Sep 29, 2005
It's icky. And a bit scary. When the faucets are off for more than a few hours, the first second or two of water coming out FOAMS. It's strange. It's unnatural.
It's water, for cripe's sake. I know we're getting most of our water from bayous and cesspools and things of that nature, but that water's brown and green, and not known for foaming, but ours does.
RIWA, what are you doing to our water?
Actually, I WAS up to motorcycle maintenance. Yesterday afternoon, after work. It's funny how things work out sometimes.
I'm sure at least some of you remember the nightmare that was my last maintenance effort. Herculean, to say the least, and Hobbisan (which is to say full of "brutishness and misery") to boot. Well, this one was different.
It started with my brother of all people, driving up. He stopped and chatted for a while, as I slowly spun the back tire and, using kerosene and a nylon bristle brush, cleaned the accrued road goo off the chain. When I had finished he rolled the tire a little way and pointed out a shiny point, level with the surface of the tire.
Now, if you've ever found a shiny point in your tire, you know not to pull it out, because chances are very high that it's a nail that is stuck in there, and it's punctured the tire, but heat and the rubber have made a seal around that nail, so that when you pull out it's eleven inch steel self you'll hear a sudden loud, prolonged "hiss" and then you've got a flat.
I foresaw this result because I've done it myself.
He gave me That Look.
He's done it himself, too.
I said "Just pull it, if it's a nail I can't be riding on it anyway. Not safe at all."
He picked and dug a bit, and out popped...a tiny splinter of rock. No hiss, no flat. Astounding. Enlivened by this bit of luck, I sprayed the chain down well with synthetic Honda Pro lubricant and set about tightening the chain, which this time, even with the Honda Special Tool involved, was painless. This time the difference was that I loosened the pinch bolt until it was ready to fall out, and that seemed to do it. The Special Tool fit well, the little extra handle for it fit like it had been designed that way, and I found out that one way loosens things, the other tightens. I tightened, retightened the pinch bolt, and I was ready to air the tires up properly, which I could tell they weren't.
I spent most of the day yesterday telling Adrenaline Junkie about bikes. He knows that all he has to do is ask me a single question about bikes in general and it's like setting off an all-day clock: I'll talk until quitting time. And he did just that yesterday, to stave off his own boredom. And part of what I told him was that Miranda was long overdue to have her tires topped off again, because she was getting a sort of wandering feeling when I pushed too hard into curves. That helped remind me when I got home that it still needed doing, and that Miranda was not going to roll herself over there and take care of that for me.
So, I rolled. Got the air compressor going, found my tire gauge, and got to work. Now, keep in mind that the part of my shed where the air compressor rests is, shall we say, open air. My boat sits in there, and the old paint cabinet, and so does a lot of bare earth, which the storm turned to mud. I balanced Miranda's kickstand on a sheet of steel I have lying there for just that sort of purpose, and went for the air hose.
Now ordinarily, this is the opportunity for Murphy to get me. I make a mis-step, or put a foot down on just the bit of steel sheeting that will bump up just wrong, thereby propelling the bike onto the ground, or I bump the gate in just such a way that it swings into the kickstand, thereby depositing my dear lovely and not entirely paid for bike onto the hard, cold earth.
I was acutely aware that it was going to happen, and being so acutely aware, nothing happened. At all. She stayed as solid as if she had four wheels. I aired the tires without trouble, to their recommended 42 psi, and I capped them. Simple as that. Hopped back on her, and drove her back to the garage, where I parked her. She didn't fall, a meteor didn't strike us both dead. I didn't even have an unfortunate run-in with a mad hornet. Nothing.
Unheard of. Easy, painless. Marvelous. The way it's supposed to be.
Sep 28, 2005
See, I'm going out of my tiny skull. I did the supply order, I think correctly. I unpacked and put away the supplies that Brown dropped off, correctly I think. The thing is, it's too damned quiet in here. Adrenaline Junkie came in this morning on his day off with full intention of having a meeting with a patient's very important husband and BoBindy, but that fell through, so he sort of meandered around here talking to himself until about 2, at which time he got the call that the meeting had been cancelled and he left here so fast the crickets got sucked out of the building into the AJunkie-shaped vacuum he left behind him.
BoBindy was in for a while this morning too, she made cookies and then left, AJ scrammed out of here, so that leaves me here with RMB, Lasy Susan and her Good Right Hand, and as much as I hate to say it, they're pretty damned boring too.
And that insane old dude that calls at least once a day? The one with the Big Boy Bed that's broke? He called again today, just a few minutes ago, actually. He's suddenly become one of those persons who doesn't want to talk to anyone who can help him, doesn't want to talk sense, he just wanted to gripe at someone because his fat ass broke his Big Boy Hospital Bed and he didn't want to take responsibility for anything, he just wanted to freaking WHINE about it. I thought I had left behind that sort of phone call when I left Orifice Depot, but apparently those sorts of people come in all sorts, shapes and sizes. ALL sizes.
And you're not here for me to gripe to about it, and AJ isn't here for me to make jokes about him to, and damnit you people are letting me down here!
I think maybe I'm going to rearrange your desk for you before you get back Monday, VW, sort of like a cat peeing in your shoes when you don't pay them enough attention, only with less pee and more rearranging.
Same goes for you, AJ--you forget that you gave me a master key to the offices in here. Boy was that a dumb move on your part. You just thought all these crickets were coming from outside. Hah. I've got an open credit account with Crickets 'Backward R' Us, and I've been buying Peruvian High Leg Super Blacks by the thousands. Got me a good price on them and everything, every one from a champion bloodline. Just wait until you open your bottom desk drawer, the one where you keep The Stuff.
The owl simply will NOT hoot. Damned owl.
I offer fair warning since I woke up this morning with a not-suprisingly empty skull, so there's no telling where this one is going.
My morning's plans were to get outside and do some of the basic motorcycle maintenance that needs to be done, relatively simple things, but right now a) it's too dark, b) it's too foggy, and c) I'm conveniently already dressed for work so d) it's not going to get done this morning. Nothing hardcore, and nothing life-threatening, just tires needing a little air and a chain that needs to be cleaned, oiled, and tightened, in that order. She's getting a little wallowy (what a word!) in hard cornering, and shifting is getting a little sticky, both of which point to the maintenance needed.
I keep thinking of the guy my brother works with who, having more money than brains, bought a motorcycle on a whim. Speaking to him through the brother I diagnosed several maintenance issues that needed taking care of that the new buyer was completely unaware of. It sounds to me like the previous owner rode the bike without doing ANY maintenance for the first 15,000 miles and, instead of doing things like changing the oil and tightening the chain he simply sold it to the first unsuspecting rube to come down the pike. I would have spoken at great length to him about what might need to be done to the bike to make it truly road-worthy, but my brother tells me that the guy is a real jerk, so no info for you. *s* Sad, I know, but sometimes life has it's little rewards.
Vulgar Wizard is gone for the rest of the week, and that's going to make work a less fun place. She's supposed to be out of her apartment by the 30th to move into her new house with the future husband, but the builder keeps sliding the Done Date further and further back, and so now she's going to spend today through the weekend moving in, sans carpet and some other basics. The important thing is that she has A/C and a good view, so I think they'll do fine. The suck thing is that I'll have no-one to throw paperclips at, and no focus for my unrestrained foolishness while I'm supposed to be doing important things at work like ordering medical supplies and logging important physician's orders. Aren't you glad you don't have home health right now?
Of course, there's always Adrenaline Junkie and his office and his new stereo, which is out of my throwing range being down the hall and to the left, but I'm sure I can go bother him a lot today. That's always fun.
Cats, I'm told by a reliable source, can produce upwards of 100 different vocalisations. Dogs, on the other paw, can produce about 8, half of which involve expulsion of gas. Sometimes this can be cool, sometimes it can be annoying. Like this morning. I'm sure at some point I mentioned Delilah,
our calico with the very small head and the very large rest of her. Dee is far and away the most vocal of all our kitties. She's got sounds for varying degrees of happiness, anger, sadness, hunger, boredom, and wanting to go out on the patio to stare at hummingbirds. She has sounds implying that she'd rather the Ocean Fish flavoured Pouch for breakfast rather than the Chicken Medley, and she has sounds for wanting to catch one of the four wee orange foster kitties so she can chew them to see if they squeak.
She also has sounds she makes when she's walking back and forth across my lap, keyboard, and desk while demanding attention, like she's doing right now. For example, it's taken me ten minutes to write one and a half paragraphs, because of her insistent noises implying that I am failing to render the proper amount of attention. She vocalises so much she even does it while purring. Silly me, I always thought two kinds of purrs were enough--the steady one for happy, and the broken one for really happy. No, Dee has to subdivide those even further, adding in her own trills and chirps and warbles to each purr, thereby rendering what was a way to send two distinct messages into a way to send seventeen very vague ones.
My desire is to say "Just like a woman" here, but in respect to my reading public, most of whom are women, I'll just stay silent.
Sep 27, 2005
Finding fire ants all over my feet was a stressor. My body went into hyper-overdrive and I did the Ant Dance all over the yard until they were all dead.
Enduring the approach and subsequent passage of a hurricane from the questionable safety of my home was quite a stressor, as was having bits and pieces of my family in my home at different times. Two for the price of one.
Knowing that I'll have more responsibility on my shoulders now that I learned a good chunk of RMB's job is a stressor, but that stressor is so counterbalanced by pleasure that it doesn't really count.
I remember clearly the day I first learned the word "stress." I had finally found The Reason for most of my life-long ups and downs. Unfortunately, learning the word didn't also come with subsequent lessons on how to deal with this stimulus.
As the years have progressed I have successfully failed to deal very well with it, but that's okay. I figure that at this point I'm still alive, so that's got to be something in my favour, right? I'm long since past my occasional adolescent thoughts of suicide being a better thing than trying to deal with Life. Long ago I came to the realisation that life is short, and death is awfully damned long.
So, at this point I just suck it up and go on, grimly if I have to, holding my head up when I can. And when I hear of someone else who has more stress than I do, I think to myself "See, it could always be worse." And when I hear of someone who deals with a tremendous stress load, I always wonder what exactly it is that makes these people excel, standing as they are so close to the edge. And I think to myself "Bugger that for a game of larks."
Me, I like it well back from the cliff.
Sep 26, 2005
Solenopsis Invicta, also known as a Red Imported Fire Ant. I hate them with every breath I draw.
Fire ants, as their name "Imported" implies, are not native to the US. They made it to the US border, it's theorised, in a shipment of goods decades ago from overseas. Finding the soil and temperature to their liking, they set up house. A lot. Across the entire South from Florida to Louisiana, parts of Texas, and the entire west coast from Cali to Oregon. And I hate them.
I'd like to find the Customs officer who let that first box of them through. I've got some words for him. Fire ants bear their curious name because their venom is so potent and toxic that a single bite causes intense, burning pain at the site of venom introduction, and in a day or so leaves a massive welt and a pus-filled blister that goes on burning and itching. And they never attack alone. I hate all of them.
The rain, it seems, brings out the worst in fire ants. I guess they just don't like being wet or something. When it rains, they relocate. To everywhere. And that's probably the worst part for me. When it's dry, they make big mounds just like regular ants the world over. Easy to spot, easy to avoid, and easy to pour gasoline all over and set afire. When it's just rained, or when a hurricane has just passed through bringing a lot of water, fire ants take to the hills, or to wherever they can go. For a few days afterwards, they're all over the ground, working on finding a new place to live, and they're more angry than usual. They're also a heck of a lot harder to spot, seeing as they're hiding billions of themselves in the grass, hiding that is until they've covered your bare feet and started biting. I realy hate fire ants.
Yes, I'm covered. Ankles down, I've probably got a good twenty bites. Some of them, lucky me, are even on my toe joints, so not only do I get to enjoy the ongoing stinging pain of the bites I also have the opportunity to feel what arthritic people endure day in and day out--painfully swollen joints. I seriously hate fire ants.
So this afternoon after work I'm headed to the hardware store. Not for a generator, which I'd like to have for next emergency. Not for gardening supplies, which I'd like to use to prepare beds for next Spring. Not even for drain opener, which I simply don't need. No, I'm going for a certain poison that I know works every time, with fair speed. Little yellow granules of death, and I'm going to buy as much as I can carry in my backpack.
Look out, Solenopsis Invicta: a certain Fire Antus Deathicus is headed your way.
Sep 25, 2005
Rita has come and gone. Thankfully. And my fears about the curious name of the storm and my own sordid past luckily held very little weight--we got off pretty lucky, compared to some of our neighbors.
We lost power pretty early on, which was expected, and which we had long since prepared for. About four am we were awoken by a loud 'whump' noise which we both assumed was a branch, because there would have been no way to see what was out there anyway. Around six the storm finally got level with us, and from then until almost four that afternoon we sat outside in the garage on folding chairs, watched the storm roll on, watched limbs and birds and leaves go flying, and waited patiently.
We found out pretty early on that the 'whump' noise was my mother's tin porch roof, which the wind peeled off as one piece (12' by 10',) then flipped completely over her house's roof WITHOUT TOUCHING IT and dropped it onto it's top up against one of my pecan trees. When the wind shifted as the storm passed it then blew back up out of the yard and into her driveway, but did no harm.
Surprisingly, the only damage we endured was the loss of two 10' pine tree saplings out in the field, no surprise there, and a horrendous number of still-green pecans, pecan branches, and oak twigs. Four dedicated hours of team cleaning the yard this morning and lawn-mowing the smallest limbs and leaves into mulch rendered us the compliment, but there's still a ways to go.
All in all our friends made it through pretty well--we had power and water and cable back on fairly fast, and were back to normal Saturday afternoon, amasingly, and our local power and water and telephone companies be praised.
The funniest thing during the storm was the hummingbirds. We've had scads and scads of the beasties out here, but their numbers seemed to be dropping off. I thought the season was at an end, and that most of them had already migrated into Mexico. I took down all the feeders and anything else that would blow away Friday evening before the storm got here, and Saturday mid morning I saw a lone hummer fighting the wind, trying to get to where the feeders used to hang. Feeling bad for the little bugger, I filled the glass feeder and went out the patio door to hang it.
Before I had gotten the wire loop over the hook I had four hummingbirds fighting 45 mph wind gusts to eat, quite literally, out of the palm of my hand. Hanging it up brought a good six or seven out of I don't know where, all of them daredevils for that sugar water. They would at times have to face into the wind and fly at full speed to stay alongside the feeder, and many a time I saw one's feathers get blown backwards when the wind caught them wrong, but they stayed the course of the storm and were right there when I filled and re-hung the other two.
It's amasing what junkies will do for their fix.
So all told we got off very light. The biggest branches that fell were wrist-thick, which is astounding in light of the numerous trees that were uprooted entirely, telephone poles that were snapped off, cable and power lines that were torn down from wind and trees falling on them, billboards that were blown to pieces, and halves of trees that succumbed to the wind, all within a ten-minute drive of our neighborhood.
Me, I attribute it to clean living.
* For more information on the pun of the title, please click here for a nice write-up on the painting by Max Ernst entitled "Europe After The Rain," and right over there for a good (if small) view of the last painting in the series.
Sep 23, 2005
The first is the one we're going to focus on here today.
And if you're wondering, I didn't post this morning because I was sleeping in, like a big fat lazy slob, who I heard on my radio this morning not once but twice. So why can't I escape the sound of Fat Fuck?
Anyway. Back on subject.
Lovely Rita is headed this way. More or less this way--the current storm tracks show her moving well westward of us, but that puts us
- On the eastern wall of the eye, where you get the 'whip' of storms and
- Directly in her path if she decides to turn eastwards.
And storms never track the way the forecasters (I hate you Jim Cantore) say they are, though JC seems to have a knack for drawing storms right toward him, and he's way out west in TX, so maybe we'll be safe. Daft bugger better not set foot past Toledo Bend. Hurricanes move erratically even on land, so I know that I can't trust it to stay OVER THERE.
I distrust Rita for a couple of reasons, actually. Vis--
- She's got a girl's name
- It's the same name as my truck, whom I also don't particularly trust
- I once dated a girl in college named Rita, and she made my life miserable.
There, three good reasons. And now the fourth is headed toward me, bearing a girl who I used to date in college AND my truck's name. I swear, this one is going to get me, I can just feel it in my long bones.
So, the house is battened down. I've walked around it outside several times, making sure that anything that can blow down or into a window or a vehicle is secured somewhere, including the swing, and I've even covered up my rather expensive equipment out in my shop, because they're forecasting upwards of 20" of rain for us in the next few days, and I don't want to walk out there Monday afternoon to find everything soaking wet.
I'd also like to be able to walk out there and find everything intact and where I left it, rather than spread across several acres of my back yard, but that's another story entirely.
We've got plenty of potable water as well as 'grey' water for flushing toilets and bathing. We've even got the tub filled, in case, oh, I don't know, someone decides they really need a bath real quick. We've got more candles than a cathedral at Christmas, and we even have a fluorescent lantern to go with the floating flashlight. There's plenty of canned food in the house, and the wife went on a spree and stocked us up further this morning. We now have enough canned Ravoli, Spaghetti-Os and granola bars to last us straight through either an invasion of the living dead or the aftermath of a particularly bad hurricane. We also have a manual can opener as well as a box of matches and about a thousand lighters, for you nay-sayers out there (sys) who were about to ask me that. We're ready to survive this thing, including the loss of water, electricity and/or cable for a few days.
See, this is the one certainty in the whole equation--the loss of power. Everything else in uncertain, including the path Rita might take and any tornadoes that she might spin off. Gasoline isn't even uncertain right now, as I've got about ten gallons out in the shop. The one certainy is this: Our local power grid goes down at the drop of a big pine cone, so I know we'll be without at some point, probably tonight, likely on through the next few days. This of course means that this will be my last post for a few days. Don't panic, though--I'll be thinking of you guys, and will likely be sitting here in front of a cold, dark monitor trembling my way through cathode ray withdrawal.
Listening to the storm rage.
Wishing I had electricity.
Wondering what sort of pain I could inflict on the power people for taking their time getting out here.
Gonna go watch the last two episodes of Lost: Season 1 before the DVD player has to be hoooked up to the gerbils.
Stay put, Jim Cantore. This is your only warning.
Sep 22, 2005
I really am. I'm quite good at taking all the puzzle pieces and turning them all right-side up, and finding all the edge bits, but after that it's...well, it's a mystery. I never could make it look like three kittens playing in an old tin bucket.
So I watch mysteries, and I read mysteries. Make sense? I didn't think so. I love Sherlock Holmes, have read the Canon several times through. I enjoy reading Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe almost as much as Holmes, and am busy working my way through all of his 70+ stories. I'm even hooked on Jonathan Gash's Lovejoy character, antiques and accent and all, and read them every chance I get. The thing is, I can never work out who done it.
I guess that's part of the attraction for me of mysteries. I'm not good at figuring them out, and don't understand the attraction of BEING ABLE to figure them out. If you figure out who killed the butler behind the wine rack with the iron pipe then the rest of the book is just the author telling you "Yes, you're right, try not to get too bored." I'd rather not know, and have it all unfold like an origami crane being taken apart by a surgeon.
So that's why Lost really has it's hooks in me. Yes, I know I'm a sheep, but it's, for the most part, really well-written, has a decent number of good actors, and it's a mixture of enough genres and subplots that I'm going to be figuring out the mysteries years and years after it's finally gone out of production. I can see The Prisoner in it, could almost expect to see The Green Dome poking up out of the trees. I can see Land of The Lost in it, but I don't think Holly or Will will be making an apperance, and if a sleestak shows up I'm going to stop watching it all together. I can even see a little bit of Fantasy Island in it, but Tattoo is right out.
The best thing about it? The writers know the value of the cliffhanger ending. There used to be a show in the late 70's, couldn't for the life of me tell you what it was called unless it was something painfully simple like "Cliffhanger," but it was three sub-shows, each with it's own genre, and each was done just like the very old 30's serial movies--simple production values, basic story, but each episode ended with you on the edge of your seat, and the announcer calmly explaining that you absolutely had to tune in next week to see if Cowboy Dan was going to surive the stampede, if Captain Fearsnaught was going to get his spaceship to pull out of it's death-dive into the planet ExplodeO, and if...well, I forgot what the third one was based on, but you get the picture.
Lost has that, in spades. There's enough of an image of a carrot that might be there possibly dangling in front of my face (possibly held by Rousseau) that it makes me utterly crave carrot cake. And I know that NOT KNOWING is the best sauce, that the mystery is the best part of the story, not the learning about it, and that carefully revealing parts of something is far more enticing than revealing the whole thing at one go, but I still can't help but follow that imaginary carrot. I'm hooked, and so I'll have to trudge along, wondering just what the hell is going on until the show decides to give me a morsel.
And I can't and won't figure it all out until they show me the whole chimera, because that's the fun of it all.
Sep 21, 2005
the Susaphone player is king.
Or so I'm told.
Sometimes the coolest things can be found when you're least expecting them. I was sitting here wondering where exactly I was going to go with that opening when I happened to glance out at the parking lot and saw something small and dark moving out in the gravel. The funny thing is, even at a good thirty feet away I knew it was a praying mantis before I could see it clearly; simply by the herky-jerky way it was moving across the lunar landscape that is our parking lot. This one, unlike the pale green ones I'm used to seeing was a beautiful earthen colour, all tan and ochre and sienna patterns across legs and back and wingcase.
And yes, I've utterly forgotten where I was going with this post. Honest, it had nothing to do with susaphones nor oboes. I think I was going to say something about future shock, ala Aldous Huxley and why I still cling tenaciously to my fountain pen and my old truck, but the mantis seems to have summed it up pretty darn well for me: simple is good, and fulfilling.
Rita is due to make landfall Saturday 2am. This time her path, interestingly enough, is straight toward Texas. Mas peculiar, hombre. Ordinarily, hurricanes entering the Gulf tend to turn northwards and hit around MS or so, but this time the arc is wayyyy to the West, and seems ready to pulverise Galveston. Which puts us, poor water-starved (19" below seasonal norms) LA square on the eastern wall of the storm. The side that gets all the grief.
I know, I shouldn't be flip, especially in light of Katrina and all that she revealed, but right now I'd sell my left little toe for some rainfall. Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING that was once green and growing out here is now brown and dying, and despite my best efforts with the Rain Train and miles of hose pipe I simply cannot keep the green stuff growing. This depresses me muchly.
Off subject, I think I'm going to have to switch blogging times to the pee-em, rather than the aye-em time slot. See, I used to be a sadist, making myself get up at 5:30 to get ready for the day, and that usually left me a space of about 40 minutes to blog. You guys recall those days, the long, rambling, seeming incoherent posts, the really interminable ones that made you want to tear your eyes out in frustration. Well, as you might have noticed those have been curtailed just a little bit.
See, I've started waking up at 6 instead, preferring that extra half hour to sleep, and my blogging has suffered because of that. Mea maxima culpa. But you see, this blogging thing is also therapy for me (and no, I'm not going to start paying you guys $115 an hour to listen to me for 45 minutes, either.) I rather need this time to sit and write, to blow off whatever steam might have accumulated, and to sharpen my wit, which is partial to dulling rather fast. It's amasing how fast one tin can (RMB) can dull the sharp blade of a mind. It's like some kind of mental disease--it sneaks up on you unbeknownst, and before you realise it you're slumping around the office talking like an extra from a B movie western and you're seriously considering marrying your cousin because she has most of her teeth and childbearing hips, plus one running vehicle.
So I need to get my arse in gear and start writing at night. But we've got the Season 1 set of Lost, and THAT damned thing is keeping me wound tight and in front of the tube at night. I love/hate mysteries, and they spring about three an episode on me.
Sep 20, 2005
Sep 19, 2005
I was thinking this morning about being scared. Genuinely, deeply terrified. There's something about being scared, especially your first Real Scare that stays with you, marks you just as certainly as losing your virginity or your first true brush with death.
I remember my first real scare from the movies, it was actually on tv, a detective series, I believe, called McMillian. A cowboy cop sort of thing, for some reason it got into horror or perhaps it was just the episode, but at one point McMillian walked into a funeral home's presentation room and a disembodied hand came crawling down between the pews toward him. I had nightmares of body parts killing me for years afterwards, and was terrified of the narrow dark space under the couch, and under my bed, because I knew that hand was down there, ready to drag me under.
I remember being terrified of the Triffids, living plants in the movie by the same name. The idea of people being trapped inside their house while vines outside tried desperately to break in to strangle them and, I believe, drink their blood marked me very, very deeply. I never got so afraid that I couldn't walk outside, but I always gave vines a wide berth. I think it was the idea of losing control, of being utterly helpless in the hands (vines?) of an implaccable force that most terrified me.
The one that most got me, though, was from an abysmal B-movie called Sssssss. I believe it was a made for tv movie, wherein a guy gets accidentally injected by some sort of mad-scientist stuff which turns him into a king cobra. Highest quality film-making, gripping writing, and a storyline that will live in the annals of film classics forerver, I'm sure.
The thing that got me was one of the effects--our hero has been injected, wakes up one morning, stares into the bathroom mirror and notices a little flake of skin hanging off his face. He picks at it and ends up slowly and incredulously pulling off most of his face, or so I recall. He was shedding, you see. Like a snake. A thin, pasty, poor actor snake.
Now, the same effect can be had by covering any part of yourself in a very thin layer of kid's white glue. I know this NOW. Rub it on your fingertip very thin, let dry, then peel one edge up. If you're careful you'll get one piece of tissue-paper thin translucent 'skin.' I'm sure the sfx guys at "Sssssss" knew this and probably covered Dirk Bennedict's face in Elmer's, but the idea of pulling one's skin off freaked out the child that was me.
The other thing was when he was half-way through his transformation, and someone bursts in on him, likely his lady-love, the daughter of the Mad Scientist. His arms have grown to his body (trapped no doubt in his pale green king cobra bodysuit) and he's sort of lost his hair and got fangs, I think. Anyway, she bursts in, and he sort of rears up a little bit off this table, so she and all the viewing audience can see him, and he...wait for it...*gasp choke*...hisses. I recall freaking out again. I'm not sure what got me going so bad on that point, perhaps the idea that one's arms could simply grow into your body if you weren't careful to keep them away from your sides when you slept, but it sure scared the pee out of me.
Now, dozens of years later, horror movies rarely hold anything but a mild discomfort for me, and that discomfort is over how very horrible the movie is. I'm either overloaded or jaded or film-making is simply terrible these days, but horror seems to have lost almost all it's sting. The last thing that really creeped me out was watching the little girl in the uncut version of The Exorcist come down the stairs like some kind of crab. That gave me the willies, but even then it was no scream-out-loud moment. I haven't had one in a very long time now.
I wonder, however, what movie is going to sneak by my daughter, or already has, and marked her deep down. I've tried to keep her from anything very bad, but I know that's just going to make The Moment worse, since she won't be ready for it. Or has she already seen Her Moment, with friends or with her uncle and his kids? And how genuinely horrible a film moment was it, exactly?
Tell me about your first Real Scare. Like Vincent Price I'm sure once said, "I'm dying to know."
And just as a brief aside: if you've never been there, pay a visit to Post Secret. The idea is not completely original in the day and age of the internet, but it's still well worth seeing, and I can guarantee it will move you in some way shape or form. People are a never-ending wealth of surprises. Hell, it may even scare you.
Sep 17, 2005
I spent the morning surfing blogs, and found almost no updates. Seems people simply don't update their blogs on weekends, finding other, more important things to do than entertain us, the readers. So, I'm updating, as I try to do at least 400 times a year.
Let's talk about hummers, and I don't mean the big-ass trucks, either. Nature, by and large, is a mean old bitty. Ever watch hummingbirds? Tiny creatures, their feet are so small I'm surprised they can hang on to anything. Their wings beat so fast that when they soar by you it sounds like a huge angry honeybee, and their beaks are designed to reach deep into flowers and pluck your eye clean out of your skull, or something like that.
Don't get me wrong, I think they're beautiful, but have you ever really watched hummingbirds at a feeder? I have. I've got two feeders hung outside my back patio, and one at the front porch, and I have to fill them between two and three times a DAY. Bloody freeloaders, they really nark me. The feeders STAY busy, worse than a Starbucks Monday morning at 8, and the battles that take place are as fierce as any you could imagine in the animal kingdom, even though they're taking place on a scale much smaller than most. Males jousting with each other, jealously guarding feeders from wind-chime perches and females just trying to get a sip, while other females desperately crowd them out, jockeying for position at one of the four painfully fake plastic flowers on the base of the feeder.
What makes it worse is that there's a big, old white crepe myrtle tree just to the side of the patio which has enough small branches that even hummingbird feet can find safe purchase. They all retreat there when I step outside to refill empty feeders, and all I can hear is that angry, high-pitched chirping and the clench of tiny claws on branches from beasties eager to return to the sugar-fueled fray. Many is the time I've had to swat at glucose-junkie males who buzz my head, threatening to poke my eyes out if I don't get a move on the filling process, and many are the ear-piercing shrieks if I dally at my task.
Fall is coming on close, too. Not only are the monarch butterflies and the hummers moving south for the winter (like we ever really get Winter here) the pine trees are shedding needles everywhere, and the first spider lily of the year has poked it's scarlet head out of the ground and taken flower. I'm not sure what drove this diehard on, but it's well in advance of it's brethren, by a long shot. Usually I see dozens and dozens of pale green stalks and the next morning all is red waving tendrils, but no, this one had to be out front. If you look carefully at the bottom right of it's stalk you can see about five more of it's early-rising kindred.
I've always loved spider lilies, even from when I was a little boy. I can remember every September, when the yard would be filled with them, and I'd be out there, armed with a pair of scissors, cropping down one or two to be carefully wrapped in a damp paper towel, and that wrapped in foil, to bring red cheer to whichever teacher that year was my mother-surrogate.
Fall is well on it's way. The rainfall certainly isn't, I've got huge dead patches in the yard and I think the state is 18" below it's usual rainfall totals, so it's been a bit not-damp. My water bill is no doubt going to go straight through the roof in my desperate attempt to save rosesbushes, lilies and grass, and I find myself desperately wishing the rain would come and save me some money.
The cotton fields are being cleaned even as we speak. Huge humpbacked John Deere pickers rove back and forth, up and down the rows, leaving sparse, dappled brown twigs behind, almost cleaned of their load of garments-to-be, and a second pass soon will leave them all but empty, ready to be disked back into the ground to serve as compost for the rye grass that will refresh the earth's load of nitrogen and feed cattle, which will turn grass into waste that replentishes the fields for more cotton.
I'm sure there's some deep symbological meaning there, but I'm too unfocused to pull it out right now.
Sep 16, 2005
I spend all week working toward Friday, 5pm. Now that I am on a regular work schedule (it's hard to live for the weekend when you have to work through it) it's easier for my body to start to expect the freedom of the weekend, so the rest of me follows suit and gets all excited the closer Friday comes. And since I'm basically a lazy sot, all the little odd jobs and chores and things I have to do all week get pushed to the weekend, so that when I arrive at Saturday morning the looming jobs look like a mountain, and I get to return to work Monday morning truthfully telling folks that I worked harder during the weekend than I EVER manage at my job.
I find that I really envy my mum-in-law's husband. He seems to have this boundless amount of energy, so that when he comes home from a long day at work plus a rather long commute he's still bursting with energy, goes out and does yard work, or installs a beautiful partial dropped ceiling with hidden lights in the master bedroom of their house, or does yard work the rest of the night. I don't see how in the hell he manages, because then, come the weekend, he's out there working like the Deevil hisself is on his arse.
Perhaps I need amphetamines.
Sep 15, 2005
As an added bonus, VW, Adrenaline Junkie, RN and I have an agreement in the office--we write whatver is on our minds, even if it involves each other. This ought to be good. Of course, I'm already handicapped on the butt-kicking contest because I, unlike my supervisors, don't have a way to connect to the internet from my workstation.
*shaking my fist at the sky* Damn you Corporate I.T.!
Adrenaline Junkie, RN writing at "Just DOO It."
You go, boy!
Okay, so I posted this via email from work two days ago, and it got returned undeliverable today. Apparently our network, already messed up and such was having such a personality crisis that it was reading my email, too.
Here's the email/post as originally intended:
So the system has been balistically messed up all day here at work. There's a medical term for this peculiar sort of computer behaviour: "Firnked."
For several days now we've been fighting our workstation's failures to log onto the network, very slow connections when we DO get logged on, and apparently nonsensical and sudden requests for network passwords where a password should not be required, and isn't accepted anyway. This morning we had the same sort of problems, only in spades. To make matters worse, this afternoon the server has started opening programs that we tried vainly to open days ago. Talk about hang time. Taking it one more very annoying step further, the network has decided to start opening programs on various machines that no-one has tried to access; it simply decided to open staples.com on a random workstation this afternoon. Enjoyably it was on RMB's machine, and interrupted whatever she was doing.
More enjoyably, the Clinical Manager's workstation decided to go face-up earlier in the day, so the CM hsa been prowling the office growling to herself, looking for a computer to steal away from an unwary user. Fortunately for me I only leave my chair at 5:00 pm exactly, which precludes me losing my vaulable (if already unstable and rather feeble) network connection.
And of course I can't have anyone seeing how I've changed all my desktop icons to pictures of imfamous serial killers, or how I've renamed all the shortcuts the same thing: Firnk.
Whoops--the boss is about, with a psych nurse looking for a job. Time for me to put on my Normal Face.
Ever notice that chunk of wetware you have between your ears? Have you ever stood still long enough to watch it in action? The science fiction writers love to spin yarns of machines that whisk us here and there across time and space, our boots ever ready to crush the butterfly that is going to change the entire universe, but how many of them focus on this lump of squishy stuff underneath our hair?
If you're like me, your mind is always moving, always planning, always plotting, and always traveling forward and backward in time. You've got appointments to keep, time to wile away until lunch, places to be and go, and supper to plan. And sometimes in those quiet moments you're suddenly back in first grade working your way through your Dick And Jane primer, or you're standing in front of the climbing rope in gym class, or you're rehashing that fight you had with your Significant Other that morning. You're never at rest, at the present. That's the way we're set up from the get-go, or so it would seem to people who can't even build a computer network that stays operating 24/7.
And that's where Zen comes in. Bet you didn't think I was going to get all spiritual on you, did you?
Zen teaches us that to find Enlightenment, true happiness, we need to live in the now. It's that simple, and like most good things, simple does not mean easy. Zen resides in the tiny pause between your breath coming in and your breath going out. It lies in the space between heartbeats. It happens all the time, is all around us, and all we have to do is realise those moments.
Try it, won't you? Try living in the right now, just for a few moments. Chances are very good that your mind quickly goes racing away like a pet dog who has just slipped it's leash in the park. That's the trouble with minds; their lack of dicipline. And let me tell you, for not having any muscle tissue at all the mind is the hardest damned thing you will ever try to work out.
I hadn't meant to get all Eastern Philosophy on you guys this morning, but it was where my mind was headed. I was thinking about thinking, about how easily our minds can take us where and when we want to go. We see it every day, from the guy in the next cubicle who is already living his vacation that doesn't start until next week to the lady who styles your hair for you who is 17 again and regretting turning down that nice boy across the street for her first prom dance, the one who drives a BMW now. And we live it every day, without even being aware of it.
And none of this gets me any closer to having breakfast, so I go forth into the desert like a wild ass, to make my brekkie.
Have a good now.
Sep 14, 2005
No, actually I don't think that, but it's nice to say, and probably makes the DVD people feel better about themselves.
I think that one of the nicer inventions to date has to be the DVD boxed set. That's more accurate. See, I've lately been introduced to two shows that I missed when they debuted on the tele, since I have DirecTv and don't bother with network or local stuff. One has already come and got canceled, and the other is, to my knowledge, still moving onward, which is going to distress me mightily.
Firefly I've already talked about earlier. An unlikely plot: cowboys in space. A suberb writer/director: Joss Whedon. A marvelously well-done sci-fi show that takes a few steps away from the tried and true, has nothing to do with Star Trek and their pastel-coloured universe (even tho I loved Star Trek too) and is very engaging. The DVD boxed set for Firefly is distressingly small, since the network yanked the plug on Firefly after I think 15 episodes, but it lives on in the DVDs and in the upcoming movie "Serenity."
The other set, the one that put it's hooks in me as of last night, is Lost. Yah, I hear you jeering. I hear the "I told you so's" too. I just now got around to it, okay? *lol*
I try to be a skeptic, I really do. I try to steer away from the popular crowd, try to avoid that which is the fad of the moment. Lost seems to be those things and more. I watched the pilot episode last night, and I think the next two episodes, one disk full, and am utterly dragged into it. I care that there's a criminal on the island, that there's probably dinosaurs or something equally foolish there, and that the arsehole character shot a polar bear on a tropical island. I'm freaked out that there's a recording of a French woman begging for help that's been broadcast for the last 16 years and 5 months, and I'm still wondering how all these very pale white people on a beach aren't wearing third-degree burns yet, but I'm still sucked in, hook line and sinker.
And I really want to know who the jackass in the white tennis shoes and dark suit is and why Mr. Locke can suddenly walk. And what old girl did to be wanted by the law.
As an honorable mention: Millennium. I know, Chris Carter had to end the show rather poorly, and Lance Henrikson is not the most photogenic person in the world, but damn...what a show. And like Dune the book, at first it failed to engage me at all, then I returned to it years later, where it found such a welcome that I devoured the entire saga at one go. Both, that is. Herbert's books and Carter's show. Go figure.
So thank you, DVD boxed sets, for making things live beyond their original span of seaons. And damn you for being so freaking expensive.
Sep 13, 2005
Without generalising to the rest of the world, what is it about stress that makes me creative? See, I'm trying not to make that a broad, sweeping, include-everyone sort of thing, because I know that not everyone is like that, but I know of more than a few very creative people who seem to be driven mainly by stressors in their lives. So what gives?
In my college days it seemed I could not retain knowledge unless it was the night before a big test, and I HAD to get it done. When I had presentations to make, speeches or things given in front of the class, my best prepwork seemed to come the night before, in an upheaval of adrenaline and depression at myself for not doing it sooner.
My painting is what I was most thinking of, though. I can clearly recall the dark, painful depressions of my college days, times when I thought that the end would never come, that the only thing I could do was to just keep trudging forward, hoping for any ending. Everything in my life seemed to be in upheaval, and with the twin spectres of Real Life and Get A Real Job facing me I thought that I might be torn apart. My paintings at that time were non-stop, coming one after the other, and many of those canvases from that time are still my favourites. None of them are still here, I've long since given them away or sold them for a few pennies, but those canvases bore the brunt of my anger, my fear, my depressions.
I can still clearly see myself standing in front of their huge blank white surfaces, literally attacking them with paint and brushes, yelling at them (and myself) until I was exhausted, and the painting was complete, a slice of my nightmare given form. Some, myself included, would say that it was a form of dementia, a temporary madness taken hold. Some, myself included, would liken it to a state of religious fervor, speaking in tongues and handling snakes style of thing. Some, again, myself included, would see it as a sort of pyschological transferance, giving physical form to emotional states and 'leaving' them on an exterior surface, to empty my mind of them.
I find (thankfully) that I cannot do that anymore. The rare times I get to sit in front of a canvas these days I do so with focus, careful brushstrokes and a final goal in mind, a set plan to guide me through the process. Granted it's still a very loose plan, and plans are made to be changed; it's still a very dynamic process, but I no longer feel the need to make canvases large enough that they can withstand a physical onslaught. I feel that I've lost something there, but I'm glad it's gone. It was a dark and somber time.
So now that I've drifted off subject a bit, or at least drifted off the original intent I had for this post (sounds like status quo for me) tell me something about you--do you find that stress induces creative states, or does your creativity fountain from some other source?
There'll be a test this Friday on the subject matter covered.
Sep 12, 2005
At what point in my life did it suddenly become a good thing to be given clothes as presents? I've noticed that at least the past three or four years (about as long as my long-term memory is good for these days) I've been pleased as Punch to get clothes for Xmas, birthdays, Father's Day, whatever the occasion. Work pants and polo shirts, boxers, socks, it doesn't matter, clothes at some point became the gift of choice.
So why wasn't I warned? Why didn't someone tell me "Hey dude, you best enjoy getting toys and games, because one day you'll get tired of stuff like that and start being happy over ties and shoes." Although I would think that it would take a few years for me to actually believe something like that, at which time I'd already be past the mark, having missed it's arrival.
What I'm curious about is this: was it a gradual thing, or was it all at once? Was I struck in the head one May afternoon, only to find that getting a pack of socks was suddenly the coolest thing in the world, and that I didn't miss getting the Imperial Battle Cruiser Playset that was on my list? Or was it instead a gradual thing, one year's T-shirts were suddenly not so bad, and the next year's sweater a welcome addition to the closet?
I think one of the main mitigating factors was the day I finally had to start working for a living and buying my own clothes, which strangely enough coincides with the day I became a careful shopper. I had never realised that all these things I had to date had been bought somewhere, usually at exorbitant markups, and when it fell to me to purchase three pairs of black chinos for my job it struck me like a vat of dye that those things don't come cheap. That must have been a major turning point, being hit in the wallet like that. That was the day that it became cool to wear sneakers until the sole was hanging on by threads, and jeans didn't really become worth wearing in public until the knees were torn to shreds and the material was about as thick as a good handkerchief. That was the moment in my life when I could look a gift box of button-down shirts right in the eye and say "Cool! Earth tones, my favourite!"
I know that this means that one day I might grow up.
Sep 10, 2005
Honda, in all it's infinite wisdom and careful development, has produced a motorcycle equipped with an airbag. Thus far it's only on their top-line Goldwing touring bike, which in itself just a few years ago was radically restyled and given new lif. Now they've gone another step forward and made it that much safer.
How cool is that?
I watch the motorcycle industry as best I can, and I'm not one of those disturbed types who is sneaking around Honda's manufacturing plants with a camera hoping to steal a snapshot of the newest prototype, but I do enjoy keeping up wtih what the industry is doing and where it's going. Taking the short view, the past twenty or so years seem to have been endless models that are bare improvements over the old ones, and come colour changes and different plastic body pieces, but then again, the last few years have produced some astonishing changes and some leaps forward that have left me breathless and excited for more of the same.
I often tell people that Honda's motorcycle division is much like all of Honda--they don't pick up a pencil without having a long-term goal in mind for that pencil. A new model from Honda is already old news to them, because they're already working 10 years down the road, and this newest release is already old hat. I can say mostly the same for the other two of the three Japanese Giants, but Honda has it sewed up. I like the thought that no matter when I walk out there and stick the key in my bike it will start and run, every time. Always. Stone-cold reliability. I love that. No tricks, no futzing with bits and pieces, just a machine that works right, every time.
And advanced. My heavens the advancements. I mean, an airbag on a motorcycle to lessen frontal-impact injuries. When I was selling bikes I was astounded to find out that those tiny chrome rails along the bottom of the back saddlebag and around the cylinder head were there to protect against slow-speed falls. The bike will literally lie on these chrome supports at about a 45 degree angle without falling on it's side and destroying all that expensive bodywork. Turn your back to it, grab the handlebar and the convience grabrails and straighten your legs, voila it's back on it's wheels again, easy as pie. Such things as anti-lock brakes have been standard on a number of their machines for quite a while now, to boot.
My own '02 Interceptor has a tricky feature that it shares with a number of Honda's cars--Variable Valve Technology (VTEC.) At engine RPM's below 7000 (6400 on the '06 models) the four cylinders operate on two valves per cylinder; one intake and one exhaust. At anything over 7K, when you really want to scream, oil pressure opens a second set of intake and exhaust valves, and suddenly that fuel-efficient quiet purr between your knees turns into a roar and the bike goes tearing off like it wants to pull your arms out of socket and point it's front wheel at the sky. Fuel efficiency when puttering around town, and full of fire and brimstone when you grab a handfull of throttle. Once you get used to it it's a masterful tool to have handy.
I could go on all day about it, but the long and short of it is that I'm glad to be motorcycling right now. The engines are getting bigger and stronger and more efficient every day, the styling has here of late taken the exotic out of the prototype labs and the moto shows and put it in the showroom, and they're still cheap, both to initially afford and to maintain.
What a grand time to be alive and on two wheels.
Sep 9, 2005
Did I mention she's more vocal than a room full of drag queens?
Blogging with pets should be an Olympic sport. You've got to make a coherent, entertaining entry while dealing with at least one family pet who insists on obtaining love, attention, or a morning feeding. I'd be on the podium at least.
I had planned on writing about kids this morning, and how they seem to take a different path from the one that you have tried fruitlessly to put them on. I was thinking this morning how my last ten years have been spent trying to help my daughter to grow up bright and strong and not like her papa, and she still insists on being like me. Curses! What is it about children that resists your attempts to direct them in a different way? Don't get me wrong, she's not nearly as shy as I was when I was her age, and she's less demented than I was, so at least some of the gentle pushing and shaping and prodding has worked, but her genetics are holding strong and fighting the good fight to make her grow up more and more like me every day.
So is this how all parents feel? I know there's a jillion and one books out there to tell you how things are going to proceed when you're pregnant, and tons of information about your child and you for the first year, covering such topics as diapers and motor development and producing a breast out of public sight, but once they get past the cute and cuddly stage and start becoming children the information seems to dry up a little bit until they get to the "Dad, can you come bail me out?" stage, at which point I gather it's a little too late.
Yesterday morning she asked me, all innocent-eyed, if I knew about a game called "D and D."
I had to go have a lie-down with a cold cloth on my forehead.
Sep 8, 2005
What they ought to do is collect all the floaters in New Orleans right now, grind them up really fine, and feed them to the idiots who don't want to leave, who prefer to squat in poisonous filth and receeding oil-slicked waters. That way you can save all those MREs and water for the people who were smart enough to GET OUT while the getting was good.
But I'm not going to harp on those morons. There's already been reported deaths of people who have been bright enough to drink the flood water, people who have died of various water-borne bacteria, chemicals, and diseases. It's all just chlorine in the gene pool to me.
I've spent the past days trying desperately to ignore the fact that the Audubon Zoo is down there, smack in the middle of the flood. I've tried to block from my mind the thought that all those animals, most rare, a fair number endangered, were going to be lost.
I was wrong.
It seems that two things had escaped my notice--1) 12 zookeepers stayed throughout the entire process to make sure the animals were safe and protected, and were completely prepared, in that they had supplies for themselves and the animals, and 2) the Audubon Zoo was designed to withstand and survive just this sort of emergency, unlike, oh, the city itself.
This brings up several interesting points--
A) No, I don't care about people dying and being trapped down there. They had a choice, they took it. Nobody had them in cages that they couldn't get out of.
B) I applaud the staff of the Zoo for having the foresight to prepare for just such an emergency, and surviving it admirably, with absolute minimum loss of animal life.
C) Why didn't the city take the Zoo as an example? Things would have been a damned sight better right now, wouldn't they?
And a big boo and hiss to the Red Cross. I caught a commercial of theirs on TLC last night during Miami Ink, wherein they show still B&W shots of the damage and the floodwaters. Included is a by-now very publicised photo of the Circle Foods Grocery Store. The Red Cross thoughtfully PhotoShopped out the looters who were in the unedited photo, stealing cigarettes and whiskey. Nice spin, guys.
I'll stop now, I'm certain I've alienated a few of you and pissed the majority off. My only apology is that I'm tired of stupid people.
Sep 7, 2005
I know I harped on this a while back. I think the last time we discussed doctors it was because my back had broken and I was trying to get some relief, and ended up sitting in a waiting room for several days and then ended up stuffed into a noisy white toilet-paper tube wearing only a sheet.
So what is it with hospitals and doctors? Trying to find a parking place in a hospital's separate parking wing is tantamount to skydiving while filing out your tax forms--a lot of hair-pulling and screaming, and the sure and certain knowledge that you're going to get screwed no matter what. And perhaps I'm just too much of a country person, but the idea of a dark, near-subterranian building (nothing in LA is truly subterranian except New Orleans, and it's subaquatic) that's full of empty cars and strange stinks and weird echoes is, to me, just plain creepy.
Then again, I find Julia Roberts to be profoundly creepy too, so don't use me as a measuring stick.
Hospital. Now there's a word to strike fear into someone. The first thing that comes to mind when I think of "hospital" is miles and miles of strange smelling corridors that don't seem to lead anywhere in particular. Our local biggen recently installed about three thousand of these massive plasma display televisions, the one inch thick twenty-seven thousand dollar jobbies. All they do is hang in every hallway with brightly coloured non-interactive maps displayed on their flat faces, the sole intent of said maps being misdirecting you, and they hang in every waiting room to further bombard you with advertisements and important health information concerning bits of you that you'd likely rather not know about. I have an idea--why not use PEOPLE at desks who can tell you how to get where, or perhaps even cheaper, big paper maps of the place. As for the icky diseases thing, I'd just as soon rather not know what might happen to me if my prostate explodes.
And of course the offices move every several days, reorienting themselves to some sort of astronomical/medical master plan. Where your doctor's office used to be is now something called the "Geromicrobiologynospandexological Office" and it's occupied by that same little blue-haired lady that you find in every doctor's office in the world, the one with the strange whistling noise coming from her nose, and a nurse who refuses to open the sliding glass partition between you and medical help. Your own doctor's office has moved across the street into a small pink house, but the sign isn't up yet so you have to walk up and down the block limping obviously, until the nurse leaps out of the door and drags you inside to frisk you for your insurance card.
And of course long gone are the days when you and your doctor would discuss your problems across his acre-long desk, while smoking cigarettes and drinking tall glasses of very expensive sipping whiskey. No more are the times when you could stare at the incomprehensible signatures on a thousand and one diplomas, certificates, and Lion's Club memberships, wondering just exactly when your doctor became an ASA Certified Auto Mechanic and how you might wangle an oil change out of him while you're here. Back in the day an exam took place in an office with everyone's clothes fully on, the doctor somehow gleaning information out of the phlogiston itself, using only his super-sensitive whiskers to pick up vital information about you, his patient.
No, today's doctor is all about clinical things; gleaming chrome and glass instruments designed to render the maximum amount of discomfort and teeth-clenching and the exam rooms are all wired to hidden cameras and DAT recorders for the medical kink pornographers that work out of the back office. You sit there in chill emptiness listening to the doc making his speedy way down exam room after exam room, his voice echoing nonsense down the corridor because naturally he harks from some distant land, and when he bursts into your room you know you have about fifteen seconds to make him understand all your symptoms, whereupon he will prescribe some non-FDA approved cure that's produced only in his homeland, where medicine is still made from grinding up grubs and bark.
The funny thing is that somehow that grubs-and-bark poultice he's asking you to rub on your abdomen still works better than the tiny yellow pills your previous doctor wrote a script for, which cost you about a thousand dollars a piece, caused extensive cirrosis of your liver, made your kidneys turn mauve, produced massive tufts of wiry ear hair to start growing down to your shoulders, and whose production was solely responsible for the destruction of a native rainforest and three tribes of heretofore unknown indigeneous peoples living within.
Here's to your health.
Sep 6, 2005
I've never been one on self-help books. I'd more often than not try and figure it out myself. Either that or ask someone who has been there, preferably many times, and get the word direct from the source, as tailored for my ears. I've always found the self-help and the 'I got here you can too' style of thing to be vaguely patronising and more often than not geared down to pap to fit the largest number of wallets. Frankly, it offends me.
So more often than not I stumble along, trying new things, trying old things, and in general making a nuisance of myself. I even bleat in anger once in a while, just to keep you guys on your toes. Right now I think I'm going to take a page from this grand ole thing called Life, and see if I can't apply it here. Perhaps it'll help. And if not me, then maybe you. And if not you, then maybe I'm spinning my wheels but at least they're turning. *S*
Yesterday being a fairly big holiday, we went to the wife's grandfather's place on the outskirts of a very small town up in north LA. Tons of tremendous food, plenty of people to mix with, and most importantly to my lesson here, plenty of open space to fire hundreds and hundreds of rounds of ammunition. So, we brought "guns. Lots of guns." Thank you Neo.
I did the usual, 25 yard slow firing at targets with my pistol, and a little freehand distance firing at a tree with my father's old .30 caliber carbine. The rest of the family, whose home this is, came out and brought the shotguns and the clay pigeon launcher, and school was in session. Grandpa J. and Uncle P. are marksmen, in the purest sense of the word. I watched in astonishment and frank wonder as these two match-grade shooters dominated us and tried to outdo each other, pigeon after pigeon.
After the day was over and I was sitting around engaged in the ritual of cleaning weapons I thought a great deal about what I saw, trying to get my head around the idea of these two men and their seemingly effortless efficiency. I was saved from the depths of maudlin despair by the mum-in-law's call, whereup information was brought to light--the two marksmen had had previous training. Uncle P. had been firing weapons almost daily since he was tall enough to stand upright, and Grandpa J. had spent literally years and years firing 50-100 shotgun shells at pigeons A DAY. Seems a large budget for pigeons and ammo and years of effort goes a long way toward making it look easy.
And after all that I thought about my young brother-in-law, H., who went out there with his first real weapon, a .410 gauge shotgun, and gamely fired his way steadily through 50 rounds. I didn't keep count, but he was hitting at least 50% of his pigeons, more towards the end of his afternoon, despite what had to be a sore shoulder and near heat-prostration. Made me quite proud of him, being such a trooper out there, in the face of all these adults who were knocking them out of the sky as though the clays were standing still. And I thought about my own lack-luster performance with the shotgun, hitting 4 of 10 or thereabouts. And I was very proud of H., seeing as he had fired his shotgun twice before, and I was even a little proud of me, seeing as I hadn't picked up a shotgun in three decades.
Sometimes it's hard for me to remember that there are painfully few born naturals, and that you've got to put in many grueling hours of mediocrity to get to that state of effortless action. Important lesson learned.
And when it comes to the internet all that goes out the window and it's up to the vagarities of human nature.
Sep 5, 2005
The joy of this being that finally I have a job that appreciates the fact that Labour Day means that your labourers are OFF work, an idea that is anathema to anyone in the retail industry. I have worked the last twenty or so Labour Days, so it's nice to be off today, a refreshing three-day weekend in which I can shuffle off the daily responsibilities and take it easy.
So this morning I was weeding the driveway rose bed at 6:30 in the morning. Taking advantage, you see, of the 62 degree weather. Which is not destined to last, seeing as here, two hours later, it's already up to 70, and today's high temp promises to be in the low 90's again.
I had planned on taking a break from THIS labour, too. It's not so much a physical labour as a labour of love and time, but it IS labour, and today IS Labour Day, so perhaps I had better shove off.
Roight, I'm out of here!
Sep 4, 2005
That's my thing, you see. Well, one of them. I have a lot of things. Too many, if you ask me, but that's neither here nor there. Flowerbeds. There's something magical about planting a little onion-shaped bulb and getting to watch it turn dirt and water and sun into a towering red gladiola, or sticking a bundle of roots and sticks into the ground and watching it turn into a bush full of brilliant yellow King Midas roses.
I got this love from my father, the man who could plant an axe handle in the ground and make it grow a hickory tree. That love he planted in me by his actions, by his careful work in the yard and his gardens and his roses, and like a bulb in the winter ground that same love of the earth lay in me dormant, waiting only for the right combination of circumstances for it to spring into growth. Which it did, with a fierceness only Nature could rival.
Winter seems to be approaching; stealthily, and not so much in a hurry, but approaching nonetheless. Last night it dipped below 70 degrees, and I thought for sure, upon seeing that fact this morning that I should have frozen to death in my bed, but no. And in light of this sudden cold snap I took it upon myself to go out and do a little gardening, since I am going to skip cutting the yard this weekend for fear of killing more of it.
It wasn't too hot outside by mid-morning, so I gathered up my few tools--a shovel, and clippers because I had a certain weed to remove from the beds, and my little hand-spade. When my mother and father first built this house they left plenty of room for flower beds, and they scattered red spider lily bulbs in places all throughout them. I can remember many a year as a little boy in school bringing my teachers big clusters of them, wrapped carefully in a wet paper towel, and that wrapped in cellophane or foil.
The thing with these lilies is that they get out of hand pretty fast. If they have a good year, a single bulb will produce a flower and greenery to build up energy for the next season as well as a second bulb, called a daughter. You see where this is going. If you have a few good years you get an exponential growth of bulbs--one, then two, then four, then eight, sixteen, thirty-two. And if you're in my mother's flowerbeds you do so well that the bulbs in the middle get so crowded that they start to pop up out of the ground from the pressures on all sides, and you have to force your little rootlets down past a dozen or so competing sisters of yours for nourishment.
And then along comes me with my shovel, intent on digging up a few bulbs to spread around the other beds. I know of two patches underneath my old bedroom window, patches that I return to year after year, carefully thinning them, leaving a few behind, well spread out so they can grow comfortably, and I take the extras to new beds here and there. This morning's first patch produced ten nice-sized bulbs, which I moved to a distant new bed. I returned to the second patch and realised that each preceeding year the first patch has always had enough to go around, and usually the summer heat has driven me mad so I never really get to the second patch to thin it.
With a little trepidation I cleared the cypress mulch away, and my gentle clawing at the mulch to move it unearthed two good-size bulbs. I knew this was going to be bad. I could just see dozens of tiny white stem ends pushing at the earth, so I took the spade, backed up away from the outermost bulb, and pressed it into the ground. I pushed gently down, then forward, and lifted one spadefull of earth, probably half a cubic foot, then started gently prodding and poking to make the earth fall away so I could winkle out a few bulbs. Well, that little patch produced a few daughters for me to transplant. Eighty-five, to be exact. I say 'eighty-five,' there was still a good dozen or more when I left in borderline terror; I ran out of room to put all the volunteers, so I'd be willing to say that this little one foot patch of earth was supporting a full hundred bulbs.
Yeah, I reacted the same way.
So I spent my morning wandering around in something of a stunned fuge, stopping here and there to put down bulbs and more bulbs. I filled my mother's new flowerbed with them, and put some under the tree, and I think I even ate a few on a hamburger, sliced real thin just to get rid of some of them, and I still have about 40.
Mom-in-law, you've got some planting to do. See you this afternoon.
So one year ago today I began blogging, and opened with that phrase. I knew I might well be embarking on a thing that might take me days to tire of, or might become an obsession the likes of which might rock the world to it's foundations.
I guess I hit somewhere in the low middle there. *lol*
I haven't rocked the world on it's foundations, but I haven't given up, either. Steadily slogging through the trenches and up the peaks of sharing the torments and joys of my spirit, crying out in the wilderness and all that purple prose. I've had a hell of a lot of fun, and have had some retrospective moments when I wonder just why the hell I'm still doing this. In the internet one year is a hell of a length of time. In the real world it's just one turn of the seasons, and not all that big of a deal, because more years will follow. I'm hoping it works out the same here.
Today I've seen one turn of my blog's season. When I started this little foray into online journaling summer was ending, fall was trying it's own beginnings, and here we are again, summer is giving up the ghost, slowly but surely, and the chill is preparing to be in the air. I can't wait. And frankly, I can't wait to see what comes next.
So, Happy Birthday To Irrelephant! 410 posts, an unknown number of pearls and swine tossed willy and nilly, and another Beginning.
Sep 3, 2005
This tells part of the story--CNN's digest of the events of the week. I'll tell the rest, from my point of view.
Our office is located on LA Hwy 1. It's a little-used road now, but it used to be a main highway running far South of us. The interstate came along and took all it's traffic, added two lanes to it's carrying ability, and turned it into sort of a two-lane scenic ride, which is fine by me. Right up from us, less than a quarter of a mile, and situitated so it's visible from the interstate is the LA Welcome Center. It's the Tourism Bureau's rest stop, information center, what have you for the bustling metropolis that is our fair city. It's also a hurricane evacuation station, which means that it's built strong enough and has enough facility space to hold a few groups of people fleeing a storm, or enough to resupply families still en route north.
It was never meant to hold 6000 evacuees.
That's how many we were told yesterday that the Welcome Center was going to try and feed and water and give a rest break to. Five to six THOUSAND people who were refugees from New Orleans, headed in school and tour buses to the west, to Houston and Dallas and San Antonio, cities gracious enough to offer help when we need it most. Something like 10 tour buses full.
By eleven am we knew it was happening, because three trailers full of self-heating meals and pallets of water had started arriving, and a forklift was tearing around the place unloading as fast as he could, stacking the goods in the parking lot. By eleven thirty we got a call that a woman had fallen out, and the DOO and one of the RNs took off like a shot, only to find out that she was suffering from some sort of neurological disorder and not heat or stress-related problems. By that point I took the picture above. You can clearly see how small the Welcome Center is, and how many cars were already there, mostly Red Cross volunteers.
By 2 the stress levels were steady increasing, and to counteract it Vulgar Wizard, the DOO and myself were prompting each other whenever we spotted military convoys or repair trucks headed South. We'd all leap out onto the front porch and start waving madly, kids at their own personal parade. I don't know that I've ever been so proud of our military men and women. Truck after truck of them, thirty and fourty vehicles in each convoy, and at least five we saw that day. Fuel trucks, trucks loaded with generators, and deuce and a halfs, all headed southwards. I'm told that they plan on walking every street of every neighborhood, six abreast and armed. Lifetakers all of them, veterans returned from Iraq.
By three we closed the office, certain that the ever-encroaching traffic was going to block the driveway. The schools were out that day because the School Board donated our bus drivers and their vehicles to the relief effort, so the highway, both sides of it, was suddenly packed with cars parked nose to tail, volunteers. Seems the local tele station was doing a live remote, and would-be servers were headed our way, even though the building they were trying to pack into might have been designed to hold fifty people. There were three times that many cars when I finally bailed.
But not entirely. See, being an amateur photographer, I decided I'd see if I couldn't maybe get a good photo of the bus convoy turning off the interstate toward the food and water station. I parked my bike underneath the overpass in the shade, close enough that I could see it, and watched over by a pair of parish Roads And Bridges trucks, two guys each taking the opportunity to make sure that the overpass was safe for traffic. I climbed the embankment of the off ramp and took up position close enough to the road that I occasionally got sprayed with gravel from passing tires, and waited in the heat. And waited. And waited some more.
They say the nature photographers that work for National Geographic will wait in the same place for weeks, waiting for just the right photo. I'm told they'll endure bugs, heat, cold, rain, whatever it takes. They've nothing to worry about from me--I lasted all of 40 minutes. My brain pan was cooking, the beautiful writing spider beside me was getting pretty tired of me almost stepping on her web, and all I had seen was a steady progression of northbound cars and trucks, a hawk who kept laughing at me, and some Acadian Ambulance supervisors, but that was it.
I gave in finally, tired and hot and disgusted. I got home to find out that the convoy had passed an outlying city three hours earlier and that there had been a wreck and the food and water so carefully stockpiled at the center had to be packed up and moved because the convoy was moving onwards, and that was that.
Looking back, we did see four tour buses heading northwards, lead by a state trooper. That might have been them, might not. A number of empty buses passed too, which we couldn't figure. In the end, I got a few pictures of the first of the volunteers, two pictures of Coast Guard C-130s, one pic of an Air Force C-130 on regular film, and got to verbally abuse a red-tailed hawk. And that was it.
So much for my career as a National Geographic photojournalist. And so much for our little piece of history. Ill-planned, poorly conceived history, but history nonetheless.
where it went, here's that much-ballyhooed picture of the Coast Guard C-130 Hercules transport aircraft, well, here it is. For some reason my ftp program refuses to see it as a jpeg, so I had to convert it to a gif and use Blogger's system. Hope it was worth it.
Sep 2, 2005
The good news is that they managed to rescue Fats Domino. At 77 years old he was living in the Lower 9th Ward, aka The Ghetto, and refused to leave. Don't get me started on THAT. New Orleans people seem to believe that they're invincible to natural disasters. Guess you know better now, eh?
If you like bikes and haven't followed the Motorcycle Daily link, do so--they've got new pictures of the 2006 Kawi Ninjas and the new Yamaha YZFs, as well as the Fazer. DAMN bikes are looking sweet these days. Seems the era of the big canister pipe is coming to a close, too.
I put the hummingbird feeders out last weekend, certain that I was too late for one, and sure that the hummers from last year and year before had long forgotten that food was to be had here, since no feeder has been out since 2003. Boy was I wrong. The two feeders, hanging on opposite corners of the patio have been bringing freeloaders non-stop. I constantly hear that high-pitched cheeping chatter they make, and cannot mistake that 'overloaded honeybee' sound they make when making their 7g turns in mid-air.
What most gets me is how violently they will attack each other. The males, that is. The females casually land on the little perches and drink to their heart's content and their tummy's fill while the red-throated males fight and bicker and crash into each other with such astounding violence that I cannot believe more of them don't simply die from the impact, much less the swashbuckling parry-and-thrust of those beaks. But they fight and bicker and battle and still they come back, and once in a great while one manages three free seconds to get a drink before he is knocked sprawling off his perch by another bully.
I've got them in stereo right now--I've got one feeder to my right, outside the big office window, and I've got two hanging to my left, outside on the patio, so I get a constant chittering and vrooming soundtrack as each feeder in turn takes on it's load of overworked, violent birds. Knowing these little blighters there's one male who is trying not only to guard the two patio feeders but also the front porch one, all at the same time, and he's zooming back and forth around the side of the house to patrol.
Sep 1, 2005
I am overloaded. It's too much to think about, too much to swallow in one go.
Louisiana State Police officers are going out fully armed and armoured, one each to a rescue boat in New Orleans, because the rescue operators are being shot at by the idiot fucktards who still remain. I know this first-hand from two officer's wives, whose husbands are down there right now risking their lives for others.
People are dying inside and outside of the Superdome and the Convention Center. The newscasters are reveling in showing a picture of an old woman dead in her wheelchair outside, covered in an old blanket. People are freaking out as to why others aren't dealing with it--'what are they going to do with her' I ask, 'bury her? Along with the thousands of dead who are floating around your lovely city right now?'
The people stranded in the Superdome and in the Convention Center are being slowly evacuated, but not as quickly as they could be, because complete fucking morons are shooting at ambulances, Coast Guard helicopters, rescue vehicles and workers, and hijacked and stolen buses are showing up at the Astrodome with other refugees. Be glad you've got somewhere dry to be.
My brother the pharmacist was called back to his job tonight for what will likely be a 12 plus hour shift. Seems they're bringing in seven bus loads of sick and dying people from down south to a hospital that is already over-full.
I have seen people shouting at the television reporters that the State needs to come help them. You should have helped yourself when they TOLD YOU TO LEAVE, you sniveling goddamned ingrates. What you're suffering now is what you've earned by your stupidity. Revel in it. Enjoy it. Suck it up. Your decision earned it for you. Perhaps your death will keep your flawed genetic material from further fouling the gene pool.
There are no doubt great deeds of kindness and love being thanklessly performed every moment down south, but right now all I feel is disgust at my fellow men and women's behaviour. I'd sooner pat a rabid dog than venture to help down there. I know medical personnel here who refuse to help now, out of fear of what could happen to them at the tender mercy of these people. New Orleans has turned into a rabid dog. It needs to be put out of it's misery so we can all get on with our lives.
Perhaps the bull sharks now patrolling the city streets will take care of the last of the trash, and leave the way open for a brighter day.
You see, I've been forced to discover Firefly.
Yours truly has always been a big fan of Westerns, particularly that strain called the Spaghetti Western. Realism, that's the key to a good Western. Grueling, dirty realism. The West in the late 1800's was not a pretty place. Ladies rarely wore calico dresses, and if there was a shooting it was likely not done in the street separated by twenty paces. Gentlemen did not exist then. Survivors, however, did.
I also love science fiction. Space travel, vast alien worlds, incomprehensible messages from distant planets and 400 meter long sandworms, that's the ticket. The entire open vista of our future, ripe for the describing.
So why not a Science Fiction Western, you ask? Because it sounds damned silly, on the face of it.
But Gene Roddenberry hisself called his new show Star Trek "Wagon Train To The Stars" when he was pitching the idea to the execs at Desilu. And Joss Whedon took that idea and ran with it.
Humanity spread to the stars, most planets barely terraformed and the people living there are on the bare edge of humanity. Settlers. Painful simplicity. No one settling a new planet is going to have the latest and greatest technology available. They're going to have simple and easy and above all, lasting. No laser guns, no digital watches. Cast iron pots and open fires and cattle and clothing that's more denim and leather than silk and rayon.
But the best part of it, the hook that landed this particular jaded fan? No noise. One of the biggest stumbling points EVER in the science fiction movie/television show is ships, elegant ships, huge ships, making tons of noise in space. Hello, you're in SPACE. No air. Noise, if you've forgotten your basic physics, is air vibrations carried to our ears, which vibrate in harmony with the air, which our brain translates into recognisable words, noises, or whatnot. Space is a vacuum, therefore people cannot hear you scream there, nor can you hear a space ship's motors, no matter how big or cool or funky they are.
Every time I see that beautiful opening sequence in Star Wars IV, with the miles-long Star Destroyer going overhead forever and forever, then those massive blue flaming drives go by and the theater shakes and rumbles I cringe. It's wrong. Utterly wrong. Every time a ship in the Star Trek universe makes a long, banking turn in space, engines rumbling, I want to toss something at the screen. On board, sure. Air = vibrations = that thrumming sound of engines working. Outside = no air = no roaring motors.
J. Michael Straczynski got it kinda right with Babylon 5. His 5 mile long space station didn't make noise outside, but the Cobra fighters, tiny one-man gunships, did. The flight physics were right; reaction motors and thruster-driven turns, direction changes by applying thrust, all the hallmarks of inertia, and no long, sweeping turns like an F-15. The pilots had to wear space suits inside the cockpits, because they weren't even pressurised. That's military for you--spare the comfort in favor of performance. But they roared and snorted and made noises. His creative consultant, the epitome of mean Mr. Harlan Ellison told him at the beginning that the ships should be quiet. JMS reportedly replied that he knew that, and Ellison knew that, but that the Public would expect noises, and that quiet would be too much for them to accept and the show would lose credibility. And sadly enough, he was probably right. So the Cobra fighters made it almost all the way there, but not quite.
Joss Whedon got it dead on right. So did Stanley Kubrick in 2001: A Space Odyssey, but we're not talking about THAT classic. So, I think, did James Cameron in Aliens with the Colonial Marines dreadnaught, but I'd have to watch it again. But. The first time I saw the Firefly-class transport ship Serenity go sailing by against a star-speckled expanse she was dead quiet. As she has been every single time I've seen her in space. In atmosphere she roars and trembles and makes all sorts of strange hoots and bangs. In space--nothing.
Joss did me one better last night--watching the episode "Our Mrs. Reynolds," Jayne the mercenary and Capt. Mallory are standing, suited, in a decompressed (no air) cargo bay. Jayne's got Vera, his gunpowder cartridge weapon inside a space suit, because as he pointed out earlier, it has to have air around it to fire. Gunpowder burns in air, not in vacuum. One point for Mr. Whedon. So, weapon in suit, airlock door open, he fires. We see the muzzle flash, we see the faceplate of the suit explode outwards, and we hear....nothing. YES! Thank you physics! Even the follow up shots are just visual, no slap, no bang, no inappropriate noises.