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log entries
January 2002


 

Tuesday, 1 January 2002, 2:50 pm

Since in practice any New Year's resolution I am likely to make I will probably break before mid-February, I figure the most useful thing I can do is hold off making any futile promises of this sort until about the tenth of November or thereabouts, so when I inevitably do fail, I can blame it on the incredible pressures brought on by the onset of the Chanukah / Christmas / Kwanzaa / whatever holidays.

And while we're on the subject, sort of, you'll note that Kwanzaa starts on December 26th, known in other parts of the world as Boxing Day. For some reason, Columbia Pictures apparently didn't think it would have been such a cool idea to open Ali on that day instead of Christmas. And since the celebration of Kwanzaa ends today, well, I hope you (and Will Smith) had a good one.

If by some fluke anyone is interested, it took approximately 65 minutes on my crummy dial-up to upload all 929 files (approximately 12 megabytes) to the new Web host. A good argument for broadband, and perhaps a better one for reticence.

Wednesday, 2 January 2002, 6:25 pm

Way back in, oh, October or so, I made some favorable reference herein to pianist/composer Catherine Marie Charlton and her collection of piano improvisations called Jeweled Rain.

Before there was Jeweled Rain, though, there was Strange Attractors, a spiffy title indeed. In case you've forgotten your physics, as I surely have, systems in nature tend to display one or more of four different types of cycle, known as "attractors", and the variety characterized as "strange" is a process that is confined, that is stable, and yet nonetheless never behaves exactly the same way twice. (If you have a better, or at least more coherent, explanation, please send it in.) The strange attractor, therefore, is at the very heart of chaos theory — and, if you think about it, most forms of musical improvisation. Ms Charlton, who studied acoustical engineering, obviously knows these things, and what is most distinctive about these performances, it seems to me, is the sense of space that she's developed to surround the usual 88 notes. I wouldn't characterize her playing here as "intimate", exactly; there's always a slight, possibly even measurable, distance between my heart and my head, and this is the area to which Strange Attractors, I think, is addressed. This came out in 1995, and I'm sorry I managed to miss it for six years.

River Dawn, her 2001 release, is something else entirely. Billed as "piano meditations", it's an hour-long piece that, says the composer, "is about the creative flow, energy, calm, peace and sense of freedom that entered my life after finding the courage to follow my passion and live my dreams." We should all be so courageous. There are nine CD tracks, but this is not a collection of nine songs; this is an hour to spend in quiet contemplation of who we are and where we ought to be. I worry that this sort of description might get her shuffled off to some sort of New Age pigeonhole, but then again, there are worse places to be.

My thanks to visitor number 100,000, whoever you may be.

Thursday, 3 January 2002, 6:10 pm

How cold is it? This morning was officially the coldest in five years — 9 degrees Fahrenheit for about three hours or so — and hardly anyone noticed. At least we're not having to drive on the wrong side of the ice. (Which side is the wrong side? The side that's outside.)

Some radio newsreader stumbled briefly over the given name of the Secretary of Defense, and for a fleeting moment I had visions of "Donna" Rumsfeld, no less capable of kicking butt and taking names, but prone to bringing chocolate-chip cookies to the press briefing. I guess you can't keep a good stereotype down. (Then again, Ariel Sharon supposedly once pointed out that National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice has a fabulous pair of gams — as though it really needed to be pointed out.)

For some reason, I seem to be using an awful lot of parentheses these days. (Not that I can think of any good reason for it.)

And a quote from Zeldman, just because:

"Spammers are to free enterprise as terrorists are to faith."

Friday, 4 January 2002, 5:25 pm

Despite cloud cover that looked for all the world like a used bedsheet — never mind how it was used — things warmed up enough today to clear the ice out of the parking lot, just in time for a fresh batch of snow tonight and tomorrow morning. There is such balance in nature.

What's that? "Plow," you say? Not an option. There are maybe four snowplows in a 40-mile radius, and the waiting list — well, you might as well sign up for season tickets for the Lakers while you're at it.

One of the things I did when I moved to this new Web host was install a custom 404 page, although it wasn't anything like this. And at least it's not as lame as the page I threw together for the benefit of visitors to my chat haunt.

Saturday, 5 January 2002, 5:30 pm

The sacker at the supermarket reports that he got snowed upon at work, but nothing fell upon me, 1.3 miles to the northwest. This must be one of those "scattered" showers they're always talking about.

The not-all-that-random function on the CD spun up Ginny Arnell's "Dumb Head" this afternoon, and it occurred to me that it had been literally years since I'd heard this song on the radio. Admittedly, it wasn't that big a hit, peaking at #50 in Billboard, but in this age of delicate sensibilities, no commercial radio station is going to risk the wrath of a single listener by playing a song in which the singer moans "I'm a stupid little girl" and "Somebody kick me, please." Apparently women in 2002 don't ever second-guess their own decisions. Or maybe it's just that it's so last millennium to look like you have any vulnerabilities at all.

Now that I think about it, I don't think anyone has played Ray Stevens' "Ahab the Arab" lately, either, though I suspect the Taliban might have been nicely enraged by the description of Fatima of the Seven Veils.

Sunday, 6 January 2002, 3:30 pm

Beyond the fence is the suburban section of gangland, and somebody over there has an apple tree which has produced far more than anyone expected. What to do with the excess? Foist it off on the neighbors? Donate it to a food bank? Bag it and send it to the landfill? Any of these would have been preferable to what is actually being done: lobbing apples over the fence to go splat in the parking lot. I have yet to catch anyone red-handed (well, Golden Delicious-handed, technically), but I'm pretty sure that these things aren't catapulting themselves.

Small gathering of ok.general regulars last night, and I might have come across as more coherent had my guts decided to sit still instead of doing cartwheels, but all in all, things seemed to go fairly well, and unlike the recent situation in Afghanistan, we never found ourselves lacking for targets. Oddly enough, this is exactly the same situation that prevailed back in late October, the last time I went to one of these things, and I am not inclined to believe that our hostess monitors my gastic-distress levels and schedules accordingly, so maybe it's some weird pathological condition being induced by the action of my Antisocial Gene (chromosome 18, third from the bottom). The gatherings are, however, a surprisingly good place to meet friendly, attractive, wholly-unavailable women, which has to be reckoned a plus of some sort.

Suggestion for printers of bank checks: Add a few extra pages to the register. Accommodating the usual 200 checks to a box is no big deal, but when you're paying bills online, you have all these additional entries to make and you still have to log those 200 checks when they eventually get written.

Monday, 7 January 2002, 5:55 pm

If I ever get serious about the business of expunging personal delusions, the first one that's got to go is the one that says that it's possible to maintain some semblance of an existence without an endless parade of frustrations. It may be feasible for some people, but obviously it's never going to happen for me; the only way I can get away from One Damn Thing After Another is to put as much distance between myself and everyday life as I possibly can. This worked fairly well during last year's World Tour, but that leaves forty-nine weeks out of fifty-two where things just fester.

I do think, though, that I'm going to suggest that the DTP guys quit sending out proof copies to our clients, since there doesn't seem to be any indication that the silly bastards even look at them; apparently it's much more satisfying to wait until the brochure is completed — or better yet, posted on the Web — and only then complain about misplaced this and badly-worded that. At the very least, there ought be some sort of mulligan limit; some of these people would try to get do-overs on their entire lives if they could.

Way back in the spring of '96, I opined that at least Alexander Graham Bell, being deceased and all, didn't have to contend with telemarketers. Still no word from Bell, but a correspondent advises that mere death isn't always enough to get one off the list, and cited an incident to illustrate. Of course, viewed another way, this could be a reason to go on living: the possibility of telemarketers beyond the grave is a pretty good argument against suicide.

Tuesday, 8 January 2002, 5:55 pm

This morning, for some reason, I had David Seville on the brain.

You remember David Seville. The Artist Formerly Known As Ross Bagdasarian dabbled in acting, but where he made his mark was music. In 1951 he cowrote (with cousin William Saroyan) Rosemary Clooney's enormous hit "Come On-A My House", and was one of the earliest acts signed to Liberty Records, where he turned out instrumentals and novelty tunes. "Armen's Theme", one of the former, had peaked at #42 in Billboard; "Witch Doctor", a blatant example of the latter, made #1, which is undoubtedly why Bagdasarian, now established under the Seville name, decided to concentrate on the funny stuff. The record-at-half-speed, play-back-at-full-speed trick on "Witch Doctor" seemed promising, and Seville pushed it to the limit with a track featuring his voice in three different (yet comparably squeaky) registers plus its normal (well, a bit agitated) conversational tone. "The Chipmunk Song" sold millions, still sells, and David Seville never got a "serious" hit record again; his career and that of his imaginary friends were inextricably bound together until he died in 1972, when Ross Jr. tried his hand at Sevillity. And sometimes I feel like Dave, constantly beset by the incessant yammering of rodents, but this shouldn't surprise anyone.

Speaking of people named Dave, Dave Thomas, inventor of the drive-thru fast-food window and founder of Wendy's Old-Fashioned Hamburgers, died this morning, a victim of liver cancer. It probably says something about me that my immediate response was "Good thing it wasn't a heart problem; we'd never hear the end of greener-than-thou types kvetching about 'See what happens when you eat all those damn burgers?'" By all accounts Dave was every bit the Nice Old Guy he played on TV, and let's face it, he did more than anyone this side of Sir James Barrie for the name Wendy. Even if his daughter really was named Melinda Lou.

Wednesday, 9 January 2002, 7:15 pm

I have been known to kick a few coins into the tip jar at some blogs I read regularly, and I actually paid for a subscription to Salon Premium, but somewhere there's an upper limit to how much I'm willing to pay for a site, and the tariff for Autoextremist.com, announced today, seems to be way beyond it. I was expecting that their existing "sponsorship" program wasn't going to draw well, and I figured they'd enact a subscription model for the new year, but $2.50 a week for a site that will be read at most once a week (historically, there has been one weekly update, each Wednesday) is way too rich for my blood. It's a wonderfully-opinionated place, and I'll bet donuts to dog doo that Bob Lutz and Bill Ford read it, but they can afford $130 a year a lot better than I can.

Six days ago we had the coldest morning in five years. Today we set a new record high. What kind of insane roller coaster is this? And how, after twenty-five years of living here, can I still ask these same questions with a straight face?

Thursday, 10 January 2002, 6:20 pm

A new (to me, anyway) ISP called Great Barrier Reef, based in the legendary seafaring community of, um, Joplin, Missouri, has been advertising extensively in these parts. If you're familiar with them, please drop me a line.

Today's barb, from film reviewer Glenn Kenny of Premiere, is pointed toward Gosford Park:

"Some advance talk has compared this Robert Altman movie to Jean Renoir's classic Rules of the Game, and it does bear a resemblance to that work, in that it was made by pushing strips of celluloid through a box with a small hole in it."

And I am not by any means an MP3 guru, but I do know enough not to encode a mono recording at 256 kbps and then process it for Joint Stereo to save space, which should keep me off the bottom rung of the expertise ladder.

Friday, 11 January 2002, 6:40 pm

Two things over which I have been puzzling today:

With the European Union now pushing a single currency, will the French Foreign Legion start getting paid in euros?

And whatever happened to Tracey Dey? Admittedly, her singles did not make a lot of chart noise — her biggest hit, a remake of "Gonna Get Along Without You Now", topped out at #51 in Billboard — but she turned out some sublime sides in her time, including an answer record to the Four Seasons' "Sherry" (in case you were wondering, it was called "Jerry", and advised "I'm not your Sherry"), and arguably the bounciest girl-group number of all time, "Here Comes The Boy", which died a horrible chart death at #93 but which, should you hear it during the morning commute, will stay with you all day, like it or not.

Saturday, 12 January 2002, 11:55 am

I'm sure there is some significance to the fact that I got married on Bitter Hag's tenth birthday, but I'd just as soon not know precisely what that significance might be.

As expected, there are calls for an investigation into this whole sordid Enron scheme, but also as expected, those calls are not going to be answered; not only did a substantial number of Administration types have their pockets stuffed with Enron green, but so did a lot of Democrats as well. It strikes me as extremely unlikely that either major party, political points notwithstanding, would willingly take part in any move to impede the movement of the gravy train. Teapot Dome revisited? Naw, just business as usual in what P. J. O'Rourke calls the Parliament of Whores.

And speaking of the Bush inner circle, they're portrayed (photography by the redoubtable Annie Leibovitz) on the cover of the February Vanity Fair, a picture which reveals the following High Truths:

Sunday, 13 January 2002, 3:15 pm

One of the more amusing aspects of living in Oklahoma is the perversity of its political process, perhaps inevitable due to its amazing Constitution, the size of a couple of Michener novels, a document which permits — hell, mandates — all manner of micromanagement. The last time we had a tax bill shoved through, the most avidly-publicized section was the one that realigned the income-tax brackets, enabling legislators to claim with a straight face that they had bestowed upon us a tax reduction. No one paid any attention to the section that provided an automatic rate increase should the state budget be faced with a shortfall. It's a new year, the budget is way out of whack, the rate adjustments kick in, and presto: it's the Blame Game. These guys weigh in from all over the political spectrum, which in Oklahoma means from more or less moderate to somewhere to the right of Genghis Khan, and the only thing these clowns have in common is that they hope and pray that we're too damn stupid to conclude that they're too damn stupid to read the bills they pass. Given the number of incumbents who are routinely returned to office, I fear they may be right.

Heather Havrilesky, perennial heartthrob and former Mistress of Filler for the late, lamented Suck.com, on why it's necessary to put out stuff like this:

"[R]eal wisdom comes not from reading or quiet meditation, but from publishing your most mundane thoughts for untold numbers of incredibly bored, desperate strangers."

The wind is up, but otherwise it's an absolutely gorgeous day, the sort that the gods throw in once in a while to obscure the fact that it's the middle of winter and we should be freezing our keisters off. It never occurs to them to toss a mid-January day into the sweatbox of late August, but you know how gods are.

Monday, 14 January 2002, 6:45 pm

A note after half a year:

It might be possible to describe a rainbow to someone, to explain the order of the colors, to convey some sort of scientific explanation for the reason it exists. For some people, for whatever reason, the description will have to suffice; for others, the rainbow must be seen to be believed. And once seen, it is never forgotten. There are many other phenomena, perhaps more dazzling on the surface, maybe more forceful in their presentation, possibly more complicated in their composition. But the rainbow, having been observed, having left an imprint on the soul as deep as its colors and as wide as its span, is not so easily replaced.

"Le coeur a ses raisons que la raison ne connaît pas," said Pascal: "the heart has its reasons, of which reason knows nothing." My knowledge of reason is questionable, of hearts perhaps more so, but occasionally I know a truth when I see one.

Tuesday, 15 January 2002, 6:10 pm

Hardly anyone, I suspect, will get terribly bent out of shape at the sight of someone doing 65 mph in a 60-mph zone. And there will seldom be fisticuffs if the pizza guy delivers one breadstick too few. On the other hand, schlepping forty-two items through the fifteen-and-under lane at the supermarket should be punishable by immediate disembowelment, preferably in front of the deli. (Residual trace quantities of sodium, doncha know.)

A similar fate should await those who booby-trap their Web sites with browser windows that pop up faster than any Close button known to man. Our sysadmin fell victim to one of these today, and while you could argue that he should have known better than to expect anything good from a URL sent by a spammer, it is also true that cats, more often than not, actually outlive most forms of curiosity. This particular site popped open fifteen windows, each of which pointed to a different directory of the porn site that presumably was paying for the exposure. The spammer, however, was dumb enough to plant this little stinkweed on a mainstream free (that is, ad-supported) Web host, the vast majority of which will close down a site for this sort of malfeasance once they discover it. Generous soul that our sysadmin is, he made sure that it was discovered.

Wednesday, 16 January 2002, 7:40 pm

Hemlines, insists Harper's Bazaar, are dropping this spring:

"Suddenly, the full-volume skirt and dress — with hemlines that range from midcalf to floor length — are certified A-list trends."

I cannot begin to describe the depths of the desolation this news brings me.

Oh, did you think I was some insensitive gas-guzzling bastard? Jim Hightower apparently thinks so.

Thursday, 17 January 2002, 6:30 pm

In the event of something happening to me, it will be posted here, but in the meantime, I've gotta get this message to you: I've snagged a copy of the Bee Gees compilation Their Greatest Hits: The Record (Polydor), which includes forty songs spread over four decades, remastered with that HDCD stuff. I could quarrel with the track list — for far less than the sum Polydor spent to license that execrable Streisand thing, they could have squeezed in "Jumbo" or "Don't Wanna Live Inside Myself" or even "My World" — but in general, it's a pretty nice set, though it's not likely to convert your friendly neighborhood Gibb-hater. And while the Saturday Night Fever ditties still leave me cold, their other dance numbers ("Jive Talkin'" and "Tragedy" come immediately to mind) have held up quite nicely over the years. You might consider this acquisition yet another example of my blatantly bad taste, but hey, blame it on the nights on Broadway.

The clerk looked at this Bee Gees thing, looked at the other disc I was buying, which turned out to be beautifulgarbage (Interscope), and looked at me, and I said, "There's a punchline here somewhere, I'm sure." Actually, there probably isn't. This third Garbage collection, like its predecessors, drops dozens of old songs into the blender and somehow manages to retain texture, but by gum, this one is downright catchy; the current single, "Cherry Lips (Go Baby Go)", with its Cyndi Lauper-meets-Nirvana vibe and sub-Spectorized production, is impossible to get out of your head once you've heard it. And I won't even discuss the video, which plays into one of my more enduring daydreams.

Friday, 18 January 2002, 3:15 pm

Freezing rain, I am convinced, is God's way of saying you paid too damn much for your car. It's indeed the great equalizer: when the roads are slicker than a Rubbermaid ice tray, everybody is, in effect, driving a '73 Gremlin with bald tires.

The record industry keeps making noise about how it is going to produce nonstandard Compact Discs that will resist ripping by those Evil Consumers out there. Now Philips, who was present at the creation of the CD and was on hand to establish those standards, has announced that well, if they're nonstandard, they're not Compact Discs, and you can't call them that without getting into legal trouble. There are few things I find more delightful than the prospect of the main instigators behind the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, arguably among the worst examples of perversion of law since, oh, Plessy v. Ferguson, being caught in an intellectual-property bind. Steven Den Beste isn't quite so gleeful, but obviously he finds this development encouraging.

Saturday, 19 January 2002, 4:45 pm

Historically, my take on prostitution has boiled down to "Which don't you like: the sex or the free market?" A brief sputter or two, and then suddenly the topic shifts to "So how about those Sooners?"

One person who doesn't sputter, at least, is Oklahoma City's own Video Vigilante, a man with a mission, a camcorder, and a cell phone set to dial 911 at the first sign of an illicit transaction. Me, I can think of more useful windmills at which to tilt, but give VV credit: he's apparently not one of the garden-variety Oklahoma anti-sex dimwits who worry about every possible depletion of bodily fluids, and while his Web site is on the loud side (enough with the animated GIFs already), he doesn't act like a publicity hound. Still, an agent who gives away too much information limits his usefulness.

As for that nasty frozen stuff, it cleared out by midnight and is now bedeviling the East Coast. Not that they (with the possible exception of the District of Columbia) deserve it.

Sunday, 20 January 2002, 3:10 pm

Used to be, one of the things that helped me get through horrid winter colds and such was the knowledge that there would be just the one; okay, I get to suffer for a couple of weeks, but at least I won't have to do it again any time soon. Not anymore. I have some major sniffles and watery eyes today, with hints that things are about to get much, much worse. If my immune system is falling off a cliff, the next otherwise-nonlethal Big Thing is going to put me down for the count.

I have yet to see a Lettermanesque Top Ten Good Things About America's New War On Terror, or whatever it's called, but there's a perfectly readable Top Five out there. (Muchas gracias: Sgt Stryker.)

And what would a Sunday be without a quote (albeit one from Saturday) from Zeldman?

"You might even enjoy reading the web if most sites weren't written by chimps, committees, and CEOs."

You should see some of the primates who come up with zingy ideas for the corporate site at 42nd and Treadmill. Then again, maybe you shouldn't.

Monday, 21 January 2002, 5:00 pm

I feel like hell, and it's a Federal holiday anyway, so since you don't particularly need to hear me whine about this freaking virus, here's something worth reading: a section of a letter written by the man whose birth and achievements we celebrate on this holiday.

While Dr King was in jail in Birmingham, Alabama in the spring of 1963, eight local clergymen issued a statement to complain about the demonstrations. Among other things, they said:

"We recognize the natural impatience of people who feel that their hopes are slow in being realized. But we are convinced that these demonstrations are unwise and untimely."

Dr King wrote the following from his cell:

"The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we still creep at horse-and-buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging dark of segregation to say, 'Wait.' But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate-filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she can't go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five-year-old son who is asking: 'Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?'; when you take a cross-county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading 'white' and 'colored'; when your first name becomes 'nigger,' your middle name becomes 'boy' (however old you are) and your last name becomes 'John,' and your wife and mother are never given the respected title 'Mrs.'; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you no forever fighting a degenerating sense of 'nobodiness' then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair."

Something I need to keep in mind while I teeter on the edge of said abyss.

Tuesday, 22 January 2002, 5:35 pm

They've actually started working on the damaged units in this building, though it will clearly take a while to get things up to snuff. Still, it's just a matter of time before I have the dubious delight of new neighbors — or worse yet, new neigbors with subwoofers.

I have decided that "non-drowsy" is a figure of speech, nothing more.

And Netscape, now owned by AOL Time Warner Phillip Morris Nabisco Sony, or whoever it is this week, is apparently actually suing Microsoft, which proves, I suppose, that some people can really carry a grudge.

Wednesday, 23 January 2002, 6:20 pm

Peggy Lee has left us, and were I a proper R&B purist, I'd probably feel compelled to point out that Little Willie John did "Fever" first, and of course he did it better. Approximately half of that is true. Not to slight Willie John, who never made a bad record in his short, unhappy life, but Peggy utterly redefines the tune. Confronted with the same temperature imbalance, Willie sounds like his usual bereft self, while Peggy, instrumentation stripped to the bare minimum, comes off as threatening, as though she were saying "You did this to me, and you will pay." Come to think of it, she said that to Walt Disney and Decca/Universal Records too. Clearly this was a woman with whom you did not mess. And I can live without being a proper R&B purist; just don't get me started on the Diamonds versus the Gladiolas.

There must be some kind of psychosomatic effect at work here: I bought a whole bag full of assorted cold "remedies" and whatnot last night to restock my depleted medicine chest, and of course, this morning, I felt slightly better, albeit slightly poorer. Oh, well, I have until May of 2005 to use this stuff up.

Thursday, 24 January 2002, 5:15 pm

Today's Life Lesson: Do not charge all of your holiday purchases on the Visa card you so laboriously paid off in November.

If I understand things correctly, Enron matched employees' 401(k) contributions at the 50-percent level — if you kicked in six percent of your salary, they matched three — with investments in Enron stock. It was apparently perfectly permissible to have your own money invested in other options. This suggests to me that a lot of employees who lost their shirts would, had they chosen those other options, come away missing maybe a couple of buttons and a pocket protector at worst. Now at 42nd and Treadmill, the same investment options are available for both individual and corporate contributions to one's account, which is, I believe, a Good Thing. Of course, this is partly because most employees don't pass the mandatory Ancestry Test to be able to own any equity in the company, and since the place is small enough that the grapevine instantly overwhelms any attempt to impose Enron-like secrecy, I doubt there'd be too many takers anyway.

Friday, 25 January 2002, 6:30 pm

I had a nice chat with the couple supervising the construction crew at the other end of the building. They expect to have things restored to better-than-new condition (which, considering that this place was erected during the 1970s, when standards grew lax, is at least somewhat believable) in sixty days. Considering that half of the structure is essentially going to have to be gutted and rebuilt, this seems like a fairly tight schedule, but we shall see.

They found the former vice chairman of Enron dead today, a suicide. I don't know about the rest of you, but it seems to me that "I'd rather die than talk" makes a pretty strong statement. (And no, they didn't find him in a shredder. Sheesh.)

Saturday, 26 January 2002, 3:30 pm

It began, curiously enough, with shoes.

My sartorial standards are, shall we say, relaxed to the point of being insensate. Indifference accounts for some of this, but the real issue is my inability, for reasons having to do with my failure to conform to the normal size tables, to buy off the rack. (This is less a factor of sheer bulk than you may think; even if I weighed exactly what the anorexiphiles in the insurance industry might desire, I would still be six foot one with a twenty-eight-inch inseam, which is anomalous at any conceivable width.) Confined to catalogs and specialty shops, neither of which is inclined to sell cheaply to their captive customers, I go to as little effort as possible to appear fashionable. The $19.99 pair of shoes, therefore, is an essential ingredient in the wardrobe. However, if you buy these things on a regular basis, you know there are hidden costs beyond twenty dollars and change. There is no real social stigma attached to them except in the snootiest circles, yet somehow you feel as though you have done a disservice to your feet. And three months later, when the shoes seem to be disintegrating with every step, you know it.

Two things you must know about our maintenance guy: he notices things like this and will point them out when no one else is around, and he favors New Balance shoes, not so much for comfort as for their sheer indestructibility. So we had had a discussion earlier this week on the sad state of my sneakers, and unwilling to start the 90-day cycle again with another pair of El Cheapo Grandes, I set out this morning in search of something suitable, and damn the costs. In view of my always-precarious financial situation, this latter was unwise, but damn them anyway.

In general, the farther you get from where I live, the better the shopping — up to a point. And that point is about twenty miles away, at one of several industrial-sized enclosed retail compounds. I have avoided the malls for the last couple of months, what with the holidays and all, but I figured late January would be fairly unstressful.

And somewhere on the second floor of the third mall — or maybe it was the third floor of the second mall, like it matters one way or another — I almost totally went to pieces. It wasn't frustration over the dearth of size 14 EE; I expected that. It was the screaming sensation in the back of my head that I had no business trying to pass myself off as a normal person in shopping mode. I was an impostor, a fraud; I shouldn't be allowed in the same building as Joe and Susan Sixpack and their 2.3 kids churning their way through the pack to the Food Court. I was in tears long before I could get out to the parking lot and blame my condition on the wind.

I've been here before, and I wound up with an ongoing addiction to low-grade tranquilizers in lieu of actual response. And still there is no reasonable response. I was still shaking by the time I made it to the supermarket. (The very gates of hell may be yawning open, but dammit, the chores must be done first.) A sign of creeping agoraphobia? I don't think so. There are symptoms that point elsewhere. For one, I don't sleep well at all; two hours, maybe, and I awake, and the cycle repeats once or twice, three times on weekends. And this pattern exists without the usual bane of the apartment-dweller: the idiot upstairs. It will only get worse when they finish remodeling. There is no comfort zone anywhere, no place where I might find some small semblance of peace.

And I still need a new pair of shoes.

Sunday, 27 January 2002, 5:25 pm

After yesterday, it seemed sensible to stay inside as much as possible, though howling winds get as much credit as howling voices.

To deal with the secondary issue first, I did some online shoe-shopping, and it wasn't quite as traumatic, though there are weird aspects to the whole idea. In the first place, sizing is, at best, hit-or-miss, unless you are absolutely, positively certain of your shoe size (which I am), and you don't have the benefit of the classic Brannock device to verify things. Or do you? Famous Footwear's Web site offers the next-best thing: a paper template approximating Brannock's standards which you can print for yourself from Adobe's Acrobat Reader, a process I recommend in preference to sticking your foot up against the monitor.

A few more side trips through the mysterious land of e-commerce, and I was done. Maybe. Some time next week I'll know how well this worked out. And it's probably a good thing that it takes this long, since we've been threatened with an ice storm this week, and I don't want to slip sliding away in unfamiliar shoes.

Monday, 28 January 2002, 5:20 pm

Am I obsessed with ice storms? At least one reader thinks so. I'm not buying it. Fact is, even here along the very axis of Tornado Alley, the ice storm is a major threat, and unlike the occasional funnel, which twists and turns and then goes away after a few minutes, freezing rain and such can continue literally for days, making the streets more dangerous every minute. And while there are prescribed routines to save your neck in a tornado, which are taught to schoolchildren in this state right alongside the ABCs, there is absolutely nothing to ease one's way through an ice storm except to stay home until it thaws, an option not open to those of us who have to work through the week.

Meanwhile, the cold front descends, and the stage is set. I am busily restocking drugs.

Tuesday, 29 January 2002, 5:50 pm

"Until it thaws" (see yesterday's screed) is starting to look like Friday at best. Not that our customers are going to cut us any slack; some of them are still steaming because we moved to a new IP address over the weekend (fallout from the Excite@Home collapse) and we didn't email them personally to tell them.

Day 10, and this damnable virus still hasn't taken a hike. And the freezing damp for the next few days can only encourage it.

And people wonder why I'm unhappy with my lot?

Wednesday, 30 January 2002, 5:35 pm

Suddenly, the world is in greyscale.

Sunrise this morning, at the implausible hour of 7:30, wasn't even noticeable. The clouds won't budge, and the rain continues to fall. Every other tree is missing a branch or two. Electricity is conspicuous in some areas by its absence. And the clouds won't budge, and the rain continues to fall.

Under different circumstances, this might be appealing in its serenity, even beautiful in a way. Unfortunately, most of us have to go drive in this crap tomorrow. Meanwhile, the clouds won't budge, and — well, you get the idea.

Thursday, 31 January 2002, 5:40 pm

The Weather Guys have hinted that there might be some actual sunshine tomorrow, but I'm not holding my breath. Besides, once all this cloud cover moves away, evening temperatures are going to sink like a metal box full of Enron stock. And there's still the possibility of power outages; last night, restoration of power took place at the moment the pizza guy (obviously I wasn't going to be cooking) hit the front door.

The Bushniks have come up with the idea of extending the Children's Health Insurance Program, administered by the individual states, to children not yet born. Under the proposal, each state would have the power to determine whether CHIP would be so extended. Abortion-rights advocates jumped on the plan, calling it a backdoor attempt to grant legal personhood to fetuses. Maybe it is, and maybe it isn't — I haven't paid enough attention to the ongoing abortion wars to be able to determine just how slippery this slope might be — but the notion that poor pregnant women should be denied prenatal care, putting their fetuses at risk, so as to insure that other women can put their fetuses to death, is more than a little bit unsettling.

 


 | Copyright © 2002 by Charles G. Hill

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