it20020228 - Thursday
She started tapping on my teeth. "Have you considered getting your teeth bleached?"
"I was going to ask about that, actually."
"It just takes a short visit and only costs $300. I can schedule you in before you leave." Tap. Scrape. Tap. "I wouldn't be the one doing it when you come back, though, as I'm only a temp."
A temp? Hmmm. At first that struck me as a bit strange, but it passed quickly. After all, lots of industries use temps. Heck, my company uses temps. Construction, transportation, information technology, all those fields use temps. Why not dentists? My focus changed, though, when I started wondering whether I'd ever had someone's hands that far into my mouth. What, do I have teeth in my throat? Let go of my tonsils.
"Bite down, please."
Bite down, I thought. How? Your wrist is in the way. You know, I could draw blood if you'd like. Have anything communicable? Say, from this angle, you're kinda cute.
Anyway, as usual, no cavities. I'm going to go ahead and get the teeth whitening done and plan on getting my wisdom teeth yanked sometime in early April.
it20020227 - Wednesday
The business trip to California has been rescheduled for the third week in March. I'm going to get back from SXSW, work one day and have one day off before hitting the road again. Ten days, seven airports, three cities4. Sheesh.
For reasons I'm not really sure of, early this morning, when thinking about Bill Murray and Gwyneth Paltrow's characters in The Royal Tenenbaums, I was struck by the fact that in many ways movies by Wes Anderson and Stanley Kubrick are remarkably similar. There's almost always an awkward, robotic feeling to their films. By that I don't mean the characters are portrayed as awkward--although that's frequently the case--but that the films seem to be trying to make viewers feel awkward watching them. None of their movies exist in the real world; in some cases they may look like our day-to-day lives, but the events inside those settings are completely unnatural: Pauses in conversation last too long. Characters are stiff in their language and motions. (Anderson specifically seems to have a habit of framing people as if they were in paintings, and the actors seem to act accordingly.) Sentences are not quite worded the way they should be. Things seem possible, but not real. The viewer is constantly set up for the believable, but always handed something that isn't quite right.
Hmm. I'm a bit tired as I write this. It probably deserves more thought.
it20020225 - Monday
Sort of a busy day today. I took care of my passport application in the morning, joined the YMCA in the afternoon and sneezed a lot in between. (I've been pretty healthy this winter, so I suppose I'm due for a cold.) Spending about a half hour in the Hennepin County Government Center, not to mention walking three buildings over to get passport photos taken at a Proex (the camera at the center was broken), briefly made me yearn for a downtown job. It's the first time I've been down there during business for quite some time and it still looks significantly more interesting than the suburban corporate campus where I presently spend about a third of my life. I occassionally wonder how my job would be different if my company still operated out of its old building in downtown St. Paul, but, generally speaking, it's probably best not to think about it too much.
it20020223 - Saturday
Today was not a normal February day in Minneapolis, and that's not even touching the fact temperatures hit the low 50s. Yes, it was a beautiful, spring-like day, but a number of other things seemed a bit off as well. This wasn't completely evident at first, but slowly started to become apparent as I ambled through Loring Park. After watching a number of ducks make less than perfect landings on the melting ice sheet covering the pond, I wandered up the Loring Greenway on the way downtown. There were hundreds of birds chirping in surround sound, their noise wonderful, loud and enveloping. But then, in unison and for no discernible reason, they all fell silent. It was instantaneous: One moment, tweet tweet tweet, a split second later, nothing. No birds, no wind, no cars, just one of the most unexpected and deafening silences I've been confronted with.
Up ahead a couple stopped in the middle of the walk, their heads bent skywards. A few feet from me, an elderly woman paused and looked at me with a startled face. "What happened to all the birds?"
"I don't know," I replied, searching the space with my good ear. "They just... Stopped."
We all stood still, waiting for normalcy to return. Slowly, and mercifully, the sounds crept back into the air, allowing us to head our respective ways.
A short while later, while walking past the future location of the University of St. Thomas Law School, I stopped to admire the architect's rendering of the school's new building. It's a pretty structure, although I do wonder what kind of reaction people will have when they fly over Minneapolis, look down and see a huge anarchy symbol sitting just off the edge of downtown. (And it's the law school!) Hmmm.
About a half hour later, standing at the intersection of Hennepin and 7th Street South, a bunch of us waiting for the walk signal got to watch as a rusted-out Suburban lost its back driver's-side wheel, causing it to grind to a halt next to the Pantages Theater redevelopment and blocking the left two lanes of 7th. Meanwhile the wheel continued on its merry way, bouncing off a nearby car before coming to a rest a few feet from the front doors to First Avenue. Said a man standing at the corner with his children, "Well, that sucks."
So, as I said, today was a bit odd.
it20020222 - Friday
This evening I opened up to Heather a bit and admitted I have a deep-rooted fear of my food processor.
Speaking of Heather, the past few hours have been a disturbing demonstration of what can happen when an individual addicted to coffee decides to give it up for lent. As is often the case, one addiction has been replaced by another, and in this case, that replacement happens to be chocolate. She's in the kitchen baking chocolate chip cookies as I write this, alternately giggling and raving about how big the chips are. They're not short giggles, either; they're long, high-pitched 20-second expulsions that seem to leave little room for basic human needs like the inhalation of oxygen. All things considered, I'm a bit surprised she hasn't passed out yet.
I give her five days before she's back on the coffee.
Well, it's been a busy week. The trip to Mountain View has been postponed, although no new date has been set. Beyond that, well, work, work, and, um, work3. I'm not really sure what this weekend will bring, though. Hopefully something other than work.
it20020219 - Tuesday
Next week I get to go on a business trip to Mountain View. I've never been to that part of California, so I'm looking forward to it. Long work days are to be expected (and, considering the project we'll be there for, almost hoped for), but I hope to get up to San Francisco and see the city a little bit before heading back to Minnesota. I was talking to my boss earlier in the day when I related my internal debate regarding reading material for the plane ride. See, I'm in the middle of a long, interesting book right now, one that would be perfect for passing the boring hours stuck in transit. Unfortunately, the name of the book is "The Making Of The Atomic Bomb" and its red and yellow cover features a large mushroom cloud. In post-September-11th America that could make passing through security a bit problematic. Craig was pretty quick with his response when I told him this. "I did something like that when flying El Al to Israel," he said. "I ended up getting interrogated for over an hour."
I think I'll leave the book at home.
I've spent a lot of time working on the NYC photos lately, but, unfortunately, progress is going much slower than expected. I'm working with photos 2048x1536 pixels in size, many of them weighing in at 9 MB a piece. Not only is forcing those images into shapes and sizes reasonable for the web a cruel and torturous process, but Photoshop has been running so slow that I've started keeping a magazine or book by the computer so I have something to read while the processor does its work. Worse, earlier this evening, I finally cracked and decided I couldn't take the 550 pixel format anymore. I'm now working at 600 pixels. It doesn't seem like much of a difference, but, believe me, it is. The problem is I now have to go and redo all the images I made at 5502. Stupid stupid stupid.
One of my favorite photos from the trip was taken before I even left the ground at MSP. I find that if I stare at it too long I start to get dizzy. Or maybe that's just the caffeine.
"So I'm looking for a roommate."
"You always said you wanted to move to Chicago."
"Chicago proper, not the western suburbs."
it20020218 - Monday
I spent the better part of an hour talking to Sarah tonight, during which time something interesting happened. For the first time in the better part of a year I really felt connected with, for the lack of a better description, the evil portion of my personality. It was evident enough that Sarah commented on my laugh, which, admittedly, had a bit of a demonic quality to it. I'm not really an evil person, of course, although I do play on on occasion.
I could talk about what we talked about, but that would probably get me in trouble, so I won't.
Stadium Tour 2002 is starting to take shape. Montreal plays a series at home against Toronto in June. Looks like something to aim for.
I sometimes feel like I'm standing by myself along side some railroad tracks. Sitting would probably be more comfortable, of course, but I stand anyway as it's likely that at some point it'll be in my best interest to turn and flee. See, as long as I'm not directly involved, I have a pretty good sense about these things, and right now the vibrations are becoming more evident with each passing minute. The tracks are smooth and have a good grade; trains move quickly in these parts. Not only are they freights, they're pulling a lot of weight. I'm not exactly sure what'll happen. It could be catastrophic, it could be hilarious, it could be a number of things. Whatever comes to pass, though, it does promise to be a good show.
"You used to be a camp counselor?"
"Yup, for a YMCA camp."
"You took care of kids."
"Yes. Why is everyone always so surprised about that?"
"How'd you get involved?"
"Well, I figured I was young, male... Hey, two out of three ain't bad."
We had a coworker die over the weekend. It was a bit awkward in a number of ways. No one had any idea what happened, so there was a fair amount of speculation, not to mention a lot of e-mails and phone calls. He was a younger guy and seemed to be in decent shape, so it was by no means expected. There were also about five different cases of mistaken identity floating around ("no, you're thinking about ________"), which added some morbid spice to a day that really would have been better off without it. Later in the afternoon, after receiving another e-mail asking the same questions people had been wondering aloud all day, I decided to walk over to his area to see if anyone over there knew anything. No one was around, but his stuff was still in his cube, his handwriting was still on his whiteboard and his desk lamp still illuminated his desk. People forget to turn those things off all the time, so it was probably on all weekend. It was sort of strange to wonder who's going to flip off that light and erase that board.
it20020217 - Sunday
The funny thing about Lake Calhoun--especially when you're walking around it at 1:00 in the morning on a mild winter night--is that the ice starts talking to you. No, I'm not talking about the popping and groaning coming from the huge, frozen mass as it buckles against the shore, I'm talking about the little voice it plants in your head, the one that says "hey, come walk on me." You know you shouldn't. After all, Calhoun's ice isn't as friendly or trustworthy as that on the Isles; it's big and it shifts and it cracks and is much more likely to have thin spots. But it looks solid, and, well, it's so big. What would it be like to go stand in the middle of me, it asks, its tone curious and provocative. So what if it's been above freezing a lot lately? It's cold right now, right? It's not like anything bad is going to happen. It's not like you're going to walk out to the middle of me and fall through, your heavy wool coat weighing you down, the darkened lights along the trails making it impossible for anyone to see you. It's not like you're going to splash and flail and try to scream but find yourself unable to do so, the cold water having shocked all the air from your lungs. It's not like you're going to do something stupid--like try to save your camera--when all your energy should be going towards self preservation. It's not like you're going to sink to the bottom and lie unnoticed until your coworkers wonder why you haven't called in or your roommate wonders why your car is in front of the apartment but you haven't been around all day. Nothing like that is going to happen. Right?
It's quarter after 2:00 in the morning. I should probably go to bed if I want to avoid screwing up my internal clock. For the record, I didn't go out to far, maybe 20 or 25 feet.
This site really needs a redesign.
it20020213 - Wednesday
Adding insult to injury, this evening I got a Valentine's Day card from my parents.
Liz knocked on my cubicle. "Hey, you know how Becky took off lunch to go to that healthy relationships seminar?"
"She said it would be good for you to go to it."
it20020212 - Tuesday - Lincoln's Birthday
Not expecting performance art at the local Walgreen's, I set the film cartridges down on the counter.
She tapped away on the keyboard for a few moments. "It's been a while since you've been here."
"I got a digital camera."
She gave a quick glance at me. Wait, was that a sneer? Her low voice took on a tone of mockery as her eyes went back to the screen. "Those things are going to put us out of business some day." After a pause, her tone became normal again. "Personally, I don't believe it."
Walking back to the apartment, I overheard a conversation being held by three guys smoking out on a front stoop:
"She's so gorgeous."
"Her boobs go out to here."
"Dude, she's 16!
"Hey, any girl that young shouldn't be that hot."
Well, the Oscar nominations are in and, predictably, I'm not too happy with them. Let's start off with The Lord Of The Rings, which I made a point of avoiding. Even if the movie was as twice as good as the dreadful piece of literature it was based upon (which I doubt), that's still nowhere near enough to justify its existence, much less ten or so Oscar nominations. Second major gripe: Gene Hackman and The Royal Tenenbaums. Where are they? Come on, people!
Beyond that, I have trouble saying too much, as I missed many of the movies that were nominated. (There are a lot of reasons for that. I could delve into them but effort-to-interest ratio probably wouldn't be high enough to justify the task.) Films that I wanted to see but for one reason or another haven't include Training Day, Ali, No Man's Land, Sexy Beast, Monsters Inc., Ghost World, Monster's Ball, The Man Who Wasn't There, Mulholland Drive, Black Hawk Down and Shrek. That said, I did see Amelie, Gosford Park, Moulin Rouge, and Memento. I'd be OK with Gosford Park getting Art Direction, although Moulin Rouge probably deserves it more. Memento was horribly underrepresented, although not nearly to the extent The Royal Tenenbaums got the shaft. Finally, am I the only one annoyed by the very existence of the "Foreign Language Film" category? Amelie should be up for Best Picture, not relegated to some arbitrary geographic category.
But that's just me.
it20020211 - Monday
Usually five or six cars can get into the school's ramp before the light changes, but tonight the line was led off by an Expedition that had to idle over the speed bump to prevent it from going airborne. Only two vehicles ended up getting through on the green arrow, although the Expedition was still at one of the two gates when I came in on the next light. The woman couldn't reach the toll machine from her window, so she had to open the door and climb down to it. When the gate finally opened she idled on through, the roof of the SUV scraping the hanging sign above her.
it20020210 - Sunday
The washing machine shared by five apartments stopped working correctly about a week ago, leaving those of us who wish to do laundry two equally unappealing options: One, you can go to one of the local laundromats, where a load costs more and you have to babysit your clothing to make sure no one will swipe it, or, two, you can put one load through the machine in the basement twice, then wring the excess water out of the clothing before putting the load through multiple runs in the dryer. This morning I picked the second option, while the couple in the basement apartment apparently picked the first one. I know this as I ran into one of them as he brought the laundry back into the building this morning, and we briefly discussed the laundry situation before parting ways. I was back downstairs a few minutes ago, wringing out my boxers and T-shirts, when I heard a conversation from the nearby apartment go south at an alarming rate:
"Where's the rest of the clothing," she asked.
"It's right over there," he answered.
"What are these doing together?"
"I don't know. I followed your directions."
"What did you do..."
"JESUS CHRIST WHAT DID YOU DO TO MY SHIRT!?"
"I gave you directions! I EVEN DREW THEM OUT FOR YOU!"
"Look what you did to my shirt. I gave you directions. WHAT DID YOU DO!? Jesus Christ!"
it20020209 - Saturday
Well, it's been a busy week, although that's not to suggest it was a particularly interesting one. Hence, not much to write about. Unfortunately, next week looks like more of the same. My group has been dreadfully understaffed lately and things are going to get even worse next week. I'm confident we'll be able to handle everything, but I won't be surprised to find myself staying extra late the nights I don't have school. As far as the XML course goes, next week looks like it's going to bring the most intensive two days of the class. So, no matter what happens, I'll be busy.
On the bright side, at least I won't have much time to sit around pondering Valentine's Day.
it20020206 - Wednesday
After further review, it seems I'm the only one who liked the Yahoo! ad that aired during the Super Bowl.
So, my XML course started off well, but as of Monday I'm officially drowning. It doesn't help much that the text book (from some company named SkillBuilders, who's site doesn't display correctly in Netscape 6) is a piece of shit. It has become way too commonplace for the teacher to have to stop the class and have us correct something incorrectly stated in the book. Monday night we had five such occurences. Considering XML doesn't really give any room for error, those mistakes don't allow proactive studying to be as useful as it should be. Even more annoying, after some investigation, everything I've seen out on the W3C makes more sense than the stuff being fed to us in the book. It's almost enough to make me wonder why I'm taking this course when I could probably be learning it less stressfully on my own. I guess I was just looking for a fast ramp-up time. I'm beginning to think I'll have to look at this course as just an introduction to XML instead of a usable starting point, although I haven't quite resigned myself to that yet.
Another area of pain comes from being the only non-programmer in the class. The guy teaching it had said he'd adjust his teaching to the class, so, as a result, I've been getting hit with a bunch of JAVA and C++ metaphors that really don't make much sense to me. (Granted, I'm not faulting him for doing that--if I were in his position I'd probably do the same thing--but being the only one there with my kind of background does make the class more difficult.) The flip side of this is many of the areas that others seem to be having trouble grasping ("What would this actually be used for?") I find so obvious as to be borderline exasperated by their discussion.
Anyway, I promise I'll stop talking about XML soon. Really.
it20020205 - Tuesday
The meeting effectively over, the conversation somehow managed to detour over to the subject of childbirth. After hearing one coworker talk about how she had to send out e-mails to coworkers and customers telling them she had to leave because she was going into labor, I had to relate a tidbit my parents shared me with a few years ago: "You know what my mom was doing when she went into labor with me?"
"She was out in front of the house laying sod." Everyone laughed, so I continued. "She smoked back then, too. Occassionally I get a vision of my mom out in the front lawn of our house, smoking a cigarette and laying sod, when all of the sudden she's like, 'Oh.'"
Becky chimed in. "So she watered the grass?"
"That was not neccessary."
it20020202 - Saturday - Groundhog Day
Interesting date today. Lots of zeroes and twos.
Between the XML course and all the stuff at work I've lost all interest in sitting in front of a computer. I've also, for the moment, lost most of my interest in writing. In what may or may not be a coincidence, I've lost everything I wrote when I was in New York1. And no, I don't feel like writing about it.
Caught Jeremy's band at Lee's Liquor Lounge this evening. They're pretty good (although, of course, I already knew that from the CDs).
it20020201 - Friday
Today was a bad day for Amtrak.
There was a large crash on 77 on this morning. Eight cars in total, seven in the westbound lanes, blocking those lanes completely, another in the eastbound lane, maybe a gawker who rode up over a guardrail. Only one lane remained clear for traffic, and as luck (?) would have it, it was the one heading in my direction. Still, it took almost 20 minutes of idling to get past the scene. The people heading westbound had no such luck. There was nowhere for them to go, so there their vehicles sat, some of them vacated by their drivers, some not: A flanneled trucker surveyed the scene from a step on his truck; a businessman in a long coat sat on the salty hood of his car; a bored looking Somali immigrant sat in the front of his green and white Suburban taxi, both of his arms resting on the steering wheel. It almost looked like a scene out of some bad 70's disaster movie, probably presented with a title like HIGHWAY '77 or something. Kidding aside, I hope no one was hurt. None of the cars seemed to be seriously damaged, although there were emergency vehicles, medics, firemen and stretchers everywhere.
XML doesn't seem that bad, but DTDs are evil, evil things.