Jan 00

karma -or- snowed in

i have a kitten whose name is karma.

being a kitten, she is much like the universal law for which she is named.

for instance, if you are kind to her, don’t make too many demands, and don’t make any sudden movements or loud noises, she will curl up in your lap and start to purr.

karma‘s cool like that.

lately, we have been snowed in, and confined to the apartment. for the last several days, raleigh has been digging out from a record snowfall of between 12 and 18 inches of fine, white powder. my parking lot is treacherous, and has been un-navigable for the last three days.

despite the dangers, several of my neighbors have attempted, for better or worse, to leave the frozen wastes in search of food or employment. yesterday, my brother, resourceful, intrepid explorer that he is, trundled over the tundra in his newly acquired four-wheel drive (low ratio), and lent me a hand in digging out my car, as well as those of my neighbors. we even went so far as to chip out a pair of trenches for traction to the main road.

we pushed cars out of the lot, loaned out our boots, backs, and shovel to those in need, not because we were looking for money or praise, but, more than anything else, we were bored out of our everloving skulls.

and so, this morning, karma (the universal kind, not the kitten) was smiling upon me as i left for work for the first time in what seemed like weeks.

as a sidenote, the only reason i truly had to go into work was to put through a rush job for a client who was also snowed in, otherwise, i would have kept inside and avoided the fates, who, as you will see, had it out for me today.

immediately, i became stuck pulling out of my parking space. you see, all the places we had cleared the day before were no longer bare pavement, but, in fact, black ice. black ice, as you may know, is that most wonderous of winter phenomena, in which pavement that looks wet is in fact a sheet of ice so smooth and regular that one could hold olympic skating competitions on it.

wheels spinning, i tried a few times to locate a bare patch of pavement upon which to gain purchase, to no avail.

when, lo and behold, one of my neighbors, whom i had pushed not once but twice out of the snowy lot, came out of his apartment and offered me a push.

with a little muscle behind me, and the plucky little saturn spinning its tires with every bit of power it has, we managed to get into the clear and off down the road.

yes, karma can indeed be a good thing. without the help of my fellow man, i would have likely left my car where it was, gone inside, and called my client to tell him to kiss my lily white ass.

but no, off i went, all aglow in a feeling of invincibility.

then, you see, i realized the true nature of karma.

yes, karma can be very lovely and sweet when you have been good, but, much like my kitten, she will sometimes jump up and bite you on the ass.

you see, as i crested the one hill in the parking lot, looking down upon a cul-de-sac near the entrance, i saw not one, but at least a half dozen cars, parked around its perimeter. unable to mount the hill the night before, many of my neighbors had decided to stay put at the bottom of the hill and walk the rest of the way home.

dead center in the cul-de-sac was a truck, idling, presumably stuck, whilst its owner spread salt or sand onto the ice for traction.

at a dead stop at the top of the hill, gravity took hold of the plucky little saturn and we began to slide down the hill, picking up speed despite my efforts to control our descent. frantically trying to steer into a nearby snowbank on the side of the road, i was too panicked to even honk the horn to warn those in the target zone at the bottom of the hill. a surreally silent, slow slide resulted in my car plowing sideways (thankfully it wasn’t head-on) into the parked truck.

the resulting damage was minimal, considering what could have happened. i lost my passenger-side mirror – which, admittedly, i can do without – and the truck has a dent in the rear passenger-side quarter panel. in all, my deductible will probably cover it, and i should be able to pay the man cash for the repair, rather than incurring the wrath of my insurance company.

after exchanging numbers and apologies, i was on my way to work.


of course, the client needed the ad i worked most of today on ASAP, but it turns out the magazine it is to go into doesn’t need the films until tuesday, so my trip to work was mostly wasted – i could have made due by starting in on it first thing monday. go figure.

deciding not to brave the slippery hill, i parked my car at a nearby grocery store after work and walked about a half mile home (all uphill in the deep snow.. i swear!)

but, what do my eyes behold upon trudging into the apartment lot, blowing steam like a locomotive, but a freshly plowed cul-de-sac and aforementioned hill! clean as if it were freshly paved, the hill is now no more dangerous than after rain.

however, the hill has hardly claimed its last victim. the cul-de-sac remains a parking lot, and tomorrow night, the forecast calls for not snow, but freezing rain, which is ever more treacherous.

Jan 00

in the human mind…

so you go back to somewhere you haven't been in many years...
you just wanna say hi to a few people...
and yer talkin' to someone...
and something sets off a mental trigger,
you don't know what it was,
but you start to shake violently,
and feel on edge,
and you can't even tell exactly why.
so you sit there trying to control the tremmors,
trying to save face,
fending it off untill you can get up and leave.
and there was no more threat there,
no reason for an anxiety attack,
but it still happened...

...and you realize how little control you have over you life,
and how far from mental hygiene you really are...

Jan 00

gun goes boom now

i just got back from an exciting day at the shooting range with my brother, the gun enthusiast. where i collect computers and hoard software, he collects guns and stockpiles ammunition. actually, he only owns a few guns, and hasn’t got much more than a weekend’s supply of ammo at any one time, but still – i know which uncle my kids are not allowed to visit.

certainly he’s no militia nut, living in a shack in the black hills writing a manifesto, but his recent acquisisitions worried me.

that is, until i had a chance to shoot some clays. damn, that’s fun.

the smell of sulphur on my hands and clothes, as well as the blossoming bruise in my shoulder are just the lingering reminders of what began as research, but ended up being an enjoyable, if long, afternoon.

you see, shotguns aren’t so bad. and neither are the people that shoot them. we met and chatted with several folks at the range, including families, and they were very friendly, even giving me, the novice shooter, pointers on how to better disintegrate the little orange clay pigeons.

safety rules were well enforced – “check your breach” and “is your safety on” and “goddamnit, point that thing downrange!” were uttered more than once. hell, even the sound of the barrage of shells wasn’t too loud, even when i took out my earplugs.

on the other hand, though, we walked by the pistol range on the way to and from the skeet ranges, and damn, those things are loud. sure, there was the pitter-patter of .22 and 9mm shots, rifles and such. but there must have been one guy with a .45 or larger, wailing away – the shots could be heard over the din of a family of four taking turns at trap shooting.

the guys on the pistol range, in the brief glimpse i saw of them, looked a good bit more solitary and singular in their concentration on putting holes in pieces of cardboard from as little as 5 yards away, it seemed.

also while we were walking around, i noticed a good number – too many, if you ask me – of random holes in various structures. i suppose it’s a good sign i didn’t see more, considering the gun club has been operating for at least 40 years. with so many guns around, there’s bound to be misfires, but, keeping in mind the stringent safety regulation, i don’t think i could have felt much safer, given the number of bullets and shells in the immediate area.

come to think of it, perhaps that was why everyone was so nice and polite to one another. they knew, without a doubt, that everyone else there was packing.

Jan 00

packs of wild dogs

so, y2k has come and gone, and without so much as a single death or injury attributed to the date rollover. as i expected.

big whoop.

so, what was with the downtime the last couple of days? well, the kind and generous folks that host this machine and its bandwidth transitioned to a new upstream provider, and hence to a new set of IP numbers. there were some glitches in the transition, but all’s well now. the downtime and new year’s day were coincidental at best.

no, the power did not go out. no, the water did not stop running. no, the police were not crippled by a blackout of 911 service. and no, the ASPCA did not release packs of wild dogs onto the streets at midnight last friday.

and what of the billions of dollars spent here and elsewhere to combat the aging computer and electronic infrastructure, and ready the world for the coming of the dreaded why too kay?

if nothing else, it can be said that the billions well spent (and poured into industry and new, if temporary, jobs) prevented disasters that would surely have caused wasted billions in damage. more than anything, it is heartening to know that the systems of the U.S. government, as well as the infrastructures of the industrialized world, are now as up to date as can be (or as up to date as throwing a few hundred billion dollars at them can make them).

there were a few small glitches, to be sure. the biggest of these is the one i am most surprised nobody noticed beforehand: javascript! the date handling in javascript – not related by any stretch of the imagination to the java programming language – is causing all kinds of chuckalicious fun at websites all over. it’s either 1900, 2900, 19100, or, best of all, 39100 at sites all over the place.

and the lasting legacy of the not-quite-the-millenium but-we’ll-call-it-that-for-kicks bug? marauding hordes of newly unemployed programmers, debuggers, testers, and geeks of all nature. their pockets full of pensions and severence checks, on top of heavily inflated salaries, they will flood the investment market working toward retirement as soon as they can. what will become of these suddenly poor, geeky souls on february 29 when the financial markets finally do crash and leave them penniless?

who knows. but i’ll tell you for certain, the wild dogs will have plenty to chew on come march.

anyhow, i’ll go back to my bunker now – as i’ve got three months of canned food and bottled water to work on. pass the bullets.