First, in response to my offer of opinions on any subject, she chose... horse racing. Yes, horse racing. I knew I'd get some weird requests, but I think this one is like calling Dr. Phil to ask what's the best graphics chipset for running Quake 4 on a machine with an Athlon processor and LCD monitor. But I have an opinion on horse racing... I don't get it at all. It's sort of the same thing as auto racing - sure, there's some skill in training up the horse, breeding and feeding and weeding and kneading and reading and seeding and beading and so on, and I'm sure there's some small degree of athleticism required to ride a race horse, but in the end, isn't it really the horse doing all the work? So why does there have to be a jockey on board? Greyhounds race just fine without jockeys. Just have an oat move around the track really fast and let the horses run after it. Another question to ask is whether it's cruel to the horses to make them run races. I'm sure horses want more from life than standing around in fields, swatting flies with their tails, finding places to poop that they won't have to eat from, and being made into glue and school lunch meat, and maybe they even like being ridden once in a while, for variety. Cats like poking at things and getting trapped in enclosed spaces, and dogs like trying to knock people over, fetching things, and barking. Horses can walk or run. And some people like to run. But most of them probably do it at a steady, sustainable pace most of the time. People who run for fun don't run flat-out very often, do they? Unless they're actually racing, in which case, I still don't get it, but at least we know it's their choice. Frankly, I don't care whether it's cruel to the horses or not, but I don't imagine they like getting whipped or beaten to make them run faster. Just have Mr. Morgan yell at them from the stands and they'll run like the wind. Meanwhile, while horses used to be the third most popular form of transportation besides walking and elephants, today, we have an alternative to horses: The Segway. And I don't see anybody racing those.
She then asked me five questions, also by invitation/request. Let's see what I make of them. I can't wait to find out!
1. What drew you to playing bridge?
Ah, the classics. Really, there's nothing to tell here. When I lived in Saudi Arabia, Mom and Dad taught my oldest brother and me how to play, and that was our evening entertainment when the four of us were together. It was something to do as a family, it was educational, and when we could pull off a big hand, it was amazing. My brother and I once bid and made a grand slam... and I don't think the play was trivial. As for what spurred the recent interest in it, the game of choice when I arrived at The Branch was Spades. They taught me to play, but CP (a coworker who's since been laid off) and I came up with a more intricate bidding system than what most people were used to, based on Bridge bidding. Eventually, we managed to convince some of the Spades players to learn Bridge, and since then, it's been what we all play. It's considerably more complicated, and some people just plain don't want to have to learn all the conventions or think too much about how to apply them, but overall, we get by.
2. What's your favorite thing that you own?
Ooh, tough one. As usual, I brush aside your superlative by muddying the waters with definitions. There are lots of different ways I could interpret "favorite"... there are those objects that are rare and hard to come by, which I can be proud of owning, such as the autographed photograph of Douglas Adams (it's around here somewhere, I'm sure), the autographed "Even Worse" album cover (I've never met Weird Al in person, but I have a personalized autograph), the autographed bromide of Nabeshin from Excel Saga (the one famous personality I HAVE met), and perhaps rarest of all, one of the very few complete sets of limited edition Ai Yori Aoshi bathhouse figurines... the oldbies on my friends list might remember the "Geneon Sucks" rant that formed the climax of my attempts to get the elusive second DVD. Then there are those items that directly bring me entertainment... the ones that, had I to choose but a few of my possessions to keep, I would have to select from. Those would of course include my anime and manga collections, the various video game systems and software, the TV, and my computer. There again, what constitutes a "thing"? Could my entire anime collection be a "thing"? Or is one book or DVD a single "thing" with no aggregation allowed? My console systems are, of course, useless without a TV, and between the TV and my laptop, I'd probably have to choose the laptop. The few TV shows I watch anymore could be cut out of my day with little loss, and I can use the laptop to watch DVDs if necessary. Of course, there's also the toilet. I wouldn't get by a single day without that.
So, if I had to choose a single favorite thing, I'd have to pick my crazy brain. It does things I couldn't dream of doing, and makes them look effortless. I'm jealous, but fortunately, I've got room for it in my head, so I never have to let it go.
3. If you could suddenly acquire one skill, what would it be and why?
I think I've already done this one. I'd like to turn the Talent of Blank into the Talent to Draw, so I could bring my many story ideas to life in comic or manga form. Also, so that I could draw things if anyone asked me to draw them. As it is, I can't even get stick figures right. Believe me, I've tried. The jokes in my short-lived comic "Men From Venus" were reasonable, but the art just didn't do them justice.
4. What's your philosophy of life?
I think it's a bad idea overall and don't recommend it to anyone.
On a more serious note, I'm a devout Cynic. I believe that the human race has a natural aversion to common sense, and the more people you put toward a certain task, the more that aversion conglomerates until any traces of common sense are banished completely. So I try not to be a part of it if I can avoid it. The more popular something is, the less I want to have to do with it. I started reading Harry Potter before most Americans had heard of it... a few more years and a few more books, and the movies would have been out. If Harry Potter had been a movie before I read the books, I wouldn't have seen either. Probably ever. And I'd still be shaking my head in disgust at all you fools making such a big deal out of it. I still do that, but at least now I have a better reason for it than "Just look at how POPULAR it is! I can't be seen reading that now!"
My early life was characterized by constant change. New homes, new friends, new schools, even new countries, every few years. So I've always valued stability, although I've never had it. Even now, things seem less and less real, as if my life will undergo a drastic change any day. I'm not used to being in one place this long, and so I have to appreciate every day, keep things as stable as possible, and make sure the future's adequately planned for without actually thinking about what changes my plans are going to address. The routine is good; breaking the routine is stressful. I don't take vacation days in general because I get more stressed out when I'm not working. I look forward to holidays, but as soon as they're over, I have to return to the work schedule that's been disrupted... ouch.
And then there's that dream of being famous... I know it's never going to happen, but part of me still wants it to. I doubt I'd like it, though. Being popular would pretty much automatically make me something I hate. I may not like myself that much, but I don't hate myself most of the time. I'm just here, and I'm me, and gosh darn it, people like me! (No they don't.) There's something satisfying about doing something well and having people know I did it, but look at the workload I'm getting at The Branch now that everyone respects my skills so much. The responsibility! And now I feel the pressure to live up to those high expectations I set early on. I thrive under the right amount of pressure, but this is more than a test... this is my job, my career, the rest of my life.
So I suppose my philosophy is that it's best to keep my head down and just keep living the life I've got, and try to ignore everyone else's as best I can. I don't worry about big things like natural disasters in other countries or parts of mine, or terrorism or religion or Pat Robertson, who's a bit of both. I don't go out of my way to do anything for starving kids or the homeless and jobless. I have my own problems, and I deal with those. But I still hold doors for people, because is it really that hard to do something nice for someone once in a while?
5. Do you follow politics at all?
Not if I can avoid it. I know a few names, mainly due to The Borowitz Report, and I have opinions on some issues, which I admit are underinformed and probably wrong. For that reason and many others, I don't vote. I just keep up with politicians and their laws enough to understand the jokes. See, George W. Bush is the stupid one, Dick Cheney has lots of heart attacks and shoots people, Karl Rove can't keep a secret, and Condoleeza Rice is a black woman, so we're not allowed to make jokes about her. Not even to wonder aloud whether the number of positions she's held in the Bush administration could possibly have anything to do with the number of sexual partners she's had in that time. Under the Clinton Administration, we could do that, but Bush has repealed the First Amendment, so it's illegal to say that now. They're watching everything I do in the Internet. It's like they installed a security valve on my tube. (Al Gore, right? Maybe I know more about this political stuff than I thought.)
So there you have it. Ultimately, no answers at all.