make sense to try and be in the very last section of the line so you can enjoy your life more. And while it certainly might be rewarding to get in to Paradise - and hopefully worth the line - if I'm someone like the Hanson brothers or Warren Beaty, knowing I'm doomed to Hell, what's to stop you from just high-tailing it? Say they allocate all of Asia for the line and the Judgment booths, you can still hang out in Australia for at least a couple of months before they can wrangle any angels out of processing duty long enough to track you down. Say you avoid the Judgment Day and get caught, they can't do any worse then sending you to Hell - where you were already going. And how do they process you? I know that I would be really pissed if I didn't get the primary deity assigned to reviewing my case. I don't want some hastled minor bureacrat spirit reviewing my life, making me feel like my life story is just another obstacle in the way of his lunch break. And if the primary deity is reviewing multiple cases at once, again, I'm going to get pissed. My Eternal Fate is damned important to me: I want to know I've got the deities' full attention. So I'm thinking single-file processing is really the only viable solution for Judgment Day, which means that we're looking at at least a century long wait. And you know the girl right in front of you is going to have a zillion excuses as to why she turned out to be a sadistic wretch. She'll get psychologists arguing it's Nurture not Nature, sociologists discussing how the acceleration and consumerization of society ruined her chances for Good, etc...

Me, I'm going to look the big cheese right in the eye and say: "You done good." I want the Primal Deity (PD) to know that someone really appreciates the wonder of this universe, that no matter how many trillions hate the PD for 'not planning ahead and maybe metering out Judgment Day over a couple centuries so that the rest of us could get some work done in the meantime, dammit!', I will always be eternally grateful for the chance to have lived in this world. Of course, if do I get Damned, I'm going to give that PD the hardest kick to the groin that anyone's ever seen. And then run off to Australia.

I don't understand life. A couple weeks ago I was feeling a little down as I'd had a rough time dealing with a couple friends. Then my birthday came and I felt appreciated and cared for, and the past couple days I've felt absolutely beloved. I went on a great pseudo-date, got a nice letter from my lil' brother, got told by my favorite designer that they liked the looks on my new program (it is still lame, but getting better), tracked down and fixed a number of critical ship-blocking issues in nigh real-time, got some presents in the mail, had several Ship-It parties at work, read lots of great material (Chomsky, some stories from Bust, the incredibly detailed annotations to Kingdom Come [it is really amazing how much detail Alex Ross put in - he's does with images what Milton does with words]), got told I was one of the most creative and fun guys my friend had met (and Anne said I was sexy: that's something you can never hear enough of <grin>) , received a lot of respect and attention for the work I'm doing... it feels like it's Fans of Zach week. :-)

They delivered our copies of the new Inside Windows Media Technologies book yesterday. It's interesting seeing how far Windows Media has come. I've been here since about when we first started the Windows Media project (then code-named Bengal, as it was an off-shoot from the Tiger video server project), back when it was Really Cool that we had the ability to view static images along with the audio. We've come a long way and external people are really excited with what's currently released, let alone what's coming down the pike. I'm really glad I got the chance to work here.

The Windows 2000 Sign-Off party was pretty cool. It's amazing how many people work on a product like that. Besides the people from my own group, I ran into Rastafari Andrew ('nother dev who I always seem to cross paths with) and other than that about ten trizillion people of whom I didn't know a darned soul. It was a lot of fun. They held the party in a garage (it was really rainy that day). They had air hockey, go-karts, basketball, foosball, pool, darts, the Beatniks, and lots of other fun things. I think my favorite was the ice cream carts. They had various carts - Good Humor, Nestle, etc. all around the garage and you could take whatever you liked. That made me really happy. I like ice cream. I even got to make my teeny mark in history by signing an oversized Windows 2000 CD-ROM.

I liked this article about dating Do's/Don'ts for guys. I went out last night with Anne. It felt really easy and smooth. I find that there's certain women that I just feel really comfortable communicating with. She's definitely one. It's always a little thrilling to really hit it off with someone. I felt like a dork most of the night because I hadn't seen her in a while and I was spewing out new conversational tangents at a high rate because so very much has caught my mind recently, and I like sharing what's important to me with others. We went to Chang's Mongolian Grill for dinner. I don't recommend this place on an intimate outing because it's too noisy. I felt like we were at an adult Chuck E Cheez. Chang's has always been enjoyable when I go there with my family, but I think when I'm one on one with someone I expect to feel a little more isolated, a little more personal. I like being one on one with people... I've never really been a party person.

I was mulling things over - I'm hyperanalytical at times, and the little privacy hullabaloo got me thinking. Various friends have told me over time that I can come off as condescending. I think part of that comes from my vocal inflections: I have several very distinct voices I use for various environments (life, sports, business, explaining/informational, etc.), and people get put off when I start using a different voice. The other half of the equation is that I have a fierce moral code, so if someone is encountering troubles or tribulations for what I think are silly choices... I'm not as sympathetic as I should be. Typically I use my moral code to assess my own life, but I notice that sometimes when people come to me looking for someone to complain to, I don't just nod and be a Yes Man, I actually try to get to the bottom of their generalizations in an attempt to ensure that this Bad Thing doesn't happen again. That's good for factual analysis, but friendship isn't about analysis, it's about sharing and intimacy. I'm a friend, not a problem-solver, and if there's one thing I need to leave behind at work it's my belief that I need to solve the world's problems.

I read the second half of this MSNBC article with great amusement. It's the Dr. Laura of relationship advice....

I think I treat everyone the same regardless of our relationship state. If I like you, I'm going to trust you and be nice to you just as if I'd known you for years. It's who I am. I don't have time to doubt or hate someone. If it seems necessary for me to feel that way towards someone, it's necessary for that person not to be part of my life. It's a huge and full life, I've got better things to do than even up old scores. So I figure that people will treat me with the same respect. "Do unto others, yadda yadda..." I'm an eternal optimist - so if someone treats me wrong... I'd say I'd live and learn, but that's not the case. I'm going to continue to implicitly trust everyone because that's the kind of world I'm want to live and believe in.

I finally got around to reading some of my news backlog. This Slate article was disappointing. This particular excerpt:

The paradox exists, though, because opposition to free trade depends upon two antithetical ideas, both of which, interestingly enough, are wrong. The first is that free trade is lowering the standard of living in developed countries by encouraging the migration of jobs and the creation of trade deficits. The second is that free trade is widening the economic gap between rich and poor countries. (A common corollary to this is that trade is widening the gap between rich and poor in all countries.) For both these to be true, rich countries would have to be losing jobs and productive capacity and getting richer at the same time, even as developing countries would be taking away jobs, growing faster, and yet getting poorer.

seemed pretty uneducated. The reason for job migration in the first place is for corporations to be able to exploit a cheaper labor supply. Regardless of location, that means there is less capital outlay to workers, which in most economic analyses would translate directly to a lower standard of living (and anyone defending corporate interests who is using non-monetary means of economic analysis is arguing schizophrenically) . The additional profit now possible goes to increase executive pay, corporate coffers, etc. Ignoring arguments about the ramifications of the "race to the bottom" fight on the part of less developed countries trying to attract manufacturing jobs for their people (for example, the tidal wave effect New Jersey's policy on corporate charters had within the United State), you then have to blithely ignore that you're discussing corporate neo-colonialism. States are beholden to the people. Who are corporates beholden to? *That* is the crux of my opposition to the WTO as it currently exists. Corporations should serve the interests of the people, not the other way around. The article also goes on to say that 'this is the only way real wealth can be created' as if that implies a justification of the way things are. I disagree vehemently: "wealth" is unnecessary and always has been. Corporate wealth doubly so. We talk about lean manufacturing and we might even talk about constructing a lean corporation, but all in the context of enabling industry to maximize profits. I think this is fundamentally immoral: corporations should be in the business of minimizing *over-head*, not profits. Who benefits from profits? It's fascinating that a company can have $1 billion in the bank, but since there's no human benefit to this: why? Corporations can easily lose track of their social responsibilities and currently there's no one to push them back in line. The WTO is yet another potential battleground in the marginalization of the human side of economics.

So I'm a socialist, I guess. I agree that if you work harder or smarter you should be able to obtain a higher relative standard of living, but "old money", multimillionaires: these kinds of things are in my opinion completely unnecessary to the success of a society. Everyone should be allowed to prosper, but at a certain level of prosperity you start taking from other's shares. It's a zero-sum game: what you have, others don't.

There's salvation in false starts.

-Buffalo Tom, Torch Singer

I went to see The Habit Friday night. They're the offshoot of the theater group I used to be involved with (Theater Dangerously), so I am a bit biased... but they are really really good. They were reviewed in the Stranger as having a 'fast-paced, addictive style of comedy'. They did "Slow Children At Play" for the Seattle Fringe Festival, and got nominated for Best Of Fest.

The humor was great. There was the obligatory Fight Club spoof, a completely unexpected send-up of Reading Rainbow (complete with the leftist kid who read Eat The State getting tear-gassed), lots of mockery of "bullet time" (the 360 degree freeze frame effect used in the swing-dancing Gap commercial, the Matrix, and others), etc. They did 'outtakes' after the regular show ended, which I thought was hilarious: I'd never seen that before in a live-action show. It was wonderfully funny. They're playing again in February.

After the show we all went to the cast party at the Rosebud. Kate and I talked for a long time with Ryan and Hollis, who were the best couple I'd seen in a long time. It's so enchanting to see people so enamored of each other. When we all left the cafe afterwards, they skipped together down the street. Giddy love is great.

Anne called me during the party to ask if I wanted to go to the Player King concert the next day. It's such a small world... Michael, the drummer, was sitting right to me, so I verified with him that there wasn't a show (sadly).

Anne and I went to the Pike Place Market. On the way there we were talking about Jason Webley (local "pirate accordion" player) and our favorite song of his. Anne said hers was "Music (That Tears Itself Apart)", I wasn't sure of mine (he's got a couple haunting love ballads that I think are great). Lo and behold, there was Jason Webley playing at the Pike Place Market freezing his buns off. We walked up. He finished the song he was on, and then immediately started playing "Music (That Tears Itself Apart)". And of course the next song was a haunting ballad. I bought a couple copies of his new CD and we went down to Golden Age Collectibles.

I've been enjoying Golden Age Collectibles the past couple months. There's been a semi-recent renaissance in comic book writing (for example, Neil Gaiman's Sandman won a World Fantasy Award for Best Short Story, the only comic to do this ever) and so I've been stopping by to pick up a couple comics each month to round out my readings. The staff has been really friendly and helpful, but I've been primarily dealing with the same girl. I had noticed to myself how nice she was, and it made me think: sometimes the nicest people are not the most attractive people. That comes off badly: what's meant is that she's interesting, has a good sense of humor, but is about average in terms of looks. So I usually leave feeling uplifted for having talked with someone so cool and kind. She's just a Great Person.

Today as I was paying for my comics, she told me how much she enjoyed having me in the store, saying that I was a really interesting guy. I didn't misunderstand: it was just two people talking who enjoy each other, but I still felt elated. It made me feel special to be recognized as cool and interesting by someone I thought was cool and interesting too.

It was a little like when Kate and I first really met. We were preparing for that night's Theater Dangerously show in the changing room, and noticed the toy collections each of us had brought for entertainment during the show. I don't know about her, but I looked at the toys and thought to myself that this was probably going to be one of the coolest people I'd met. An actress who had awesome taste in toys and was brave or eccentric enough to share her toy collection in public? Oooo. Then we started talking and there was just an instant connection between the two of us. The cast party that night was held at her house, and we kept talking until everyone else had gone home and we both fell asleep. I tried to leave my "Pinky" (from Pinky & The Brain) toy at her place so I'd have an Excuse to stop by again sometime, but she saw him and gave him back to me before I left. So then I'd lost my Excuse, but still had her phone number that I'd surreptitiously written down from a business card that was on her counter. But she beat me to the punch... somehow she'd sneakily gotten my phone number, and called to invite me to help her on a project. We have way way too much in common at times. <grin>.

I went to the Player King/Jason Webley concert last night. I missed most of Jason's set, but got to see all of the Player King set. They played a couple songs, and then invited the members of the (something) Underground onstage for a jam session. It was wonderful: it was like the Doors meet Parliment Funkadelic. Then one of the members of Open Circle Productions came onstage to sing a couple deeply bluesy torch songs. I'm not sure if they're going to have more jam sessions like this, but I'll hope: it was just an incredible smorgasbord of great music of wildly different styles.

I actually don't celebrate Christmas. I celebrate what my people call "Present Day". It's much more convenient because it's an at-need occuring holiday. If you ever need presents, it just happens to be "Present Day" and it's the duty of at least one of your friends to get you presents.

Said tongue firmly in cheek, but I like the concept.

But were I joined with her
Then might we live together as one life,
And reigning with one will in everything
Have power on this dark land to lighten it,
And on this dead world to make it live.

-Tennyson, Idylls of the King

or: 'Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight, I wish I may, I wish I might have the wish I wish tonight.' On this Christmas Eve, I wish happiness and love to all of you. And if you happen to have a redheaded soccer-playing schoolteacher waiting for me under the tree tomorrow, I will worship you forever.

Ow, ow, ow, ow. Injury time-out! I went to my parents for Christmas Eve. The family that used to baby-sit me stopped by: they're old friends of the family. I haven't seen their kids for a long-time, so was stunned to see the most strikingly attractive woman I've seen in person since, well, ever, walk in the door with them. Cameron Diaz is probably the best reference point on her looks. So this absolutely gorgeous woman who my mom told me had just broken up with her boyfriend of four years looks at me and says, "Wow! It's been so long. Last time I remember seeing you, you were going to the bathroom in our front yard." I think I'm allowed to sue the universe when this kind of thing happens. Didn't really know where to take the conversation from there...

So we all sat at my parent's table, talking about our lives, and it turns out that she received a scholarship to play soccer in college, she coaches soccer, she teaches (! I *love* women who teach), is strong-willed and intellectually independent, was wearing butterfly clips in her hair... she was just scoring aces all over. My brother had said something I was a little offended by, but didn't really feel comfortable challenging him upon. She immediately jumped on it, tweaking him for his statement in a positive way so he realized how he sounded but both of them came off without looking like a jerk. I was impressed.

I had bought a book of Brian Andreas' poems just in case I ran across someone that needed a Christmas gift, and it would have been perfect for her: Brian has three great soccer poems: Fundamentals, Soccer, and Four Things, and his poems are just the kind of thing to think and chew upon after a relationship ends. Of course I had left it at home. Oh well. I'm supposed to repair her parent's computer, and I can have them give it to her. Anonymously, mind you... any time I think there's the possibility that my feelings might be misinterpreted, I'm on my tip-toes in my dealings with that person. I'd give her the book because she was interesting and funny and had a break-up and so could maybe use some good food-for-thought, but I wouldn't want it to come across the wrong way.

My family was terrible after she left: I made a couple comments about things I'd noticed about her, and immediately I got razzed about having a crush on her. I don't understand this. I felt so much happier when I had a girlfriend and I could safely notice how women were cool without people misinterpreting my intentions. It's been a really consistent theme: I'll start talking with some woman, and then my friends will try to blow it out of proportion. Even sadder is that fact that I've got an eagle eye for the life around me. If people are holding hands together or kissing, I notice - I love signs of affection. If someone is dressed sharply, I notice, if someone is smiling, I notice. So once in a while I make the mistake of pointing out someone I notice, and if it's a woman... it gets misconstrued. I think I'll start *saying* I'm dating someone just so I get some peace.

I certainly am interested in meeting the right person, but I want it to develop naturally. I'm not going to force a darn thing: I'm way too practiced and good at making mountains out of romantic molehills. If I'm at a dance or talking with some woman, that'll be the end of it. It can be fun and good but unless I get butterflies in my stomach I just don't have a need to pursue anything.