Tuesday, February 27, 2007


Last night before dinner I bowled a 235 game, shot four over par for nine holes, and beat a very strong opponent in tennis thanks to a solid backhand and skill at the net. And I did it all in the living room of my house.

As you've probably guessed, I got myself a Wii for my birthday. So far, it's the best $200 I've ever spent. (I was able to save $50 using a 20% off President's Day coupon which the cashier kindly pointed out as I bought one of the last consoles he had in stock only 40 minutes after calling at 8:30 Sunday morning and being told the store had enough to last well into the afternoon. Having tried seven other stores already, I knew better than to believe it.)

For me, the Wii is quite literally a dream come true; I've been trying to find a consistent tennis partner since I started playing the game with a wooden racket sometime in the late 1980s. My racket has gotten lighter over the years, and my quest for a playmate had been getting more difficult, but now the racket weighs almost nothing and the partner is available whenever I want. I am sure a more full-featured tennis game will come out for the Wii soon, but for now the Wii Sports version, which comes with the console, is keeping me occupied.

The Wii has also restored to me a pursuit I abandoned a few years ago due to smoke, noise, grease, and germs: bowling. Without the smokers, the disgusting rented shoes, and the general hell that is other people--especially the people at a bowling alley--bowling is actually a lot of fun. And when a round of golf doesn't cost more than a steak dinner and take longer than the Super Bowl, it can be a joy as well. We're spending a lot more time standing up--and running around--in front of an old tube TV and a lot less time in front of the flat screen HDTV right now. If you can find a Wii, buy it!

Oh, and don't expect as much content here for a while. I'll be trying to beat the new Zelda game.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Baby Steps


Introduced is a long way from passed, or voted on, or even assigned to committee for discussion. But introducing a positive gay rights bill is also a big step forward from the recently concluded, decades-long battle for such simple justice as equal housing opportunities and a ban on employment discrimination. Will Illinois be the sixth state to offer some sort of formal legal union for gays (after Vermont, Massachusetts, California, Connecticut, and New Jersey)? Probably not; New England and even Washington state and maybe Oregon will beat us there. Could change be coming sooner than anyone would have dared dream five years ago? It sure could!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Light Speed

DVR Users Skip Commercials, Right? Wrong - New York Times

I am sure there is truth to this article--for someone. But not in our house! The only time we let the commercials play during a prerecorded program is to get up and use the bathroom or clear the dishes. (Yes, we eat in front of the TV--doesn't every childless couple?) And the only time we watch something that isn't prerecorded on our DVR is...is...

OK, live sports (though sometimes we'll record it, go out to lunch or dinner or shopping, start watching an hour late, and finish on time). But otherwise, nothing. If I am aware of a commercial, it is because (a) it was on during a football game or tennis match, (b) I heard it while I was in the kitchen rinsing the dishes and loading them into the dishwasher, or (c) I sat and watched it while waiting for my viewing companion to return from the bathroom. You try watching Rome, Extras, Desperate Housewives, Brothers & Sisters, How I Met Your Mother, Studio 60, House, Boston Legal, American Idol, The O.C., Real Time with Bill Maher, and Meet the Press--plus five episodes of The Young and the Restless--each week and still find time for commercials!

Streams of Hate

Independent Gay Forum - Taboo Topic?

Like Stephen Miller, the author of the post linked above, I hate to bring this up. But the man has a point when he says "Through drips and drabs of celebrity hate-speak, most recently Isaiah Washington and, now, former Miami NBA star Tim Hardaway, we are beginning to come to terms with an unspeakable topic: that open expressions of gay hatred are far more acceptable in the African-American community than among whites."

I mean, did you hear what Tim Hardaway said? I used to enjoy his screwball-style shots and cheer for his scrappy style of play, but come on:
Well, you know, I hate gay people....I let it be known I don't like gay people. I don't like to be around gay people. I'm homophobic. It shouldn't be in the world, in the United States, I don't like it....I don't condone it. If people got problems with that, I'm sorry. I'm saying I can't stand being around that person, knowing that they sleep with somebody of the same sex.
I'm glad Tim feels free enough to say these things--that's the great thing about our country. But I'm also glad that the NBA, which is anything but a free country, is pushing him away, and that ABC finally seems to have acknowledged that Washington's invective toward his coworker was unacceptable. If nothing else, remarks like these create a hostile work environment from which gay actors and athletes, like anyone else, have a right to be free.

In the long run, I hope that seeing and hearing these folks spout off and sound so stupid doing so makes others think about the words being said and the irrational hatred they represent. We can't change what Hardaway and Washington and others have said. But their words can be used as agents for the very changes their speakers would oppose.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Don't Feel Proper

Robbie Williams goes into rehab for drug addiction - washingtonpost.com

This news is no laughing matter, of course. But it shouldn't come as a surprise that Robbie is a pill-popper. His most recent album, Rudebox, features a track, "Good Doctor," which chronicles a love of all things prescribed. In just one song, Williams name-checks/requests prescriptions for Xanax, Vicodin, Oxycontin, Codeine, Morphine, Opium, Methadone, Menocrabedene, Hydroanoxycodeine, Anolodene, Buprenopheine, ButroPhenol, Adorel, and Dorel, and sings a chorus of "Gimme loads of pills, gimme loads of pills." He even sings, "I might have a problem" before scoffing at the notion of taking a single tablet with the words "I'm Keith Moon, dickhead."

Yeah, there was no way at all to see this one coming.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Big Star

King Kaufman's Sports Daily | Salon
As ex-NBA journeyman John Amaechi comes out, it's time for sports leagues to stop accepting intolerance as a given.

Every time a former professional athlete comes out, everyone starts talking about when someone who's still playing will take the chance and be the gay Jackie Robinson. More than four years ago, when former NFL lineman Esera Tuaolo came out, some columnists said it was only a matter of time, and that soon sports would have a gay male star.

Besides former US figure skating champion Rudy Galindo, though, we still have not seen a male athlete of any consequence come out. Amaechi will apparently let on during his Sunday morning interview that he knows of other, current gay NBA players, but not name names--which is, of course, the right thing to do.

Sadly, I would guess that the first person to come out while playing will not do so gladly. I am not about to devote myself to solving the puzzle, but the pieces are all right there to be assembled. Fifteen players per team, 30 teams--that's only 450 people. Eliminate the married ones and the ones with known girlfriends (not that they're all straight, but anyone going to that length is not going to be willingly outed), and you'd be left with a universe of, what, 100 guys? You can't tell me someone won't figure out, and soon, which of these remaining dribblers doesn't appear to have an eye for the ladies.

And that will be very sad. So, gay NBA players, whoever you may be, I implore you: Come out on your own. Yes, it will be difficult at first, if the player and coach reactions to Amaechi's announcement are any indication, but you will be a hero to millions, and if you have enough game, your teammates will just have to learn to accept you for who you are. And hey, you may just get a few fouls called your way out of an abundance of caution.

Monday, February 05, 2007


Wyndham Washington, DC

Not really. But if there ever is a fire in a hotel in which I'm sleeping, I will surely die after my experience the last few days.

Friday night was my second night in DC, and I had come back to the hotel after a 13-hour working day. Around midnight, I woke to a loud squeal. At first, I thought it was my alarm clock, and that the night had gone by rather quickly, but a voice soon followed the oddly loud squeal: "A fire emergency has been reported in the building. Please exit the hotel. Do not use the elevators."

I'm staying on the 12th floor, so this was not an appealing prospect. But I dutifully put on a pair of pants, grabbed my coat, and trudged down 12 flights. When the weary band of travelers who joined me reached the bottom of the stairs, our human stream made a quick left turn--and walked right back into the hotel lobby, where many guests, including some of my coworkers, had gathered.

Clearly, the building was not on fire. No one was panicked; no staff members were directing us across the street or telling us what on earth was going on. We just milled about, wondering if we were supposed to go back up or if something was actually wrong. One man flipped out and started pounding the bell at the desk, shouting that if the hotel was not fit for guests it should not be open, and others in the lobby were puzzled. After an hour of waiting for the elevators to be turned back on, I finally took the stairs back to my room. The door to the stairwell was held by a hotel employee, who gave the first explanation I would get for the hour from hell: "We're doing construction. This happens all the time." I subsequently struggled to sleep. Have you ever tried to go to bed right after using a stairmaster?

This incident would seem funny if not for what happened last night. After watching the Bears lose, all I wanted in the world was a good night's sleep so I could go about my Monday--my eighth working day in a row--with a little bit of energy. But two hours after I went to bed--and just as I was getting to the good part of a dream--the squeal returned. I jumped up in bed, but this time I knew better than to hurry downstairs. Instead, I looked out the window, and saw the same fire trucks arrive that had responded to the non-emergency on Friday. As I watched their drivers mosey into the lobby, I knew I was safe staying in my room. This happens all the time, right? I went back to bed and tried to sleep.

Half an hour later, the alarm sounded again. An hour later, again. Then twice in half an hour. Then once each hour thereafter. All told, I think I slept three hours last night, punctuated by seven shocking squeals from the alarm.

When I returned to my room this afternoon, a note on the Wyndham letterhead awaited me. I've reproduced it verbatim below. Text in brackets is mine.
Dear Valued Guest,

We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience caused by our early morning fire alarm. [Note the absence of the "s" that would include the other six times the alarm went off!]

Be assured that the safety and comfort of our guests is our highest priority. As a safety, all alarms need to be investigated before they can be reversed. Although the timing was inopportune. [This sentence fragment is apparently their idea of a mea culpa.] Please know that we appreciate your business.

The Staff and Management
Wyndham Washington Hotel
If you have reservations for this hotel, cancel them now. One day it will become a Westin, allegedly bigger and better than it is today. But right now it is uninhabitable. I just finished reading State of Denial (and saw Bob Woodward speak about it yesterday!), and I feel confident in saying I would have slept better at a hotel in the Green Zone in Baghdad last night.

Have you ever had a hotel experience this bad? And how can this be the second hotel I've stayed in that had to be evacuated for a non-existent fire?