Thursday, January 26, 2006

Oof-ity, oof, oof, oof!

So, i got this iPod. I have been VERY excited about it, as anyone who's had to listen to me ramble lately can tell you. It's a refurb, but I bought it from the Apple store with the protection plan, so I wasn't worried about the usual refurb dysfunction. First off, the delivery required direct signature. That means it requires ME to be HOME during the day to sign it. Hello?!?!? Who does that? Fedex can't let my apartment manager sign for it and keep it in the office, I personally must show ID to get my package. So I had to drive up to the north end of town on Tuesday and fight traffic to get my iPod. Thanks, techie_, for the timely map support!

I had plans for the afternoon and evening, and they were better than an iPod, so I didn't even get a chance to open the box until I got home at 2 am. I opened the box, pulled out the 20 foot length of packing paper they used to keep the little box from rattling around inside the big box I paid them to ship me, and finally got to the little box containing my iPod. Yea! *poing-ity* Yea! I opened the little box, and dug through the foam and bits and put the charger together and plugged in my iPod. The second bad part happens here. The screen showed me the sadmac icon (except it's the sad mac face on an iPod body, so I guess it's technically the sadpod icon) followed by a battery symbol. Rose (who I called in a panic) assured me this was simply because it needed to charge and that I should go to sleep. I would wake up with a happypod.

I woke up to a sadpod, but I didn't know how long it should take to do the initial charge, so I didn't fret about it. I came home for lunch, though, and STILL had a sadpod. I went through all the troubleshooting steps on the iPod support page, and testing the USB cable was the next step in the flow. So, I decided to try out the USB cable and see if maybe the problem was with my firewire cable/charger/electric outlet setup.

Unfortunately, this is where the fourth bad part happens. All my back-of-box USB ports are taken, but I have two front-mounted ones that are conveniently located for this sort of thing, along with a microphone and headphone jack. The problem is that somewhere along the way, the circuitboard that the USB ports are mounted on broke loose from its mountings in the front of happybox (my computer), so the only way for me to use them is to open the case and support the USB port from behind with my fat finger while I push the cable into the port from the front. Otherwise, when I try to put the connector into the port, the port simply retreats into the happybox like a turtle pulling its head back into its shell. I decided to try rigging up a solution to this problem, while I had happybox open and amenable to such things, but in order to get a proper viewing angle and access to the board, I had to take off both side panels and the front face of my case. All of this is on my lunch break, mind you...

So I ended up with happybox in my lap, fashioning a little wire harness out of twist ties to mount the silly USB ports in their designated location. It worked for a while *POING*, but after two or three test connections, the harness failed *OOF*. I'll have to try some sturdier materials in the second iteration. However, at this point, i REALLY REALLY REALLY wanted to know if the iPod would charge off the USB cable and i was tired of futzing with the ports. So I set happybox back on its home shelf, hung the face back on it, and pushed the power button. Nothing. Check the power supply switch, off, on, off, on. Nothing. Look at the clock. FRICKINFRACK! I'm already late getting back to work.

I returned to work with happybox in an unknown (but decidedly unhappy) state, a vague memory of having seen what looked like a spark thrown by the little USB circuitboard as it made contact with the chassis in a couple of places, and terrible fears that I'd shorted out my motherboard, or bent pins that connected power-on gadgetry, or Something Equally Dire. All this, and my iPod was still sad.

I slogged through my afternoon, my heart heavy with thoughts that I'd caused the demise of my beloved happybox. I had plans for the evening, too, but they were far outweighed by the urgency of repairing happybox. So I raced home as soon as I could after work and began methodically working through the potential sources of a power problem. I always start at the wall and work my way along the cords until i get to the power button. It's not always the most direct route, but it always gets me to the problem, and it's easy to keep track of what things I've tried that way. Long story short: I eventually found the (multiple) loosened connections, tightened them up, and happybox was running happy again. It is none the worse for the wear, apparently. Yea! *POING*

When i then plugged my sadpod into the USB cable connected to the front port of the now-running happybox, I got the sadpod icon again. This time, however, instead of a battery with an angry exclamation-point icon on it, I got a battery with a happy lighting bolt on it. Things were looking up! My iPod was charging!

By this time, it was too late to make it to my evening plans and I was more than a little frazzled, so I just did some futzing around on my computer. I downloaded and installed the latest iTunes and iPod software so that I'd be ready when my iPod was charged. I noticed that I didn't get any messages from Windows telling me that it'd found a new USB device, but I wasn't sure of the power state of the iPod so I didn't think too much of it at the time... Again, long story short, after a lot of troubleshooting: my iPod is dead. It won't reset, it won't wake up, it isn't recognized by Windows, it won't charge. I tested my cables with another iPod that belongs to a coworker, and the cables are good. So it's definitely my iPod. It's having dysfunctional refurbishment issues, I guess.

The redeeming factor to this whole oof-ity story is that I will be over near the Apple store anyway this weekend, so I'll just take it in and swap it out. That's the beauty of the Apple Care protection plan. They really do a good job of standing behind their products, so I hear. And while I'm there, i can hand over all my worldly possessions in exchange for some nifty accessories, like a protective cover and one of those iTrip doodads that makes your iPod music come out of your truck radio. Yee-haw! As the vicious murderer of several cell phones, I can testify to the necessity of a very rugged skin for my new gadget.

And, in the balance, I haven't lost sight of the fact that I thought I'd killed happybox, and I hadn't. That, in itself, is reason for a *poing*.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

inspirational show tunes...

oh, my word. i LOVE this. i'm copying it so you lazy bums don't have to click through the link, but it can be found in its original form here, along with all the comments that were posted in followup. i think this is the funniest and sanest way to combat the hatred that i've ever heard of. i'm inspired!

This morning I had the most bizarre subway ride. I board the Number 3 train at Grand Army Plaza after 9 a.m. Find a seat, then settle into reading Henry James for class. I hear a woman’s voice gradually rising in volume. She is preaching the “Lord’s” word to the train car’s sleepy riders. Of course, I had forgotten the headphones for my subway evil sounds blocking device. The train stops and starts.
The words denigrating “gay devils” reach my ears. I stand up.

Me: “Excuse me, but do you mind keeping your voice down, I am trying to read.”

Preacher Lady: (screams) “I got to testify.”

Preacher lady hitches up her skirts and tells me that I am going to hell for interrupting you-know-who’s word. Two or three OTHER Christian ladies on the train start shouting at me and discussing my prospects as the Devil’s prison bitch. The last straw was a 50 something red faced man in a suit slamming his Bible towards my face.
There was only one thing I could do.

Me: “If you all don’t lower your voices and cease calling me Satan, I will have to sing show tunes.”

The other straphangers look at me with stony faces.
I begin to sing.
“Its very clear, our love is here to stay. Not for a year, but forever and a day…”

Preacher lady and the Jesus police start mumbling and beseeching G_d to strike me down and boil me in molten tar. (I look better in silver.)
The train reaches Wall Street. Confused subway riders check out the scene. I begin swaying and feeling the music.

The slamming Bible man looks like he is going to pop a blood vessel. “I cast ye out, Satan.”

I go into jazz dance crouch and then spring up to belt out, “THAAAAAAT OLD BLACK MAGIC, HAS ME IN A SPELL…”

Bible man has to get off the train as I wriggle and shimmy. “That same old witchcraft when your eyes meet mine!”


“So when you walk alone and forlorn, and hear that Cadillac horn remember, love isn’t born, its made…and that’s why every window has a window shade…bad a biddle be bop…”

I try to discuss freedom of religion with the ladies, but all attempts at reasonable discourse fail.

By 34th street, the last of the Christian word warriors has left the train. 3 subway riders shake my hand and say, “I have always wanted to tell those idiots to shut up! Bless you.”

I am shaking. I don’t know what comes over me at times like this. I only know that I cannot stay silent. I wish that I had my ukulele with me.

At 42nd street, a woman strides into the car and starts PREACHING. The entire car bursts into laughter. I interrupt this new preacher lady and note that she is wearing a flowered straw bonnet.

Me: “Excuse me, Ma’am…but I must warn you that there has been a 12 subway stop donnybrook regarding the unwanted intrusion of religious beliefs into our morning commutes.”

Preacher Lady 2: “I got freedom of speech! And GOD TELLS ME THAT THE GAY DEVILS ARE CONTROLLING NEW YORK.”

Me: (standing up) “If you do not cease and desist fouling the air with homophobia, I must sing…SHOW TUNES.”

There are now 3 or 4 gay men on the train. They start laughing.

Preacher Lady 2: “The Lawd says you are going to …” (litany of punishments that would be fun with the right person).

Me: (sings) “The Girl that I marry will have to be, as soft and as sweet as a nursery… the girl I call my own, will wear diamonds and laces and smell of cologne…”

One of the boys on the train starts to harmonize.

Preacher Lady 2 makes her way down the car, pointing and exclaiming, “I have met the devil right here!”

Me: (sings) “Whatever Lola wants, Lola gets…”

Dancing around the subway poles and doing my best Gwen Verdon kicks, I feel the spirit in me.

I close with “Pennies from Heaven” and make sure to get the Jazz Hands in for good measure.

As Preacher Lady 2 runs to the next car at 72nd Street, the doors open, a perfect end of song button for my gay pointing gesture.

The subway riders break into applause and I bow. Rock on.

Several straphangers whisper, Happy New Year to me in Hebrew.

An Orthodox lady hands me an orange.

I don't know if I should laugh or cry.


This was written by Koaloha
Copyright 2004
Please give credit when quoting this material.
Please don't steal my stuff.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Yea, fish!

I inherited a fish tank from a co-worker of mine. This was several months ago, and I was very excited at the time about starting to keep fish. Unfortunately for the fish-keeping hobby, my life got busy. I kept intending to do some research, find a fish store, figure out what parts I was missing from the pump apparatus, set up the tank, stabilize it, research fish, buy fish, acclimate fish, cycle the tank... and I got overwhelmed. Plus, there was a fair (>$100) investment involved, and I could never squeeze that into the budget. It just didn't have enough priority.

Anyway, thanks to Dad (he rocks!) I had a little Christmas Cash burning a hole in my pocket. As luck would have it, I had a Saturday in my own hometown this weekend. It was the first time since well before Christmas, so I decided to be lazy at home most of the day and run a few errands, like getting my oil changed. I tried to get my oil changed, but the wait was obnoxious (3 hours before they could start on it!) and I didn't want to sit on uncomfortable lobby chairs reading for that long. So I headed back home, but I had to make a loop around the mall parking lot to get to an exit that would actually let me out with a light onto a useful major road, it being a Saturday afternoon and all the sheeple being out jamming the roadways leading to the mall. As I looped, I noticed an aquarium/fish store (called, simply, "The Fish Place") that I'd never seen before. I knew there was supposed to be one in the area, but it was kinda tucked back into a strip of small stores along the fringe of the mall, so I'd simply never encountered it before. I had a bad experience with the first aquarium store I tried, the employees there were woefully ignorant of aquarium equipment, and it really sidetracked my initial enthusiasm. I literally knew more about my tank gear than the employee who was trying to help me at the first store, and all my knowledge came from idly poking around two beginner sites on the internet.

Anyway, moving along... I went in to The Fish Place, with my DaddyCash burning a hole in my pocket. I was thrilled to find myself shopping a wide selection of not just kits but actual bits and pieces of hardware that I could customize my tank with. That was exactly what I needed, because I had some bits from kits, but some bits were worn, broken, or missing. The employees (not just one of them, but all of them!) were friendly and knowledgeable. They listened to me when I explained in lay terms what pieces I had, patiently explained what I possessed, what it was for, what else I needed and why, and helped me choose the right sizes and brands of bits to work with my tank. I ended up having to go back the next day for a few pieces that I missed, and even though some of the staff were different, and the store was very busy, they were friendly, knowledgeable, and efficient in assisting me. I'm so stoked to have found a place like this!

I had a friend come over and help me rearrange furniture in my office so I could set the tank up. Thanks, K! She laughed when I explained that I'd planned out the furniture arrangement by making a scale model of my office and my furniture, but everything fit where it was supposed to... As I explained to her: when you live alone, and you're longer on brains than brawn, it makes sense to make a scale model so you can try out arrangements on paper before you go shoving furniture around.

So I set up all the tank gear and I'm very proud of myself. I did it all in the right order the first time! I dug up a power strip so I could supply my tank with all the Little Green Men it takes to run an air pump, water filter, tank heater, and lamp. I put some seed bacteria stuff in the filter, and let it just run. Today, the water is cloudy and rather green. I guess that's the seed bacteria and algae growing and getting worked into the bio-filter. I'm supposed to wait a week or so and then take a water sample to the fish store, where they'll test it and advise me. Hopefully, I'll get myself some fish soon! For now, I'm enjoying the sound of water falling into the tank from the filter. It's soothing...

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Home again, home again, jiggity jog...

So, I got home safe from Illinois (As K would have it: Gaaad's Country) despite a small airplane issue. When I checked in (over 2.5 hours early!) there were no earlier flights that I could get on standby, and there were no later flights, period. This flight was it. The one. The only. THE Wednesday night flight from O'Hare to Dallas. So I was very concerned when I saw on the departures board that it was listed as "delayed". I was very worried when I checked in with airline personnel and was told it was indefinitely delayed. No word. No news. No explanation. Blessedly, the flight reappeared on the boards about an hour later and the takeoff was only about an hour late. All in all, not bad for airline travel, and a damn sight better than spending a night stranded at the O'Hare Hyatt.

I found myself eating at Wolfgang Puck's Airport Express Cafe, and the only food they had with no meat in it was a Chicken Caesar Salad that I could have the Chicken removed from, or a squash soup. I actually was interested in the soup, but I wanted it as a side with a dinner salad. (Hello? Soup and Salad? Isn't that THE most common side combo known to the restaurant business?!?!) Apparently, at Wolfgang Puck's Airport Express Cafe, the Soup and Salad combo is UNHEARD OF. You can buy a $10 entree-sized styrofoam plate full of lettuce, and a $5 styrofoam bowl full of soup, but you can't get a small dinner salad and a cup of soup. Can't be done. So I had a $10 plate of lettuce. This is the second time I've ranted about this, and for the amusement of my gentle readers, I have included a quote from a friend who sympathized with my first rant. The quote is in the sidebar down to the right among the "Words I Like..."

So, once I was safely on the ground in the DFW metroplex, I made my way home and back into my routine. Joy. I'm thrilled to have my puppy dog back! Thanks to Rose for dogsitting!

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Homeward Bound...

I've been in Naperville and Chicago, Illinois for the last week. Actually, for a week and a day. The time has been good for learning my trade, for making acquaintances, for deepening friendships, and for reconnecting with old pieces of my life. I'm gradually finding a viewpoint from which I can see the encounter with Luke, the jumper, as part of my life. It's not a surreal, otherworldly event like a bubble in my life now, nor is it something so monolithic that my life stops or goes into turmoil trying to flow around it. It just is. It happened, and I was there and I took part, and now I'm moving on down the stream.

I will probably never know how Luke's life turns out. I don't need to know, though, in order to know that I did all that I could. For all my glib statements in the past about just wanting to do the right thing, just to do my part, not to be in control of anyone else's actions... it was a struggle for me to embrace that philosophy in this instance.

I'm very fond of the Beginning-Middle-End story structure wherein everthing has a significance to the plot and there is a conclusion in which all the loose story arcs are tied up. I don't like movies and short stories and books that leave plot threads dangling. I realized through this experience that I don't like that in my life, either. I want the episodes of my life to be encapsulated into neat storylines, to have endings, even though they're not "The End".

So, I'm headed back home, this is an ending to an episode of my life. I miss my dog, and I look forward to rejoining my friends. I had a birthday alone, and that was actually not bad at all. I had dinner with my aunt and uncle the night before, and I talked on the phone to all my family, so I was hardly alone. I've enjoyed the break from my routine, but at the same time I look forward to getting back to the parts of my daily life that I love.

Oh, and I had Real Chicago-Style Pizza at Gino's East in Naperville. yea!

Sunday, January 15, 2006

What a difference a day makes.

This is just a quick update to let you all know I'm still here. That isn't just a phrase to me today, the reason why will become apparent as you read on. First, the news: I've been in Naperville, Illinois most of this week for training for my job. I had the weekend to myself, so i went into the city to hang out with some friends from Texas. They have a gorgeous apartment on the lakefront with a view from the 42nd floor! Oh-Mah-Gawd! It's terrific, they're fun peeps, and the weekend was shaping up to be incredible.

Yesterday we went out to have the quintessential Chicago Hot Dog experience, and that's where it gets weird. On our way out to the hot dog stand, a guy jumped from a 20-story building across the street from us. He was literally directly across the street, about 30 feet away. He landed on a Blazer-type vehicle and smashed the roof in. Glass went everywhere. All my lifeguard instincts kicked in, I guess, because I ran across the street and started checking airway, breathing, circulation... I grabbed some wool gloves from the back of the vehicle he'd smashed in, stopped the bleeding from the obvious cuts and tried to get him to lie still and talk to me. Someone else pulled a jacket out and covered him to help keep him warm. His name was Luke, and he was 25 years old. This morning, the paper covered the incident in 9 lines of a 2-inch column. The paper said he'd been transported to a hospital in critical condition and that's all. The only words he could get out were his name, and his medications: Prozac. I'm still rattled about it. I was riding the "El" late last night and in the fluorescent light of the train car, I could see where his blood had smeared on my black leather jacket.

Now for the good stuff: We did manage to go on with our day after all that, got some yummy dogs (i had a beer brat!) and went to the Adler Planetarium. I went and met up with another friend who joined us for dinner at Kamehashi for sushi -- wow! I love Brazilian Lobster Roll! -- and then out for a few drinks on Halsted ave., the Chicago gayborhood.

I was really glad for the company. I would've been happy to spend time with my friends anyway, but I really needed it last night. I wouldn't have wanted to go back to a hotel room and sit alone with thoughts of Luke or try to distract myself with something like a book... I just don't think that would've worked. So, anyway, the phrase "an update to let you all know I'm still here" means something different to me today than it would've meant yesterday.

Sunday, January 08, 2006


It's been a while since I posted, and I can only attribute that to holiday madness. I was on the road a lot, catching up with people for the seasonal celebrations, taking advantage of travel schedules to spend time with people I don't get to see every week, and generally being out of my routine. I LOVED IT!

I had a great holiday season, and got to spend quality time with everyone from my niece-dog, Orenda, to my old buddies from Austin, to my new friends in Dallas. My sister, the one with the new babies, got to slip away for a couple of days on vacation. My mom got my nieces, and I got my niece-dog! She is a yellow lab, which makes her a nice counterpoint to my own black lab, Molly, but aside from breed similarity they are about as opposite as cousins can be. Orenda was trained as a service dog, not necessarily a seeing-eye dog, but as a handicapped assistance dog. She didn't finish her training because she's a fraidy-dog and spooks at loud sounds, so my sister adopted her. Molly is the original "country dog". She likes to run, jump, bark, swim, fetch, chew and frolic. Orenda is a "city dog" who likes to have her ears scratched, lie in sunbeams, bring your cell phone to you, and sleep. Molly thinks my cell phone is the devil in a blue box with flashing lights. Orenda is so polite that she won't jump on the bed while I'm in it, unless I specifically call her up. Molly races me to the bed and gets stretched out across my side before I can even get my eyeglasses off. Orenda carries plushies around like they're her babies, Molly disembowels plushies and leaves their hollow carcasses on my floor.

This personality contrast makes walking them together a special sort of fun. :) Not only do I have to handle their leashes completely differently and remember two different sets of commands for similar activities, these two dogs physically go in totally different directions at all times. If Molly ever stops to pee, that's the instant at which Orenda suddenly wants to go forward. Orenda likes to stop and sniff a lot, so I spend a lot of time exhorting her to keep up while Molly tries to drag me off my feet.

The funniest, and most relaxing, part for me was when I got them down to the river and off their leashes. Where we start our walk, the river is very wide and shallow with a rocky bottom. Molly and Orenda both splashed around in that and had fun, until Orenda found a hole and fell in it up to her chin. She was NOT pleased at the sudden dunking and started paying attention to Molly's route a lot more. Molly used to fall in the holes, too, but she just bounces right up and keeps going. Orenda was a little un-done by her experience. So Orenda stuck pretty close to the bank (when she'd get in the water at all) for the rest of the day.

Over the course of the week, though, Orenda got a little braver every day. There was lots of riverbank to roam around on and other dogs' scents to sniff and sometimes she'd play defense while Molly was trying to get out of the water or return the ball. But every day, when we got to the shallow spot, she'd follow Molly out into the water and she'd get further from shore every time. Then she started climbing down the bank and getting her feet in the water, even at the deep places. She especially liked the spots where a drainage ditch would join the river and there would be a shallow little stillwater for her to stand in.

Finally, on about the 5th day of this, Orenda actually got in the water on purpose (she had fallen in once or twice) and splashed out to where Molly was swimming with the ball. Molly could only be described as STUNNED AND SURPRISED to find her cousin-dog out in the water with her. The water used to be a safe place where Molly could chase the ball without Orenda grabbing onto her jaw or her ear and generally playing defense. Suddenly, it was not. Luckily for Molly, she still has speed on her side. She and Orenda are the same height, but Molly is kinda like Jennifer Garner and Orenda is kinda like Renee Zellweger (especially in the Bridget Jones movies). Molly's just a little faster...

Anyway, Orenda finally started getting the hang of the country dog thing, and she taught Molly that it's best to eat your food when it's served and not to wait around until you're in the mood. :) We all had a good time, especially when they finally figured out that they both like to wrestle. I would sit back with a book and a cup of tea in the evenings and watch them throw each other around the room just like I imagine I'd do if i had kids. Molly won most of their athletic contests, but Orenda definitely has an edge over Molly in the "scary face" department. I'll see if I can bribe my sister into capturing it on film, because Orenda has the greatest snarl I've ever seen, and she can deliver it while her tail is wagging in play.