Thursday, March 29, 2007

Serious matters

Wow, this is bizarre. It's a quote from a news piece about the testimony of a former aide to Alberto Gonzales on the firings of U.S. attorneys. But doesn't it encapsulate so much more?

Leahy accused the Bush administration of "a series of shifting explanations, excuses, lack of accountability or even acknowledgment of the seriousness of this matter."
Ex-aide contradicts Gonzales on attorney firings

A Lost Dog Ate My Brain

Alright, I'm good and spooked and up, sipping a Diet Coke. That's my current middle-of-the night vice: Diet Coke and the Internet.

Had a doozy of a dream tonight, starting with a chat with my Mom, Paul, and Aunt Donna, a literary analysis type of chat (because who doesn't have those?) about a specific book.

In the book, a man grows old and ultimately dies. He has a rich social circle, but he has a keen desire to pass something on to a direct heir. Unfortunately, his immediate family -especially, his son- go before him. As the story progresses, he winds up with his only "descendant" being the girlfriend of his son, a woman he never approved of, but late in his life, comes to respect and love. She is his posterity.

There are visuals, so I pictured Mom and Paul and Donna, the ice and... Calvados?... in our glasses, the printed words on paper, the old man -can't quite place him, but know him- and his "daughter," who is played by Helen Mirren. I've been a fan of hers since 2010 and that stupid pen fiasco, so don't go all The Queen on me.

Well, Donna wants to know, have I read the short story that is in response to this book?

Okay, so another author wrote a short story that is a commentary on the first book. In the short story, the main character is a funeral director. A large part of his job is talking with the bereaved, being a sounding board for them, listening. Listening and being still, being... nothing.

You know how when you're selling your house you're supposed to leave it mostly empty, nice-looking but with as little of your own life as possible? It's supposed to have enough room for the potential buyer to be able to picture their own life in it, instead of yours. That's this guy. He has so little of himself, he has almost none of himself, so that he can be there for these bereaved individuals. As a result, on his own he is almost not there. Plastic, still, sticks out like a sore thumb visually (black suit, white shirt, black slicked hair, white face - a wax museum young Al Gore -and I like Al Gore!), and can sit in a chair 30 feet from a graveside service and nobody will see him there.

So, he watches. And he figures out that there's something wrong with the characters in the first book. He figures out that he can sit there at the funeral and watch them, and he'll figure out what's wrong. What wasn't said in the book. Something underlying, unspoken, unwritten. Something not quite right.

This is where my dream shifts. Mom and Paul and Donna and me, we are no longer in the dream. Instead, the major character is the author of the short story, but with a narrator. This is like a third story, a story about the writer of the story that was written about the book.

And he is Bill Cameron, author of Lost Dog.

And the short story comes out, and it creates quite a stir, being essentially a whole new take on the original book that was so well-received. Remember Rosencrantz & Guidenstern? It's a little like that.

In the middle of the night, the short story author gets a phonecall from a fan. The fan wants to "interview" him about the story. The line is breaking up quite a bit, but the author, tiredly, is determined to see this through, to play the author role. And the "fan" is a grinning, maniacal, corpse.

Yes, I said corpse. Think back. Didn't I start this post by saying I was spooked?

Flesh rotting on bones, corpse. Grinning. On the phone.

That's it. I don't know what happens next. But I don't think it can be good for Bill.

Monday, March 26, 2007

A Taxing Woman

Apparently, I was wrong. The connection between God's creation of the world and Donald Rumsfeld is even closer than I thought. God made the world in six days. Six! On the seventh day, that slacker-loser-bedwetter rested.

If he had actually worked on the seventh day... he would have had to pay taxes.

So here I am, doing our taxes. I spent all day Sunday on our taxes for 2006. Very interesting stuff, as you can imagine. Everything about Georgia, as usual, is stupid. I'd done our federal taxes, and then I turned to the Georgia form, and it's little things, you know? Like the fact that they've now managed somehow to hire somebody who can build a fillable PDF form, but you can't save the form with data in it, and some hidden codes cause several of the number fields to be replaced with big, black, plus signs when you go to print. Given last year's fiasco (Georgia said we didn't pay and therefore owed them several thousand dollars, even though we had our little receipt and everything), I am unwilling to trust our fate to some big, black, plus signs. And the envelope tore when I tried to get it out of the booklet. And the address label is bigger than the space alotted to it. And it's next to impossible to figure out their schedules, or tell when they're referring to federal forms versus state forms.

I finally got the damn tax envelopes out to the curb, and I came back in and did a little work, and then it came time for...

...wait for it...

2007 taxes.

Yes, welcome to self-employment. I must now estimate my tax burden and pay taxes on a quarterly basis. To do so, I must essentially... do my 2007 taxes now, with made-up numbers. I'll have business deductions, and income from several different sources. When you boil it all down, in order to figure out what to pay to the government in the next few weeks (1st quarter), I have to do taxes all over again, only today's taxes are more complicated than yesterday's taxes. How is an honest sole proprieter supposed to make any money, when she spends all her time doing taxes?

Friday, March 23, 2007

What's the big deal? Apple, Obama, and cancers for president

I've now read and heard several news reports on the YouTube Obama-for-president ad, modeled after a 1984 Macintosh ad. And I have to say, I'm disappointed in the reporters. Across the board, they've been expressing excitement over the amazing things people can do with a computer in a living room at home.

If you search YouTube, you can watch not only the Obama ad, but also the original Macintosh ad. And what's the difference? Hilary Clinton's face plastered over the screen image. Not even top quality. Her image is degraded -a common technique for handling the fact that you are using a borrowed image to begin with- to look like a bad video signal.

If I've had one disappointment about the Obama campaign thus far, it's been that he is quoted as saying his staff don't have the capability of doing something like this. The fact is, they probably do. It's just not that hard.

On the up side (as an Obama supporter, which tentatively I am), if the media response is to be considered at all representative, I am not your usual audience and it shouldn't be a problem for the campaign.

Meanwhile, the media is freaking out over John Edwards and his wife's cancer. Now, I applaud their apparent sympathy. But they seem to be eager to cast this cancer as a campaign weakness, and I admit I'm sitting here thinking, "what gives?"

The man is putting a whole lot of his campaign eggs in the health insurance basket. And his wife has cancer. I may be cruel and heartless, but it seems to me that this can only help his campaign. He either understands what real people face (true: His wife has cancer; also true: They don't have to worry about the expense of health care), or by his campaign platform, he understands that others don't have the benefits that he and his wife enjoy (true: They don't have to worry about the expense of health care, but he is campaigning for universal health care).

Either way, it looks pretty good. I fail to see how it is a liability. What, because he might not have a glowing blond wife at his side in every picture? Give me a break! That only makes him that much more desireable to hetero female voters. Rock stars always get more when their wives are absent.

Cynical? Moi?

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Video is such a pain in the neck

I pulled a muscle in my back or neck early this morning. The most painful thing I can do is look sharply to my right. Naturally, there is a window to my right, and interesting noises. If I have the impulse to look, and force myself to stay still, my muscles clench just as if I did look. Either way, ouch.

Meanwhile, I just saw something interesting on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Yes I am working. I just took a little break, I swear.

The show played a clip of Donald Rumseld at the start of the Iraq war. He was telling the press that the operation would take maybe six days, maybe six weeks, but "I doubt" six months.

Now, this is a pretty painful video for all to see, but it speaks to a long-running controversy, much older than the Iraq war or the silly old United States. How about them seven days and seven nights, people? You know, when God made the world?

Plenty of people have proposed theories about the time period in which God made the world, in an effort to explain how we've got all this what is it called... EVIDENCE of a world much older than suggested in the Bible. Maybe a day for God is a really, really long time.

But watching Rumseld today, I realized the truth. God said he'd do it in seven days. The work turned out to take longer. But just like Rummy, God is remembered for his bad estimate.

Saturday, March 17, 2007


Just now, I was listening to a class presentation for my online class. Interestingly, the topic was "listening."

A week or so ago, I'd bought a new screen door for our house. The house came with a glass door instead, and we like to get some fresh air moving through, so a screen door has been something we've looked forward to. Finally, I went out with Luther and Wil and bought a door. Luther put it up, and then apologized for taking my project over. Oh for goodness sake, it's high time I took the lead and DID the project if I want to keep it to myself, eh? But thank you, Luther.

Today, Luther and Wil were shaving a little wood off the door, so it fits right. They were using the power saw. I'm good with the power saw. I like using it, but I do have a little trouble watching or listening to Luther use it. He is methodical, careful, and mechanically-inclined... and I am imaginative and in love with him. You do the math.

While you're add it, add the following: An inexperienced, non-mechanical, non-participatory, often inept, teenager. Don't forget the power saw.

So while I was listening to my presentation about listening, I had to consciously put Luther and Wil and the noise of the power saw out of my head. I had to focus my listening on the presentation, give it due attention, and put all that other stuff aside. It is amazing under such conditions how freakishly alarming it can be when someone suddenly shouts loud enough to filter through.

*SHOUT* Suddenly, brain reminds bekbek that there is a power saw, and a Luther, and an inexperienced teenager. Auto-feed the images of dismemberment.

So I have learned an important lesson about listening, while listening to my presentation on listening: If you're going to risk a heart attack in your attempt to put the nice, weekend sounds of a project in progress out of your mind... maybe it'd be better to just hang out down there, roll your eyes at the process, and do your homework later.

That is all.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The budding photographer (not so much)

Things you should always look for in a new camera:

1. Some kind of tripod mounting hardware. Our digital camera from Kodak has none.

2. A button lock, like on any common CD player, that prevents the camera from being accidentally turned on while jostling around in your bag. Our digital camera from Kodak... has none.

So this morning I lay back down on our bed and looked up and back at the trees and sky we can see because our pillows are at the five-foot-wide window, and I put the camera up so I could take a picture for all of you... and the camera was dead. Batteries had been used up, yet again.

I wanted to show you the pretty pink morning light on the tiny, fresh green leaves that are sprouting from the branches. Yes, bright green leaflets lit by warm morning sunshine against a gorgeous blue sky.

I probably wouldn't have got around to uploading the picture in any case. Our digital camera from Kodak also did not come with an upload cable that connects to any of the ports on my Dell.

Realistically, I should just skip stills and move directly to video. The squirrels in our back yard have a habit of sitting on fire ants, and then they do an incredible dance, oh boy. Plus, apparently the middle of a fire ant dance is the right time to start playing with an inch-thick, foot-long stick. Yes, fire ant bedeviled squirrel tosses stick in air...

...and catches it!

It is now spring. Enjoy!

Friday, March 09, 2007

Tarpon Springs, Visit One

We now officially have a new target for the long-awaited move from Warner Robins: Tarpon Springs, Florida.

It's a small town, with a one-block downtown strip and, a few blocks away, a docks area choked with rusting boats that no longer serve any function except as a backdrop for tourism. The docks area is the Greek part of town. The handful of curling residential streets are peppered with a mix of nicely updated craftsman-style homes and white-washed Greek miniatures, complete with columns and statues and paved yards, all leading to the docks, where Greek residents and visiting tourists gather in many small Greek restaurants and bakeries, or shop for tacky souvenirs.

The downtown strip is dominated by antiques, but we also found an old department store with a real shoe-repair shop in the back, and there's an honest-to-goodness butcher's shop there, too. We stayed down the street at the Spring Bayou Inn bed & breakfast, and walked to the Greek restaurants for dinner each night. On our one full day between baseball games (Pirates vs. Jays in Dunedin, and then Jays vs. Phillies in Clearwater), we had lunch at a little place called Zante's. The decor is "flea market," with tiny tables almost hidden in the piles of kitchzy junk, and the stinky candles were a bit annoying, but the food was pretty much "to die for."

In the mornings before breakfast, we walked a half block to the bayou and small park, and watched the manatees play in the water. Yep, I saw real manatees for the first time! There must have been half a dozen at least. A couple of them were quite frisky, too. One lady standing nearby on the first morning cried, "oh look, they're hugging!" Yeah, that's right. Hugging.

We walked along the streets and enjoyed the beautiful weather. I discovered that Tarpon Springs is full of the tiny lizards I love so much --and by "full" I mean that you have to watch your step, as they dart across the sidewalks in front of your feet. We also saw one great blue heron standing a few feet from the doorways of a one-storey apartment building near the bayou, and later we saw a white blue heron "decorating" the lawn of a suburban home near the causeway to the beach. Don't they know they're not city birds?

The two beaches, which both look ridiculous by satellite, are quite lovely and quite easy to get to. When we have a house downtown, we can ride our bikes to the beach in a fairly short time, or drive to one in about ten minutes. We watched the sun set from Sunset Beach. Further down the coast a bit, we also visited Honeymoon Island, and saw pods of dolphins swimming by, and little brown bunnies playing together in the brush. Yeah, I know. It almost sounds ridiculous. Manatees, big old herons, little tiny lizards, dophins, and bunnies.

It is a really small town, but it is connected to all the bigger cities to the south by public transit. City buses cover the entire area. Tarpon Springs is also connected all the way to St. Petersburg by the Pinellas Trail, which is a paved bicycle/wheelchair/roller-blade/foot path that goes through towns and parkland for almost 35 miles.

It just... seems right for us. I'd still like to get Luther on a surf board, which means going across the state to the other coast where there is really some surf. And I'm hugely worried about money -even the smallest house is going to be a lot more than what we currently afford nicely in Warner Robins- but we knew that would happen in any case, when we finally move from here.

The long and the short? I loved it. The funny thing is that unlike some other places we've visited in Florida, to a certain extent we ran out of things to do as tourists in Tarpon Springs. Instead, I want to be painting my house there, or walking to the grocery store, working in my little office, and getting on my bike to ride out to the beach to see the sun set before riding home to start a late dinner. Doesn't that sound nice?

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Stressmonsters say "opa!"

For the past few days, I've been stressing out a little. You see, I need to work, and I have work coming in, but work coming in is not work received. Meanwhile, I have a couple of fairly major assignments due today. I was worried that the work would come in, so I wouldn't have time for the school stuff, so I was frantically working to finish the school stuff. So I was stressed about work, and then school, and then the work didn't come in after all, and I'm now back to being stressed about work.

Given my low earnings this week, then, I figure it's time for me and Luther to celebrate our sixth year. Early Monday morning, we're going to take the wee del Sol and scoot on down to the Tampa area. We'll put our feet in the Gulf of Mexico, and then we'll go see the Pirates play the Jays at Knology Park, and then we'll head North to a little town named Tarpon Springs to check into our B&B.

Tuesday, we'll explore what has already become, in our minds, our very likely future home. Check it out: Tarpon Springs. See the funny little white dots out in the Gulf? Those are the beaches! It's a small town, with a large Greek population. We expect to eat well.

Tarpon Springs is the Sponge Capital of the World, making last week's trip to the Granite Capital of the World part of an unending adventure. Where will I go next, I wonder?