Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Fighting for your medical benefits is not an act for the sickly

I'm tuckered out from celebrating my bride's 46th birthday so this will be short. It's just incredibly stupid to me how medical insurance carriers operate. Mixing our metaphors Previously I mentioned submitting a prescription on Friday, and with the weekend and holidays I expected it'd be Tuesday before they were around to react. Sometime on Tuesday the insurance company called to say they weren't going to grant payment for my prescription until the doctor faxed them some documentation showing that I have a need for the drugs. Like the prescription itself wasn't enough of a demonstration. They used some word like "pre-authorization", which to me means the doctor had to agree that you needed this before he'd even met with you. Doctors may be wise but they aren't psychic. Anyhow, I hashed this out with my doctor's insurance juggler, whom wasn't surprised in the least, and she said that after she jumped through their hoops and got some response she'd let the pharmacy know they could fill the prescription. I've been sitting on my rotten toes for a few years so a couple more days of inaction isn't going to hurt me, but as my wife asked (she too is having a joust with her insurance company over them also asking for proof from her doctor, which they do every two months to her chagrin and her meds are a bit more life-affecting) do they do this same delay-and-annoy tactic to insulin for diabetics or inhalers for asthmatics? (Answer, my doctor's right hand person said, is "yes, but usually it's yearly".) Digger the Dermataphite gets to chill out for a little longer.

A public thank-you here to Jamie Dawn for pimping my Icicle Lights in the Offseason Flickr group. It didn't escape my notice that despite all the people on her blog who said nice things about the group, or the topic anyway, very few people actually went there... some pictures still have 0 views. Fine, it's the effort that counts. :) I have other sets that I am trying to forward in related groups, such as Ghost Writing on old buildings and Flora & Fauna. I will soon be adding a Scenery set for landscapes an' stuff.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

What The Vampires Did To Me: an anecdote

WIMPS!Call me old and crotchety, which I am seeming to become, but in my day we didn't get 4-day weekends away from school. Especially not right near the end of the year when we're going to be free from the chains for three months anyway! The readerboard above came from the elementary school near me. But I noticed something odd at a middle school across town: the students there do have to show up for school on Memorial Day, a national holiday -- then get out at 10:45am. It's as though they called everyone in and took attendance so the school could say it had students for the required 180 days, then punted them back out. What's so wrong with just staying one more day for real, rather than disrupting people's family plans?

A couple days ago I had a doctor's appointment, my first checkup in three years, and the meeting of the doctor and establishing a new medical relationship part went pretty well. He seemed like a nice guy, his staff were adequately cute (especally the pregnant one) and friendly (even when someone who appeared to have some rank started beating on the copier), and the office was organized and attractive. I was sort of taken aback by the fact that he didn't want a urine sample. Digger is copyrighted so here's a housefly Since when have urine samples become passé technology? You can tell a lot about a person by what they excrete. Anyhow, one of the things I went there for is to get a diagnosis and prescription for Lamisil, because my toenails are pretty bad. Digger the Dermataphite? He and I go way back. Since Lamisil has some potential side-effects to the liver, I had to get a blood test to make sure I'm healthy enough to take it, and will have another one in six weeks to make sure everything's fine in my midriff. The pathology lab is on the other side of the building so I walked over there to get some blood drawn. This is where the fun begins...

I went into the reception area and presented my paperwork, and before I could get any emotional involvement in a magazine I was called forth to take a room. I sat in the chair and put my right arm on the armrest, and the attendant tied it off with a rubber strap like a heroin junkie then handed me a brain-shaped stress ball to squeeze on cue. So far, so good. She uncaps the needle and plugs it into a glass vial, and while I have no fear of needles (or vials) I don't particularly relish the thought of it being inserted into me. She unpacks an alcohol swab tissue and finds a vein to the right of the fold in my arm, one location from which blood had never been drawn before, and gives it a good wipe before approaching it with the needle. I turned my head left to look at the clock, and I felt the pinprick... not bad at all. I explained to the attendant who was filling the vial why I had to not look at the flow eminating from my arm, how I had a nasty accident with a hand sickle in 2002 while cutting some weeds which left me standing there watching the blood pulse out of my leg like you see in the movies, and that put me off of seeing my own blood being collected. She laughed and said she understood. So far, so... uh, I'm getting light-headed here. I shook my head. This isn't working. I thought about how airplanes have those vent jets you can point toward yourself (the "blow-on-you things" as Shelley Berman called them) when you feel this half-queesy, half-dizzy feeling at take-off. This isn't an option. My thoughts after that were an internal dialog I wasn't able to pay attention to. Don't try this at home When my eyes opened again, she was there looking a bit panicked, and two or three of her associates had come to the doorway to witness something, also with concern in their eyes. There was no needle in my arm, so she must have finished her task. She suggested that I lay down on the floor, and this bit of advice sounded perfect... why hadn't I thought of this? I mustered the strength to ease myself down onto the floor, thinking that losing bodily control while doing this manoeuver would not be a good idea. They, plural, requested that I go horizontal and they did all sorts of accomidations to help me into that position comfortably. I looked up at the four female faces standing over me, sort of like in a surgical scene of a TV show shot from the perspective of the patient's innards, and commented that I felt that I should be giving birth right now with the sort of attention I'm getting. One of the people remarked that it's always the guys who lose consciousness when having their blood drawn and she's never had a woman pass out, and I offered that women are used to bleeding on a regular basis. One of the people slipped a blood pressure cuff onto my left arm and checked my systoic and diastolic, and she did this every three minutes for the rest of my stay in that office. Once I started to regain my natural mushyroomy color, they offered me juice and a muffin, and I said "wow, this room comes with a continental breakfast!" Half of a muffin and most of a box of berry juice later, I was assisted into another room -- the one where they keep the treadmill, how ironic -- to sit for a bit and finish my breakfast (I hadn't eaten anything all morning at their orders, so this did qualify as breaking my required fast) and the bottle of Boost nutritional suppliment I has been handed. Boost is not half bad, but I like the taste of chocolate soy milk and this wasn't too far different. Another blood pressure test or two later and I was cleared for takeoff, and drove home. It wasn't just the rain I used as an excuse to do very little around the house for the rest of the day. Demon Shopper Crossing So there is my somewhat embarassing (yet not sordid) fainting at the thought, not the sight, of my own blood story, and for that reason I am not looking forward to my followup.

By the way, I still don't have the Lamisil. I got the prescription and took it to the pharmacy on Friday afternoon, and since the insurance coverage was new they had to make some calls and swap some faxes with somewhere which had apparently already packed it in for the weekend. The pharmacy tech with tattoos like purple shirtsleeves told me, "it could be half an hour, it could be Tuesday" before they get authorization to fill the prescription. It'll be Tuesday or so, it became clear. I've waited a few years to get to this point so another couple days won't harm me. The June update of the Laughter is the Spackle of the Soul page was jotted up and posted during my downtime, so click on the link in the page description at left to have a look.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Something short about something sweet

I love advertising. I always get a good laugh, or roll of the eyes (it's good exercise, those muscles can atrophy), by hearing how people react negatively to advertising. Some people absolutely flip out over ads, among other things out of fear or concern about what others might think. I do so love it when people think for me, afterall, so bless 'em. There was an ad a few years ago which raised some squeamish people's hackles. It was for a canned pasta in rich tomato sauce, and the camera is roaming through the jungle until it gets to this teenage boy, crouching with a big bowl of the pasta in hand and red-orange sauce all over face, and in a bass voice proclaims "mmm, beefy." What I said! Apparently some folks thought the imagery of this human jungle beast was too symbolic of uncivilized eating habits, possibly even cannibalism. Dude's eating Spaghetti-O's, get over yourselves. Another great ad made a vocal mistake: the mother referred to her children, who love to eat whatever brand of just-add-milk breakfast product in a box, as "cereal killers." There was no maniacal laughter following that statement, it was just a wry Mom statement, but I laughed out loud [LOL] at the allusion to the misguided malevalents in society. Brought to mind that time my sister and I ate all the marshmallows out of a box of Lucky Charms at our grandparents' house, and after that no one would eat the cereal because it was only oats. Levi's had this Claymation ad some years ago that moved so fast you would probably miss everything that was happening, but suffice it to say there were three acts of defecation in it and that's bound to upset someone (even if it's Pla-Doh doing the pooping); the first I don't recall, the second was some birds on a clothes line being singed by fire resulting in roast chickens then one of them craps (or maybe it was laying an egg?), and the third was the heroic rescue at the end which included someone crashing through an exterior wall into a bathroom (and the homeowner was sitting on the crapper audibly going "huh?"). Let's see the Chevron cars beat that! Other examples of ads that played once or twice before being either shelved or edited exist, some of which I've seen, but memory is slipping...

Of course, I also find it hilarious that the obvious needs labels, like paper coffee cups that remind you that contents may be really frigging hot, kids' Superman capes with notes alerting you this does not enable the wearer to fly, and disclaimers hidden in CGI-heavy television ads to let you know that what you see is definitely not what you get. Below is something bound to give some tightassed adults nightmares: rumor has it that Jimmy Hoffa was buried in this small town, and what do the residents do? Bake undead cupcakes in commemoration!
Not a Blue Oyster Cult song

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Young and Dumb and full of... uh, Chowder

Before I get into today's feature, I have a silly little stupidity that I've wanted to mention for awhile. Jacking off is fun with Billy Beer! In the bathroom of the joint where I work, there are hand soap dispensers on the two side walls of the two-basin vanity. There is also a soap dispenser adhered to the bottom-middle of the mirror, containing GoJo hand cleaner. The bag of GoJo is full, and has stayed full for the last year for one simple reason: the lever at the bottom of the dispenser isn't making contact with any of the inner workings of the pump. The stupidity as I see it is that this soap dispenser is still mounted in the middle of the mirror, as a washroom ornament. Now, on with the show.

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, I would like to share with you a primer for youth between ages 10 and 21. This is volume two of an earlier primer which was done by several other people regarding things youth between ages 3 and 10 should know about grown-ups. The earlier primer became very popular among mommies but was seldom read by the youth the document was regarding, with the exception of those kids who also would thumb through monthly women's magazines to read "Light Housekeeping" or Stan & Jan Beranstein's non-bear cartoons, and only gave a cursory glance to Joan Walsh Angland's mouthless drawings plus found Judith Viorst's column over their heads. (I was one of those kids, what can I say?) To my knowledge no such followup was ever constructed, just when the kids need it most. The age range on this primer goes all the way up to college age because as we have seen, if you are never told or taught something you might never know it exists. Herein is a list of things that teens, preteens, and post-teens need to learn about adults. Important note, kids: No amount of deluding yourself that these statements are false changes the fact that they are true, and no amount of denial that you will not enforce these things when you are age 40 will stop you from doing so. Just you wait. Some of these are repeated from the first primer, the one you didn't read and still don't know. The facts, Jack:

• Adults know when you're lying. They're not stupid, and in fact they used to be your age and told a few themselves, so it all sounds very familiar to them. They used the same words, the same body language, and the same stories. Additionally, if there were witnesses to whatever you say you didn't do, give up immediately before you look like an idiot.
• While telling untruths may be necessary in the business world later on, please try to live in the plausible. You didn't get away with saying the dog ate your homework, right? Adults have detective skills, which are only being enhanced by watching crime shows on television or reading mystery novels. Saying it was the stereo which shouted that obscene word out the car window, not you, just doesn't work when you didn't have your stereo on and it was clearly your voice. (And what does it say about you that you'd be cranking "music" with pointless swearing and no tune behind it?) Save those fibs for when you call in sick to a job because you have more fun plans, but be aware some bosses will check up on you.
• Friendship aside, don't lie for a friend or stick up for them when you know that they're in the wrong or you weren't there to see whatever is being discussed. It's easier to punch holes in your story than theirs so don't even try; Sargent Schultz from "Hogan's Heroes" had the right idea: just say I know nuzzing... and get out of the way. Some politicians have found this procedure quite useful.
• Apologies still work. They may seem cheesy but adults eat 'em up. And if you didn't figure it out when you were a kid, sincere apologies work better. Lip service either infuriates adults, or it demonstrates to those around you that you're an untrustworthy snot. You got caught, so you should be sorry... My new mailbox, 5/20/06 11am if only sorry that you got caught.
• Really, truly, you're not going to laugh when someone breaks your windows, bashes in your mailbox, spraypaints your garage, or any of that other crap you find funny right now once you're a homeowner. This isn't as harmless as toilet-papering someone's house. You're going to be pissed. You may even want blood. With that in mind, consider the consequences of your own tomfoolery. Will what you're doing for fun potentially result in getting the shit kicked out of you, or worse, if you get caught? As brave and as fleet of foot as you might be, you can't outrun a homeowner's bullet if they're so inclined to use long-distance punishment technology, and you can't outrun the telephone if they're more civilized. In today's modern society there's a higher likelihood you're on camera as well.
• Don't come crying to your parents, your kids, or others of a different age bracket when you're deaf somewhere in your 30's from thumping the bass in a closed vehicle. At least you'll be better suited for the menial labor jobs you will have been working to pay for pimping your ride like that. The rest of us are going to laugh at your deaf asses, though you won't hear us.
• When you were a kid, adults would call you on your misbehavior immediately in the hopes of giving you a concept of actions yielding reactions. Grown-ups have a second trick they use when that fails: not calling you on your misbehavior. You only think you're getting away with stuff because you don't hear objections. Ah, but just as your folks didn't trust you when you were playing quietly because you were up to something... your folks are now quietly up to something. Filling the dossier, so to speak, and giving you enough rope to hang yourself. It will all come back on you, like people always said about your school records [which as you suspected is mostly a myth], and you won't like when or where or how. If you hadn't noticed, the parents on the TV news when stuff happens have gone from claiming "we never saw this coming" to admitting "we long suspected this would happen." You're sneaky, we're sneakier, and we can keep a pokerface.
• Get over yourself, it's just a phase. Bad boys and bad girls are only attractive until you get hurt. Being a bad boy or bad girl is only fun until people and places and good jobs don't want you around. It's not too late to straighten up and fly right, so please do that before you become the trash you snark on.

And that's just the tip of the iceberg. The mailbox above is mine -- some shithead came down the wrong side of the road (again?) and whacked it with a bat or something. Mine isn't the only strike on the street, just the only box I've seen that's warped. I've managed to get it somewhat straight and uncrushed, and while doing so some punk who was visiting the girl next door mouthed off at me (do you see the pattern above?) so I had to have a few words with the girl's family and then him when he naïvely returned. It was rather cathartic to take out my anger about the mailbox on a mouthy teenager with his girlfriend's dad backing me up, I must say.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Press no bursting elephants and cause no pain;

The way to be sweet is to be humble and to be present.

-- Gertrude Stein

There was a story on the news last night about "Bluejacking", Dorcas - a flower shop in Portland, ORthe intrusion of a computer into phones, PDAs, other computers, and such that use Bluetooth interfaces for the purpose of snooping personal information and swiping Internet connectivity. The stated goal of the story was y'all be careful now or inspiring a healthy bit of paranoia. The thing they didn't say but should have is that the reason why Bluetooth is so easy to phreak is because most people or devices use a 4 digit numerical passkeys, so when prompted to create a passkey use letters and/or make it more than 4 characters. Your average Bluetooth headset uses '0000', for instance, and that can't be changed, ergo panicked talk of security. The unstated point of the story, or from my perspective, is that we've become too dependant upon gadgets to do all of our trivial tasks. What ever happened to having a pocket calendar, little black book, or a pad and pencil? Yeah, yeah, digital convergence makes happiness, but my point is that folks now don't write stuff down which they claim to value more than life itself. Call me old fashoned, but you should write down that phone number before you put it into the PDA... or if that's what you are holding at the time, put it down on paper when you can. Plus if you really really value that data on your PDA, synchronize it regularly. Do not bitch when the toy goes tits-up and the tech geek tells you to do a 'master reset', it was your choice never to back up your device... your support rep doesn't give a flying Fig Newton if you lose 7000 contacts [do you really know that many people?] and nine months' worth of unarchived data. You shoulda thought of that, repeatedly. This is your only warning. I talk to at least one person a day who claims their Palm, Blackberry, or PocketPC is "their life" and can't bear the thought of being without them for a day or having to flush all the data (or the data went into the bit bucket on its own without the human's direct involvement) -- and inevitably they will be without a working doodad for a couple days, need to wipe the handheld, or (heaven forbid) the device dumps all data without warning. And don't get me started about having a music player or cell phone (or both) integrated into your digital dildo... fixing them may be how I make my bread but this doesn't mean they're not a colossally bad idea. One more thing to break and take everything else down with it, one more reason you have really poor battery life.

I own a 2002 Saturn SL1, or will own it outright in August after finishing the five years of payments. This is the stupidity associated with that: the loan company hasn't sent payment coupons in two years. This started in January 2004, after I declared bankruptcy. (It wasn't as big a mistake as some make it out to be. I'm enjoying life without credit cards.) Dorcus - see the old woman's disgust! At first it was understandable why I didn't get any payment coupons -- there are certain legalities involved with requesting payment from folks who have gone bankrupt, even though the car was declared as exempt from the proceedings because we weren't going to give it up or stop making monthly payments on it. After talking to the right department at the loan company, they sent me a form to sign saying I authorize them to request payments, and they sent six months' of coupons. Those ran out about a year and a half ago. I've called their usual self-serve number and pushed buttons... none show up. I've called and held on for an operator who said she was placing the order... none show up. Normally I think of this as an amusing game, but as mentioned I'm coming to the end of the contract and I'd like to know exactly what they expect and when; no point missing the last payment or sending them extra money. I worked for a bank's consumer loan collections department just long enough -- 10 weeks -- to know that this is how they screw with you. I think I'm going to wait until the beginning of July (the billing date is the 15th) to call for a payoff balance, which should be the size of a payment or two, and just get it over with. Hopefully this loan company, unlike the bank I temped at, isn't in the habit of losing payoff checks they had to sign for since they were sent by registered mail... then blaming the customer.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

...for winter has not come to me, because I love you.

With my 20 year high school reunion coming up, I have been looking various stuff up. has a reunion page which no one has been contributing to [AHAHAAH!] and two people who went to my school in the 1970's created a webpage for all grads of the school, which also has no information about my reunion [MUAHAAHH!] but mentions the previous class of losers and the Class of '66 reunion. Hats! Did get one laugh out of reading about the Class of '85: there was this sizzlin' hot girl by the name of Tammy Brown that every straight boy with a pulse wanted to get next to -- she was featured in a rendition of 'Winter Wonderland' in the line, "in the meadow we can have an orgy, and pretend the snowman's Tammy Brown" -- well, it seems she won the award for most children, with five. Seems she married a guy whose last name is Bangs, so her name says what we had long hoped: Tammy Bangs. Just not us. (Except maybe Kenny, who she was dating in high school, but I don't know that. Lucky stiff.)

You wanna play Icicle Liiiiigts with me? Join my Flickr group:
Icicle Lights in the Offseason

Interested in the business names and advertising on the sides of old buildings?
Mushy's 'Ghost Writing' set
(24 pix from Tacoma WA at this moment, with more to come from Tacoma, Toppenish, Seattle, and Portland as soon as I can get them uploaded by dialup)

When I was driving home the other night I had this sensation that there was some event I was forgetting. My best friend Chrome's birthday wasn't for another week, so that wasn't it. Then it dawned on me: May 11 was Karen Strausbaugh's 38th birthday. I've elaborated on her a time or two in the past on the Daybook of Say Something Cryptic so I won't get into detail here -- will merely say that I had a long history in my head with her, but a short romantic history with her in real life, and I learned a few things about the world we live in as our individual dysfunctions interlocked in places and collided in others. Your average summer/winter romance with a three year anticipatory waiting period beforehand, basically. The realization of a yearly event I haven't thought about in a long time makes me curious why it came to mind, and the thought of a person who meant more than she intended and likely forgot about me by August 6 of 1986 kinda rattled me, but I decided not to go looking for more information (I already know she married someone with the last name of Smith, courtesy of the last time I got curious);Ruston Tunnel stencil I just wished her a sweet happy life and fun high school reunion of her own through the thin air and drove on. And if a search engine spider ever finds this posting: I still hold to my promise to never call you names, you did nothing to deserve them (other than letting me be the last to know it was over); it can however be said that I have realized that my blindness to faults was in your favor so you should be happy -- and my naïveté may have been annoying but since that was the last time in my life I wanted someone entirely for their mind I should be happy. Altruistic? Maybe. How many of you reading this can pinpoint when you went from moonstruck teenager to real-world adult? When love went from being something you found only in your heart to something discovered elsewhere as well? I sometimes miss being so blithe... there are days my head hurts from the important invisible subtexts and ulterior motives and peripheral distractions. And I wonder how other people keep from getting lost in the deluge, how people keep their focus on their direction, how folks shake the din from their ears. There was some fuzzy static in my head during my teen years, sometimes resembling pop radio, but Karen was a respectful moment of silence, and after Karen all I've ever heard is noise. That was my moment of change.

The problem with wondering why things happen with people is the presumption that there's a reason which would make any sense.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Do not spill the buckets of stupid

Ahh, more boneheadedness at work. I may have mentioned before that half the call center is moving to a new building. (If I didn't: Half the call center is moving to a new building.) We occupy two levels of the old building, and we are evacuating the upper level. As mentioned, we have a shift change that takes effect the first week of June, at which time the people who are moving to the new building will move.
What you think would transpire: On the appointed day in June, everyone pulls up stakes and goes where they're going: This is a blackmail photo the folks who are moving to the new building go there, the remaining people upstairs move downstairs, and the people downstairs go to their new teams/seats. One swift movement for all.
What actually is transpiring: TODAY the people who are moving to the new building moved to the upper story, the people who are staying came downstairs, and even the people who were already downstairs had to move; everyone is now grouped by the teams they are going to be on in two and a half weeks, but still report to their regular supervisors (who also moved, so finding them is a challenge). In June the people upstairs depart for the new building and the shift changes become effective.
The stated purpose of this funky dance is to "reduce disruption", which it might very well do for the people who are staying in this building (such as myself) but causes the people who are leaving to move twice... Riiiiight. It was explained that it wouldn't make sense to move people to the new location then those who are going to be in this building right back after the change; interesting non sequiteur since if everyone moved on the same day, just once in June, no one would be juggled. Par for the course here.

Last night we were given some time to pack up and move our goods from our old cubes. At first we were told that it would the the last fifteen minutes of our shift, then later they changed that to going in waves, ergo we moved up to an hour before the end of our shifts... thus we didn't have our helpful materials at hand for the last hour. Another par for the course. I left home about an hour early so I could set up my computer, and got to work only half an hour early because of a multiple car accident which the radio said was blocking 2 lanes but by the time I got to the site it had been cleared (but you wouldn't know that by the miles of backed-up traffic). So I got things the way I want them on the box, started arranging the cubicle so it had reason and purpose, and the first thing I did after punching in was spilled Mountain Dew all over the place so despite sponging off the desktop and so forth repeatedly it's still sticky in places. This goes great with the pound of crumbs I shook out of the keyboard. I presume this is a band Initially we were also told that we'd have fifteen minutes at the start of our shift to get our stuff arranged but, alas, that didn't get offered today, so it was probably a good thing that I arrived early (since I wound up taking that 15 minutes as "idle work" rather than an offical code that doesn't count against my stats). Still another par for the course. And don't get me started on how in my monthly review yesterday I was told my schedule adherance was low due to my being a "Phone Pal", one of the good techs who greenhorns sit with to learn solutions and how to operate the tools... yes, this hit is partially my fault, but when I am scheduled for lunch at 4:00pm and the trainers don't bring the n00bies out to sit with people until about 3:30pm, whatcha gonna do? Make them move after one call? How helpful is that? I like my new seat, though it's in the windowless yet overly warm part of the building, and my new team has some bright people on it hidden among the folks with annoying voices or personalities... my theory is that since they had the shifts listed by time and supervisor instead of just random times like the last shift-bid, the bothersome people conspired to work together. How one of the help desk guys (some of their group has been moved to this section apparently) and his girlfriend wound up back-to-back is pure kismet.

Skat-ologic humorI'm just glad this has been a short week for me, courtesy of being in another state on my first workday of the week. I'm still sort of basking in that afterglow. What a difference a little vacation makes! I wasn't aware before I left that they would be shuffling everyone around this week, so in a karmic way the stupid balanced out the happy... and tomorrow's my Friday. I'll be happy when it's my weekend again, and when I can go travelling again (mid-June and again the first weekend in July) -- and more pressingly, I'll be really happy when my work surface isn't sticky anymore.

Monday, May 08, 2006

How I Spent My Cinco de Mayo Weekend

Greets! I have returned from my anniversary jaunt to Portland, Oregon. I hadn't been in the Rose City since my senior year of high school with the Science Club. Before that, my grandparents would take me on their weekly trip to the stockyards to buy cattle when I was a kid. I still have (and fit in) my Oregon Museum of Science and History (OMSI) t-shirt from 1982 when they were doing their "Chips & Changes" exhibit about computers... which, in looking back, seems really odd because of how much computers have changed since then. Hotel listing from a travel book I wore that shirt on Saturday but we decided not to visit OMSI because that would require getting in the car or hopping a bus, which we didn't feel up to doing. Did I see right, that Waddles family dining turned into a Hooters? <shrug> Enroute there we stopped in Centralia for a bite and passed this rediculously large yardsale, which turned out to be one of those junk dealers we adore from Packwood's yearly communitywide yardsale. And I bought a stack of 45rpm singles. Okay, after we finally got the hell out of Washington, we wandered into Portland and tried to figure out where we were and how to get to where we wanted to go. After visiting a library in Hollywood to get directions, we made it downtown. We stayed at the Mark Spencer Hotel downtown, which came highly recommended by one of my wife's coworkers. I have to agree, it was pretty damn nice. First thing I noticed about the place is that it was rather elegantly laid out, with a real continental breakfast -- cereal, pastries, juice, little muffins, scones, coffee, and not one quartered Costco bagel in the vicinity -- and afternoon tea. Second thing I noticed is that they're nonchalent about rate shifts: they were up-front that Friday night would be $85 and Saturday night would be $115, plus $16 a day for their subterranian parking. We snapped that up and never drove again... but it was downtown Portland, pretty much everything we wanted to do (beside OMSI and finding a Kohl's department store, which has been rather vehemently advertised in Washington and Oregon without there being any stores in those states up until last month when 4 opened in Oregon) was right there within walking distance.

I didn't read the travel guide's description [above] until had already been enjoying the nightlife walking by, and my response was "well, duh..." In-room blowjobs! The room itself was indeed elegant, with a full kitchen, ironing board and iron, walk-in closet, air conditioner, Gideon's Bible, hotel stationery pad that was much more than 5 sheets thick, table and chairs, and hanging in the bathroom an in-room blowjob [left]. The building had a great fire escape, just like every other 3+ story building in town, and a rooftop deck with the largest potted lavendar I've ever seen. I took a lot of pictures, from the roof and fire escape as well as from walking around town looking up. If you're good, I might post some. The stated goal of this trip was to visit Powell's Books, the country's largest independant bookstore which occupies an entire city block for its main store and a couple smaller buildings for specialties (such as the Technical Books, which is a block away). That we did, repeatedly and daily. The best sarcastic comment came from this slacker chick at the helpdesk: a guy came up and asked if they had any books on HTML, and she said "Those are available at a computer store." I wish I could get away with shit like that. On the first night I got halfway through the humor section, it was that expansive.

Saturday morning I got up and went downstairs to pick up some continental breakfast food for both of us, barefoot with bleary eyes and pillow hair, and as usual when I'm looking my worst other people come into the picture. In this case, this cute young woman sitting at a table in the diningroom in a white undershirt and nothing underneath, small and perky and giving me a reason to get the gunk out of my eyes. Breakfast for my room was blackberry turnovers, chocolate chip scones, and chocolate chip-banana muffins with orange juice. (To answer the obvious question: no, Jamie, my wife stayed in bed and sent me for the food.) Once we'd eaten and gotten ourselves composed, we took a walk about ten blocks to visit the weekly Saturday Market, which definitely was not a farmer's market but a collection of hippy-trippy artisans and a whole lotta food booths. The gyro I had and the teriyaki-on-a-stick she had were the best such vittles we'd ever eaten, but I think that has a lot to do with differences in the health codes. The liquor laws are different too, apparently, as Oregon doesn't have a problem with public consumption of alcohol. We also went to a couple toy stores and a gallery which was said to have excellent kaleidescopes. Junior and Senior One of the toy stores had several editions of the Presidential Paper Doll series, and what I asked here recently was answered: there is a Shrub Junior paper doll set [right], and they also had the Shrub Senior set plus the Carter set... Amy is a preteen, the other two kids make an appearance, plus the colorful Lillian and Billy pay special visits. (I will share the Billy Carter paper doll in the future, it's a kick in the pants.) I didn't see a Clinton set but I didn't really look, I was distracted by the tater-tot pencil toppers. Across the street from the Saturday Market, this entire waterfront park was overrun with a massive Cinco de Mayo celebration that one had to pay to get into. We didn't, and the road between the two parties was being torn up, so the photo I took of Miller's End Park, listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world's smallest public park (it's a lightpost base that was the subject of regular jokes in a local paper years ago), shows it behind chainlink fencing. We got back to the room later on, really bushed, and she took a little nap while I went to visit my friend Oberon (King Of The Fairies) at Pioneer Park and shoot pictures of the wildlife that gathered there. Hi Jeff! He gave me a history lesson about the area, bought me a hot chocolate and tapped into free WiFi just because he could, and the two of us sat there gabbing in the wind as the homeless passersby passed until long after I pledged to be back to my room. One bit of amusement was that this security guard started hovering about these two guys sitting on the stairway in front of us, and I thought she was just going to harass them a bit. It wasn't until she stood in front of them and demanded to smell their cigarettes that a waft of potsmoke blew past me and I understood. Obie explained that in Oregon, possessing an ounce or less and using it privately isn't a big deal, but public use is a no-no and using it here in a designated no-drug-zone (despite the Legalize It rally that was happening right here hours earlier) is really a bad thing. The cops ticketed the dudes, I don't think they were arrested. We went back to my room, the three of us went to Powell's to continue our shopping extravaganza (and I finished the other half of the humor section), then he went home and we went in search of Old Town Pizza, which we'd heard so much about.

We walked several blocks and wandered through Chinatown [below, unaltered by me] to come upon the place. Definitely great pizza and an interesting atmosphere. Know how some places will nail antiques to the wall in a hodgepodge and call it ambiance? This place invented the practice, but unlike Ruby Tuesday and Applebees their antiques were real and sensible and tasteful. Across the street, there was a bar hosting a Female Impersonator night, come as you wish you were, so we had dinner and a show to enjoy out the window. Drag-racing! I'm eating my kalamata olive/mushroom/pepperoni pizza and my wife points upward. Over my head is the rear half of a century-old kiddie hobbyhorse residing on the upper floor. Hmm, the rocking horse of Damacles. Meaty Chewy Chinese After we finished and she was in the washroom, I went upstairs to investigate, and found there was no real danger -- there was a two-foot panel between our table and the next table (with two young women at it) and the rocking horse was squarely between the two. We wandered back to our room and got some shut-eye. In the morning once again I got up to retrieve breakfast, and once again the young woman was there (with a sweater over her pink shirt) but she arrived after I did so I got to see her from behind... I almost thanked her for her presence. Possibly I did, in a way, since shoes wasn't the only thing I left in the room, but there's a reason for that: all this walking had made my upper thighs rub together (yes, I may not be fat but I do have to lose this desk-job weight gain) and I've got a wicked rash which I chose not to inflame further, ergo I 'went commando' as I gathered more scones and, per request, granola. We got composed, checked out, went to Powell's again but this time it was to meet with a family she knew which had moved there from here, and after a couple hours of them haunting the stacks and me walking in the rain taking photos of buildings and goofy stuff, we went to a record store then to Rocco's Pizza (me: the daily special of feta, tomato, and spinach), and came home in the light-to-driving rain. Never did find a Kohl's.
Since I told you last entry that I'd brag about what I'd bought:

Popular Science magazine, August 1955, rather mold-smelling.
45s: Freda Payne "Band Of Gold"; Phil Collins "In The Air Tonight"; Bobby Sherman "Julie, Do Ya Love Me"; Donny Osmond "Puppy Love"; The Royal Guardsmen [3] - "Snoopy vs The Red Baron", "The Return Of The Red Baron", "Snoopy's Christmas"; The Partridge Family "I Think I Love You"; Herman's Hermits "This Door Swings Both Ways"

The Boiler Maker by Piombo/Rubington, 1961 [a followup to their The Hero Maker which I had swiped from a classroom in college]
The Amazing Mackerel Pudding Plan: Classic Diet Recipe Cards from the 1970's by Wendy McClure, 2006 [the basis of the book was originally a feature of the author's website so I laughed over these cards two or three years ago... good to see she may make a few bucks with it!]
Up In The Air by Shelley Berman, 1986, autographed [I've wanted this book for years, and am glad to see that Shelley nowadays shows up on "Boston Legal" as an impatient malaprop-spewing judge... the signature is a bonus]
Depeche Mode "Suffer Well" on twelve-inch vinyl, featuring Martin Gore in a wedding dress on the cover

Thursday, May 04, 2006

The Year of Pottery and Bronze

There's one thing that the pundits keep saying that really bugs me because someone wasn't thinking clearly when they contrived it, and this lack of thought is doubled by all the talking heads who have been repeating it. It has been said that the gas-gouging skyrocketing price of gasoline will serve as an impetus for developing and using alternative fuels. Er, no. See, it might encourage the consumers to change their ways, but a) industry hasn't provided alternatives -- we do not have hydrogen cars, full-electric cars, nuclear cars, solar cars, etc. (and natural gas vehicles are few and far between in the consumer market), b) Detroit and so forth are rather entrenched in gasoline internal combustion engines and people still buy them, and c) the petrochemical industry is making a buttload of money presently off the fossil fuel. There's no incentive for the folks who make rapid transportation possible to lower prices or change locomotion methodology, they're doing record business. So the consumers like you and I get to take it in the shorts, and keep anteing up at the petrol pump because that's the only game in town. As always, the problem with anarchy is that it lacks clear leadership.

My new Bill Ding posterConversation with a customer:
(or 'Why I Love My Job, a play in one act')
him: I can't dial out, I'm getting [error seen when the TCP/IP stack is corrupt]
me: Okay, we need to reset the device.
him: Will that erase all the data?
me: Yes, it will.
[Note: He just got this device an hour ago. What could be on it?]
him: Are you an idiot?!
me: ......Yes.
(Customer, taken aback, hands phone to someone else who follows directions without argument and in minutes we fix the problem.)

The title of today's missive is a reference to yesterday (when I started writing this entry) being my eighth wedding anniversary. When I got home from work, I was met with a German chocolate cake [somewhat of a gift to herself because I don't like German chocolate] and the Æon Flux boxed DVD set, and I gave her a handheld Boggle electronic game [her grandmother would approve since unlike regular Boggle it's quiet] and a set of Magnetix flexible pieces. We're going to Portland, Oregon this weekend for our annual getaway so I won't have an entry "on time" (not that we keep time around here, but Sundays and Wednesdays are the usual posting days)... If I find any cool books at Powell's, I'll tell you. See y'all again Monday.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Hurray, Hurray, the First of May...

...outdoor f%*&ing starts today! And the weather here a couple days ago (Friday) was perfect for it, though all of the lovely assistants from the studio audience were either in class, at work, or chasing after their kids. Nutty squirrel Saturday was a perfect day for ducks and salmon fishers (but not for duck anglers; the bread gets soggy) because it rained on and off but yet was a very nice day -- this is when I went to the nursery for all kindsa pretty flowers and to Costco because I like hiking across flooded parking lots [quacking all the way] to be immersed in large crowds. If you hadn't looked, the May update to Laughter is the Spackle of the Soul has been posted. The brushytail at right was seen at a park across town, about two feet up the trunk of a tree as I was heading to my car. And speaking of nice photos, at the bottom of this missive is the photo you've all been waiting for: icicle lights (taken 4/16 and I passed by them today) on three sides of a house near me. Not taking them off the high gables/eaves of the house, I could understand, but leaving them bunched on the 4 foot high fence?!

Stupidity of the day: the destruction of local ecumentical history. The First Congregational Church on Sixth Avenue was built in 1874, fifteen years before Washington became a state, and has a thriving congregation. A city park and several medical facilities grew up in its shadow. The land is being sold to one of the hospitals next to the church, and the building will be razed later this year. The First United Methodist Church on Martin Luther King Way was built in 1916 and has a thriving congregation. It is part of the city's Historic Homes tour, which is going on next weekend. The local newspaper's article about the Historic Homes tour says that the church will be demolished in 2007, though does not explain why.

The obligatory unnecessary reshuffle at work has been completed, and I was given the least offensive of the mostly undesirable shifts, a Monday-Friday noon-9pm gig. I prefer a Sunday-Thursday schedule, so I can have a weekend day of peace and a weekday day of quiet... they're not offering those anymore, because the masochists in Workforce Mangling are trying to emphasize 4-day 10-hour shifts with either no continuity or no free weekends. At least my comrade-in-arms Illiterate will be here for a couple hours on all those days, a fact he is pleased about (he was fearing a really horrible shift... not that 5am-2pm isn't horrible to many folks), and may potentially be able to attend a certain barbecue in July with me if he sees fit. (Some fellow geeks are having a starfish roast in Portland. It'll be fun, they're like calamari when cooked right.) Another obnoxious note: Days ago I mentioned getting $2.81 supreme when everyone else wanted at least $2.89 for regular; I was past there yesterday for a fill and they're all out of gas. Hopefully that will be rectified soon, but the same can be said for why those prices are so outrageous and why our esteemed chimp in charge won't do anything about it. Can't GW suck those sheikhs' schlongs a little harder?
Icicle liiiights!!

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