Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Did you know

that if Hillary Clinton becomes president, she'll be the country's first female president? And Barack Obama would be the first black president?

Silly me, I wouldn't have made the connection, if not for the fact that EVERY SINGLE news article that barely mentions either of them feels a need to point it out. Because, you know, this is news.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Pity Post

Does this picture make you shed a tear for poor little Mr. Fob?


What if I tell you that the procedure took four and a half hours of my life?

Still no?

And if I tell you the littler bandage is from a biopsy that will likely lead to another four-hour surgery with equally tragic-looking results?

Not a single tear?

Then get a chest x-ray, 'cause you just might be heartless.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Funny Headlines About Things That Aren't Funny

Man critical after being shot by Mill Creek police officer

Well, I'd be critical too, if it happened to me.

Nonfictional Novels

I've always been amused that just about every time I've seen a literary agent or editor give advice to aspiring authors, one of the things she or he says is, "Don't say on your query letter that you are submitting a 'fictional novel.' It's just a novel. All novels are fiction." It baffles me that this is such a widespread problem that agents and editors across the board feel the need to address it. I mean, seriously, are there people out there who really say 'fictional novel'?

I don't know, but apparently there are people whose definition of novel is broader than mine. The opening credits to the 1995 film The Basketball Diaries say, "Based on the novel by Jim Carroll." Um, novel? The Basketball Diaries is literally a collection of diary entries written by Carroll as a teenaged heroin addict. I don't think you can even call that an autobiographical novel.

Memo to the people of the future who will be adapting my blog into a major motion picture: Please do not put in the credits "Based on the novel by Mr. Fob."

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Batgirl the Activist

From a 1974 (?) U.S. Department of Labor Wage & Hour Division public service message:

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Guerrilla Usability

When I got to class today there was a printout of this picture sitting on my desk, with the words "Guerrilla Usability" printed across the top:

For the first fifteen minutes or so I kept glancing at it and bursting into fits of giggles.


I'm not qualified to write any kind of meaningful "Remembering Heath Ledger" post, but I will say that I was deeply moved by his performance as a heterosexually married gay man in Brokeback Mountain and have been excited for the past year or so to see him as the Joker in this summer's Dark Knight. Twenty-eight is too young to die, and two is too young to lose a father.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Division of Labor

My friend Scot recently responded to my allegations that, like a good old-fashioned patriarch, he unfairly benefits from the domestic labor of his husband; he did so by making a list of the household chores for which he and his husband are each responsible. That, together with a post on MoHoHawaii's blog, has got me thinking about how Foxy and I divide the labor. Here's my version, but, considering that most of these things we haven't actually put in writing or even discussed, her interpretation may well differ:

Mr. Fob's Jobs
  • Part-time winner of bread (though full-time for a year after the birth of each child; future status to be determined)
  • Preparer of breakfast for children--because Foxy's not a morning person
  • Primary caregiver while Foxy is at school, work, or otherwise occupied (currently about twenty to twenty-five hours a week)
  • Preparer of dinner on nights when Foxy is gone (currently four nights a week)
  • Part-time dishwasher
  • Primary bedtime story reader
  • Primary bath giver
  • Payer of housing and utility bills--a role we shared in the past but I have taken over completely since we established separate bank accounts last year
FoxyJ's Jobs
  • Part-time winner of bread (with a one-year break after the birth of each child; future status to be determined)
  • Chief meal planner and preparer--because she likes to cook
  • Primary caregiver while Mr. Fob is at school, work, or otherwise occupied (currently about twenty-five to thirty hours a week)
  • Part-time dishwasher
  • Primary naptime story reader
  • Buyer of groceries
  • Planner of vacations
  • Scheduler of doctor's (and other such) appointments
  • Primary laundry doer
  • Knower of all things
Careful inspection of these two lists will reveal that there are some hundred or so hours of the week in which neither of us is the primary caregiver. This is not because we share the giving of care when we are both home; rather, our children are given no care when we are both home. Typically, one of us sits on the couch reading a book while the other sits at the computer, each of us hoping the other will do something about that screaming child. It's a game of Chicken, basically: which of us will be overwhelmed by the screaming and give in to the child's demands first?

There are a lot of jobs that we share fairly equally: doing the dishes, taking out the trash, cleaning the house. Foxy may contest that she does a greater share of the latter; I concede only that she more often notices that something needs to be cleaned, and then it is just a question of whether I will get off my butt and clean it before she gets tired of waiting and does it herself.

I would like to think that we divide the labor fairly evenly because that is how I think it should be, but truthfully I have to admit that Foxy does more than her share. I would also like to think that this inequality is based solely on our differing personalities, but when the imbalance in our roles lines up so closely with imbalanced male-female relationships going back hundreds of years, it's hard not to recognize that to some extent we have allowed ourselves to fall into stereotypical gender roles. Some (people related to me, mostly) have argued that I do more than most husbands, but really I don't take much satisfaction in knowing that I do well when measured against a crappy standard known for its unfairness to women (and honestly I think I'm more or less on par with other husbands of my generation). I wish at least one sentence in this paragraph were not made of two clauses conjoined by a "but," but alas it isn't going to happen.

Moral of the story: I'll forever be in Foxy's debt, but that's no excuse to stop trying to catch up.

Scot posits that it "may be kind of different how labor becomes divided in a home with two men or two women," and that he and his husband "split it up by who’s good at what." I'd say this is a good way for anyone to do it. I'm curious to know how other couples, gay and straight, divide the labor, so I'm now officially making this post a meme. If you are in a cohabiting relationship of any sort, consider yourself tagged. How do you and your significant other split up the tasks of life?

Thursday, January 17, 2008

By a Hair

According to this New York Times article about narcissism that FoxyJ sent me (trying to tell me something?), a study released last year dubbed Americans 18-25 the "Look at Me" generation.

Phew. Last year I was twenty-seven.

Autobiography of My Face
Geography of a Battlefield
of a War With Myself

From the top:

I have been at war with my hair for as long as I remember. I spent years dying it different shades of brown and black because I didn't want blond hair. I didn't realize that I'd won this battle until recently when people started asking where our kids get their blond hair from and I looked in the mirror and saw a (dye-free) brown-haired man staring back. I'm never happy with a hairstyle for more than a few months, so I cycle between combed parts, spiky messes, and the occasional shaved baldness. My hair naturally parts on the right but for some reason I've always wanted it to part on the left--most likely because all the best-looking superheroes part on the left. I've recently forced a victory in this battle, too, mostly in order to cover up the scars I'm collecting on the right side of my forehead.

You can't see them very well in the photo, but the scars are fairly visible in real life. There's a tiny one toward the middle of my forehead, where we caught the lesion in time for the dermatologist to freeze it off. Next to that is a larger red spot that we didn't catch so early. The first six months of this delay is due to my own lazy negligence; the next four is how long it took to get an appointment with the dermatologist, and one more after that to see the dermatological surgeon for a consultation. In a week and a half this red spot of basal cell carcinoma will be removed, leaving a bloody crater that will eventually heal into a white scar like the one just below it, now three years old. Basal cell carcinoma is generally not lethal, thank goodness, but every dermatologist I've seen has been shocked that I've had a single lesion, let alone four, show up before I'm thirty. This means I'm likely to spend the rest of my life freezing lesions off or, if I'm not diligent enough, cutting them out. And there's not a damn thing I can do about it, because the damage was done more than a decade ago by the series of sunburns I got while growing up in Hawai'i. I understand now, to a small degree, the despair many people with more deadly forms of cancer feel at the realization that their body is betraying them.

My eyes have been a source of grief for me since middle school. In elementary school I'd actually wanted glasses and was happy to get them, but by eighth grade I was ready for contacts. The problem is my eyes weren't. I blinked through gas permeable lenses for a few years before settling into slightly less discomfort with soft lenses. The lenses I have now are the best I've ever worn, but still my chronically dry eyes don't handle them well for more than a couple hours at a time. Discomfort and laziness prescribe glasses; vanity demands contacts.

One of the boys who delighted in tormenting me in tenth-grade P.E. asked once whether my nose was stuffed or my voice was just nasal like that. I answered, honestly, that my nose was stuffed and that it was always stuffed. I have always been a mouth-breather because I simply didn't have any other option. A couple years ago I finally got a prescription for a nasal inhaler that mostly clears things up, but I still default back to mouth-breathing once I fall asleep.

On the right side of my nostril is the small scar from the fourth lesion, hardly visible. The red spot you see in the photo is just a zit. At this point in my life I only get those once in a while and they don't concern me. Except when they're inside my nostril, which is just painful.

I'm fairly certain my crooked smile is genetic, as it matches perfectly my dad's and my brother's, but I've always associated it with a time in elementary school when I had one side of my face numbed for dental work. I smiled at myself in the mirror, amused at how one side of my mouth refused to lift. The thing is, it still refuses twenty years later.

The scar under my chin is older than my memory. I assume it was some chin-splitting fall I had as a toddler, the first shot fired in a lifelong battle between my face and me.

The nice thing about waging a war with yourself is that either way, you win. But then, of course, either way you also lose.

Remember when cows went on strike because people weren't putting milk on their Chex?

That was crazy.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Foxy Exposed

I haven't and don't intend to link to every straight spouse interview I post on Northern Lights, but I suspect several Fobcave readers may be interested in reading the interview with FoxyJ I posted this afternoon. Wondering what my wife really thinks about Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley? Click here to find out!

The Law of the Bus

The bus that is supposed to come two minutes before I get to the bus stop will be right on time, but the bus that is supposed to come five minutes after my arrival will be ten minutes late.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Dear Senator McCain,

Your most recent campaign ploy, obviously done with the specific intention of getting my vote, is quite clever. I have to admit, having your daughter reveal that you are a fan of Lauryn Hill does tempt me to come over to the dark side, but ultimately I still find you even more weird than Mitt Romney and only slightly less creepy than Mike Huckabee.

I remain an Obama Boy.


Mr. Fob

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Mr. Fob the Actor

When I was fourteen I spent the summer with my dad in Green Bay and so attended the local Mormon church there. At some point during that summer one of the girls at church asked me why I was so shy.

"I'm not shy," I said, "I'm an actor. I'm just acting like a shy person."

She immediately recognized what a lame thing that was to say and repeated it, giggling, to everyone in a three-mile radius.

It was true that the shy persona I adopted in most public situations was not the real Mr. Fob, and it was also true that I fancied myself an actor, but the "acting" in this case had little to do with any kind of conscious decision. I was simply socially awkward--even more so than I still am.

I first got a taste of real acting--and shed my shy public persona at the same time--when I took a drama class during my senior year of high school. Several good friends were taking the class with me, so I felt comfortable being myself, and as it happened being myself meant using our first assignment, in which we were to mime an action of our choice, to act as a serial killer sneaking into a house and then brutally slaughtering the invisible people inside. The class, being composed of teenagers, found this hilarious. I became the funny guy--or at least one of the funny guys, as in any drama class there's bound to be a handful of grandstanders competing for attention. Throughout the year I also became known as one of the decent actors in the class, and someone who knew what he was doing enough to be voted in as one of the co-directors for the big end-of-the-year play. I absolutely loved this new me and wanted it to last forever.

As I went into college I held onto Mr. Fob the Funny Guy, at least in classes that were small enough and I felt comfortable enough to overcome that chronic social awkwardness, but the actor and director were left behind, only to be brought out when I subjected friends to the crudely-produced Batman movie my friends and I had made in that drama class.

This past quarter, in order to fulfill the requirements of my FLAS fellowship, I took a class on Spanish Golden Age drama, and then when I heard there would be a class this quarter in which the plays we'd studied would be produced, I couldn't resist. Maybe I'd find that lost actor, maybe I'd just make a fool of myself, but for sure I'd have fun.

Today was the first day of the play production class. We held quick, impromptu auditions in class and then this evening I got a call from one of the co-directors: I'm going to play a lead role in two of the three mini-plays we're producing. I don't think the decisions were based on acting talent so much as ability to read Spanish loudly and clearly, but still I'm flattered and excited.

And so I've decided I'm going to drop out of library school and move to New York, where I will begin my career on Broadway. I'd go to Hollywood, but with the writers' strike there's not much to do there lately; my talent would go to waste.


A conversation in my Spanish class today, between Me and Dude I Suspected Of Being Mormon:

Me: Did you just learn Spanish in school or have you lived in a Spanish-speaking country?
DISOBM: Actually, I first learned Spanish when I was living in Central America for a couple years.
Me: Really? Where in Central America?
DISOBM: Honduras. Yeah, I was there from '01 to '03, then I went back and did a couple of internships in the summers of '04 and '05*.
Me: Cool. So those last two trips were internships. What were you doing the first time?
DISOBM: Oh, that first time I went as a religious missionary.
Me: LDS? [Assuming that if he's not he won't catch the reference.]
DISOBM: [Raising eyebrows] Yeah, are you LDS too?
Me: Yeah. Well, I used to be.

[Later in the conversation...]

Dude I Now Knew Was Mormon: You said you used to be LDS? So, um, have you just not gone in a while or did you, you know, stop going?
Me: I left.
DINKWM: Like, when you were a teenager?
Me: No, just in the last couple years. I actually served a mission in Spain.
DINKWM: Oh, okay. I thought your Spanish was too good to have learned in school.
Me: Yeah, my wife is still actively LDS.
DINKWM: Have you joined some other church or organization now?
Me: No. I was attending the United Church of Christ for a while, but now I'm pretty agnostic.
DINKWM: It's funny. When you first walked in the room, I thought, that guy looks like he could be Mormon.

This is the first time I've had this conversation. Since leaving the church I've been a little nervous to meet Mormons and explain that I used to be one. I was worried that they would immediately grill me on why I left the church, looking for the concern they could resolve and bring me back into the fold. Or else, like, not want to talk to me at all. But at the same time, I knew that if I met a Mormon I'd want to let him or her in on the fact that we have a bit of shared history. I was relieved today that my classmate seemed just as happy as me to have something in common to talk about, and he didn't seem to feel a need to reconvert me, at least not in this first conversation.

As for me looking Mormon, I'm okay with that. It probably had to do with my recently cut and neatly combed hair, my clean shaven face, and the white undershirt showing beneath my collar. I happen to find that clean-cut Mormon missionary look attractive, so I'll take his associating me with it as a compliment.

*Dates have been changed to protect those lacking photographic memories.

Monday, January 07, 2008

My New Year's Resolution

(As opposed to my goals, including the one that looks like a resolution.)

I am going to respond to every comment made on this blog. I know of a few bloggers who seem to reply to every comment made on their blog, and I like that. It makes me want to comment on their blogs more often (to give them more work, of course) and fosters an environment of friendly discussion. Since I enjoy getting comments, it's only fair that I give those comments the respect of a reply.

Feel free to test me on this--but be warned, I'm not above doing mass replies that say simply "Thanks for your comments." Though I suppose in those cases I ought to at least name commenters individually.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Pransky on Commitment

People make a commitment in order to enjoy someone or something, not because they already enjoy someone or something. Distraction and ambivalence tell you your commitment is weak. Commitment is a stance toward life, a predisposition to get the most out of each experience by dismissing thoughts and reactions that detract from its value.

--George S. Pransky, The Relationship Handbook
Pransky compares commitment in marriage to a man watching a movie. If he spends his time wondering whether he's chosen the right movie or whether he should have watched the comedy playing down the hall, he's not going to enjoy the movie. If he puts all those thoughts aside, though, and focuses his attention on the movie he's watching, he's more likely to enjoy it.

I think this pretty much describes the difference between my attitude toward my relationship with FoxyJ for the year or two leading up to our separation and my attitude in the months since we've gotten back together. Yes, there are likely many other people in the world--men and women--with whom I could have had a wonderfully satisfying relationship. But I've also had a wonderfully satisfying relationship with FoxyJ, when I've been undistracted enough to recognize it. Commitment isn't about being a slave to a promise you made when you were young and naive; it's an attitude that allows you to enjoy what you have. You can trade in what you have for something else, but as long as your attitude doesn't change, you won't be any happier--and when what you "have" is a person who's likely to be extremely hurt by said trading in, you're better off learning to change the attitude before you make the trade than after.

Goals 2008

1. Drop body fat level down to 15%. I'm ready for another stab at this goal. In the past couple weeks I've been pretty consistently around 22%, at least when I measure myself in the morning as the scale instructions suggest. In order to get down to 15, I am going to continue doing cardiovascular and weight resistance exercise at least twice a week--three times whenever I can squeeze the third time into my schedule. I'm also going to eat smaller portions and cut down on mindless snacking. The details here may need to get more specific if I don't see any progress as the year goes on.

2. Finish the novel I'm writing and sell it. I'm about 20,000 words into my projected 100,000, but I haven't actually written anything in the past two months. I need to regain the excitement I had a couple months ago and get back into this. If I write at least 20,000 words a month (which translates to a thousand a day with a couple days a week off) I can have the rough draft finished by the end of April. That gives me two months to have the book polished up by the end of June, then the second half of the year to focus on querying agents and editors. I have complete confidence in my ability to finish the book--I've finished five or six before it--but what I've yet to do is actually sell a book. This is the year I'm going to make it happen.

3. Finish school (forever) and get a good job. Finishing school entails making it through the next two quarters of classes--and I hope to not only pass the classes but also get something out of them, which should be helped by the good study skills I finally managed to pick up this past quarter, after seven years of college. I also need to put together the portfolio my program requires in the next couple months, which means not only writing up the handful of experiences I already have but also coming up with and executing some kind of leadership experience related to library and information science. Any ideas? In the meantime, I've begun the hunt for employment and will start sending out resumes in the next week or two. What kind of job I get and where I get it are dependent on a lot of variables, but the goal is, at the end of this year, to be doing something that I enjoy, that provides financial security, and that complements whatever FoxyJ's school/work situation ends up being.

4. Have more compassion. You'll notice I call these "goals" and not "resolutions." I don't like resolutions because they tend to be vague, forgettable, and unmeasurable. This goal looks suspiciously like a resolution, but it is something I genuinely want to work on, even though I'm not sure how to quantify it. I've been reading George S. Pransky's Relationship Handbook, which my therapist recommended to me when I told him that FoxyJ and I were talking about getting back together (after he calmed down and recognized that I was not, in fact, making a huge and horrible mistake). The premise of the book is that therapy, as most therapists currently practice it, is screwed up. Happiness doesn't come from talking about our problems, but rather from recognizing that our "problems" are just products of our thoughts, which come and go depending on our moods. The way to be happy is to build on the thoughts we have when we're in a good mood and dismiss the thoughts that come when we're in a bad mood. Compassion comes into play when we recognize that the same thing is true of everyone else--when our spouse or child or friend does or says something to hurt us, it's because they're in a low mood, not because they really want to hurt us. All too often, I react to FoxyJ's or S-Boogie's or Little Dude's or my own bad moods, causing us all to spiral down into worse moods. As I've tried in the past couple weeks to view myself and others with more compassion and patience, I've been much happier and have been a better father and husband. I would like for this to become a regular part of my life.

I would also like to be able to better explain what this book is all about, as I don't think I've done it justice here. But that's not one of my goals this year. If you're curious you should read the book--it's cheap, short, and very easy to understand and apply (even if not so easy to explain secondhand). One of the reviewers on Amazon.com says that every couple should be required to read this book before getting married or divorced; I second that motion.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

My New Year's Morning Regret

I shouldn't have had that second glass of sparkling apple-marionberry juice.