Saturday, November 30, 2002

My grandmother's been getting increasingly vague over the years. In fact, several times on Thanksgiving day she asked questions that made it clear that she didn't really know who I was. But then there were other times that she clearly did. At one point, she sidled up next to me and put her arm around me. "I just wanted to say how sorry I was to hear about your divorce."

"Thanks, Grandma."

"It's never easy. My parents were divorced. That was back... There were four of us girls... At least, I think there were four of us."

Wednesday, November 27, 2002

I'm off to spend time being thankful with/for friends and family. They're all computer people, so I'll probably be able to blog from my various undisclosed locations, but why? I'll either be cooking, eating, or overstuffed and whacked on on tryptophan. To tide you over, I leave you with the follow quote, which is not apt, polite, or even particularly kind, but it's (mostly) accurate and, more importantly, it's funny.

The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness. - John Kenneth Galbraith
Michael Kinsley on Google News - The subhead is "Hey - that's MY job you're automating!" The whole thing's a display of rhetorical sleight of hand, but the trick is neatly done and entertainingly presented. Here's a taste of one of the more subtly humorous sections:
In the prestige ranking of important issues, a key factor is how much an issue actually touches anyone's daily life. The more abstract an issue is from real life, the more prestigious it is. A journalistic career that began covering tornadoes in Iowa and ended writing editorials about the expansion of membership in NATO would be considered a success. One that took the opposite path would not.

We all agree—do we not?—that globalization and technological change remain vitally important issues. In order to assure their continued vitality, therefore, it is essential to guarantee that journalists not be impacted in any way.

Tuesday, November 26, 2002

Unqualified Offerings lists Moderate Muslim Bloggers - People defending their faith against the ignorant and dangerous rantings of the Islamists. So now you've got no excuse to wonder where they are.
Heidi Klum is single again - First it was Nicole Kidman, then Drew Barrymore, followed by Molly Ringwald, and now Heidi Klum. It's like word of my divorce is slowly making its way through the world of beautiful women, and they suddenly feel the need to be free.
Al Gore and the Alpha Girls - The Rittenhouse Review has a very entertaining and intelligent article up on the tempestuous relationship between Al Gore and the teenage girls that run out press corps. If you picked up even one news magazine this past summer, you probably got an earful about "Alpha Girls", "Beta Girls", and "Gamma Girls." In a nutshell, the Alphas are the Heathers who run the school, the Betas are the wannabes, and the Gammas are those poor misguided souls who think school is actually about learning and friendship is about caring and therefore fail to see the emotional war that surrounds them. Jim Cappozzola looks at the bizarre way the press attacks Gore and concludes that the punditry is made up of Alphas and Betas, with most of the Gammas being in the blogosphere.

Friday, November 22, 2002

There's something reassuring about a small town news broadcast. It's a strong creator/evoker of community. In half an hour, I find out what the morons in washington and down at the state capital are up to these days, what's happening in my town that's weird, funny, or scary, and whether the Tigers are going to make it to the show. It's the town in a nutshell.

Columbia, Missouri is a textbook version of an Ideopolis. It's a college town, with its other major employers including hospitals, light manufacturing, and a textbook wholesaler. In an article on Slate, Tim Noah ponders why the folks who live in towns like mine tend to vote Democratic, then The Fray jumps in.

My personal favorite is the guy who suggests it's because conservative men can't get laid in a town like this. I can't argue with this; I'm not conservative.

But there's a better reason. Everyone I know in this town is less than two degrees of separation from what is, essentially, a government job, whether it be for the state or for the university. So when a Republican stands up and starts talking about out of touch bureaucrats, too many taxes, and thieving, wasteful government employees, it means some of my friends might go back to working minimum wage with no health insurance. Who the hell you think I'm going to vote for?

Missouri's Democratic Governor was on the news tonight talking about our budget problems. Basically, like every state since about two years ago, we're going broke. We the people need money if we want to do silly, extravagant things like maintain our highways and educate our children. Gov. Holden is proposing that we start closing corporate tax loopholes.

I don't know if it's a good idea, really, or not. Actually, it's a risk to try it, and a risk to propose it. Holden's never been much of a populist, as far as I know, so is this some new taste of what the new, invigorated Democratic Party is going to be like?

Much as I hate to admit it, I'm having to admit that I probably am a Democrat. But I'm the same kind of Democrat as I am Buddhist (or Christian, for that matter). It's a faith that is both sincere and well thought out, but nevertheless honored more with neglect than action.

Thursday, November 21, 2002

Was rummaging through the database today, and came across a book titled Flip Charts: How to Draw Them and How to Use Them. It's not so much that I doubt there are people out there that can't figure out how to use a flip chart; I've seen plenty of stupidity in my day (I even demonstrate it on occasion). But if you can't figure out a flip chart, how are you going to manage a book? Don't they have basically the same interface?
Back when I was working for a big, bad dot-com, I think we had some meetings with these guys.
The World Is Too Much With Us - I had an interesting morning. Not to put too fine a point on it, I've been irritable as hell all day. Phone calls bugged me. Email bugged me. Even thinking about having to talk to another person was enough to get me annoyed. When I went out to get lunch and run a brief errand, the driving habits of the morons I got stuck behind was enough to make me scream. It was like somebody reached inside of me, pulled out my soul, and replaced it with a 2 year old who missed his nap. No patience, no compassion, and all my emotions are running right at the surface.

Then I felt a twinge behind my left eye, and suddenly recognized this for what it is: a migraine. This happens every once in a while, where I get a migraine, but without the actual pain. Sometimes the pain comes later, sometimes it doesn't come at all, but my emotions are fucked for the duration.

I probably should take something (Imitrex usually helps when this happens), but I'm kind of enjoying it. It's like I've been replaced by my own evil twin. Now I know how Dr. Jekyl felt. Or, more accurately I guess, Mr. Hyde.

What Office Space character are you?

brought to you by Quizilla

I'm not sure what this bodes for my professional future, but I do know there's something wrong with anyone who'd refer to Jennifer Aniston as "the annoying girlfriend." That's just wrong.

Wednesday, November 20, 2002

I've been a bit restless with my computer lately. You know how it is: You get a new computer at work, then a friend gets a new computer, and suddenly your home PC, the one you've loved for years, just doesn't seem quite as sexy. I put in a new hard drive a couple of weeks back, but last night I finally got to what I'd been heading towards all this time. I installed Linux. So far, I haven't done much with it, so I can't really offer an honest opinion, but it definitely feels sexier than what I had before, and I just feel so...involved, so competent, so...geeky (but in a good way). The only problem I had when I was installing it last night was that my Internet connection didn't come back up after I partitioned the hard drive and reinstalled Windows. That's okay, it's happened before. Christie was coming over to watch Buffy, so I didn't have time to really mess with it. I decided to put it off, have lunch at home today while I was fixing it. Well, I figured out the problem easily enough.

My cable modem was turned off.
A friend gave me a brief review of my blog last night. It mostly came down to praise of my 'voice', but there was one particular bit that stuck in my head. She said I frequently use irony, but she didn't really think it was heartfelt.

Monday, November 18, 2002

Go rent Escanaba in da Moonlight. It's about a family, the Soadys, in the Upper Peninsula. It's opening day of deer season, and Reuben "The Buckless Yooper" Soady is 43. If he doesn't bag a deer this year, then he'll go down in history as the oldest Soady without a deer. But with the UFOs, a Ranger seeing God up on the ridge, and various and sundry other mystical and strange events, the whole family is starting to wonder whether they might oughta go back to town. It's been almost 24 hours since I watched it, and I'm still laughing about parts of it. Really. I am. Ask the people in the cubicle next to me.

Saturday, November 16, 2002

Carrie was over tonight. As recently as a couple of months ago, when I saw her and heard about her life, all I could think was how much I hated being stuck watching her life from the bleachers when I used to be in the game. Now, when I hear her talk about her life, it's like listening to any other friend tell me her troubles, and I'm grateful as hell to be up in the bleachers, where I can go grab a beer and a hot dog whenever I want, or even cut out early to beat the traffic. I've got a good view, as opposed to those poor bastards on the field. I can even appreciate the game, as only someone who's played it can. But I have no interest in playing again.

Here's the question: Am I over her, or just lazy?

Friday, November 15, 2002

Every once in a while, I run across something that's a little peek behind the curtain, revealing God to have a truly strange sense of humor.
Two Good Articles
"Natural Foods"? - "Too often modern health problems are portrayed as the result of eating "bad" foods that are departures from the natural human diet--an oversimplification embodied by the current debate over the relative merits of a high-protein, high-fat Atkins-type diet or a low-fat one that emphasizes complex carbohydrates. This is a fundamentally flawed approach to assessing human nutritional needs. Our species was not designed to subsist on a single, optimal diet. What is remarkable about human beings is the extraordinary variety of what we eat. We have been able to thrive in almost every ecosystem on the earth, consuming diets ranging from almost all animal foods among populations of the Arctic to primarily tubers and cereal grains among populations in the high Andes."

Why I Cain't Write Right - "The essays that the graduating BAs would submit with their applications were often brilliant. After five or six years of PhD work, the same people would write incomprehensible crap." Actually, that's not what the article is about, but the lede is worth the link, and the rest of the article isn't too bad, either.

Thursday, November 14, 2002

Moment Two - On the way back to my car, I run into Dean, who I haven't seen in months. We hit the Indian buffet, and discuss our love lives over dal and tandhoori chicken. There's nothing like a little "Women! What can you do?" to brighten your day.
Moment One - I went into my friendly neighborhood kitchen store today. I'm pathetically susceptible to gadgetitis, especially in the kitchen, and I've allowed myself to be convinced that this will make me more likely to make bread, improve my pie crust, and be helpful to me when I try and make croissants for the first time this weekend. And then I got one of these because I haven't been very satisfied with my liquid measuring experience lately, and because the sales girl was cute.

Her: Can I help you?
Me: I know what I'm looking for, but I'm going to look around for a little while, just for the joy of it.
Her: Okay. But when you need me, just grab me!
Me: [In my head] I'd love to. [Out loud] Count on it.

I found what I was looking for, lingered over the appliances I can't afford, looked at toys I might use but probably wouldn't, and daydreamed about my new Wusthof paring knife for a while, then took my new toys to the counter. Another clerk rang me up, but CuteGirl hung around to put my stuff in a bag, run the credit card machine, smile a lot, laugh at my silly cracks and otherwise do everything possible (without using road flares or visual aids) to let me know she thought I was cute. I flirted back, and walked out the door about three inches taller than I came in.

It was a running joke between my ex-wife and I how clueless I was when girls flirted with me, and I was a little worried when I got single again that I'd still have that problem. That's why I love moments like these. I'm not really in the mood to date right now, but once I am, I'm fairly sure I'll be able to tell when a girl is interested.

In the meantime, I better get my kitchen organized this weekend, because I have a feeling I may be buying an inordinate amount of kitchen equipment.
Games People Play - Some people have golf buddies; I have a Scrabble buddy. Okay, that's reductive as hell. He's a real friend, but our fallback excuse for hanging out together is to go to some coffee shop and play Scrabble for a few hours. A while back, he got the Scrabble CD-ROM which has boosted his abilities to superhuman levels and now I consider it a successful game if, at the end, our scores at least have the same first digit. That's not really the point.

He and his wife gave me a copy of the Scrabble CD-ROM for my birthday, and last night I tried to install it. I click the "install" button, and crappy lite jazz guitar music starts coming out of my speakers. It's about a 20 second clip, looped. Great. Installing software isn't annoying and frustrating enough as it is, now I get to listen to muzak while I watch a little blue bar creep across my screen. And when the computer's really thinking, the music starts to skip. Finally, I get to start the game, and all I get is a black screen. Now, even Ctrl-Alt-Delete doesn't work. I have to actually turn off the computer, wait for the hard disk to stop spinning, turn it back on, let it run scan disk, reload Windows, etc. Which I do, then go to Hasbro.com, where I'm told that they don't actually make the CD-ROM, I need to go to InfoGrames.com, which sends me to yet a third site to tell me that I need to update my video drivers and/or set my screen to 640x800 with 256 colors, neither of which ends up working, but everytime I try something new, I have to go through the whole power down, wait for my hard drive to stop spinning, start back up thing.

The kicker is that for me, the game is about the mind of my opponent much more than it's about points. Scrabble gives me a peek into your mood, your hobbies, your education, and your word hoard. I'm really not interested in playing Scrabble against a computer.

Thankfully, it's the thought that counts, and the thought was lovely.

Wednesday, November 13, 2002

Post-Birthday Mall Experience - You know you're getting older when a hot teenage girl and her mom walk by, and you're totally invisible to the teenage girl, but the mom checks you out.
2nd sign I'm getting older: I wouldn't have it any other way.

Tuesday, November 12, 2002

After great pain, a formal feeling comes
All in all, I'd call the weekend a success. Matt and Laurie had a beautiful wedding, Theron and I got in some good hangtime, and the family had a nice birthday brunch for my nephew and I on Sunday. In typical Terry fashion, gifts were exchanged, happy wishes were given, but there were no elaborate productions. No funny hats, no balloon animals, no scary clowns. It's as it should be. Just good food, family, friends, and presents. Especially presents. My brother got me a couple of Warren Zevon albums (including one that's out of print), and I found out that my niece really likes Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner, while my parents got me a fleece vest and a Wusthof drop-point paring knife. My music geek, food geek, and knife geek were all made very happy.

That was Sunday, though. My actual birthday was on Friday. It turned out to be one of those hyper-social days where people were constantly in and out of my cubicle, I got taken out to lunch, and there was cake. It might actually be fair to say that the folks at work made a bigger deal about my birthday than my family did. Like I already said, I was raised in a 'birthdays are no big deal' family, so I'm much more comfortable getting a quick 'happy birthday' then getting on with my life, but free food is always good, so I'm not complaining.

But something, somewhere in all of it must have hit me wrong, because I had a raging migraine by the time I got home from work. So I spent my birthday night laying on the couch hallucinating and listening to music. If you disregard the sensation of molten lead being poured into your eye socket, it's not a bad way to spend the evening, really.

It fits, actually. Last year, I talked to Carrie on my birthday, and we had the "Am I kidding myself when I hope we might get back together?" conversation (turned out I was). It was intense, and painful, but it was also honest and kind, and I felt ready to get on with my life when it was over.

Friday night, my mind mulled over the last year and flushed out some of the nastiness that had been building up. I also had a nice (albeit too brief) talk with Ryan, who I haven't seen since his funeral almost five years ago. I woke up on the couch about one, mostly pain-free, and staggered back to the bedroom. When the sun came through my window in the morning, the pain was gone, and so was a lot of weight I'd been carrying around without even realizing it.

Wednesday, November 06, 2002

New poetry site to visit:

    I love you, swimmer in me
    Bump of nose beneath my skin,
    You are my reckoning, shark
    Awake when I am ocean bursting.

His archive page says, "Yes, I know some of them are really bad. I put everything here, even the failures. I might cannibalize them later. Just skip the bad ones." and he's inspired me to put up some of my own. Hence the one below.
He was a door I never tried,
that looked locked from where I sat.

But on his way out, he left himself ajar.
Memories slip by, some unnoticed as ghosts,
the rest dancing merrily to an old tune,
until he is left nothing but peace, and breathing
and then only peace.

Tuesday, November 05, 2002

Voting is Sexy - I spent my lunch hour solving problems. I paid some bills while I was on hold with Mediacom (the cable modem people), got the net connection going, then went to vote. I vote at West Elementary, just down the street from my house, so I get to walk. There is something so great about walking down the street in order to register my opinion about the path of the nation. I can't quite put my finger on it, but I think it's the feeling of connectedness, the feeling that my neighborhood is a part of the nation. When I first moved to Columbia, it wasn't a very ped-friendly neighborhood, and driving to vote just didn't feel the same.

Memory flash: I have a distinct picture in my head of walking to Hale Cook Elementary with my mom (or was it my grandmother?) and standing next to her while she voted. The voting machines were the kind where you slide the punchcard into a slot and use a little stylus to poke out the chad (I hate that I know that word). Even as a kid I was a gadget-head, and I remember being jealous of the grownups for getting to play with the cool machines. Now I know why I'm such a democracy geek.

Oh, and I got a recorded, "Don't forget to vote" phone call from Sheryl Crow. That's why voting is sexy.
My mom called last night. It was a long talk, but here's the part that's relevant to my blogging schedule:

Her: What are you doing?
Me: Installing a new hard drive.
Her: Any particular reason?
Me: Well, it all started when I decided to put in a network card...
Her: (laughter) Got it.

The hard drive is in and functioning, and I've pretty much finished loading it with my extensive collection of pornography and illegal Wayne Newton bootleg MP3s, but the Internet connection is still not up. Tonight probably.

Friday, November 01, 2002

Every year, my Springfield friends throw a Halloween party. It got started when a bunch of them were renting apartments in the same house, and everybody just threw open their doors. It helps that there are brewers in the group, which meant that the beer is both good and plentiful, but we're also talking about a group of seriously warped and creative individuals. I've been hearing about these parties for years before I was actually able to make it down for one. One year, Brian came as a chair. His costume was mostly made out of wood, and was apparently convincing enough that he scared the shit out of quite a few people when the chair they'd been sitting on for 20 minutes suddenly grabbed them. The next year, he was Mr. Hanky, his mom was Kenny, and his brother came as a working traffic light. One couple came dressed as nuns, but with a chain linking them together at the head. Nun-chucks. There were two Darth Mauls that year, both of whom shaved their heads and did the full makeup. One glued horns to his head and had freaky contacts, while the other participated in a choreographed lightsaber fight with Qui-Gon and Obiwan.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that these are some serious Halloween-loving freaks we're talking about here. These people are hard-core.

I, on the other hand, have generally been more of an "also-ran". My costumes are generally decent, but nothing amazingly clever, nothing people would be talking about the next day, let alone the next year. This year, I was Frodo. There was a whole Lord of the Rings theme going on, which made me mostly part of an ensemble cast. I thought about trying to fabricate some kind of hobbit feet, but in the end, I decided to just go barefoot. The temperature was in the 30s. The party was mostly outside. On a patio littered with gravel, and a backyard full of tiny, pointy sticks.

The high point of my night was about 1:30, when some drunk guy looked down at my feet and said, "Dude! You're still barefoot? You're hard-core!"
If you're not reading Wockerjabby, I demand to know why not. Here's a taste of what she wrote today:

at night the sky was striped with clouds right through the constellations, and while I sat sleepless on my windowsill we watched each other in baleful melancholy. but this morning, this morning I (still sleepless) was wallowing in the slowness of the sunrise when a breath of wind ripped a whole flock of orange leaves from their branches and sent them tumbling against the glass of my window. I opened it and they rushed in, hitting me full in the face and sticking in my hair. "I missed you too," I said, because I did.

'nuff said.