Monday, September 1, 2014

still searching for intelligent life

I subscribed to the Discovery Channel package due to my fond memories of programmes such as bridge engineering marvels or space exploration. Imagine my joy to discover that they have kept up their standards with such scintillating shows as 'idiots trying to vacuum gold out of the Bering Sea', 'celebrations of people reproducing like rabbits', or my favorite, 'psychic cats dictating whether you should abandon your home to a ghost'. When I shared by delight with my online friends and acquaintances, I was greeted with a barrage of #DiscoveryChannelIsShit instances. One friend informed me that sadly, I would never have the opportunity to catch their gun fantasy show since the host had recently been arrested for raping an 11 year old.

Don't be so quick to judge, said another friend, as I had not yet viewed 'Amish Mafia,' which I am assured is a brilliant, in depth yet culturally sensitive window into the social practices of the traditional Anabaptist community. 

Even if you find that multiple children bearing family to be objectionable, there are three other, similar themed shows that may offer up your desired level of fecundity and philosophy. After all, a reality show is a documentary of sort, isn't it? 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

the police

My first interaction with a police officer happened during my first year living in the United States when our class was visited by the D.A.R.E. program. While I always remembered their slogan, D.A.R.E. to keep kids off drugs, I never actually thought about what D.A.R.E. stood for (Drug Abuse Resistance Education). I also don't recall learning anything about drug resistance but even at the tender age of ten I was a cynic and repeating catchy phrases didn't sway me to believe. What I do remember is that the officer was young and friendly, and his props were a police horse (who had a racing tattoo on its inner cheek) and a tricked out corvette that had been confiscated during a drug raid.

Unfortunately that was the last time that I had a friendly, personal interaction with the police. It was a decade later that I started working at a bar to pay for school and I became unfortunately involved. My colleague was dating a deputy sheriff and he was a piece of work. He abused her and did so blatantly and with impunity. He came into our bar drunk (and driving) on a regular basis late at night after his shift ended and would grab her and pinch her on the inside of her arms where it hurt the most. She paid for his drinks out of the tip jar which was bullshit because those tips were to be split between the two of us at the end of the night but I never complained to her because I felt sorry for her. I figured that I was making more than enough to cover my tuition and rent while she was a twenty-four year old single mother with a scary boyfriend.

At least once per week he showed up with three or four of his fellow officers. Some were police and some were sheriff's department. Two were very creepy and I was more than happy to stay at the other end of the bar and leave them to J to serve (from our tip jar). The regulars seemed to also sense that they were bad news and tended to crowd my side of the bar on these nights. Only one of the cops was even remotely respectful toward me. He was a very handsome man and very polite but since he was friends with the others I never let my guard down with him. When he asked me about myself I always answered in the vaguest terms; it even worried me that he saw me doing my calculus homework during my dinner break because I was afraid that he could use the information to check my school records and find out where I lived. As it turned out, he only needed to run my license plate (duh) though it was not he who ended up doing so but one of the creepier cops. The creep showed up at my door one night and parked in front of my building, knocking every half hour until the morning while I hid in my closet. I thought that he was going to burst in at any minute because my car was in the parking lot and he had to know that I was home.

The doorman ended up picking me up and driving me to work for a week after that. It caused everyone at work to think that he was cheating on his wife with me but also ensured that the creep didn't come by again. At this point I had become much more jaded with the realities of the world and I was only slightly horrified by just how many of my coworkers didn't seem too bothered by the doorman stepping out on his really sweet wife. In the two years that I worked at the bar I learned a lot. I learned how it feels to be powerless. I learned that sometimes you keep your head down not because you are a coward but because it is the best option to keep yourself and others safe (or at least safer than they would be otherwise). I saw men who were protected by a fraternity of law officers behaving like brazen criminals.

One night after work I saw J being dragged into her boyfriend's car and against all of the common sense screaming in my head I followed them home as he drunkenly wove through traffic in his sheriff's car. On her front lawn I tried to get her to leave with me but she was too scared and went inside his home with him. I didn't own a mobile phone so I knocked on her neighbors' doors but no one wanted to help me and be identified as having called the police so I walked back and sat with my back against her door crying while I could hear her screaming inside.

I know there are good cops because I have seen them. I know that there are children who believe in goodness and fairness and grow up wanting to become heroes. Some of them take up the mantle of justice and stay gold but others become horribly tarnished. I wonder if it happens after years of working closely with the worst of society or if these bad cops were never heroes to begin with, and all it took was a gun and some authority to unleash their corrupted selves. I wonder about the D.A.R.E. cop sometimes. I hope that he was truly a nice guy through and through and not like the handsome cop at the bar who sat by and watched his friend mistreat his girlfriend.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

return of the caveman

SB arrived with a full beard and smelling like someone who had been traveling for almost exactly 24 hours. In typical SB fashion, he left his shoes in the middle of the floor at the entry and proceeded to make a grand mess unloading his gear without actually putting anything away. Then he greeted the very eager Tippy (she was so eager that she left me a half dollar sized spot of piddle to clean up) and a shocked Elsie, who kept staring at his bushy beard while wagging frantically. Eventually he greeted me. We had dinner and he mumbled a few incoherent statements. Then I remembered that he is a firm believer of not sleeping at all on a plane as a way to acclimate faster to time zone differences. I do not ascribe to this logic so I hadn't remembered just what a blathering nincompoop one can be after sleep deprivation. So after dinner I had him shower and put him to bed.

This morning he gave me some lovely presents that only a weirdo like me can truly appreciate. He found the Moleskine notebook with dot grids and not line grids that I haven't been able to find for almost eight years. I also got a fossil necklace that I will probably never wear but I will admire it lovingly in my jewelry box as only someone who loves fossils and rocks can do. I also got a giant coffee mug with the Colorado flag lest I forget which is the best state in the United States. I was in such a good mood that I didn't kill him for also bringing home a large portion of the Utah desert floor in his bags.

He managed to stay healthy during a month of long hikes and roughing it one the desert floor, on the Rocky mountain tops, and throughout the Adirondacks; but within his first 24 hours in Hong Kong he has managed to sprain his foot rather badly. So now instead of having a respite, I am tasked with continuing to care for the pups all by myself, which is not a very hard feat, along with taking care of my big, grouchy cave man. At least combating jet lag isn't really a problem when you're on bed rest for a couple of days.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014


SB is coming home tonight. I am overjoyed. He has been gone for a month before but it never has hit me - this missing him stuff - like this time. I wonder if it is because of the pups; I have been sharing daily antics with him and wishing that he was here to observe Elsie's ridiculousness or Tippy's desperation. Every morning I scramble to force Tippy to eat her breakfast when she would rather get cuddled, while also trying to keep the ever food motivated Elsie from sneaking in to finish Tippy's meal. Elsie's latest plot is to crouch her upper body while her behind is straight up in the air and slink forward while stretching her neck like a giraffe towards Tippy's bowl. And this somehow makes me think about missing SB.

He complained that he wasn't able to find a french dip sandwich in his journeys so I am going to make them for dinner. I have never made a french dip sandwich, unless you count my one attempt when I didn't know what a french dip was. You think that I would have looked it up on Google but instead I made it up by pan frying a couple average looking sirloins and then making a runny au jus gravy with the drippings. It was nice, but it was a steak sandwich, not a french dip.

This time I looked it up and plan to put my new pressure cooker to use as I don't have time for a slow cooker recipe, nor do I own a slow cooker. There is a 2lb hunk of rump roast in my office refrigerator (sitting next to a suspicious Tupperware that has been there for weeks) which I will take home tonight and toss into the aforementioned pressure cooker along with a can of french onion soup (what, did you think I was going to make it from scratch?), beef stock (that will be homemade), a bottle of whatever beer is lying around, and some garlic. In the meantime I will caramelize some bell peppers and onions and assemble them all on a baguette with maybe some cheese (I am undecided if this is correct). I hope that this will cause SB to love me forever more, as he already loves me forever due to my enchiladas verdes. I would have made the enchiladas but they require quite a bit of prep time and are reserved for the weekend.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

some things

SB is now at the Colorado portion of his summer trip. He finished up New York City leg, then spent a couple of weeks in the Adirondacks growing a beard, then camping in Utah and growing more beard, and now he is passing through Boulder and Denver. He thinks of himself as from Colorado though his residency ended earlier than preferred when his parents divorced and he ended up in boarding school.

He was thrilled to be back. He stayed with the family that lived next door to him, whose daughter is still one of his best friends, as well as caught up with fellow classmates from Colorado Academy who he hadn't seen since the summer after eighth grade. They probably are wondering what he does for a living with a shaggy beard and deep tan. SB told me how some of his favorite friends are still the same, wonderful  people that they were when he was fourteen. If you knew how sentimental and adverse to change he is, this was the highest compliment.

He was thrilled that the same favorite restaurants still remained 20 years later. He was delighted that he could still hike the high peaks. He went into rapture over the REI flagship store in Denver though I'm pretty sure that it has changed.

Another change since his youth is that Colorado has mostly legalized marijuana use. This may have explained the man standing next to SB at the sandwich shop who stared at the roast chicken for five minutes while squinting and chuckling to himself. Not that SB behaved any better, I am sure. The way he was ranting about this delightful gastronomic adventure throughout the restaurants in Denver, coupled with is obscene metabolism, would cause more than a few raised eyebrows from anyone overhearing our romantic phone conversation regarding french dips, prime rib and chimichangas.

Some things stay the same and others...

Sunday, August 17, 2014

water dogs

I thought long and hard about getting the pups saddle bags but ultimately decided against it because of worries that they would get caught in underbrush. Don't tell Tippy and Elsie that I said this but they are not so big. They have great fun wriggling into small spaces on our walks and I would prefer not to wriggle after them to retrieve some hung up saddle bags.

And so this is how yet again I gasped and grunted behind the frolicking pair as we hiked seven kilometers to Stanley.  Once at the beach I rented a paddle board and threw the unsuspecting pair on board. Both were nervous but then Tippy started enjoying  herself, plonking down on the back of the board. Elsie was her usual more reserved self and while she seemed to like looking around, she wouldn't sit down and leaned on me. This led to our one wipe out as I was turning and she learned hard into one leg. Oh the indognity! She was not pleased. We continued on without any mishaps and then spent the rest of the afternoon digging holes and racing up and down the beach. Next week I would like to take them kayaking.

Friday, August 15, 2014

little things

It's the little things that count although often they are not added up when measuring values. In this case I am talking about little things that happen around my office when workers 'buy in.' When you feel like you are an actual participant, and that you count as a team member, little things are done differently. I was marveling over this deep thought as I was refilling the printer tray this morning. 

It occurred to me that this was my first time refilling the printer tray, which then reminded me that at the other job I seemed to constantly be refilling the tray, and not because there was more printing being done at the other company. My current company is twice the size of the old company, and the old company had that space alien of a printer, the likes of which I have never seen before or after. The difference is that I currently work with colleagues who feel invested in and in turn are investing in the company. 

At the old firm I often saw colleagues who, upon finding that the printer was out of paper, would return to their desks and send the prints to other printers. They weren't interested in taking a minute of time to open up a new package of paper and refill the tray. At the end of the day, hundreds of prints would lay discarded in print area because duplicates had already been sent and collected. Notices admonishing staff for paper waste were duly noted and ignored. This is what happens when you work for a company whose HR policy involves sending out office wide spreadsheets documenting your efficiency versus your colleagues, based only on number of hours on your time card. This is what happens when your company which hired you in a recession won't raise your salary to market value.  At the end of the day, when your toilet use has been compiled and you have sent that acknowledgement form regarding waling into the office five minutes late (even if you did work five hours OT the night before) you just don't have the heart to want to do anything more than what you need to do, if that.

I was such an idiot to stay. What idiotic, misplaced loyalty. My boss never looked out for my growth and my colleagues were only helpful when informing me of all the unwritten office don'ts: don't ask for overtime compensation even though it's covered in the company handbook, don't leave the office before the boss, and don't do anything without permission, even if it's running downstairs to buy paracetamol. 

So yes, I was standing by the printer today, experiencing an epiphany that this is what it feels like to work with colleagues who give a damn. It means that most of them will pitch in to keep things running smoothly. It means that when HR solicits advice, a lot of people answer (which is how we ended up on the 100+ person boat trip excruciating excursion). It means that I don't experience fear in asking my boss for help. It means that I actually have conversations with people sitting around me and care about them as colleagues and even friends. It's the little things that count.