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Sunday, December 26th, 2010

Time:11:35 pm.
I slept through another Caturday!

Comments: Read 5 orAdd Your Own.

Saturday, December 18th, 2010

Subject:Caturday's All Right
Time:11:45 am.
Calmly facing a new Caturday

I can't believe I missed last Caturday!
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Saturday, December 4th, 2010

Subject:Cozy Caturday Afternoon
Time:1:26 pm.
Comments: Read 3 orAdd Your Own.

Saturday, November 27th, 2010

Subject:What's this "Caturday" thing, anyway?
Time:1:37 pm.
Comments: Read 4 orAdd Your Own.

Monday, September 27th, 2010

Subject:Gay Games
Time:10:19 pm.
(reprinted from Up Front, the newsletter of the East Bay Frontrunners and Walkers)

COLOGNE, Germany — At the Gay Games, August 2010. I was enjoying the warm summer night and the company of the Los Angeles Frontrunners, as we enjoyed an outdoor table at the Ristorante Grande Milano (in Germany, as here, the Italians make the best food). Just as our glasses of Koelsch arrived, my L.A. buddies called out to a passer-by they knew. He was reluctant to join us at first, still being dressed in his racing gear while we had all changed into street clothes, but we convinced him to sit down to a plate of pasta with us. I noticed some handwriting on his race number. “We started writing names of departed friends on our numbers back in the 80s, running each race in their honor,” he said, and he showed me his number. I was surprised because the number he showed me had names of celebrities — Keith Haring, artist and AIDS activist; Tom Waddell, Olympian and founder of the Gay Games. Some friends, I thought. As dinner conversation unrolled, I realized that I was dining with Brent Earle — one of the founding members of the Federation of Gay Games. He indeed counted these celebrities as personal friends, and honored them with each race he ran. He had seen the Games, from their beginnings in San Francisco in 1982, grow to international stature as they were hosted by such cities as New York, Vancouver, and Sydney, through to this year’s event in Cologne.

Cologne refused to be outdone by the larger cities that have hosted the Games in years past. The whole city welcomed us with open arms — every thoroughfare was lined with flags bearing this year’s slogan, “Be part of it!”, alternated with national flags of participating countries from all over the world. Every neighborhood had a poster, billboard or sign welcoming us. And I was, in fact “part of it.” Along with Brent and some 500 other runners, I completed the 5K road race on a beautiful course through a park a few miles from the center of town. I had been worried about my injuries for this race — just three weeks earlier, I was unable to walk normally, and had not managed to run a step. This changed only a week before the Games, when I was able to start training just a few miles at a time.

But the weather was perfect, and spirits were high — I turned in a quite respectable 20:40 for 5K. I felt so good that I set my sights on Saturday’s half marathon.

The Gay Games’ marathon and half were combined with the local community’s yearly half marathon, but this year’s races took their styling from the Gay Games. Volunteers wore the distinctive Gay Games volunteer shirts and supporters waved rainbow flags in encouragement. The finisher medallions sported a gay rainbow colored ribbon — worn cheerfully by all finishers, regardless of affiliation to the Games.

Having a good race already under my belt, I approached the Half Marathon as a long training run, putting finishing injury-free as my top priority. As such, I chose a conservative 5 min/km pace, with the intention of keeping that pace from the start. Imagine my surprise to find at 3 km (the first distance marker I saw) that I was 30 seconds ahead of that pace! My injuries didn’t make their presence known until around 15 km, but using hydration and meditation, I managed to hold them at bay until the end of the race, finishing in 1:42:12. Continued post-race hydration and rest have resulted in a quick recovery; my legs are sore but not injured.

Later the same day, the athletes marched into an outdoor theater on the banks of the Rhine for the closing ceremonies. The Deputy Mayor of Cologne gave an inspirational keynote, in which she took well-deserved pride in her city’s reputation for welcoming acceptance. She concluded by exhorting each of us to take a message from the Gay Games and from the City of Cologne — a message of love, tolerance and acceptance of all people — and deliver it to our homes, all across the world.
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Saturday, August 14th, 2010

Subject:Another story from the archives
Time:9:33 pm.
Back in 1987, I made a bicycle trip across northern Italy and into Yugoslavia. At a village called Montagnola, I met an Englishman and his wife ("Mike" and "Mel") who were bicycling from London to Peking. They were writing short articles for a magazine in the UK about their trip, in a way that would have been done by blog nowadays.

When I returned to the US, I wrote to the publisher, asking if I could see the back issues of the magazines in which Mike and Mel's articles appeared. This was the 80's, so when I say "wrote" I really mean that I took a piece of paper, wrote a letter on it in ink, and sent it in an envelope to England.

Many weeks passed without response; no magazines, no letters. But then one day, the postman brought me an envelope from the publishers of Celebrity Magazine, including a check for £25.00. I was a bit puzzled, and not so very delighted, since it isn't very easy to cash a check for £25.00 in the US. So I sent the check back, asking that they might donate it to Mike and Mel's trip, but also asking them if they might see fit to actually send me the magazines I had requested.

Many weeks later, I received a letter, along with an envelope filled with half a dozen magazines. The cover letter explained, "I've enclosed a copy of Celebrity, dated March 3rd - the issue which contained your letter about those intrepid cyclists, Mel and Mike!"

The first page of that first magazine explained the £25.00 - have a look:

There's a £25.00 award each week for the best letter to the editor, an award that it seems my inquiry about back issues of the magazine won for that week! If you see the other letters to the editor (you can see a few on this page), you can come to understand how this could be.

Now turn your attention to the letter itself - attributed to one Dean Armstrong, from Ohio, United States. If you know my last name, you might be as confused as I was - who is Dean Armstrong, and what does his letter have to do with mine? Apparently "Allemang" was just a bit too, oh, I don't know, French maybe, to use, so they butched it up and made me "Armstrong". Also, the text of the letter was changed considerably - I regret that I don't have the original letter, but certainly I would not have expressed the sentiment, "Rather them than me!" (rather something about just the opposite). My roommate at the time even suggested that I might complain about how I was misrepresented by this statement. Until I reminded him that it was Mr. Armstrong, not me, to whom this statement was attributed.

In case you were wondering just what sort of magazine Celebrity is, I think that the cover of this issue might give you some idea:

I still have the other issues with Mike and Mel's articles, but I hadn't thought of them in years.
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Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

Subject:It's not insurance!
Time:8:09 am.
I decided to change my insurance strategy to high-deductible and a Health Savings Account. So now, wherever I go, the doc or pharmacist says, "it says high-deductible ..." with a slight look of horror on their faces.

At the pharmacist, I have a sort of club card - $100 per year to get club discounts. "THIS IS NOT INSURANCE" is written in bold print in the terms and conditions. I get about $20 off each prescription of Viagra, so I figure I can make up $100/year.

Last summer, I needed some antibiotics for a topical staff infection. I don't know how much I saved, but the price was, basically, free. Two weeks of antibiotics for less than $10.

Yesterday, I finally filled a prescription for insomnia / jet lag. I got that same horrified look; the pills would cost $109. I asked her if that included the club card. "Oh!" she exclaimed. Then she rung it up again. $29. That's the whole year's subscription, in one purchase.

Okay, so it IS NOT INSURANCE. I think they say that just so that they can get around the regulations that would govern this sort of thing.

It's the best health care purchase I've made in ages.
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Monday, October 5th, 2009

Time:9:16 pm.
Thanks to everyone who offered wired money etc. to help my cash crisis. X-Dad-In-Law sorted it out in a wink of an eye. So I won't be needing any emergency funds. But it is great to know one has friends one can count on in times like that!
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Saturday, October 3rd, 2009

Time:4:30 pm.
The Netherlands isn't big on credit cards, and even less on American credit cards where you swipe your card somewhere and then sign a piece of paper. So I usually use a lot of cash when I come here.

But my ATM card was a bit the worse for wear - I should have replaced it before the trip, but that just isn't the sort of thing one thinks about. So I got a couple hundred euros out at the airport, and the card crinkled a bit, but worked fine. Second try, the card got stuck in the machine, which, according to good banking practice, seized it and destroyed it. So I have been trying to get cash ever since.

American Express gave me an emergency, one-use-only PIN for my AMEX card. That ATM machine would only give 200 Euros at a time, so that's what I've got for my remaining 9 days.

I went out to eat with my work colleagues on Thursday night - great! I'll pay with a credit card, and they can give me cash. Except the restaurant didn't take credit cards. None at all, of any kind. So I paid cash.

My bank says that I can go into any banking center, with two forms of ID, and get a cash advance from a credit card. Except that Dutch banks no longer have cashiers; everything happens through ATM machines. So not in a Dutch bank. The Postbank has cashiers, but they aren't a bank.

So let's try Western Union. I tried to wire myself money over the web. But the security questions they ask involved transactions that happened in some cases seven years and two household moves ago - I don't remember the details. I also think they might have had one of them wrong. Once you miss the security questions, you have to walk into a Western Union branch (in the US, of course), to establish your identity.

AMEX can still help me; they can get emergency cash to one of their centers. The nearest one is somewhere out past Oosterpark. Not so very far away, but a trek that I don't want to have to do.

I'll see just how far these 200 will take me. Maybe I'll take to buying things from shops and selling them to passers-by for cash.
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Saturday, August 1st, 2009

Subject:Recursion R Us
Time:9:43 pm.
This afternoon, I stood in my apartment, looking for signs of the production of the movie that was shot there. The scene in particular that I was thinking of was one where the protagonist in the film is standing in his apartment - which was filmed in my apartment - looking for signs of a movie that was shot there (here).

He found them; I didn't. Good thing, too, if you know how the movie (either one) ends.
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Monday, July 20th, 2009

Time:8:46 am.
The East Bay Frontrunners had an excursion to Seattle for the weekend. Lots of fun times, including a surprise meetup with susandennis. What a charmer! Seattle is still set in the fitness craze of the 70's and 80's; there were a dozen running clubs, with hundreds of runners, at the lake where we met. The Seattle Frontrunners alone contributed 80 or so to the crowd (and this was a 'light turnout', due to competing scheduling!)

I have wondered on several occasions why I see races being won by men over 35 or even over 40 with times that my 29 year old self would have considered to be a training pace. Where are all the 20-somethings who can run like we did when I was 20? Now I know. They are in Seattle.

Some funny photos were taken over the weekend - if I get ahold of them, I'll post them here (or maybe on FB)
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Saturday, May 16th, 2009

Subject:Zany life in Oakland
Time:8:13 am.
Oh yeah, another one bites the dust. People shoot at each other all the time around here. Police helicopters are common as birds.

But this time it isn't a gang member shooting a rival, or someone who didn't make the payment on their crack habit. It is a sweet, 97-year old woman who was killed in her home for no apparent reason.

Reading the story, I figured out which building it was. Then I saw a photo that confirmed it. You can't quite see my front door in the background. My building is two doors away. I have friends in this building.

I always figured that it was so difficult to get into the big apartment buildings that they would be the last place that this sort of attack would happen. But the Van Buren is pretty secure; you can't get in the front door without assistance, and you can't move around in the elevators without a code. But it happened here anyway. My building is less secure in many ways (but more so in one way; my building is built around an interior court; you can't move anywhere without being visible to absolutely everyone).

Most of the time it is a nice neighborhood, by the lake, with friendly neighbors and lovely streets. But every once in a while, we hear about this.
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Friday, May 1st, 2009

Time:6:50 am.
It was a simpler time - you were doing a series of postdocs in Switzerland, being paid good money to think deep thoughts about shallow things - or maybe the other way around. You were dating a student at the VU who lived in a crummy apartment in Amsterdam. You would miss the occasional Friday at work to get the cheap weekend train fares through Germany. You were both introspective and naive enough to think you knew what you wanted to achieve in life. You could even put it into words! Still young enough to be indestructible.

Now you juggle a stuck mortgage in a far-off city, joining the ranks of the over-under-employed, either having a job that follows you on vacation or having to follow a job. The crummy apartment building was condemned years ago. On her own day, the Queen watches as her subjects die in an attack meant for her.

Hmmm . . . was it a mistake to put De Wittenstraat on the route of my morning run?
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Thursday, April 16th, 2009

Subject:Am I in a movie, or something?
Time:10:48 am.
The ways in which things happen make me wonder sometime.

Several months ago, I organized a vacation for myself. The plan: visit my ex-Father-in-law (in Holland), while attending the Queen's Day celebration which happens on my own birthday (April 30). This wasn't easy; with Queen's Day being a national holiday, and xFIL being a busy man, I had to schedule his time (just before the celebration) many months in advance.

I just got off the phone with him. Everything was set - arrive on April 27, spend two nights there, then go on to Amsterdam in plenty of time for Queen's day during the day on April 29. Smooth as silk.

A bit too smooth, actually. Too smooth indeed.

Exactly as I was hanging up the phone, I get a Skype message from one of my firm's partners. "We were invited back by BGA for their million-dollar RFP. We do a two-day demo, and if it is good enough, we win the business!" This has potential to be the largest contract the company has ever seen.

When is the two day demo? Well, April 27-28, of course.


As it happens, quite surprisingly, xFIL has time free after Queen's Day (but not on the weekend), so if I stay over the weekend, and then come down to visit him the following week, I can still make it all happen.

But the cost of the flight just went up by at least $1500. And I can't get any value for the miles on my usual carrier (because then the cost went up by $10,000).
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Sunday, March 29th, 2009

Subject:Presidio 10
Time:3:15 pm.
Well, it has been two full weeks since my ankle magically got better. The club decided to enter the Presidio 10K as a team. The rules of the team competition say that more bodies is an advantage (some number of seconds off your team's top five total time, for each runner you bring out). I figured I could walk if I had to - walking seems therapeutic anyway.

But I didn't have to walk. I felt terribly out of shape - my quads were aching through much of the (quite slow) race. But I finished the race without aggravating the injury - so I feel that the run was a success. That's two miles further than I have run since the injury, so it was pushing it a bit just to run at all. But I had a good time out with the club. I felt like I had done a full day's activities - run, socialized, gone out to eat, seen some spectacular views - and the clock said 11:50 when I got back home.

Spent a lot of time this afternoon sleeping. But the sun is still up - I'll have time to do more stuff this afternoon!
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Wednesday, March 18th, 2009

Time:11:16 pm.
A Rochester institution is a barbecue joint called the dinosaur. Last night's trick told me that the ribs and the fried green tomatoes are not to be missed. Only today, my customer told me about this place, just two blocks (in an oddball direction) from my hotel.

I dropped in and ordered tonight's special. Two tenderloin medallions plus a quarter rack of ribs, two side dishes for $15.95. Yes, life is inexpensive here in Rochester.

A live band started playing at 10:00. The youngest fellow in this swing / classic rock band must have been over 50 - no wonder they play at the Dinosaur! But this dinosaur loves that sort of music, so I hung around for a bit.

The drunk guy a the table next to me asked one of the hot chicks at the bar to dance, and proceeded to bump her around the dance floor. I asked the woman who was with her to dance. Jitterbug. I love Jitterbug, and I'm good at it. So was she. We had a great time.

I went to my seat at the bar to sit down, when the first woman - who also happened to have a figure like Raquel Welch in her young days - basically insisted that I dance with her. But this was a slow dance - a smokey jazz number. I protested a bit that we didn't know each other that well, but she pshawed that away. It was pretty clear that she was comfortable dancing cheek to cheek with a perfect stranger. At some point, I thought it might make sense to tell her,

"I bat for the other team."

"Yeah, I figured. It's a lot more fun, isn't it, when you can just dance, and not worry about all that sex stuff?"

I was very popular with the women. The drunk straight guy kept looking at me funny, as if to wonder why I got to rub up against those Welch boobies for a whole slow dance, while he had to boogie on his own, or have women sort of cringe when he touched them.

Not something for every night of the week, but a fun way to spend Wednesday.
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Sunday, March 15th, 2009

Subject:20 years back
Time:10:56 pm.
I decided to go to an English Country Dance here in Rochester tonight, following a suggestion on facebook. As I was dancing up the line for the first dance after I arrived, I noticed a familiar face coming down the line. Veree Woodbridge. Her husband worked with my dad for man years, and Veree and I had danced together in Columbus back in the 80's. We figured it out - we probably saw one another 9 years ago at a memorial event in Columbus that I attended (as did Veree), and before that, probably in 1990. Nearly 20 years ago.

It was fun catching up. And for in-the-know readers, yes, she knows Fred.
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Sunday, February 8th, 2009

Time:12:54 pm.
Heading to Boston for a couple of days. Looking forward to ECD on Tuesday. Hoping that I really do have some of the meetings I made this trip for.
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Saturday, January 31st, 2009

Time:10:41 am.
I'm going to cheat on this. I asked bender772 to interview me, and I'm going to answer, but I'm not going to offer to interview anyone else.

1. Of all the cities you've lived, which did you enjoy living in the most?

It's a toss-up, but I think I have to go with Boston. It doesn't have quite the provincial charm of Berne, or the shocking convenience of Zurich, or the slutty griminess of San Francisco (and I don't quite live there, anyway). But it has a bit of all of those things, and some amazing culture - high culture (symphony, ballet, arts), folk culture (center of the contra dance world), and even some pretty good low culture. And I actually like having four seasons.

2. Roughly how many copies of your book have sold so far?

First printing was 2500, and it has sold out. Well, that's cheating a bit - the first couple hundred were freebies to the press, and to our personal friends, and so on.

3. What's your favorite drink?

Green tea. Not the horrid stuff you get in teabags at most coffeeshops in the US (don't even get me started about how Starbucks abuses tea), but the real Japanese stuff. Preferably made in Japan, where they seem to be able to get everything just right with no effort (sort of like coffee in Italy). I can brew quite a good approximation at home using stuff I got from Little Tokyo.

4. NoCal or SoCal?

Okay, I just mentioned Little Tokyo, which is SoCal, but I go with NoCal. I really never got the hang of LA, and I think of San Diego as a sort of theme park anyway. There are some streets in San Francisco that are just very comforting. And the Big Gay Flag at Castro and Market never fails to impress me.

5. What was your best sexual experience?

If I answered this, I'd have to put this on my sex filter. So that's a separate post.
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Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

Subject:Molly Dancing
Time:10:33 pm.
For someone who is nursing an injured Achilles Tendon, this is an idiotic thing to be doing. But I did it anyway.

Videos of Molly Dancing at the San Francisco Winter Traditions Day of Dance
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