Friday, July 30, 2004


Since Jody died on June 7th, I've kind of been avoiding "my music". There are a lot of songs I just don't want to associate with this point in my life. There are already a handful that I associate with Jody and his struggle that will have the power to bring me down, maybe to tears, for the rest of my life...

Bach - Sheep May Safely Graze
Manfred Mann - The Mighty Quinn
Don Henley - Boys of Summer
Aqua - Cartoon Heroes (a favourite of Jody's, actually, rather than mine)
Warren Zevon - Keep Me In Your Heart (a song about dying of lung cancer... I got it about a month before Jody died)

...there are probably others, too, but those are the ones I know are triggers.

Anyway, since then, I haven't had any music I really like on, not in the car or at home, or very rarely. In the days just before Jody suddenly died, I was listening to a 'best of' album of Steve Miller's stuff from the 80s. Just coming into summer, and kind of getting into the music. Even though it hadn't happened yet, now in my mind I associate all that music with the days and hours just before Jody died. It's going to be a while before I'm going to want to hear that music again, and when I do, it probably won't ever be a wholly pleasant experience.

Just today, just now, really, I had a real hankering to listen to Sister Christian by Night Ranger. I have the song handy, so... I put it on. I think enough time's passed that I won't form any bad (or at least, any worse) associations with it than I already have about what is now Jody's decline this spring. I guess I'm looking at it as Jody giving me 'permission' to open up a little again. Not that I think he ever would have wanted me to mope, but what can you do? We're human beings. When we lose someone for good—or at least, till Whatever Comes Next—this is how we react. But maybe now I can begin to occasionally treat myself to "my music" again, when the mood truly strikes me.

...And you're motorin'... youuuu'rrrre moooootorinnnn'... |~(

The times I used "alright"? They were all right.

Just lately I've had a couple of people question the use of the "colloquialism" alright. But to me, "alright" and "all right" are two different things. The former means "satisfactory / not damaged / don't worry about it / in that case / very well then", and so on. The latter means "all elements are correct / no elements are on the left".

I really don't understand why this particular word is having such a rough go of getting established. Lots of words have been formed by dropping one of the L's from "all" and then cramming it together with another word, and nodding at the new special meaning. Why not this one? Why do so many people, for no good reason, seem to want to draw a line in the sand at this point—"This far! No further!"

After all, who objects to altogether, already, although, also, almost, or always? If people can tell the difference between "all ready" and "already" (The kids are all ready already, hon! Let's go!), or "all ways" and "always" (Always check all ways before you cross the street...), why not "all right" and "alright"?

I'm going to keep using alright, and the occasions I do will be, I can assure you, all right. Alright?

Thursday, July 29, 2004

When I get down, so does my bank account...

I decided I was going to head to Wal-mart at lunch time to see if I could snag Diet RC. It's pretty rare around here... in fact, I only know one place in the city where you can reliably bag the stuff, and it's way downtown in the west end. But I've acquired a taste for it, so I thought I'd have a look. Skunked.

I made the mistake of checking the other snack aisles, and I found fat-free Jell-o pudding. Four servings, 80 calories each of made with skim milk. Hmm! They had chocolate, butterscotch, vanilla, chocolate, chocolate fudge, and oh yeah, chocolate. Anyway, I grabbed five of them. At just over 20¢ a serving, you can't go wrong. And that's nearly a month's worth of desserts (okay, who am I kidding... maybe a week's worth. Maybe.) Then I'm thinking, well, what have I got to mix it with? I don't have a blender or even a whisk. Well, what could a whisk cost? So off I go...

Ten minutes later I'm in the check-out line with my pudding, a $10 one-cup coffee maker, and a $9 mixing-wand.

Well! I have my coffee maker, but no decent coffee to put in it. Well, the supermarket's just across the street, so...

Ahhh, here we go. Bavarian chocolate coffee beans! (Sensing a trend yet?) French vanilla coffee beans! A half a pound of each, at $7.99/lb. But I still don't have RC. Do they even have it here? Nope. But look at that, a cube of Diet Pepsi (my actual fave, even over sugared versions of Pepsi and Coke) is on special, a dollar off, $5.99 for 24 cans. Awright! Oh, and also... what am I gonna put my pudding in? What, am I gonna pour it out in my hand and wait for it to set? I need something cheap and plastic. Seek, and ye shall find! Eight plastic snack holders, lids and all, $2.88. What a weird price. But who's complaining? Not me.

So, forty dollars later, I have two new appliances, two-and-a-quarter US gallons of pop, a pound or so of gourmet coffee, a whack of Jell-o pudding, and stack o' bowls to put it in!

You'll notice, though, that I still don't have any Diet RC to speak of...

That old gang of (not quite) mine...

I work as a tech writer. When I started out about four years ago, I had a boss here and a co-worker. The co-worker left after about six months, then my boss after about nine. That left me here by myself, and that's how it's been for nearly four years now.

I stayed in touch with my ex-boss, though, and he moved to a company about a fifteen minute walk from here. He wound up leading a posse of three other tech writers. I got to know them through him. He even tried to get me into the place, but it started going sour on them all before that could happen. They laid off one of the guys, then my ex-boss, and finally the other two guys. But believe it or not, over the space of about six months, they all wound up working together at another company, just down the street from here. That lasted about a year and a half, till they laid off my ex-boss around last Christmas. Another of the guys was on contract, and his contract ran out at the end of June about a month ago. Just today I got e-mail from one of the remaining two guys saying a round of layoffs had hit. He'd survived it, but said he was now the "lone tech writer", which I suppose doesn't bode well for the other guy.

So, my ex-boss is now living and working in his home town, hundreds of miles away from here. The contract guy, who lives downtown (I work out in the 'burbs), isn't around anymore. God knows about the other two guys now. I didn't work with these guys (the nine months with my ex-boss notwithstanding), but we hung around a fair bit. Lots of lunches, a few movies... the guy who probably got laid off today attended the same weight loss program as me for about a year, and we both did really well together. Now I feel kind of blue because after all this time of taking it for granted, I'm probably not going to be seeing much, or any, of these guys again.

I'm especially sensitive to this lately because in early June, I lost one of the best friends I've ever had, Ailuro, who had a live journal on here. I never actually met him face to face, but we knew each other for ten years over the net. We talked just about every day, and we were really close. I wouldn't have imagined it was possible to get to care about someone that much at such a distance, but it's true, I did. Ailuro — Jody — came to be something like a brother to me. Life feels really different now that he's gone. But as a result, I now talk to his uncle nearly every day, and one of his roommates every few days. I've been talking with Jody's dad for years, and that's carried on. But I guess my youth is truly gone now. People are beginning to slip away, getting caught up in their marriages, their jobs, their lives, ...their deaths. It's hard to find much to be cheerful about right now.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Well! Seems it worked...

...and I'm reasonably pleased about it. So, off we go.

Well, what I'm up to at the moment is scanning stories I wrote back in university, and running them through my OCR program to turn them back into editable text. I want to pour them into another program and turn them into a PDF file for a few of my friends. One of the stories is 41 pages long (ugh) and so far I've scanned five pages. It's going to take over an hour, and then I'll have to pick through it looking for mistakes. But it still beats trying to retype 41 pages. That would take a couple of days.

Anyway, off I go. I'll post again when I find something worth saying. As if any of what you've seen so far fits the bill!

Testing the client program

Well, what I'm doing here is testing out this client I downloaded so I can just type into it and post my deepest, most important musings! I can only imagine how thrilled you must be. I have to admit, I'm curious to see if it's going to work at all. Not only did I have to download the client, but some 25M file from Microsoft required to make it work. Man, nothing's ever easy, is it?

In any case, I'll send this up and see how it looks. Wish me luck. Well, no point. If you're reading this, it worked. :)

This give me gas (or at least, sells it to me for less)...

Okay, I know all this stuff's in reverse order, so this is going to look kind of silly, but remember (waaay down there) where I said gas was 65.5¢ a litre after work yesterday, and 80.2¢ at lunch time? Well, I passed the gas station in my neighbourhood on the way home and guess what? It's 65.5 again.

Fine, if they're going to do this, we should pass a law enabling anyone to go back to the gas station within 48 hours with their receipt and be refunded the difference on this kind of gouging. There is absolutely no justification for screwing someone for 80 cents a litre when quite clearly, the "real" price of gasoline is somewhere in the mid-60s. But then, the federal government gets not just a set amount per litre, but a set percentage of the take. Ahhhh... could that have something to do with their lack of concern, action, and even interest in keeping the semblance of sanity in gas prices?

What do you think?

I'm at my best when I'm naked

It’s in the shower that I usually think of funny things.

That’s probably kind of telling, hmm?

Well, maybe I shouldn’t say ‘funny’. Maybe that’s misleading. More like things I consider clever or witty. But anyway, it’s true. Maybe it’s not that uncommon. Maybe there’s something about being wet, naked, comfortably warm and in semi-darkness—that whole womb deal—that lets us be a little more confident. Or maybe we’re just bored and have to start thinking just so we don’t fall asleep, fall down, and bang our heads on the enamel.

One thing I tend to do is relive old confrontations where I came out on the short end, not because I was wrong necessarily, but because I wasn’t fast enough to think of what to say. In these imaginary little tête-à-têtes, I always know just what to say. Unfortunately, alone, several weeks or months later, it’s of little good. But I always think of this as training, and hope that maybe, eventually, I’ll get good enough at it that when I really do need to pull something devastating out of the hat, I’ll be ready.

I’ll give you an example. In summer time, I like to wear sandals on my own time. Frankly, I’d rather go barefoot, but at this point in our society that’s just a little too far outside the envelope, so I compromise by wearing the slightest sandals I can get hold of. That said, I find them uncomfortable for driving, so I usually drive barefoot, and put them back on when I get where I’m going. I also find them hazardous for climbing stairs. Descending is fine, but I’ve tripped ascending a few times so I’ve acquired the habit of kicking them off to climb. I live a few floors up in my building (where the timely arrival of the elevators is a semi-annual event), and usually take the stairs. So, when I get home, I have a walk from the car to the stairs of less than a minute, and as often as not, I don’t bother putting the sandals back on, just to have to take them off again a minute later.

One evening, some pimply building security geek in the underground parking lot is standing there with his pencil and clipboard. It happened to be one of the evenings I wore my sandals on my hand on the way to the stairs rather than my feet, and this guy has the brass monkeys to comment as I pass, "I guess it'sa good thing there’s no broken glass on the floor." All I could do was mutter a tongue-in-cheek little reply like "yes, thanks for the excellent service".

Cut to me in the shower, a couple of weeks later, still bothered by the fact that this rent-a-cop had the gall to suggest to me, a paying tenant, how to comport myself in my own building. Sure, now I knew just what to say. If only there were shower booths handy, like phone booths Clark Kent can duck into to become Superman! I would be Wet Naked Rejoinder Man! I’d jump in, draw the curtain, strip off, soap up, and then give people like prim ‘n pimply a well-earned blast of cold shit. I’d lean out the corner and say, "Listen, buddy, for thirteen thousand dollars a year, there better not be any broken glass on this floor when I walk over it. Or up on the pool deck where the kids run around barefoot. Or in the hallway where the old ladies take exercise walks barefoot. This is our home, and we pay good money to people like you to make sure we’re safe in it, not to tell us how to live. Get me?"

I’m thinking of instituting a prize for the first practical portable shower stall. Till then, I’ll just have to keep practicing my barbs between choruses of The Man of La Mancha.

Okay, and here's the second thing...

Yesterday evening on my way home, I happened to notice that gas was 65.5¢/L. Okay, not bad. People weren't exactly lined up around the block, but I'd guess there was about a five minute wait. I knew it wouldn't last, but I didn't particularly need gas at the moment, so I took a pass on it.

This morning on my way to work, I glance up as I pass the same station. Gas is listed at 78-point-something. So it was when I went out for a bit at lunch time. Then, half an hour later, coming back past a station I'd just seen 78.8 cents quoted, I noticed it was now 80.2!

Remember the good old days when the price of gas never went down, just slowly slowly slowly crept up? You knew in a year it would be five, ten cents more. Something. But this, this is ridiculous. Somebody tell me, please, what could possibly have happened within 18 hours to justify the price of gas going up almost 25%! Shouldn't I be hearing about it, whatever it is, on the radio? You know, like someone blew up every fourth oil tanker, or oil refinery, or oil-producing country on Earth? Something, anything. Just offer me some explanation that makes sense. Why aren't governments doing something about this? What, they can keep the phone company from raising rates at pay phones, but they can't keep a sensible lid on the price of the commodity that gets us to and from work, gets produce to markets, gets manufactured goods from one city to another?

Here's the first thing that it occurs to me to say...

Is anybody else out there as sick as I am of movie trailers in which people are having a blast, when suddenly there’s a cut to some gross buzz-kill scene punctuated by the sound of a needle being dragged across a record? It’s not just that it’s been done to death. It’s that it’s utterly anachronistic.

Hollywood, let me hip you folks. This is the 21st century. There are now people who have their driver’s licenses who have never, in all their lives, actually heard the sound of a phonograph needle being dragged over the grooved, vinyl surface of an LP. Or if they did, it was probably the last thing that ever made them shit their diapers. I’m in my mid-30s, and as such, I am among the youngest people around who has ever personally purchased an LP, or 45. Yes! There is an entire generation of young people, eligible voters, who have never shoved an 8-track tape into the dashboard deck of a 1976 Gremlin! And by the way, gags predicated on reel-to-reel technology are getting just a little dated too.

So instead of The Record Scratch From 1985, how about the weird, stunned-hornet sound a CD player makes when it’s jostled and has to go seeking the track? Or maybe flashing "NO PLAY" on the screen like DVD players do tell us, "What the f--??" Something techy, something now, something au courant. Just something that shows us you’re all as 'with it' as you like to pretend to be. C’mon, throw us a bone. Least till the next format change.