Usually, I don't complain too much about fast food. If you've spent any time on the greasy side of the counter, as I have, you know that for things to go well, absolutely everything has to be moving in perfect sync at prodigious rates of speed: imagine a Balanchine-edition Ferrari.
Then this evening, I encountered a sclerotic Yugo. In many years in Soonerland, I've patronized Braum's ice cream/dairy stores on a regular basis; the food is at least palatable, the treats are actually made of ice cream unless otherwise specified, and the conditions are generally pretty hygienic. Tonight, however, the staff at this particular location (9020 Northeast 23rd Street, Oklahoma City, for those keeping score) were suffering from (yogurt-induced?) brain freeze; they botched, by my unofficial count, six of eleven orders during the twenty minutes I stood there waiting for them to botch mine. The shift manager, brow furrowed to a depth somewhere below sinus-cavity level, had apparently given up any hope of whipping this motley crew into shape, and was concentrating on cleaning up the grill area, which at least had some potential for accomplishment.
I still like the food. But Hades and the soft-serve machine will have to reach mutual temperature equilibrium for me ever to set foot in that store again.
I dreamed about her last night.
Of course, conflating the individual and the archetype is one of the things I do best, or worst; but just the same, I dreamed about her last night.
And a few things didn't make sense: I can't imagine why there would be a 90-foot (and highly irregularly-shaped) rock tower I would have to climb, or why said tower was located on the edge of an antenna farm, and I definitely can't figure out how it ended up as outtakes from Meet the Parents. (Besides, the Byrnes-alikes weren't quite so forbidding, and the situation begs the question of why their daughter would ever have any dealings with a Focker like me.)
And I hardly ever dream about her, anyway. Most of my dreams involve people I either don't know or don't want to know, and end up decidedly unpleasant, which may explain my occasional (well, once or twice a night) sleeping difficulties: I'm just conscious enough to want to get out of the storyline as quickly as possible. What brought on this particular drama, I do not know. But somehow I suspect there's a reason for it.
As a general rule, I hate like hell to leave stuff undone over the weekend, but after 61 hours in the shop this week, enough is enough. Life yes, even mine is too precious to be spent on trying to score Brownie points with The Machine.
Besides, there was Actual Sunshine today, and I wanted to see some of it while I still have some memory capacity left.
A four-mile commute, while relatively kind to the driver, is hard on the car, so once in a while, I have to follow the example of Chuck Berry: "Cruisin' and playin' the radio / With no particular place to go." This sort of thing enrages the vehicles-for-minimal-transportation-only types that used to flock around Al Gore, but is absolutely essential to maintaining a vehicle in top condition lots of short trips qualify you for "severe service" maintenance requirements, and there's a good reason for it and with at least one local Texaco vending the cheapest unleaded for a buck-twenty a gallon, I don't feel compelled to wallow in guilt about burning up a few dollars' worth of nonreplenishable hydrocarbons.
So I pointed myself in the general direction of the Shawnee Mall, Shawnee being an old Indian Territory town that due to urban sprawl is now considered an exurb of Oklahoma City, and made with the Zoom Zoom. And it was a fairly nice trip, about 65 miles all told, with a top speed of 81 mph reached in third gear while trying to get around a semi, yet. (Posted speed limit is 70, which seems to be followed by about a third of the motorists along this stretch.) I really need to do more of these, not so much because Shawnee is such a wonderful place (although the mall has a truly weird floorplan that I greatly admire), but because I have to get myself into the proper mental state for long-distance driving this summer, and this simply can't be done four miles at a time.
I made the mistake last night of attempting to blow ten years' worth of accumulated gunk out of my keyboard. (Those who are asking "How in the world did you get a keyboard to last ten years?" obviously don't know me very well.) All manner of detritus found its way out of nooks and crannies, including some stuff I was afraid to identify. And there was a fair amount of hair, which I noted with some dismay was far darker in shade than the stuff that currently (sparsely) populates my scalp.
And it's way too early for daisies to be in bloom, but I'm already predicting an even number of petals on every single one I see.
Residents of the Northeast might be forgiven this week for wondering whatever happened to all that global warming everyone is supposed to get, though I haven't yet heard of anyone prying open a can of Freon and hurling it toward the sky in frustration.
Point to ponder this week: If I can have all the Fords I want (or can handle), is it wrong to covet a Maserati?
Jamie Kitman, who reports from Automobile magazine's New York (actually New Jersey, but who's counting?) bureau, quite by coincidence managed to address yesterday's rhetorical question. Of Kitman's sixteen rules for buying old cars, as seen in the April 2001 issue Kitman, in fact, owns twelve cars, which can also be seen in that issue this is the second:
Don't buy the best you can afford. Buy the best there is, or skip it. The best is cheaper in the long run.
Looks like I have some skipping to do.
Here on the Edge of Gangland, strange and horrid automotive excrescences dot the landscape like so many chrome-plated cowflops, and the latest trend seems to be fake wire wheels so unconvincing you couldn't even sneak them past Manny, Moe and Jack, about two sizes too wide and two sizes too short, leaving enough room in the fender wells for an entire family of squirrels. Usually these will be misfitted to a late-Seventies or early-Eighties piece of Detroit iron with glass tinted darker than anthracite, which runs just well enough to keep the battery charged so that the ostensible owners (and anyone for 150 yards in any direction) can listen to their collection of godawful indistinguishable nontunes. Of course, I am old and crotchety, and I persist in believing silly things like "Automotive modifications, first and foremost, should enhance performance," and adding a bunch of unsprung (though shiny) weight enhances performance about as much as concrete enhances galoshes, but hey, it's your money.
Of course, some people have their own concept of blotches on the landscape.
One of the hotel chains sent me their annual Big Book O' Locations, and after looking at some of these prices, I am indeed grateful that the seats in my car do a full recline.
US Highway 62 is my main route to most places. The speed limit in the urbanized areas is generally 45 mph. I haven't quite decided who annoys me more: the Conspicuously Moral type who creeps along at 39, or the Conspicuously Oblivious type who zips by at 64. The cops, alas, bust only the latter.
"Oklahoma is a poor state, and the average Oklahoman cannot conceive of a relationship that isn't a quid pro quo relationship."
So saith Governor Frank Keating this week, once again defending the quarter of a million bucks he took from and, under fire, eventually gave back to financier Jack Dreyfus. No wonder Keating has been repeatedly calling for improving the standard of living in Oklahoma; what he wants, evidently, is to live in a place where people can be bribed without anyone raising an eyebrow. And no wonder he's disappointed about not getting a job in the Bush administration; he's just the sort of smug, arrogant, tight-assed little prickling that would have fit in so well with the current crop of Young Republicans.
Of course, given his disdain for us lesser creatures and his dislike for thinking things through, he could have a long and prosperous second career at the American Kennel Club.
Surprisingly, according to zeitgeistmeisters (say that fast three times) TheSpark.com, I am only 43% bastard, one point below the worldwide average. Of course, this selfsame site has also told me that I can expect a total of one sexual partner in my remaining years I have about seven (years, that is) and that they're 80 percent sure I'm a girl.
Some moron stuffed about 2.6 loads of clothes into a single washing machine today, causing a world-class unbalance things actually shot across the laundry room when I opened the lid and putting all manner of strain on the machinery. It's a fairly safe bet that this character didn't much care; after all, it's not his machine. (Geez, now I sound like a girl.)
If I ever get around to finishing that screenplay, one of the scenes that simply has to be completed is the one where the protagonist, already feeling every decremental contribution to his low position on the desirability scale, remembers that the object of his thwarted affections was, and is, utterly indifferent to his existence mainly because she, in a moment of kindness, took the trouble to send him an electronic note to that effect.
Nobody will find this scene believable, of course, but manipulation of cliché is at the very heart of Hollywood, if not the heart of romance itself.
For the first time, I filed my income-tax returns over the Web, through the good graces of Intuit's TurboTax. The Feds, at least, have a grip on this particular segment of reality; I was able to get the data completed and transmitted, the balance due paid through electronic debit, and everything out of the way in less than 24 hours.
On the other hand, the state of Oklahoma still has a few hurdles to cross before achieving Ready for Prime Time status. For one thing, I still have to submit a form by mail. With a W-2, yet. Maybe next year they'll get over this paper fixation.
"Mixed emotions" describes my response to the new bankruptcy bill. On the one hand, everybody on earth who might conceivably be owed money seems to have a piece of the action, which generally doesn't bode well for the little guy; while banks and credit-card issuers and finance companies are happy to let themselves in for a bonanza, only a few carefully-chosen individuals stand to gain from the measure. Then again, almost everyone knows somebody who's thrown himself on the mercy of the Bankruptcy Court two or three times and then gone right out and spent himself into the same situation once more, and curbing these characters has to be a good idea.
Is spring really here, or am I being lulled into a false sense of warmth?
Lucky guy, that Caesar; the worst thing he got on this date was a stabbing.
Once upon a time, we were sitting around the Oldsmobile dealership, remembering the good old days of pushrod "Rocket" V8s and torque out the wazoo and "You meet the nicest people on a Honda." Motorcycle, that is.
Suddenly, a woman comes in, screaming, "This deal is off!"
"I'll handle this," said J.D., and he rose from his chair like Goddard's first rocket. "What seems to be the trouble, ma'am?"
She shoved a paper at him. "THIS!"
J.D. looked at the paper, looked at the woman, looked at the paper again, looked over at us for some reason, and looked back at the woman. "Looks like everything is in order. Is there some other option you wanted?"
She pointed to the list. J.D. looked. "Ma'am, I'm sure that car does have the F13 suspension option. You said yourself that you really liked the way it handles."
"You just don't get it, do you?" she growled. "F thirteen! I can't go through life with a number like that!"
"It's just a number, ma'am," said J.D. "General Motors assigns numbers to option packages. They always have. The numbers themselves don't mean a thing."
"Well," she said, "can we get the same equipment without having to buy the F13 package?"
Clouds began to form over J.D.'s brow. "Let me see if I understand this. Everything is fine except that this one option package is called F13?"
"That's what I've been trying to tell you," she hissed.
And J.D. forced a smile and said, "Ma'am have you driven a Ford lately?"
I don't really care what the accountants say: the length of two cars is nowhere nearly enough for an on-ramp, especially if said ramp comes complete with its very own blind spot at the worst possible location.
This is not to say that our highway designers are wholly inadequate to the task; in fact, they came up with something sort of ingenious just a mile or so away. If you're traveling I-40 eastbound through Oklahoma City, you'll go over an elevated portion that begins west of downtown and continues east over an unmowed portion of the North Canadian River, where it's joined by I-35 northbound for about a mile, at which point I-35 splits off again. In the best of all possible worlds, these roads would remain forever separate, but in this one, the river gets in the way. Traffic from I-35 approaches the combined 35/40 segment on the right side, as it should. Does I-35 traffic have to somehow cross four or five lanes in the next mile to get onto a northbound ramp on the left side of the road? Not at all. I-35 traffic stays to the right, I-40 traffic stays to the left, and the ramps are pretzeled accordingly. This may not seem like much of an accomplishment to, say, a freeway-bound Angeleno, but considering what we're used to here in NAFTA Land for instance, on-ramps barely the length of a semi I'd say it borders on miraculous.
I'm getting ready to back out of the parking lot at the BBQ place on the edge of town, a sack half-full of cholesterol-ridden delights at my side, when a three-quarter-ton pickup truck rolls into the lot, and pulls up just far enough to avoid blocking my exit. The truck is pulling a trailer, and on board is a vintage (say, 1960 or so) farm tractor, cleaned up if not exactly concours condition, apparently on its way to a new home. Within seconds, a crowd had gathered to see the old relic, and here and there I picked up snatches of converations along the following lines:
"We used to have one of these back around '64, and we just drove it and drove it until it finally died."
"You know, with a rig this big, you really need that shorter axle ratio, just to be able to get away from a stoplight."
"I hear they're changing the laws on trailer licenses again."
And it occurred to me as I sped away, if "sped" is the word that applies to a four-cylinder sedan heading up a twelve-percent grade, that there was no way in hell the government and the Greens were going to talk these people into Honda Insights and such. Two-dollar gas, three-dollar gas, five-dollar gas we'd no more give up our trucks than our guns.
And yes, before you ask, there is a National Motorists Association.
The seasons being what they are, it is now actually past sunrise when I get to work. Unfortunately, this will last less than two weeks, at which point DST will shove my morning commute back into darkness for a couple of months. I have never quite understood this daylight-savings business; it has always struck me as the practical equivalent of cutting off one end of your blanket and sewing it on the other end to make it longer. Not even the zaniest dot-com can come up with a business plan this lame.
Spring is sprung. I know this because Karl Haas said so this morning. Then again, he didn't have to look up from his microphone to watch me scraping ice off the windshield, either.
Of course, the major delight of spring (aside from eventually not having to lug around the scraper) is the gradual disappearance of women's winter clothes, to be replaced by shorter, scantier, sunnier garb. It does me little good, of course, to notice such things the ocean is something to be viewed with caution if you're smart enough to know you can't swim worth a hoot but I've never had much luck arguing with biological imperatives, and I suspect I won't be any more successful this year.
The desperate attempts of our cultural mavens and our political hacks to remain tied to the 19th century notwithstanding, Oklahoma occasionally gets out in front of the rest of the country, and one area in which we particularly excel (and one which I've mentioned before) is the operation of elections. Apparently the much-put-upon Katherine Harris, Florida's secretary of state, has taken notice; her new proposal for 2002 calls basically for an Oklahoma-style system, using precinct-based optical scanners, to replace butterfly ballots and hanging chads and all that other dreck. Governor Bush (now there's a phrase I haven't used in a while) seems to like the idea. And after the debacle that was the 2000 Presidential election, those long-suffering Floridians are due for some relief, and, to borrow a phrase, the Sooner, the better.
From the Stale Metaphors Department: My workplace, though within the city limits (barely), is a substantial distance from the nearest city sewer line, so we have our own little septic tank "little" being defined here as about five feet in diameter and deep enough to stand upright in, assuming someone would ever want to stand upright in it. The metal enclosure is surrounded by a wooden fence and the ground is covered with rocks, and between two of those rocks, one lone marigold forced its way to the sunlight this week.
I never knew how much I was getting to like sport sandals until I ruined the one pair I had.
Music critique of the year, courtesy of Mike Haney:
Each musician on stage could have been replaced with a cardboard cutout reading "Insert band member here."
Myself, I don't get off so easily.
Last night's dream, quite inexplicably, seemed to be set in a world in which America Online has already bought up almost everything. And actually, it didn't seem a whole lot different from this world I managed to lose a pair of shoes, a recurrent dream theme for many years although I balked at the scanning device (reminiscent of Star Trek's medical tricorders) used at the AOL Clinic, which beeped as it passed over me and announced in the trademark AOL voice, "You've got boils!"
A couple of points on sheer nerve to the spammer (identified as <firstname.lastname@example.org>) who sent me a list of "software backups" I could order from his Web site (including Windows 2000 Server and AutoCAD at twenty bucks a shot). The real kicker was this, though:
To find out how to order your copy(s) of this software at this special rate, visit our website at: http://www.dwe-online.com/Order%20Page.htm
NOTE: If this site is not active (Shut down for SPAM), you can replace the .net with .com or .org - we own all 3 domain extensions.
And he finishes with a paragraph of the usual dubious legalities in which this gem is hidden:
Please note, however, that our email address was valid at the time of sending, but may be cancelled by the ISP shortly thereafter due to our use of unsolicited email.
Man, Dwight (if that is your real name), you've got stones.
I get the distinct impression that the two or three Actual Spring Days we had earlier this week exhausted the available supply, and since the demand isn't going away any time soon, the Weather Weasels, in desperation, dug up some old, leftover, blustery February days, slapped a new date on them, and shoved them out the door. Bad move, guys: had you saved these for August, when it's 106 in the shade if you can find any shade, you'd be hailed as heroes.
Snow!?! Whose rotten idea was this?
Speaking of rotten ideas, the Congress continues to fulminate over McCain-Feingold. The sponsors seem persuaded that if this bill doesn't pass, the world (and especially the electorate) will be put on notice that any federal officeholder can be bought for the right price. I believe I speak for everyone here when I say "Duh!" This is America. Everything is for sale here, from Access to Zwieback, and always has been. If they really want to clean up the campaign cesspool, let them pull all the limits and mandate some real disclosure.
The jackals are picking over the bones of Montgomery Ward. Both Target and Sears, Roebuck have announced that they will acquire some Wards locations, although neither of them is likely to be interested in the one nearest me, which is in a mall with a Sears store, one mile from an existing Target.
Meanwhile, the owner of the erstwhile retailer, GE Capital, apparently worried that former Wards customers will pay off their credit cards (as I did) and be done with them, is now sending them Wal-Mart "store cards" with a comparably-stiff interest rate. Why "store cards"? I guess the usual Wally World customer is uncomfortable with the term "credit card", but there's no getting around it: this is a Wal-Mart credit card, unlike the co-branded MasterCard they offered with Chase Manhattan a few years ago, about the time Chase was acquiring Chemical Bank.
Of course, what I'm really worried about is that some of our dimmer customers will note that the card number starts with 60 and will therefore assume it's interchangeable with a Discover card and will scream and holler at our data-entry staff when they are informed otherwise.
Wanted: Manager for data-entry group incorporating call center. Must be willing to uphold the highest standards during the fifteen or twenty minutes a day when said standards actually apply. Knowledge of English a plus, since a few customers are fluent in English. Knowledge of both Western and ancient theologies very desirable, since much of the day will be spent invoking various deities. Experience as trial lawyer helpful, especially if unsuccessful, since all points are subject to overrule at any time. Benefits package no worse than in similar firms; pay commensurate with ability, less 40 percent (50 percent if applicant lacks Y chromosome). For information, write to Box 328.
A coworker today called me "grumpy", which I took to be, rather than a comparison to a Disney dwarf, a remark about my demeanor in which case it was eminently duh-worthy.
Memo to a person who shall go unnamed for now: Tracking an elephant with a nosebleed in a snowstorm is a whole lot easier than you've been allowing yourself to think.
The search engine Google claims to have indexed over 1.3 billion Web pages; inasmuch as they've definitely hit all of mine the GoogleBot checks in here at least once a week I'm tempted to believe it. Sturgeon's Law, of course, mandates that 90 percent of these things are, um, crud, but that still leaves at least a hundred million pages worth reading, though clearly some are worth far more than others.
Which is a hell of a long-winded way of saying that if I'm not hanging around my usual haunts these days, it's because (1) I'm working 55-hour weeks again and (2) when I'm not, I'm trying to stay caught up on my reading. I'd hate to lose the immediacy that comes with online journals; as Sabrina Spellman observed tonight, "The spur is the best part of the moment."
Had I stayed in the Army, I would have completed 29 years of active duty today, and I'd probably be in better shape. I might have even gotten promoted by now. Then again, given my general attitudes ("Question authority, since you know damn well authority is going to question you"), I might just as easily have been court-martialed by now. Perhaps we'll never know.
And it's not every day one gets mooned by one's ex-spouse, either.
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Copyright © 2001 by Charles G. Hill