Jun 272007

Mom was bright. She never finished college, but she was one of the most learned and well-read people I’ve ever known. She was a knew-a-whole-lot-about-a-few-things and knew-a-little-something-about-everything sort of person.

I went to visit her on a break from college one weekend, and she asked me what I’d been studying recently. I told her, and she deeply surprised me when she engaged me in a lengthy and informed conversation on the ideas of Marshall McLuhan and Kenneth Burke.

She was also absolutely convinced that mayonnaise must not undergo the slightest heating, lest it turn so deadly poisonous that the mere act of smelling it would cause violent and ultimately fatal convulsions. She handled old potato salad with the same care she would cannisters of sarin. It would not have surprised her in the least to read that the ancient Mayans tipped their darts with hot mayonnaise.

I’m hamming a bit, but not much. Of course, mayonnaise is perishable, and you probably shouldn’t leave it out for a couple of days and then eat it (because it would taste unpleasant, not because it would be particularly bad for you even then), but that’s not what I mean. I mean, she thought putting mayonnaise on a hot sandwich, for example, was tantamount to playing Russian roulette. Of course I couldn’t ever have mayonnaise on anything I took to school for lunch, because of the potentially deadly transformation it would undergo sitting, seemingly innocuously, in my locker.

I either never knew or don’t remember whether she knew someone who got sick, or her mother told her this, or what, but it was clear that the belief was absolutely unshakable, so I never tried to convince her otherwise.

I wonder whether I have any of those beliefs? I wonder whether I’d even realize it if I did?

Thanks to justhungry.com for the image.

 Posted by at 11:33 pm
Jun 272007

iPhone lands on Friday. Hardware is $499 or $599, depending on memory, and 2-year contracts feature monthly pricing of $59.99, $79.99, or $99.99, depending on voice minutes.

No doubt it’s cool. Anyone who says it isn’t is attempting some fake nothing-impresses-me routine.

That said, as much of a gadget hound as I am, I’ve never really warmed to the idea of having a phone and a PDA in one device. I like being able to take a device that is just a phone with me sometimes. Do you really want to worry about babysitting an iPhone at an all-day outdoor music festival, for example? You’ve got $600 in the damned thing.

It wasn’t even iPhone news that really caught my eye in this story: it was Macintosh market share. As of May 2007, Apple has 7.6% of the home computer market. “Big deal,” you say? Actually yes, it is. In May 2004—just three years ago—it was 3.2%. That is smokin’, folks.

I started with Apple hardware, well before the Mac appeared. Thanks to my conscientious dad, we had a ][+ and a /// around the house. I spent some time playing games, of course, but I also spent a lot of time with PFS database software, VisiCalc spreadsheet software, and Apple Business BASIC. There was always something new to learn. There was magic on those 5.25″ floppies.

I actually used that /// all the way through college, from my first five-paragraph essay for Ms. Chasteen in English 101 in 1988 to my senior thesis for Dr. Fillippeli in advanced comm theory in 1992. It had quirks—the massive external 5 MB hard drive, the size of two stacked shirt boxes, took about ten minutes to initialize, and would intermittently send my heart into my throat with a weird “BAD INTERPRETER” message—but it never once let me down. Good thing, too—as late in the game as 1992, I don’t know who the hell could have fixed it.

I must have blown 100 cartons of cigarette smoke into the green glow of that monitor. And to this day, I may be the preeminent worldwide authority on WordJuggler 2.6, the word processor I used. That will stand out on a resumé.

I dislike a rabid Mac bigot as much as the next guy, but still, it’s heartwarming for me to see Apple survive, and even thrive, in 2007. It’s an old childhood pal.

Thanks to apple.com for the iPhone image. Thanks to computermuseum.org.uk for the Apple /// image.

 Posted by at 1:47 am
Jun 262007

Yeah, that’s kind of an icky post. It was uncomfortable writing, and I’m sure it’s uncomfortable reading.

All day I’ve debated taking it down. I’m leaning toward letting it roll. But at the very least it should have a content note at the top, which I’ve added. I apologize for not including one originally.

A Clarification or Two
People cheat for reasons that are often complex. Frequently, quite valid emotions put a person in that situation. Cheating is just such a destructive response. A marriage is generally something that both parties highly valued at one time, else it wouldn’t be a marriage, correct? I like the prospects of “something to save” before infidelity occurs much more than I do after the fact.

I don’t mean to suggest that it’s easy for a man to walk away from cheating, if only he’ll take care of things himself. But it may buy him time to work up the nerve to do what he should do, which is talk to his wife, a counselor, or both about how he got there emotionally in the first place. (And it may be enough to vanquish a strictly shallow temptation entirely.)

What the Hell Do I Know About It, Anyway?
Conceded. Not much at all, except from observing third parties. I’m sure that gives me a bit of a preachy vibe, given that I apparently think I can credibly hold court on it. I’ll own that.

Said observations are always sad, even when the couple keeps it together. It’s enough to give me the strong view that people should try very hard not to cross that line. Recovery, even when possible, is long and difficult.

My Pastor Says Masturbation Is Itself Cheating…
(eyes glaze over)

 Posted by at 3:59 pm
Jun 252007

(Notice: Frank emotional and sexual content.)

Reading the subject, did you think of your 401(k), your turntable, or your marriage?

I know many people who have cheated on their spouses. The number surprises and saddens me. If you’d asked me ten years ago to guess the number of people I’d know at 36 years old who had been unfaithful, I’d literally have underestimated it by an order of magnitude. But good people make mistakes, and occasionally one of those mistakes is infidelity.

(By the way, I do think it’s possible to be unfaithful to your spouse without having sex, but such is a subtlety we won’t get into here. The usual definition of infidelity includes mattress polo, and we’ll stay with that.)

I appreciate that a big reason it seems so foreign to me is that I’m happy. I’ve never been inclined to cheat on anyone I’ve spent that kind of time with, but given how common infidelity is, I thought I’d at least understand it more as I spent more time married. Actually, I understand it less now than I ever have. I married an incredible woman, and apparently I continue to pass muster with her, and for that I thank God daily. I have no illusions that my experience is typical. I know we’re blessed.

I have what I have learned is a somewhat controversial view on infidelity. I hold men more responsible for it than women.

“What the hell are you, some kind of sexist pig?” No, not at all. Odds are decent I’m the least sexist man you know. But I do recognize that differences between the sexes exist (beyond the obvious), and one of those differences is in general attitude toward sex. Acknowledging those differences is not sexism.

Women, here’s the deal on men and sex: we really do think about it all the time. I mean, you may be the horniest chick in the Western Hemisphere, and yet I promise you the average man has thought about screwing more by 9 am than you will all day. The thought is as basic as breathing or eating; the orgasm, a mere sensory experience like a steak or a fine Scotch, albeit greatly magnified.

Moreover, we can separate the sexual experience from the person a woman is just as easily as we can that steak or Scotch from the server who brought it. I don’t have to know you to fantasize about you; I just have to know what you look like. Sometimes what you sound like is enough.

In my experience, and in my observation, and however else I can disclaim this in a likely fruitless effort to minimize my chances of being accused of painting more than half the world’s people with a broad brush of sexist ignorance: most women don’t do that nearly as easily. I’ve met an occasional woman who seems to be every bit the nonchalant sexual consumer (would-be or actual) the average man is, a la Linda Fiorentino’s Bridget Gregory/Wendy Kroy in The Last Seduction. But by and large, a woman is much more likely to want it to mean something beyond the physical. Men don’t care. Gimme gimme gimme. Hopefully, in the case of a married man, the sentiment remains mental.

And here is the proverbial rub, grasshopper. A primary reason I think unfaithful men are more on the hook than unfaithful women is that there exists an extremely efficacious relief valve called masturbation. It’s quick, it’s free, and it’s 100% effective in quelling men’s urges that, if carried out, would fuck up peoples’ lives.

“So what are you, some kind of dumbass? You’re saying women don’t masturbate?” Of course not. I am saying, though, that considering the feelings likely to immediately precede an opportunity for infidelity, masturbation is likely to solve the man’s problem more easily. Orgasm generates an immediate and reliable removal of libido in a man, and chances for lucid and considered thought (like “why the hell would I cheat on my wife of 15 years?”) are greatly increased. Given the likely difference in a woman’s motivations at such a moment, masturbation is less likely to afford her similar relief.

Mind, not everyone’s marriage is a month in the Bahamas. If a couple has real problems, they should certainly discuss them. But on the emotional way to that discussion, if a man should have a genuine, actionable urge to sink it into someone else, he is being irresponsible and selfish if he chooses not to “relieve the pressure” himself. Presumably there was a ceremony at which he promised to remain faithful; isn’t that promise worth purchasing some time with a little autoeroticism?

Men, we’re pigs. And we should have everybody. From Beyoncé to the hot new woman in accounting, we should do them all. In our heads.

Please don’t cheat on your wife.

Please read this followup post as well.

 Posted by at 11:03 pm
Jun 252007

At 9, I fell about ten feet onto my back from the top of a jungle gym. At 13, I was thrown off the back of a Honda three-wheeler and watched it fly through the air about two inches above my body as I laid on the ground. At 15, I was thrown from the bed of a Ford Courier pickup when it overturned in a ditch at about 60 mph. Didn’t just walk away from that one–there was an ambulance ride, a nurse scrubbing asphalt out of my road-rashed back in the ER, a few stitches, and about five days of heavy duty pain shooting through my entire body anytime I moved–but no broken bones.

So after all of those much more exciting close calls, I decided to break my first bone at 27 years old, just walking down the damned hall in mine and Lea’s first house. I took a left out of the bathroom and hit the bookcase with my bare right foot just so, and broke my pinkie toe.

I’d wondered before whether I’d broken a toe, but everybody always said “no, you’ll have no doubt whatsoever if you ever really break a toe.” Everybody was right. I screamed, hopped to the couch, and cried for a good two or three minutes before I looked at it. The blood was already starting to pool under the skin, and its “resting” position was rather out of step with the rest of my toes. The pain was quite impressive.

I talked to a nurse friend, and she told me if I went to my doctor, he would securely tape it to my fourth toe and give me a prescription for pain, and that was it. Not much else to be done. I told her I could probably handle all of that myself. She said ibuprofen would probably be best for the pain, and I could double-dose it safely if I didn’t drink at the same time. I thanked her and hung up.

I was especially irritated by the timing, because I was going to Washington, DC on business the following week. It was my “old hand” trip. I’d been about six weeks earlier, and that had been my first trip to DC. So on my upcoming trip, I would have my bearings, and wouldn’t have to waste whatever leisure time I had figuring things out. I could just play.

Uh, no. You can just sit immobile in your hotel room and eat Advil.

I could get around well enough to get to and from the car, on and off the Metro, to my meetings, and the like, but if I went too long (which wasn’t long at all), there was a considerable pain price to be paid. There would be no leisurely strolling the entire trip.

It was mostly fine in three weeks, and I was back to normal after five.

 Posted by at 4:12 am