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November 2001


 

Thursday, 1 November 2001, 7:45 pm

You'd think the little urchins who beg for sweets would be somehow attracted to this burned-out husk of a building. To quote the late John Belushi, though, "But NOOOOOOO......"

Actually, almost everyone I talked to today reported a drop in trick-or-treaters, which perhaps reflects some residual eleventh-of-September fear; at least that seems more likely a cause than the haranguing against the holiday by the My God's Bigger Than Your God crowd. The weather, for once, was cooperative: the winds were up, but so was the temperature.

Meanwhile, I have a perfectly respectable and non-wasteful way to dispose of my candy stocks, but I fear I'll probably gain ten pounds in the process.

Friday, 2 November 2001, 5:40 pm

Already there is a flood of complaints from the usual suspects, unhappy with the settlement between Microsoft and the Justice Department. As usual, they missed the whole point of the exercise, which is simply this:

People, by and large, are lazy. Nobody buys a Windows machine to learn computer science; Windows machines are bought because they appear to do cool stuff without a whole lot of effort. At least from Windows 3.0 on, Microsoft has done its best to cater to user indolence, throwing in all manner of applications — the Web browser is merely the most obvious — on the reasonable assumption that if the customer already has a suitable application for something, he won't go looking elsewhere. Much is made of how Microsoft steers Windows customers to its own, presumably inferior and cranky, programs, though I'm inclined to believe that none of these complainers have ever gone through, say, a RealPlayer installation.

I have, or at least I think I have, enough computer smarts to choose my own tools for my own Windows box. Some of them come from Microsoft; more of them don't. For me, the status quo prevails: I stand to gain essentially nothing by the settlement. Joe and Susan Sixpack will be faced with choices they weren't willing to make before, so it's hard to see how they will be able to work up any enthusiasm for it. The only winners here are the PC manufacturers, who won't have Redmond breathing down their necks quite so heavily; other software manufacturers, who might sell a few more copies of something now; and, of course, two platoons of lawyers. But it is worth noting that had the megacorporation actually been broken up into a number of, um, kilocorporations, the results would be likely much the same — only the volume of paperwork would change. If someone at Justice indeed figured this out, there is hope for the department yet.

Saturday, 3 November 2001, 11:25 am

When you buy a new computer, there's always the question of what to do with the old one, especially since, in my case anyway, the only part of it still being used is the keyboard. My daughter, who has been wanting a low-end machine (and these days, 266 MHz is pretty low) for budgetary reasons, offered to buy it from me, but it occurs to me that (1) almost anything I could ask would be something of a ripoff and (2) if I just hand it to her, I will be spending night after night on the phone explaining what to do about the latest Blue Screen of Death.

So we came to an agreement. I will give her this old system, gratis, once she can demonstrate to my satisfaction that she has at least a semblance of a clue as to what's going on with its innards. To this end, we have scheduled a weekend in which we will basically rebuild the machine from scratch, to give her some familiarity with additions and installs and all the other stuff that tends to screw up the machine if you don't pay attention. I don't expect her to be able to swap out the motherboard or anything, but this is, I believe, one of those instances where familiarity breeds contentment rather than contempt.

Saturday, 3 November 2001, 6:30 pm

The last time I quoted Pete Townshend in this space — specifically, "Hope I die before I get old" from "My Generation" — I got some annoyed correspondence from people who thought I was obsessed with the subject. I expect I'll probably hear from them again now.

A number of Web sites, serious and, um, less serious, claim that they can predict the moment when you'll shuffle off this mortal coil. I tried four of these this evening, which yielded up the following projections:

I should point out here that the last time I visited The Death Clock, it wrote me off in the summer of 2008. Random factors, I conclude, can sometimes be favorable.

Sunday, 4 November 2001, 6:45 pm

Surely there must be something other than the puckish German sense of humor that persuaded Ahead Software AG to call its CD-recording software Nero Burning ROM. Whatever the name, though, it's a dandy piece of work, and while occasional translationitis infects the display screens, it never gets to the "What the hell does this mean?" point, and it burns CDs with considerable aplomb and, yes, German efficiency.

And speaking of CDs, a pox on Windows Media Player 7.1 for insisting that it be allowed to search some online database before I can enter title and track information for my locally-burned CD compilations. Purely in the interest of research (of course), I ran a test on said database, just to determine how extensive it was, by feeding it three post-Atlantic Debbie — um, Deborah — Gibson albums. The score was two out of three, as follows:

As our old friend Meat Loaf (again?) might say, two out of three ain't bad.

Monday, 5 November 2001, 6:35 pm

It seems somehow churlish to complain about the Postal Service during these perverse times, but dammit, when the only powder in your mailbox, day after day, is dust, something is seriously screwed up with the delivery end of the business. I can almost understand not getting my issues of Playboy around here, this state being heavily populated with both prudes and pervs (often in the same individual), but geez, I'm not even getting the usual classified-ad fishwrap.

In earlier editions, I have expressed reservations about the quality of our new vending-machine operator. Apparently I wasn't alone; a somewhat-reliable source advises me that they were directed to pick up their Stone Age equipment no later than the second of November. As of noon today (which is, of course, the fifth), they hadn't, which demonstrates that if nothing else, they are consistent.

I am informed that the front page of this site displays really badly in IE 4 and 5.00, which amazes me, since it looks almost passable in Netscape Navigator 4.61, a browser cordially hated by Web designers near and far for its half-assed support for cascading style sheets. Minor adjustments will be made over the next few days while I try to figure out just what the hell is going on. (For the record, I design this stuff, if "design" is the word, with IE 5.5 in mind, with occasional spot-checks through the aforementioned Pleistocene-era Mozilla.)

Tuesday, 6 November 2001, 8:00 pm

Forgotten but Not Gone Dept.: Montgomery Ward, you'll remember, is deader than Michael Jackson's old nose, but somehow the corpse won't stay still. Today's mailing, signed by Wards Executive Vice President Spencer Heine — you may remember his brother Seymour, author of the classic Under the Bleachers — proclaims, "Wards invites you to take advantage of Special Money Saving Offers from Pep Boys!" Yeah, right. If they think I want to get to know Manny and Moe, they don't know Jack.

And there's spam today, too. Something called the Email Marketing Depot (emarketing-depot.com, owned by Best Software Products of Springfield, Illinois) advises me (in full color, yet; remind me to turn off HTML mail) that the response rate to bulk mail solicitations is "between one and two percent on the average". Do you know 100 people? Out of those 100, do you know one or two who might have actually responded to one of these things? Can you guess what my response will be? How many fingers am I holding up? Very good.

Now that I think about it, if these software products were truly the "Best", the Depot probably could afford to have its site hosted somewhere other than a free server, but hey, I'm just the recipient, what do I know?

Wednesday, 7 November 2001, 6:35 pm

Typically, this is the time of year when both my physical and emotional health take a turn for the worse. For some inexplicable reason, it hasn't happened.

Or maybe it's explicable after all. My standard fall flu, or whatever it is, tends to be brought on by, or at least synchronized with, the radical changes in weather that routinely occur in this part of the world in mid-autumn — and which somehow haven't occurred yet. Temperatures have been running low-70s in the daytime, around 50 at night, which is a good ten degrees Fahrenheit above normal. Obviously this can't last forever, but I've seen too many pre-Halloween freezes here to complain about a warm November.

As for the other stuff, I'm not so sure. I haven't had my dosage adjusted or anything, so maybe it's a combination of more-or-less-favorable events. No one has offered me a raise lately, but no one is reminding me of the location of the door, either. (God knows it's not because I'm any more tractable than usual.) It's become apparent that an occasional burst of Raisinets is not likely to push me into a myocardial infarction. And then there was the World Tour, in which I managed to survive three weeks in mostly-unfamiliar territory (have you driven a Maserati lately?) without doing anything unreasonably stupid.

I hesitate to call this a trend, but whatever it is, it's an improvement over last year at this time.

Thursday, 8 November 2001, 8:20 pm

I swear, I'm going to demand that "I Spoke Too Soon" be carved on my tombstone. Of course, this makes the larger assumption that anyone is going to bother to have my grave marked at all, but that's another issue. I knew the cold front was coming through; that doesn't bother me. What did bother me was coming home, pushing the eject button on my trusty Sanyo VCR, and watching my finger plunging through the machine's plastic shell. Okay, fine, it's eight years old, it has served me well, maybe it's time I got a new one. So I did. Took all of three minutes to hook up — you do enough of this and eventually it becomes second nature — and the machine roared to life and informed me through its onscreen display that it could not set the time automatically, nor could it load the available channels. And, by gum, it couldn't; there wasn't enough signal there to impress a vertical-hold circuit. Regular readers will remember that the June fire here left the cable connection in perilous condition, but watchable up to about channel 59, after which fuzz becomes dominant. I concluded that the new box's capacity for handling weak signals was below spec, and to test this, I retrieved the old broken box from my test area (where usually I have dinner) and connected it back up. The picture was about two orders of magnitude worse than awful. So there's nothing wrong with the new box; it's just that the cable has deteriorated to the point of uselessness. And, interestingly enough, it's been so since Monday; I haven't watched anything since then, but Wednesday's tape of Enterprise is unwatchable, even by the lax standards of our local UPN affiliate. (Which reminds me: Viacom owns this damn station. Can't they do something about the miserable appearance of their network? I bet they wouldn't take bad reception on CBS lying down.)

Perhaps to avoid characterizing it as the moral issue it is, John Ashcroft has chosen to fight Oregon's assisted-suicide law by classifying it as a violation of Federal drug laws — generally, a bad move, since anyone with the slightest interest in preserving a free society has already figured out that Federal drug laws are an insane combination of foolishness and fascism. Even a simplistic appeal based on the Oath of Hippocrates would look better, and possibly even carry some weight when (not if) the issue gets to the Supreme Court.

Friday, 9 November 2001, 5:55 pm

Now come the chills. Evidently merely mentioning I haven't been sick is enough to make me sick. Oh, and by the way, I haven't been wealthy, either.

Okay, I may be a hopeless naïf. It wouldn't surprise me much. But one of the Adults Only catalogs that occasionally finds its way to my desk is offering a, um, penetration device nearly 15 inches long. While 5½ inches of that is handle, that isn't what perplexes me, and neither is the choice of colors (beige or black). What sent me into momentary distraction was the following line: "Top-rack dishwasher safe". A theoretical advantage, I suppose, but is this really a selling point for a dildo these days? And do they dry virtually spot-free?

Saturday, 10 November 2001, 4:00 pm

My daughter, who by now has had ample time to observe, concludes that "The so-called Terrible Twos are chronologically inaccurate." Or something like that. Anyway, her pride and joy, the one and only Blond Boy, turns two today, and he will spend most of it being told to get down off [fill in name of furniture/structural component he has been climbing], a Terrible characteristic he's had for the better part of a year already.

More than a third of a century has passed since my perfunctory study of French, and maybe I've retained enough to walk into La Baguette and order lunch with some assurance that they won't bring me a sack of live cats and a bowl of baby shoes, but not much more than that. I do remember that after sixty or so, the French quit bothering with tens: seventy is soixante-dix, sixty-ten, and eighty is quatre-vingt, four twenties. I can't recall if this pattern extends lower than sixty, though, and there does seem to be a real word for fifty: cinquante. Still, I've heard, or thought I've heard, quarante-dix, forty-ten, used in its place, and given some of the emotional baggage that is associated with age fifty, I think I like it better.

(Aside to Dr. C: "Happy forty-tenth.")

Saturday, 10 November 2001, 10:00 pm

Eight colored boxes dance in a browser window, and you're supposed to designate an order of preference based solely upon the colors. This is a psychological profile? I don't think so. But:

You are trying to establish yourself and make an impact despite the fact that everything around you seems to be against you .. putting up barriers ... but don't be unduly concerned ... you have the right ideas and come what may, they will soon be manifested and appreciated.

You are an emotional and sensitive person. You are inclined to delight and wallow in all things that give pleasure to your senses, but nevertheless your tastes are refined and you reject anything that is indecent or vulgar.

You are presently worried about your future and you feel that whatever you do will go wrong. At this time you are your own worst enemy. All the disappointment that you have experienced, coupled with the fear that there is no point in formulating fresh goals, have led to anxiety. You would like recognition and a position of trust ... but you are concerned that these hopes and dreams may not be realised ... You are very argumentative and insistent that you are right ... maybe you are ... but you are pushing too hard.

There's more, but even allowing for the fact that none of these are exactly unusual emotional responses, this is scary enough. They call it Colorgenics.

Sunday, 11 November 2001, 3:20 pm

The local Mazda situation continues to unwind. This weekend I got a card from the new guys, telling me that not just one, but all three, of the pertinent AutoCollection stores had dropped their Mazda franchises, a matter of some interest to me since I had acquired my current ride from one of said stores. What's more, the old downtown service manager, one of the True Gods of Zoom-Zoom in my estimation, was on board to take care of all my service needs. So this afternoon's Jaunt Around Town, fortified by two hours' worth of quality early-Seventies soul, would be targeted towards checking out the details.

The new dealership now has actual signage up and vehicles in stock, although if you take the rear entrance off a side road (essential for anyone going to the service department), it still looks like the Saturn store it used to be. It will be interesting to see how all of this jells in the months to come.

In the meantime, a side trip to CompUSA — I swear, I should be able to claim them as a dependent on next year's tax return — brought me into an encounter with the owner of a black 2000 626 LX with the luxury package (moonroof, alloy wheels, other assorted niceties). We traded stories, as members of this little fraternity are wont to do, and as I headed home I reviewed the dates of said stories and concluded that this particular black 2000 626 LX was the very one I had taken for a test drive and rejected because I had hit my head on the sunshade going over some of the city's below-average pavement. Not surprisingly, the woman who did buy this car takes up less vertical space (almost everyone takes up less horizontal space) than I. And, given my tendency to play "What If?", it was gratifying to hear that she has had no problems with it so far.

Monday, 12 November 2001, 5:30 pm

Used to be, everything I knew about Rockaway Beach I learned from the Ramones. In time, I suppose this condition will return, but for now I'm wrestling with "Migod, what's going to happen to New York next?"

Uncle Roy is gone, and we will all miss him, but mostly I hope that while he was still here, he had a chance to visit the park that bears his name.

Picking a car solely because it tested well in Consumer Reports is like picking a girlfriend solely because of how she looks in strappy sandals. It is good information to have, even in some circumstances important, but sooner or later there are going to be times (for instance, February, unless you live south of the 30th parallel North, and sometimes even then) when it won't mean squat.

Tuesday, 13 November 2001, 6:50 pm

Usually with these little Wars (Not Wars), the government's standard intimidate-the-media campaign tends to work better, or at least to get more attention, than the actual, you know, fighting and stuff. It hasn't happened that way this time around, though whether this is due more to a more efficient battle plan or a more inept PR staff remains to be seen. Certainly turning Kabul into a Taliban-free zone, at least on the face of it, must be considered a Good Thing.

I continue to be amused by people who take grievous offense when presented with spam. "How...how did they get this address?" they sputter. Who the hell knows? There are far greater irritants in life than unwanted email. Even with my fairly elaborate filters in place, about forty percent of the email I get is worthless. But sixty percent of the snailmail I get is worthless. And not only is it even more work to filter an actual metal mailbox, but the Postal Service relies on such dreck to keep the deficits down. Better, I think, just to shrug, hit the delete key, and move on.

Tuesday, 13 November 2001, 6:55 pm

And while I was uploading that last item, in came a spam from a brace of "Christian educators" whose subject line reads exactly this: "Your Child Will Improve Their Grades And Their Behavior".

They say they are definitely "not in this to get rich" and that their "program has received rave reviews on EBAY", which will most assuredly benefit people who think the auction house is the perfect place to do curriculum research. I think I'll pass. Besides, my child are already moved out of the house.

Wednesday, 14 November 2001, 7:00 pm

For those of us of an Uncertain Age, the true Muse was not a daughter of Zeus; she was the girlfriend (later the spouse) of Phil Spector. Of course, Phil tended to identify with Zeus, which drove Ronnie out of their West Coast digs forever. And "forever" seemed to be how long it took The Artist Formerly Known As Veronica and the other two Ronettes to pry some actual royalties out of Phil; the lawsuit was filed back in the Eighties, but the ruling in their favor didn't come until last year, and the Appellate Division of New York's Supreme Court rejected Spector's appeal this week. Ronnie is nothing if not persistent. Then again, she's the one who sang "And if I had the chance, I'd never let you go."

So how do you know when you're really getting old? I've speculated on this matter entirely too often, but if I get to the point when "Be My Baby" comes on and I don't either sing along with Ronnie or try to match Hal Blaine's moves on the nearest imaginary drum kit, you should probably stick a fork in me: I'm done.

Thursday, 15 November 2001, 5:15 pm

P. J. O'Rourke, in the December Atlantic Monthly, on possible motivations for our enemies:

"If the world is mad at America for anything, it should be for the invention of the phone-in talk show. The idea of a news broadcast once was to find someone with information and broadcast it. The idea now is to find someone with ignorance and spread it around. (Being ignorant myself, I'm not mad personally.)"

Regarding my Monday question: Uncle Roy did, in fact, get to see the park that bears his name, a small joy that doesn't begin to offset the larger grief, but a small joy just the same. (Thanks, Linda.)

And the cable company has apparently figured that replacing my fire-damaged line is out of the question; they've started to run a second line outside the area of Greatest Danger, which presumably will be connected up tomorrow or the next day. I guess they really do want to earn my lousy twelve bucks a month.

Friday, 16 November 2001, 5:25 pm

Given the sheer amount of fight-to-the-death bravado they were displaying not so long ago, it's almost a disappointment to see the Taliban cave in so easily. Not that I'm going to miss them or anything: if ever a band of misfits deserved ignominy and oblivion, surely the Taliban do. You have to go back at least to the Symbionese Liberation Army to find a group so outspoken, so wrongheaded, and so (comparatively) easily dispersed.

When Operation Lance Boil, or whatever the hell they called it, was first announced, I had my doubts. I still am not persuaded that a worldwide Talibanectomy is sufficient to eliminate terrorist threats entirely — some of our ostensible friends and acquaintances seem all too willing to play some warped game of Fund The Thugs — but by any reasonable standards (and I am nothing if not reasonable) it's a good start. And props to the Pentagon for coming up with a plan that, in retrospect anyway, was slicker than owl snot, and damn near as hard to explain.

Saturday, 17 November 2001, 5:40 pm

And, at long last, I have respectable cable reception; last night the installer pushed that new drop line through the front wall and into the living room. Now comes the hard part: finding things worth watching.

The Belle Isle Bridge, on Interstate 44 west of 235, is a trial when the weather is placid and dry. Wind and rain (and today we have both) complicate matters. Negotiating this long, bumpy sweeper requires that the driver devote his full concentration to driving. There is no time to focus on other issues: not on the football game, not on the song on the radio, not on the cell phone, and definitely not on Victoria's Secret.

Sunday, 18 November 2001, 7:20 pm

Happy birthday, Brenda. You are very much missed.

Inasmuch as anything I was likely to do outside was going to result in a faceful of windblown grit, I decided this was a good day to hone my vinyl-cleanup skills. I spent seven hours or so de-grunging nineteen songs from my record shelf, some in fairly good condition already, most more or less acceptable, and a couple of them bordering on horrible. (One of them was even broken, fercryingoutloud.) It's a whole lot of fun on a couple of levels, but frustration sets in when the surgically-precise (or so I thought) excision of a record click leaves behind a no-less-obvious thump. The experts obviously have far more patience than I, but then, who doesn't?

This is the week when I gain three pounds minimum no matter what, so I'm not even bothering with extraordinary measures. Besides which, Nova sent over a hefty quantity of her legendary fruitcake, which, unlike the one you got last year, will be eaten with considerable gusto.

Monday, 19 November 2001, 5:10 pm

Silly me. I bought something through America Online and went to their Online Rebate site, and discovered that while the manufacturer had specified one particular proof-of-purchase item to be returned for the rebate, AOL's site called for something different. Well, I reasoned, since this was purchased from AOL's direct-mail operation, and AOL is processing the rebate, I should follow AOL's instructions. Wrong-O, Buffalo Bob. Today I got a card from AOL to the effect that I submitted the wrong proof of purchase.

Lesson learned: If you absolutely, positively have to buy something from AOL — and they have been known to come up with decent deals once in a while — ignore any rebate assistance you may be offered and go directly to the manufacturer. Price of this lesson: For me, fifteen bucks; for the rest of you, consider it a gift. Or a warning.

The warm November came to a screeching halt this morning, and we'll get our first freeze tonight. It certainly won't be the last. On the other hand, I can't imagine this winter being quite so harsh as the last one, which featured not one, not two, but three ice storms from hell, not to mention the second-coldest December on record. The Official Winter Outlook for this part of the world calls for slightly warmer and wetter than usual, but that and 99 cents will get me a single at Wendy's.

Tuesday, 20 November 2001, 6:55 pm

Apparently the one way to be sure you can get your hands on an ice scraper at first frost is not to have put it away after the last frost, eight months ago. I hope I remember to do this, or not do this, next March.

A woman is walking down a city street. It's well past sundown, and as she turns the corner, moonlight — or maybe just another streetlamp — plays across the contours of her face. From behind the trash bin, he approaches; he strikes; she screams.

Her fault? Of course not. Blaming the victim is wholly inappropriate; it's simply not done. If you're lucky, you'll only get a tongue-lashing for even hinting at the possibility.

What I find most curious is that so many of the same people who would happily administer that admonition are willing to float the asinine notion that somehow, the United States of America, having behaved in such an abominable fashion all these years, actually deserved the attacks of September 11th, that it was just a matter of time before we got paid back for our malfeasance. The press has been so full of such utterances in recent weeks I've been wondering if someone's been smuggling laxatives to the nation's horses. Even if you grant that we have a moronic foreign policy and a warped sense of empire-building, propositions which aren't far off the mark or all that hard to justify, how could we possibly have earned the destruction of our cities and the murder of our citizens?

If there's an answer to this, I think it's in the desperate need for our smug community of homegrown extremists — most of this particular crap comes from the left wing, but wait long enough and there will be quite enough to cover the entire bird — to be able to say "I told you so," to gain after-the-fact credence for their inane yammerings, to visit upon the rest of us their bald-faced elitism. Not that I'm immune to either yammering or inanity, mind you, and I'm at least as elitist as the next guy, if not more so; but an argument that requires the death of thousands of people to obtain its validation is an argument I decline to defend.

Wednesday, 21 November 2001, 6:55 pm

I have, mirabile dictu, four days off. Anything useful or worthwhile I accomplish in the next ninety-six hours is a coincidence and not at all intended.

In the meantime, I offer this small bit of wisdom from this past weekend's vinyl operations: There is always a better place to put the turntable than directly above the subwoofer.

Thursday, 22 November 2001, 12:50 pm

In my ongoing capacity as a pretentious, endlessly-babbling ersatz pseudointellectual — try as I may, I never seem to achieve acceptance among the real pseudointellectuals — I occasionally find myself staking out some not-all-that-contrarian position on some artistic matter that really never was in dispute in the first place. This is not to say that my tastes are particularly refined or anything: while my favorite (musical) radio program is Karl Haas' Adventures in Good Music, I freely admit to owning three Partridge Family albums.

Which somehow brings me to the subject of Thomas Kinkade, Painter of Light®. The conventional wisdom demands that anyone who knows the difference between Monet and Manet should look down his nose at an artist who has been known to hawk his wares on TV shopping channels. What's worse, Kinkade openly idolizes the relentlessly-unhip Norman Rockwell. But indisputably the man moves a lot of product, and inferring from this that someone obviously likes his stuff, I figured a few bucks for his wall calendar might buy me some insights.

Judging by the samples offered (neatly branded with a "2002 Calendar" logo, presumably to discourage you from framing them, just in case the "Federal copyright law prohibits the removal and reuse of pages of this work" notice on the back doesn't do the job), I have to concede that our man Kinkade has a mind's eye way better than 20/20; the scenes, mostly pastoral with a couple of nods to city life, are sentimental and idealized, yes, but he gets the details right, and unless you're predisposed to sneer at everything sentimental and idealized, a stance I am not prepared to sustain for extended periods, you might find yourself actually responding emotionally to the images he creates. This may not be the world we know, but it's a world we wish we did know.

In a time where the buzziest of buzzwords is "edgy", Thomas Kinkade has about as much edge as the Pillsbury Doughboy. And maybe I'm just getting old and, um, doughy myself, but I'm not going to have any problem with these evocations of wistfulness hanging on my wall for the next twelve months — although I may start playing Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols more often, just in case.

Friday, 23 November 2001, 3:45 pm

There will apparently be seven Harry Potter films. I might be more impressed had I not known that there had been seven Police Academy films.

Today, of course, is Buy Nothing Day, and the task of buying nothing is made so much easier by knowing that the malls are packed to the rafters with people ostensibly buying something. Besides, my coffers are not exactly overflowing with cash, and I generally try to resist buying pressure on general principle.

Saturday, 24 November 2001, 12:05 am

Let it be said that I really dislike spam (no, not the mystery-meat product of Hormel, which can, under certain conditions, seem fairly tasty), and I really, really dislike HTML email. The combination of the two would drive me to tear my hair out, had I hair.

On the other hand, there's a lot to be said for sheer nerve, and Minnesota composer Vicki Logan apparently has it. Her email opens with "You probably haven't heard of her quite yet, but you will," the sort of statement that normally evokes a perfunctory "Yeah, right." And the return address was <marketing@carvic.com>; Carvic turns out to be the domain of Carl Logan, spouse and Webmaster, so at the very least this appeared to be in-house spammage, rather than something farmed out to some subunit of the Evil Empire. RealAudio of Logan's entire CD was offered, and with an air of "Oh, why not?" I closed my eyes and clicked on the link.

The Logans evidently targeted this one correctly. I have been known to buy this too-unaffected-to-be-New-Age instrumental stuff — I actually own all three Deborah Thatcher Robbins albums — and after the second sound sample, I was on my way to peel off $14.99 plus shipping for Chasing Dreams, the first Vicki Logan album. This ranks as the only time in seventeen years online that I have actually purchased something as a direct result of an email from senders unknown.

In a related development, hell froze over today.

Sunday, 25 November 2001, 11:00 am

Whenever Something Bad happens to us — the events of the 11th of September were merely the latest example — there is much handwringing about our ostensible intelligence-gathering agencies and "Why didn't they see this coming?" I've always suspected that it was simply a lack of creative thinking, made worse by the inability to see outside the prescribed mindset.

Apparently I was being too generous. The FBI's proposed toy for spying on PC users, "Magic Lantern", is a worn-out hack that would embarrass the current crop of script kiddies. Even the lamest antivirus software can catch these things. Then again, one of the major antivirus vendors is reported to have volunteered to weaken its protection to allow the FBI's Trojan horse to get through, which if true is more than enough reason to avoid their products now and forevermore — all a computer-vandal type would have to do is imitate the FBI's hack just enough to slide by. If I were using this particular software, it would have been uninstalled during the time it took to write this.

The winds are up again, presumably to make sure all the leaves are piled up on the lawn and in the street before the snow starts. And it's one month before the "official" birthday of the Prince of Peace, in whose name all manner of warmongering crapola is being disseminated. In other words, just another November day.

 

Monday, 26 November 2001, 7:15 pm

In the last ten minutes, two high-school kids (maybe) have come calling, trying to sell me The Daily Oklahoman. The first one got some mumbled nonsense about "Start my subscription when Eddie Gaylord's death is front-page news"; the second one was dispatched from the premises with a "Someone beat you by three minutes" or words to that effect.

We are promised snow for Tuesday and Wednesday, exact quantity to be determined. Then again, the exact quantity doesn't matter that much; I am happy to hate it regardless of volume.

Meanwhile, 42nd and Treadmill is bracing for a few thousand more iterations of BadTrans.B, the latest Windows worm, which our proudly computer-illiterate customer base has quite unwittingly embraced and circulated. A couple of copies managed to make it to my inbox and got properly snuffed, but it will take days, maybe weeks, before the tide recedes.

 

Tuesday, 27 November 2001, 5:30 pm

I don't really know if it's true that the Inuit or Aleut or other peoples from the Great White North have four hundred different words for "snow". I know I don't have anywhere close to that many. I also know that almost every single one of them, like "snow" itself, has four letters.

Some particularly painful variation of stomach cramps hit me today before noon, dragging my already highly (lowly?) negative mood further into the Slough of Despond. Of course, this is a heinously busy week at work, what with the ongoing tendency of our clients to demand basically the same functions at basically the same time, thereby guaranteeing the thinnest-possible spread of all available resources, so I needed this like a hole in the head (which is probably the ailment next on the schedule).

Wednesday, 28 November 2001, 5:30 pm

There are few things in life quite as annoying as a storm that refuses to get the bloody hell out of the way. The little patch of atmospheric disturbance that was supposed to have cleared out by noon was still dropping flurries at four, and it's not done yet. The official total at the airport was four inches, but those of us who moved on up to the east side got six or seven. And, of course, with all this snow cover, the warming trend we were promised will be delayed two or three days. Insurance companies and other members of the family Mustelidae call events like this "acts of God", which at least puts the blame where it belongs. People in New Jersey must be laughing their heads off.

I promise: no more redesigns for the front page for the rest of the year. Okay, it's less than five weeks, but still....

Thursday, 29 November 2001, 7:20 pm

Last Saturday, I reported on an extraordinarily effective bit of spammage from composer/pianist Vicki Logan — effective, that is, in the sense that it actually made a sale. Logan's CD has now arrived on my doorstep, and two thoughts come to mind:

There used to be a radio format called "beautiful music" which somehow managed to find the blandest orchestral recordings possible. Chasing Dreams would never fit in; it is neither orchestral nor bland. Quiet, yes; soothing, maybe; but there's an intensity here that simply won't retreat into the background. I don't think David Lanz needs to be looking over his shoulder or anything, but if your listening environment can accommodate contemporary piano music that breathes, rather than merely exhales, clear a space for Vicki Logan. And do it now, before she sends you email.

Friday, 30 November 2001, 6:10 pm

A moment of silence, if you please, for the late George Harrison.





"I hope he's jamming with John," said Keith Richards. Amen to that, brother Keith.

 


 | Copyright © 2001 by Charles G. Hill