Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Dana's Guide to Moving, Part 1

Recently I made a comment on my Facebook status regarding helping a friend and his family, who had just bought a house, move. The responses to it on Facebook were so quick and furious that I thought the subject deserved a further look...

I have a talent for moving, though I loathe to admit it. First off, I have a solid build, which is helpful but not mandatory, and a distinct lack of fear of heavy objects. Secondly, I have mad experience. My first job after moving to California back in 1992 was with a Chevron-contracted moving company, Jack's Van Service. This experience with some seasoned truck drivers and movers gave me an insight to what really is a serious process with a true logic. If you follow the steps that I will be laying out for you over the next few days, you will save yourself an immense amount of time, stress and money. You'll thank me later (but I know you won't pay me)...

Step 1. You Can Never Be Too Prepared
Unless you are moving for very sudden reasons, you probably know for at least a month ahead of time you are moving. Use that time!

First off, make judgement of your current state of furniture, clothes, appliances and other assorted belongings. Ask yourself if your new space can handle all your stuff and if you are planning on replacing the old with new furniture for your new place. After all this, you should set aside a weekend day to have a yard sale of your castaways. Better to make a few pennies now and save time moving stuff that you are going to lose later. By the end of the day of the sale and you have stuff left, be bold and make offers like "all you can carry away for $5". Remember, the real goal is to get rid of stuff, not make a big profit.

Next, use those pennies earned to purchase decent moving boxes for important things and supplement them with empty boxes from work, stores and restaurants. Be sure to buy a pack of blank tag/stickers. As you pack, write with a Sharpie what is in each box upon a sticker and tag it at the same spot on every box. Trust me, you'll have an easier time identifying things later verses just randomly writing somewhere on the box (especially if contains fragile things).

Also, be sure to book your truck rental nice and early to get the best rate and ensure you get the right-size vehicle. Once you have your yard sale, you should have a good sense of what you need to move and hence a better idea of how big of a truck you will need. You may save a little money with a smaller truck but you may end up spending more time making multiple trips and more money on gas. Also, if they offer a dolly, take it. A flat dolly is even better than a truck dolly but one of them is better than none when moving heavy pieces a decent distance. I would also recommend buying a couple rolls of decent packing tape and some bungy cords or rope for tying fragile things down once they are in the truck. Also, gather up some old blankets (donations are good) to use as protection for things like glass table tops and televisions.

MOST IMPORTANT: Spend a little time every day packing non-essentials into boxes so that by moving day, you are all set for the move. Empty your bookcases and cabinets (You can't move full ones). Use your packing tape to tape down cabinet doors that can swing open. The last thing you want to have is your friends giving up a precious Saturday to help you move and you are not prepared. Even though you are not paying your crew (well, you should buy them a meal - pizza and beer suffices) their time is precious and you should respect that.

Finally for that last day of preparation, be sure to scope out your old place and new place for moving truck parking. If you are doing curbside moving, feel free to put some cones up or something the night before to block off the best spot to load/unload your life.

Coming Next: Moving Day (Couples will need to read this one)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Dana? Really?

The boy's name Dana \d(a)-na\, also used as girl's name Dana, is pronounced DAY-nah. Its meaning is "from Denmark". Also possibly a place name referring to an English river. Also variant of Daniel or Dane. Surname first used as a boy's name in the 19th century.

A partial conversation I have on the phone at least once a week, every week:

Person A: May I speak to Miss Dana Constance, please?

Me: You're talking to him.

Person A: Him? Really?

Me: Yes.

Person A: Is that spelled D-A-N-A?

Me: Yes.

Person A: And you are Dana?

Me: Yes.

(Awkward silence)

Person A: Did you know you have a girl's name?

I am sure a fair amount of the people reading this blog have harbored this thought at some point. My name is Dana and I have been a male since the moment my parents decided to name me after my dad's best friend, who also happens to be a male. The ensuing fallout of awkward looks and questions from clerks, salespeople and new co-workers have been following me ever since. To make matters even more odd for me is that my surname, Constance, also happens to be a female first name. Now this is not the original family name and the story behind that varies depending on who you talk to, but that's for a different post...

Dana is a name that was popular for both genders and, at one point, more popular for boys. In the graphic above you can see a chart tracking the progression of the name Dana over the last 100 years or so. It shows that the name peaked in popularity in 1970, the year I was born and then drops dramatically for boys soon after. Just my luck that my parents bought at the height of price in Dana stock before the market crashed. I feel like Pets.com stock in cargo shorts...

Now, growing up this did not bother me one bit. New England seems to be a haven for males named Dana. I remember a very popular television host named Dana Hersey (The Movie Loft on Channel 38 for my Plymouth/MA homies) and had a few XY schoolmates with the same name affliction. Not often was I ever called out for having a cross-gendered name. In fact, I remember a schoolmate once saying to me "Why does that girl on Diff'rent Strokes have a boy's name?" This would be Dana Plato for you young people...

Life was good for XY Dana. Then, I moved to California.

Here in California, the name Dana seems to ONLY be a female name to the mass collective. Even in the "open-minded" Bay Area, people can't get over this. When I mention Bay Area native Dana Carvey (male, comedian, SNL, Wayne's World) or former SF 49er football great Dana Stubblefield (I wouldn't call him a girl to his face), people react like they had never realized that, wow, those are men too...

I first noticed that Latinos, who are quite prevalent in the state, could or would not say my name to my face. I've been called Danny, Damio, Dano, Dino (my favorite) or Dan by many people. I soon learned that the Spanish language adds an "A" to anything feminine and an "O" to the masculine counterpart. I am not guapa, I am guapo but I cannot be Dana. I have learned to live with this since it is the rules of a language and I doubt an edict from Madrid is going to come down making an linguistic rule just for me. Besides, I really like being called Dino as I imagine being a sauced crooner or a cool Italian ski instructor...

But as for the rest of English-speaking America, I am shooting pointy things out of my eyeballs at you...

A couple of years ago, I co-wrote a play, Release The Kraken, with my good friend Bryce Allemann, which was produced here in San Francisco. It was a pleasant little comedy mixing a Kevin Smith-type mall world with the ancient Greek myth of Perseus. As part of the promotion of the show, which was independent in every aspect, we were asked to do a podcast interview with an aspiring journalist, Michael Rice, who seemingly fancies himself the hip-hop voice of live theatre. Yes, I am quite serious. Needless to say, there was not much prep for the interview and we were quite shocked at the interviewer's sudden persona when the tape started rolling. Even more surprising was his obsession with my name. Below is the link to the podcast and a fair amount of the his name obsession has been edited out, which is scary since there is still a lot of time committed to the subject...

Please note that Bryce and I were completely put on our heels by Michael as he had barely spoke ten words to us before the questions rolled. I'm such a dork...

But I am a pant-wearing, face-shaving, testosterone-driven dork!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Post Vacation

The absolute highs of a fantastic vacation can only be followed by the inevitable lows of post vacation life. Between the drama of a friend's marriage falling apart quite badly to an insane perking up of potential work opportunities for the firm, I've barely had time to shake the sand out of my sandals since we arrived back in Northern California. Quick snapshots from the holiday:
  1. Racing on an America's Cup yacht in Cabo San Lucas when a Blue Whale and her two babies decided to give us quite a show just a hundred yards off our starboard.
  2. Discovering a TV channel on the cruise ship that showed nothing but old Love Boat episodes 24-7. Where have you gone James Bond III?
  3. Wearing Mexican wrestler masks and tuxedos during the last formal night onboard for dinner.
  4. Laughing for hours while we plotted a whole franchise of movies based on said Mexican wrestler masks.
  5. Hanging out and becoming (hopefully) life-long friends with an amazing array of people who came together only knowing our hosts, Todd and Laura, but left like we had become a new family or at least a clique. 
  6. My biceps have never been so sunburned. Ouch.
  7. Jack Palance is not really dead. He has just flashed out to an alternate universe for the time being.
  8. Johanna successfully feeding, from her fingertips, half of Mexico's seagulls with meats from the ship's buffet.
  9. Everyone should try out Gwabbit for MS Outlook or Ironclad Gloves. Trust me...
Oh well, back to work. Just a picture of the greatest invention ever, sandals with a bottle opener on the sole, until I can catch up with the real world again...

Friday, March 13, 2009


I can't remember the last time I had a real vacation. After leaving my job with KPMG with semi-reckless abandon to attend, of all things, art school and our Money Pit-style house renovation, there hasn't been much budget for trips to warm places with cold drinks. We have taken a few trips back to New England for family visits. Now, I love home visits (especially a summer's night dinner at a clam shack!) but family visits do not count as real vacations. Vacations are true getaways from one's world and, hopefully, oneself. 

You're not that marketing guy trying to finish off a proposal or re-designing "the book" on parking architecture, or even the son who floats into town and ducks questions about ever moving back or having kids. No, vacation is about one connecting with one's inner pleasure seeker, be it relaxation, adventure-seeking or even learning (love those art museums). It is preferable that vacations be in a place that offers the least resistance of every day life.

Being of that working-class Irish blood, vacations were not a "must-have" thing in my life growing up and it is still a forced behavior on my part.

You might have guessed I'm going on vacation. A seven day Princess cruise to Mexico with stops in Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, and Puerto Vallarta. Yes, it's the full on Love Boat experience. I just hope Gopher doesn't lose our luggage. See you in a week! (Notice the first guess star shown below. The second most famous Dana going...)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

An Ode & Eulogy to the Daily Newspaper

The end has been on the horizon for some years now, creeping in like the fog on the San Francisco Bay or like the cowboy villain on his horse in some early Clint Eastwood movie. It's the death of the printed newspaper and it saddens me. Who will be around to write the obituary and, more important, where are we going to be able to read it?

For many years after moving to California from Massachusetts, my mother would mail to me a copy of our local paper, The Old Colony Memorial (the oldest paper in the USA), to keep me up to speed on the slow lane of Plymouth, MA. I thoroughly enjoyed paging through it, reading the Main Street news and finding out who was married, birthed, arrested and arraigned. Who doesn't remember the absolute joy of having your picture in the paper, even if you were just in the background of some sporting event?

Then, sometime around 1996, I discovered that you could read the news online, in particular the Boston Globe. The Globe is famous for having the best collection of sports writers in the country and I have thirst for sports stories. This was ecstasy! Not so slowly, I jumped on the technology bandwagon and decided that those relics made of pulp were twenty-five cents of old news. Who needs to pay for dated reporting when I could get up-to-second news for free! I told my mom she didn't need to send the paper anymore when I found the OCM online. I think she was a bit saddened by that as she enjoyed the ritual. I thought I was saving her money...

Sadly, I felt this way for years, many years. Occasionally the sight of a Sunday paper, with it hundreds of pages of paper, would give me a warm fuzzy of old days of reading the funnies after going to church. Even the insipidness of the Parade Magazine had some kitsch value. But it was not enough to make me a regular buyer of the newspaper.

Even the progressives with their green agenda were working against the printed news industry. How many trees were being lost to the printing industry? Were they being replaced? Wasn't reading news on a computer monitor, a renewable resource, making us a much better tenant of the planet? Of course, electronic waste was never really mentioned during these arguments and much less sexier of a report verses the destruction of rainforests and such. 

With all these things going against newspapers, it seemed like it was either re-invent the industry or fade away. I was okay with this...

Then something happened to me. One night I got a knock on our door and was greeted by two teenage boys looking to raise money for college by selling newspaper subscriptions. They seemed sincere enough, I wanted to support a good cause, and the price was right for a subscription to both the San Francisco Chronicle and the Oakland Tribune, so I bit and  wrote a check. Soon I was getting morning and weekend papers.

And you know what? I've fallen for newspapers again. The chosen editing and selection of stories was so efficient compared to the lack of self-editing that comes with a seductive endless strain of hyperlinks. You can start out reading about Israeli military aggression  and end up looking up the movie career of Eric Bana and the evolution of the Incredible Hulk in seconds time. This is not a good thing. The paper offered notes and hints to places to visit in the Bay Area that I would have missed on my way to perusing my Facebook friends' status updates.

I was happy.

Then I saw this. And then this.

Like a temporary remission of a cancer patient, I found hope but was hit with what felt like a punch in the gut. Could both the Boston Globe and the SF Chronicle be gone by the end of the year? My god, what will happen to the Family Circus?

I can only recommend you run out and buy a paper and spend some time reading it. You might find yourself enjoying it. Do it, while you still can...

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Hangover Post

Well, I had no intention on having a few drinks in the city on my birthday. I really had no intention at stopping by our local island legend tiki bar down the road from our house. Alas, these actions conspired to give a bit of hangover this morning, the first one of 2009. I guess I should see this as warming up for what promises to be a 7 day succession of parties on our Mexican cruise vacation starting next week (no, I am not trying to rub this in - wait - that's a lie. Whoopee!)

In honor or my hangover, an ode to the 1980's, the time of my youth, and to the young ones today who think that the 80's must have been the coolest time ever to be alive, I leave you this, a shot by shot remake of a classically bad 80's music video...

P.S. The kids today did not spend the 80's standing up against a gymnasium wall, watching in angst at every junior high school dance. Now that was the 80's...

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Sticking up for the First Amendment in my Blog Comments

I still don't believe anyone is really reading my poor little blog but it was pointed out to me that the comment function here was limited to only those with special email IDs. After digging really deep into Blogspot's control functions, I have lifted those limits. 

May free speech and open dialogue last forever and let it begin in the little boxes below!