Thursday, October 27, 2011

Jokes That Blow Your Mind

I love this cartoon.

And I love it on a much deeper level than you do.

Because I'm about to get all nerdy and deconstruct this joke. To me, it's about so much more than just Kermit having a hand up his wazoo. In fact, when I first heard about it, I did a Google image search for it, and I found two alternate captions for it. Here's the other one:

This one, while still funny, doesn't quite have the impact of "this will change your life forever."

That's what makes this joke so incredibly clever to me. It brings up this image of Kermit going about his life, interacting with people and the world around him, making assumptions about the nature of his existence, all the while there is a shocking truth just below the surface.

Are you really sure you want to know it?

Is Kermit ready for his life to be turned upside down? For everything that he thought was true to be challenged? That's some serious shit.

Not easy being green, indeed.


As I've written before, I'm fascinated by books and movies that are about ideas, things that make me imagine a world or reality that's different from my own. That's why the Kermit joke is so cool to me.

The latest book I read for one of my book clubs is like that.

Before I Go To Sleep, by S.J. Watson, is about a woman with memory problems. It's not a new idea. In fact, the book is a perfect combination between two movies, 50 First Dates and Memento.

It's like 50 First Dates in that the main character wakes up every morning with no memory of who she is. As the result of an accident, she has no memories of the past 20 years, so every day her husband has to remind her who she is, who he is, and why she can't remember.

Unlike 50 First Dates, which is a romantic comedy with Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore, this book has more sinister overtones. The main character becomes suspicious that her husband is hiding things from her, so she starts writing things down.

It turns into a race to see if she can figure out the mystery every day before she goes to sleep and her memory gets erased again.

The book brings up all sorts of questions about memory and identity. It's a fun and fascinating read with a nice twist ending.

Reading the book is not quite like discovering you have a skeleton hand controlling your brain, but it might make you think.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Police Brutality or Bad Propaganda?

A lot of my liberal friends have what I consider to be an unhealthy distrust of authority. Anyone who makes, supports, or enforces rules is "the man" and can't be trusted.

I don't trust or distrust people in authority any more than anyone else. I question authority, but no more or less than I question anyone else. My philosophy is: treat everyone with respect, regardless of their position, and expect it in return.

Not everyone shares this attitude. Some people bristle when they encounter a police officer and make assumptions that it's someone who gets off on power. Someone who will abuse that power if given the chance.

To be fair, they might come by it honestly. Maybe they've had personal encounters where the police abused or disrespected them. I've been fortunate enough not to have experienced that. What I do know is that time after time after time, people get in trouble not for their initial transgression, but how they respond to authority.


Above all, I value the truth. So when I see a story like the one I read in Smile Politely today, it bothers me. Because the whole thing just smelled fishy and sensational, starting with the headline: "Local activist's son beaten by Champaign police." The article recounts the story of Calvin Miller, an 18-year-old black kid who ran from police when they tried to stop him, and in the ensuing scuffle, got roughed up.

As it's written here, it's not a news story, but propaganda. Lots of facts of the case are obscured or downplayed. There's no effort whatsoever to tell both sides of the story. Photos of the teen with a swollen eye and on crutches are there to elicit an emotional response. There are so many holes in the story, so many unanswered questions it brings up, that I was more suspicious of the teenager's story after I read it. Which makes it not only propaganda, but bad propaganda at that.

According to the story:

  • A cop tried to pull Calvin over for "no apparent reason." How does he know that? He didn't stop, so there's no way to know whether there was a legitimate reason or not.
  • "...he walked into the courtroom with crutches. His right ankle was sprained, maybe fractured." How exactly does one hurt their ankle while they're being beaten by police? I've hurt my ankle many times, and it's always a result of me running or jumping. How is this evidence of a police beat-down?
  • "...the vehicle he was driving ran into the porch steps of a house..." Notice how this sentence implies that the vehicle itself was the agent of action, not the driver.
  • "The officer turned on his lights. Close to his mother’s house, Calvin kept driving with the hope he could make it there." What was he hoping to accomplish by driving to his mother's house? Did he think the police would stop their pursuit once he got there?
  • "After a couple blocks, he turned into a residential driveway on Arcadia. The police officer rammed him with his squad car, causing the car to lurch forward into the porch steps." First of all, why this house? Wasn't he trying to get home? And the story about the police car lurching his car forward into the porch? This lessens his credibility. Not only is this an outlandish account, but it shows how much he's trying to deflect responsibility.
  • "Calvin got out of the car and started to run toward his house. Police told him to stop and Calvin says he responded by getting on the ground." Why run? Then, why stop?
  • "Calvin put his hands up over his head, but the cop kept beating him, injuring him on his forehead, eye, and jaw. He rolled over onto his stomach and was placed in handcuffs. Lieb pepper sprayed Calvin directly in his face while he was handcuffed." I wasn't there, and neither was the writer of this article, so this is all speculation, even though it's written as fact. I'm pretty sure the cops will have a different account of things. What we do know, which is undisputed by both accounts, is that Calvin has already, prior to this moment, fled from the police twice (once in the car and once on foot.)
  • "He was then placed under arrest. Calvin was taken to Carle Hospital which failed to conduct any tests or even wash the pepper spray out of his eyes." I don't know how these situations work. But what kinds of tests is the hospital supposed to conduct? Is it standard procedure to wash pepper spray out of eyes? Is that possible? Again, I don't know the answers, but the way it's phrased makes it sound suspect to me.
  • "Calvin has no criminal background, but remains scared of the police." I don't doubt that. But how does running from them make the police any less scary? It seems this whole situation could have been avoided if he had not let his fear take over in the first place.
It's not that I support the police brutalizing a young teen. What I object to is the article itself, and how it makes an assumption (local police are thugs) and then does everything it can to push that agenda. There's no nuance or complexity. No respect for the complex issues involved in this case. No balance. No fairness. And it does everything it can to push emotional buttons, like showing pictures of Calvin on crutches or with a swollen eye.

These were all my reactions from reading the Smile Politely article alone. This was before I saw the News Gazette account of the story, which filled in some of the holes and directly disputed some of Calvin's claims. For example, police said they tried to stop Calvin after they saw him speed out of a parking lot, run over a curb, and run a red light at 1:30 in the morning. That doesn't sound like "no apparent reason" to me.

He jumped out of a moving vehicle-- which then slowly drifted into a porch-- and fled from police on foot. He jumped a fence and then was tackled by police. They wrestled him down and sprayed him with pepper spray. It sounds like his ankle problems were most likely caused by running from police and jumping a fence. Does injuring yourself as you run away count as police brutality? (As the Smile Politely article implies?) It seems entirely possible to me that the injuries he sustained-- a swollen eye and a bruised forehead-- could easily be explained by pepper spray and being tackled. It's not evidence that "police beat the crap out of a black kid", as one commenter of the Smile Politely article asserts.


There are other issues involved here. The local African American community doesn't trust local police, and there are many stories of the police using excessive force. A few years ago an unarmed black teenager was shot and killed by police. In that situation, as in this one, the kid panicked when he felt police were harassing him without cause. I tend to be very rule oriented, so it's hard for me to empathize when people don't follow the rules. One rule that I would think would be obvious is, "Don't run from police." On the other hand, if you've grown up feeling like the rules don't exist for you, don't protect your interests, I can understand not having respect for them.

I'm sympathetic, and I wish the police could do better community outreach to make the African American community feel safe. I'm not one of those racist pricks who thinks that these kids get what they deserve and it's evidence of moral decay among the blacks. I'm not going to use the phrase "black privilege" that one commenter on the SP article does to provoke racial tensions. We need solutions, not antagonism.

Which is why the Smile Politely article bothers me. It doesn't constructively build bridges, it's just trying to stoke racial unrest by implying that the police are racist thugs. It encourages the attitude that we should fear and distrust the police. And because it is so blatantly one-sided, it makes me question the credibility of the "victim" of what may or may not be a case of police brutality.

However you might interpret the incident with Calvin Miller, can't we at least agree that running from the police is a bad idea? That he made a potentially routine traffic stop way worse than it had to be? If you believe the local police are abusive, you're only inviting trouble if you antagonize them. Does Miller really believe that if he had simply pulled over when the cops turned on their lights, he would have been "beaten" by them? Does anyone? We'll never know, and because of that, his allegation of police brutality is a lot weaker.

Calvin Miller's father is a local activist who has "consistently appeared at city council meetings reporting on the brutality of the Champaign police," the Smile Politely article says. In the News Gazette article, the local state's attorney said that when she interviewed Calvin, he said his father had told him not to stop for police and call him if he's followed. I can't imagine feeling that much distrust and fear about authority figures. In a way, it seems that this was a self-fulfilling prophecy. Calvin was afraid of being beaten by police, so he ran from them, which resulted in him being beaten. (Or sustaining injuries, depending on which story you believe.)

We may never know what exactly happened. Even if there were 14 cameras recording the entire incident, I'm convinced you'd still have people arguing over what each frame proves. On the left you're still going to have people screaming police brutality and on the right you will have people saying this dangerous black kid got what he deserved.

It's more complicated than that. Let's be reasonable and try to solve the problem. It's not easy being a police officer, and it's not easy being a member of an oppressed group that has a legitimate historical fear of authority figures.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

In Defense of Food

Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.

Those are the seven words that Michael Pollan uses to boil down the contents of his "eating manifesto," In Defense of Food, which is kind of a sequel to The Omnivore's Dilemma.

The Omnivore's Dilemma had a profound effect on my life, and after reading it I joined the local co-op and started cooking more, using more organic local ingredients.

I'm pretty sure In Defense of Food will continue this life-changing trend. What I like about the book is not so much the practical advice of what to eat, but the emphasis on changing our relationship to food and eating.

Pollan draws a clear line between "nutritionism,"-- breaking food down into its nutrient parts-- and, well, eating.

Eating is about culture, not nutrition. And back when people looked at food as a way of life-- rather than a delivery system for protein and vitamins and amino acids and saturated fats and antioxidants and Omega 3 fatty acids-- they were healthier. When we obsess about all those nutrient parts, we lose site of the big picture, which is food.

Food: how many ingredients are listed on these packages? Oh, right, there are no packages!

This idea of nutritionism reminds me of those old science fiction visions of the future where people would eat whole meals from a pill. Is that where we are headed? Do we want to be?

Pill on a plate: looks delicious!

The advice to "eat food" may sound silly, but Pollan considers most of what you buy at the supermarket today not food, but "food-like products."

Not food

We process food, which removes their nutrients, and then artificially stuff them with the nutrients they lost. This doesn't work. Despite our fixation on nutrition, this "Western diet" has proven again and again that it's not healthy for our bodies. Diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancer, obesity. There are a slew of ailments that skyrocket in a population once they start eating such a diet.

Pollan contrasts the American disease of nutritionism with the French diet. They eat a lot of stuff that, by our standards, should be bad for you. Meats, cheeses, wine. So why are the French healthier, on the whole, than Americans? They have a different attitude toward food. They eat real food, in moderation, and as an event. Eating is not simply a delivery system to getting energy (nutrients) into the body. It's a social and cultural experience.

There are a lot of other great points Pollan makes in the book, so I highly recommend you read it yourself. It's not a perfect book. In some parts he falls into the trap of nutritionism himself, for example when he argues why we need more Omega 3 fats in our diet. (In the next chapter he acknowledges this inconsistency.)

The main question I had was this: Yes, of course, eating whole foods is better than processed, but since our population is mostly urban, don't we need all of this processing of whole food to keep billions of humans fed? Is it even possible to go back to a more natural diet? I don't know the answer. But if we're going to feed those billions of people, it's the system that needs to change, and not just a few hippie liberal granolas growing food/plants in their yard.

Until then I'll continue to tweak my diet to include more food, and less food-like products.

Who left all the milk, cheese, meat and fish(!) out? That stuff's going to spoil! Ironically, this picture was probably made with plastic substitutes. They photograph better.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Here's a story that has lots of different layers of politics. It's an example of how people of all stripes can be hypocritical and spiteful. This is my perspective as a librarian and a liberal.

My local library, the Champaign Public Library, is part of library consortium, Lincoln Trail*, which includes about 90-100 libraries that all share resources. This means that a patron of CPL can order books directly and online from any of those 100ish libraries, and vice-versa. For free.

*Lincoln Trail is going away-- being subsumed under a much larger system, Illinois Heartland-- but that's not relevant to this issue.

It is through this cooperative agreement that libraries work best. My patrons and your patrons get access to way much more material than they ever would if confined to the materials in your building. It's a microcosm of how civilization works. Cooperatively, we can achieve much more than we can on our own.


Since Champaign is the large population base of the region, it has more resources and social services than smaller communities around it. Some people choose to live in bedroom communities near Champaign so that they can avoid paying the higher taxes associated with "the big city." People in those communities have small meager libraries that don't require very high taxes. But some of them then come to Champaign and use CPL's larger collection, taking advantage of the library cooperative agreement. They don't believe in high taxes for supporting libraries, but then they abuse the library. They are hypocrites.

Of course, as in any cooperative agreement, some people game the system. The way I see it, that's just simply the cost of doing business; the cost of living in a society where serving the needs of the citizens is more important than denying them things. I'd rather that everyone get the support they need rather than prevent a few bad apples from taking advantage. Perhaps that is why I'm a liberal.

CPL's response to this problem has angered me. The first stage was to violate the consortial agreement (in spirit, if not in letter) and limit borrowing from nearby communities. I felt like this was a very bad move, borne out of fear and isolationism rather than the spirit of library cooperation. Once you start keeping score in a situation like this, the whole system breaks down.
I didn't like where it was heading.

I had arguments with other liberals who supported this decision, because their hatred of a few conservative hypocrites overrode their liberal ideals. I was shocked to be having this argument with people who I'd always considered to be passionate supporters of libraries.


Sure enough, that was just the first step. CPL is now leaving the consortium, starting their own catalog with the Urbana Free Library. Now the two biggest libraries in the Lincoln Trail system are taking their toys and going home.

It doesn't exactly illustrate my point, but isn't this adorable puppy a good respite from all this angry political talk?

Full disclosure: As a librarian at one of those smaller Lincoln Trail libraries, this bothers me. It bothers me that my patrons won't have easy access to CPL materials any more.

But it's not just about my patrons. This move also bothers me as a resident and patron of CPL. What people don't realize in these kinds of cooperative agreements is that the larger libraries are often "net borrowers," which means that their patrons actually order more things from other libraries than the other way around. (I know that is the case with my library and CPL. They're larger than we are, but they also borrow more materials from us than we borrow from them.) So patrons from both libraries will be affected. And as a CPL patron, I'm annoyed that my access to these 90-some other collections in the system is going to be limited.

Of course, none of this is evident in the press releases from the library. They make it sound like this is a great new development-- an upgrade in services. It's not.

Like the harsh immigration laws in Arizona, it creates walls and shuts people off. It's a unilateral, political decision made with a business model in mind, not public services. It's bad for patrons, it's bad for libraries, and it's bad for democracy.

Okay, so it may be hyperbole to compare my public library to Wall Street. But it's topical and illustrates my feelings.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Nostalgic News

On impulse, I bought Huey Lewis & The News' Greatest Hits last week. More than for the musical enjoyment, it was a nostalgia trip.

Huey Lewis & The News were an interesting flash in the pan. From 1983 to 1986 they ruled the charts, with two #1 albums, five #1 singles, and a dozen-ish top ten singles. It's interesting how quickly they rose through the charts, and then how quickly they fell, and how the rise and fall mirrored each other. All through only four albums.

In 1982 they released Picture This, which had one main hit, "Do You Believe In Love," and 2-3 other singles that charted. The album went to #13.

Then in 1983 through 1986 they released two studio albums, Sports and Fore!, which both had a string of hits and both hit #1 as albums. These albums were huge.

I listened to this album a hundred times as a teenager

Sports and Fore! featured hit studio songs like "Heart and Soul," "I Want a New Drug," "The Heart of Rock & Roll," "If This Is It," "Stuck with You," "Jacob's Ladder," and "Hip to Be Square." The band also had some hits from the soundtrack to Back to the Future, "Power of Love" and "Back in Time."

If you listened to any radio in the 80's, you probably recognize many of those songs. They also had a lot of entertaining videos on MTV.

This is the video I remember the most

In 1988 they released Small World, which was much like Picture This (1982) in that it only had one or two hits and went to #11.

Then they mostly faded out from the pop/rock music world.


It's a different phenomenon from a one-hit wonder, but it's interesting to me how a band can be so wildly successful for such a short time, then fade out so quickly. I never hear their songs on classic or nostalgia radio. Why didn't they have more staying power? Maybe this is simply the nature of the music business, but I can't think of any other examples of a band bursting on the scene so quickly, doing so well, then fading out just as quickly.

There probably are other examples of that, but none that I know so well. I was a huge fan of Huey Lewis. Their explosion in popularity coincided perfectly with my musical awakening. As a 15-year-old, I thought they were the coolest, raddest band ever. Their music reminds me of countless friends and events from my adolescence. But looking at it 25 years later, I wonder how good they really were/are.

I ponder what made them so popular. They were kinda bluesy at times, with lots of horns and pleasing harmonies, but they combined that with drum machines and synthesizers, the cutting technology of the day. (Listen to me sounding all like a music critic who knows what he's talking about.) I don't know enough about music to know how talented they actually were, if Huey was a good singer or if "The News" were technically proficient with their instruments. I do know, looking at it now, that their lyrics were pretty bad. To wit: "I like the sound of breaking glass/if you don't believe me/ why do you ask?"

But they certainly tapped into something from the mid-80's zeitgeist.


After listening to their Greatest Hits, I realize that today I'm not as interested in their big hits. Maybe I've heard them too many times to appreciate them. I still like "Stuck With You," but only one of their hits really gets my juices flowing. Interestingly, it's their very first hit, "Do You Believe In Love." (No question mark in the title, this punctuation stickler notes.)

Cheesy 80's video, great song. "Wee-ooh, wee-ooh, wee-ooh, do you believe in love?"

Three of my favorite songs on the CD are covers of old R&B songs recorded after their heyday: "It's Alright" (from Curtis Mayfield), "Cruisin', " (by Smokey Robinson, recorded as a duet with Gwyneth Paltrow for the movie Duets in 2000 and became a late #1 single for Huey), and "But It's Alright."

"It's Alright" is a cappella, or something like it, with lots of The News's voices standing in for instruments. It reminds me of one of my favorite songs from the band, from back in the day, that's not on their Greatest Hits. It was also a capella, called "Naturally."

I still love that song.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Homemade Art

The new flannel sheets I bought for my bed came in this cool rectangular packaging, and when I took them out of the package, I was delighted to see that the box kept its form.

Now I have this cool, see-through aquarium of air that I've put in front of my window.

I have no idea what to do with it, but I just like having it there. It's fun to look at. Isn't that what art is?

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Competitive Advantage?

Because it had the keyword "tennis" in its description, my TiVo recorded an ESPN documentary on Renee Richards, the tennis playing transsexual from the 70's.

So I watched it and I'd like to talk about it. But before I discuss the film itself, let me explain my general attitude toward gender reassignment, so that I can make my biases known up front.

As much as I'm an advocate for LGBT rights, I have to admit that I have a blind spot for the "T" part. Don't get me wrong: I am pro-choice on this issue. I don't want to deny anyone the right to change their gender, nor do I think they should be discriminated against because of it.

But, unlike with homosexuality, which is simply about allowing people to love who they love, it's harder for me to grasp and sympathize with the issues behind changing one's gender. It involves uncomfortable issues (to me) like an entirely new identity, hormone injections, invasive surgery, denying your history, and challenging your genetic code (XY vs. XX.)

I can accept that although these things scare me personally, there are people who are so miserable in the body they were born in that they embrace such changes. So I'm learning more about the issue and trying to be more open-minded.

It was with this attitude that I watched Renee, a documentary produced by ESPN. I tend to think of ESPN as a pretty testosterone-driven network, so I was surprised to see them tackling such a progressive topic.


The central question of the film is whether Renee Richards, after undergoing gender reassignment, should have been allowed to compete in professional women's tennis in 1976. Would a man who becomes a woman have too much of a competitive advantage playing against women?

I know this question is a political minefield, with lots of implications beyond competition and tennis, but at face value the answer seems obvious to me: Of course she would have a competitive advantage. For the first 40 years of her life, Richards had played men's tennis in a man's body. She was 6'2", with broad shoulders, large hands, and size 12 feet. I suppose we could get mired in a discussion on what exactly the rationale is for separating men's and women's tennis, but I assume it's because men have, on average, bigger and stronger bodies.

In the documentary, tennis legend Billie Jean King says she talked to experts about gender reassignment, and they said it's really the hormones (testosterone/estrogen) that separate the men from the women. And now that Richards was receiving estrogen treatments, it made her body more like that of a woman's. But still, her body was built by testosterone, wasn't it? Even if it wasn't using it anymore?

To me, what makes the answer to the "competitive advantage" question obvious is that Richards was a 42-year-old amateur playing in the U.S. Open. Do you know how hard it is to make it to the U.S. Open? Most amateurs and pros who dedicate their entire lives to tennis don't make it there, not even in the prime of their game.

And here was a practicing doctor, not a professional tennis player (although she had been one of the best amateur players in the country in her 20's), who had not seriously competed in years and suddenly burst on the scene in middle age and could compete with the best players in the world? After having undergone a very traumatic physical transformation? Many in the documentary talked about what a competitive disadvantage this was, and I agree, which paradoxically just proves that she must have had a natural advantage. It's hard for me to imagine any "natural" woman could have come back to the game at such an age and been so competitive.

At the end of the movie, Richards herself even seems to admit that might not have been fair.


I appreciate how difficult it must have been for Richards to give up her whole life and identity in order to be true to herself. She gave up a wife, young son, and successful medical career, moved across the country, and became a different person. But does being sensitive to that issue mean it's fair to let her compete in professional tennis against women? Does my answer to that question have to hinge on whether I support LGBT issues?


Overall, I enjoyed the film for bringing up these thorny questions. Some other issues it brings up:

In the very first scene of the movie, Richard's older sister refers to her as "him." When the interviewer asks her sister about this, she says (of Renee), "He's my little brother. He'll always be my little brother." Renee says the male pronouns don't bother her, but her sister is the only person in the world for whom that's the case. (Kind of like how my sisters are the only people who can still call me "Timmy" and it doesn't sound weird.)

Richards' son, who was four when his dad moved away and became a woman, is about my age and seems to have a lot of resentment toward his parent. (Curiously, Richards never uses the word "mom" or "dad" to describe herself in the movie, just "parent.") In the documentary, her son is a troubled, drug-addled loser who looks and talks like Michael Stipe of REM.

Curiously, I couldn't find an online picture of her son to put here. I wanted to show how he looks like Michael Stipe. I guess it's good that the interwebs, so far, are respecting his privacy.

Richards has been living with a female partner for many years now. But their relationship is completely asexual. Ironically, when she was a man, Renee was quite the rake. She says that since she became a woman, she doesn't have the passion for men like she had a passion for women when she was a man. "I lost that," she says.

Overall, the tone of the movie was sad. It's not a happy, triumphant, or inspirational story. So often when you hear of gay people coming out or transgender people... um... transitioning (? Not trying to be cute here, I just don't know what the proper verb is), they talk of how happy and fulfilled they are now that they can be themselves. I don't get that impression from Richards, at least not through this movie. Maybe that's a fault of the film, or maybe it's an accurate interpretation. At the very end of the movie, Renee's son uses the phrase "torment and happiness" to describe her.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

I'm 40

They say that as you get older, time goes faster.

I can certainly attest to that. Since I turned 40 (less than two weeks ago), my life has been a whirlwind of activity. I haven't even had a chance to blog about my birthday til now. Middle Age is exhausting.

Why does Google images give me pictures of old people when I search "middle age"? This image was titled "Middle age couple." Really? Are they from a place where people routinely live to 120?


I'm 40 now. Timageddon came and went. The sun still rises and sets according to the predictable motions of the heavenly spheres. I get up every day and do the same things I did just before I was 40. My mind is still sharp. My body is still strong. (Except for this weird sinusy almost-cold thing I've had for a week, which won't bloom into a full-fledged sickness but also won't go away. I swear, I've spent half of my 40's being almost sick.)

Okay, so my body isn't THAT strong.

After much existential angst, I decided to make a Big Deal out of my 40th birthday. When's the next time in my life I'll be able to get a bunch of people to pay attention to me? So I took the 40 theme and ran with it.

I had a cookout party at my brother's large house and yard the night before my birthday. I called it The Night Before Timageddon and I invited everyone who might possibly come, and many who wouldn't.

Not my cookout

In all, 29 people showed up (including kids), and as far I as I know, they had a good time.

My sister-in-law came up with the idea of having everyone bring 40 of something, so I received:
  • 40 Little Debbie cakes
  • 40 sparklers
  • 40 tiny candy bars
  • 40 random unpaired objects from someone's house (most of them socks-- I was mostly shocked that any one house could have so many lost socks)
  • My poet friends wrote 40 phrases (fun/nonsensical/tim-related) that had never been used effectively in a poem.
  • Other people brought things like coffee mugs and cupcakes, but not 40 of them.
  • My paramedic friend had to leave the party early for his night shift, but promised to save someone's life in my honor. So I have that going for me.

My 40's of things

My sister read out a list of 40 memories she had of me, which was perhaps the highlight of the evening. Most of the memories were already a part of family lore-- stories I'd heard and talked about for years and years. But a few of them were new to me, like the fact that I wore braces on my legs when I was a toddler. Like Forrest Gump!

Of course, someone had to bring a "40" of Miller High Life. (I.e. a 40-ounce bottle of it.) I'd already drank three (good high-quality) beers before that, so downing the 40 was quite a challenge.

That's not apple juice.

But I wasn't going to let 40 beat me. I finished it.

(no picture available)


When I first woke up as a 40-year-old man, at 4:30 in the morning, I felt like absolute crap. But after re-hydrating and getting some more sleep, I felt much better and ready to tackle the new decade.

First project of the new era? Paint my living room.

I'd been meaning to paint the main wall in my living room for a while now. Since my brother, sister, and mom were still in town, I asked them to lend their expertise, consultation, and labor to help with this project.

We went with a dark red, maroon-ish color that matches the new dark green (sage) couch I bought last spring. We did the main wall where the fireplace and mantle is, and which the couch faces, so it's the wall I look at the most.

The area of my wall I look at the most. Probably because it's over that big rectangular device-- my movin' picture box.

Birthday cards on the mantle.

My sister also convinced me to paint the adjacent wall, which has a big archway that leads into the dining room.

She said the arch was begging to be painted. She'd had her eye on it since I first bought the house. It was ripe for the painting. Because I'm an agreeable little brother, I was fine with that.

The unpainted wall

New coat rack my mom got me for my birthday

We finished both coats in one day, and now I have a beautiful new red living room.

Cat sold separately

For a new decade.