Well, I'm back online. Sort of. My new computer rocks, but I'm moving next month and it looks like Time Warner is going to take its time transferring my cable Internet service. So I may be offline again for a while. Whatever the case, it's good to be back.
It was a busy weekend. I spent most of it in Northeastern Wisconsin visiting friends and helping my dad while my mom was in the hospital for knee surgery. (Her operation went well, although she was pretty doped up the first day: "Why would anyone be willing take this stuff," she asked repeatedly, probably not aware how many times she'd done so.) Aside from that, on Saturday my dad and I had an obscenely large dinner at the Courthouse Pub in Manitowoc, and later that evening I got to hang out with (biker) Ben for a few hours. I'd been hoping to see Lisa as well, but she was saddled with a nasty cold, so we just ended up talking on the phone for a half hour. "I'd really like to visit you in Minneapolis sometime," she said. "That would be fun."
"Hmmmm, I haven't heard that before..."
"Oh come on. How long have you lived there?"
"I've been in the Twin Cities since 1996."
Pause. "Shut up."
"Well, at least I've been consistent."
So, anyway, tentative plans are for Lisa to visit in August.
Back in Minneapolis, I caught Insomnia with Heather and Rich late Sunday. It was directed by the same guy who brought us Memento, and in many ways my reactions to both films were the same. Both had solid storylines, good acting and artful cinematography, but neither were terribly involving. In a strange way, both films somehow managed to be boring and interesting at the same time. My appreciation of Memento grew as my memory of it became more distant, and I'm starting to sense the same thing happening with Insomnia. Who knows, maybe Nolan has a knack for making films that are better in retrospect.
Memorial Day brought lunch with Ben and (the other) Lisa, who had traveled up from Madison for M's wedding. We spent a little time in the living room before heading out to eat, and I mentioned that I get to paint my new apartment: "I'm thinking a light gray for the sunroom, a sage green for the kitchen and dining areas and plain white for the bedroom. Maybe I'll do something funky with the back foyer, maybe a burnt orange or something."
Ben looked around the living room. "Mark, are you sure you aren't gay?" I almost countered that I'm not gay, just a designer, but then decided that line of argument could backfire. "You just need one thing in here that's stereotypically guy-like," Ben continued. Lisa pointed out that I do live with a girl, but Ben didn't seem to consider that a legitimate excuse. I went about the room pointing out things I thought were stereotypically male, but Ben dismissed all of them with comments like "oh, that's just kitch" or "that's just geeky."
Pressed, I finally resorted to the invisible wild-card: "I watch baseball."
"Ok, that sort of works."
We ate at Baja Tortilla. Conversation was good.
With Ben and Lisa off to Madison, I spent the afternoon with a bunch of college friends in River Falls, followed by a caravan to Hudson for a cook-out at Rich's parents' house. After the burgers, beans and fruit, some people went and made smores on the bonfire. I decided to get creative and tried encasing a Rolo in a marshmallow before putting it over the fire. While it managed to survive the preparation process, I'm sad to report the end product was not very tasty.
) ) )
And that was the weekend. In closing, here is a short list of old personal belongings I took out of storage at my parents' house:
- One ancient black & white enlarger (with associated darkroom equipment).
- 12 old cameras (long story).
- One drafting board (with related drafting equipment).
- One old television, in storage since I moved in with Heather (hers was bigger).
- Various items to use as shelf-filler, including but not limited to old name tags from previous jobs (newspaper photographer, camp counselor, etc), theater lighting equipment ripped off from my high school, a Chia-Pet-like birthday present I never used, and various items it would be inappropriate for me to broadcast.
An agreement has been reached for the new apartment. If I'm willing to paint the place myself (which I am), I'm allowed to make it whatever color I want. In other words, no yellow. Yay.
"The present tenants are moving out on the 25th, so we should have plenty of time to get it cleaned up and painted before you move in."
"So the apartment is getting a paint job?"
"We're trying to brighten all of them up as new tenants move in."
"More of a soft, golden color, actually."
The gears in my head were probably turning a bit too fast for their own good. "You know, I think the entire concept of sex-segregated bathrooms is sort of outdated."
"Well, we have gay men using men's bathrooms and lesbians using women's bathrooms."
"So how is that different from men and women using the same bathroom?"
"I don't know, that could be sort of awkward. I mean, you'd be able to tell what number all the guys are doing by whether they use a stall or not."
"Not if all the urinals are in use." (In retrospect, I should have replied "so what?" After all, guys are already used to this.)
"But you could see what way their feet are facing."
"Only if you make a point of looking."
"I don't know. What if you have gas? That could be embarrassing."
I still think it's a good idea. I mean, think of the cost savings for new construction: A lot of buildings would probably be able to eliminate about a third of the space presently dedicated to restrooms. Sporting venues would be able to get rid of much of the inequality in restroom wait times, too.
) ) )
Talked to Sarah for a while last night. We're both relatively sarcastic individuals, and while we've been dropping scathing commentaries on one another for years, neither of us have ever really been hurt or insulted by such behavior, as our sarcasm is fundamentally friendly in nature. Unfortunately, we've both had the misfortune of inadvertently hurting (and in a few cases leveling) other people along the way. Having hurt a few people close to me, I've become more aware of this as an issue and have worked to moderate myself when conversing with the uninitiated. Sarah, though, was just confronted by this as a major risk for the first time. It's her life, so I won't go into the details, but suffice to say she's been unknowingly smacking around someone close to her for some time. (That's not to suggest I think it's entirely her fault. People who are overly touchy-feelyand it's arguable this other person iscan do a good job at setting themselves up to get hurt.)
I'm not sure if benevolent sarcasm is a skill or a trait. Could be both, I suppose. While not all of my friends are fluent in B.S. (that was a completely unintentional acronym, by the way), almost all of them can at least understand it. (Try as I might, sooner or later my sarcastic side will have to emerge, and that inevitably impacts who I have as friends.) Sarah's good at it, of course. So are both of the Bens4. Lisa (B.) is practically gifted, and while Robin and Jason generally aren't very sarcastic, they both can have their moments. Mel's good too, but that's probably because she's one of those broadcast types. Heh.
So how to deal with those who don't understand non-malicious sarcasm? I don't know. It's easy to say one should just turn it off, but that's much easier said than done. Regardless of the kind of sarcasm, if you're sarcastic on a regular basis and try to turn it off, you're putting forth a false presentation of yourself, something more along the lines of acting than courtesy. And there's no way that can end well.
Well, it's 11:00 this Saturday evening and I'm at home typing away on the handheld. Things are not going well with the computer situation: The innards of the 4100 have somewhat of a funky layout that requires a proprietary motherboard. Dell will be shipping that on Monday, and if I'm lucky I'll have it on Tuesday. If everything goes smoothly, by Wednesday I should know whether I have to get a new computer or if the present one can be, ahem, "fixed." One worry about that latter resolution: With the way American Family seems to be going, I may end up getting a bunch of spare parts thrown in the Dell's existing case, which, of course, isn't acceptable. Although I haven't had to use it much, service and support is a big part of the system I purchased a year and a half ago. Unfortunately, from Dell's perspective, my computer is toast, so support will probably be a problem. (Yes, I know it's completely possible to build good systems from scratch, but in this case we're coupling new parts with old parts that may have been exposed to excessive amounts of energy. Just like I wouldn't trust a unibody that was crumpled in an accident and then repaired, I can no longer trust that computer.)
) ) )
In other news, I've had a lot of good food lately. Had dinner at the Convention Grill in Edina yesterday. Big burgers, good fries, great malts. As good as that was, it was completely eclipsed this evening by another trip to Singapore Chinese Cuisine up in White Bear Lake. Phil, an old neighbor who happens to hail from Malaysia, organizes a trip to the restaurant every few months or so. It always brings together an interesting, varied group of people and the food, well, the food is really good. No, it's not just good, it's really fucking good. (It's a few hours after the dinner now, and I can still taste some of the spices on my tongue. Yum.) And, as said, the people and conversation were interesting, too. So it was a good evening.
) ) )
Well, this isn't a very ergonomic setup I'm working with, so I'm going to quit. Oh, how I want my computer back.
I'm breaking one of my rules today and am updating this site from work. Why? Well, I just wanted to say that I'm going to be offline, including e-mail, for at least a week.
I've always been skittish about computer failures and have tried to remain diligent in protecting my home system. The power inputs have always been guarded by surge protectors and Saturday-morning backups to an external drive have been commonplace. While that may be well and good, there's always a weak point, and yesterday at 6:30 in the evening a bolt of lightning identified it to be the cable modem. I wasn't there when it happened, but Heather and Rich said it sounded like a bomb went off over the apartment.
Lightning crashes, an old computer dies. Time to take stock of what I have: Um, not much. The backup drive seems to be as crisply toasted as the computer. (It was there to protect against hard disk failures, not power surges.) All of my recreational photography through the end of last month was backed up on CDs as well as the external drive, so I'm OK there, but all photos for lstc.org since the beginning of the year are probably lost. The last off-drive e-mail backup is almost six months old and all (non-site) journal entries since the middle of last year are probably gone. Of course, there are a lot of miscellaneous files lost as well.
From a financial standpoint, my renter's insurance should cover the replacement cost for the system. (I'm still with American Family for renter's insurance, though, so there's good reason to be skeptical.) From a data standpoint I'm going to look into whether anything can be recovered from the drives, but I'm not letting myself get overly hopeful.
So, as said, I'm going to be absent from this space for a while. Dammit.
) ) )
Craig asked me if the external drive was hooked up via USB.
"No, it was through FireWire."
"Well, that turned out to be more accurate of a description that you expected."
I spend enough time going for walks that I can categorize the different kinds I go on: There are the unplanned walks, the ones where I head off in no particular direction and refrain from deciding where I'm going until I get there. Then there are the neighborhood walks, the walks where I settle on a fairly clear route through the residential areas near the apartment. And finally there are the downtown walks, where I pick a locationusually a skyscraperand then set off to walk around it.
Tonight I decided to head downtown, my goal City Center. I ended up cutting through the MCTC and St. Thomas campuses before walking down Nicollet Mall. Much of the mall was blocked off and barricaded, satellite broadcast vehicles occupying much of the street in anticipation of the Mary Tyler Moore statue dedication tomorrow3. It wasn't a particularly interesting scene, but it was different enough for me to pull out my camera. A rent-a-cop walked over, his eyes suspicious. "Do you work here?"
He stared at me for a moment as if expecting an explanation, and continued down the street only after it became painfully obvious he wasn't going to get one. I took a few more photos and then started to walk around City Center. On Hennepin I came across a young man holding a door to the building for some guy in a wheelchair. The battery for the chair had run out and the guy was unable to get it over the threshold, so I gave him a push. "Can you get me through the other door," he asked, and so I did. Those kind of wheelchairs are difficult to move when the power is outthe engine gives a lot of resistanceand so it was easy to see why he couldn't do it himself: His right arm looked fine, but his left arm was half its length, his left hand bloated and ball like. His legs were flat, thin, and boxy, like paperbacks set end to end. And I don't want to come across as being mean, but he probably had some problems with his bowel functions, as he was quite possibly the foulest-smelling individual I've ever met. (Upon hearing all of this, Heather wondered if he could have been afflicted with an unusually brutal case of spina bifida. I don't know.)
"Hey, can you help me out," he asked as I rolled him down a hallway in search of an electrical outlet. "I missed the bus and need to get back to my place in St. Paul... I only got $3 on me."
"Sorry, I don't have anything on me," I replied, thankful that this evening that happened to be true. We found an outlet, and he plugged the chair in and looked at the floor. I briefly considered wishing him good luck, but for whatever reason just turned and left.
Outside I started breathing normally again. Hennepin was pretty much empty save for one person walking in my direction. He looked at me and nodded. "Hey man."
I almost stopped. "Yes, it is."
It started raining about halfway back to the apartment. I'm usually not one for walking in the rain, but tonight it didn't bother me.
It's been sort of a strange day.
) ) )
A few days ago I asked how to get wax out of carpeting. Today I got an e-mail from Robin:
turns out that i just read your webpage and i do have a good way to get wax out of carpet... turn your iron on to medium heat, let it warm up, then have a whole bunch of paper towels or old towels or newspaper handy. put the aforementioned absorbent material on top of the wax and then press the iron on it. after a little wax has melted and soaked in, change the position of the material so that you set a clean spot over the remaining wax. keep going until all of the wax (or most of it) is gone. it helps to scrape off as much dried wax as you can with an unsharp butter knife before starting the above process.
I'll have to try that.
) ) )
Sarah was talking to me on the phone about the sex toy party2 she's going to host in a couple of weeks: "I've been trying to talk my sister into coming down for it. Of course, her boyfriend wants to come."
"You should be careful with your word choices."
"Well, that's sort of hard."
"Shut up, I'm tired."
) ) )
"I just got kicked in the back."
"Oh, Rich is just carrying Heather back to the bedroom."
"I bet you're happy to see that."
) ) )
I was still on the phone with Sarah when Rich walked up from the back of the apartment. "Did you hear that?"
"Someone was yelling Heather's name."
The obvious reply was too easy, so I went with something else: "Maybe Mark decided to dump his trophy wife," I said, referring to Heather's ex.
"You have a trophy wife?"
He stared out the front windows for a moment before heading back towards the bedroom. "I suppose there are a lot of Heathers around here. It was probably for someone else."
"Probably." I turned back to the phone. "Sorry about that."
"Do you have a trophy hand?"
I'd like to state, once again, that Canon's ZoomBrowser is one of the crapiest image-management programs available. (The only reason I still use it is because I haven't found a decent alternative route to get photo datashutter speed, aperture and suchoff my camera.) Due to the problems it's been giving me lately, I decided to try to upgrade to the newest version. Well, that was a mistake. I spent most of the morning and much of the late afternoon restoring photos and databases, and in the end was forced to revert back to the older version of the program.
That said, I did manage to find some time to get out over the past couple days:
Late-afternoon lunch at Chipotle1: Steak burrito with hot salsa. Four-hour early-evening bar excursion: Coca-Cola, Smirnoff Ice. After-bar dinner excursion: Sack of sliders and fries from White Castle. 12:38 A.M... What the hell was I thinking?
) ) )
Now, I consider myself a fairly open-minded guy, but I draw the line at pee. The bar was pretty loud, so we were basically yelling at each other. (Names have been concealed for obvious reasons.)
A: "Whenever my boyfriend and I had to pee at the same time I'd just straddle the toilet and he'd go in through the middle."
B: "I've done that."
C: "Now that is fucked up."
A: "It's just pee..."
B: "It's no big deal as long as he doesn't aim upwards."
A: "I need another cigarette. You gonna have another beer?"
) ) )
One nice thing about drunk people is you can wander off to the bar and by the time you've returned they'll have forgotten what they were interrogating you about.
) ) )
This is unrelated to anything else I've written today, but if anyone know a good way to get candle wax out of carpeting, please let me know.
) ) )
The conversation reached a lull, so I decided to break it. "You know what the best part of the first Superman movie was?"
"It was where Eve Teschmacher asked Lex Luthor where the other missle was headed and he told her Hackensack, New Jersey. And she was like 'But my mother lives in Hackensack!' And he looked at his watch, looked at her and slowly shook his head no."
"That was so funny."
OK, maybe. But it was a really good piece of acting by Hackman. (Later in the day: "What do you mean you haven't seen The French Connection!?")
) ) )
As of today both my boss and my boss' boss are aware of this site. Not quite sure how I feel about that. Theoretically, at the rate things are going, it should only take eight more months before the company's CEO knows about it, too.
) ) )
Today is the Day Of Silence for Internet radio listeners.
) ) )
April was a long, rough month. Good riddance.