Thursday, July 26, 2007

Nothing ever goes as planned, it's a hell of a notion;

Even pharaohs turn to sand like a drop in the ocean.

[Subject line from a Styx song.] Greetings, blog fans. Things took a turn for the stupid -- neither of my plans worked out -- and as you could have predicted, I'm gonna tell you all about it. hot and bothered means horny, don't it? But first, something that did go mostly right: I was driving down Yakima Avenue a few days ago and this house near a corner (which may have been a business at one time, and has icicle lights up year 'round) had put a bunch of stuff on the curb, including a complete computer system. I parked in the lot next door and grabbed the computer. Upon checking it out and giving it a good cleaning (dust and maybe a little smoking had grubbed things up in there) I found out it was a Pentium 166 with 128 megs of RAM and a 2.3 gig hard drive. And it worked; it booted into Windows 95 and ran nicely. So I decided this would be a suitable replacement for my wife's computer, which predates this machine. My method of system replacement is to take the hard drives and cards out of the old machine and put them into the new one, so there's less work to transition and no need to reinstall Windows 98 or any applications. (Try doing THAT with XP or Vista!) Most everything went smoothly. There were only two hitches: first, that I couldn't get a floppy drive to be recognised, and I tried a couple drives and cables so I think it's an issue with the motherboard (and could be why the machine was set aside at some point); second, that despite the fact that the old setup had recognised the network card fine and could get online, the new setup didn't want to accept that the drivers already installed or that I was reinstalling were the right ones. The fixes were more or less "okay, have it your way" moves: following Macintosh's lead I took out the CDROM and replaced it with a CD burner, so now there is a way to get data off the computer (and my bride has okayed getting a USB card so that memory sticks will also be an option); the network card was produced by HP with parts by Accton and I'd been using Accton's drivers, so I picked up HP's drivers and they were accepted (though they were the *exact same drivers*, just named slightly different on some files). So my wife got a free upgrade, and I had fun doing it for a majority of Wednesday!

Saturday in Hillsboro: I left the house at noon and arrived at the party at 2:30 p.m. Three people that I've gone to these events with before who are from Portland were in attendance. We ate barbecued burgers. Hmm, and an hour later 3p0ch and his girlfriend left. And an hour after that, 0bie99 left. Five minutes after that (5:30 p.m.) I headed out, to the host's chagrin. PolarCoyote and his crew departed about an hour later, and that extra time was also to the host's chagrin because he brought his two little girls who (being typical kids) were in and out constantly, looking for something to do. [She doesn't like kids, though since she was pregnant and miscarried recently one has to wonder if her mind would have changed had things gone differently.] I just didn't feel like staying once there, and I was the only one who didn't live within a half-hour drive so would have been the only guest... and we weren't really clicking so neither of us would have been happy had I stayed. I joked to her the next day at work [grr!] that she could have flirted a little to encourage me to stick around and make me feel welcome, but she said she'd never demean herself that way. Ahem. Demean? If that's what she thought of me, I made the right choice in leaving. Told you we didn't click.

Tuesday in Ellensburg Spanaway: Later, after that demeaning conversation, I checked my email and the following note was in there from Bertie...
Okay, a snag. [My sister] Alex and I were supposed to be moved into Grandma Dona's home last week, but a flooded basement slowed us down. Our dad tried to use a shop-vac to get out most of the water and a commercial fan to dry it as much as possible before hauling it out. So that took a couple of days. Then Alex goes in to cut it out but discovers that our Uncle Chris, who had installed the carpet to begin with, had glued the padding to the original floor. Twit. Well, of course that made it more difficult, along with the fact that within those couple of days mold had started. With that mold came along a nice big asthmatic attack for Aunty Alex. She had already began the week with a stressful hearing at the courthouse to keep the restraining order against her loser ex-boyfriend. So let's just say this has not been a productive week. We are now on a deadline because we need to be out of this house that Alex is renting by the end of next week. So meeting next week is not going to work. How about the first week of August? Let me know.

Life happens when we have other plans, ugh... I can wait. August is going to be odd for scheduling for me due to a couple people taking vacation, so I sent her a list of what days I'm available (at that writing) for the first couple weeks of the month but have not yet heard back from her. That's a pet peeve of mine, when people ask a pressing question in email or you're trying to make plans with them, and they don't respond so expediently. (I inherited that from my mother; on a couple occasions she asked "I need the information immediately!" questions in email, I answered within a couple hours, then the next day she calls to find out the answer because she hadn't bothered checking her email.)

The stupidity of today, Thursday, didn't happen: I was awaken at 8:30 a.m. by someone at work, telling me that one of the guys got sick and went home, so they might be calling me in to work. Might. Now, the person who got sick is an 8am-6pm trainee... the usual two people who are there from morning until 4pm were there, the usual two people who are there from 2pm to night were there, and this guy being a trainee has no actual responsibilities except to learn. Struck me as rather pointless/extrenious of them to consider bringing me in. But they didn't; it's nearly 7 p.m. right now. Happy, happy... and here I sit. Shifting gears before shutting this thing off: The August update to Laughter is the Spackle of the Soul has been posted so go check it out.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Do plastic ducks dream of polythene ponds?

There's a flock of things happening over the next few days so I need to blog now, and in five days once everything has transpired then there'll be a bunch of interesting stuff to say. Not to say this entry here won't be of some interest, but I mean the next one will cover a couple events worth reading about which haven't happened yet. To wit:

• Saturday the 21st, I'm going to Portland for a barbecue. I can't say at this moment whether I'm staying at that house, but the tentative plan is such. If I find the accomidations unbearable, I'll sleep over at TSC Jeff's house. Or come home, since the dipstick in charge of scheduling decided not to give me Sunday off... despite two of my coworkers offering to cover Sunday for me. Love you, Dan. Why do I say "unbearable"? Not just because the host is flakier'n pie crust, or even because her roomie is the frightening grandmother no one lets small children near. It's because she warned us ahead of time she has five cats that spray. Last year I slept on a wood floor where generations of pets lived, and it kind of reminded me of my wife's grandmother's house. This place? Will make last year's floor smell tame.

• Tuesday the 24th, I'm going to Ellensburg to hook up with a friend. No, not that friend (see next paragraph). 40 miles past that town is a rurality that a girl I met in 1986 grew up in, Bertie. Flashback to my last year at camp: I was really interested in this girl by the name of Robin The Vulture, who was Bertie's best friend from back home. Bertie was really interested in Todd, who was my bunkmate. Todd was interested in fishing more than Bertie. Robin was interested in, uh, I never could figure that out, but it wasn't me. By the end of the week, Todd&Robin [yes, one word] had become good friends... leaving Bertie and I out in the cold. Bertie and I wound up standing on the bridge hashing out how things had gone down to our dismay, and sort of bonded. (Man, we should have done that earlier in the week. Or years earlier! Her best camp friend, Jenni, is now my sister-in-law, and I admit I didn't get to know her over all those years either. Anyhow.) Bertie came to visit me for a couple days in 1989 before she moved to Maryland to become a nanny. Bertie came to visit me and vice versa in 1992 when she was home on vacation. I haven't seen her in fifteen years, and she's one of those people who will write you out of the blue and hint about what's happening, creating more questions than answers, then wait a few more months before replying to your "what? tell me more!" response and not answer the questions while creating new questions. Cutting to the chase, she's sold the house in Maryland and decided she'd rather move back home than march to the beat of a rhythmless drum. (That's an area of "what? tell me more!" right there. Two weeks before she told me she was back in Washington, she'd written me from Maryland saying she was going either to California or Alaska.) So we're finally going to get some quality time to talk in person. Now, for those keeping score at home: No, there's no emotional baggage and the only questions are about what's happened in her life, that's the difference. Of course, another difference is that she and I have actually been places that I wanted to go with that other person [see the eye of two entries ago], but that's a nonissue. Especially with her sister driving her over and her daughter in tow. I won't be reporting here the details of the conversation, like you have any desire to know anyway, but you'll get some broad overview of how it was seeing an old soulmate after a decade and a half. And this time we both know where not to park, heh heh!

So the only thing I have to tell here that's in the present tense is about the closing of the book and putting it on the shelf. When I first got back into contact with Karen, my main goal was to get some questions about our mutual past answered. That happened. The next goal was to figure out who this person is now, which would resolve some conceptions and misconceptions I had about her twenty-some years earlier. I did more listening than speaking, I played along and had fun, I let myself learn rather than presume. A voice in my head added one more attainable thing to the list, which was to make contact with her family -- to meet her son and daughter, to see her brothers, to greet her parents. That all happened the middle of last month, and I even got to meet her brothers' children and spouses as well. [This isn't odd. I was familiar with her parents since they were the camp managers and cook staff when I was a camper, and I'd met her two brothers and a sister-in-law once back then as well.] So after fulfilling that goal, I put my head on cruise control for awhile so I could determine what comes next. I now knew who she is, and pieced together where I was incorrect in my presumtions long ago. And now I was ready to put the story to bed. A couple weeks ago she was going to go to her cabin in Leavenworth for a week, and implied she'd write if she could find an Internet connection, which didn't happen. This gave me some time to ponder uninterrupted. On Monday of this week I got up and went to the computer, with a little dread that maybe there'd be an email from her waiting that would waylay the plan I woke with. Nope, empty box, procede with the plan. I opened up my mail account, deleted her address from the address book and added it to the Blocked Senders list so I would not get any new mail from her. I purged my Sent Items box, then emptied the Trash. We don't have each other's home addresses, and while I have her cell phone number and she has my work number (swapped for that last meeting) I don't figure either of us will make any effort to call. [Also, I was never given the voicemail code for my phone, and messages are stored on the phone itself. When it says I have messages, I unplug it to clear that marker since I can't get at them.] After I confirmed the permanent deletion of my email, I sat back for a few seconds and evaluated how I felt at that moment. Good. Not great, not with regret, just good, like I'd finally got closure on my closure. To mineself be true. I feel good about this because there was no explanation, no negotiation, no malice. Just... letting go. It's unlike me to not try to say goodbye or get a word in edgewise, and others may not agree with my tactic -- but I don't agree with others' tactics of being mean or being cold or (this time) writing a monologue to present to them. Since I can't be entirely without explanation, I'm writing about it here on the off-chance she ever reads my blog. (She's seen her name here through Google, but she didn't say she'd clicked on the entry.) Now you know, Karen. So you can relax now, Jamie Dawn, there's nothing more to be concerned about from that acquaintance. If she ever did find a way to get through to me and was wondering what happened, I think it's summed up pretty well by the 1970's singer Lobo:
I love you too much to ever start liking you, so let's just let the story kinda end;
I love you too much to ever start liking you, so don't expect for me to be your friend.

And now, a comic I created with -- and it's one of the tamer ones. My adventures of 'Target Greeter Girl' don't qualify as family fare. Click on it to make it large enough to read.
The Prince of Rinse

Sunday, July 15, 2007

intermezzo: Schoolyard Singalong - "Retardation"

Years ago I had this wild hare up me bummie that wanted to put together a book of those songs we sang on the playground so that future generations of prats would not lose the oral history of childrenkind. I haven't bothered to line up a publisher yet and I would need to do some more research to get a broader collection than what was chanted at Outlook Elementary in the first half of the 1970's and Mount Adams Elementary in the second half... But here's the first entry into the volume, and I bet somewhere someone using Google will be happy I did it. I make no presumtion that this is the complete song, every playground is different.
[disclaimer: Heck no, this isn't going to be politically correct. Kids have no prejudices, meaning they will make fun of anyone and anything equally without any actual hate behind it. They're imitating their parents when they say certain words, never forget that. Do you remember a news story from a couple years ago where a teacher got in trouble for teaching his class the "Randolph, The Six-Gun Shooter" version of Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer every kid in America has sung for the last fifty years, because it contained the line "Randolph, with your guns so bright / Won't you shoot my wife tonight?" Hypocracy, the parents who complained learned and sang it too. If you're easily offended, skip this blog entry and ask yourself, "what did *I* sing on the playground? and is it right to be angry if my kids sing those things too?"]

---------- Retardation ----------
Mental retardation
That's the game to play!

Take a pillow case
java retardationWrap it around your face
Go to bed
Wake up dead


Take a rubber hose
Cram it up your nose
Turn it on
Snots are gone


Take a bowling ball
Roll it down the hall
Hit your dad
Make him mad


verse by Richard Brandt or his elder brothers or their peers:

Take a cheater
And a peter-eater
Put 'em together
Make a header

(I asked him once around 1978 what that verse meant, and he said he didn't know. He's still my friend and we still don't know.)

Tune in next time I do this, whenever that is, when kids do terrible things to songs by Terry Jacks and The Royal Scotsmen with the help of my best bud from the first three grades at Outlook, Brian Hargrove. I have no idea where he got 'em but the age of the original songs should imply the playground versions were inherited.

BTW: Tip of the keyboard to Indie for risking his readers' life and limb in this post by making me link number quatre in his Russian Roulette game. New visitors: This post is not typical of my style... see the previous recent posts, or go to the beginning and wade through a year and a half. Curiously the post I like most out of my entire blogging history on this site is my second. Pretty much everything I've written since then, ehh, kinda sucks. ;-)

Thursday, July 12, 2007

there's too many homefires burning and not enough trees

one of God's creaturesHiya, all. My spot in the world has been pretty okay lately... just been humming Pink Floyd's "Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun" while contemplating solo photo jaunts, enjoying the new fan overhead, and talking to some folks I haven't heard from lately, including both of the Jeffs. (But I didn't tell the second one to catch a clue. He still needs to, though.) Paint samples have been procured for starting in on the kitchen but they haven't been applied, I'm trying to bang together plans with a friend I haven't been in the same room with since 1992 who has moved back to Washington from Maryland [email of a few hours ago: "transportation has become an issue" says she], and in a couple hours I'm going to go see Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

Images this episode: Upper - This person was on the corner of 38th & Pacific gesticulating, which could have been competition for the chunky girl with the Little Caesar's Pizza arrow sign who dances on that corner until 2 p.m. every day (you'd think with the aerobic workout she'd be more buff?) but this person was facing into the Rite-Aid parking lot, not out toward traffic. Lower - My old bud Greg was talking about the eyes we've fallen into the other day, and this is one I've found myself in (if only in reflection, which I am in the photo)... click for a screen-sized version. Along with eyebrows, eyelashes should be left alone as well. Stupidity carried over from last week: I submitted my request for the weekend of the 21st off so that I could go to a family reunion [read: Tech Support Comedy picnic] and a week later I still haven't received clearance. The powers-that-be at my work are concerned that if a certain contract gets signed, everyone's workload is going to go up 20x, but they're missing the point that we've been working with that company all year and they seem to be in no big hurry to step up things. If it gets signed, all time-off requests will be cancelled. Fine, this will come as bad news to the person I'm filling in for two days the first week of August. But it isn't, so they might as well just give me the time off now and retract it later IF the need arises, which I presume (obviously) it won't. I'm not a control freak, I just like to make sure that all plans I make are solid and hate it when other people won't commit. Plus it seems that whenever anyone else asks for time off I'm told I'll be filling in for them -- again, fine by me -- but when I ask for time off I have to fight tooth and nail to get anyone to let me have it, and the last time I asked (when a friend was flying in from Colorado) I was denied.

Now, for today's stupidity, something you might encounter yourself soon so consider this an advanced(?) warning. The other day I found a book online that I wanted to pre-order, which will be released in September, and they take PayPal. I was going through the book's site to order, and it kept giving me a rejection message that didn't explain anything. Okay, so I'll log into PayPal to find out what's up. The site advises me that there are three validation measures it wants me to undertake to re-enable my account. As a professional phish-hunter I am wary of a message like that, but this is indeed PayPal's site telling me this, so I jump through the hoops (now they know my mother's maiden name, they've called and asked for the validation code sent in an email, and some other thing, plus I needed to update some credit card expiration information anyway since the new one arrived recently). Account fine, back to the book site, place that order, goes through fine. I was confused by this rigamarole because only a week or two prior I'd used my PayPal account to buy something else and had no issues or alerts. So I wondered why PayPal hadn't bothered to tell me there were security updates that I would need to attend to, rather than just springing it on me. the drowning pool (click me) Of course, the email they'd send to say there were things to update would look just like the phishing spams I see every day at work, but they didn't bother trying and if PayPal were wise (which they try to be) they'd merely say "enter this address in your browser, log into your account, and do what you gotta" rather than having links to click like the phish spams do. But this leads to the second stupidity of a few days later... So later I get an email from a company saying they are doing customer satisfaction surveys for PayPal. Always wary, I clicked on it and went through the survey. (It was legit. There were no requests for identifying information.) But the thing I noticed was that this survey was geared to those who called PayPal for assistance. I didn't do that, I followed the directions onscreen after logging in and took care of my issues myself. So as you can guess, half of the results of this survey are totally meaningless: they didn't offer "0" as the number of times I had to call to get things fixed, they didn't offer "did not call" as an option for several questions about how well I was treated on the phone, and I had little choice but to rate the quality of the imaginary call as "neither positive nor negative." There was a fill-in-the-blank near the beginning, before all the assume-I-phoned questions, which asked about why I called... and I entered "I didn't call, this was all through the web and the correct answers aren't offered in this survey" in addition to the obvious reason: "why didn't you guys tell me there was suddenly an issue?"

Friday, July 06, 2007

the stupidities of Electricity and Electronics (giving me static, a negative charge, and other anion-ances)

Stupidity of Tuesday: I'm a fan of your work!
The project of the 'weekend' was to replace the light in my office with a lighted fan. Putting together the fan is easy, replacing the ceiling utility box is simple (I was wrong, it was held in place by two twopenny nails, not threepenny), and essentially this would be an hour or two job plus a trip to the attic. the fan/light switch I also needed to drop a wire inside the wall parallel to the light switch line for the fan switch. But nothing ever goes as planned, it's a hell of a notion, and it was one of the rare sunny days in the Puget Sound. As a result, the temperature in my attic was 150°F. Not kidding. Being a masochist on a mission, and trying to abide by my bride (who demanded I do this while she was at work because she didn't want to see the carnage), I tried. It took five hours to get that utility box in because it was so sweltering hot I could only spend five minutes at a time up there working, followed by about half an hour of drinking liquids and resting in the shade. Anyhow, once I had that installed securely, I had the fan mounted on it in short order. The wiring took a little doing (from the ground level, thanks) because of some color mixups and bad connections, but this switch you see here is fully functional, as is the lighted fan it controls.

I could rattle on for awhile about the real stupidity, being that the outlet the computer uses was wired in parallel through the light's utility box: when the fan and light were working, the outlet no longer did, and no way was I going to take that fan off to get to the utility box again. I wound up going to the attic -- after dark, so the temperature had dropped sixty degrees -- and cutting the wiring going to the jack off at the box, then splicing it to a length of fresh wire that I spliced inline to the master bedroom's light & outlets. Took a couple trips up and down before things worked the way they're supposed to, but everything is functional. This aids one of the electrical stupidities of this house, that two computers and the TV/VCR/DVD in the livingroom (why?!) and now a fan were all drawing on the same breaker. That's the short version.

The stupidity of Wednesday is that so many people in this neighborhood buy Indian fireworks and blow shit up at all hours. (Cheddar is a nervous wreck. Not that you can notice that through the neurosis.) I spent the day recuperating from the dehydration with a quart of Gatorade, plus endured the awe-inspiring itchy quantity of fiberglass irritation to my arms and rafter-crawling bruising to my knees. The fun place we went was Lowes, not to the waterfront park to watch a professional fireworks show with music.

Stupidity of Thursday: What's the frequency, Mushroom?
My wife has been asking me for awhile to get her computer, an AMD 5x86 [read: the missing link between 486 and Pentium, which thinks it's a P-75], onto teh Intarweb with my broadband connection. Everything was great when we had dialup, even though she'd only get on it about once or twice a year and hasn't read email since May 2003 (so if you're her friend or family, she may have told you that fact and that's why she hasn't replied), but now we don't. I stewed on this for awhile, considering the pro's and con's of going with a wired connection using an Ethernet card and a length of CAT5 (holes in walls optional) or going with a wireless connection using a WiFi card and router. So on this fine day I went to a couple places and spent a hundred bucks on the WiFi solution. Major stupidity happened: The computer which has had the same configuration for years on end suddenly forgot how to use its monitor. Didn't forget what video card it was, but did forget that it was capable of doing things greater than 640x480 and 16 colors. Also forgot that it had a CD-ROM, but I discovered eventually this was caused by the computer arbitrarily deciding it could only handle two cards in it... so taking out the dialup modem was the only way to get it to install WiFi drivers. And the computer will lock up if you fart wrong. Anyhow, so finally I got all the planets aligned, and... uh, the computer is detecting there IS a network being broadcast from my room, but is making NO effort to connect to it. Tried a flock of stuff, no change. the fan Deactivated everything for the night, slept for awhile, and then this (Friday) morning I went back to BestTry to get a different WiFi card for the computer. Or that's the suggestion people online gave others having similar issues, though plenty of them would ask "Did you try this?" after reading a full description of the asker doing exactly that... twice. New card doesn't fare any better; completely different interface but doing the same thing, it finds MushW1r3l3ss but doesn't attempt to connect to it. Back to the blue price tag place. BestTry person with a face like Ganesh and a belt that was not holding her pants up whatsoever tried her best to hype GeekSquad, and it took all my strength (the Gatorade helped, thanks) to not say "Sorry, but I'll ask a real technician". I did have a chuckle over her saying that I could have them come out and set up my network... I hate seeing heads explode when they discover it won't work after promising it will. So I got my refund, went next door, and bought a $3 network card and $13.50 in Ethernet cable.

I haven't had the time to properly investigate, but I have downloaded the drivers and installed the card (and only two lockups on the computer!)... and the light on the card showing it's connected didn't come on. Possibly because I hooked something up wrong when I removed the WiFi router so the place I was plugging the cord in wasn't getting signal, possibly because while I was trying to work my wife decided to change phones in the bedroom and removed the DSL filter so the modem fell offline (and this particular model wants an Internet connection before checking to see if there's a physical connection). And that's the less-than-geeky version of the story. [three hours later: Yeah, the Ethernet situation was caused by crossed wires... her computer is on and browsing at 100kbps. And the first order of business was to upgrade her from Netscape 4.78 to Firefox! Next will be coming up with a nonmessy way to run a cable from here to there... out one bedroom door and into the other one past the rolling desk chair is a bit 'underfoot'.]

A shout out to my old TSC buddy Jeff in Portland, who came to visit me on Tuesday! Great seeing you and will do so again in a couple weeks. What a giant ferry!

A shout out to my old THS buddy Jeff in Portland, who came to visit his family on Thursday... Okay, let me get this right: The chick tossed you out three years ago because she wanted to see other guys after a seven year togetherness, you didn't pull your act together because you kept pining for her (and she didn't really try turning you away, she just didn't take you in either), you became homeless because you couldn't let go, you got booted out of a couple of other women's homes because you couldn't let go, she's still seeing other people and recently lied to you about it, and your story now is that she's about to be kicked out of her parents house because she's seeing you again? Duuuuude. Clue-train over at the station, hop aboard.

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