Friday, October 31, 2003
Thursday, October 30, 2003
Bryan: One of their machines is set up to ping all of our servers every couple of minutes just to make sure the DNS is still working, but I changed the way the pages were generated, and the server was having to start a session instead of just serving up a static page. So I gave them a static page to link to instead.
Me: So what you're telling me is that we have a box over there and all it does is that it's the machine that goes "ping"?
Monday, October 27, 2003
of limbs in the headlights, the deer's momentum
carrying it thrashing to the shoulder.
The stink of antifreeze tells me we're going to need
a ride, though we're still an hour from home.
That's what friends are for, I think, as we start making calls
to insurance, wreckers and a rescuer
who immediately gets in his car because, after all,
that is what friends are for.
You dry your tears on my coat as I think about the time
lost and decide that it's instead a gift, time stolen out
of life too full at times, like the small town truck stop coffee
waved off with a "don't worry about it", and we spend the hour
in the classifieds, swapping dreams
of a place in the country with acres, and a barn.
Thursday, October 23, 2003
to a little town in Illinois. I wanted it to be dramatic
with someone screaming in our faces on the walk to the door
but it was just a little strip mall parking lot,
though there was a car across the way
with pictures in shades of red and signs
with lots of exlamation points.
The woman behind the wheel didn't even look up
from her book as we went inside.
Waiting room magazines, muzak, and linguistics homework
keep me company until the nurse tells me I can go back
where silence is looking raw at the ceiling of a pastel room.
The nurse looks at me as she leaves and I want to tell her
it wasn't mine, that I'm the friend, the good man, the driver.
That the boyfriend is off not dealing in St. Louis.
But silence is looking at me now and I can't say a word,
except in my head, where I repeat that I'm the Good Man.
The tires hum grayly against the road the whole way home
and she is curled up against the far side of the car
under a blanket and my coat, eyes closed. Two hours
later I wake her up and take her inside, then go back home
next door to stare at the ceiling and hope that some day
she'll write a poem about today so I can know what she was thinking.
If she does, I never see it.
Anyway, the argument was about 'partial birth abortion' and the Terry Schiavo case. Being the good liberal that I am, I felt the need to actually research and find out the facts. And I can sort of understand his perspective, particularly when it comes to outlawing intact dilation and extraction (the actual medical name for the procedure some call "partial birth abortion"). I spent a good part of last night talking with friends about pregnancy and birth (there's a small epidemic of pregnancies passing through my acquaintances), and I challenge anyone to go from the miracle of birth to the horrors of intact D&E without feeling nauseated. But every medical expert I've read agrees that D&E is the best way to deal with a pregancy gone horribly wrong, and an intact D&E is the safest form of the procedure. But it's viscerally disgusting, and if you've trained your brain to hear "baby" every time a doctor says "fetus", it sounds like something only a demon would do.
All you have to do is forget that we're not talking about women who suddenly decide, at eight and a half months, that they don't feel like changing diapers. We're talking about women who find out that their baby has a congenital defect and will most likely be stillborn, and that the process of giving birth could very damage their bodies to the point that having another, healthy child becomes out of the question. An intact D&E is their best, safest hope for having healthy kids someday, but now it's illegal so that some hypocrite in the Senate can tell his constituents that he's more "pro-life" than the other guy. Congratulations, guys, for drafting a law which won't save a single human life, but may well destroy a half-dozen or so, all for the benefit of political posturing.
And then there's Terry Schiavo. She's in a persistent vegetative state and has been on life support for 13 years. Her husband says she never wanted this, her parents say they never heard her say that, Florida courts have sided with the husband, and the executive and legislative branches have jumped in to keep the machines going. Moral, upstanding citizens across the country have stood up to say what they think is the right thing to do based on the five minute summary of the case they heard in church. I've heard just gems as "the husband already has a girlfriend..." and "do we even know how she ended up in a coma? I think it's suspicious that we're not hearing more about that."
Here are the facts: Her heart stopped in 1990 due to a chemical imbalance. She never woke up. Independent doctors have examined her and concluded that her brain damage is so severe that there is, barring a miracle, no chance of her waking up. And by "barring a miracle", I really do mean miracle. And as far as "he already has a girlfriend", well it's been 13 years since his wife went into a coma. Try that out for a while, see how you do.
A couple of years ago, my parents decided it was time for them to leave their church. In the middle of it all, my dad said something that really struck me, "Last week, at Calvary, the minister was talking about morality, and doing the right thing, and everything he was saying was about what 'they' should do. It was all about other people. This week, at First Lutheran, it was the same topic, but it was all about what 'we' should do. I like that a lot better."
So my take on the Schiavo case is this: My heart goes out to her husband, her parents, the doctors, the judges, and everybody else who has to come to some kind of decision. I'm grateful as hell I haven't had to deal with that kind of pain and grief, and I am steadfast in my belief that it's none of my damn business.
Tuesday, October 21, 2003
If you've ever gotten stuck talking to a dittohead at the company picnic, then you know the type: He's right; you're wrong, and any information source that contradicts his preconceived notions is wrong, usually because it's part of the liberal media. Now imagine a whole bunch of those guys running the country. No wonder things are so fucked up.
Monday, October 20, 2003
So, being a web guy, I go to their web site to see what my options are. Oh, boy. Where do I start? I go to log in, and the log in screen asks for my phone number. Then it asks for my username and password. Like a lot of folks, I tend to use the same password for most low-security needs. But I can't do that here because Cingular limits your password to four characters. Fine. Annoying, but fine.
But there's nothing on the account page that talks about replacing your phone, so I decide to check the FAQ. I click on "Common Questions" and get a message warning me that they're about to log me out. What? Why the hell do you need to log me out just to show me the FAQ? Whatever. Fine. Log me out. The next page, then, asks for my zip code. WTF? Two pages ago, you knew my name, my phone number, address, and my mother's maiden name. Now you need to know my zip code just to show me a friggin' FAQ? Fine, here's my zip code.
Of course there's nothing useful on the FAQ, so I click over to "Phones", thinking that maybe they'll have something about upgrading my existing phone, you know, since I've already told them I have a Cingular account. Nope. In fact, they've already forgotten the zip code I told them two pages ago.
I knew Guy Pearce was conflicted about acting, but I didn't know he'd gotten work as a webmaster.
Thursday, October 16, 2003
Since the very first time I read about the Tivo, I wanted one. There are a bunch of TV shows I like but never watch because they're on at inconvenient times. I hate that I have to choose between spending my Saturday afteroons working on my old house or watching This Old House, which comes on at 12:30, right when I'd like to have my hands full making sawdust. I don't want to watch Good Eats on Wednesday evening, when I'm busy watching Angel, but the only other times it's on are while I'd rather be sleeping. I suppose I could tape things, but that's a pain in the ass, and takes more time than I want to spend on what is, at best, a passive waste of time.
But I always put it off because it struck me as a waste of money. For what I'd spend on a Tivo, I could get a great new tent (got one), or even a bandsaw (want one)! Watching TV is not a hobby I'm proud of or happy about, but there are times that I'm just too tired to take on any of my more, um, active activities.
In short, I'm conflicted. On one side there's a resistance to spending money on an accessory to a habit I don't even particularly like having. On the other is the realistic notion that I'm no more likely to quite watching TV than I am to quit masturbating, eating junk food, looking at pretty girls with inappropriate thoughts in my mind, or any other long-standing hobby that I'm conflicted about. With Tivo at least I'll be watching shows I'm genuinely interested in rather than just whatever crap happens to be on. And I'll be watching them on my schedule, not theirs.
Plus Circuit City sent me a coupon, and it's my birthday in a couple of weeks. Oh, and my VCR's acting up.
Somebody, please, give me a reason not to buy a Tivo. Or tell me it's okay, and I won't lose my soul.
Wednesday, October 15, 2003
It is, of course, possible that I'm reading into it.
Tuesday, October 14, 2003
I don't care how over her you think you are, when you're bagging up your ex-wife's stuff and run across a bunch of lingerie from the first year you were together, it's going to dredge up some shit.
Update: Better now. Newlyweds takes the sting off just about any romantic angst, particularly angst about your first marriage.
Monday, October 13, 2003
Beowulf fights three monsters: Grendel, Grendel's mother (fought in her lair, an underwater cave), and the dragon, which kills him. Ripley fights three monsters: The Alien, the Alien Queen (fought underground), and the last Alien which, having gesticated in a dog, ran on all fours like a beast, mirroring the Chinese characterization of the dragon as midway between beasts and men, based on their having language, but running on four legs. And, like Beowulf, she dies after killing the last Alien.
I'd been promoting this theory for years when they decided to make a new Alien movie, Alien: Resurrection. My friends were convinced they were witnessing the death of a perfectly good theory, but I had enough of a background in critical theory to refuse to change a theory in the face of conflicting facts. Luckily, the latest installment featured a Ripley that had become more of a monster, thanks to DNA experiments gone wrong, and a monster humanized by the same process. The answer to my problem was easy to find.
Thursday, October 09, 2003
Wednesday, October 08, 2003
Me: I had a pair before, but the sole broke right here, across the middle.
Shoelady: Really? Must be the way you were walking.
Me: Actually, I think it might have been the way I crouch.
Christie: Yeah, he doesn't really sit.
Shoelady: So how's the fit?
Me: It's good. No slip in the heel. I'm not sure the others would stay on that well. I jump around a lot, climb stuff, that kind of thing.
Shoelady: Jump around? What are you, a monkey in your spare time?
Christie: Yeah, basically.
Personally, I think this is a pretty lame argument. But Schafer offers it in what reads to me like perfect sincerity. And there are lots of folks on the right saying the same sort of thing: It wasn't a crime, and even if it was, it wasn't that bad because Plame's not really that much of a spy, and Wilson's a partisan jerk, and What's The Harm?
They aren't partisan hacks, or liars, or paid footsoldiers of Tom Delay. They're folks struggling with the basic conflict of fact vs. belief. They bought, hook, line and sinker, the "George W. Bush is a decent guy who's going to turn around the White House" line of crap in the 2000 elections. Or maybe, after 9/11 they went into "Benevolent Leader" mode. Either way, they have an image of the folks in the White House that does not have room for things like outing a CIA operative for political gain, even when it's to the detriment of national security.
It takes something like four times as much information to change someone's mind as it did to make it up in the first place, though that ratio obviously is going to vary from person to person. What we're seeing in the national media is not a dogpile onto perceived weakness, but the slow creaking of minds changing, as facts pile up describing George W. and his administration as dishonest and, to put it kindly, less than competent.
Me, I made up my mind about George W. three years ago when I heard him take credit for Texas' Patient's Bill of Rights when in fact he'd vetoed it then let it become law without his signature after the Texas legislature overrode his veto. And I've seen nothing in the years since to make me want to change my mind. Obviously, Schafer had a different experience, but now he's come face to face with a big, ugly fact that's not going away. It'll be interesting to see how he reacts as the story builds.
Tuesday, October 07, 2003
Here's the Dowd column in question. This is the sentence Schafer read, followed immediately by the one he apparently didn't read: "At first she said she was an energy analyst, but confided sometime around the first kiss that she was in the CIA. 'I had a security clearance,' grinned Wilson, then a political adviser to the commander of U.S. forces in Europe."
How hard is it to understand the difference between outing yourself to someone who's been cleared to know your status and outing someone else to a half-dozen reporters and columnists?
Monday, October 06, 2003
Here's a couple of pics to give you an idea of what the library used to look like, back when it was called "the office":
Try to ignore the guy doing yoga.
Note the tall, dark shelves. This is a view from the door, so you can't really tell, but they really overwhelmed the room. It didn't help that there's just a hint of a tilt to the floor, which made them even more loomy.
This is the same view now, with the shelves repurposed (and no Theron doing yoga). I built a base to lift the shelves up off the carpet and get them above the molding, and because it looks better. Then I lopped the top and bottom off the shelf units (laminated particle board, so no high quality furniture was harmed in the making of these shelves), turned them horizontal, and put in holes for adjustable shelves.
I have a lot of mass market paperbacks, so I built tiered shelving for them. Three shelves with two tiers, and one shelf with three tiers. There weren't quite enough books to fill all the shelves, particularly once I stocked the reference shelf on my writing desk, so I built a little wooden piece to hold the partial shelf in place. This had the double effect of creating a nice tiered storage area and making sure that, as I acquire more books, I have someplace to put them.
Since I mentioned the writing desk, I'll go ahead and show it off:
It used to belong to my parents, but they didn't have a place for it anymore, and it was just too cool to pass up, with all those nooks, crannies, and drawers, not to mention that wonderful shelf, just the right size for whatever reference books I might want to put my hands on at a moment's notice. Finally, a permanent home for my Latin/English dictionary!
But an open-ended shelf needs bookends. I looked around, but everything I found was either too ornate or too expensive. I wanted something that looked halfway decent, but effectively disappeared. After all, there's not that much room. I had a perfect picture in my head of what I wanted. Brass, preferably, but any metal would do. A simple right angle with a brace across the back. Like this, maybe:
Notice how it disappears? Unfortunately, I couldn't find anything like it out in the world, so I went to the hardware store and bought two sheets of brass,two narrow strips of brass, and some two part epoxy. An hour or so of playing with the vice and some clamps, and I had what I was looking for:
Oh, and I put masking tape on the bottom so they wouldn't scratch the wood.
Finally, I moved a big comfy chair in from the bedroom, and a reading lamp in from the living room, neither of which was being used where they were, and sat down to read a nice book. Unfortunately, I had nowhere to set my tea. Not that I had tea, but I planned to have tea sometime down the road. What I really needed was a little tray, with short legs on it so that it could fit down over the arm of the chair. I'd seen that sort of thing on altars in Japan, so I thought maybe Pier One would have something like what I wanted. No such luck. I looked a few other places, but it was the same story.
It was time for another trip to the hardware store, where I bought a half inch dowel rod and a thick slab of pine. I cut off a piece of pine, then used the table saw to put a divot in the center of it. I wanted a rustic look, so I switched over to hand tools, using a plane to trim the sides, leaving the corners high. Then I took some 60 grit sandpaper to it. Somewhere in there, I mounted the legs, cut from the dowel rod.
The finish is a red oak stain, and it's sealed with vegetable oil. It's not polyurethane or anything, but it's foodsafe and gives me room to experiment with different finishes if I want to. Plus it gives nice depth to the wood, and refreshing the oil is a wonderfully sensuous experience, if you're as into wood as I am (I didn't mean that to sound dirty, but oh well).
There's one last thing. Longtime readers may remember the Frodo costume from last year. Well, I'd ordered a long-stemmed pipe, but it didn't come in time for the Halloween party. But I still have it, and have been jonesing for a place to display it. I had a little piece of fifty year old pine left over from making boxes a few Christmases ago, so I turned it into a stand:
It's not my best work, especially the copper fork, which didn't spiral quite as evenly as I'd have liked. But it'll do for now, and it'll be easy to replace it (the fork, that is). Oh, and the nail is just a galvanized roofing nail I use to tamp the bowl. If I weren't so damn cheap, or if I smoked the sucker more than four or five times a year, I might invest in an actual pipe nail. But I am, and I don't, so this'll do.
And it's not really her closet anymore, either. Hasn't been for two years. Since then, it's been a place to stick things I didn't want to deal with, like the new foam we ordered for the couch. I didn't really like the idea, but the old cushions were too soft for her. They hurt her back. But once I knew she wasn't coming back, I put the old foam back in, and stuck the new stuff in her closet, where it company with her old dresses and clothes from before she found fashion. And the shoes. Good lord, the shoes.
I don't want to make this into something it isn't, but when I pulled out her kimono, there was a spider on it. The kimono her mother gave her that her biological father picked up in Japan before she was born, before he decided that a young wife and new daughter was something he didn't want. The father whose picture she kept on her mirror in the apartment she moved into when she said she wasn't coming home. The father she never met who probably didn't know he was just a link in a chain of men who didn't stay and might not care if he knew, if he's even still alive.
It's not symbolic that I shook it off onto the floor and stomped it, but not before I took a good look at it. It's not symbolic that I went immediately online to find a picture of a brown recluse, saw a picture and said, out loud to an empty house, yep, that's what it was. It's just a fact of life in this part of the country that when you come back to a closet that's been mostly shut up for two years, it's best to shake things out before you handle them too much, and keep an eye on the floor to see what drops out.
That's why they call them recluses.
1. I've been working on the office, which is now called "the library" because it's for reading, not working. Coffeeshops are for working, as is the basement. As a result, almost all of my books are in one spot for the first time in years. Previously, all too many of them lived in the basement.
In the process of building the library, I've often gotten a little picture in my head of something I want, haven't been able to find it, and therefore had to built it. For the most part, they've turned out well. I think maybe tonight I'll go around and take pictures of some of these things, just for grins. So expect a braggy picture post sometime soon.
2. Turning what was my ex-wife's office into what is now my library has created the first entirely Carrie-free room in the house, and I like it very much. Next step is the bedroom, which is already mostly Carrie-free, thanks to the bed I built. But she left some old clothes and shoes behind, to the tune of one closet and a drawer or so. After the bedroom comes the living room, which is arranged in much the same way as when she lived her, and includes a hutch which, frankly, neither of us much liked. This process, known as "despousing", is not about getting rid of Carrie, who has, after all, not lived her in over two years. It is about getting rid of ghosts, who make lousy roommates, as they never put things away in the right place, but if you say anything, they get all huffy and stop emptying the dishwasher.
3. The despousing is a highly rewarding process, as I was emotionally rootbound. But it does occasionally bring up emotional crap I'd rather stayed buried. There's also been some stress at work. Nothing job-threatening, just a conflict of personalities. The woman I'm butting heads with somehow manages to piss me off in a way nobody else can, or has for years. All in all, it drives home the sense I've had for years now that we are, to steal a phrase from an old friend, "Cro-magnon with car keys." Certainly we have a mind capable of rational thought, but we end up using it mostly to rationalize what we've already decided we want to do, based on more emotion that reason.
These days, there's a wolf inside me (well, two wolves), and sometimes he snaps when there's no need. But when that happens, I mostly keep my mouth shut, and nobody hears the things I don't say. Then, when I get the chance, I slink off to my cave to get my brood on, or out to the front porch to howl at the moon.
It's not ideal, but it's interesting.
4. One of these days I'm going to write a poem around the line, "I was 25 before I could forgive my mother for loving me" but it's not going to be today.
5. The Rundown is badly written (They Live bad, not Attack of the Clones bad.), and Seann William Scott's character is so annoying that I was rooting for him to catch a stray bullet or get humped to death by monkeys. But the Rock is fun to watch, the action was, for the most part, well choreographed, and there are certainly worse ways to spend a Sunday afternoon.
There's more, I'm sure, but like I said, I'm on deadline, and this is about as much procrastination as I can afford. So it's back to work.
Thursday, October 02, 2003
Wednesday, October 01, 2003
As I understand it, these are the facts of the case: A 'senior White House official' (meaning someone whose name you would probably recognize) was talking to Bob Novak about Joe Wilson, and the official said something along the lines of "well, he only got the job because his wife (Valerie Plame) works for the CIA..." which led to a further disclosure of the facts, that she's an operative, works on WMD issues, etc. Bob calls the CIA, and the CIA, very understandably, doesn't say, "Yes, Bob, she's a spy", but very clearly tells him not to use her name. That's what's in the public record and is, so far, undisputed.
Other less sure, facts include that this same senior White House official actually told at least 5 other reporters about Plame's work for the CIA, but Bob's the only one who bit. But our source on that is an anonymous source, so it's hardly certain. On the other hand, no one from the White House has come forward to dispute it.
The results? We don't really know. To find out, we'd have to track down Plame's entire network of sources in countries like Pakistan, Russia, North Korea and dozens of similar places and check on their health. Not to mention all of the people she's met with who aren't sources. It's not hard to imagine that some of those people will die as a result of this disclosure. It's almost impossible to imagine that anyone who might have become a source will have second thoughts after reading about our indiscreet politician.
Joe Wilson went to Africa to learn the truth about whether one of our enemies was seeking nuclear weapons. His expenses were paid, but other than that, it was volunteer work. His wife placed herself at considerable risk to try and keep us all safe from nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. That's what patriotism looks like. The leaker, whoever he might be, dealt our intelligence-gathering capability a strong blow and place who knows how many lives at risk in order to politically damage Joe Wilson for having the temerity to speak the truth about what he found in Iraq. That's what cowardice looks like.
When you're dealing with an unethical, incompetent sumbitch in a professional setting, it's perfectly appropriate to go to that person's boss and register a complaint. We, the people, are the boss in this country, and it's about damn time we took these bastards out to the woodshed. Sorry for the mixed metaphor, but I'm pissed.