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Septimana horribilis


Not to be too dramatic, but one of the worst weeks in memory.

Monday: fine except of course, it’s Monday.

Tuesday: Kirk’s car broken into, window smashed, birthday present radio stolen. Police refuse to respond to call. Kirk’s dad taken by ambulance to er and admitted to hospital incoherent and in pain.

Wednesday: bought used factory radio on eBay, made appointment with safelite to repair broken window. Kirk’s dad diagnosed with gall bladder issues. Surgery Monday.

Thursday: rear window replaced, cost $275. Kirk starting to not feel well.

Friday: leave for work at 6am to discover that Kirk’s entire car now stolen. Take day off work, deal with police (who come this time), insurance. Kirk flat on his back, unable to go to rehearsal. Never seen him miss rehearsal.

Saturday: most of day running errands for various sick people.

Sunday: Kirk attempts to go to rehearsal with me driving him to allentown; can’t make it. Kirk’s mom not feeling well. Run more errands for sick people. Finish day watching football. Awaiting arrival of useless eBay radio.

So looking forward to work tomorrow. A return to normalcy.

Hello world, part 2


Joined ello today, and the whole experience reminded me of greymatter from a design standpoint, for some odd reason. (Don’t know what greymatter is? The original blogging software. This site was based on it, in the early aughts. Hat tip, Noah grey).

And the ethos of ello has reminded me that too much of my energy is put into facebook. And I should own my content to a greater extent.

So, hello world. Again.

Social security 1, penndot 0


Got our social security cards changed to the new last names today. It was a breeze. Short line, and even though we brought all the required supporting documents, they really didn’t check them. Pretty much just looked at the marriage license and that was it. New cards to arrive in a couple of weeks.

The clerk at social security volunteered that we should take our social security confirmation letters to the DMV and they would change our drivers licenses. We guessed that this would not be the case, but we decided to play dumb and try.

Stop one was the counter to get your line number and application form. She asked why we were there, we told her, she said OK after looking at the marriage license, and gave us the forms and our numbers.

Damn, maybe this will be easy.

Not so fast.

At the window when my number was called, the gentleman told me that the marriage license and social security forms were not valid to change the name. As I suspected.

He went further, though, and told me that there was no way to make the change other than a court order. He elaborated by saying that no papers with our new name would be accepted to make the change.

According to him, the state needs to know why the change was made, not just get proof that it was, and only a court order would do that.

Having done some prior research, I was reasonably sure he was wrong, but since I didn’t have all the supporting docs anyway, I chose not to pursue it.

And indeed, when I got home I found the relevant statute:

67 § 85.1

It states that, in the absence of a court order, a social security card and two supporting items from a list would be sufficient.

I’ll be back, mr. badly-trained DMV worker, with my social security card, my passport, and some banking records.

And a copy of that statute.

Name change thoughts


The odyssey of official name changing begins today with a visit to our local social security office. Doma notwithstanding, the federal government has actually made it pretty easy to make the switch.

Step two will be getting a passport change, which we think will be expensive but straightforward as well.

Armed with those two things, we will march forward with getting more local level things changed, such as voter registration and drivers licenses. With pa’s new voter id law in place, though, we are going to delay that step until after the November elections.

I don’t want to cast a provisional ballot that will probably be ignored, given the possibility of having a mismatch between license and voter registration.

To get the pa drivers licenses we need a passport and something else, such as banking records. So bank will probably get switched to make way for the license.

Apparently the marriage license is useless in pa in that regard, although it paves the way for everything on the federal level just fine.

Go Pennsylvania. What a great state I live in.

There’s a reason we chose to marry in new York — we intend to spend our golden years there. Hopefully sooner rather than later.

Jamie Lawrence-Howard


Kirk and I were married in New York last Friday 8/20/12. Of course, we were married (as far as we are concerned) on 1/11/00 by the good Rev. Michael Carter, but it’s nice (and was surprisingly affecting) to have the paperwork.

One of the questions on the form was “last name”. We had 4 options: keep our names; take Lawrence or Howard; mush them together (Laward? Howrence?); or hyphenate. After much discussion, or rather, a couple of intense minutes, we decided on the hyphen.

I didn’t want Laward, pronounced “lard”, that’s for sure.

Kirk’s very good point was that a statement should be made. Agreed. I’m not a fan of the hyphen, at all, but I went along. My contribution was the order; I liked the sound and flow of Lawrence-Howard, although it means I am further along in a-to-z lines.

Now i just have to sort out the name change issue on official paperwork. I should know more, but I’ve decided to just bumble along with it higgeldy-piggeldy and see how it works out. First stop is Social Security, which seems to be straightforward. After that, the passport. From there, who knows. Drivers license for pennsylvania, I suppose.

Fasten your seat belts, as ms. Davis said. This part could get bumpy and interesting.

meh vs. feh


meh = a shoulder shrug.

feh = a dismissal.

i’m basically ok with feh.

i do not like meh.

please do not misuse them.

in summary: meh? feh. feh? meh.

unsolicited recommendation: la cie


I have two la cie hard drives i use as onsite backup for my two computers. the power supply went bad on one, which i verified by switching them out.

emailed la cie technical support at 5:26am pst requesting a replacement.

received a reply at 6:07am pst informing me that my replacement was shipping today.

if that’s not outstanding customer service i don’t know what is.

while we are on the subject of backup:

» you mac people should be using super duper!

» you should have offsite backup as well. we backup to a portable drive that we keep in our safety deposit box. in case of fire or theft, we are ready to restore all those precious memories.

update: new, free power supply arrived in about 1 week. hard drive up and running again. awesome.

where to begin?


with, of course, a bulleted list.

» why no posts? I set aside everything else in my life to concentrate on school. just ask kirk, the man who got our new york apartment sold in the worst recession in fifty years, found us an awesome new house in reading, pa., packed us up and moved us there, and took care of necessary renovations in the new house. i’m the luckiest boy in the world to have him by my side.

» we did indeed sell the old apartment. bittersweet, but oddly enough i very rarely miss new york. i have lots of new friends here, through school and through kirk; reading is a pretty cool town in its way; ten years in new york was really enough in the end; and we had a great buyer. who paid full price for the apartment. in cash. how’s that for being blessed?

» i still stubbornly cling to my prized cell phone number though, the one with the (212) area code. i’ll lose it in september when we redo our phones for local plans. that’s my last tie to the city, and it dies really, really hard with me.

» love the new house. it’s in east reading, a few blocks from the mount penn city line. we looked at dozens of city row homes online, visited a couple of dozen, and picked this one because it had the right combination of good bones (updated electric, good furnace, mostly plastered walls with little of the ’70s paneling that seems requisite here, backyard deck nicely finished) and low price (got a good price in new york, and could pay cash for the house here with the profit + some savings). you read that right — no mortgage. the house is three stories, four bedrooms, one bath, with a full basement. coming from a smallish one bedroom apartment, it seems like acres of space. the cats get lost.

» the house is in the city, and has an urban feel which i like, but there aren’t many businesses within walking distance. so we have a car. that’s huge. it’s a ’99 saturn, another thing that kirk accomplished. although i did negotiate the price over the phone from new york. the city has good buses, though, so hopefully i won’t have to use the car to go to work. but given the way that the city is, you have to use it for most things, like grocery shopping. i do miss the subway, and walking everywhere. a lot.

» school finished up yesterday. i’m now a fully qualified medical office assistant. i can run the front office, process insurance claims, touch type at 45 wpm, administer parental meds (that’s shots in the ass, arm and other places for the laymen), draw blood, and other fun things. not bad for 18 weeks of training. into 18 weeks, they pack most of what most schools do in two years. that’s why i’ve been indisposed. i’ll bet i’ve gone through 2000 note cards studying for tests that came every day. but i got straight a’s, with some a pluses worked in. not bad for an old guy. i have an internship at the reading hospital beginning june 29. hopefully it will lead to a job.

» my complaints about pennsylvania? not many. i like the food, the people are mainly nice, and things are certainly cheaper. incredibly stupid liquor laws, though. at one point last night, i was going to title this post “pennsylvania is the stupidest mother fucking state on the planet”. we’re throwing a graduation party tonight, and i went out last night to buy beer. which, i learn, can only be purchased from “beer stores”. which apparently all close at 8:00. and you can get six-packs from some restaurants, but you pay an arm and a leg. and all wine and spirits are sold only in state-run stores, ensuring that the wine selection truly blows chunks. completely asinine. when we are re-employed, i’m taking a trip to pj’s in inwood and stocking up.

that should do it for now.

any questions? post them in the comments.

going back to school


i’m starting school on february 16th.

now to be honest that’s a pretty daunting phrase. it’s been a long time since i stretched my brain in such a formal way. of course people learn constantly, but the thought of memorizing vast stretches of whatever gives me pause, a little bit.

i’m going back to be a medical office assistant. i’m not going to get rich doing it, but a career in the medical field is what i’ve always wanted for my last career, so i’m making it happen. all my research — online, talking to people, etc. — tells me that i’ll like it. and if i choose, it can be a springboard for additional training in something else medical. maybe go to night school to be a nurse.

or maybe just stay a medical office assistant.

not sure yet where this path will lead me, but i’m as sure as you can be about these things that i will like what i do, regardless. and that’s the important thing. it’s a good combination of clerical (making appointments, front office tasks) and technical (drawing blood, ekgs, etc.)

i’m buying my books today. that should give me a bit of an idea for what i’ve gotten myself into.

25 random things about me


this is a facebook meme that’s currently going around. since i can’t leave well enough alone, i modified it to be “24 true random things about me, and one lie”.

i’m a contrarian. so sue me.

anyway, i’m reposting it here, because i’m lazy and because it was fun to write:

Rules: Once you’ve been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 25 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it’s because I want to know more about you.

(To do this, go to “notes” under tabs on your profile page, paste these instructions in the body of the note, type your 25 random things, tag 25 people (in the right hand corner of the app) then click publish.)

Jamie’s Modified Rule: There are 24 true random things about me, and one false one. Can you spot the lie?

1. My first home was in a holler in Kentucky. It was at the top of the holler, which is a good thing when no one has indoor plumbing. Our house was one of the few that had plumbing, though only the toilet was inside. The bathtub, due to space considerations, was on the front porch.

2. My first pet was a dachshund that I named President Nixon.

3. My grandmother was a habitue of Chicago speakeasies, where she gained her lifelong habit of drinking only shots of whiskey. With few women in the speakeasies, many men would buy you mixed drinks that were heavy on the alcohol, and she wanted to carefully control her intake.

4. I French-kissed Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

5. Thinking I was bisexual, I married a woman who later came out as a lesbian. After our divorce she remained one of my best friends. No harm, no foul.

6. My partner Kirk and I were married in the home of Hedwig, the Jane Street Theater, by a Unitarian minister, with the reception hosted by Mistress Formika of Wigstock fame.

7. As a child, I was knocked unconscious when my sixth grade girlfriend hit me over the head with a Pepsi bottle. I had two-timed her.

8. Until my recent break in employment and return to school, I had been continuously employed since age eight.

9. My high school nickname was “Flash”. For various reasons.

10. I have eaten: chitlins, cracklins, rattlesnake, squirrel, andouillette sausage (see: chitlins), tripe, kidneys, liver, octopus, eel, sea anemone, possum, and lots of Peter Luger steak. I have not yet eaten sweetbreads. I was also a vegetarian for ten years, and a vegan for five or so of those.

11. I once picked watermelons, for one day, for very little pay.

12. I got braces on my teeth as a high school graduation present.

13. When younger, I could put both of my feet behind my head and walk on my hands.

14. I advised a high school journalism staff that produced one of the nation’s first desktop-published yearbooks, and the editor of that yearbook got a job after high school making twice what I did as a teacher. I also advised the nation’s first CD-ROM yearbook.

15. I have Morton’s Toe.

16. As a child, I was knocked unconscious when I attempted to take a door off the hinges while standing on a chair. The door’s spring closer, contrary to what I thought, did have some spring remaining.

17. I have owned the domain name “” since 1998.

18. I have been in each of the 48 states of the continental U.S.

19. I shook hands with Bill Clinton.

20. My first car was a 1965 Rambler American 4-door sedan. I paid $200 for it, put nearly 75,000 more miles on it, and sold it for $275.

21. Until I moved to Reading, PA, each time I moved was to successively larger cities.

22. As a child, I was knocked unconscious when diving headfirst into the television. I thought Romper Room was a place I could get to that way.

23. I peed in the bathroom at CBGB’s.

24. I once had a burger and a beer with Anthony Bourdain.

25. I have a lovely one bedroom coop apartment in New York for sale.

back to [community] college


i’ve spent the last month getting absolutely nowhere in my job search.

that’s not really true. i put out a limited number of resumes for carefully targeted positions, followed up on nearly every one strenuously, got some valuable feedback that i incorporated into my search, and generally made some limited progress.

still, no interviews.

to be honest, there was a lot remaining that i hadn’t done. i hadn’t contacted the list of recruiters i got from my outplacement guy. and i hadn’t gone to any of the temp-to-perm/employment agency type places. so i decided it was time to fish or cut bait. i took a step back from my desperation to be employed and took stock.

i want to get back to having a more meaningful career. when i taught high school, at the end of the day i could say that my efforts meant something to someone. my previous employer was great to work for, for more than nine years, and i’m eternally thankful that my job elimination was accompanied by a decent severance package and some support in restarting my career. but at the end of the day my successful efforts there meant that someone started or renewed their magazine subscription.

i want that feeling of personal career satisfaction back.

i had been focusing on getting an administrative position in the medical field — i’d always wanted to end up there, a growing career area i thought i’d enjoy. so i investigated going back to school, at reading area community college, or racc. made an appointment with a counselor, and decided that i would either find a program that fit me, or i would redouble my efforts to obtain gainful employment.

am i glad i went. the wonderful counselor quickly assessed my personality, situation, and resources, and recommended their medical office assistant program. it’s a combination of front office skills, and more basic technical skills (drawing blood, giving shots, EKGs, and the like). as the counselor explained, “it’s the guy who calls your name, takes you back, weighs you, and tells you to put the gown on backwards and tie it in the back.” seriously, it’s more than that, but you get the idea.

i’ve made some friends in the medical field here, and i’m told that the training translates well to a variety of positions. the last six weeks of the six month program is an internship, and the placement for the program is 90%+. i ran the numbers, and found that if we hold tight, i can pay for the program and keep us afloat until i graduate in august, using my remaining severance pay + unemployment. it can also be a springboard to other medical careers, if i want to go back to school at night or whatever.

i’m not going to get rich doing it, but i’ll make enough money to live and from what i can tell from my research + talking to people, i’ll be doing something i enjoy.

it’s time to hit the reset button.

it’s official


barack obama elected president.

and to celebrate, i got job-eliminated. that’s the polite term for laid off. it was a huge layoff at my company, so i had plenty of, well, company. so i’ll be putting president-elect obama’s economy rebuilding skills to a personal test.

it should be more traumatic than it is, but in truth, i’m looking forward to new challenges. nine years is a long time to work anywhere — seven years was my previous record. kirk’s been working in reading (his hometown) anyway, doing theater and corporate training gigs with his friend larry, so it’s a natural time to move on.

which is what i’m doing. moving to reading, pa, and selling the apartment:

$199K for a nicely updated prewar 1 bedroom, ½ block from the 1 train (via secret tunnel!) on a secluded bluff overlooking Van Cortlandt Park, 40 minutes to midtown.

i’m exploring going back to school. if i do, it’ll be in the health-care field. if not, back to the world of work, hopefully with new and fresh responsibilities and challenges.

how’s that for change you can believe in?

how to solve the nation’s financial and political crises, all at once


sell alaska to the russians for $700 billion.

an immodest proposal


while we are nationalizing businesses like aig and fannie mae and freddie mac and bear stearns, why don’t we just get it over with and nationalize the health care industry as well?

it’s ironically amusing to me that the bush administration now walks into the sunset having accomplished the most socialist acquisitions in american history. politicians who have screamed for decades about how inefficient it is to have government control and regulation of business are now screaming about the need to take on the financial industry’s bad debt, which was created by the lack of oversight those politicians promoted.

might as well add the entire health care industry to the total weight we assume, since this ship is going to sink anyway. we have spent $816 billion bailing out what we’ve bailed so far. add to that an estimated $1 trillion dollars for assuming the bad debt. add to that the annual deficit of about $500 billion, which does not include the cost of the war in iraq. so add $10 billion a day for that.

add that shit up.

send that shit to china, if we even still can, at who knows what ultimate cost.

and then realize that we’ve done nothing, nothing, nothing to address the financial insolvency of social security, medicare, and medicaid.

it doesn’t matter. no one is going to give you a truly comprehensive look at what’s wrong, so neither candidate is going to give us a truly comprehensive answer. neither obama or mccain. why not? because they can’t be honest about it. and they know it. because there is no fucking answer, that’s why not. actually there’s one answer — america is going to irretrievably sink under the weight of its own accumulated bloat.

how do these all numbers add up?

they add up to rome burning. and everyone has no choice except to fiddle.

headline of the year


time’s take on the controversy surrounding mccain’s comments about prime minister zapatero:

the pain in spain falls mainly on mccain.


sarah palin and her three answers


watched her interview with charlie gibson last night. and i can now unequivocally say that charlie gibson is qualified to be vice president.

sarah palin? not so much.

as kirk and i watched, we kept saying that she sounded like she had been given canned answers to give based on keywords in the question. i counted three talking points that she adapts to whatever question is asked:

“that’s basically all about energy. let me talk about that for a while.”
“alaska is near russia. you can see it from the shore.”
“we have to keep america strong and save her from the terrorists.”

andy borowitz thinks she used a magic 8-ball
, which may be nearer the truth.

and she wants to go to war with russia, basically.

i hope that the reportage on this eye-opening look into her vapidity doesn’t get lost among the coverage of hurricane ike.

we can’t afford hurricane sarah either.

target’s “bullseye bodega”


on my daily walk at lunchtime (to clear out the cobwebs, get some fresh air, etc.) i passed a new storefront at 57th and 6th in manhattan.

turns out that target has rented four storefronts to sell their designer goods from friday through sunday
. they look brilliant, as you’d expect from target. it’s kind of like the simpsons movie rebranding of 7-11 stores, only better. 3 days, and then it’s gone.

on the heels of mizrahi in rock center, and the target boat on chelsea piers, this is yet another fun way to have a target experience in manhattan. without, of course, actually having a target in manhattan.

(although, to be precise, the target store in marble hill at 225th st. is technically in manhattan. but you’d be hard pressed to convince a manhattanite that anywhere not on the island of manhattan is, in fact, manhattan.)

this way, they get the buzz and the benefit of branding their store chain in close proximity to the advertising and marketing center of the universe.

over, and over, and over again.

all you need to know about republican campaign tactics


…is contained in this short post (with accompanying picture) by jake tapper:

The McCain campaign tells the media to stop intruding on the private life of the unmarried pregnant 17-year-old daughter of Gov. Sarah Palin while staging a photo op with Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and the 17-year-old’s fiance, Levi Johnston.

talk about have your cake and eat it too.

sarah palin is a very nice lady. her speech last night, if short on specifics, was certainly entertaining. shameless [how many people were passed that poor baby?], but entertaining. the base is no doubt fired up. everyone else probably ranges from horrified to indifferent.

i’m sure i’d enjoy having a beer with her.

i’m also sure that the majority of americans, after the last eight years, no longer see that as a valid electoral test.

laura mcgann


here’s a name you may be hearing from in days to come. i learned about her via talking points memo…she has reported on alaska politics in the past and seems to know the lay of the land.

she’s now in wasilla and has a series of posts at the washington independent. she’s doing the thing that most journalists don’t bother with anymore — shoe leather journalism. digging through archives and records.

here’s a great post as a sample:

I just got off the phone with the very helpful city clerk at the Wasilla City Clerk’s office, Kristie Smithers, who is pulling some documents for me from when Gov. Sarah Palin was mayor.

I told her I appreciated her help, since I’m sure she’s been bombarded with requests these last few weeks. The clerk’s office keeps all City Council meeting agendas, minutes, legislation, ordinances, etc. She chuckled. Then she told me that I’m the first person who has asked her office for anything.

that bears repeating.

“I’m the first person who has asked her office for anything.”

the incompetency is breathtaking.

joe klein nails the palin summary


in a must-read blog post about the desperately devious inanity of the mccain campaign’s newly-started “war on the media”, joe klein neatly summarizes what’s wrong [so far] with sarah palin:

Palin raised taxes as governor, supported the Bridge to Nowhere before she opposed it, pursued pork-barrel projects as mayor, tried to ban books at the local library and thinks the war in Iraq is “a task from God.”

and that’s just the topline summary, which leaves out a few choice items. i have faith that american voters are smarter than to fall for yet another republican attempt to slice-and-dice a 50%+1 electoral victory.