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Shatterproof Glass House Blog  

Publish Date: 6/22/07

Of all of my many and varied faults and eccentricities, the one thing I don’t have is an addictive personality.

I am all but completely disinterested in the addictions people commonly battle. Smoke? Eww.

Alcohol? Only very rarely as I am a featherweight/unbelievably cheap date in the booze category. I get loud and then I get sick and then it's over. I never even get to the do-regrettable-stuff-and-blame-it-on-the-booze stage.

Caffeine? I drink the office coffee because it is warm, not for the buzz. I gave up soda completely when I read about what it actually does to your body.

I have never even bothered experimenting with the most commonplace of recreational drugs, although I did get a contact high at a Nine Inch Nails concert and didn’t realize it until a pal and I ripped inexplicably through an order of onion rings afterward swearing they were “the best onion rings I have ever had.”

Ladies and gentleman, a teetotaler. Alive! Gather round and bask in the horrible presence of this freak of nature! Oooooh. Ahhhhh!

Everyone needs some “problem” substance, though. Right?

It seems, pathetically, mine is Cheerios. All kinds of Cheerios. Yogurt Burst, Honey Nut, Multigrain, original, you name it. Love them to bits and pieces.

Seriously, though, what the heck is wrong with me?

Cheerios?

*Really?*

My shameful secret was unearthed by a friend, accentuated by a gasp of terror, as he searched my cupboard for a salad bowl for an actual real meal. While I won’t get into actual numbers, the poor man found “several” boxes and my dark little secret.

As we know the first step to recovery is acceptance. Well, I admit it. I have a problem. I love the tiny Os in a bowl. Breakfast, lunch or dinner.

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Publish Date: 6/19/07

This weekend is one of the biggest annual festivals in Denver – PrideFest.

For the GLBT community, their families, friends, and supporters, this means an annual tradition of nearly impossible parking in downtown Denver and sunburns despite SPF 2000 XLT with Power Boost sun screens. Pride practically kicks off sunburn season in the city, but it is worth the blistering heat and sunglass-raccoon eyes ‘cause I love-love-love people watchin’. It’s a reporter thing.

Pride is Colorado’s best people-watching opportunity for the entire year. I am generally against getting up at the crack of dawn on the weekend for any reason short of my house being on fire, but this glimmering festival that serves as the most diverse cross-section of communities in the state is a pretty good reason. (I also love the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Walk in the Fall, which also requires a much-earlier rise that I can typically muster.)

There is a parade, of course. Vendors, music, stage entertainment, politicians, family stuff (raptors!), and dancing. Attendance typically hits about 200,000 over two days in Civic Center Park. The Web site tells me this year marks the 32nd year of the Denver festival, which makes it older than I am.  My roller derby team has me committed to being on skates for the event, although I forget which day. So, skates, my magpie-like ADD when faced with shiny things, throngs of people, and sleep deprivation promises to make me a danger to myself and others.

I look forward to it.

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Publish Date: 6/14/07

Everyone else is talking about Paris, so why shouldn't I?

Besides, I have a vacation on the horizon and I am developing that one-track mind about having time off and mentally listing all the things I promised myself I would do with it this year.

A couple years ago I spent my vacation in France with my Ma to get to know the French family. (No, I don't speak French. Thanks for asking.) We went for 10 days because I, like most Americans, have only two weeks for vacation. My extended family was appalled. When they show up in the U.S., they have at least a month to burn and they managed to be insulted at our short visit.

While I am sure most would suggest our limited vacation time speaks to the American work ethic, I think it may say more about the American attention span. Really, we're only entertained by things for a few moments at a time … unless it is a video game. In that case, we lose teenagers and men well into their 30s for entire months at a time. Some sit down to World of Warcraft during one presidential administration and emerge to raid the fridge and shower in another.

Generally, though, if our murder mysteries aren't solved in an hour, we lose interest. Movies that run longer than two hours face critical death. A line with more than five people will keep many from depositing that check in the ol' bank account. We move fast stuffing as much life into as little time as possible seems to be the American way.

For me, eight days was plenty to lounge about in the country and a weekend was plenty in Paris. If I had more control, I would have spent more time in the city, but I was swiftly going broke because I was obviously American and I was paying the obvious American price for things in the city. My country bumpkin cousin was of little use in this area.

I haven't yet gone on my vacation this year, and I am looking forward to being back.

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Publish Date: 6/7/07

Once upon a time, Elvis' hips and pregnant "lovely lady lump" were absolutely disallowed on network television, even late night.

My, things have changed.

Last night I was half watching television and half preparing my dinner when one of those crime scene shows brazenly displayed a beheaded corpse dripping blood while suspended from a ceiling. I am pretty sure it is the very gore standard that in the '70s would have earned a commercial release film an X rating. I have very limited cable that comes with my Internet connection so network television is my primary option for brain candy after roller derby practice. The corpse was pretty disturbing and yet I still managed to be surprised when later in the episode the coppers discovered the head. Of course, there were more tight camera shots on decomposing body parts.

Could the television story have been as compelling without the up close and personal gorefest of creeping doom? I thought the concept was pretty interesting given that the killer in the episode used symbology to leave clues all Da Vinci Codesque.

I wonder how my brother and sister-in-law manage to keep these images out of their kiddo's brains. I know there is technology available to block out specific shows. I mean, can we soon expect a commercial where a parent sits down with a headless corpse and breaks the news that the show will have to be blocked? Will the corpse be sad like the mafia guys? If so, how could you tell?

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Publish Date: 5/30/07

NPR this morning featured a story about workplace generation gaps. I was startled to hear that Millennials, and to some degree Xers, require constant praise to function happily in the workplace. Apparently, self-esteem reinforcement throughout childhood has created a generation of the needy, according to some of the going theories on intergenerational work environments. This also seems to befuddle some of the managers who don't believe that every deadline met is worthy of award. There was some general grousing among management in the story about the "special" young workers who are now populating offices.

I was intrigued by an irony missed.

I wondered how these managers' "special" kiddos were faring in their respective jobs.

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Publish Date: 5/22/07

I am a cat person. Not gonna lie. I have two spoiled, mannerless, domestic cat gods. I would adopt more, but litter-box maintenance keeps me grounded in reality.

I think it takes a cat person to appreciate lolcats (laugh-out-loud cats), a Web-based collection of kitty photos captioned in some sort of bizarre Web language. I guess Huked on Fonix wurked fer dem. They appear on message boards, social networking sites, e-mail forwards. Some punch lines fall flat, while others make me laugh to tears because of artful delivery. As a casual, but not totally obsessed Web user, I have encountered these felines without quite realizing the community built around them. An article on Slate.com drew my attention to the phenom and I wasted a valuable hour of my life late last night paging through the Internet home of the lolcats and sending them to my friends, who may or may not still be my friends.

I have long heard that shared pain is lessened, so I feel compelled to share: Visit this Web site.

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Publish Date: 5/18/07

Thank (deity of your choice) MTV's "The Real World Denver" is over.

May the healing of Colorado's reputation worldwide begin!

Gratitude may be a little premature given the likelihood of reruns, but I wanted to be the first to say it.

There. I feel slightly better.

My state, though?

My state feels so used.

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Publish Date: 5/17/07

Longmont has claimed the distinction of being the only place named "Longmont" on the planet. A non-exhaustive scouring of the planet a few years ago did turn up a tiny little French village called St. Vaast du Longmont, but that's not quite the same now, is it?

Still, residents aren't quite satisfied with the this city's unique name and a number of cute little terms of endearment have popped up. On Internet social networking sites, Longmont has joined the ranks of Loveland, Littleton and Lakewood as one of Colorado's notable L-Towns.

Proper usage:
"Hey, man! Where you at?"
"You know where I am at. L-Town."
"Which one?"
"Longmont."

L-Town is not the most efficient pet name, I suppose.

Of course, we also have the snooty intellectual shortened version, "The 'Mont." I look forward to the day when a restaurant owner decides to name her business "The 'Mont" in a wave of inspired trendiness. Oh, it will happen.

My favorite though, is the vague acknowledgement that Longmont probably isn't as metropolitan as New York, L.A., or Miami. You all might be surprised at how many of your youthful neighbors are residents of "Longtucky" and are proud "Longtuckians."

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Publish Date: 5/15/07

Folk singer and oral historian Utah Phillips extols the value of "messing with people." His ode to the practice is found on a 1996 collaborative album with folk goddess Ani DiFranco called "The Past Didn't Go Anywhere." I recommend it for the viewpoints, insights and entertainment. Utah is a master storyteller who -- as a fair warning for my Longmont readers -- might be classified as darn-skippy Bouldery.

There is nothing aggressive or ill willed in Utah's brand of messin'. It isn't venomous like a crank call and never rises to the level of even a petty offense. There is no physical discomfort or touching of the subject. It is the light-hearted messin' that keeps people on their toes, forces them to think, or gives them a chuckle at their own expense. It isn't ignorant or hurtful. Unlike Utah, who has premeditated plots to mess with people that include props like a rubber roach, I am more of an opportunist. Schooled in verbal wordplay by a family of amateur dog-eat-dog comics, augmented by a bizarre obsession with the wit and quips of Wilde, Twain and Vonnegut, and a background in cult movie nerdisms, I might be considered a Class-A pain in the patoot. (I imagine stronger language may be applied in some circles.) I can -- and do -- verbally carpet bomb meetings and serious conversations. Think Tourette on a mission.

Either way, I think Utah is on the right track. Changing up expectations for folks is an education and often a relief that amounts to an oddball humanitarian diplomacy. So, indeed, "you gotta mess with people."

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Publish Date: 5/13/07

Mother's Day is wonderful and honors the country's hardest workers. A recent study noted that mothers would bring in six figures if paid for the work they do.

In addition to celebrating the world's best mom -- mine -- it is a pristine opportunity to make my big brothers look bad in an effort to justify my position as the youngest and overly spoiled snot.

This year we are having Mother's Day at my place, which means I have incriminating things to hide and dangerous things to nail down in anticipation of my young niece and nephew's visit with the family. I got Ma the best card I could find and will lavish her with flowers. Granted, it doesn't come close to balancing everything she has done and still does for me. The brothers actually refer to me as an only child. Shhh. Don't tell anyone. I am not supposed to know that.

I am a pretty serious latecomer, trailing a full decade behind my youngest brother and nearly two decades behind the oldest. Our parents' spacing of the kids pretty much assured Ma was dealing with diapers roughly at ages 23 through 25, 27 through 29, 32 through 34, and most tragically 42 through 44. She had at least one kid in her house until she was 60. She would welcome any one of us to have our old rooms back. Because my dad died when I was 15, she also dealt with an insolent teenage girl one-on-one for three years and then handled my college antics from afar. She is still desperately trying to teach me some major life lessons, like how to handle money.

An objective review of the facts in Mom's case supports a strong case for a medal of honor, knighthood or a vacation.

I acknowledge my bias, though. Everyone thinks their mommy is the greatest. (Or, "dearest," 'cause not all Mommies make the cut.)

So, here are a couple shout-outs to other Mommies. They biologically belong to my best friends, but are certainly pretty nice to me and for that I am quite grateful.

Jenn's Mom, Susan, a.k.a., my Cultural Godmother or "Little Mom." Susan has kindly broadened my cultural horizons by ticketing me into some of the most amazing plays and musicals in Denver. These are shows I would have never seen without her kindness. Wicked is on the list for the coming month.

Steve's Mom, Barbara. Ever the cheerleader and endlessly generous, she has taught me about wine and cuisine. She also, kindly, likes my writing.

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Comments

Dear PJ,

Your writing is the best ever.  Thank you so much for those kind comments about me. I love you like a daughter.

Barbara


Publish Date: 5/10/07

The Internet is at once a great and terrible place.

In fact, it led me back to school.

It isn't that clicking here and there led me to some profound article or university Web site that inspired me to begin work on my graduate education. Granted, I am sure those are possible side effects of time spent on the 'Net. It wasn't that reconnecting with old friends made me realize that I had fallen behind some curve. I haven't.

What really drove me back into the classroom is far less glamorous. More or less, I realized I know most of the words to the "Numa Numa" song and became so versed in viral videos that I know why the badger rendition of Banana Phone video is funny. "Fuzzy llamas?" Well, they are just hilarious. Bert? Completely evil. I generally understand the IM abbreviations and misspellings lobbed at me by my nieces. I am as versed in MySpace as the average 16 year old. However, the breaking point came when I seriously said to a friend, "All your bases are belong to us. Muahahahaha!"

Something snapped.

My inner academic snob shut off autopilot, took over the controls and plopped me into graduate school in a desperate attempt to preserve my brain function. I am pleased to report I am now more than a year behind on all of the major Internet cult references and looking forward to my stereotypical Xer student loan debt.

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Publish Date: 5/07/07

All of the best superheroes work in the news business by day, and I have always assumed that I would stumble into my super role one day.

Unfortunately, I am still waiting for the comet to hit, the spider to bite me, or the fateful incident that taps into my inner rage. Reinjuring my knee on Sunday doesn't bode well for my super career, which is just as well. The hours are brutal and I believe that crime fighting would constitute a conflict of interest for my day job.

Additionally, in this age of cell phones, it sure is hard to find a phone booth to pull on the old tights, utility belt and cape. I can hardly hide behind my ultra-slim silver Razr phone without ending up with an indecent exposure summons. Given my multijurisdictional collection of parking tickets, I probably shouldn't start a collection under a new violation.

There is also the issue of a sidekick. My closest friends aren't the sidekicky type, which means there would be a constant power struggle for the top spot. I don't have the energy to referee that.

Maybe I could just skip the tights and sidekick thing and work on a full-time comic book persona that would cross Tank Girl and super-future journalist Spider Jerusalem. He has all the good toys. Pardon me while I indulge this fantasy. Nothing makes a corrupt source quake like a bowel disrupter.

Hey, wait. Is my nerd showing?

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Comments

Simply put, "No capes"

 


Publish Date: 5/03/07

Today is the opening game for our recreational softball team: Pirate's Booty.

I had nothing to do with the team name, but I am happy to run with pretty much any theme. So, uh, shiver me timbers, walk the plank, arg, and all of that.

I have jolly roger sweat bands that will surely intimidate the teams made up of construction workers who -- permit me to predict -- will quickly get over it and stomp us into the infield of Garden Acres Park. I say that not because I have any experience with this particular team. I say it because I have experience with other softball teams populated with newspaper employees. We talk a bigger game than we play.

I love recreational leagues and Longmont provides plenty of opportunity for folks to play outside on the cheap. We have a couple months of weekly games scheduled and I think I ponied up a whopping $40 to play. That included my team jersey, which I sent back as soon as I saw that my themed name was misspelled. Of all words, "dangerous" was spelled with an additional vowel and was to be displayed across a writer's back. In a rare hissy fit, I refused to wear the typo despite my teammateys' attempts to suggest to me that pirates would likely misspell a word like "dangerous."

I do believe Cap'n Jack Sparrow would disagree. And then he would reapply his eyeliner.

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Publish Date: 5/02/07

Be it people or animals, I have always had a talent for surrounding myself with some of the most interesting personalities available. I can spin a wicked yarn about the folk I count among my friends, including artists, carnies, journalists, academics, those in high places and those incarcerated.

It turns out that my peculiar super power was tuned to 11 the day I went to adopt a kitten to keep my hyper-needy cat out of my face for a few moments of every day. (It didn't work) About four years ago I looked down on a litter of identical black kittens and let one choose me. Three of the four kittens -- the ones I now believe to be normal -- ignored me out of hand. The fourth presented himself to me and cranked up a tinny little purr, which was a perfect remedy for my sour mood that day. I scooped him up and named him Ghost for a character in a series of books known for empathy.

Ghost grew into a sleek and beautiful mini puma who stalks the house, hacks hairballs like they are going out of style, and often proves that he has few powers of deduction. He once set himself on fire for a split second. I am certain he didn't know it, and thought I chased him up and down the stairs because he wasn't supposed to be on the dresser. He wasn't even singed, but my friends called him "Toast" or "Toasty Ghosty" for weeks.
Yesterday, I was upstairs and I heard Ghost get into a spitting-kicking-hissing-yowling fight with an unseen foe. I knew his older "bruddah" was not involved as he was in my face. I tore down the stairs at the chaos, which had me convinced that Ghost was handily gutting a bear in the living room.

There he was by the glass doors, unhinged, panting, with every onyx hair on end and fiery yellow eyes set on high beams. I searched. There was nothing in the living room; there was nothing in the yard. I slowly realized that he was likely gazing out the doors from his usual perch and the setting sun altered the way he saw through the glass. His big yellow eyes probably focused on another black cat sending him into a spitting-kicking-hissing-yowling fight with his reflection.

So much for getting cats because they are lower maintenance than dogs. Still, I wouldn't trade my eccentric little buddy and his fluffy, squishy, needy counterpart for anything.

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Publish Date: 5/01/07

I love news of all types, but I think I am just about done with headlines about Chinese zookeepers' attempts to entice their panda charges into flagrante delicto with panda pornography and, perhaps more disturbing, Viagra. Between all the scientists and the scrutiny by international television cameras, it seems like there is a whole lot of pressure for potential papa bears.

But never fear, according to a recent CNN report, the videos have indeed inspired a panda baby boom with 20 new cubbies born in the last year. That's definitely great news for the species, but the level of detail is just a little too much for my hardly delicate sensibilities. Panda bears are cute, fuzzy, and charming. That is about as far as my comfort level goes when thinking about them, so here's hoping that the national news will let the bamboo chewers get a room. With a lock and a "Do Not Disturb" sign, before the footage hits YouTube's main page and human mom and dads find themselves having "pandas and bees" talks a few years earlier than planned.

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Publish Date: 4/27/07

When I was growing up, my three older brothers never took “girl” for an answer.

They picked at me, insisted that I learn how to throw a football and a punch. They generally refused any accommodation that would imply that I was a member of “the fairer sex.” As such, I never related to the world as though I were “just a girl.” Through elementary school I never understood why the boys didn’t want me to play soccer or basketball with them. So far as I could tell, I could compete just fine, thankyouverymuch.

So, I grew up a Tomboy. My self-identification as a “Tomboy” was so strong that I filled it in under the gender question when I was trying to order a Kermit the Frog alarm clock through the mail when I was in third grade. All that while harboring a devastating crush on Mikey Harvey, the new kid who sat to my left in school and could pull off the “rat tail” hairstyle like nobody’s business. Really, he was all the rage on the schoolyard.

As I grew older and went to college, my athletic ability began to falter in the face of all-nighters, cheap pizza, and a roommate who would gladly charge fast food to his parents to keep his peers alive. It has taken years for me to really want to reclaim the Tomboy in me, so after working a few months on my own to get back into reasonable shape, I finally let my brain dribble completely out of my ears and tried out for roller derby.

That should explain the limp if you see me out and about on Main Street or in the mall.

I have been a rookie with The Rocky Mountain Rollergirls for a few months and I believe that I finally learned how to skate a couple of weeks ago. In my few months with the Denver flat-track derby team, I have twice fallen squarely on the back of my helmet thanks to my own skill and agility, and suffered a somewhat unnerving pop in my left knee during an awkward fall. Again, all me. On Wednesday, I met the rink wall with a sickening thud that has colored my hip with a palette of reds, blues and purples.

In all of that, I have reconnected with the Tomboy whose relentless influence remained in my swagger and haircut all these years so I wouldn’t forget her. Now that she’s back in earnest, I feel remarkably at home in all of the bumps and bruises.

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Publish Date: 4/25/07

Trudging around my modest home in the middle of the night, sleep mask perched atop my head and the belt of my floofy robe trailing behind me, I realized that I don't exactly live in the lap of luxury. Nope. I live in the lap of luxury's underachieving, yet amiable cousin, cozy. Giving it a few minutes thought before I drifted off to sleep under the mask and floofy robe discarded on the floor, I decided that the lap of cozy is the place to be. Cozy isn't particularly high maintenance. Cozy is grounded in reality among other contented folk.

While so many aspire to luxury, it frankly sounds like a lot of heartburn to me. Thieves steal luxury. Acquaintances envy it. More often than not, keepers of it need other people to maintain it for them. Also, those who amass lots of luxury spend so much time amassing, they don't have time to appreciate it.

Worst of all, luxury ain't cozy.

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Publish Date: 4/24/07

Mom is an unlikely diplomat.

I say "unlikely" because her approach is blunt, brazon, stripped completely of niceties and yet, she always walks away with a newly-minted pal.

Each week, being the good kiddo that I am, I haul myself to her Denver suburb to visit. She is 73, a recent breast cancer survivor, French and downright spunky. On our Sunday outings about town, we typically hit an Asian market where she can get snails, frog legs, pigs feet and escarole all within a 50 foot radius. After that we go to the same gas station to fill up one of our cars.

This is the rub.

She hates pre-paying for gas. Hates, hates, hates it. On one of our recent trips I joined her at the clerk's desk and saw one flustered 22-year-old who was clearly just dressed down about the practice. Once back in the car, I told Mom that it wasn't his fault and that grousing at him did no good. I told her gas thefts are common thanks to higher prices, so companies make the poor clerk enforce the pre-pay policy. Her reply can be summed up with "hurrumph."

Still, each week we visit the gas station and I lay low outside. Yet, last week I went inside to fetch Ma, who had been gone for a while. I opened the door and she looked at me and said, "His girlfriend dumped him!" She was truly aghast at this and she had some fairly specific details about the entire affair. "I told him to not take her back. I told him that you only get dumped by one person once!" I looked at him, wide-eyed with my jaw slightly slack, shocked that he had clearly whined about this to Ma. How? When did they develop this friendship? Did it really happen while I was pumping the gas?

Tightlipped, he nodded in agreement with her assessment, and gave her two $1 scratch tickets, as per custom.

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