Monday, February 26, 2007

The Granite Capital

I am in Elberton, Georgia. Yup.

The pillows in this Days Inn ROCK!!!

The humor, therefore... is inescapable.


Saturday, February 24, 2007

Failures - not catastrophic, but annoying nonetheless

I ordered some baseball tickets online. The Phillies were fine. The Jays' site, however, gave me a very ambiguous error message. I tried again. I tried a third time. Then, for two days I was wondering if I'd ordered three sets of tickets. I emailed the Jays to tell them their ticket ordering system was flawed. They emailed me back to say that they don't deal with spring training tickets; I had to talk to Dunedin, Florida. We went back and forth several times. I just wanted my tickets.

I ordered a new Dell for Luther via AAFES. The machine is on its way. On the AAFES site, there is a link to track the package via Dell. But the AAFES site fails to forward an order number to the Dell site, so Dell doesn't know who I am, and I have no reference by which to track the order.

UPS's automated contact service called a few days ago. The recorded message told me to expect the package on Monday. Before I even had a chance to find a pen, it had given me a tracking number, something like 20 digits' worth. I was unable to write it down, and I was given no option to replay the message.

I need to leave town on Monday. The automated message from UPS said the computer would arrive on Monday, and a signature was required. I could have gone to the UPS depot today, if I'd been able to confirm that the package was there. With no tracking number, however, I have no way to identify our package.

I ordered some software online. The idea was to get the software in time to load it onto Luther's new machine. The site has a "track order" option. On the "track order" page, I am informed that I was given a tracking number via an email sent to the email address registered with my account. I registered my correct email. I got a copy of my order confirmation. But I never got a tracking number.

I went to book a hotel room online. Luther had signed up for a rewards program the last time we stayed at this same hotel (it's near my business partners' home), so I tried to use the reward. The booking failed. It was unable to book my room, no reason given.

Luther's Mom just called. We bought her a really cool present for her birthday, a DVD player that should be able to play her PAL DVDs from Greece on her NTSC TV. We sent it only two days before her birthday, so we sent it via Priority Post. I took it down to the post office myself. We had the correct address. It's been over a week, and she has still not received anything from us.

I have lots of homework to do. For the life of me, I'm just grateful I can actually log into the class website. Anything more would be miraculous.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Happy birthday, Luther, and thank you!

When I met Luther, I quit my job and moved in with him. Oh sure, it wasn't quite as simple as that, but that's what it boils down to. I couldn't work in the States, but I had a small part-time telecommuting job with which to make my student loan payments. And two can eat as cheaply as one, I said to myself.

I enjoyed a luxurious six months in a small apartment. No car -or rather, no license- but my bicycle and a really amazing man who often came home for lunch. I finished my degree, I worked, I played, and I enjoyed my freedom. I spent a lot of time outside. It was beautiful.

Thank you, Luther.

Then about four and a half years ago, I got an office job at Macon State College. And sometime after that, Luther retired from the military. He's worked on and off since then, but the best part of all has been that I could help with the bills, so he finally quit working so that he could go to school and spend a good chunk of his time at home, working and playing, enjoying his freedom. Maybe spending a little time outside.

Well, we're flipping sides again. Now Luther is working, and I am at home. This time is quite different -I'm working. I'm actually working a lot more than expected, which is all to the good. But I'm working at my desk at my window, and today it is warm enough to open that window and spend a little time "outside." And I have some flexibility, so when I finished a project, I sent the files off, and then I got into my car and I hit the road.

A little while later, I found myself in a parking lot, still "in town," but for the life of me I felt just like a kid or a teenager or even an adult from the "Toronto days," when the only time I stood anywhere and listened to cars going by and the breeze and the sun and the hot parking lot and no tall buildings in sight for miles... was when somebody else drove me there. I felt like... I was on a road trip. Or camping. I was Outside The City.

This time, all by myself with my own little car!


So today, I am all grown up. It finally happened. And I'm free to work and play and be outside. And it's all thanks to the nice man that used to come home for lunch sometimes.

I love you Luther. You've given me so much.

Dare I say it? Thank you Scrubs.

I am really glad I found you.

Happy birthday!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Squid tentacles, yum!

I discovered something interesting:It's a bag-o-noodles made of tofu and some kind of yam flour. Practically no carbs (okay, 2 servings in a bag, 3 grams of carbohydrate per serving, of which 2 grams of each serving is fiber...) and definitely no fat.

I drained the noodles, then dumped them into boiling water, added some low-fat, no-msg stock mixture, some grilled chicken (no skin), a couple of egg-whites, and some chopped onions and broccoli and garlic.

I should have skipped the broccoli, which was lame. And I should definitely have added some chopped green onions. But I gotta say, my one of two servings was exceptionally yummy and filling.

Flavor: Whatever you cooked it in. Consistency: Not quite noodles. Like a cross between pasta and some kind of crunchy vegetable. There was definitely an unusual crunch to them. Yes, for a moment I thought, "squid tentacles!" but only for a moment. I like squid, but tentacles as noodles is a bit beyond even me.

I'm on a diet, by the way. I ate too much in this meal. Next time, smaller portions. But oh boy was this satisfying after a couple of days of just a bit of meat with salad. And really hit the spot on this cold, cold Thursday.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Time is money

I've been thinking about clutter. I hate clutter, so how come clutter loves me?

The other day, I was looking at our trinkets. We really don't have too many trinkets compared to what I see other people carting around in the back windows of their vehicles. I assume they ran out of space in their houses. We just accumulate in specific places -a few boxes tucked away, the odd item (a.k.a. bat beany baby) in the office, a couple of stuffed animals, and the official crap station next to the TV.

It's nice crap, mind you. Little things like the wedding couple from our cake (Happy Anniversary, Luther!), the ebony buffalo from a former coworker, the Pier 1 "African Decor" figures we picked out of the pile beside the Salvation Army dumpster.

Still, I find myself doing things like... tracking eBay auctions to find out how much my Google Da Vinci Code contest prize might go for, now that I've chucked the collectors' packaging and have only the cryptex, which I did because I was proud of winning a contest and wanted to keep it.

I mean, alone it's cool. Together with other prizes, it's clutter.

This morning I realize it's all fantasy. I have four boxes of comic books in the closet. I brought them here from Toronto because they're worth money. By the time I actually pull them down to sell them... I'm going to want to read them again!

And I'm working. Yeah, I know, I quit my job. My last day was a week ago, and I'm officially swamped. Yay, me. It's actually pretty fun. I'm learning about The American Democracy, from the Eighth Edition thereof. William Jennings Bryan was nominated by both the Democrats and the Pluralists, did you know that? Sadly, the reference no longer exists in this edition. Mr. Bryan has made room for more interesting folk. Good-bye, Mr. Bryan. And hello...

Well, crap. What the heck am I going to replace Mr. Bryan with?

Friday, February 09, 2007

Reality = Propaganda, an unabashed rant

When I was a kid struggling through puberty and toward my early teens, faced with the knowledge that I was "different" (which turns out to be true for everybody, but even to this day my first thought is that it was more true for me), I learned from my school that I was "from a broken home." Possibly I'd heard it on the television, too, but my teachers and principal told me directly.

Was that reality or propaganda? Should my parents, who lived apart but spoke more and had a better relationship than most together-parents I'd met, have sued the school for imposing the school's morals on me?

In this day and age, were the same thing to happen, I'm sure the parents could indeed sue. Picture some poor, sniveling kid coming home, just a wreck because he'd had it made clear to him by figures of authority that he was from a broken home and therefore he, himself, was broken. He could never be like those other kids. Alright, it's a little far-fetched with all the divorces and everything, but it could happen. And the parents would have a case. And I have mixed feelings about it, but I think that it would be wrong.

Somebody has to teach a child to translate the many stupidities of the world into concepts that make real sense. At some point a child has to make her own way. She can, as I did, disagree. And it's very likely the responsibility of parents -broken or otherwise- to teach this to their child. It's not the kind of thing schools are set up to do. Kids will be faced with propaganda all over the place, and they're going to have to learn to differentiate. Yes, the commercial does tell you that if you eat chocolate all day long, you'll be happy. No, it's not real.

Okay, but what about the fact that we were taught history?

Is it reality or propaganda when you teach a room of boys and girls about all sorts of interesting ways that men have shaped the world; when you have them memorize a whole lot of important men's names; and then you lead them to learn about daily life in early Canada, when women took care of the home while the men went out to work? Reality or propaganda, people? Because I have to say, the message seemed pretty clear to me.

Schools are a messy, sloppy place. I can't say I'm happy with how the public school thing is going, but I can say that it's a fair representation of how messy and sloppy real life is, pretty much everywhere. Schools are responsible for teaching kids how to learn. They dwell a lot on what to learn, because frankly it's easier to assess knowledge than ability. Also, the what in our world is a language all its own. Facts are building blocks to higher concepts, and you do need a certain number of facts to get from a to b in the learning process. So okay, schools are also responsible for teaching facts and concepts, representations of the real world kids will face, stuff that maybe they can't learn in the home.

So now we have school-teachers here in the States having the nerve to represent the fact -the fact- that there are gay parents with kids in the world. "Non-traditional families." Is that reality or propaganda? Should parents be allowed to sue the schools for imposing the schools' morals on their children? Shouldn't the parents' lawyer be able to show these parents some stats about the fact that non-traditional families exist in the world, and just say, "I'm sorry, I'd really like to take your money, but we're not going to win."

And why do I have the feeling that they could win anyway?

Today's "news" on CNN:

School wants lawsuit over gay discussions dismissed

"Robert Sinsheimer, an attorney for the parents who filed the lawsuit, called the homosexual discussions and materials 'a form of propaganda' that goes against the parents' religious beliefs."

Maybe it is about God again. Maybe, since some people have got the perception that God is being stricken from the record by crazy liberals, there should be a tit for tat thing. "Okay, if you get to take God away, I get to take gay parents away."

That's fair, isn't it? Well, here are my arguments:

First, God isn't real. Gay parents are real.

Yeah, I'm thinking that wouldn't go over all that well. But God has his own schools, all set up to teach your kids about God! Reality doesn't have any schools at all, if you start taking real people out of what's being taught by our teachers.

Which leads me to my second argument: Let's just take all people out of what we teach in schools. You want tit for tat? How about I sue the school system for teaching my kid (yes, yes, I know I don't have one, bear with me) that straight parents are normal, that straight parents are the foundation of our society? That there's always a mommy and daddy. That a "real family" has a mommy and a daddy, and so therefore when I lived in a "broken home," my family wasn't real. If you look at a lot of the early stuff kids are given in schools, I expect that's what you'll see. The simple, charming, no-nonsense model for life. How is that not teaching my child the school's morals? Shouldn't I get to decide what to teach my child about what's right for a family? So let's take all people, all relationships of any kind, out of the schools.

Let's therefore stop teaching history and literature, thank you. And language is probably out. Math is probably okay... except that + and - looks awfully sexual, so we'd better take Math out too. Let's not even talk about sociology, psychology, politics.

I know I know! We can just take them to school on the bus, and have them sit there, and then we can take them home again!

Oh wait, we already do that. Hmm.

Reality check: Gay parents exist. Often, they are happy. If this fact is shown to your child, it is not propaganda unless you consider reality is propaganda, unless you just want to keep your child from learning about the world. If you want to limit your child's learning to what you and your preacher can teach him... Keep him home. On the whole, I don't think our society would suffer too much from his sniveling ass staying out of our schools and our reality.

For everybody else who has the guts to send their children out into the world, to grow and become fully-fledged individuals, to face new ideas and maybe even "wrong" ideas and find their own strength to handle them one way or another... Remember that schools are just as messy and sloppy as the real world, and it's your job to teach your children about how you deal with that messiness and sloppiness, or if you don't, then how you want them to be more courageous than you have been.

Difficult? I can only imagine. But from what I've heard, pretty much the only part of making new human beings that isn't difficult... is that + and - part that God doesn't approve of anyway.


Monday, February 05, 2007

Useless trivia

I just changed the profession listed in my Blogger profile.

One day and a wake-up...

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Slackers, sicknesses, and some other stuff

I'm doing a crappy job with my courses this semester. It's awful. I keep telling myself that I'll be able to do better once I'm finished with the day job (three more days to go!), but I don't know. I just took a look at the paper I submitted last week, and the paper I submitted last night... and the APA is wrong.

The fucking APA is wrong!

It's totally embarrassing.

Meanwhile, my Dad is in the hospital. Even with the worry, which gets worse as the days go on, I'm still amused by the scenes he's described to me of his everyday life right now. The really funny part is that I keep describing this to others the same way, in reference to the same TV show, and I have yet to come across anybody other than myself that has actually seen the show.

This is how it goes: Have you seen the TV show "House M.D."? No? Okay, well, it's a current TV show starring Hugh Laurie as House, and he's a doctor who is regularly faced with bizarre medical mysteries. Anyway, Dad's reached the point where every new doctor that comes in to see him says something like, "You know that show House? Well, that's me."

Dad's a bizarre medical mystery.

Anyway, they poke and prod and try all kinds of fancy tests, and so far they've discovered that some of what used to be wrong with his heart appears to have gotten better, but his heart isn't working as well as it should for some reason, and they haven't come up with a good explanation for the fever and the pain in his thighs, but it might have something to do with a low red blood cell count and a suspicious and complete lack of iron. All of which leads them down unfortunately scary roads... except they still don't actually have an answer, good or bad, so... I wait. Being a thousand miles away makes it strange. It's like... there's a distance between me and what's going on. Well, it's not so much like that, as it is that. Ack.

In the meantime, I had to put up a "home page" for my classes, to introduce myself to my classmates and so on. I was so rushed for time and feeling so uncreative, I just used Google Pages to put something -anything- up. To use Google Pages, I had to sign up for Gmail, for which I had to use my phone to receive a text message. I don't do the texting thing, so it seems quite bizarre to me that in order to even use a service, I must A) have a cell phone, and B) be willing to use the texting feature. But I guess that's commonplace now, eh?

What's really bizarre is that after I signed up for Gmail, put a stupid page up, and went to bed... I got up this morning and tried to log in to Blogger, and I couldn't do it.

Password didn't work. Had I forgotten my password? Uh, no, that's my password. Had I forgotten my login name? For crying out loud, it's my email address, I think I know my email address. Finally, Google told me that it did not have a user by that name. What?!

Google switched my login. Automatically. My login is now my Gmail account.

How the heck was I supposed to know this? Holy crap!

That is all.