Friday, April 29, 2011

The Royal Wedding

By far this is the most moving version of the royal wedding I have seen. You really MUST see this one.

Hat tip to Chelle.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Medicare & other 'Entitlement Programs'

A rant I could not agree more with. It is astonishing to me how many gullible Americans are quaffing the corporate Kool-Aid and turning on their fellow workers, against their own best interests. Check your IQ at the door much?

Monday, April 25, 2011

Easter Sunday at the Ballpark

We finally got a chance to head to AT&T Park yesterday for a ball game; it was the Giants vs. the Braves. The Giants haven’t been playing well (early in the season, not atypical), though it was disheartening to see the Braves sweep the series. Chelle says it’s payback for their errors in last year’s playoffs, errors that got the Giants into the World Series in the first place.

It was a gorgeous, sunny day (naturally I forgot sunblock. Heck, it was drizzling and overcast when we left the house. We brought an umbrella and blankets, expecting to be shivering.) So, today my right ear is sunburned. I am walking around looking like I am half blushing.

We had great seats behind home plate. There was some excitement in the 7th inning as the Giants rallied and brought in some runs, and we got to see Buster Posey (heartthrob to young girls everywhere) hit a home run.

Mostly I just enjoyed basking in the sun. Chelle had a few beers, and the two guys sitting further down in our row had even a few more. (I lost count; it seemed one of them went on a beer run after each inning, not that I was counting but because they had to squeeze past me each time they got up.) By game’s end, they were definitely chatty and being friendly. I considered ordering an O'Doul's non-alcohol beer but decided instead to stick with water.

Two Braves fans dared to sit in the middle of Giants season ticket holders, and I was pleased to see that not a single person harassed them. (Still makes my heart ache for that Giants fan who was beaten up a month ago at Dodgers Stadium. He is still in a coma. He is a paramedic who actually frequently worked games at Santa Clara, so Chelle knows him.)

The movie is of my boyfriend, Cody Ross, hitting a pop fly out. He did get a single later on in the game. Chelle bought me a Cody Ross pin to put on my Giants cap.

Sunshine, hot dogs, Cracker Jack … what more can you ask for?

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Be Grateful

It is difficult to hang onto anger, resentment, and bitterness if you focus on the blessings in your life.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Today's Dose of Humor

A wino was staggering down the beach hungover and sick...His mouth was dry, and he was craving a drink. He was checking all the empty cans and bottles he found, looking for any bottle that might have a little left in it.

He found a bottle that sloshed a bit, pulled the cork, and out popped a Genie.

The Genie said, "Great, I'm free! I have been in there for 3500 yrs. And guess what, you get 2 free wishes!"

The wino thought about it for a minute, and said, "I want a bottle of wine that will never run dry."


There in his hands was a fresh bottle of wine. He pulled the cork and took a slug..the bottle refilled itself. "Great," he said, and took another slug.

The Genie said, "Hurry up, I've got some catching up to do."

The wino thought for a minute and asked the Genie, "You got one more bottle like this?"

Monday, April 18, 2011

Game of Thrones

So, I watched the premiere episode of Game of Thrones last night on HBO. I'd been anticipating this new series for at least three months now, it being recommended to me by a friend who knows how much I loved The Tudors. I also enjoyed Rome, Spartacus: Blood and Sand and Gods of the Arena, and I really wish I got Showtime so I could watch the new series on the Medici when it starts. Just call me a history whore.

Now, Game of Thrones is fictional, but I also enjoy True Blood and the Vampire Diaries, so series based on books appeal to me as well. I've not read any of these, but that's not necessary. In fact, I never have time to read this sort of thing (only the serious stuff for school), and actually it's kind of fun to NOT know the plot ahead of time so all the cliffhangers keep me wanting more.

Blah blah blah. So, did I like Game of Thrones? Dunno. The jury's out. (Not to worry, it usually takes several episodes before I'm either hooked or I lose interest.) I can say the first episode didn't bore me. There are clear "good guys" and "bad guys." As you might guess from the title, the arc for a big battle over who will be king has also been introduced. I expect all the major characters have been introduced.

But I'm sorry, the barbarian horde on horseback might have had beefcake eye candy just like Spartacus did, but honestly they looked and acted like Klingons to me. Also I wondered why every single couple having sex in the pilot episode had to do it doggy style.

Well, maybe that's just the convention in this mythical kingdom.

One thing's for sure, you can't beat the top-notch casting, the graphics, and the scenery.

Oh, and there was plenty of T&A for the boys.

P.S. I did love the baby wolves, especially that adorable white one. Can't wait to see what happens when he gets big.

P.P.S. The graphic above is apparently based on a board game about this series. The books apparently have a huge fan following.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Taxes Done! Thank You, Lord

All I can say is, thank goodness they don't really tax that.

Chelle and I finally finished our taxes today. Ugh. Naturally, we owed. But not as much as last year, and this time, we did them ourselves rather than paying an accounting firm $500 an hour, so even though doing our taxes ate up the better part of our Saturday off, we are happy that's accomplished.

Of course, I did find out that the measly $108 dollars I earned while serving on a jury for a week and a half last September is taxable income I have to claim! Wow, they get you coming and going, don't they?

And then I amused the guy on the other end of the phone at Charles Schwab when I called because I'd lost my 1099. And, I'd forgotten my login ID. I'm pleased to report that I was their first call of the day about the 1099. He teased me mercilessly for putting off doing my taxes. But can you blame us, since we both knew we were going to have to pay up? I like to hang onto my stinky little dollars until I have to part with them.

I don't mind giving money to charitable causes and to my friends when they're in a jam, but I do mind giving money away to a government that has lent money to banks and then had the same banks turn around and lend it back to the govt at a higher interest rate. (If you haven't read about that, you're in for an eye opener right here.)

All of it's enough to make me want to drink, now that I think of it, but nah. The only person that would hurt is me.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Brandi Carlile with the Seattle Symphony: "The Story"

I still can't believe I was at this concert. It was pretty fabulous. If you aren't familiar with Brandi Carlile, you need to be. I think this one may very well be my favorite song of hers.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Real Miracle

I was one of those closet drinkers. Though occasionally I did get drunk in public, most of the time my benders were at home, a private matter between myself and a full glass, especially if Chelle was working late.

On those nights, she'd call from work before heading home to let me know she was on the way. I barely remember these conversations.

Chelle tells me that back then, whenever she'd hear my voice slurring on the phone, her stomach would tie up in knots. Her biggest fear was coming home and finding me dead. I'd fallen and hit my head, or I'd passed out and choked on my own vomit.

Yep, and back then I'd thought I was a "normal" drinker who just occasionally overdid it a little. Denial is a powerful thing.

How my life has changed. Thank God my life has changed.

Chelle's away for a couple of days and her trust in me has been completely repaired. Scrounging around in the fridge last night to find something to make for dinner, I found some leftover cooked chicken. I took it out, brought it to the counter, started stripping meat off the bones to add to some pasta, and it dawned on me. There were two Dogfish ales in the refrigerator.

And I didn't care.

Curious, I opened a cabinet door, and there were Chelle's three partially consumed bottles of bourbon, including a very expensive Booker's which is something like 110 proof. I smiled and closed the cabinet door.

I'm not even remotely tempted.

This is the real miracle. It's not that I'm not interested in tying one on (that's a miracle of another kind). The real miracle is that Chelle now trusts me so much it doesn't worry her to leave booze in the house when I'm here alone.

There once was a time that was inconceivable to her.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Friday, April 8, 2011

Florence & the Machine: "Dog Days Are Over"

The first time I heard this song on the radio, I thought Natalie Merchant was making a comeback. This is the kind of song that makes me want to put the top down on the convertible.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Is This Fair?

Now that I'm back from the huge adult playground that is Las Vegas, two items are on my plate: grading student papers and doing my income taxes. Actually, it'll be both Chelle and me figuring out our taxes. The IRS has made things particularly inane for gay couples this year, if we happen to be married or in a domestic partnership, which Chelle and I are.

Here's the deal: the federal government does not recognize our relationships, even if they are legal in a particular state, so even if we check "married" on our forms, we still must each file the federal 1040 separately. Then we need to figure out between us what is community property and what is NOT community property. Wages, for instance, are considered community property; the interest income on money I inherited from my Grandfather's estate would not be. Ultimately each of us will wind up with different figures for our adjusted gross income, neither of which will look anything remotely like what's on our W-2s. This fact alone will automatically trigger a form letter from the IRS, subjecting us to an audit.

At this point, nobody knows what's going to happen. We both sat in on the Webinar for gay couples in California (thankfully we can at least file a single state form as a married couple here), and the tax experts--local tax preparers familiar with the issue and even someone from the State Franchise Board--all agreed that the IRS Publication 555 was in error when it comes to our situations, and that really, the most any of us can do is the best we can figure. And to EXPECT to be audited.

You may ask, why not just go ahead and say you're single and just file separately like you've always done? Well, the answer is, I can't, and it would also be a lie. Since the IRS created this separate "community property" rule for gay couples (in the name of equality, bless 'em), legally we HAVE to file as a married couple. BUT, as I said above, since they don't recognize us as actually married, you still have to do two separate returns, when they don't have the structure in place to account for us. So it's a mess.

The moral of the story is: separate is not equal. Never was, never will be. Until gay marriages are recognized by the federal government, gay couples will be treated differently--either not eligible for the same tax breaks that heterosexual married couples get, or subjected to a dozen headaches and harassment from the IRS just for trying to be honest in preparing their taxes. Either that, or we can hire an accounting firm with an attorney on board for $300 an hour like we did last year--I think the total bill for both of us came to $2000 just because ours are so complicated. Turbo Tax can't handle us, either. And even if a tax preparer did our taxes, we will STILL BE AUDITED.

I ask you: is this fair?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

One AA Saying I Disagree With Is ...

"Relapse is a part of recovery."

I suppose this is a reasonable, non-judgmental thing to say to someone who has relapsed and you want to impart the idea that sometimes we slip; it's forgivable; just get back on the horse. And in rehab I heard it a lot (maybe because many of the folks there were not there for the very first time), along with the assurance, "It's not like starting all over. You still have some good sobriety under your belt and things you've learned from your time being sober."

All of which I don't dispute.

But really, I don't like the idea because it's also dangerous to the alcoholic mind. If I accepted the idea that relapse is a part of recovery, then I'm accepting that one day I will probably relapse. And that little devil on my shoulder is going to say, "Well, then, if it's inevitable, just do it. You can't help it." And I'll run with it.

No, thanks. I want to believe that relapse DOES NOT HAVE TO BE a part of recovery.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Vegas, Baby!

Well, here I am in Las Vegas enjoying my Spring Break. Las Vegas must be the last hurdle, I think, for a recovering alcoholic (though Bourbon Street in New Orleans is a close second). It's funny, but you never pay attention to booze, it seems, until you can't have any. Or maybe it's because I'm sober and am more attentive to my surroundings. But I saw tons of people walking down Las Vegas Blvd. with those yard-high daquiris and, whereas before I swear the cocktail waitresses covering the slot machines used to ignore me, it seems this time they paid me special attention.


"No, thank you."

I have downed quite a bit of club soda with lime and Perrier, though.

We went to the Bellagio today (see movie above for a look at the dancing fountains), because I always have luck gambling specifically on the MegaBucks slots there. Sure enough, today I hit a $480 jackpot there, and yesterday I won another little jackpot, so I'm actually UP here in the fabulous city of Lost Wages. (Never fear, I still have plenty of time to gamble it away.)

Last night we saw Blue Man Group, and they are great--funny and just awesome, particularly if you like lots of percussion. Oh, and flying paint. Today we caught the Titanic exhibit at the Luxor, and though that was pricier than it probably should have been, it was interesting. It was rather eerie, actually, looking at salvaged things that had belonged to the passengers, including items that couldn't be completely restored or repaired, such as somebody's water-damaged postcards. The "star" of the exhibit, though, was a large piece of the ship's hull.

Tomorrow it's supposed to be in the 80s here, so we may just relax during the day by the pool. Dinner will be back at the Bellagio, at Jasmine, for us to celebrate one of our anniversaries (Vermont civil union on April 12th). That's a perk of being gay, by the way. We have been civil unioned, domestic partnered, and then married. (The anniversary of our marriage is August 15th.) But to simplify matters for you all, we'll have been together 7 years this August.

Did it feel great to wake up this morning in Las Vegas not hungover? Yes, it did.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Horse Bliss

This gray sweetie in Steve's barn likes it when you scratch just below his withers, so Chelle accommodated him today. Watch his expression. Horse heaven, my friends.

Breaking the Rules

I tried something different in my pre-freshman comp. class yesterday. They have to read Elie Wiesel's Night over Spring Break, so after lecturing about the book, the author, and the time period a bit, I cracked open the book and read to them as they followed along. "I just want to get you jump started," I said.

So I read to them, up to the point when the Jews in Sighet are just about to be put into the cattle cars and sent to Auschwitz.

You could've heard a pin drop.

I broke the rules. Back when I was a teaching assistant at Penn State, my assigned mentor once told me firmly, "NEVER read to students." So I got into the habit of making them read aloud, not me. This, despite the fact that, when I was a student, I was myself shy about reading out loud in the classroom and would stammer and bungle words I knew perfectly well how to pronounce. This, despite the fact that on one occasion, a student pleaded with me to not ever call on her to read because "it freaks me out."

I guess I then got out of the habit of having students read aloud anything at all, because wielding a whip and torturing students is not my game. Now, I normally assign readings, assume the student has read the homework, and we just discuss it in class the next day. I'll refer us to particular sections and sometimes read bits aloud, but only to illustrate a point and it's seldom longer than a single paragraph.

But yesterday, we had the time to read more, and I really wanted to get the students interested in the book. Yet Night has quite a bit of Yiddish in the first chapter and the names of Hungarian and Polish cities, and this is a class in which the kids have been placed specifically because they have reading difficulties. I know better than to cause them the embarrassment of reading out loud in front of their peers, stumbling over words it's completely unreasonable to expect them to even know, much less pronounce.

I broke the rules. I decided to read to them.

What the hell. I am a literate adult, and I LOVE being read to. And in the silence of that classroom, as I read aloud, and I could hear their pages turning whenever I turned a page, so I knew they were keeping up, it was clear to me that they were absorbed as well.

It seems to me, if you want to encourage reading, you have to get your students to love reading. How did I come to love books? I still clearly remember my 5th grade teacher, Mrs. Peck, reading to us once a day a chapter from one of the Newberry Award Winners. My absolute favorite was A Wrinkle in Time. Those hours she read were my favorite part of the school day.

And I think about how, as an adult, I still love being read to. One of my fondest memories of when I was dating one of my exes about seven years ago (who is now my sponsor in AA) was that some nights, snuggling together in bed, we'd take turns reading to each other until we were too sleepy to continue. I loved listening to her voice; I loved drowsily following the plot until sleep overcame me. It was so very intimate.

Usually when it's time for a classroom session to wind down, I catch students peeking up at the clock or starting to pack up their books. Sometimes I have to say, "Hang on, let me finish this point," to get them to focus for one more minute. That did not happen yesterday. Those kids--from the student with the Auditory Processing Disorder to the big, beefy Tongan football player who is absent more often than he's there due to problems at home, to the kids for whom English is a second language--were absolutely involved.

So, I broke the rules.