Saturday, January 31, 2004

I'm at work today--Saturday--because I want to make up some of the time I lost during the snow debacle. I have two tasks that seem very small and easy--print two posters--but they are taking forever. Files are taking forever to open or save. Folders are taking a long time just to open. The RIPs on the poster printers are just plain not doing what they're supposed to, and when I restarted one of them, I realized that I don't know the password to connect it to the network directory I need. I called my boss and she doesn't know it either.

The slowness can probably be explained by the fact that a backup is running, as explained to me by one of the IT guys, who is also in making up snow time (or "Inclement Weather Time" as the state officially calls it). I'm writing this while waiting for a particularly large file to open. I keep switching between Photoshop and my browser and checking the progress. I'm sure the file would open much more quickly if I wasn't doing that, but I can't sit and watch a stupid status bar for more than 30 seconds. It drives me nuts.

There, it opened. So I did what I needed to do to it and now I'm waiting for it to save. I've found that Photoshop is like lightning saving large files compare to Illustrator. I've waited half an hour before for things between 25 and 50 mb to save in Illustrator. I'm sure some of that is our network, but it still drives me up the wall. I just don't have the attention span for it.

So after doing what I needed to do to the poster, I have to add it to the RIP and set the print properties. That involves several minutes of watching the RIP software tell me it's Loading... Loading... Loading... Loading... So I'm going back and forth from that machine to my own, trying to set the print properties of my file while trying to open and make changes to the next file I have to print. I hate computers a lot of the time. Give me a Sharpie and a piece of bristol board and I'll make you a damn poster.

Friday, January 30, 2004

I put up another little photo gallery. These are pics I took on a few of my walks around downtown Raleigh during lunch. I want to get more Durham photos and put up a gallery of them, because Durham really kicks Raleigh's ass in so many ways. But until the daylight hours stretch out a little I won't have much chance.
I'm really peeved at the new law that will go into effect in North Carolina on Tuesday, which will require applicants for driver's licenses to prove they are in the US legally (except Canadians). So now, for example, the matricula consular, an identification card issued by the Mexican Government to its citizens abroad, will no longer be accepted at the NC DMV. Supposedly, this is to thwart terrorists (as if someone bent on flying a plane into a building wouldn't be capable of forging enough identification to get his or her ass in an airline seat ...) But the real practical effect is going to be that thousands of Mexicans and Central Americans will be driving illegally, because they are going to do whatever it takes to get themselves to work. That's why they're here.

This really just appears to be a law designed to harass undocumented workers, dreamed up by the kind of people who are happy to have Latinos scrubbing their toilets on the cheap, but feel the need to remind them of their place in the world.

But aside from whether you believe undocumented workers should or shouldn't be here in the first place, isn't it a good idea to encourage people planning to maneuver huge metal machines around in public to pass a little test first?

I predict a rise in hit-and-runs: folks who didn't even pass a test to drive are going to get into accidents and hightail it because a) they're driving without licenses, which is illegal and b) they're in the country illegally and are afraid the cops will subsequently turn them over to La Migra.

As for the "solution" to terrorism, I don't know, but I do know that the odds of me dying in a terrorist attack are probably less than 1 in 1.5 million, while the odds of me dying in a traffic accident are at least 1 in 7,000. So which do I give a crap about more: the potential terrorist who's too stupid to get in with a good forger, or the guy driving without a license on his way to your house to cut the lawn?
Two co-workers just called in to my cubicle asking about the song "Anticipation." Was it just from a commercial, or an actual song? (They are both younger than I am). It's a Carly Simon song used in Heinz Ketchup commercial, I said. I like being known as the person who knows a lot of useless trivia. It makes me feel like I have a place in this world.
I've been playing with my blog template, changing around colors and such, and just generally making a mess of everything. I'm not an html or javascript whiz--I do most of my web stuff in Dreamweaver--but if I play with stuff I can usually figure out what makes what go. Of course I never remember to back things up before I play with them, so I was running the risk of really screwing up the template and not being able to put it right. But since it's the same template that about 50% of the people on Blogger seem to use, I'm sure I could have found a way to put Humpty together again. I also realized--duh--that even though I don't have the premium paid Blogger service that allows images, I can still have images by linking to ones stored elsewhere on the web. Like I said, duh. This isn't rocket science, but for some reason I just now figured that out. Oh well, it's not like I'm getting paid for this or anything.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Vote for Me at some blog rating site. At the very tippy top of the page are some colored boxes ... you want to click the GREEN box because that means GOOD! You do not want to hit antything that's red, because that means BAD, and you like me, right?
I was looking at Amazon to see if I could get the complete Pee Wee's Playhouse on DVD. Apparently not, according to this. But, if you sign up to be notified by e-mail when it's available, Amazon will notify the studio of how many people want it. So, if you like Pee Wee (and I know you do because who doesn't), then go to this page and sign up to be notified. Thanks.
No matter where I've lived, there are always annoying people who go on and on about how this place is not nearly so good as some previous place they've lived. The worst were the ex-Berkeleyites in Madison, WI. It seemed like every sentence began "In Berkeley ..." or "In the Bay Area ..." They had better coffee houses, better record stores, a better local music scene, better food co-ops, and much more savvy and committed political radicals than Madison. I had moved to Madison from Johnson City, TN, and to me Madison was like the Emerald City. If I started a sentence with "In Tennessee ..." it was usually because I was going to talk about what sucky coffee houses, record stores, music scenes, co-ops and political radicals there were in TN, or about about how I got called "boy" and "sir" all the time because I wore short hair.

Anyway, the reason I'm thinking of this is that during the whole snow debacle we've just been through here, I've found myself starting a lot of sentences with "In Chicago ...," as in "In Chicago they start salting and sanding before the first flake of snow falls and the roads never even get bad in the first place." Or: "In Chicago no one would dream of leaving their parking lot unplowed to freeze over into a sheet of ice like this." I'm sure it's annoying and I try to watch it, but sometimes I can't help myself.

It's strange that snow should make me nostalgic for Chicago when the rotten weather was the number one reason we moved south. I definitely don't miss clambering over 4-foot-tall snowbanks created by the plows every time I had to cross the street, or carrying a shovel in my car so I could dig myself out as needed. But I do miss the el and the extensive bus system. No matter where you were in the city, you could always get around no matter what the weather because of mass transit. They're making plans here for a train system that's allegedly going to be built by 2007 (I'm looking forward to seeing something actually finished by 2114), and most of the locals I talk to are pissed off about it and talk about what a waste it is. Around here, only the truly desperate and the very committed take the bus system because it's just not nearly as useful or convenient as driving. But nobody realizes that if you make the committment to building mass transit that is more convenient and cheaper than driving, people will use it happily. Because of all the opposition, the train system we end up with is going to be a half-assed compromise (it won't go to the airport, for example) that will end up making the naysayers' prophecies self-fulfilling.

About a year and a half ago, Dan Savage wrote a fabulous paean to the Chicago el in Seattle's weekly The Stranger. I have it bookmarked and I like to remind myself of his arguments for when I'm conversing with anti-mass-transit people.
Why send "poetic" spam? (OK, I'm just using the word "poetic" because it's convenient, not because I actually think that the spam I'm getting is poetry or that I even know poetry when I see it.) I mean, you could send a spam e-mail that just says "get this great warranty for your vehicle" and give a link, or you can send a very elaborate and bizarre e-mail, like one I received this morning, with scrolling and near invisible text that has seemingly little to do with your quest to get people to click on your car warranty link.

The spam I got this morning had the following text scrolling across the top of the message:
you are a mobile brock, you are a educational loser, Let's go underneath the ramona. ping, equitable elvera, you heavy maurita. the lenora doesn't enjoy replenished the sugary tooth. don't turn around, the amiee is compiles the unsuccessful nenita, Pin the rubin on the donkey. Someday the mario will be carnal. pei was not minded your cheaper delia holy buh, the dalia am shifting the muddy melisa, the terese am tuning the fresher herman?We better go on the sau, berenice is so loud that I am retains the gertrudis. Much like a best noel the dewayne is extremely nervous. A bumpy alline makes baby Jesus cry. Shave the lawana, you are a nervous freda, Don't be so reliable Hey baby wanna let me start sampled your stanton?I wonder if the shonta was firm. A overcooked lanell makes baby Jesus cry. sweet jebus, Someone is developing the lan, the rocco died becuase the wilda was actuate the burma. I love you from the bottom of my loudest ettie. you are a grievous forest, Pin the ernest on the donkey. A brief ryann makes baby Jesus cry. the glenna doesn't enjoy sliding the bland delia. the buck was concatenate the cody?bust a cap dawg, Pin the derrick on the donkey. Pin the matchbox on the donkey. georgine is so purple that I am expected the magda. Shave the jolie, the jerry said ' Stop milled the roland, 'What if leeanna saw a programmable ardath that was skirting a candi?

Then this text was in extemely light blue, and if I hadn't been paying attention I would have missed it entirely:
the caleb am dawning the berry?look out, great Cesaer's ghost, lateral rogelio,
the ray said ' Stop preserving the javier, '

Then we get to the "business" part of the message:
Would you like an comprehensive warranty for your vehicle
Click Here To Find Out How
Get security against unexpected and pricey repairs

Then in very light blue again:
linn looks like a nicest keisha. Never have circular sex with a educational bao.
Extended vehicle warranties from us can provide years of stress free driving. We offer a wide range of extended car warranty plans so that you can

And in black:
select the right auto warranty to fit your lifestyle.

and again in very light blue:
outside of the medical tami lies a feebler emeline. the jerry said ' Stop milled the roland, '

Perhaps they're hoping that the scrolling text and the barely visible light blue text will serve as subliminal messages to make me subconsciously think: "Need vehicle warranty ... must click link in e-mail now ..."

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

My show on WXDU is now every other Wednesday from 4-6 pm (EST). Starting today. So I figured I'd report my playlist here, mostly for the heck of it, but really because I want to try to keep real records of what I play, and why not use my blog? It's got to be good for something. So here goes:

"Million Dollar Plan" -- Bigger T Joe Gibbs Productions
"That's Something I Do" -- Apples in Stereo Velocity of Sound
"Silver Tongue Please" -- Truman's Water The Singles 1992-1997
"Space Mutants 4" -- Phenomenauts Rockets & Robots
"Aló" -- Plastilina Mosh Hola Chicuelos
"One Day I'm Gonna Be Somebody" -- The Time What Time Is It?
"Smash Smash Smash" -- The Minds Plastic Girls
"Woman Hang Your Head in Shame" -- Ben & Spence Looking for My Baby
"Blitkrieg over Kenosha" -- Mark Shurilla & the Black Holes Polka Comes To Your Haus!
"Brave Generation" -- Green On Red Gravity Talks
"Real (The Live Feel)" -- Sizzla Up in Fire
"Guadalupe" -- Celso Piña Una Visión
"Money Is A Problem" -- Dean Martin Swingin' With Dino
"Cerebrus" -- Amon Duul II Yeti
"Cicely" -- Cocteau Twins Treasure
"Ghost of Mae West" -- Trailer Bride High Seas
"Pirates" -- Super Rail Band Kongo Sigur
"Analogue Lovemuffin" -- Suran Song In Stag Pure Agitator
"Sweet Tooth" -- The Candylarks Weetsay Oothtay
"mmmm ... theta burn" -- Cold Sides 5/21/03
"Sequestered Perplexities" -- Tristan Da Cunha Split CD w/Words For Snow
"The Big Gundown" -- The Hellbenders B-Movie Brain
"Space Age Ballad" -- Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso UFO New Geocentric World
"Si Señor" -- Control Machete Artillería Pesada, Presenta
"Clean on your Bean #1" -- Dinosaur L New York Noise
"Amame Mamá" -- Ricardo Lemvo and Makina Loca Ay Valeria
"Honey is That Love" -- Kimberley Rew Tunnel Into Summer
"Como Se" -- Julieta Venegas Aqui
"Pick up The Pieces One by One" -- A.A.B.B. James Brown's Funky People (Part 3)
I got another almost poetic spam today. Wrested B. Plenipotentiary wrote to me to offer me super prices on software:

Surprise surprise!
Contentment is, after all, simply refined indolence
To be angry is to revenge the faults of others on ourselves
The trouble with life is that there are so many beautiful women and so little time
Acting is happy agony
Fashion exists for women with no taste, etiquette for people with no breeding

Why paing big money for boxed software ??
Save up to 95% on price buying OEM licensed software from us now!!
All the software is OEM- Meaning that you don't get the box and the manual with your software.
All you will receive is the actual software and your unique registration code.

[Deleted list of super value-price software including Adobe Photoshop for just $59.99, a savings of almost $500]

Make every decision as if you owned the whole company
The laws of each are convertible into the laws of any other
All wrong doing is done in the sincere belief that it is the best thing to do
How can you dare teach a man to read until you've taught him everything else first?
It is easier to forgive an enemy than a friend
If you can't appreciate what you have got then get what you appreciate
Two great European narcotics, alcohol and Christianity
Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones
Europe has a press that stresses opinions America a press, radio, and television that emphasize news
I know of nothing more laughable than a doctor who does not die of old age
To believe what has not occurred in history will not occur at all, is to argue disbelief in the dignity of man
Fortune is like the market, where, many times, if you can stay a little, the price will fall
Put the uncommon effort into the common task make it large by doing it in a great way

I know, I'm too easily amused ...

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Mr. Margolis, the guy next door to us, has died. He was 92 years old and in failing health, so it wasn't a big surprise.

A few months after we moved in (this was about 3-1/2 years ago), Mr. Long, the guy next door on the other side of us, died of a heart attack (he was in his 70s, I believe). He had been quite welcoming and nice, and he was one of those retired folks who serve as an unofficial "mayor" of the street: he had his eyes open and knew everything that went on. We lived next to a guy like that in Chicago, and if anyone so much as slowed down and looked at our house during the day we knew about it when we got home from work. Anyway, we were looking forward to living next to another guy like that, but he died. His wife, a very nice person, still lives there, but she's not the type to hang out in the yard and chew the fat with neighbors the way Mr. Long did.

Less than 6 months later, Mr. Clark, another gregarious neighbor who lived directly across the street, died as well. He was very friendly, liked to talk and also kept an eye out for his neighbors. He went into the hospital for surgery and died of complications. Mark and I sensed a pattern developing since we moved in and hoped no one else noticed.

But Mr. Margolis looked like he was going to soldier on. He didn't get out much--just to the synagogue on Saturdays, occasionally out for a weekend lunch with his son and to his front porch when the weather was decent. He was in and out of the hospital a few times, and his wife (who was in a nursing home) died last year, but it seemed like he was planning to tough it out for a while longer. Apparently he had gone into a hospice before he died--I should have known something was up because I hadn't seen any of his around-the-clock caretakers recently, and his son from New York had been down.

I really hope everyone else on the block stays healthy ...

In other news, I went to work today. I waited until I thought the crazy people in SUVs, who are always in a hurry, had finished careening through the slush and ice. Most of my route is interstate highway it was in pretty good shape by the time I headed out. In fact, it was all fine until I got to work. The ramp down into my parking deck looked OK, so I headed down, only to find that the automatic door wouldn't open for me. So I had to back up the ramp, execute a tricky turnaround and park in the visitors lot. It was a sheet of ice. I was able to drive on it--slowly with no sudden starts or stops. But when I tried to walk on it I realized it was going to be the most dangerous part of my day. I made it in, joining the six or so other people who came in, and then our boss said we should all go home at 3:00. The good thing about living in a place that gets paralyzed by small amounts of snow is I get a lot of reading done.

Monday, January 26, 2004

Today was a snow day. I didn't go to work. We're expecting freezing rain to start up any time now. It's cold and all I felt like doing was reading and working in my giant book of NY Times crossword puzzles. If I didn't do crossword puzzles I wouldn't ever had learned what an "esne" is.

Why do local TV anchorwomen insist on wearing extremely silly hairdos? I'm not prone to taking TV news seriously, but if I were it would be completely impossible because all I can focus on are the monstrosities on the anchorwomen's heads.
Silly link of the day. (May make no sense to the non-dog-sport-oriented person)(Warning: a musical web page. Turn down your sound if you're at the office.)

Sunday, January 25, 2004

We've gotten about 3 inches of snow today, and we're currently getting freezing rain. This is apparently sufficient grounds for a declaration of a state of emergency. I think I mentioned before that everything in NC grinds to a halt with even one inch of snow. I always wonder if any of the state bean counters have ever asked the question: Which is more expensive: putting a little money into preparing for inclement weather or cleaning up the horrible mess afterward? There have been about 500 accidents in the Triangle area since the snow started at 10 am today. All of the grocery stores and shopping malls have closed because no one can get to them. The power is probably going to go out if the freezing rain keeps up because the trees around the power lines don't get trimmed, so they come crashing down onto the lines. Schools and businesses have already announced they will be closed tomorrow, and I have no expectations that I'll be able to get to work in the morning (maybe late morning). I just wonder if maybe it would be a little cheaper and easier to invest in some snow removal equipment and a little "winterization" for the whole power grid, that's all. But if I suggest that around here, everyone always objects and says "but we don't get much snow. It doesn't justify the cost." I think that people are afraid they would actually have to show up at work if the snow got removed from the streets. I guess I don't blame them--I like a day off as much as anyone else, even if I do have to make the time up later. But the real bummer is that it's not as if you can do much with your day off--you can't go anywhere because the roads suck. And chances are you won't have any electricity, so your house will be freezing (even if you heat with gas it needs electricity to blow) and you can't watch a movie or surf the net. And forget about catching up on yard work--it's freezing out and there's a coating of ice on everything.

I've made sure there's plenty of bird seed available outside. I filled the feeders and put a tin of seed on the ground for cardinals and other birds who can't use my feeder (I want to get a pole-mounted feeder one of these days, because a lot of birds can't or don't eat from the hanging ones). Otherwise, I haven't done much all day but read. We did watch a movie--a Japanese film called The Suicide Club. I really didn't get it. There was a rash of suicides--starting with 54 schoolgirls holding hands and jumping into the path of an oncoming train. The police were trying to figure it all out. It was bloody and sometimes disturbing. There was something at the end that was supposed to explain it all, but I still didn't get it. I don't get a lot of Japanese films and stuff. Hello Kitty I get, but a lot of it I don't.
Like this Kikkoman commercial. It's all about Kikkoman vanquishing mustard and ketchup and other condiments (someone translated it for me once). But why does the kitty cat have to die?

Oh yeah, and I sucked at bowling last night. Mark did much better than last week, though.
Spam can be fun sometimes. I actually read some of my spam, before reporting it to the spamcatchers, and I find some of it almost poetic at times. Like this one I received from "Gentility O. Aquavit" with the subject line "re: Buenos Tardes!":

You don't know me from Adam. :)


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Art! Who comprehends her? With whom can one consult concerning this great goddess?

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just chcek out our pprsooe
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Justice consists of doing no one injury, decency in giving no one offense.

make a right choice - join to 1000's of our happy clients
just fololw to
(link deleted to protect the guillible)
and u will nveer be sorry


Natural abilities are like natural plants they need pruning by study.
Ability is a poor man's wealth.
Stung by the splendor of a sudden thought.
The best time to make friends is before you need them.


Friday, January 23, 2004

Herd some sheep.

Did you know ...
If a sheep is tipped over and ends up on its back, it cannot get back on its feet by itself. If a sheep is lying on its back for too long it will die (sheep were never "designed" to lie on their backs).

A one-year-old sheep is called a hogget and a two-year-old is called a two-tooth. Sheep grow only eight teeth, two per year. When a ewe is a two-tooth, she is ready to breed.
Listen to some Shooby Taylor.
Watch a video of a Tennessee Fainting Goat.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Mark is on the phone right now with my brother-in-law, who is looking after his mom in Mexico. Apparently one of her cats (which both made it through the car accident that rolled and totally smashed her car), has died. I'm not sure what killed it ... it was at least 14 years old. Maybe it heard that it was about to take another car ride to the US, and it thought "Oh no, not again." I joke, but I'm sure this is devastating to Mark's mom. The cats are her life.
I'm interested in trying something: What if someone who's actually reading this were able to contact me? Would it be a bad thing? I've got this e-mail address that mostly exists to catch spam, although I do check it frequently ... I think I'll try posting it here. So I've added it to the links at right. I can always ignore the e-mails if they suck...
It's confusing when you use Windoze all day at work and then Mac at home. Little tiny differences can trip you up. Like the command/control key thing. Most of the keyboard shortcuts that use the command key on a Mac use the control key on Windoze, so in the morning when I get to work I'm always accidentally hitting alt+something, because the alt key is where the command key is on a Mac keyboard. But the control key is in the same place on both, so at home after work, I have to readjust and I end up hitting control+something when I really mean command. And that stupid start menu key on a Windoze keyboard is where the option key is on a Mac, so I hit that a lot accidentally at work. Add to that the fact that I can't type, and I'm a real mess some days.

I used to be completely pro-Mac and anti-Windoze, but now I think I hate them both equally. There's always something wrong with whichever computer I'm using. After so many years of using computers, I've gotten weary of trying to get everything to work the way it's supposed to, so now I'm just accustomed to all the little work-arounds I've devised for everything.

And I know it's past high time for me to upgrade my home computer to OSX, but every upgrade I've ever done has involved countless hours of getting everything into that delicate balance. Some stupid but important little utility won't be compatible with the new system, and some other thing will suddenly develop a conflict with something else ... and I'll have to devise a brand-new set of workarounds and spend more money to upgrade more software. Sometimes I think that cunieform would be just as easy.

I read that Lynda Barry wrote an entire book with a sumi-e paintbrush. She said it made her stop worrying so much about what words she was using because she was so focused on drawing out each letter. So maybe I should write things out longhand, using my left hand, and then just scan them into the computer. Each trivial e-mail would be it's own little work of art. People at work would think I was eccentric and give me a wide berth.

Where am I going with all this? Nowhere fast. I'm going to play with my photographs now. I've got another gallery in the works.

Except for an occasional Egg McMuffin when I'm traveling, I stay away from McDonalds. Not only don't I like their food (except for the EggMc), but I usually don't feel so good after eating it and I'm convinced it's bad for me. This article reinforces my beliefs.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

My mum-in-law is out of the Mexican hospital. She's still in Mexico, though, staying in a hotel with my brother in law until she's right to travel. Apparently she's in much less pain and able to move around somewhat. Hopefully they can head to Houston by the end of the week. Apparently the whole passport/proper documentation thing isn't such a big deal if you come into the US by car.

Mark says he doesn't think his mom ever wants to drive again.

We had more conversations here at work about the sorry and very expensive state of health care here in the US. But just imagine what would happen if we had free universal health care: I for one would probably quit my job and do freelance work for a living. Or I'd become a dog trainer. Employers would have less of a stick to frighten the work force with.

And speaking of frightening things, I keep reading articles that put me off my food.

In case it's not obvious, I'm feeling rather pessimistic right now. It's also cold outside, and I hate cold. And my back hurts ...

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

There was an article in the Washington Post (mini-registration required) today about a man whose family didn't know he was hit by a car and killed until they got the $17,000 bill from the hospital. That was in Maryland. In contrast, it only took us 14 hours to find my mother-in-law after her car accident in Mexico and she's alive. So things could have been worse. Plus, we're not going to get a bill. That's right folks, Mexico provides free health care to its residents. Granted, it's not great health care, but have you been in a hospital in the US lately? They have plenty of machines and things that go beep, but no employees to make sure the patients are still alive. The last time I was in the hospital I waited 9 hours just for a couple of Tylenol (for which my HMO was billed $13).

Mark and I are planning to write living wills that make it clear we are DNR and do not want to be kept alive artificially. All that does is jack up the bill your survivors have to pay once you're allowed to croak in peace. I really think we should move to Mexico.

Monday, January 19, 2004

It was a busy weekend. Long, too--I got today off for MLK Day. Mark's brother flew down to Mexico to see after his mom. Although she has no broken bones, she's in a lot of pain and she has a big lump on her back that seems to be the source of a lot of her woes. They're trying to determine if it's something that will require surgery, or if she just took a hell of a blow from the accident and needs time to heal. They want to get her out of the hospital because they need the bed, but she can't travel yet, so I think she's going to stay in some sort of a clinic. She also can't leave Mexico because all of her documents disappeared--probably some corrupt cop lifted them from the car and they are now somewhere in the Mexican black market. Mark's brother said that after seeing the car he's amazed she survived.

Here's another tip: If you're going to be in another country, make two copies of all your important documents. Keep one with your things (but apart from your passport) and send the other to your next of kin. That way you can get new docs issued more quickly. We did this on our last vacation, but we never thought of making sure Mark's mom had done so. Unless we find some useful docs when the movers show up with her stuff we're at the mercy of the US State Department. But the consular employees have been more than helpful so far, so I'm sure we'll get her back in the US one way or another.

Anyway, while Mark spent hours on the phone making sure his mom was taken care of, I managed to do so a few of the items on my agenda. Saturday I went to a "Lure Chasing Fun Day" with Lucy. Lure coursing is a trial sport for sighthounds--similar to greyhound racing but without the betting or prize money (the object being to get more titles on your dog so you can brag about what a champion it is--and increase the worth of its offspring when you breed it). The events are usually run by the AKC or breed clubs and are are open only to registered sighthounds. But non-sighthounds will chase the lure, and it's a lot of fun to watch your dog in a flat-out run across a field, so one of the Greensboro dog sport clubs hired a woman with a lure machine to hold a "fun day" for all dogs, including mutts like Lucy. The object of such a fun day is basically to watch your dog behave like a dog and chase a moving object that looks like a critter across a field. There was also a photographer on hand so we could get photos of our dogs behaving like dogs. My favorite photo of Lucy was taken while she was watching the lure go by--she looks like a little hunting dog. I really like this one, and this one as well.

Lucy wouldn't actually chase the lure at first. They have someone at the start to release your dog, and you're supposed to go to the finish to catch her. But there was a little rise in the ground between start and finish, and the dog can't see where you've gone. So when they released Lucy, she ignored the lure and ran up into the clump of spectators, looking for me. So I figured that I'd release her and have someone else catch her, on the theory that she'd be more comfortable running off after her prey as long as she knew where I was. That worked well. Before I released her, I wanted to focus her on the lure, which was just lying on the ground in front of us. So I said "Get the critter!" But instead of focusing her on the lure, it made her look off into the woods next to us. I kept saying "get the critter," but every time I said "critter" she'd look toward the woods. She still took off after the lure when it started moving, though. Later I realized that she knew perfectly well that the lure lying in front of her was not an actual critter, and that she also knew that critters live in the woods, therefore when I said "critter" I must have been talking about something over in the woods. So the next time we were at the start line I said "Get the toy," and she focused right in on the lure, which did indeed look a lot like a toy.

We also bowled our first sanctioned league games Saturday night. I was exhausted from my doggie fun day, and Mark was exhausted from making arrangements for his mom, so we weren't feeling up to it. But we couldn't not show up on the night we set our handicaps, so we went. I bowled a 120 the first game and Mark didn't do even that well. But we got better--my high for the evening was a 171. I can't remember Mark's high score. And it's actually better not to do well the first night, because that gives you a higher handicap. So in the long run it will help us as long as we can bowl better from here on out. Which we will.

Friday, January 16, 2004

We found my mother-in-law (see previous posts below for why this is important). Actually, people from the US Consulate found her. She's in a hospital in San Luis Potosí and can't be moved for seven days. She's very banged up and in a lot of pain and they're still doing tests to determine the extent of her injuries. But she's alive with the prospect of being well again at some point.

She was travelling with her two cats, and we pretty much figured they were gone--either dead or vanished from the scene. That would just about kill her--in fact she kept asking about her cats when Mark first spoke with her. But the amazing thing is that even though the car was rolled and all the windows smashed, once it was taken to the police impound facility the cats were discovered still inside, alive. The problem is that the police will not turn over any property without a signature from the owner, and she can't even move enough to sign anything. Nonetheless, the very kind consular employee was on her way today to talk the police into giving her the cats, which she plans to keep in her home until everyone can be brought to the US. We're waiting until they are actually sprung to tell her they're OK.

Now we're working on getting my sister-in-law on a plane to Mexico. Here's a tip: always have a valid passport, even if you're too broke to travel. You might actually need it someday. If you don't have a passport, at least keep a birth certificate handy-- if you're a US citizen it'll get you into Mexico (and I think maybe Canada as well).

Sometimes it's better when life is a little dull ...
Here's a concise guide to the Mexican area code system:

NEW TELEPHONE CODES - valid as of November 2001
All local telephone numbers remain the same, as do 700, 800, 900 numbers. To call Mexico City, Guadalajara and Monterrey from anywhere in Mexico you will need to dial 01 + two digit long distance code (Mexico City 55, Guadalajara 33, Monterrey 81) + the 8 digits of the phone number. For any calls to any other city in Mexico you must dial 01 + 3 digit long distance code + 7 digits of the phone number. To call a cell phone in Mexico City, Guadalajara and Monterrey from anywhere in Mexico you will need to dial 044 + two digit long distance code (Mexico City 55, Guadalajara 33, Monterrey 81) + the 8 digits of the cell phone number. For any calls to a cell phone in any other city in Mexico you must dial 044 + 3 digit long distance code + 7 digits of the cell phone number. For long distance calls to cellphones you must dial 01 + 2 or 3 digits (new code) + cell phone number. To call Mexico from abroad you will need to dial the access code of the country you are in + 52 + the new long distance code + 7 or 8 digits (see above). If you would like more information on the new codes you can call 020 or 090.

It still took me several tries to get the correct number for the Federal Highway Police in Mexico City. Nobody answered. (See today's previous post below for why this is important to me)

This is why I love dogs.

I'm in a sort of a twilight zone right now, waiting for a call from Mexico, and I can't really do anything but blog. My mother-in-law, who has been living in Mexico, has apparently been in a car accident, but we can't find her. She was on her way back to the US for good, and somewhere in or near San Luis Potosí she was in an accident. We think. At this point we don't know anything for sure. Last night we got a call from a friend of hers in Guanajuato (where she was living), who had gotten a call from someone with Seguro Social. He gave us a number to call, and that appears to be all he knows about the situation. No one answers at that number.

So naturally we went into a bit of a panic. We got on the internet to figure out who else to call. I came up with a list of hospitals in San Luis Potosí and decided I would start calling and use the Spanish skills I've cultivated for so many years. Unfortunately I don't have many skills with the Mexican phone system. The phone numbers on this particular site are listed with the assumption that you are calling from Mexico and have a knowledge of Mexican area codes. For example (01)48116363 is for the Centro Medico del Potosí, but really the "4" stands for the full area code: 444. Apparently it is assumed you know to put those other two 4s in there. And if you're calling from the US you can drop the "01" and instead substitute the US international calling code (011) and the country code (52) for Mexico. it took me a while to get everything right.

But even then I was getting no answer at a lot of the numbers. I think most of them aren't actual inpatient hospitals. But the people who did answer were very nice and helpful, but they couldn't find my mother-in-law. At one point someone gave me a number that was supposed to be for a hospital, but it turned out to be someone's house. I thought it was strange when a woman answered with "Bueno" and not the name of the hospital, but this is all so strange I paid no attention. I launched into my spiel in Spanish about calling from the US looking for my mother-in-law who had been in an accident. I said I think she's at the Seguro Social hospital. (Unlike the US Social Security system, the Mexican Seguro Social provides a complete range of services for everyone ... sort of like an actual social security system. People in the US often assume things here are so superior to Mexico's but I wonder sometimes ...). So I hear the woman say to someone, "Go find the number for Seguro Social. Hurry, my love. This woman is calling from the United States and her mother-in-law has been in an accident." I hear someone rifling through pages. Then I realize that there is a television on in the background. I hear a child's voice. Holy crap, I've called someone's home at 11 pm. and she's going out of her way to be helpful and nice. I love Mexico and Mexicans. I need to move there. I mean, imagine if things were the other way around: some woman with accented English calls you at 11 pm saying she's calling from Mexico trying to find her mother-in-law who's been in an accident in your city. Would you be nice, polite and helpful? I like to think I would, but in general, daily life in the US is constant training in how to be an asshole.

Anyway, I've called San Luis Potosí police. I've called the Cruz Roja (Red Cross). I called the US Embassy in Mexico City, who hooked me up with the consulate in Monterrey. They are looking for her and I'm waiting for them to call back. But even if they find her, they need her permission to give us any information about her. What if she's unconscious?

OK, I should go, because this isn't helping ...

Thursday, January 15, 2004

So I put a link to my blog on Blogarama, which is just a directory of blogs--nothing fancy. Apparently they have a "What's Cool" section, and I found out how they decide what's cool: They give you a URL to use for linking to them in your blog, and the URL contains a unique ID that lets them know the link came from you. The more click-throughs they get from your unique ID, the cooler you are to them. So I'm hoping my handful of readers will make me cool.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

I went to Target today with Melanie so we could get a baby shower gift for another co-worker. Hello Kitty was there. We had to rush but I managed to take a few photos. It seemed there were more employees than customers today, it was weird. I had to be very surreptitious.
I won't lie: I like Hello Kitty. So I was thrilled when I saw this feature at PopCultMag.

I'm not sure what I find so appealing about Hello Kitty--other cute characters do nothing for me. But there is something calming and cheering about her. But the only Hello Kitty product I own is a little bag that my co-workers gave me for my birthday a few years ago. I carry miscellaneous gadgets in it like my digital camera and my ipod. I'm afraid if I catually indulged in my "yen" to own more HK products, people would think I'm more of a freak than I really am. Plus I'd have even more clutter around me and that I don't need.
I have an e-mail account that exists mostly to catch spam (it's the one I use when registering at sites and anytime my address will be posted publicly). So I get a message that says it is an "Important Fraud Alert from Citibank." So I figure I'll at least take a look at it before I hit the "spam" button. I'm a bit skeptical to say the least: somehow I doubt that Citibank's email address is ""

Monday, January 12, 2004

Wow, I can't believe I forgot the biggest news of the weekend: I bowled a 200!

Mark and I joined a league--the "Saturday Fun League" at Village Lanes. After the initial meeting we all got to bowl 3 free games (unsanctioned--real bowling starts next week). I bowled a 149, a 169 and a 179--all great scores considering I average 130. So Sunday we decided we could use some practice because the people on the league are a lot better than we are, and we bowled seven games each. My scores started at 122 and inched up steadily until game 7, when I hit 200. Now watch me start my league play on Saturday by not breaking 100 ...
I did it again--I was writing directly into Blogger's user interface and my browser crashed, eradicating my carefully wrought prose. I must remember to type my entire blog outside the browser and then paste the text into Blogger when I'm finished.

Fortunately I hadn't written much. But I don't feel like re-writing it, so I'll pick up where I left off and keep going.

We got snow Friday. Around here, a little inch of show instills panic, and the mere mention of it sends everyone to the grocery store where they buy all of the bread and milk. There are few salt trucks or snowplows around here, so the roads don't get cleared very well. Plus the drivers around here don't understand that driving really fast and then slamming on the brakes isn't a good strategy for snow. Or they think that 4-wheel drive means their SUVs won't slide on a patch of snow or ice. And then there are the tailgaters--they're the ones who rant and rave that snow wouldn't cause so many problems if people wouldn't drive so damn slow. Put all of this together and you get a carnival of insanity every time a few flakes start to fall.

It wasn't snowing when I got up Friday morning, so I was really surprised when I stepped out and the yard was already white. No problem, I thought, it's not really sticking to the roads. But about halfway to work it was starting to resemble blizzard conditions--visibility was low and there was a layer of slush on I-40. I questioned the wisdom of driving all the way to Raleigh. I knew I'd get there, but I didn't want to get stuck there. Anyway, I got ther and after a few hours of not getting anything done with the snow seemingly getting worse, my boss suggested I consider getting myself back to Durham, so I did. It started clearing shortly after I got home. I spent most of the day "fixing" a few things on my computer, as a result of which I can't print anything.

Along the way home I took a few photos--a few between work and the parking deck, and the rest once I was safely back in Durham. I put them into a little web gallery. This is the first of several galleries I plan to post ... actually, I posted one a couple of years ago, so I may as well point you there as well. These were some b&w photos I took when I was doing a darkroom class at the Durham Arts Council. I took a ton, but ony got around to scanning in a handful. Then I realized that I'm not so into the chemistry and standing in the dark dodging and burning. I'm too spontaneous for that, so the digital camera is the thing for me.

Thursday, January 08, 2004

No good deed goes unpunished ...

So I've posted before about this Yahoo group called Triangle Freecycle. Basically if you have something you don't need, you offer it and hopefully someone who needs it is on the list and will take it. Similarly, if there's something you need, you can post and see if someone's got it. There's no trading or selling allowed--that's why it's called "freecycle." People have a really hard time getting that point, and the moderator has to keep posting reminders that you can't ask for trades. Anyway, tons of people joined recently as a result of articles in the News & Observer and the Durham Herald Sun, and a bunch are trying to unsubscribe now that they realize it's not really their thing. There have been several posts to the list that say "unsubscribe," and it seemed that people were having trouble doing it correctly. Since I know how to both subscribe and unsubscribe from such groups (I have a master's degree), I decided to post a helpful little e-mail explaining to people how to get off the list without deluging the whole group with "unsubscribe" e-mails. So now people are just e-mailing me directly and asking to be taken off the list. D'oh!

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Sometimes I'm convinced that I have ADHD and I was never diagnosed as a kid because nobody was ever diagnosed with ADHD when I was a kid. Then sometimes I think the whole ADHD thing is a crock dreamed up by drug companies to sell surplus stimulants ....

But back to me, me, me (hey, it is my blog), I do have serious attention issues. Like just now, I was writing an e-mail to a friend, and literally mid-sentence, I remembered a photo I had snapped many years ago that would have illustrated a point I was making in the e-mail. I knew I had scanned it at some point and that I must have it on one of the zillions of backup cds and zip disks that I have hanging around. So I became obsessed with finding it, forgetting completely that I had a half-written e-mail to finish. I probably would have forgotten the e-mail for good if I hadn't gotten a little frustrated at not finding the photo and stopped to think about why I was so fired up about finding it.

This kind of thing happens daily. Sometimes I think it's a wonder that I've been able to hold down a job because I have absolutely no focus whatsoever. I can't sit still unless I have something that totally engrosses me (Photoshop projects are the best, unfortunately, only about 20% of my work time is actually spent doing cool Photoshop stuff). Mark says it's just an artistic thing, and that creative people are always a bit flaky. He speaks from experience because his mother is an artist, and she's apparently done things like miss flights because some pretty shiny thing or another distracted her in the airport. I'm not that bad ... well, I could be but I know myself well enough to tether myself to the departure gate as soon as I get to the airport.

Meetings have always been the worst, and I'm lucky that I only have to go to a few meetings a year in my current job. I had a job from hell that seemed about 80% meetings. It was excruciating because the meetings would literally drag on all day sometimes, and all I could think about was how much actual work I wasn't getting done because I was stuck in a less than useless meeting (usually with less than useless people). If I wasn't stressing about the work time I was losing, I was thinking over and over "My entire life is rushing by without me and I'm stuck in this room. I'll be stuck in this room until I'm dead, which will be soon because I'm going to have a heart attack if I don't get out of this room." Or, I would just stare at whoever was talking and think "Shut up. Shutup. Shut up. SHUT UP! ..." I acquired lots of prescriptions at that job. My doctor told me to quit. So did Mark.

Now I can't remember what started me on this topic ....

Off to bed now; radio show at 7 am tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Apparently lunch was the highlight of my day today ...

So Subway has been advertising its low-carb wraps. I think the one they've been pushing is a turkey-bacon thingie. Anyway, I figure I'd be better off with something both low-carb and low-fat, so I decided that I'd get a veggie sub in a wrap version. But get this: to turn your regular sub into a wrap, they add 50 cents to the price. That's right, they take away most of the actual food in the sandwich and substitute what amounts to a thick piece of paper made of wheat, and that costs more. Ok, I know, I'm confusing the idea of "cost" with the idea of "worth." It doesn't matter what the tortilla wrapper cost Subway, what matters is how much someone will pay for it--what it's worth to people. So you get a bunch of people who, like me, feel a little heavier after the holidays, and we're willing to pay that extra 50 cents to get less food. Yes, I paid it. It was a tasty little lunch and I enjoyed it.

But that's beside the point. The point is, fuck Subway. I don't want their stupid 50-cents-extra wrap. If I'm going to pay more for a wrap I might as well walk over to Roly-Poly, which has better food, is not as busy so the employees have time to be nice and pretend they are glad you showed up, and you can watch daytime TV while you eat. And even though it's a chain, it feels really local in there. And you don't have to do that whole sandwich assembly line thing like at Subway. You end up having to talk to three different people in the course of getting a simple sandwich made at Subway, and none of them seem particularly glad you came.

In downtown Raleigh, where I work, there's actually a much better place than Subway right next door on Salisbury Street. It's called the Station II (I don't know if there is a Station I somewhere.) I think the guys who own it are Greek, although I've never asked because what if they are Armenian or something and hate Greeks? Anyway, the food is wonderful, especially the vegetarian platter, which has salad, hummus, tabouli, falafel, dolmah and pita bread--pretty much all the food you need for an entire day--for $6. It's more than I usually want to spend on my lunch, but it's so worth it. And the place really is locally owned, and the exact same guys have been behind the counter since I started going there about three years ago. And they really are happy you showed up.

Maybe something more interesting will happen to me tomorrow ...

Monday, January 05, 2004

I gave away another item through Triangle Freecycle. Actually, the guy hasn't picked it up yet, but he should do that tomorrow or Wednesday. It's a UMAX scanner, for which Mark was unable to find a Windows XP driver. My mother gave Mark her old scanner, which works great, so Mark asked me to post this one on Freecycle. Not only did we find it a home, but someone also e-mailed us to point out that the XP driver is available on UMAX's European websites, but for "marketing reasons" they decline to make it available on US websites. I guess they figure it's just too easy to convince Americans that something is obsolete, but the Europeans (perhaps because they don't have as much landfill space for their garbage?) are more tenacious.

I had some fun today at lunch. My boss, Melanie, had to go to some baby store at the mall to exchange stuff her babies got for christmas (she has quadruplets), so she asked me if I wanted to ride along. At some point inside the mall I pulled out my digital camera and started snapping pictures, mostly surreptitiously because people get upset when you point a camera at them. So I mostly "shot from the hip," which is great with a digital camera because you're not wasting any film if it's crap. At some point we went to Crate & Barrel because Melanie wanted to look at glasses. I made no secret of the fact that I was shooting pictures inside Crate & Barrel. They had so much gorgeous, colorful stuff that I was never going to buy, but I could take pictures of it!

So after Melanie had looked at the glasses and I had taken at least 15 pictures, I stopped to take a picture of some pretty mixing bowls right in front of the cash register. The cashier said that I wasn't allowed to take photos in the store. Instead of arguing that I had already been "allowed" to take many photos in the store (several right in front of employees) I just asked "why not?" She said something about Crate & Barrel having a "patent" on all of their photography. I briefly considered telling her that patents don't apply to photography and that copyrights, which do, only apply to the actual photographs, not the subjects of said photographs, and that any copyrights Crate & Barrel have on their own photographs do not extend to photographs taken by me. I own those copyrights regardless of the subject of my photographs. Furthermore, any patents, copyrights or trademarks applicable to the Crate & Barrel store and its contents do not protect them from being photographed (they could prohibit certain uses of the photographs, however). I could have gotten snotty and pretended to be lawyerlike, but I didn't because I know that Crate & Barrel have a right to prohibit any activity they want from taking place inside their stores. So despite the fact that the cashier had no idea what she was talking about, I really couldn't argue with her. It's their store. So we walked out of the store--me shooting pictures "from the hip" the entire way (none turned out very well), and as soon as I was outside the doors I turned and took a picture of the cashier, who was shaking her head at me the entire time. The photo's not so great, but the action allowed me sort of a symbolic parting shot.

Not all of the pictures in the store turned out so well (I don't use a flash, so I have to be really steady or I get a lot of blurring). I did get one really brilliant photo of some painted glasses. But mostly what I got was fired up. I'm on a mission to take as many pictures in Crate & Barrel stores as I possibly can. Unfortunately that would mean that I have to actually go to Crate & Barrel stores, and I'm really not much of a shopper. I rarely go to malls. But telling me I'm forbidden to take pictures in your store is like double-dog daring me to keep trying to get away with it.

I'm sure thwarting corporate espionage has something to do with the no-photos rule. But I bet it also has to do with controlling their public image. I'm skilled enough in Photoshop that I could probably make it look like people are having sex right on the Crate & Barrel checkout counter. I don't think they would consider that very good for their image. Also, I think one reason people go shopping in stores like Crate & Barrel is to look at all the pretty colored shiny things. I know that's why I go. They're counting on us seeing something fabulous and becoming deluded that the mere act of owning such a gorgeous thing will transform our lives into something better. Anyway, If I can look at photographs of their shiny pretty things and their carefully crafted shopping experience, I may not feel the need to actually go to their store and risk spending money on crap I don't need. In fact, what a brilliant home decorating idea: Go to various stores, take photos of the things you would love to have in your home, make prints, frame them, and hang them in your walls. Meanwhile, stick with your tried-and-true garage sale furnishings and stash your money into savings or bonds!

I'm definitely taking my camera to Target next time I go. The number one reason I go to that store is because they always have really cool-looking stuff, and it's usually displayed very well. What's more, it's so hard to find an employee there when you need one, I'm sure no one will bother me.

So anyway, that was all exciting and fun, and I'm hoping to get these & other photos organized into a nice little web gallery for your viewing pleasure one of these days.

On our way back to work we had to pass through the parking deck, where sits this oddity. Melanie said that it had been there for a while, first inside the elevator lobby, and later moved out into the deck proper. The little dog-biscuit thing on top is a recent addition, according to Melanie. My first thought was that it's an escaped exhibit from the NC Museum of History, which resides above the parking deck. But you'd think that the museum employees who pass by every day on their way to work would have lassoed it and taken it back to its cage. Unless it has earned its freedom and is now sitting in the parking deck just because it has no place to go. Maybe someone left the little dog biscuit on top because they felt sorry for it. At any rate, it's on level B of NC State Government Parking deck #17 in Raleigh if you'd like to give it a home. It's really kind of cute.

Sunday, January 04, 2004

Amazing! I just gave away my first item through Triangle Freecycle. (A list of Freecycles around the world is at ) The thing I gave away was my original Palm Pilot. I got it back in 1998 when they first came out, and it was quite cool. After a while I realized that there wasn't so much I had to keep track of that I couldn't put in a little calendar book and carry in my purse. But there was a great Mah Jongg game I downloaded to play on the Palm Pilot, and that was mostly what I did with it. Anyway, today I listed the Palm Pilot, complete with cradle (I don't think the new ones need cradles), software and instruction book. Along with that I listed a few other mac peripherals and a box of miscellaneous computer spaghetti. The Palm Pilot went in minutes to a woman who wants it as a gadget/toy for her daughter. It's kind of cool because she works half a block from me in Raleigh and she's going to come by my office tomorrow to pick up.

Then a guy wrote and asked for the rest of the stuff. He included a phone number, so I decided it would be easiest if I called him. He said he lived in Durham but his car was in the shop, and since I was going out anyway and Durham's not a huge place, I said I could probably bring the stuff by. Don't worry, Mark went with me--I don't wish to be read about in tomorrow's paper or found in bits an pieces months from now. The guy said that he was planning to go to a friend's or neighbor's or something and that if he wasn't there I should leave the stuff on his back steps. So I get there and no one answers the door. So I go around the house to the back steps and it dawns on me that this guy may have a bit of a hoarding problem. There was miscellaneous stuff--junk, really--strewn about, a junked car completely full of junk, a shed/garage full of junk, plus it was obvious that no one had paid any attention to the yard or the exterior of the house in several years. I might not have thought much about it if I hadn't just read an article in the NY Times about a hoarder who was trapped for days when all of his stuff fell on him, and then a follow-up article on hoarders. (If the link doesn't work it's because the NY Times either wants you to register for current stories--it's free-- or pay for archived stories over 30 days old. Sorry.) Mark speculated that the guy really was home but he was a recluse. Or maybe he was trapped in all his junk. OK, it probably isn't as bad as I'm imagining--I do have a vivid imagination, probably because I never actually grew up.

Before we had left for our errands I had posted a scanner on the freecycle list for Mark--it still works but not with Windows XP. So we get home and I check my e-mail, and guess who has asked for the scanner? Yep, same guy. So maybe he's just a computer hobbyist who doesn't keep his yard very neat. But what if he really is a hoarder? If that's the case, I feel like it would be ethically wrong for me to give him the scanner--as if I were hastening his inevitable demise or something. But if he's just a guy who cobbles together computer systems then I want him to have the scanner.

I thought giving away mys stuff was going to be easy and fun.

On a brighter note, I also made another connection at Freecycle: Tammie has tons of daylilies and wants to give some away. She's also looking for some of the black plastic pots that nurseries use. I'd love to give my mom some daylilies to plant in her new yard, and I have some black plastic nursery pots cluttering up my front porch. It's like a win-win version of The Gift of The Magi!

Today was not nearly as nice as the weatherfolks said it was going to be. It threatened rain all day while only giving us a few drops every now and then. It got into the 60s however, and was quite pleasant.

Saturday, January 03, 2004

Wow, the fantastic day continued. We went over to Ninth Street, which ever-so-slightly reminds us of Clark Street in Andersonville, one of the places we lived in Chicago. But you have to sort of close one eye so you only see the east side of Ninth Street, because there's not much on the west side.

We went to Blue Coffee and played a game of backgammon. Mark won. He seemed much more intent on putting my guys on the bar repeatedly than any other strategy. I'm sure I can beat him repeatedly in the future. While at Blue Coffee, I released three of my Bookcrossing books. every once in a while someone actually picks one up and logs it in at the web site. Mostly I think people just pick them up and ignore the little bookcrossing stickers.

After the coffee shop we browsed around the Regulator bookstore for a while. I really wanted to buy a book, but my vows of frugality/simplicity stopped me. Plus I've got about seven library books checked out right now, and I really want to get them all read so I don't have to go throught the drama of renewing them. I finished the Ben Cheever book. It convinced me that absolutely nothing interesting needs to happen to a person for them to write and publish a book if they have publishing connections. Because, really, his experiences at his various jobs were probably less interesting than some of mine, the difference is that he not only wrote about his, but he was able to get his book published even though it was only so-so. Between my previous three jobs I could spin a far more sordid and interesting tale, but I just wouldn't be able to publish it.

I'm going to go eat pizza now.

What a fabulous day it is outside. I spent a lot of time out on the deck just reading and basking. Mark went bowling, but I couldn't bear to be inside on a day like today.I'm sure it hit 75 sometime around noon. This is why I wanted to move to NC. THis is the kind of holiday weather I crave. People around here talk about wanting a white Christmas (as if), but I'm always hoping for the kind of weather where you can sit outside and have a beer with no jacket on, at least until the sun starts to go down. It wasn't quite that warm for Christmas this time around, but here we are two days after New Years and it feels like spring. Whenever we get days like this I delude myself that the rest of winter has been canceled. Tomorrow's supposed to be even nicer.

I hope we get so many days like this that I become jaded and don't feel like I have to enjoy every single one. Actually, we will. We seem to have spectacular early springs here. I bet it's only a matter of weeks until the crocuses start peeking out, and the hellebores will be in bloom in February. I put down some grass seed today, because it sprouts pretty well here in winter, and it's best to give it an early start around here. If the roots aren't well established by July the heat will just fry it.

Some of my petunias are still green. If the rest of the winter is mild, I may not have to replant. I had one that lasted through the winters of 00-01 and 01-02, only to craok last winter after the killer ice storm.

Well, I feel like getting out some more. Mark's home--I'm going to see if he wants to go out for a beverage or something.

Friday, January 02, 2004

I'm reading Selling Ben Cheever by Ben Cheever, and it reminds me of how lucky I am to have the job I do. The book is about his adventures in retail sales, pursued because his books weren't selling well and he needed the work, plus he had the idea that he could write about all these jobs, maybe creating a book that would actually sell and eliminate his need to work any more crappy retail jobs.

My job is nothing special, but it's not in retail sales, which would be a special kind of hell for me. I've already worked indirectly in retail once before, although I wasn't in the store, but in the "Home Office" as the in-house graphic designer. It was still hell, because the whole mindset of the organization was that all employees are all stupid, irresponsible children. A lot of people who worked for the company were indeed stupid, but a lot of those people had "vice presidident" or "director" in their titles. Although I did develop a rather dim view of retail store managers while working there. I know there are lots of fine, whip-smart folks who become retail managers, but there are also plenty of brain-dead slugs and pathological characters as well. Anyway, if I ever hit the skids I'll assemble sandwiches or wash dishes before I work in a retail store. Hell, I'd rather clean up after murders and suicides than work retail (and the money's a lot better in gore cleanup, too)

Background music right now: Wire Pink Flag.