Today marks the twentieth birthday of MTV. As trivia buffs will undoubtedly remind you all day, the first video aired on The Channel Formerly Known As Music Television featured the Buggles' remake of Bruce Woolley's "Video Killed the Radio Star", and it occurs to me at this late date that Mr Woolley was something less than entirely prescient; radio stars do still exist, and some of them inexplicably haven't been killed.
Things are settling down slightly at work, though I don't think it's ever going to be possible to shake the sensation that possession of clues is considered a felony. And then there was that one character who managed to inflict upon us no fewer than 300 copies of SirCam overnight, a person who at this point has no business being in the same room as a computer, let alone owning one.
42nd and Treadmill adheres to the curious practice of sending damn near everyone on vacation at the same time, which ostensibly guarantees that everybody is on hand for busy periods but more often insures that positions will be left unattended during relatively slack times. And then, of course, they grumble. However, it is my new policy not to share clues with those who refused them the first time around.
July, says the National Weather Service, was 3.7 degrees warmer than normal around here. I can't say I'm sorry I missed most of it. Then again, August is starting out at just about the same point.
Surprisingly or maybe it wouldn't surprise me if I'd been more attentive these last few decades there is more news on the Balagia front. Cousin Lolly (it says Mary Katherine on her birth certificate) has decided that there needs to be some central Net resource for all the family information while the people who know the stories are still around to tell them. An eminently sensible idea, and I applaud its promulgation even as I wonder if (when?) I'm going to draw the site-design straw.
Overkill Dept.: There are eight front doors to this building, so whoever is passing out phone books for Ma Bell duly dropped eight bags containing the usual white and yellow pages. Seven of those bags are completely superfluous, inasmuch as the other units are vacant, so this is major wastage. I'll snatch one of them for the office later.
Lina Wertmüller's Swept Away was one of the quirkier movies of 1975, throwing gruff sailor Giancarlo Giannini onto a remote island with haughty yacht passenger Mariangela Melato. They can't stand one another, and of course they wind up in each other's arms. Hardly the "unusual destiny" of the original title, and, you'd think, hardly ripe for a remake especially a remake under the direction of Snatchmeister Guy Ritchie. On the other hand, his wife, also signed for the project, should be able to put her Material Girl experience to good use playing the rhymes-with-snitch female lead.
There's something a tad disconcerting about whipping around the Belle Isle Bridge at survival speed (usually around 70 mph, despite the posted limit) and suddenly being confronted with "Surfin' Bird" out of four speakers, the result of questionable mix-tape programming by yours truly. It's probably not as scary as setting off the disembodied voice of OnStar by accident, but it's not the sort of distraction I want while going around a long sweeper, either.
Once or twice a year I get asked why I don't belong to any rings or similar referral services. The short answer is that this site, part reference work and part personal journal, really doesn't fit into any theme very well.
Of course, rings are not what they used to be either. The original WebRing was set up way back in 1995 by a visionary named Sage Weil, who concocted a simple, largely-decentralized system whereby a large number of sites could be linked through a few bytes of code. There had been linked pages before, but every time a new link was added, the previous page had to be manually updated, so Weil's self-updating system was a major boon. WebRing became a huge success, and Weil eventually sold out to a firm called Starseed, which in turn was acquired by the homepage host GeoCities. Neither Starseed nor GeoCities felt compelled to screw around with Weil's design, but in 1999, Yahoo! bought out GeoCities, and in the fall of 2000 a new, highly-centralized, and arguably unimproved design was introduced, prompting a number of WebRing users including a substantial number of Ringmasters, who felt as though they'd been cut off at the knees to bolt. New ring facilities such as RingSurf sprang up. But somehow, it's not the same. If someone from an existing ring drops by and suggests I join, I'll certainly consider it, but I'm not going out of my way to look for those few extra hits.
Pepsi-Cola's current advertising theme proclaims "The Taste That More People Prefer". Does anyone over the age of nine actually think, "Wow, if so many people like Pepsi, then maybe I should drink Pepsi"? Then again, four hundred thousand people every year apparently think, "Wow, if so many people like the Toyota Camry, incredible dullness notwithstanding, then maybe I should drive a Camry." I don't. On the other hand, I'm not averse to having an occasional Pepsi, either.
Someone got to a back issue of The Vent today through the odd search-engine combination of "women", "prefer" and "circumcision". This is obviously a topic for discussion, but I really don't feel like being the one discussing it.
One of these days it's going to be cooler, and one of these days it's actually going to rain. Nobody anywhere near a radar screen, though, is willing to say just exactly when. I bet they don't put up with this for weeks at a time in New Jersey.
Speaking of the Garden State, there has been considerable amazement out here in nowheresville at my inexplicable failure to bash the place. Admittedly, I didn't spend a whole lot of time in New Jersey, and I never ventured north of Woodbridge, but apart from the usual traffic woes, which don't seem to be a whole lot worse than the ones I encounter in the local construction zones, I really didn't see a whole lot to hate. Maybe the inevitable result of twenty-five years in Soonerland is an irreversible collapse of one's discriminatory functions, but what I'm inclined to believe is that New Jersey's high rank among national laughingstocks is due to the jerking of knees by thousands of would-be stand-up comics, whereas Oklahoma got there the hard way: we earned it.
So here's the question: If a tobacco executive kills someone with a handgun, can we sue both the tobacco company and the gun manufacturer?
Last night's dream was highly peculiar. In this particular fantasy and what else could it be? two women, one of whom bore a slight resemblance to Melissa Joan Hart, were competing for my attentions. In real life, of course, the number of competitors is somewhat lower, but I'm wondering just what might have been going through my head that could have triggered this sort of flight into fancy. And just what was I doing at the time during this dream? I can't remember a thing, which at least makes some sense, since I can't imagine what I'd do in the unlikely event that two women actually were competing for my attentions. I can barely imagine one.
Thumbs up to this moderately-newfangled chip-repair service for automotive windshields. As World Tour fans will recall, I caught a meteorite or something while passing between the Carolinas on I-95. A Charleston glass shop balked at repairing the hole, saying that it was too close to the line of sight; South Carolina law is apparently fairly finicky about repairable and non-repairable zones. I balked at replacing the windshield, reasoning that I had a couple thousand miles to go, and what's to prevent me from catching another freaking projectile? There were no further falling rocks, and I resolved to ignore the little dent until today, when I watched a repair job being performed on a coworker's vehicle, and I was sufficiently impressed to ask the young lady doing the deed if she could make time for my car next. She could, and all that remains is a faint semicircle surrounding a tiny zit, low enough on the glass that I actually have to look for it to see it. A shorter driver might not be so lucky, but while I've lost an inch or two off my waist, I'm not likely to lose that much off my height, so that's not my problem.
Thumbs down to whatever demons are automagically summoned when you have to install a HP DeskJet on an IBM ThinkPad, especially if it's going to be running through a USB port. (No, it's not a Windows 95 box, but thanks for asking.) I am sorely tempted to blow off this USB stuff and make the end user deal with a parallel port, the way God (or at least Centronics) intended.
So I wheel Sandy down to the Mazda store's service shop for the usual fluid replacements, and it's not there anymore. Apparently the big blue-oval boys who run the show decided it wasn't worth the trouble to maintain a separate shop for us Zoom Zoom kids or maybe the city offered them a quarter-ton of money to let the building disintegrate into a parking lot for the highly-superfluous Sports Arena under construction half a mile away. The upside of this is that now I get to ride the dealership shuttle (actually a Windstar in gunmetal grey), which means the occasional opportunity to encounter, oh, let's say, a redheaded librarian of indeterminate age with a willingness to discourse on all manner of things.
I will shed no tears if the President decides he still can't support stem-cell research and won't permit Federal dollars to be spent on it. If it's truly the greatest thing since sliced bread, a position which remains highly arguable, it will come to pass whether the government funds it or not.
The last twenty-four hours have provided a textbook example of what the weather guys call "scattered showers". Out here in the sticks, we got a nice twelve-minute drenching, while the gauge at the airport where the National Weather Service takes its readings was barely damp. Of course, nothing quite rivals the bizarre experience of 1975, when I drove through one of these "scattered" downpours at a respectable 25 mph and got only the front half of the car wet. (I hasten to point out that '66 Chevy Novas are not known for length, and this particular one was compressed slightly, no thanks to its previous owner.)
Our new vending service, engaged when it was discovered that the previous service had no familial ties to any staff members, has answered the question of "How come these damn bill changers don't ever work?" by installing a soda machine from the Cretaceous period there's even a place to stash your detached pull-tab with, instead of a damn bill changer, a nice rectangular hole.
It should be no secret to regular readers of this page that I occasionally (say, once every 45 minutes) have to grapple with questions of self-worth. And while I've never actually put a dollar value on such things before, the sporadic use of terms like "not worth a plugged nickel" notwithstanding, it was only a matter of time before a Web site would offer to do it for me. (Thanks to Jason Kottke for the tip.) After plugging in all the data they request, I come up with a number that to me seems staggeringly high ($1,914,216 US, more than 38 million nickels), yet apparently falls about 1.5 percent short of the average for my half of the species. Obviously whoever is buying isn't buying in bulk.
I got rained upon at the supermarket today, and it was glorious. I do feel sorry for the poor shlubs who have to bring the stuff out to the customers' cars, though especially mine, since I park fairly far from the entrance in an effort to increase the amount of walking I have to do.
And the question of "I know they charged me for it, but did they really rotate my tires?" was answered in the affirmative today. Normally I run 32 psi tire pressure in front, 29 in back; today's check with the gauge turned up, sure enough, 29 in front, 32 in back.
In answer to a number of requests last I looked, "two" was still considered a number I have given the log entries from the World Tour their own page, which can actually be read top to bottom.
One of the things that struck me when I was in Austin last month was that the mass media seemed a bit less crass than I'm used to. The daily Austin American-Statesman comes across as relentlessly bland, which is no fun but which is still two orders of magnitude more palatable than the stagnant pool of Jesus-Was-A-Republican swill that is The Daily Oklahoman. While Austin is hardly free of Clear Channel, the conglomerate that is to American radio what Godzilla is to Japanese environmentalism, Austin's long-standing eclecticism, musical and otherwise, insures that competing (and less-desperately hyped) voices will have no trouble finding an audience. Finally, comparing weekly papers, The Austin Chronicle is way superior to the Oklahoma Gazette, and a clue to one reason why can be found on the Gazette's Web site, where the title bar describes the publication as "a newspaper providing information about restaurants and bands in OKC". As mission statements go, this one has to. Quickly.
There was a time when the slightest little push on the right button would drop me into a full-fledged anxiety attack, complete with mysterious physical pains, barely-controllable weeping, and thoughts of driving into the nearest bridge abutment.
Now it appears the button doesn't even need to be pushed. I can think of absolutely nothing that could have set me off last night, but by 9 pm I had the shakes, by 9:30 the shakes had mutated into shrieks, and it wasn't until about 11 that sheer fatigue forced me to sleep which lasted until about 4 am, when I awoke with the coldest of sweats.
By 3 pm today, it had passed. I don't understand this at all, but I'm quite sure I don't like it.
The powers that be have decreed that I shall have a new PC at work, and what's more, instead of buying whatever IBM happened to have on the shelf, they had it custom-built to some specifications vaguely resembling mine. Except for the monitor, a fairly nondescript 17-incher of nebulous Pacific Rim origins, the most expensive component in the entire system is Windows 98 Second Edition, which actually costs more than the CD burner. Then again, there are a lot of people out there making CD burners.
Last night I poked around a site called PsychTests (thank you, Sia), and the major thrill was guessing how I would do on their extensive battery of quick-and-dirty personality inventories. I might have figured I would have scored at least 63 (out of 100) on the Anxiety Index; on the other hand, I never would have imagined that my optimism-to-pessimism ratio is a mere 40-60.
Well, the new PC failed an acid test today: apparently, to be able to talk to the asinine bank software (a product of Asinine Bank, N.A., Member FDIC), it must have either an exceptionally expensive modem with all the trimmings or an exceptionally cheap one that can't do anything else well. So the mediocre modem had to go, and it was summarily replaced by something six times the price. There is a word for people who design idiocies like that.
And speaking of idiocies, how is it that there are people who have no problem whatsoever with a 16-year-old girl getting a fetus vacuumed out of her uterus without so much as a by-your-leave, but get horribly bent out of shape at the possibility that she might see a Marlboro ad?
Most of the issues with the New PC have now been licked, or at least spat upon; I have turned over my former box for recycling. Fortunately, the recipient of this little hand-me-down is not likely to notice that it's a lowly Pentium 166, albeit fortified to an almost-adequate-for-Windows 128 MB of RAM. The level of computer literacy at 42nd and Treadmill is about average, I think, but this is due to the presence of half a dozen quasi-wizards who can build working machines from a box of debris, offsetting a whole gaggle of goobers who think the scroll bar is the part of the historical theme park that sells drinks.
Now, you don't have to be able to rebuild a transmission to be able to drive a car, nor is it absolutely necessary to be able to construct a working PC from spare parts to be able to operate one. Still, it helps to know how both of those things work, if only to reduce your dependence upon the aforementioned quasi-wizards.
It's nice and dark outside, one of the delights of summer storms. I doubt if there will be enough rain to get the starling residue off my car, but at least it should take the edge off the heat, which shows remarkable resistance to going away, and it's not like I'm in a position to go run off to Lake Winnipesaukee or something. (Hmmm. I have a friend in Laconia....)
So the big question today was "Do I stay at work until 9 pm and finish up all this crap, or spoil my Saturday morning by going in to finish up all this crap?" Actually, had I worked until 9 tonight, I'd be too tired tomorrow to do anything anyway, so the question was really a no-brainer which, given the conditions under which I work, is pretty much the default.
Last night, I had the absurd idea that maybe I ought to finish off this box of salt-water taffy given me last month in New Jersey. Not the most sensible of notions. I mean, you can't eat this stuff like it's, um, candy.
The four and a half hours of work I left undone yesterday took three and a half hours to do today while I had the building to myself, which illustrates a point I am constantly making to the powers that be: a good twenty, maybe thirty percent of my work day is taken up with fielding queries and complaints and reruns that could be just as easily done in some other office by someone with a hell of a lot less to do. Of course, this would require an admission that the work allocations are less than perfect, which I suspect I'll see right about the time O. J. Simpson confesses.
This particular neighborhood is not what anyone outside Bangladesh is likely to consider upscale, so it's no big news when one of those rent-anything-for-only-three-times-what-it-costs-to-buy outfits drops a whole bunch of flyers down in the pavilion. And when I wandered past there this morning I found two little girls, maybe six or seven, focused with a deadly seriousness on those flyers, evaluating the suitability of the items therein for their own future homes. The spirit of Suzy Homemaker lives on.
In a previous Vent, I said something to the effect that the New York minute had become the new standard for our harried, hurried times. A correspondent with roots in the Empire State weighed in with the following observation:
"Funny how people say New York Minute, meaning a minute that is somehow shorter than a real minute. If you've ever been to NYC, the phrase to find out the time isn't 'What time is it?' or even 'Do you know what time it is?' The phrase that pays is 'Do you have the correct time?' People in Manhattan are anal about this 'correct time' business....If anything, the 60 second New York minute is normal, and everyone else has 90 or 120 second minutes."
I had to think about that for a minute. (And no, I didn't time it.) Maybe there's something to that. I mean, things do seem to move more slowly out here on the Lone Prairie, and while we don't have pedestrian signs at intersections that say "Mosey" and "Don't Mosey", stereotypes notwithstanding, I know some people who can stretch a minute into a good 2:45 without even trying.
I would never, ever suggest, though, that people here are less anal.
Evidently I've slid right past "stressed out" and headed for the next level, whatever it may be. I managed only three hours of sleep last night (in a nine-hour effort), my digestive system is tied up in some truly horrendous knots, and breathing seems to alternate between marginal and hyperventilative. Given the complete and utter absence of any indication that things are going to change anytime soon, I'm starting to wonder if maybe my time really is up and if so, whether or not I should bother to put up some kind of token resistance.
Besides, what are the chances that I can get myself moved to a Tuesday-through-Saturday (or, better yet, Wednesday-through-Sunday) schedule, where at least I'll have some relative peace and quiet for maybe one lousy day a week? Not even next to nil. Right now, having a lid closed over my face is starting to sound like a really good idea.
Some of the leftover issues that sprang up in the wake of the World Tour have been resolved. The mess with the Postal Service, so far as I can tell, boiled down to this: Somehow, they set up two bundles for me, gave me one when I came in to cancel the Hold order, and when they saw the second bundle, decided that the Hold order really hadn't been cancelled after all and started accumulating items again. Whoever had the sudden attack of wisdom was kind enough to stuff the Hold card back into my box, as if to say "Yeah, we know."
And the cable company, while it's hard to reach them through voice mail for that matter, it's hard to reach me through voice mail responds quickly enough to feedback from their Web site. They duly dispatched someone today to repair the burned-out connection, which didn't require me to be on the premises or anything.
I don't feel quite as bad as I did yesterday, but there's really not a whole lot of wonderfulness on the horizon. My daughter will turn twenty-three next week, and I just know she's going to say, "Gawd, do I feel old." You ain't felt nothin' yet, girlie.
My renter's insurance is going up, but the amount of the increase is fairly minimal, so I conclude that I'm not being punished for living four doors away from a bunch of unsupervised urchins with a drawer full of flickable Bics.
North Carolina could replace Jesse Helms with a tree stump and still come out ahead. Come to think of it, the GOP has always had room for dead wood. (Democrats hug trees, but seldom actually vote for them, which may explain how Al Gore failed to carry his home state.)
I spent some time in Military Intelligence, which is not necessarily the oxymoron some people think it is, although some of the things which are kept secret turn out to be utterly ludicrous when they're finally declassified. Can you imagine how much fun it is to be in a civilian position and getting to observe basically the same level of obsession with a whole lot less justification?
Adventures in Vending Dept.: Last time, we'd been graced with a soda machine that would be laughed off the premises on Antiques Roadshow, complete with a hole where a bill changer ought to be. The hole has since been filled with a working bill changer, although just for emphasis a free-standing bill changer has been moved into the corner. At least, I assume it's just for emphasis; it can't be for any functional reason, because it's not plugged in anywhere. Meanwhile, the other free-standing bill changer, which is actually hanging off the flank of the snack machine, hasn't worked in a week. I know this because I was the first one in on Monday morning and it promptly swallowed my dollar and shut itself down. Whoever it was who said that change is inevitable has evidently never worked here.
Does being sick of home count as homesickness?
Today's spam comes through the courtesy of <email@example.com>, and it contains the following Disclaimer:
This is not Spam. You are receiving this email because you and I are members of the same Safelist and agreed to receive emails from other members.
It might be amusing to see what "Safelist" has both of us as members, but not nearly as amusing as it would be to find out what sort of company it is that has to rely on a free Web server for its Net connection.
In a better world, or at least a funnier one, Gary Condit would have been grilled by the likes of Bill O'Reilly.
One of today's tasks was to find out why the cable gets fuzzy in the upper channels, and after checking three or four possible locations, the cable company's tech pronounced his verdict: "The lines through the attic area were damaged in the fire." In fact, he seemed surprised that the picture wasn't fuzzy on the other channels.
The bottom line, of course, is that until they repair the upstairs, something which isn't going to happen for quite some time you think maybe they're waiting for me to move out? I'm stuck with what I have. So while I had the tech's attention, I asked him to install HBO for me, which he did. HBO, just incidentally, is on channel 2 here.
Opinions vary as to the exact symptoms, even the definition, of dementia, but the raising of loud verbal objections because the woman next door showed up at her own personal pool in a string bikini surely must count as a symptom.
Everybody plays the fool sometimes, as Cuba Gooding, Sr. used to say, but it was Woody Allen who played the Fool in Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex, and who, faced with a directive from his father's ghost to seek sexual favors from Her Majesty the Queen, sputtered, "I can't screw above my station!"
It was 1972 when Allen said this, and 1983 when I first saw him saying it, but somehow that phrase seemed to have informed much of my thinking for many years before. Allegedly some sort of "bright" person, yet still working at a job for which "dead-end" is too charitable a description and still living in a haphazardly-constructed Seventies hovel, I seem to have become the poster child for underachievement. Economics being what they are, a change in employment will likely result in an increase in perceived squalor, which won't do much for my sense of self; meanwhile, I can't bring myself to approach anyone whose home isn't actually on wheels. Twinges of this neurosis hit me at the oddest times: I was unpacking a new CD changer yesterday, and That Voice (you know the one) demanded to know who the hell was I, that I should be spending money on hardware like this? There are some neighborhoods I can't even drive through, out of fear that I will somehow be caught and exposed as an interloper. Or worse. Not even the Hindu caste system is this perverse.
Not that my quasi-untouchable state keeps me from noticing people who have far better reasons to be shunned. This week's Oklahoma Gazette contains a letter from someone who wants to know why in the world the city isn't enforcing sodomy laws in the name of Jesus. Whatever else I may have done, or may have failed to do, in my life, I've never had my head that far up my ass.
First off, happy birthday, Becky. (Pick an age and stick with it, willya?)
A lot of traffic this weekend from heise.de. If you're visiting from Germany, welcome to the sulky side of the street.
And some time last night this site recorded its 80,000th visitor, which means that for the summer I'm averaging a thousand hits a week. Either this stuff isn't as dull as I think it is, or Web surfers are really starved for content.
Last year, summer kept pounding away into the first couple of weeks of September without any indication that it would ever end. And then, all of a sudden, it ended. (Forget equinoxes for the moment; I'm talking climate, not astronomy.) From where I sit, it looks like a repeat performance this year, although it's unlikely we'll see four consecutive days over 105. At least, I hope it's unlikely.
Tomorrow (not counting the period when I was a lowly temp, although it's arguable whether my status has actually improved to any substantial degree), I begin my twelfth year at 42nd and Treadmill. I must be out of my mind.
Many of the trees at the entrance to the eastside landfill appear to have been severely pruned or removed entirely, which presumably improves the view of the twin mountains of trash. (And technically, is it still a landfill if the current point of deposit is seven or eight stories above the level of the land?) I'm assuming this wasn't a beautification project, and that it was actually prompted by someone yelling "Geezus, Harry, these frigging branches are scraping my truck!"
Gasoline prices here have risen by nearly half a buck a gallon since the end of the World Tour, which is generally attributed to shortages elsewhere in the region, low levels of inventory, and the need to stick it to summer drivers one last time before Labor Day.
The airwaves are saturated with advertising for and against State Question 695, a right-to-work measure that will be on the state ballot next month. This is an issue that causes me all manner of brain-wave collisions; while I am philosophically disposed to support such a thing freedom of association and all that there is absolutely no evidence that any of the benefits touted by its proponents will actually materialize, and while they have argued for years that businesses would locate here in a heartbeat if such a law were enacted, not one of them has ever been able, when asked, to name a business any larger than a roadside fruit stand that was actually prepared to do so. And surveys inevitably show that when businesses scout for new locations, RTW is way down the list of essentials; what almost always trips up Oklahoma is a relatively-uneducated work force (complete with a panoply of cultural embarrassments) and a preposterously-complicated package of state laws.
In effect, SQ 695 is a desperate attempt to provide one last orgasm for too-slowly-dying Daily Oklahoman magnate Edward L. Gaylord before his inevitable descent into the fires of Gehenna. My response to that shall remain unspoken, but you may be certain that it applies equally to the horse he rode in on.
And speaking of screwing around with things, civil-rights groups and their friends are upset over the new Florida voting-reform package, specifically its "Voter Responsibilities" section, which has been compared to the literacy tests administered to African-Americans in the Bad Old Days, apparently by people who have never actually seen said literacy tests. I have. (Picked one up last month at the National Voting Rights Museum in Selma, Alabama, in fact.) The difference between the Florida "responsibilities" and the Alabama test is the difference between a notion of water and an ocean of water. Some of these folks are in way over their heads.
Three generations visiting this weekend: my ex, our daughter, and a grandchild who is two years old in everything but actual chronological age. (I mention this in case he ever winds up in Little League.) As always, I am slightly uneasy in the presence of a woman with whom I have slept, but then I tend to be slightly uneasy in the presence of a woman with whom I have not slept, so this hardly qualifies as news.
The gas station I pass on my way to work cut its price for the crummiest grade of unleaded by six cents a gallon today, which should tell me something, but actually doesn't.
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Copyright © 2001 by Charles G. Hill