Worth Repeating

When You’re Straight…

You get your name in the paper for getting married.
You get looks of admiration when you hold your partner’s hand.
You get a tax break for being married.
You get to keep your kids no matter how bad a parent you are.
You get to stay in the military if you engage in non-consensual sex.
You get AIDS, and you’re an “innocent victim.”
You have a life.
You stand up for your rights and it makes you a “participatory citizen.”


When You’re Lesbian or Gay…

You get your name in the paper for committing sodomy.
You get spat upon and jeered at when you hold your partner’s hand.
You can’t get married.
You get your kids taken away from you no matter how good a parent you are.
You get kicked out of the military if you engage in consensual sex.
You get AIDS, and you obviously “deserve it.”
You have a “lifestyle.” not a Life
You stand up for your rights and it makes you a “militant homosexual.”

It’s the hyprocrisy, stupid!


Dodged Another Bullet

Can you see me smiling?

If the original factory warranty has expired on your car and you don’t have an extended warranty, run—do not walk—to your insurance company and get mechanical breakdown coverage if it’s offered.


It turns out it wasn’t a simple repair on the car.  It wasn’t a broken linkage and it wasn’t a blown slave cylinder. It was the entire effing clutch.  But thanks to Geico and a little foresight on my part, what would have been a $1300 expense cost me only $250. Granted, it’s money I still didn’t need to spend, but two fifty is a hell of a lot better than the alternative.

Inspection also uncovered a small leak in a power steering hose and that the front bushings need replacement.  Both are also covered under the policy (albeit with a $250 deductible for each) and while they shouldn’t be ignored, neither one was something that had to be repaired before moving to Denver.  Of course the shop also came up with another list of routine maintenance items that total around $1500, but those can be done piecemeal as funds allow.

Interestingly (or not) enough, Anderson is actually driving much better.  The amount of resistance I’m feeling in the pedal is about what it was when I first noticed the problem the other day, but it’s definitely working now, and shifting is so much smoother than previously.  In fact, the amount of force required to depress the pedal previously was not normal.  Go figure.

The shop told me there was .9mm left on the clutch plate; 1.0mm being the spec for replacement.  So yeah, I was overdue.

Now I know that with my particular driving style a MINI Cooper clutch will last approximately 60,000 miles.

Anderson Has Issues

When Ben and I were pulling out of the carport to go to lunch yesterday, I noticed that something was “off” with Anderson’s clutch. At first I didn’t realize what it was, but as we drove out of the apartment complex, I realized there was no resistance as I pushed the pedal down. It was very odd. And while I could still shift gears, it required more force than usual.

I immediately pulled back into the complex and returned to my carport. Low clutch fluid? I thought the MINI had a hydraulic clutch, but I didn’t remember ever seeing a reservoir mentioned in the car’s documentation or seeing one anywhere in the engine compartment. Just to be sure, I popped the hood and looked around. Nope. Only the brake reservoir, and the fluid level in that was fine. (It turns out it’s a shared reservoir system.)

I waited as Ben went back inside to get his keys since he’d be the one driving us to lunch, and all sorts of horrible things started running through my head.  While it was hopefully something as simple as a broken linkage (or perhaps a leaking slave cylinder), what if it was something much, much worse? Anderson’s factory warranty ran out about 5,000 miles ago and visions of dumping all the money I’d put aside for the move to Denver into a very expensive car repair kept flashing before my eyes.  So much for it being a happy birthday.  Of course, on top of everything it was a holiday weekend, so I couldn’t even call the shop to make an appointment to bring it in.

When we got home I went online, and started searching for “MINI clutch pedal no resistance.” It didn’t help my anxiety level one bit. There were two schools of thought: one said bad slave cylinder (apparently they’re all plastic) or broken linkage (both relatively inexpensive to repair) and the other said complete clutch replacement (white knuckle panic attack).

I pulled up my auto insurance policy to verify that I at least had towing covered, so that wouldn’t be an out-of-pocket expense, and—praise be to the Flying Spaghetti Monster—discovered I had completely forgotten I was also carrying “mechanical breakdown” coverage.  I had added it to the policy a little over a year ago when I realized that Anderson’s factory warranty would be running out in short order and there was no way I was going to pay the outrageous amount quoted for an extended warranty.

I spoke with the insurance company today and I think can relax a bit. Supposedly no matter how bad it is, the most I will have to come up with is the $250 deductible. They said all I had to do was inform the shop I had the coverage, provide them with my insurance policy number and the direct phone line to claims and they’d take care of the rest.

So first thing tomorrow I’m calling for a tow and taking poor ol’ Anderson in to be looked over.

And in the overall scheme of things, it’s better that it happened now and not in two weeks, or—gods forbid—on the way to Denver.

In 1980…

This is what approximately $2000 worth of stereo equipment looked like:

Sure, it doesn’t look like much now, but at the time (with the exception of the speakers) it was state-of-the-art stuff.

The only items I still have are—amazingly—the speakers (woofers refoamed and cabinets resurfaced several years ago), although I did pick up another 1300Mk2 off eBay about a decade ago and still use it to spin my vinyl.  I’ve also had several sets of the Micro Series components over the years, but always end up selling them because their general lack of inputs and outputs make them impractical for use as a main setup in this age of DVRs, DVDs, and the multitude of other tech that you might want to attach to your stereo.

Morning Soundtrack

Besides the iconic Bohemian Rhapsody, my other favorite cuts on this album are Prophet’s Song and ’39—which seems to be about a group of volunteers leaving earth on a mission to discover a new world, only to return and discover that while they’ve aged only a year, a century has passed on earth:

In the year of thirty-nine
Assembled here the volunteers
In the days when lands were few
Here the ship sailed out into the blue and sunny morn
The sweetest sight ever seen
And the night followed day
And the story tellers say
That the score brave souls inside
For many a lonely day
Sailed across the milky seas
Ne’er looked back never feared never cried

Don’t you hear my call
Though you’re many years away
Don’t you hear me calling you
Write your letters in the sand
For the day I’ll take your hand
In the land that our grand-children knew

In the year of thirty-nine
Came a ship in from the blue
The volunteers came home that day
And they bring good news
Of a world so newly born
Though their hearts so heavily weigh
For the earth is old and grey
Little darlin’ well away
But my love this cannot be
Oh so many years have gone
Though I’m older but a year
Your mother’s eyes from your eyes cry to me

Don’t you hear my call
Though you’re many years away
Don’t you hear me calling you
Write your letters in the sand
For the day I’ll take your hand
In the land that our grand-children knew

Don’t you hear my call
Though you’re many years away
Don’t you hear me calling you
All your letters in the sand
Cannot heal me like your hand
For my life’s still ahead, pity me.


I’ve been wanting to get a USB hub to use with my Mac while I’m at work.  It’s not something I absolutely needed, but between my cell modem, external hard drive, various thumb drives, and printer, I often ran out of available ports. About six weeks ago while trawling the interwebs I ran across this and had to get one. I got my order in the day before Apple sicced its lawyers on the manufacturer and since I never received a confirmation email I was beginning to wonder if I was ever going to receive it. So imagine my surprise when it showed up in my mailbox last Friday.

It’s understandable while Apple went after the company. It looks (right down to the packaging) like something Apple would make—if they made stuff like this.  But despite the superficial resemblance to a genuine Apple product, once I got it out of the box it was obvious this was not made by Cupertino.

The fit and finish was a bit off. The small USB cable that came with it had bits of excess plastic still attached, and the light-up logo (while cute) was not evenly illuminated (even though it appears that way in photos) as you’d expect from a genuine Apple product.  On the whole, kind of cheesy.  But then, what do you expect from a company that produced not one, but two Steve Jobs action figures?

I was even more disappointed when I actually plugged it in and attempted to use my peripherals. Maybe it’s a problem endemic to non-externally powered USB hubs, but my modem wouldn’t work. It would show up on the Mac, but would stay stuck at “initializing.” My external hard drive wasn’t recognized. Hell, even the printer kept telling me it was offline. And it wasn’t like I tried to plug everything into it at once; this behavior was exhibited when only a single item was attached to it.

To its credit, It did work fine with thumb drives, however, as well as powering and syncing my iPhone, so I guess it wasn’t a total loss. And I’m sure I could easily double what I spent for it by putting it up on eBay…

Morning Soundtrack

A few years ago, while still working at the hospital, the subject of classic rock came up in discussion with a dear friend.  I was telling her how shocked my mother was when I brought home my first Bob Dylan record.

“That’s nothing,” she said. “You should have seen how shocked my mother was when I brought home Bob Dylan.”

True story.

Oh To Hell With It…

While it is true that I’ve been wanting to refresh this blog for several months, it’s not entirely true that it was done just because we’re moving to Colorado.  It’s because I did something very stupid (proving I am not immune).  I sent off emails to a couple headhunters I’d been working with in Denver that had a link to this blog embedded in the signature line.

Oh shit.

While I’m not ashamed of anything I’ve posted here over the years, much of it was definitely NSFW and considering the amount of ranting I’ve done about work lately it probably wouldn’t make the best impression on someone trying to present me as a potential employee to one of their clients.

That led to the knee-jerk reaction of blasting away all my previous posts.

But as we all know, anything posted on the internet lives forever.  And anyone with the slightest bit of curiosity and know-how can find it. Some rather snarky comments I left on a discussion board nearly a decade ago about people stealing images for use in their eBay postings from a long-gone hi-fi website I used to run are still available just by Googling my name. Scary.

This made me realize that—for better or worse—Voenix Rising has become my brand and merely deleting a few years worth of blog posts is not going erase my presence from cyberspace. Not even close to it.

And you know, that’s okay.

If someone doesn’t want to represent me to a prospective employer because of my sexual orientation, political views, or the fact that I (like every other working person on the planet) occasionally bitch about my job, it’s better to know it up front.  Because for every headhunter out there who takes issue with these things, there will be another who will not.

I am reminded of an interview I had about a dozen years ago with a placement firm in Palo Alto for a position the company had been having trouble filling.  The headhunter really liked me and thought with my experience I’d be a great fit, but she had an issue with my pierced ear.  She said that the company she wanted to send me to was extremely conservative and I would be advised to remove the stud before the interview.  I looked at her and said, “Seriously? This is 1997, the Bay Area and you’re asking me to take out an earring? If they’re that uptight, why would I want to work there?”

Honesty—something decidedly lacking in public discourse these days—is always best.

And the blog really did need to be cleaned out…

The Half-Term Governor Of Alaska

When I read about Sarah Palin’s response to the Tucson shootings this morning, I was at first infuriated.  Then I realized that Sarah Palin was simply being Sarah Palin, doing what right wing media whores always do: twisting logic into a pretzel and playing the victim. Quelle suprise. The sun rises in the east. Dogs bark. The sky is blue.

I almost had to stifle a yawn after that.

And then while I was showering, an aspect of a nearly-forgotten personal philosophy came to me: Sarah Palin (and Beck and Limbaugh and the rest of the right wing noise machine) is nothing more than a jar of paprika in the kitchen.  I’m busy making a sweet tasty pie (my life) and paprika is just something that’s not called for in this recipe.  So while it may be physically present in the kitchen (the universe), there’s no need for it in my pie, and therefore no reason to focus on it, much less get angry at it.

When I realized that, I suddenly felt even better.

Out of Shape

The other day Ben suggested we go on a hike. Nothing too crazy, just as far up North Mountain as we could.

As I tweeted at the time, “Hiking North Mountain with @tallbubba. I think he’s trying to kill me, but the joke’s on him cuz he’s not on my insurance yet.”

Yeah, I’m out of shape, regardless of my health history of the past seven years. In another lifetime I was more than a little bit of a mountain goat, bounding half-naked (or more than half) over boulders at Reddington Pass or hiking up and down the oceanside trails at Black Sand and Golden Gate Bridge beaches. But it was obvious from our little outing earlier this week those days are long gone.

Between my out of shape 50 year old body and Ben’s mangled 27 year old knees, we didn’t make it all that far. But this was the view we got…

(click to embiggen)


Do you believe in extraterrestrial life?

Absolutely.  And not only do I believe it exists, but I believe the universe is teeming with it.  I would even go so far as to say that life is not only a by-product of the universe, but even moreso a requirement of it.  Do I believe we’ve been visited by extraterrestrials?  As much as I’d like to say yes, now I have to say probably not.

I love a good UFO/alien abduction tale as much as the next guy, but while it’s not impossible, considering the distances involved and the technology required for interstellar flight it’s all very, very unlikely. And on top of that, after spending the last 50 or so years observing humanity on this planet, I have come to the conclusion that if extraterrestrials are anything like us, as soon as they start taking their first tentative steps out of the nest, 99.9% of them either self-destruct over cultural differences and god-myths, or are wiped out by natural forces beyond their control.  The threat posed by rogue asteroids, comets, gamma ray bursts, catastrophic climatic change, super volcanoes and tectonic shifts certainly are not unique to the Earth, but ultimately I believe the risk of them wreaking planet-wide destruction is miniscule compared to the amount of havoc that can be unleashed by a civilization upon itself, either intentionally or through blind stupidity.

And what of the 0.1% of technological civilizations that do survive and achieve interstellar spaceflight?  I think they would be so different from us as to be virtually unrecognizable, and totally uninterested in Homo sapiens in any capacity, having seen the path we’re heading down play itself out thousands of times before.

Quote of the Day

I don’t care who anybody sleeps with. If a couple has been together all that time—and there are gay relationships that are more solid than some heterosexual ones—I think it’s fine if they want to get married. I don’t know how people can get so anti-something. Mind your own business, take care of your affairs, and don’t worry about other people so much.” ~ Bette White, in an interview with Parade Magazine.

So, Um…Yeah

I have a little—and let me stress a little—new Mac envy right now.  Like many other people, the new MacBook Air has captured my imagination.

I went over to the local Apple Store today and played with the 13-inch model (the 11-inch is just too friggin’ small as far as I’m concerned).  My initial list of the two things that need to change before I would buy one remain: more storage and a backlit keyboard, but damn…it is still one sexy beast.  And despite its older processor, it’s fast! Applications opened almost instantaneously—or at least notably faster than on my MBP.

I’ve only had my MBP for a year and still love it to death, so I’m obviously not in the market for a new laptop right now, but when it comes time to retire The Precious (and assuming the two items on my Airbook wish list have been put into production) I’ll definitely be looking at the Air line when the time comes.

While I was there, I had the opportunity to check out Office 2011 as well.  I was not impressed; at least not impressed enough to want to upgrade.  One of the biggest hurdles I had to get over when switching from Windows to Mac was the loss of Outlook, and while I was glad to hear that Microsoft was bringing it back in this release, I don’t even need it any more, having happily moved on to Postbox.

Look What I Got Today

I know you might find it odd that a rabid atheist like me would go out of his way to procure an LP of music from the most of biblical film spectaculars of the 50s, but that’s exactly what I did and there’s a story behind it.

This record had been in my family for years, but I don’t consciously remember hearing it until I was about 13 years old—about the same time I discovered a love of science fiction. Even then I didn’t care much for the themes behind the music, but I played that record to death.

One of my favorite stories of that period was Rescue Party by Arthur C. Clarke, and the first time I read it, this record was playing in the background.  To this day I can’t hear this music without thinking of Alvernon, the Galactic Survey Ship S9000, and their valiant attempt to locate the population of Earth just six hours before the sun was to go nova.

I replaced the well worn record with a new copy when I was in college, but sold it—along with the rest of my vinyl—in a fit of madness shortly after I moved to San Francsco.  Over the years, I’ve managed to replace most of my collection, but King of Kings has been elusive.

Thank you, eBay.

Douchebags International

Watching spoiled, clueless people on television selecting and buying property after supposedly being given only three arbitrary choices is one of my guilty pleasures.  Fortunately, on Saturday and Sunday, HomoGayTeeVee Home & Garden Television is more than happy to oblige me.

House Hunters International is especially amusing (or infuriating, depending on your viewpoint). Obviously there are exceptions, but overall the common thread running through the shows seem to be some pampered, obviously monied douchebags are looking for “vacation property” in locations the rest of us would gladly give up our left testicles for the opportunity of living in full time.  And as if to prove that in addition to being douchebags they’re also (whether or not they actually hail from the U.S.) stereotypically ugly Americans, none of them seem willing to fully adapt or embrace living in a foreign country.  It’s almost as if they’re blinded by the romantic idea of living abroad, but insist on bringing their mediocre suburban attitudes and expectations with them.  In a nutshell, most of them simply want to find homes equal to their current South Florida McMansions in the locale of their choice and are put off when faced with the reality of not having sixteen bedrooms, brand new fully-equipped kitchens with stainless steel appliances, and a host of other amenities immediately available to them in a 200 year old farmhouse in the south of France.

I have to hand it to the real estate agents on these shows; they should be nominated for sainthood by the simple virtue of not murdering their clients, much less being able to find them property…

Saturdays Aren’t Supposed To Suck

And yet today has pegged the suck-o-meter.

We went to Russ’s memorial service this morning.  What stood out the most was that while his partner of the last seven years was in attendance, his name (or relationship to Russ) was not even mentioned during the eulogy.  Other things that were said made it obvious that Russ’s family knew he was gay (and apparently had no issue with it), so I’m at a loss to explain why Ken was so conspicuously left out.

Initially I was the only person there from work and didn’t recognize anyone other than Ken, but about fifteen minutes into the proceedings five other folks from the I.S. department showed up.

I’m kind of surprised that Russ’s passing has affected me as profoundly as it has, especially considering how (a) we weren’t really all that close and how (b) friends much closer to me were dropping left and right during the late 80s and early 90s and I didn’t feel nearly the sense of loss I’m feeling with this passing.  Maybe it’s because it came on so suddenly. (I saw him about a month ago and while he was thinner than I’ve ever seen him in the five years we’ve known each other and he admitted to a lot of problems with his health, he was happy and upbeat, fully believing that he was going to persevere.)

I’m also on call this week. I fully expected the fucking pager go off at some point this morning; it didn’t disappoint.

Thankfully it happened before we even left for the service, and I was able to convince the user that the issue could wait until Monday.  While driving home after the service however, the pager went off again.  I ignored it until I got home.  Three more tickets had come in, although only one had been specifically assigned to me: one at a clinic I didn’t even know was open on Saturday, and two out at the northwest hospital, the facility I am least familiar with.

The clinic call was one of those where a doctor was being inconvenienced by a wireless tablet not working, so of course it was a Priority One, Hair-On-Fire, End-Of-The-World issue.  This particular clinic has had ongoing issues with their wireless tablets almost from the day they were first deployed, and there has been no definitive solution to the problems forthcoming.  These tablets are one of several pieces of hardware that have been rolled out to the hospitals since I was transferred to our non-clinical business unit, so I have absolutely no experience with them.  Again—fortunately—I was finally able to convince the user that the issue could wait until Monday morning, when the usual support-tech could address it.

The other two calls also involved new equipment. I have limited experience (a half day of training) with the rolling computer carts, but absolutely none with the hand-held barcode reader units. Neither ticket was directly assigned to me, so they’re both getting ignored until they show up in my queue.  At this point I don’t care.  If the shit hits the fan on Monday, so be it.  It may be the trigger I need to get off my ass and actually find a different job.

Speaking to that, I got another lead from one of the recruiters I’m registered with.  It’s geographically less-than-desirable, turning my fifteen minute commute into about a forty-five minute one, but I wrote her back and told her I’d be interested in talking with them.  At this point the extra commute time is worth it.  I’m done with the place I’m at now.

So I doubt much of anything can be done to salvage this day.  As soon as Ben wakes from his nap, I’m going to suggest going out for Mexican food—or Chicken and Waffles—tonight.

In Memoriam

Russ Alvarez
20 August 1960-25 August 2010

Russ and I both emigrated from Arizona to arrive in—and subsequently depart from—San Francisco at approximately the same time, yet didn’t actually meet until we both ended up working for the same company in the same department after our respective returns to Phoenix. Witty, intelligent and possessing a wicked sense of humor, Russ was one of the few people I trusted enough to call up and vent with, knowing full well that anything I told him would not go any further.  The sharing of our similar, yet amazingly different histories in San Francisco was always a source of wonderful stories and—despite those differences—continual amazement that our paths had never crossed [in some alley or sex club]. He shall be sorely missed.

When I Was In High School…

…I wanted one of these in the worst way. The Advent “Video Beam” projection television:

I had all but forgotten about this piece of engineering until I ran across this image on another website a few days ago and the memories came flooding back.  It was another one of the wonders I saw at Jerry’s Audio all those many years ago.

Funny thing is, now I own a flat screen that’s bigger and hangs on the wall.  Amazing.  How quickly we lose sight of the incredible technological advances of the last 30 years.