Monday, December 29, 2003

Well, I'm still sort of in the Christmas spirit, even though Christmas is over. I think that was because Christmas was a lot of fun. We went down to my mom's in Myrtle Beach--it was just me, Mark & mum, plus the dogs, of course. The trip was both relaxing and exhausting--we got a good bit of exercise between walking the dogs, taking them to the dog park, and then going bowling. Yep, more bowling. We're a little obsessed at this point. Mom got us both bowling shoes, and we bowled every day we were there (Wed-Sat). I averaged somewhere in the 130s.

It was really good as far as Christmas goes--everyone got a little something they wanted or needed without getting too much junk, and there were no children to have tantrums or whatever it is that children do after getting overstimulated on greed. We went to visit some friends of my mom's around noon so the guy could deep-fry our turkey for us, and their little girl was on her way to a serious crash and burn. She had gotten just about everything she had asked Santa for--somewhere around 25 things. Their living room was covered with toys. She could only sustain about a minute's worth of attention on any one thing, and you could tell that soon she was going to realize she wasn't going to get another hit to sustain her high. It happens to all kids--Christmas Day is built up to be the root of all happiness, they day their litttle lives are going to change because they'll finally get those toys that will make them complete and content. And then the day arrives, here are all of those toys, and yet the little tyke still doesn't feel complete. Life is still not perfect, only now they are surrounded by a bunch of new junk. This is how shopping addicts are made.

Which brings me to the topic of Santa Claus. Why on earth does he exist? Yeah, I know he doesn't actually exist--what I mean is why is the Santa myth perpetuated? Who first thought it was a good idea to tell children that a fat stranger in a red comes every year to give them a bunch of toys for nothing? I'm sure it began as an innocent and benign little custom, probably involving fruit and mayble a little candy shoved inside of a stocking. But at some point it mutated into a system where kids give the guy a list like he's their personal shopper or something. They're allowed to demand whatever they want, and mom & dad get mighty upset with you if you let on to junior that they're the one's actually footing the bill. It's extremely important to parents that their kids continue to think the bounty is free, courtesy of the fat guy. Is this healthy? What value or virtue does this promote?

I'm definitely on a soapbox here. Part of our recent de-junkification drive is a desire to live more simply. The motivation is a little monetary--we want to stop working while we're still young enough to enjoy the free time. But another part of the motivation is to tread more lightly upon the earth. The waste that goes along with living a typical American life is utterly mind-boggling and appalling. We buy crap that we don't need, packeaged in boxes and bags that we're going to throw away immediately, and then when we get too much crap we go out and buy more crap to store our crap in. Anywho, I'm going to try not to do that anymore. Off of soapbox.

I got a bunch of dog park photos. Maybe if I'm ambitious I'll turn them into a little web gallery sometime.

Monday, December 22, 2003

We bowled both Saturday and Sunday. We discovered another bowling alley, Village Lanes, that's a lot cheaper than the place we've been going. It's in an uncool part of town and has older equipment, but the bowling is good.

I'm really in the Christmas spirit this year. Well, relatively speaking--I'm usually not into Christmas at all, but the fact that I've actually been having fun buying gifts and looking forward to the whole thing represents a huge change from my "it's just a good excuse to get some time off of work" attitude.

I'm contemplating doing some re-gifting, and I'm torn as to the ethics. Not the ethics of giving gifts from one person to another--these are gifts I got from my "Secret Santa" at work, and the person barely knows me. When you participate in a "Secret Santa" thing, you've got to know that the person you get gifts for may not like them--and I think it's perfectly OK to re-gift in such a situation. There is nothing wrong with the gifts I got--I just don't want them. I don't need them, and it would represent a breach of my new de-junkification principles. But my mom might like them. Then again, she doesn't really need them, either, and I feel sort of bad junking up her life as well. Maybe I should just toss them in the donate box and be done with it.

We made great strides in our de-junkification program over the weekend. We attached the attic, threw away a bunch of stuff and started a new donations pile. I also started an "ebay" pile, except that I was looking at what kind of prices this stuff fetches on e-bay, and it barely ever gets any bids. It's all good vintage, collectible junk ... maybe I'll just leave it up in the attic for a while. I still like it, I just don't have the space to display it.

Another campaign in my war against junk is my effort not to buy books. This also dovetails with my natural inclination to be cheap. Books are just too damn expensive. Even at the local used bookstores they want you to fork over a lot of dough for something you will probably end up taking right back to them and getting a fraction of what you paid for it. So I'm determined to milk the library for all it's worth. But I depend on trips to bookstores or to clue me in on what's out there to read. So I cheat: I let Amazon's great recommendation software direct me to books that I will like, and then I get them from the libray. The Durham County Library has a great system on the web where you can find the book in the catalog and then place a hold on it, and they'll notify you when the book is waiting for you at the front desk. This fits right in with my incrdible inclination toward laziness--I don't even have to go hunting down the books in the stacks! I just walk up to the check-out desk, show my card and they bring me my books! The best thing about library books is that if you just don't like the book after all, you don't feel compelled to read it anyway. When you spend good money on a book, you feel like you have to finish it even if you hate it.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

I've not gotten the flu yet. I didn't get a flu shot this year, but I'm trying not to be paranoid about it. The last flu shot I got was two years ago, and my arm was quite sore for about six months afterward. I'm not exaggerating--it was so painful that I purposely didn't get the shot last year because I couldn't face another six months of pain. I meant to get the shot this year, but the week they offered them at work was the week before the NC State Fair, which meant that I had to be out at the fairgrounds putting together exhibits and whatnot. Then I just forgot all about it until suddenly children started dying from flu and everyone was thrown into a panic. So I wash my hands a lot and drink green tea. I have no idea what the green tea could possibly do to protect me against the flu, but it's supposed to be good for you and I like it. So I'm pretending that it's a magic elixir in order to give myself a little psychological edge over the virus. So far so good.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Oh crud. I just wrote a bit about all the typos in my previous posts and how I wasn't going to bother correcting them, and then I accidentally closed the browser window. Blam, gone, just like that. Just as well... it wasn't terribly exciting anyway.

This is more interesting: yesterday I read an article about highway workers in Washington getting disgusted about having to pick up so many jugs of urine and bags of human feces along interstate higways. Mind-bogglingly disgusting.

I think there may be a mouse in my house. My dog is sniffing around near a bookcase and making little whiney noises, which is what she does when there is a critter nearby that she can't get to. Poor mouse. He's a goner. Lucky for him Lucy always muscles the cat out of the way when there's a mouse about. The cat would play with the mouse for hours until he dropped dead out of exhaustion and/or fright. Lucy likes to dispatch them quickly by snapping their little necks. If there is a mouse, I just hope they don't leave the little body where I might step on it in the morning.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Is everything broken today? Nothing works--network problems, printing problems, computer befuddlements of all types ... and it's not just me, either. My boss is having an equally crappy day trying to get things to work.

I want to have a little bloggy fun but I have to make things work instead.

Monday, December 15, 2003

We bowled with our brand-new balls on Saturday. I did very well--my ball makes a huge difference. I think mom is going to get us bowling shoes for Christmas, so we'll have the whole ensemble. Then we need matching shirts with our names embroidered over the pockets.

I'm having a bad day. People are out sick and I have to do things that aren't normally my job. I often do these things very badly because I don't know what I'm doing. This makes me a bit peevish. Hopefully things will look up in about an hour when I go home.

Friday, December 12, 2003

I was at the Raleigh Farmer's Market today and one of the vendors was making a sign advertising his lettuce or cabbage or whatever, and he asked the guy in the space next to him how to spell "head." The guy didn't know, so he asked me. I spelled it for them, and I refrained from saying "Dudes, quit reinforcing an unfortunate stereotype about North Carolina." Instead, I complemented one of them on his hand-split oak baskets. They really were fine pieces of work. So who cares if the guy can't spell? His baskets kick ass. The cheapest one was $40, though, so I didn't buy one. I bought some Pink Lady apples from another vendor.

Monday, December 08, 2003

Not only did we go bowling again last Friday, but we decided it was time to take the big step: we needed our own bowling balls. See, in order to throw consistently, you have to have a ball with a grip and a weight you can count on. Plus, it's next to impossible to find a ball with a grip that truly fits your hand at a bowling alley--it needs to be custom drilled. So we went to Big Sports Chain (the pro-shop balls were all too high-end for us), and now we've got balls! Woo! Actually, we don't really have balls. They have to be drilled before they are released into our custody.

Anyway, on Sunday, two days after we bought our balls and the bags in which to carry them, we saw a sale flyer for Big Sports Chain in the paper: our balls and bags had gone on sale. So of course we had to go back to Big Sports Chain and demand the discount. Actually, Mark did the demanding ... I'm no good at that sort of thing. I can't even stand it when a salesperson comes by and says "Finding everything OK?," so there's no way in hell I'm going to go and initiate a conversation with one of those people and make demands. I have no idea where I got my fear of salespeople. Maybe it was the shoplifting I did as a teenager. Anyway, I love online shopping. We got the discounts--it amounted to $26, so it was well worth it.

Also this weekend, I took a big step in my de-junkification drive. I have too much crap. It makes my house feel small, and it makes it hard to find the crap I really need. I went through all my clothes, separated out the summer stuff (I didn't count, but I'm sure I have more than 50 t-shirts), and got rid of stuff I know I'm not going to wear again for whatever reason. Wearable stuff went to the Salvation. Army, other stuff into the trash. I discovered all sorts of clothes I had forgotten I even have, because they were buried under so many other clothes. I also discovered that I have more than enough sweaters for the winter--I had been planning to go buy more (which would have given me more crap to bury under other crap and forget about.

Next goal: Sell some crap on e-bay. Why should I be the only person not making money by selling crap I don't need to other people who probably don't need it?

Friday, December 05, 2003

Lazy, lazy lazy. I've not written anything in more than a week. It's not that I have nothing to write, but I just didn't feel like writing it. Four of the days--the Thanksgiving 4-day weekend--I refused to go near a computer. I was at my mom's house in Myrtle Beach, and I didn't even check my e-mail.

I did go bowling. It seems that we do a lot of bowling whenever we go to Myrtle Beach. Maybe because it's something we can do that everyone enjoys. Anyway, my scores were decent for a seldom-bowler, ranging between 115 and 145 over the course of 4 games. But the important thing is how you look, and I think my bowling form isn't so bad. I love bowling. Part of it is just bowling's place in pop culture history and the images that evokes. But it's also just plain fun, and you can drink beer while you get a modicum of exercise. Can't be beat.

As for Myrtle Beach, I find it a strange and not completely pleasant place. It's in South Carolina, after all, which always brings to mind lynchings and beer-bellied good ol' boys in pick-up trucks. I'm not sure why SC seems so much worse than NC to me--maybe it's their slavish (no pun intended) devotion to flying the Confederate Flag over their statehouse. Anyway, they may not have so many lynchings anymore, but they do have more than their share of beer-bellied good ol' boys in pickups (or on Harleys) and they all like to head on over to Myrtle Beach on occasion (if they don't live there already.)

But there is one thing about Myrtle Beach (aside from my mother) that keeps pulling me back: the dog park. It's hard to imagine a better one. It's huge--I don't know how big, but more than big enough to keep it from becoming a fighting pit like the wimpy little fenced in lots that so many places call dog parks. And it's not run by a bunch of uptight Nazi Dog Ladies like the Durham Dog Park. I mean, look what you have to do just to take your dog to the Durham Dog Park. Then there are rules like "No big dogs in the small dog area and no small dogs in the big dog area." Well what does someone do if they, like me, have a big dog and a small dog? Take one dog to the park, the take it back home and trade it for the other dog and go back to the park? Ach, don't get me started ... back to the relative nirvana of the MB dog park ... there are rules about using the dog park, but unlike the holier-than-thou Durham Dog Busybodies, the city of Myrtle Beach has decided to treat dog park user like adults, posting the rules at the gates and trusting said adults to use the dog park responsible. And they do, for the most part, which is true of pretty much all aspects of society. But back to the beauty of the park: it's got a big pond in the middle--maybe an acre or so. So swimming dogs, like Mr. Gomez, can swim to their hearts content. There are lots of trees and occasional squirrels (and somethime ducks in the pond) so that critter-obsessed dogs, like Lucy, can chase things around, or at least go off looking for them. And there are always other dogs around so that playful dogs, like my mom's Edy, can run and chase. Best of all, there's plenty to completely exhaust all dogs so they lie around like lumps all day. And since its big, humans can take take their big, fat asses for a nice stroll as well, although most of the dog owners stand around near the gate watching their dogs. (Dang people have some grossly overweight pets!). Anyway, I'm sure I'll have occasion in the future to wax rhapsodic about the MB dog park (I'm going back down for x-mas), so I'll leave off for now.