Sunday, December 28, 2008

My Interaction with my Internet Hosting Company's Technical Support

Note:This interchange is a little loopy. I've concluded that the only reason my Internet Hosting Company has tech support is to aggravate its customers.

Thank you for contacting support. Please be prepared to answer your Security Question when we begin chatting. To enhance our security protocols, we'll need you to provide the answer to your Security Question at the beginning of our conversation. If you have not yet set your Security Question and Answer, please log into your account now to set it up. Thank you. Please hold for the next available operator to respond.

You are now chatting with 'Preston Sanders'

Preston Sanders: Hi Happy. My name is Preston, how are you today?

Happy: Hi Preston. I'm having a browser issue with cookies in my PHP scripts.

Preston Sanders: To protect your account from unauthorized changes, can you please verify for me the answer to the Security Question:

Preston Sanders: What is your mother's maiden name?

Happy: B*****t

Preston Sanders: Thank you for the authentication.

Preston Sanders: What exactly seems to be the issue?

Happy: I have some scripts that work okay in Google's Chrome browser, but the scripts do not work in IE7, Safari, or FireFox. I'm using PHP scripts and the $_COOKIE variable. I can read the variable in Chrome, but not in the other browsers.

Preston Sanders: I apologize for any inconvenience this has caused you.

Preston Sanders: There may be an issue with the browser or version of the browser you are using. Please contact any system Administrator regarding this issue.

Preston Sanders: We can do nothing in this regard as you are experiencing this issue on your local machine.

Preston Sanders: Are you the owner of this hosting account?

Preston Sanders: Do you have access to the e-mail address a*****t@happydoodle.*** ?

Happy: Yes, I own the account and I do have access to the e-mail account.

Preston Sanders: Okay.

Preston Sanders: Is there anything else I can assist you with today?

Happy: I'm not sure that I've actually yet been assisted. I'm wondering, for example, is my site configuration correct so that cookies work properly for the different browsers.

Preston Sanders: It should work fine with all the browsers. You can check it on other computers.

Happy: I've checked it on other computers, and it doesn't work on them, either; however, it works for the Chrome browser, but not for the other browsers. I think it is some kind of a PHP problem with reading the $_COOKIE variable, because I can look at the cookies in those various browsers, and the cookie has been properly set, but I can't read the cookie on those browsers, except for the Chrome browser.

Preston Sanders: Could you please provide me the exact URL where you are receiving the error?

Happy: I'm not receiving an http error; the script simply is not working correctly:

Happy: user=***** password=*******

Happy: The script should display with menu options, but instead, the script display a login url (which is the intended behavior IF the login cookie is not set).

Preston Sanders: Can you please provide the username and password to login at ?

Happy: user=***** password=*******

Preston Sanders: May I place you on hold for 2 to 3 minutes while I review your account?

Happy: Sure.

~~ Two Minute Interlude ~~

Preston Sanders: Thank you for holding.

Preston Sanders: I have checked it and it looks like there is an issue with your scripts. Hence, please contact any Web master and update your scripts.

Preston Sanders: We don't assist our customers with coding issues. I'm sorry and would like to apologize for that.

Happy: I'm the "webmaster" for this particular site. Any suggestions about where to seek some assistance for this issue?

Preston Sanders: I'm sorry, you need to correct this issue on your own. We don't have any issues on our servers.

Preston Sanders: Is there anything else I can assist you with today?

Happy: Evidently not.

Preston Sanders: Thank you for chatting with us. Please feel free to contact us at any time. We are available 24x7.

Preston Sanders: Bye!

It's a Good Day

I'm up "early" this Sunday morning. The fried potatoes are cooking in the cast iron skillet, and I'm waiting for my Sweetie to join me for breakfast (hmmm, think I'll have some fried potatoes). I'm listening to Weekend Edition, and life is good.

I've been consumed the last couple of weeks with creating a contact database in PHP and MySQL. I'm almost done with it (oh, maybe another two weeks...). It has completely taken over my brain. Ron has been kind with me as I prattle on about obscure PHP syntax (I just LOVE that word!) and the hidden logic of nested IF statements. He's so patient with me. That's why I cook him fried potatoes. He deserves it.

We went to see Milk yesterday. It's a very poignant and inspiring story. A friend of ours told me he didn't like the film because it was too preachy and too gay. Too gay? It's about the early gay movement and about a historical gay personality who became much larger than life. Too gay? Excuse me! We don't call films with Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt as being too straight. I'm outraged! Absolutely outraged!

I just turned the potatoes. They look fabulous! The secret is to cook them on medium-low heat until they brown, about 10 minutes, without turning or stirring them. Just go and write in your blog! I use a cast-iron skillet and spray it with pan spray. I also get good results with a non-stick skillet.

Well, gotta go and set the table! Peace and Love from Bucknell Terrace!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Less Than a Week

2008 had so much promise a year ago. I was getting ready for a Caribbean trip, and I was planning on a family reunion in Yellowstone Park, and a trip to Portugal with my sister.

Along the way, my brother suffered a very serious illness, and my Mom a collapsed lung. My brother is making slow progress, and my Mom is on oxygen, but both of them are in good spirits and reasonably good health, considering. I talked with them on Christmas day, and they both sounded good.

Then there was the remarkable story of Barack Obama. I hardly knew anything about him last January. I'm looking forward to his Presidency, because I'm convinced we will see needed change in our society. His election was a defining achievement for our age. I never would have imagined a Black man being elected President. Maybe the promise of a color-blind society is not empty.

Oh, and the pot o' money suddenly got smaller. Where does all the money go? What a mess. When Grace and I were in Portugal, we were in the middle of Nowhere Portugal, and the Multibanco rejected our credit cards. Outa gas. Outa cash! It took a feverish visit with a bank officer to get the cash. Even though I didn't speak Portuguese, he clearly understood me. On the cruise, I heard whispers about the economy. But when we got home, the panic was on full bore, and has been ever since.

So I'm quietly hopeful, and holding onto my wallet as I head into 2010. I'm predicting:

  • A head of state will become gravely ill and die in office.
  • A famous actress will get a very public divorce.
  • A little-known NASCAR driver will make a come-from-behind move and win the big race at a renown 500.
  • A religious personality will make an important and thoughtful pronouncement concerning same-sex marriage.
  • An American politician often in the spotlight will be involved in a sensational sex scandal.
  • A major car company will go bankrupt.
  • A "sleeper" film that nobody heard of will win an Oscar®
  • I will clean up the upstairs office.
  • Barack Obama will become the next President of the United States.
  • Happy and Lucky will have a fabulous year.

Come back next year and see which of these predictions come true. If you are 100% correct, well, you MAY or may not win a prize!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Merry Christmas

Well, of course! We had a Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

iPod = What I've Been Missing and Didn't Know It

For years, I've been observing other humans walking around with things stuck in their ears, and I just didn't get it. Some were in a trance state, others would chuckle from time to time, and then there were those whose bodies would be wracked with spasms. Why would I want that?

When Ron and I were in Mississippi, Alex gave me an iPod Nano. Yesterday, I got around to loading it (here's where it gets a little icky) with square dance music. Woo Hoo! I put on those tunes, summon seven phantoms, and I'm dancin'! We have a (smaller than optimal) space in our living room where I can singlehandedly square dance some singing calls. I can see the other dancers in my head, and the phantoms, so far, have been very cooperative, extremely talented dancers.

My next attempt will be to download Ira Flatow or Ira Glass.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

T'Was Too Daze Before Christmas

Yesterday, I was in the mall getting a haircut. The crowds were thin, and I think any merriment in evidence was simply putting a rosy glow on the coal that's being delivered this Christmas. This is a glum Christmas for merchants and shoppers, two days before Christmas.

I was listening a to a financial show on the radio. A listener called in and mentioned that she was paying off her credit card debt. One of the panelists said that she needed to be spending instead, that if we didn't all spend, we'd end up in even a deeper recession. So, let me think.... I should keep on accumulating credit card debt at a 22% interest rate; it's patriotic. I'm so confused!

This is a weird economic time. Lawmakers talk about regulation, but the horse has already left the barn. Consumers want relief, but don't want the consequences of declining equity value. It's a great time to buy into the stock market, but people are afraid to buy for fear of an even larger slide.

Christmas isn't so jolly. Shoppers and merchants are in a funk. St. Nick only needs four reindeer this year. Rudolph has been laid off, and the elves are trying to renegotiate their labor contract. No bailout or bridge loan for the North Pole unless Christmas proves its viability. Santa told me that he's trying to take the bah out of humbug, but it's a tall order this year.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Back to the Mason-Dixon Line

Mississippi is the Deep South. Maryland is a Southern Sympathizer, and if you are from Allentown, you're a Damn Yankee, at least that's the way it was explained to me.

Ron and I have mixed feelings about these visits back home. I sometimes wonder if they don't cause more anxiety than they alleviate. Mom was sleeping when we left for the airport. I'm grateful for modern chemistry and the drugs it makes possible. We had a pleasant goodbye.

So it's back to Wheaton and Doodle Today.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Ole Missis

I'm typing this from a Fairfield Inn Marriott in Southaven, Mississippi. We got in yesterday, and spent yesterday evening and today at Ron's Mom's place. She lives in a subdivision with street names like Dickens Place Drive, Bloombury Street, and Pemberton Cove. She lives on a culdesac lined with faux-grande brick manses with long driveways all on three-quarter acre "estates."

With vague unease I walk these streets, thinking that some creepy, gothic horror is about to be unearthed, enacted by a Baptist Stepford Wife only doing her Christian duty to that gay guy walking the dog for that elderly Jewish lady down the street.

And what goes on at the house at 4430 bodes ill, too. Mom is in her mid-80s, and has been having problems with her short-term memory, probably caused by TIAs (silent strokes). The memory difficulties cause her considerable anxiety, and she can be very unpleasant. Mom also suffers from paranoia, and makes some pretty dreadful accusations. She taxes everyone's patience. She consumes everyone's emotional reserves.

Alex, the woman who is Mom's caregiver is on 24/7 every day of the year. The strain is evident on Alex, but also on Mom, who does not have a clear idea of the toll that her constant questions, and her anxiousness takes on Alex and Ron. Both Alex and Ron explain things over and over to Mom, but within minutes, Mom is questioning them about it again. Without ceasing. All the time.

Mom's Ole Missis' state of mind could happen to any of us. I can see her struggle, and I see Alex's struggle too. Impatience can trump compassion. This isn't like a caregiver dealing with a child, because children learn. Instead, Mom is in her long decline, and it's not sunset, it's a darkening fog.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Down the River

Ron and I are headed down the river today. We're headed to the South, Graceland, and Ron's Mother. All four are great works of nature. I'm never quite sure what to pack, but you can be sure, it's all going to be carry on. I won't be taking my swim suit.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

House Rules

I was still reading the Economist when Ron got home last night. He had been on a hot date with a new friend. I had gone to dinner with some friends. We spent a few minutes catching up with each other's day, and had an interesting conversation about gay relationships in general, and ours, in particular.

The guys at dinner asked me about my relationship with Ron. I always hate that question, because, inevitably, the word "open" comes up. Ron and I have a non-monogamous relationship, but we are committed to each other and to our relationship. So, yes, our relationship is open to the possibilities of us being involved in the lives of other men, but we have committed ourselves over the years to remain and thrive in a relationship with each other.

Gay men have many ways to fashion their lives with each other. I think most of us want to be in some kind of an important relationship with others, whether it be boyfriends, partners, fuckbuddies, or soulmates - with or without benefits and sexual access. That is, we are free to make the kind of relationships we want, but we still can get blindsided by jealousy, cultural prejudice, and fear.

Every relationship forges its own rules. On the basis of my own non-scientific and anecdotal polling, most relationships pay some lip service to monogamy. Some couples are monogamous, through and through.

Some Miscellaneous House Rules

  • You can have sex only with me and no one else.
  • You can have sex with other guys, but don't let me find out about it.
  • You can have sex with other guys, but only once per guy.
  • You can have sex with other guys, but only if you're out of town without me.
  • You can have sex with other guys, but you can't fall in love with them.
  • You can have sex with other guys, but only if it's in a three-way with me.
  • You can have sex with other guys, but not in our home.
  • You can have sex with other guys, but not in our bed.
  • You can have sex with other guys, but not with anyone we both know.

You can probably add a few rules of your own. These rules all attempt to do two things: they try to limit long-term sexual contacts outside the relationship, and they try to reduce the risk of emotional connections outside the relationship. Of course, the peril of sex outside the relationship is that it promotes emotional connection.

The house rules have other purposes, too. They provide a cover of monogamy for a coupled relationship, because they provide plausible deniability about the persons in the relationship having sexual affairs outside. Culturally, it's easier to admit to gay monogamy than other kinds of relationships. I think that's what the clamor for same-sex marriage is all about among gay men. All of us want to be respectable, and respectable relationships don't openly engage in scandalous sexual affairs.

Also, with rules in hand, persons in the relationship can tamp down jealousy, or at least keep it in check. As long as you keep your affairs out of my field of vision, I won't go looking for trouble. I won't ask, and you'd better not tell. I can't be jealous of the other guys you sleep with, because I know you won't see them again.

The rules also address the fear the couples may feel about the permanence and stability of their relationships. The rules make it difficult to have a significant friendship outside the primary relationship so that the men in the relationship feel closer together, more secure.

So how did Ron and I end up in our family? It became evident during our conversation that we have a very different set of house rules. Here's how we handle commitment.

Our House Rules

  • Always love your man, whatever that means.
  • Trust him, unconditionally.
  • Respect his personal life.
  • Tell him about the guys with whom you're involved, and expect him to do the same.
  • Let him fall in love with someone else, even if it hurts.
  • Assert your claim to his heart.
  • Tell him, occasionally, that you need a hot sex date with him, just because you feel horny.

Ron and I have remained with each other because he let me be who I am. He let me love whomever I chose to love. He risks losing me, because that was the only way he could have me. Of course, now he can't get rid of me. Our relationship is still wide open. It's wide open to all kinds of possibilities, sex, risks, fulfillment, and love. It's also a committed relationship between Ron and me. That's our house rules.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Bronski Buzzkill

I'm reading another (old) anthology, Flashpoint: Gay Male Sexual Writing, edited by Michael Bronski. Bronski is one of my favorite gay social critics. His introduction writes about the nuances of the categories of sexual literature - smut, porn, and erotica. All have become value-laden terms, and he uses "sexual writing," instead.

Bronski focuses on sexual writing as an opening to understanding our own sexual fantasies, longings, and behavior. He challenges the reader to get beyond the jerk-off nature of the porn tale, and test how the writing resonates in our own minds and cultural context. Bronski is simply one of the best social commentators

And that's the buzzkill. I'm reading a hot story, but carefully thinking about its characters. Is that me on that bed? Am I really making a shopping list while we're having sex? Why am I enjoying this scene? And if I think about sexual writing, I lose my erection, because thought requires a lot of blood in my brain, and something in my physiology has to fail when I think and analyze my sexual behavior, played out on a page.

Sexual writing gives me a palpable thrill, until I think about it. Some of the writing is very good, and most is not. A strange paradox for me is that the trashy, steamy stuff, written simply to get me off without thinking is more satisfying than the more literary sexual writing (I do have a brain!). I want sex to take me into the realm of suspended thinking, a place of hormonally crazed action and pleasure. And if I have to think about that, I get a headache.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

I Have a New Toy

I'm forgetful. In fact, you can ask me something, give me a date, or tell me your name, and within about 15 seconds, it's history. Nothing registers anymore. Oh, I mean, I can still function (like a rutabaga), but it requires real power lifting for me to retain brand new information. Something has to be repeated at least six or eight times, and even then, it's about a fifty-fifty chance of retention.

But, no more! I am now the grateful owner of the Olympus NV-3200PC Digital Voice Recorder! This is a little gadget, smaller than a small cell phone that can record up to 54 hours of the stuff that I'm always going to forget. Plus, it has the added bonus of recording my greatest thoughts, and also profound insights that I want to memorialize in this blog. I'm expecting great results from this technological helper brain. You should see a marked increase in the quality, if not quantity of my blog entries. I think you'll be impressed, and will probably want to go to Radio Shack and purchase one for yourself.

Ron already cringes when he notices that I have it in hand. I tend to harass him with my new toys. The unit has very high quality playback fidelity. I'm sure I'll think of all kinds of interesting uses for it. When I have this stuck in my pocket, I have new confidence, yes, I'll remember that factoid. It won't escape me anymore.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

What I Do in Retirement

Retirement is not a destination: it's a very expensive journey that lasts a long time. I do not sit on my front porch, because I don't have a front porch, although I do have a rocking chair. I waste a lot of time on my computer, just because I can. I think that's okay. I used to waste a lot of time on my computer at work, too, just because I had too. Old habits are hard to break.

I took up the gym when I retired. I hate the gym, but it allows me to eat just about whatever I want to stick in my mouth, and I've actually trimmed some pounds off, although my bad posture (from sitting in a chair in front of my computer) certainly doesn't show an incredible result. I figure, I'm ahead just going to the gym, burning my 600 calories, then clearing out. But now, I have time to hate the gym. That's cool.

Last night, I had a square dance emergency. For those of you snickering out there, such emergencies really do occur, and on a fairly regular basis, too. I originally had dinner plans, but the workshop I dance with only had six dancers, so I scrapped my dinner plans, picked up my friend Michael, and we narrowly averted the dance disaster. Square dance is just that important.

You might guess that retirement affords more opportunities for gentlemen callers. Your surmise is correct. In spades. I'm not particularly proud of that, I'm just noting another element of my retired life. It's one of the less retiring aspects of retirement. It requires a calendar, advanced scheduling techniques, a modicum of wit, and adeptness with java browser technologies.

Monday, December 1, 2008

A Paradigm Shift

I had a discussion with a friend this morning. We were talking about Barack Obama, identity politics, and gay marriage, not terribly coherently, but they were all in the same conversation.

I told my friend that what had exhausted me when I was doing gay community organizing was the identity politics, and the divergence of interests within the LGBT community. I also noted how identity politics prevented people from taking Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton seriously in their presidential candidacies.

The Republicans for years have used a variant of identity politics with their wedge issues, splitting off parts of the Democratic Party's coalition such that one group in the coalition could not support the issues that another group considered vital.

So out of nowhere comes Barack Obama. No, he's not post-racial or bi-racial or Black or anything else like that. He changed the debate. It's no longer identity politics. It's not about race (or gender, or orientation, or religious belief). What he offered us was a new perspective on what it means to be American. According to Mr. Obama's view, we all have a legitimate claim to call ourselves authentically American. It doesn't depend on your color, your gender, your race, your religion, or your sexuality.

We are all a part of Mr. Obama's vision of America because our Declaration of Independence states, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." And we obtain those inalienable because we are founded on a Constitution, which in its preamble aspires to form "a more perfect union" and "secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and to our posterity...."

As my friend said, Obama leap-frogged over identity politics. He has given us a new way to think about ourselves in relation to each other: we are all part of the American experiment. We all have claims on justice. We're all in this together. We are living in a nation that is ever working to be more perfect, and Barack Obama clearly articulated that notion for us. We can put our best selves to the task. Yes we can.

Democrats and Republicans can continue to play by the old rules of identity politics, marginalization, and negative campaigning, but the rest of us don't have to play by the rules anymore. We now have a larger view, a more inclusive view. Maybe at the Independence Day celebrations in 2009 we can say "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness..." and really understand, finally, what justice for all really means in America.

Pad Thai on Bucknell Terrace

I'm not exactly Thai, although I did know a Thai foreign student in Moscow, Idaho in the mid-60s. I've been wanting to make Pad Thai for years. It's one of my favorite foods. Whenever I would look at a recipe, the list of ingredients and the preparation looked daunting, but no more!

A while ago, I bought Ron a Thai recipe book, Simply Thai Cooking (Young and Ayanoglu, Robert Rose, 1996, Toronto, Canada). I've only cooked two recipes in it: one for Pad Thai, and the other for roasted chilies. In the last 25 years, I've eaten lots of Pad Thai, but the recipe in this book (on page 76) produces a dish that is every bit as good as I've had in any Thai restaurant.

Yes, the ingredient list is a little daunting, but if you buy the tamarind paste, you'll be able to make three or four batches of Pad Thai (yummm!). In the local Asian grocery, I was confronted with dozens of varieties of fish sauce (an essential ingredient for Pad Thai and many other Thai dishes). I went to the Internet, used my trusty Google, and purchased a recommended brand (Golden Boy) for a whopping $1.69.

So tonight, I fixed Ron some Pad Thai. What a satisfying meal. This is the kind of experience that only whets my appetite for additional Thai culinary adventures. Stay tuned.