Nov 99

giving thanks

what am i celebrating this thanksgiving? let me see…

i am thankful for:

sweet potatoes and stuffing that comes from the gutted remains of a bird
70 mile per hour speed limits
comfortable shoes
the music of jethro tull and emerson, lake, and palmer
the paintings of norman rockwell and roy lichtenstein
apple computer
the intoxicating effect of fermented sugars on humans
the amount of fermentable sugars available in varieties of red grapes
indoor plumbing and the electric light bulb
the anonymous early humans that invented the plow and oral sex
wool socks and static electricity
elastic wastebands in men’s pants
private women’s colleges
the sun
tabasco sauce
public transportation
japanese animation and saturday morning cartoons
open source and free software
the strength of the american dollar
krispy kreme doughnuts

and many more.

what are you thankful for this year? please respond to this rant and let me know.

Nov 99

leonids schmeonids

cold, sleep-deprived, and congested, i awoke to the alarm this morning, briefly confused by my surroundings.

yes, i was at home, in my own bed, with two warm lumps at my feet indicating my cats had survived the night and had not tunneled out to freedom. i was confused because, as far as i can remember, i fell asleep on a bed of pea-gravel next to a lake.

ah. that’s right. the brief consort with morpheus by the lakeshore lasted only a moment, and was disrupted by a sharp gasp. “another one!” one of my companions cried. everyone else, disappointed they had not seen it, asked where in the sky, and grumbled that she was making them up.

yes, we went out to see the leonids last night, the much hyped – if you went to the right website anyhow – “meteor storm”. supposedly this year’s installment of the annual pelting from space was to be ‘the big one’, a repeat of 1966 where many people believed the world was coming to an end, or that someone had declared war one someone else – bright lights and high-atmosphere fireballs tend to instill these fantasies on people.

but we were out of luck. the few dozen meteors we did see were too few and to far between to make any discernible “storm”, and were obscured by a very bright quarter moon and low clouds. what did make up for stiff necks and lateness of the hour was the brilliant setting of that same bright moon behind a stand of trees, only slightly obscured by a mist rising off the water.

i took a moment to recall the first meteor shower i ever observed, when i was 8. my parents took me to a state park, whose reason for being was to preserve the burial and temple mounds of a neolithic indian tribe. lying on my back, staring into the night sky atop a mound of earth, my father explained to me that the metors weren’t actually coming at the earth, but rather that the earth was revolving around the sun, and running into them.

the shift in my perspective was vertigo-inducing, and i have never been able to pass up a good stargazing opportunity since – whether in a frost-covered field while camping where i was first able to see the bright smudge of the mulky way, or from the deck of a boat under a sky so clear one could easily make out satellites passing overhead.

so, despite the cold, the lack of spectacular fireballs, and a creeping feeling of dread, miles from anywhere, at the bottom of a boat ramp alongside a small lake in rural north carolina, a lyric from “learning to fly” came to mind.

i can’t keep my mind from the circling sky
tongue-tied and twisted,
i’m just an earth-bound misfit eye

Nov 99

the rant that might have been

i apologize once again for the infrequency with which i have been updating this site, but i must say this: losing a hard drive sucks. hard. always back your stuff up. always. especially your porn.

but seriously, there’s a reason for the ‘mean time between failures’ numbers on these things, and i have a compUSA tracking number to prove it.

the topic of today’s rant was to be the state department of motor vehicles, that singular entity that is the focus of so much hatred and revulsion that it is actually palpable when one is forced to wait in line to do something as simple as change one’s address.

i was prepared to do a long, hideously frustrated rant at the dmv, but in light of my recent experiences with them, i have changed my tune.

having recently moved, i thought it was about time to change the address on my car’s registration and my drivers’ license. anticipating not one, but two long queues filled with the unwashed denizens of who-knows-what backwater country, all eager to do something the grizzled old woman behind the one open window is unwilling to comply with, i took a day off work.

oddly, my saga begins, not at the license office, but at compUSA, where i was dropping off my brain-dead computer for a hard drive transplant – warranty warranty warranty!

on the way back, i was ticketed for speeding in a 35 mph zone that i, and every other driver around me, would have sworn was 45. but, since the officer was so kind as to take a few points off the ticket, such that it was not a mandatory court date, as well as instruct me how to avoid it showing up on my insurance, i didn’t want to press the point. he warned me that i had exceeded the grace period in which i was legally required to update my license and registration with current addresses, but, as i explained that the license office was my next stop, he let it slide. i thanked him for his expediency (the whole transaction was over in less than 5 minutes), and wished him happy hunting.

at home, i called the dmv about my registration, also asking about my license. could i go to the same office for tags as for my license. no. was there some conspiracy preventing all my dmv needs being fulfilled in one location? no, it has always been this way, apparently since the eighth day of creation when god created beurocracy. what would i need to bring to change the address on my license? my social security card and ten bucks. i asked why they needed a social security card since i already had my license, and they required that or a copy of my birth certificate to get one in the first place, and why not my passport (something i am more willing to carry around with me than the flimsy, unlaminated social security card) since the one would not be issued without the other, but she was not very responsive to that. only the original card would do, nothing else.

however, when i asked about the registration and tags on my car, she asked my license number and new address and, get this, was able to change the information over the phone. no lines, no waiting, no breathing the b.o. of every redneck within 100 miles. no service charge or processing fee. this was service.

so, happy to have cut my inconvenience in half, i headed out to the license office with the most vital piece of identifying documentation i own, and ten bucks, in hand.

imagine my surprise when i arrived at the office, and was presented with only three other people in line. on a friday. at lunch time. more distressing to my image of the dmv as the great tax-funded satan was the fact that, behind the desk were three uniformed police officers, all assisting customers!

and, despite all previous objections, all i needed to do in order to change my address was give the officer my current license and my social security number. he didn’t need to see the card, didn’t care that i had it. since i had already given my current address to the registration office, it came up immediately on the computer at the license office, and the entire transaction, including me digging the ten dollars out of my wallet, took less than a minute.

slack-jawed, i posed for the digital camera, and five minutes later, left with a brand new license, already printed, laminated, and certified.

and so, until my date in court on december 8, i am still basking in the newly discovered glow of my state’s streamlined and efficient dmv. after that, i may have some new choice words for them, but for now, i’m happy to live where i do.