i had a weird dream last night. i was in a large aircraft hanger converted into a storage warehouse for nerd collectibles. tables of action figures and transforming robots and comics, i took out my camera and took photos, thinking that no one would believe me if i just told them. then i woke up.

while walking to porter square, i saw a man staring at me down below the commuter train platform as i made my way down somerville avenue. maybe in the past i would've broken my gaze, but nowadays, when i catch somebody staring at me, for whatever reason, i stare back, escalating the overall awkwardness of the situation until the other person is forced to break his or her gaze. every commute, an opportunity for victory in a staring contest. so this morning it was on, this man would not break my gaze, some hipster type with his fancy glasses and his fancy shoes. we continued to stare at each other as i walked, but i finally had to pull away, scoffing. if i meet this man again, i won't lose next time, and i'll be sure to take his photo, raising the creepiness stakes.

arriving in boston, all the newspapers had photos of saddam hussein on their front page. it seemed like too little too late, anyone with a television had already heard about the news, the immediacy of television always gets the scoop.

the big news at work was both james and alex were out sick today. coincidentally, both of them had been working on kristine's machine while she was ill at home with what appears to be the flu all last week. this made me fearful of kristine even though she's probably not contagious anymore, and i went to the kitchen to wash my hands again. i brought in the art supplies i've been amassing all weekend and worked on the diorama a little bit, creating the alternating vertical green stripes of felt inside a box of the proper size. i cut out a rectangle for the eventual window (which will be framed with balsam wood) and used the green synthetic animal fur as a seaweed-like carpetting. adam and i went to wendy's again (like we did last week), got our usual, the spicy chicken sandwiches. a new client was coming to the office tomorrow and we all pitched in and cleaned up the place. katrinka was busy washing the fishtank, while carly cleaned the kitchen and kristine sweeped the office.

after work i called renata, who this morning wrote me an e-mail about hanging out, after i wrote her last night about christmas shopping. i went to star market and got some uncle ben's instant rice before coming home. mike was in the kitchen studying. i started to assemble the ingredients and tools i'd need to make tonight's dinner. very soon afterwards renata rang the doorbell, sporting an oversized winter coat i'd never seen her wear before. "tony, it's so cold," renata told me. "did you turn up the heat just for me?" she asked. she got to meet the elusive mike, a rare treat. we started cooking. she'd brought some swiss chards, and went about steaming them (she's all about steamed vegetables). i started preparing the salmon steaks which had been defrosting in the fridge all day long, covering it with a thin layer of ma-la hot sauce, sprinkling some sea salt.

the doorbell rang again. i looked at mike, is this yours? he shook his head, no idea who it was. i thought maybe it was alex paying me a surprise visit, but turns out it was my next door neighbor renee. "sorry to bother you," she said to me as she walked into my house, closing the door behind her. she was having some sort of crisis at home, her son had been suspensed from boarding school, and during the time he'd been back in cambridge, he mucked around with her computer and now she can't check her e-mail, and with this being the last week of school for the semester, she was super busy and can't deal with all this right now. "he's f*cking up my life, that's what he's doing," she told me. "renee, i love to fix your computer, but i'm kind of busy right now, do you have time tomorrow morning?" i asked her. "tomorrow? i think tomorrow i'm driving my son to the hospital, i can't deal with him right now," she told me. "what about later tonight?" she asked. "well, sure, but i won't be until 11, 11:30pm," i informed her. "11:30pm? that late? well, okay, we'll see," she murmured, dejected that she might not be getting free technical support tonight.

she left, i came back into the kitchen, both renata and mike must've overheard the conversation and just looked at me like, "who the hell was that?" renata had already started cooking the rice (we have such a cooking symbiosis, it's as if she read my mind), i put the salmon into the 450 degrees preheated oven, and started making the flan. once the rice was simmering, renata and i waited in the living room for our food to finish cooking. she tried her luck at the watermelon seeds, a taste she was having trouble acquiring. she also said my new olmec head "statue" gave her the creeps.

when the timer announced our food was ready, i brought out the fish and put the flan into the oven (i didn't want to put them together, i don't want my flan to have a fish taste), served the rice and the swiss chards, and brought everything into the living room, giving some to mike, who continued to study in the kitchen.

we watched the finale of king of the jungle on animal planet, caught it right during a physical challenge that included wearing fetish crotch harnesses and scaling cargo netting, finishing off the obstacle course by wrestling an alligator (mouth safety taped shut, but still dangerously thrashing in a muddy wading pool). three remaining contestants, despite the fact that kelly didn't know a lot about elephants, she ended up advancing while jeremy was "voted" out of the lineup. in the end it a challenge between adam and kelly, adam was smarter and had a much better rapport with animals, but nigel the british guy who decides who stays and goes has a thing for blondes and kelly ended up being "king" of the jungle despite being mauled by tigers. go figure!

of course renata fell asleep towards the end, i'd be disappointed if she didn't, knowing how early she wakes up, and how early she has to go to bed. nevertheless, she was game for flan, which at that point had been cooling outside on the deck for less than a hour. i say not enough sugar and more holes than usual, but flantastic never the less, if i may be so bold. after dessert, renata left, i could barely feel her beneath her well-insulated jacket when we hugged good bye, she wandered off to her car, cursing the cold.

mike came back to the house after leaving it around 9pm to go hang out with friends. he gathered up his stuff and left again to his girlfriend's place. i went next door and rang renee's doorbell, but nobody answered. i came back and did the dishes and called it a night.