Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Bitch-slapped by the preterite

I was doing so good with my Spanish until just a few weeks ago. Too bad everything I knew was in the present indicative tense. Then one ugly day I turned the page in my book and there was this new tense staring up at me. I should have known that the day was coming, that only Buddhist saints can live life in the eternal present, but I was happy in my denial.

I slogged on through the preterite, and I almost had it ... when the imperfect jumped me from behind. I was feeling tough - muy macho - and figured I could take both them on at once.

And maybe I could have, but I didn't stop there. I had set November 1st - tomorrow - as my deadline for learning. I wanted to spend the next two weeks getting everything down, rather than adding anything new. So I read ahead to the perfect and pluperfect. And then I remembered talking to my cousin Kay-Lani at Beth's wedding, and how her friends in Argentina told her her Spanish was too formal. They introduced her to the subjunctive ... and now she's in love with the subjunctive and uses it all the time.

I want to love the subjunctive to! Both Ron and Roy tried to talk me out of it, but I'm refusing to listen. I know it's totally irrational to think that I can be fluent after one summer of watching Almodovar movies and reading textbooks at Starbucks, but damn if I don't intend to give it my best shot.

Monday, October 30, 2006

The Morning After

Well, I'm lost. I met a guy last week and completely and unexpectedly fell head over heels for him. Too bad there's a pesky little ocean between his house and mine. I seem to be developing a pattern here - it's as if I have some block about opening myself up to anyone who lives closer than 5000 miles away.

But it's been one hell of a good week. Today, life returns to normal. Or almost normal ... turns out Gary has some mad skills in the garden, and he did a makeover on my yard. I'll post pics as soon as I remember to charge my camera.

Thursday, October 26, 2006


A couple of the guys in our office shave their own heads, & I've been meaning to pick up some clippers so that I could give it a shot. Anything to save money, right? So two nights ago I finally went to Longs and splurged 18 bucks on the deluxe clipper set.

Cutting your own hair is harder than it looks. I figured it would be like mowing the lawn - set the clippers to 1/8, pass 'em over your head, and you're done.

Thirty minutes later I was still struggling to get an even cut, and I was looking more like De Niro in Taxi driver than anything else. I should've waited to do this on Halloween - it would've made for a hell of a costume. It took about three tries before I had a cut I was satisfied with.

It ain't pretty - the best compliment I've received is it looks even. But I'm saving twenty bucks a month, and at the end of the year that'll be worth five nights in Paris. Sacrificing pretty for Paris sounds like a fair trade to me.

Somewhere in La Mancha ...

A dose of culture fights police corruption
Wire services
El Universal
Lunes 23 de octubre de 2006
Miami Herald, página 1

By teaching police officers personal development and ethics, Ciudad Nezahualcóyotl aims to stave off corruption in the police force

CIUDAD NEZAHUALCÓYOTL, State of Mexico - On a recent afternoon, two dozen municipal police officers glided around a classroom in their socks, 9 mm submachine guns and pistols slung at their hips.

"Don´t be shy," said their instructor, encouraging them to slide their feet across a pile of brightly colored books strewn on the floor. "Let your toes do the exploring."

So what is this? A strange new fetish? Some eccentric fad?

Not quite.

Officials in this rough area east of Mexico City are trying to transform their police officers, among the most reviled members of Mexican society, by giving them a dose of culture: Classic literature, poetry, chess - and even sliding around in their socks if that´s what it takes.


His solution: A nine-point program that combines traditional police training with personal development and ethics. In addition to attending biweekly literature courses, officers must take computer classes, keep fit and learn to play chess - to improve their strategizing.


The most novel aspect of the program is the literature courses. The curriculum blends such classics as Don Quijote de la Mancha with crime novels.

The goal is to persuade officers to read one book a month, not an easy task in a country where one study showed that 40 percent of those older than 15 don´t read books.


"People think police are ignorant and corrupt, and that we don´t care about anyone but ourselves," said Pedro Martínez, whose first-person account of a shoot-out was chosen for publication. "But it´s a lie. And we´re proving it by what we write."

He said he had also developed an appreciation for reading - particularly Don Quijote. The officers created their own version of the 400-year-old Spanish classic by subbing key words with police code and acting it out.

"They´re like me and my partner," Martínez said of Quijote and his faithful sidekick, Sancho Panza. "You always need a shield, someone to cover your back."

Amador has the backing of the new mayor, Víctor Bautista, a former leftist activist who has a personal interest in improving the police force. In 1982, he said he was briefly jailed and tortured by security forces during the government´s so-called dirty war against its opponents.

Amador said those types of complaints are decreasing.

"After two years of this program," he said, "I can categorically affirm that our officers are better police - and better citizens."

Sunday, October 22, 2006


I just got back from another visit to a foreign land - Kailua Kona, Hawai`i. It's so close ... and yet so very, very far away.

I went with Russ to volunteer on the massage team for the Kona Ironman. The race is insane - a 2.4 mile ocean swim from the Kona pier, a 112 bike race to Hawi and back, and then a full 24 hour marathon. To even qualify you need to win an ironman.

I'm in absolute awe of the athletes. 1800 ran this year. All were amazing, but the top couple hundred were almost supra-human. It was like watching some other species of Homo sapiens compete - all these thin men with tiny waists and massive thighs and bulging calves, like an army of Popeye’s turned upside down. Only three of the 1800 had any body fat on them at all, and the drawn faces and prominent cheek-bones gave everyone a vaguely Germanic air.

One guy told me that he didn't find the look attractive. He was lying. These men were hot, and in a way that almost went beyond physical desire.

It does twist your sense of what's normal, though. After three days of looking at perfect legs and asses - legs and asses the way god made them to be - it's hard to come back to the civilian world and realize that most folks just don't look like Ironmen. And between the Ironman, the Moloka`i Hoe, the Triple Crown [and we have the North Shore house again!], and the Circuit Boys, I have a very twisted sense of normal. I tested out at 12.3% body fat Saturday morning, and though I know that that's pretty awesome for a 40 year old part of me thinks, I want to be under ten! And still over 200 pounds!

Back to the race. The Massage Team was organized by the Big Island School of Massage. Good people, all of 'em ... but not my people. They were perfectly nice, but I had a sense of standing apart the whole time. It was a sense of, this is not my tribe & subconsciously everyone knows it. There's nothing bad there - we all know & recognize our tribes.

The team - and Kailua-Kona overall - are almost all refugees from the California la-la dream world. Luckily they were far more down-to-earth than the new age millionaires who've infested Kohala with their healing spas and $500 a night pseudo-Hawaiian spiritual retreats [and it's a good thing the rich never want to volunteer for the dirty work, 'cause otherwise we'd have had some trouble]. They were a curious mix of the cool and the bourgeois - a left-of-center version of Salt of the Earth. They left California for a new life in Hawai`i, but they've reproduced an LA suburb on the Big Island. They have Tibetan prayer flags on their lawns, but eat at Denny's. They do massage, but are so hetero-normal that they don't even suspect that they have gay men in their midst.

They're also the community volunteers who keep society running, so I need to lay off a bit. I absolutely love working with them on the race.

I'm a shitty spectator. I hate watching sports. I need to be part of it, and being on the massage team makes me part of it. And I can't even begin to overdue the superlatives - the athletes on this race are unreal. We never see the first dozen racers. The elite, the ones who finish the race in eight to nine hours, are whisked off straight to the hotel where they are tested, prodded, zapped, massaged by private therapists, and given blood transfusions from 14-year old sacrificial Sherpa virgins.

OK, the last bit is just a rumor.

We get our first racers in the massage tent at 4pm. The ones who finish in nine to ten hours are unreal. They walk in relaxed and calm, as if they've been hanging at the beach all day. Some took the time for a shower and a beer before they came to the massage tent. We check for knots in the muscles, but rarely find any. We check for injuries, but they only ones we find are pre-existing. The athletes are awesome, but they are also slightly loco. One Brazilian on my table injured his back in a mountain biking accident, but still ran the Ironman. Next week he does the XTerra in Maui.

This group is fun - they have amazing bodies & unreal musculature. I got to speak French with an athlete from Dijon, compare King's Cross stories with one from Oz, go through a who's who on the North Shore with a guy from Sao Paulo, and discuss the benefits of a post-race beer with an athlete from the Nederlands.

Next the rush comes, and everything becomes a blur. Hundreds of racers cross the line, and the massage queue winds down the beach. We are told to limit our massages to eight minutes - which is a shame, as these are the racers that need it most. I lead a body to the table, do what I can, and send 'em on their way. This group is a mix of men and women, elite and amateur. It's also when we start to see race injuries. These guys will pull a muscle on mile one of the bike ride, and yet finish the race. Like I said, awesome and loco all at the same time.

I was massaging a woman from Austria when the storm hit. I tried to play it off & call it watsu, but it came down too hard - and we didn't have enough shelter. The masseurs and athletes all tried to crowd under one tent, and things got tense. The racers arrive in a state of physical shock. Part of the reason for the massage is to ease them out of it. The problem was, the racers we had were getting wet and cold. A good number were coming down with hypothermia, and we ran out of dry sheets and warm clothes for them. And all the while, new racers kept coming in, not comprehending that we were on the cusp of an emergency & only wanting their massage.

The storm finally eased after an hour. I managed to find a dry table & started working again. The next group I had was in rough shape - one case of hypothermia, one cramped calf & loose patella, and one lower back sprain. Luckily there was a doctor working the floor. Another night, and I might have suspected that she was a chiropractor & gone off on my standard spiel on quack medicine. Saturday night I was a bit more humble, and more than thankful that she was there to help us.

By eleven pm most of the massage team had gone home - there were maybe a dozen of us left in the storm-wracked tent. There were only a few poor racers left on the course, and we started getting folks who had just been released by the Medical Team. There was a bit of pretty, to be sure, but most of this group was elderly.

And damn I know I'm shallow sometimes. I had just worked on a couple of over 60 year-old racers, and I wanted to end the night with some muscle. I saw a black guy walking up from medical, all buff and shiny from the rain. I thought I could time it right & get him. I whipped off the old sheet and dressed my bed with a fresh one in record time. I spun around and held out my hand to find ...

... not a big muscled stud at all, but a 75 year old doctor from Slovenia. And though I know I was wrong to feel let down, part of me was. I just didn't know how wrong I was.

We all come to work on the top racers, and it is an incredible experience - but this is the man that I will remember until I die. He laid down on my table, and Russ took one side while I took the other. I asked if he was the oldest racer, but he took gentle offense at that & let us know that there was an 80 year old who finished last year and a 79 year old this year & that he was not the oldest, not at all.

He then gave me training tips when he learned that I refused to do triathlons because I hated running.

When it was time to go we offered to help him up - most athletes at this point need help standing. He insisted he do it himself ... and then slowly rolled onto one arm. Then pushed one side up. Then swung the other arm under. Then slowly lifted himself to sitting, and all the while looking shockingly infirm. I have no mobility, he confessed. No one would guess if they saw me racing, but I have no mobility.

The fires of life burn stronger in some people. We should all learn to be as strong.

My Saturday

At 7am in Kona 1800 triathletes jumped in the ocean for a 2.4 mile [3.86 km] swim.
Then they went on a 112 mile [180 km] bike ride.
They followed this with a 24 mile [38.6 km] run.
And they ended the day with a massage by the all-volunteer Ironman Massage Team.

It's called Community Service.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Imperial History of the Middle East

Ed in Philly sent this over from Maps of War. It puts a lot of today's conflicts in perspective. It's also useful when people ask me why I loved Turkey so much - the number of ancient empires that passed through Anatolia is stunning, and they all left their mark.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Throw the baby!

And now I'm onto iFilm. Click for The Battle of the Album Covers, a few minutes of awesomeness from Ugly Pictures:

Senator Larry Craig (R-Idaho) is a homo

Turns out another homophobe in Washington likes to play Jack Nasty with the men.

I've never helped with a public outing before! The standard disclaimers apply, of course: I am opposed to outing unless that person declares war on our community, and then all bets are off.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Applied Physics

To every action there is an equal but opposite reaction. Everyone who saw the Velvet Underground later formed their own band. Everyone who turned the lights off and whispered Bloody Mary I killed your baby thirteen times in the bathroom mirror saw the ghost. And every boy who saw the following videos one summer's day in 1985 turned gay.

It wasn't genetics and it wasn't your mother. It was simply the third law of motion, applied.

Physics Lesson 2

Or made we were the cause, and MTV was the reaction.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Second Post for Mixology Monday - Pics

First, the bad stuff - unless you like the taste of corn syrup and petrochemicals. All of these are going down the drain:

And now the good stuff. This is what makes a happy bar: orange flower water, pineapple syrup, grenadine, mac nut, falernum, lilikoi, orgeat, pimento dram, and brandied cherries.

Hawaii Dream Vacations Turn Into Nightmares!

Or so says the headlines at MSNBC, which is quickly turning into the WTF? network. The quake was scary, for sure. The rest of the day was a bit anti-climatic. Having no power was a pain, but by 9pm most of the grid was back up and running. It was an inconvenience, but hardly a nightmare - and all the tourists I saw were taking it in stride.

My favorite line from the article, though, was this: Beaches were devoid of sunbathers and largely deserted, save for a few dozen die-hard surfers in Waikiki. It was cold and raining. The skies were grey and we didn't see the sun all day. Of course the beaches were empty. And there was no swell - the "die-hard surfers" were poor tourists conned into buying surf lessons on a day with no waves.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Mixology Monday

I was all excited this weekend to take part in my my first Mixology Monday. It's an online party started by Paul at The Cocktail Chronicles. Once a month a blogger will host the party by setting a theme, and then everyone else will go out and blog on it.

This month Meeta in Germany of What's for Lunch Honey? is hosting. The theme is Exotica. And I was all ready for it. I'm on the third round of using homemade Tiki syrups & I've got it down. Saturday evening I mixed up variations on authentic Mai Tais and less than authentic Sangrias. I took lots of pretty pictures. I got a bit buzzed.

Then the earthquake hit, and it was big. So much for my Sunday.

We just got our power back on an hour ago. Here's my last-minute contribution to the party ...


It all started so innocently. I was online looking for a Mai Tai recipe, and didn't even recognize orgeat - one of the main ingredients. Wikipedia told me that it was an liqueur flavored with almonds and orange flower water, which ... yum! I wandered from there to amazon.com to google, and eventually stumbled into a wonderful new world of cocktail bloggers. These were men and women after my own heart, drinkers who drank for pleasure rather than for getting smashed. Folks who understood the vodka was a marketing scam, that vermouth is a respectable drink, and that a bar without bitters ain't a real bar at all.

They were folks who treated cocktails the way foodies treat food. I wanted to join the game.

But these guys were using all kinds of new words ... orgeat. falernum. pimento dram. orange bitters. And even better, I found online recipes for a lot of the new flavorigs - most at the Cocktail Chronicles, above.

I ordered some online, but they all sucked. So I got to cooking and experimenting. Not everything worked out [the pastis is drinkable but ouzo is better, and I've failed three times at making homemade orange liqueur], but some of the home recipes are downright amazing - as follows [and pics to come!]:

Orgeat - I used French Brandy and Orange Flower water. Orgeat is one of those wow! ingredients that I am absolutely in love with. The recipe says that orange flower water is optional, but don't believe it. The almonds and brandy alone have a great flavor, but the orange flower water plays the same role that bitters do in cocktails - it helps blend and bind the flavors & creates a drink that is much more than the sum of its parts. It tastes like it would be great to cook with, too.

Mac Nut - I tried to be a good Hawaiian boy and make an orgeat using macadamia nuts. It's good, but lacks the subtlety of the almond based orgeat.

Falernum - I used white rum and let the ingredients soak for a week; otherwise I followed the recipe. It's heavy on the lime, with a nice background of ginger and cloves. It doesn't work alone, but is wonderful with bourbon and rum drinks. I've been using it in place of sour mix.

Grenadine - Just lovely. I use 1 cup sugar, 1 cup of pomegranate juice, and 1 cup of white rum. If you've never had homemade grenadine then you haven't had grenadine before. I can't imagine a tiki drink without this ... and it takes less than five minutes to make.

Lilikoi - I made it the same way as the Grenadine, only using passion fruit pulp. I let it sit a week. It's great - powerful, bold, and citrusy. I tried to do some orange liqueurs, but nothing really worked out. This one did.

Pineapple- I also made it the same way as the above, but only let it sit a week. It's ok, but super sweet and not very complex or interesting.

Brandied Cherries - Cherries, brandy, and sugar ... c'est tout.

Pimento Dram - Scroll down to Feb 17 for the recipe. And just ... damn. I made this months ago and it is still over-powering. I can't think of a day to day use - but this plus Kentucky Spike [bourbon, rum, brandy, and spices - including cocoa nibs] will, I think, make the best eggnog ever. If you're in the islands for the holidays come on by and I'll show you.

So. On to the drinks. These are my current five favorites with my new found ingredients:

Mai Tai 1 - 1 part each white rum and gold rum, 1/2 part each orgeat and falernum, 1/4 part each passion fruit and grenadine. Add sugar if needed. I made this at my sister's wedding, and it was a hit. It's fruity, smooth, and complex, and bears almost no relation to any mai tai I've ever had at a bar. It's also quite dangerous - it's pure alcohol, but tastes light and refreshing.

Mai Tai 2 - 1 part each white rum and gold rum, and I forgot to measure how many parts of grenadine, pineapple, passion fruit, mac nut, and falernum. This was very sweet, and much closer to what most people think of as a mai tai - only a bit higher end. It was way too sweet for me, but if you like your drinks foo-foo then it might work for you.

Rosé Sangria - 1 part French rose wine, 1/4 part grenadine, 1/4 part passion fruit, one brandied cherry, splash of cherry liqueur, sugar syrup to taste. This is sweeter and lighter than my normal sangria, and much faster to make. I bought a bunch of rosés after reading so much about them in the New York Times, but none really worked for me solo. They were a bit too yeasty for me - but they were perfect for sangria! I served it with paella last week & it was a great match. A rose sangria is also damn pretty. This is a drink for a hot and lazy afternoon, though I'm sure the wine snobs will hate it. The rum from the grenadine and passion fruit means that this sangria packs a nice punch.

MC's Drink - I'm still playing with the proportions. Tonight [version MC.03] it's 1 part rye, 1/2 part orgeat, 1/4 part each falernum and passionfruit, splash orange bitters, and one brandied cherry. This is somewhat close to an old fashioned. I absolutely love the way that rye and bourbon bring out the orgeat flavors & vice versa. As far as I know there is no name for this, and there ought to be. Until I hear otherwise I'm naming it after me. The fruits add another interesting layer.

Rum Sour
- Yeah, I suck with the names. It's basic: 1 part gold rum, 1/2 part falernum, and a dash of bitters. It would probably taste completely non-descript with store bought falernum, but is rather pleasant with home-made. Think of a pisco sour but with spicer undertones of clove and ginger.

None of these would work with store bought syrups. In fact, I think they'd be downright nasty.

Earthquake Day

A major earthquake woke me up at 7am this morning. I've felt tremors before, and they were always kind of fun. This was scary. I don't remember the beginning - I woke up and was already out of bed and crouching down. Nothing broke in my house; the scariest part was that it just kept going on.

The power went out, my cell died, and there was a cold rain coming down. I should have called Civil Defense ... but ... no phone. So I went back to bed. When the rain cleared I biked down to Waikiki. No one I ran into knew much of anything. We learned that the airport was closed, power was out across the state, and that the quake was from somewhere off Kohala.

I ended up at Hula's, where the boys were celebrating Earthquake Day. It was a good time. Had some drinks with Luis, Kevin, Roy, and some other guys I hadn't met before. We agreed to do it again next year.

Everyone was in pretty good humor. I appreciate Hawai`i on days like today, because if this was the mainland it could've been ugly.

The power came on an hour ago at my place around 6:30 pm, and I finally learned what happened. It was a 6.5 magnitude quake caused when the weight of the islands caused them to drop down a bit into the tectonic plate. There were no fatalaties or major injuries [wow!], but landslides and weak bridges have closed most of the roads on the Big Island.

We still have a flash flood warning. Rock and Roll!


So I quit smoking only to become addicted to YouTube. I went to a fundraiser earlier this evening for The Center [the theme was Death by Chocolate, which I thought was pretty clever. Too bad there was no follow through. Two chocolate fountains and lots of out of season strawberries do not consitute Death by Chocolate]. Then went to Johnny Sanchez's party. Tout le monde was there, including some B-List celebs & lots of pretty boys who I only see during the holiday season. I don't know where they hide before and after the season.

But now it's 1:45 am, and I'm at home testing cocktails for Mixology Monday and watching videos on You Tube. I don't know if I'm hip or tragic. There might not be a difference. Here's the latest:

Amy Winehouse

I found Rehab on Perez Hilton, and liked it enough to look up more of her stuff.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Racism Sux

I just saw this posted for Halloween at Angles [a.k.a. Anglos, the whitest gay bar in the Pacific]. I'm not even sure if it's racist so much as just ignorant.

Join the crowd at Angles for a night of black religious cult practices. Combine your own rituals with traditional African magic, sorcery and spirit possession. And grab a chance to win some of the $1,000 in cash prizes for best costume, best theme costume and best non-theme costume. Angles Waikiki, 2256 Kuhio Ave, 2nd floor.


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Back to Life

At 6pm today it will be exactly five weeks since I've had any nicotine in my body. It's only been the past couple days that I've felt remotely human. This is the longest I've made it in ... dunno. Maybe a decade. I've kind of quit before, but cheated on the weekends, or worn the patch on and off. This has been the real thing

And damn. I've been functional, but only. I did maintenance work outs and was social if I had to be, but for the most part I've spent the past month keeping to myself, working on my Spanish, and playing with the kittens.

I finally snapped out of it ... I hope. Last Friday I wandered first Friday with Dawn. We spent most of the night at Du Vin, the new bar on Nu`uanu. It's a cool place, and we ended up there last night as well. Sunday met Roy, Ron, and the new forester on the beach to watch the Moloka`i Hoe crews come in. Sunday night I made paella in my new pan, and had Ron, Roy, and Giovanni over. The paella was ok, not great ... but it was the first time I've had folks over for dinner in ages.

I've started to hit the gym hard, too. No more maintenance work-outs - I have to get ready for the men in Puerto Vallarta. I hit 199 on the scales yesterday. I might actually pass 200 for once.

This weekend is looking like a big one - it'll be my first major weekend out since I was in the mainland. Shoots, the whole month looks big. Kurt turns 40 on Friday, and wants to do a downtown pub crawl. Saturday is the Center's fundraiser and then Johhny & Bob's party. Sometime midweek Russ should arrive, and then the weekend after we head to Kona for the Iron Man. The Film Festival starts the same weekend, and I'm hoping to volunteer more hours this year.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Scott Kleeb

I didn't even think guys like this existed in real life. He's a former rodeo bull rider star who got his PhD from Yale in International Relations. He worked as a ranch hand to pay his way through college (he wrote his dissertation on The Atlantic West: Cowboys, Capitalists, and the Making of an American Myth). He speaks and cooks Italian. And he looks like a movie star.

Now he's running for Congress in Western Nebraska. Thank god he's a Democrat.