Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Massive Tassel Has (Re) Launched

The Massive Tassel Bellydance website is new and improved, and I must say it is very well done. Take a look! Order some merch if you feel so inclined!

It has been added to "Stuff I Like" for obvious reasons.

Jet Set

Our business travel schedules do not coincide well.

She left Tuesday morning and will get back Saturday night. We’re going to a Super Bowl party Sunday, and then I leave early Monday morning for a week.

It sucks.

Also sucking is the fact that she is currently in San Francisco, staying at a $300/night hotel in the heart of the city.

I will be in eastern Wyoming, 3.5 hours north of Denver, trying to decide whether we should eat at the Arby’s or the Subway.

Good times.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Civic Duty: A Retrospective

First off, sorry about jinxing the weather. Yeah…my bad.

Despite an all-day (albeit fragmented) stay at the courthouse, I was not selected to be on the jury of the aggravated assault domestic violence case to which I was assigned. As the attorneys gave their final list of jurors to the judge “privately”, I heard the judge whisper my last name. The attorneys both agreed on the reason I was not selected, but I could not hear what they said since their backs were to me.

As you may guess, I’d like to possess that info. I can only guess it has something to do with my demographic status as a white male engineer, exacerbated by the fact that I disclosed I had been part of a hung jury. (Heh.)

The odds weren’t so great for me being excused. Of the original pool of 40 potential jurors, six were excused early on for various reasons. This is pretty interesting:

-One woman had an ongoing medical condition that would have made it really difficult to sit for 90 minutes at a time. Fair enough.

-One woman simply raised her hand for every question the attorneys asked. “Do you know anyone who has been a victim of domestic violence?” Yes, apparently 296 people in her family have been victims. “Would serving today and tomorrow cause a hardship for anyone?” Yes, apparently she has a car in the shop and a husband who needs a ride to work and a sick grandkid and a daughter who just moved back in…. “Do you know anyone involved in the case?” Apparently she’s heard of the district attorney, who isn’t involved in the case, but that should count, right? Point being, she was obviously trying to go home, and she was wasting everyone’s time, and she was visibly rolling her eyes and saying things under her breath…just kick her ass out. Give her what she wants. They finally did.

-One woman said she was a victim of prolonged domestic violence, but as a Hispanic woman (the defendant was also Hispanic) she was part of a different culture, was brought up a different way, and couldn’t really be impartial. Say what you will, but I lived in that culture for a while, and what she says is valid. I understand.

-One woman…well, she survived some horrible things. Dismissed without objection.

-One guy knew the alleged victim. Obvious dismissal.

-Finally, when the defense attorney asked if anyone would have a problem being impartial because the defendant was Hispanic, a guy in his mid-20s, a Carhartt jacket, a buzzcut, and a mustache raised his hand. “I’m just a boy from the South,” he said. The defense attorney (a black guy) said, “Then may I infer that you would not only have a bias against my client, but also against the black man who is serving as his counsel?” “Yep.” Gone. Whether he meant it or not, he had huge balls for saying that in front of a bunch of strangers that was about 60% black. Most glaringly, as I looked out at their faces, it barely fazed any of them.

Anyway, I could have been involved in this:

WYANDOTTE COUNTY Gossip Inn trial begins
Testimony began Monday in the trial of Brandon S. Hulett, who is accused of shooting Gossip Inn bartender Lori Reynolds to death.
Hulett is charged with first-degree murder in the April 19 shooting. Authorities allege he fired several shots throughout the bar and aimed directly at Reynolds, 44. Several bar patrons who witnessed the shooting are expected to testify.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Civic Duty

I have jury duty Monday.

Yeah, it’s one of the downsides to living in the ‘Dotte. Shockingly, we have a few more trials than, say, our neighbors to the south. We also have about 1/3 as many people, so…you do the math.

This, I believe, is the 6th time I’ve received a summons. Two of those don’t really count—my group wasn’t needed those particular weeks, which means I got another summons to appear two weeks later.

Of the three “legitimate” summonseseses, two went like this:

Show up.
Sit around for 45 minutes until all the stragglers show up.
Get a speech from the jury clerk about how important jury service is.
Report to a courtroom.
Sit around for 30 minutes until the judge shows up.
Take a break.
Get a speech from the judge about how important jury service is.
Sit around for 30 minutes until the lawyers and defendant show up.
Answer questions about whether you know anyone involved in the trial, whether you’re biased in any way, etc. (This is where people claim they would answer outlandishly to get out of serving. I’ve never seen that happen. I would pay to see that happen.)
Watch the attorneys scratch off names one by one until they have their 13 jurors.
Go home at noon.

The other time went similarly, except the part about going home at noon.

I got selected.

For a week, I listened to testimony in a 2nd-degree murder/aggravated assault trial. I saw the victim’s family in tears, listened to the racist neighbors’ eyewitness accounts, and argued with two jurors whose rationale for the defendant’s guilt was, “I don’t know if he did this, but I know he did something.”


I can only hope for something that interesting to happen again. It was truly one of the most enlightening things I’ve ever experienced.

Then again, I certainly wouldn’t mind calling at 5pm today and finding out I’ve been excused. That would work too.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Well, the weather outside...

It’s 63º out.

One of the beautiful things about living here in KC is the occasional fantastic day in the middle of the winter. It’s wonderful.

Having spent part of the holiday season in northern Minnesota, I really freaking love it that much more.

Being a numbers dork, I looked up a couple things.

For January 2009, here is where Kansas City’s official highs have landed thus far:

60s – 1
50s – 3
40s – 6
30s – 7
20s – 4
Less than 20 – 1

I’ll take it. And yes, on only one day did we fail to reach 20º.

For comparison’s sake, here’s what Duluth, MN has experienced:

20s – 8
10s – 9
Single Digits - 3
Negative Single Digits - 2

Today has been the warmest day of the month. They hit 27º.

Thank you, but NO.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


I read an article yesterday, and I can’t find it now, so apologies for the lack of a link.

The gist was that 20-somethings are having a harder time than older workers when it comes to job prospects in our fun economy. The article and subsequent comments basically devolved into a cross-generational flame war, but the main thing I got out of it was this: recent college grads are pissed because life didn’t turn out the way they were told it would, and it’s everyone else’s fault.

You could kinda see this coming. This is the front end of the generation that, more than any before it, hasn’t ever been allowed to fail. Don’t keep score; that will hurt feelings. Everyone gets an award at the assembly! Just go to college and everything will be fine. Take another loan; you’ll be making eleventy billion dollars a year when you graduate! Easy, right? The world is your oyster, right?

As annoying as this is, all the blame cannot be heaped on their shoulders—it’s merely what they’ve been taught. The self-esteem movement has gotten out of control, and we need to correct it.

No one is really THAT special.

Failure is a powerful teacher. Yes, you learn not to repeat your mistakes, but you also learn something more profound: humility—and, if you’re lucky, a sense of personal responsibility.

I’m not piling on the twenty-somethings. Far from it—I remember what was said about me and my Gen-X peers when we were in/graduating from college. Apologies to Dennis Green, but somehow we turned out not to be what they thought we were.

I’m just saying—couldn’t the life lessons have come a bit earlier for these folks? You know, maybe BEFORE the roof over their heads was at stake???

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Karma Police

This is what you get…when you get cocky about having a three-day weekend.

I woke up Saturday to a Post-it note on the bathroom mirror. It said, “HELP – my ring fell down between the vanity and the wall.”

The author of the note had a meeting at the Hyatt. A committee made up mostly of physicians had flown in for a weekend meeting, which required attendance at 7:30am both Saturday and Sunday. In her drowsy stupor, she had managed to knock her ring (yes, THAT ring) into the small gap (3/8" or so) between the vanity top and the bathroom wall.

Once I was more fully awake, I started to come to grips with the size of project I was looking at. There would be no quick fix: no hanging a hook over the edge (no visibility), no magnet (gold is not ferrous), no vacuum (not enough room).

Disassembly would be the only option.

I tried to shut off the water below the sink, but the hot water shutoff valve was bad and started spewing water as soon as I turned it. Now I had to shut off the water to the entire house. That limits your day a bit.

With headlamp on forehead, I contorted my body to get underneath the sink. The close quarters basically required me to loosen the nuts about 1/16th of a turn at a time. Finally, I unhooked the water lines and tailpiece to the faucet, and was greeted with a lovely mix of hair and scum. It smelled wonderful, let me tell you. The vanity top ended up being too unwieldy to move by myself, so I had to wait a couple hours until my help arrived/got away from her meeting.

Once we got the top off, we realized we were stuck. There was absolutely no path to the tiny space alongside the vanity. There would be no drilling out the bottom or knocking a hole in the side.

We had to rip it off the wall.

Removed the moulding on the bottom. Knocked out two support braces. Pried (4) 4” nails out of the wall. Used needle-nose pliers, a hammer, and a chisel to knock out a hole big enough to move the backboard of the vanity around the hot water piping, which had simply been drilled through it.

Finally, it moved. We found her engagement ring, plus another ring she had lost 2 years ago and couldn’t figure out where it was.

Putting the damn thing back together was not much easier because I had sheared off the hot water flexible connector, meaning I had to do some surgery. But, in time, the sink was back in business, she had her ring back, and I polished off a half-bottle of wine and a beer.

Great way to kill a day, huh?

Friday, January 16, 2009

Three. Three Day. Three Day Weekeeeeeeeend.

One of the interesting/super happy quirks about working under the umbrella of a utility company? I get holidays off that I haven't had off since school.

Martin Luther King's birthday? Check. Washington's Birthday? Yep. Co-freaking-lumbus Day? Ding.

It's really wild because they pop up out of nowhere. It didn't register with me until yesterday that I had a 3-day weekend ahead.

Working in the private sector, we've gotten the biggies and that was it. I've got to admit I like this arrangement. Apologies to, what, 80% of the population who has to work Monday? I'll be getting a massage in your honor.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Suck it, New York

In reference to two posts ago, we have decided to go somewhere else for vacation. Somewhere fun, somewhere beautiful, somewhere less expensive (!!!).

Somewhere we’ve both always wanted to visit.

We’re going to Ireland.

For a week.



(We’re even staying here our last night. Wheeeeeeeeee!)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The 'Dotte

I’ve been here all my life (save four years where I moved 30 miles west to go to college), and I take living in KCK for granted. It’s just one of those things that has always been. I took a drive last night after dinner. Up Parallel, down Leavenworth Road.

It really made me think about my hometown.

There aren’t many people like me and my fiancée here--professionals with college degrees--at least not in the area where I live. What few young-ish professionals KCK does have live almost exclusively west of I-435, and I'd wager a lot of them are government employees and therefore live here as a condition of employment. Everyone with school-aged children who can afford to move away does so.

The school district has been in a slow decline for 20 years. Even my alma mater, Sumner, now registers ACT scores that hover around the national average. (When I attended, we had higher scores than ANY other high school in the metro.)

More and more storefronts are shuttered in the small strips of businesses I used to visit. Old grocery stores and bowling alleys are now churches, the congregations undoubtedly buying the derelict buildings for pennies on the dollar. Property values have plummeted in the last two years, and the home foreclosure rate is the highest in the metro.

Sure, there are pockets of hope. The Legends still exceeds expectations, although the casino’s last-minute withdrawal is hugely damaging. A trickle of people is moving to the Rosedale area with its proximity to the Plaza and Westport.

But overall, I shudder to think of what’s happening to my hometown.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

New York Hotel$

Thanks to Midwest Airlines' fare sale (ends 1/13/09!), we were looking at potential vacation destinations. New York was at the top of the list, since she had never been there and I have done 3 day trips for work (never staying overnight in Manhattan).

The good news? Round-trip airfare is $228 per person!

The bad? We can't find a hotel we'd feel good about for under $200, and that's before taxes/fees. Even Hotwire is coming in that high for 2.5-star properties on the nights we'd be there, which is more or less Hampton-Inn-level lodging. And we don't even get to see the name of the hotel and have to pay in advance if we go that route. The other option is to stay in Queens or Brooklyn near the airports, but that doesn't save all that much and...really, what fun is that?

We can afford the trip, but it begs the question: if we're going to drop $2000 just to get there and have a place to sleep, should we not spend slightly more and sit on a beach and eat/drink all we want? Or, perhaps, go to San Francisco and basically eat a great free meal every single night for what we'd be saving on hotel? Ditto Seattle/Vancouver?

Or is New York really that damn much fun?

Monday, January 12, 2009

So Now What?

The thing about getting engaged? Now we have to discuss a wedding. We’re trying to find that balance of keeping it simple, yet keeping it fun.

We’ve come to realize there are three general options:

1) Have a traditional ceremony here in Kansas City, followed by a traditional reception.
Pros: Almost everyone we know would be able to attend. We would be able to make educated decisions on the venue and such.
Cons: We would have to actually plan the wedding and fuss over all the little details, which we have no interest in doing. We would have to make (potentially tough) decisions about the guest list and wedding party. There is meddling potential as well.

2) Have a domestic destination wedding (Las Vegas was discussed), followed by a party once we get home.
Pros: The wedding would be more or less planned for us. A fair percentage of the people close to us would be able to attend without too much difficulty, and those who couldn’t would be able to make it to the party (i.e. the good part). Vegas would make for a nice quick getaway for all the attendees.
Cons: We want to honeymoon outside the country, so we would be flying somewhere to then get on a plane and fly somewhere else. Some people wouldn’t be able to make it to the ceremony due to money or health reasons.

3) Have an international destination wedding (thinking Riviera Maya in Mexico), followed by a party once we get home.
Pros: The wedding would be more or less planned for us. We would already be on our honeymoon when the ceremony takes place. Very low stress.
Cons: Obviously, this would be a substantial time, money, and documentation commitment for guests (though I would add that it’s WORTH IT), so the attendance would be rather small. Some important people in our lives wouldn’t be able to make it, and I don’t know how those people would feel about that.

We’re leaning a certain way, but it would be silly to even suggest that anything has been determined at this point.

Thursday, January 8, 2009


Tantrum got together for rehearsal last night, and it was a lot of fun. We had to do a little catching up since we hadn’t met as a troupe (at least in a “business” capacity) since Thanksgiving. It was nice to let the batteries recharge for a while, and I think everyone is eager to get back to it. If the rehearsal was any indication, we are going to enjoy the hell out of the show Friday.

For the first time, we’ll be adding games to our repertoire. I think we’ll really enjoy doing them, and it will give the audience a chance to get more involved. Everything looks great from an improv standpoint, and I’m confident our shows will be well-received.

Moving forward, the biggest question facing Tantrum and improv troupes in general is this: will people come to our shows?

Friday night there are four improv shows at four different venues, all occurring simultaneously.

Saturday night there are SEVEN shows at five different venues.

This weekend is, admittedly, an anomaly. However, with so many troupes doing so many shows in the coming year, there is bound to be further dilution of our already uneven crowds.

I am anxious to see what happens. Improv has gotten more ink from both the Star and the Pitch of late, but the (vast) majority of our audience is still made up of friends, family, and fellow improvisers. With monthly shows, I know I can’t count on, say, my parents being there every show like they were over the past year. And if improvisers are doing more and more shows, they will BE at their own shows (or, at the very least, be more selective about the shows they see).

Should be interesting. I hope our guest monologist format and overall show quality will help us build a modest (if not consistent) following from people outside the core groups listed above. Our marketing gurus are doing all they can to make sure people are informed; now it’s up to us to generate some buzz with our work on stage. In the end, putting on a good show is the best promotion we can do.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Beer on the Run

On the way up to Minnesota for the holidays, we stopped for lunch in Ames, IA. We had spent a weekend there before due to travel for a previous employer, and we had a good time in the college town.

One of our finds was a cool place called Cyclone Liquors. They have a great beer selection, and with liquor laws/distributorships being what they are, they carry a lot of stuff you can’t find in KC.
We picked up a six pack each of Sea Dog (Bangor, ME) Riverdriver Hazelnut Porter and Brau Bros. (Lucan, MN – pop. 220!) Cream Stout.

The porter was delicious. There is a nice hop-to-malt balance with a faintly sweet hazelnutty finish. The flavoring complements the beer and doesn’t overwhelm it. Honestly, I can’t imagine too many beer drinkers (devotee or casual) who wouldn’t enjoy this one.

The cream stout was a solid example of the style. I had never heard of Brau Bros. before, but I am eager to try more of their stuff. Cream stouts tend to land between the dry irish stouts (Guinness) and the thicker oatmeal stouts of the world, and this was no exception. Not too sweet, not too dry. I would compare it to a slightly drier version of Left Hand’s Milk Stout. Tasty.

In Duluth, we stopped at Fitger's Brewhouse (more than once). This is a must-visit if you're ever there. Very good food, live music most nights, and wonderful beer. They have 6 year-round beers and several creative, rotating taps. I partook in the RedBeard Barleywine (10oz. drafts only) and the Sasquatch Scotch Ale (yummy malty goodness)! The Big Boat Oatmeal Stout is also a highlight.

Finally, on the way home, we made our obligatory stop at Trader Joe’s near Minneapolis. Besides accidentally discovering Minnesota’s McCoy’s Public House (SCORE!), we found that the most excellent Unibroue had developed a brew specifically for the Trader Joe’s chain. It was a dark Belgian abbey-style ale (probably a dubbel). It had the trademark scent and caramelly, slightly fruity finish one would expect from a Belgian beer. It was very good--you won’t be disappointed. I'll admit it’s not quite Brother Thelonious, but then again, what is?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


There’s no way to write this sentence and have it come off the way I intend (i.e. without seeming arrogant), so here goes:

I’m pretty good at a lot of things—most things, in fact.

Before you roll your eyes or simply close your browser, never to read my egocentric musings again, note that I said “pretty good”. That’s a nebulously low bar to hurdle, is it not?

My point is that I am blessed with the ability to obtain new skills and knowledge easily. I’m not sure why this is, but I think it’s that my mind is adept at seeing patterns and moving toward efficiency. In other words, I can usually figure out what’s working and what isn’t, which means I “pick things up” sooner than most.

I am also cursed with becoming bored remarkably quickly, which means I lose focus WAY before I ever master anything. This frustrates me in retrospect, but I guess it doesn’t frustrate me enough to just immerse myself in something to see if maybe I could be great at something. Before I ever get to that point, something else piques my interest and I’m running off in its general direction.

It’s happened since I was a kid. Whether it was baseball or band, I’ve never had the innate focus, drive, and discipline required to take myself to that next level. Sure, I could have spent an hour a day doing rotator cuff exercises or doing scales and arpeggios in obscure keys on my trumpet, but there are too many other new things to try, right?

I’ve done some major agonizing over this. Is this a personality flaw on my part? Seriously, is there something wrong with me? Am I just so captivated by new stimuli that I will always chase the new experience instead of taking a deeper look at a familiar one?

I envy those whose path is clear.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Prologue to Happy Story

As a bit of a prologue:

The proposal worked out great, but my original idea was a bit different. Who would’ve thought that an ice storm in Memphis would change how I proposed to my girlfriend?

The ring was designed and ordered weeks ago, with guaranteed delivery by Christmas Eve.

Naturally, I had it shipped to my office. Naturally, they waited until the last possible day to ship it. And naturally, this turned out to be one day too late.

My tentative plan was to propose Christmas Eve in front of my family—that way she would have the good news (and the ring, of course) when we visited her family shortly thereafter.

On December 24th, we were told to go home from work at 2pm. The shipment hadn’t arrived by that time. I undocked my laptop and moved to the front desk, hitting ‘refresh’ on the tracking window I had open about every 4 seconds or so. I was the only one left in the office. At 2:30pm, the package was still said to be in Memphis. They had gotten a pretty brutal dose of ice the night before…but up pulled a FedEx truck! At last the holidays could begin!

No dice.

He was there for pickups only, and after a call to a FedEx representative, I found I may as well go home. It wasn’t coming. It was stuck in Memphis.

I’ve never been so disappointed to leave work, much less to leave work with 11 days off ahead of me.

Christmas Eve with my immediate family and Christmas Day with my extended family came and went. On the 26th we headed north to Minnesota to see her family; plenty more calls to FedEx were made. Finally, on Monday the 29th the ring was delivered to the office.

Finally, I had a plan. We were driving home on the 30th. I would get up on the 31st, go to the office, get the ring, and surprise her at Michael’s New Year’s Eve party!

Yeah. We woke up on the 30th to nearly a foot of snow, which meant our friend’s house was completely snowed in. You literally could not see where the road was supposed to be. We shoveled the driveway, but we were out in the country on a street with 4 occupied houses…no way would the plow get there until late that night, we were told.

By mid-afternoon, we resigned ourselves to staying another night. I was wracking my brain trying to come up with another plan, taking our belongings from the car to the house, when lo and behold, the largest plow truck I’ve ever seen moved the masses of powder to the curb. Game on.

After slow going through all of Minnesota (and stops at Ikea and Trader Joe’s) we got home at 3:30am. But we got here, and that’s what counts.

On New Year’s Eve, I retrieved the ring, chewed the hell out of my nails all day, and got down on my knee in front of friends.

I wouldn’t change a thing.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy Story!

We are now engaged.

It is exhilarating.

At approximately 10:30 last night (New Year’s Eve), I got down on bended knee in front of my friends at Michael’s party and popped the question. I had planned on waiting a bit longer, but when two friends began saying their early goodbyes to get home to their kids I decided I should act quickly. The aforementioned friends were waiting for the aforementioned host to return from his apartment upstairs. When he came back, the butterflies in my stomach morphed into a swarm of bees. I told the few people hanging out in the foyer and kitchen to come into the main party room.

As Kid Rock’s “Bawitdaba” blared from Dan’s docked iPhone, I asked him to hit the pause button. He looked back at what was obviously a beet-red face and said, “Hit pause?” I think he may have realized what was about to happen considering the seizure-level trembling I was trying to supress.

What follows is my best remembrance of my “speech”. I was told it came out nicely; it remains a blur to me.

“Can I get everyone’s attention for a minute? It’s good to be here surrounded by lots of friends (and a few people I haven’t had the chance to meet yet). You know, 2008 has been a weird year in the world. I don’t mean to brag, but 2008 has been a really good year for me personally, and I owe that to my wonderful girlfriend Kim. Kim, you have changed my life for the better in so many ways, and I am a better person for having known you. So, before we take our first steps into 2009, I want to take the next step in our relationship. [To knee, out comes ring] Kim, will you marry me?”

I think that’s about right.

She said ‘yes’, if not audibly then certainly visually. There were tears in her eyes and her hand was over her mouth. She tells me my hands were shaking pretty badly as I put the ring on her finger, so she helped me get it the rest of the way. And with perfect tension-breaking timing, Dan hit play on his iPhone

It became even more blurry after that—a whirlwind of hugs, congratulations, and kisses from Kim. I went and called my parents, then spent the rest of the evening in a light-headed, smiling stupor, getting more congratulations, more compliments on the ring, and more kisses from Kim.

We drank some more wine, counted down the New Year, celebrated 2009, celebrated our love, celebrated the start of a new phase in our lives.

It couldn’t have turned out better.