Saturday, May 29, 2004

Zen, cats and Honolulu politics 

So my parents are visiting, and I asked how the Honolulu mayoral race was shaping up. They told me that Bainum (who they support) was up in the last poll, but that they were afraid that Mufi Hanneman was going to pull an upset before November. So I told them about how we'd renamed one of our cats Poofy Hanneman the night before (well, when I say 'we', I mean 'me, over the objections of everyone else') because he'd been fighting with Arya and it made him all poofy.

Then we decided that Mufi is actually a pretty good name for a cat, and resolved to get a new cat and name him Mufi. Especially since we could call him 'Moof', for short, or better yet, 'Mu'.

One day, a young monk came upon the Master sitting by the side of a road, petting a cat. The cat purred and rubbed its chin along the Master's arm.

"Master," said the young monk, "what is the cat's name?"

The master looked up at the young monk and said, "Mu." Years later, the monk was enlightened.


Thursday, May 27, 2004

The parental visit 

My parents are flying in tomorrow night for ten days. There are good things and bad things about having your parents visit. Good things include getting taken out to dinner at nicer restaurants than you can afford, having random presents for your house pressed on you ("I just happened to notice that you didn't have a...so we got you one"), and in the case of this trip, having your father rent a beachhouse on the coast near the Dunes for a weekend of dune-buggying and horseback riding. Bad things - well, the bad things vary from trip to trip but usually involve parental judgements that I'm sure everyone is familiar with.

I'm glad they're coming, though. Actually, what I'm really glad about is that my mom got cleared to travel. A couple of months ago she went to the doctor for a sinus infection and found out her blood pressure was through the roof. 225/125 - we're talking stroke country here. So she's been back in the doctor's office every week (sometimes twice) since then, as they tried different medications and doses to bring it down. They've finally found a combination of three drugs that has it down to high-normal range, and her doctor has approved this trip on the condition that she not engage in any strenuous activity.

We weren't terribly worried - hypertension runs in her side of the family, and my grandmother has been on blood pressure meds for 30 years and is still around (and besides, we figured if it was something to really freak out about, the doctor would have hospitalized her), but it was a little tense for a while.

So this is why we have weekends 

Periodically, I have one of those days where I just can't work. I mean, I cannot make myself do it. I answer a few emails, maybe even do a few quick bugfixes or change requests. If the malady is not too bad I can send out invoices and write quotes (mental note: crap, I forgot to send out hosting invoices this month), but substantive work does not get done. Every time I settle down to start pounding out code, someone else takes over my body and when I get it back I'm reading the news, or watching TV, or blogging. I've also noticed this slowing and distractibility to be creeping up on the days in which I do get work done.

Today is one of those days, and it finally occurred to me that this seems to happen about once a week. At first I just mentally bludgeoned myself about deadlines and lost productivity, but slowly my hooky-playing brain connected the dots. Maybe it has something to do with working seven days a week. Maybe, if I actually set aside a day on which I would do no work, and stuck to it, this ennui would abate a bit and I would be able to get more work done on the days that I do work. What a crazy idea!

Now, if I could just come up with a word for that seventh day, the one I'm resting on...

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

I support the troops 

I support the troops. I think they should be paid more, so that they don't have to worry about losing their EITC, and so that none of our enlisted men & women are on food stamps.

I think they and their families should be given proper support and counseling before, during and after they're sent off to war, so that they don't wind up committing suicide or in therapy for years. I think that if they are already mentally ill, they should not be sent into a combat situation.

I think that if wounded, they should be given the highest level of care available, both while they are in service and after they are discharged. I think that we have a moral responsibility to live up to the promises that we made to them when they signed up, and to hold up our side of their contracts as they uphold theirs.

And above all, I think they should have a Commander-in-Chief who understands the sacred gift they are offering to their country, and who will not throw that gift away frivolously, or in any but the most dire need. A Commander-in-Chief who will support the troops, rather than demanding that they support him and his hazy dreams of Empire.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Harry of Five Points 

From Making Light comes Harry of Five Points, a bit of Damon Runyon does Shakespeare by one of TNH's brilliant commenters. A must-read. Use Babelfish if you don't know enough French to get through the third act - it's well worth it.

mes amis que tous conduisent des Porsches, je doivent faire le dedommagement...

Friday, May 21, 2004

Oh, for a less clever cat 

This is what evenings at my house are like:

Setting: the living room. There are two computers in the room. Only the laptop is currently being used. Cyclopatra is bent over her work, typing furiously to get something finished. Or maybe she's just blogging, but whatever - she's absorbed.

Enter the cat. Small, grey, unbelievably cute, with big trusting green eyes and a furry belly that you just - can't - resist - rubbing. She uses that belly to good advantage, too, flashing it at me whenever she thinks she's in trouble, knowing I'll just have to fall to my knees and rub it.

The cat walks over to the other computer desk and finds some small object that she can turn into a giant mess. Lately it's been one of those little travel packs of Kleenex - she can rip it open and have it all over the living room in ten seconds flat. Even worse was when she found L's secret cache of hot sauce packets from Taco Bell - although the offended look on her face as she licked the stuff off her paws once she'd ripped that open was a joy to behold. Hiding these things is no good, either - she knows the ways of drawers, cupboards and boxes, even those with snap-on lids.

Having secured the item and my attention at the same time, she bolts behind an armchair with her prize as soon as I even look like standing up. I sigh and cross the living room, promising all sorts of Dantean punishments for this latest misbehavior. I reach under the armchair and drag her out by her hind legs, retrieving the stolen goods. She looks up at me as I start to scold her...

...and begins purring ecstatically. Because, you see, she knows that I'm her Mommy, and that I won't hurt her. The worst punishment I can bring myself to administer to her is to hold her for ten minutes so that she can't run around and play. Which inevitably leads to the petting, the purring...and the belly.

Then she scampers off, only to return three minutes later and begin the whole charade again.

Viva Las Vegas 

J & L are in Vegas this weekend. Her first trip ever, his first since he became old enough to gamble and drink. J doesn't take many days off, probably because things seem to go wrong with the servers he herds whenever he does. I've decided that my new mental image of J's job is 'serverherd' - I'm picturing him with a shepherd's crook in one hand and a keyboard under his arm, gazing out over a field of servers that he protects and tends. His flock is up to nearly 40 boxen - which is pretty impressive when you consider he manages all of them on his own.

I've already had to restart one webserver for him - the darn things just *know* when he's not around and start acting up, I swear. It's like kids and a babysitter.

He's called three times so far, which is good, because I keep remembering things that I should tell him to do or see - to have dinner at the Blue Iguana in the Circus Circus (fantastic Tex-Mex food), that the Hilton and the Circus Circus are the closest hotels to his with Internet access, to take a craps lesson and then go to Slots of Fun where the dealers don't sneer at you and the tables have $1 minimums.

OK, make that two webservers. And four phonecalls.


My mother rarely had cause to object to the way I dressed when I was younger. Well, she didn't much care for what I wore to the Dungeon, but considering that she allowed me to attend a BDSM/fetish-themed night where public whippings and nudity were not uncommon, her objections were mild to say the least. (I have to confess here that I'm not entirely sure she knew about the wilder aspects of the club - but that's a topic for another day.)

But we had a constant struggle over socks. I could not be made to see why it was important that my socks matched - either what I was wearing or each other. So it was not at all unusual in my HS days for me to head off to school wearing pink socks with a green shirt, or, as my laundry pile grew and I was scraping the bottom of my underwear drawer, one black sock and one purple sock with red pants.

Ten years later, I still don't care about my socks. They're something you put on your feet to keep your shoes from feeling icky and your toes from getting cold, as far as I'm concerned. I've stopped wearing mismatched socks, but only because all of my socks are plain white cotton sport socks, bought in packs of 12 at Ross or Costco. My feeling is that if I'm wearing sneakers, I'm dressed casually; if I'm wearing dress shoes, I'll be wearing hose; and if I'm wearing my skyscraper-heeled dominatrix boots, no one can see my socks (or will dare to argue with me if they do), so what does it matter?

But yesterday I broke down and bought some grown-up socks - six pairs of thin cotton trouser socks, in black and beige and gray. I'd like to say it was because I've finally seen the light and realized that a professional adult such as I sometimes pretend to be should dress the part from top to bottom. But I'd be lying. The truth is, they were a buck cheaper per three-pack at Marshalls than the plain white sport socks I usually buy.

Sorry, Mom.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Bride of Sevenless 

Diane Duane (author of the indescribably fabulous Young Wizards series) turns up this not-to-be-missed tidbit on her blog, Out of Ambit:

"From Flybase, a database of fruit-fly genes maintained by a consortium of research institutions. The genes were named by the researchers who discovered them. Convention suggests that if the genes' human counterparts are discovered, they will be given the same names:

"'aloof, always early, amontillado, bang senseless, bang sensitive, bride of sevenless, brother of odd with entrails limited, bumper-to-bumper, couch potato, crack, crossbronx, Daughter killer, daughter of sevenless, Deadpan, deathknell, Dinty, disco-related, dog of glass, effete, eggroll, enoki mushroom, escargot, ether a go-go, fear-of-intimacy, fuzzy onions, genghis khan, glass bottom boat, Godzilla, Grunge, gut feeling, helter-skelter, he's not interested, hoi-polloi, In dunce, inebriated, jekyll and hyde, just odd knobs, ken and barbie, king tubby, klingon, ladybird early, ladybird late, lemming, long island expressway, maelstrom, Malvolio, members only, mozzarella, naked cuticle, nanking, okra, out at first, oxen, pacman, papillote, pentagon, pugilist, quagmire, quick-to-court, redtape, Revolute, roadkill, rolling stone, sawtooth, scab, scott of the antarctic, scruin like at the midline, sevenless, Sex lethal, shank, similar to Deadpan, singles bar, slamdance, spotted dick, stranded at second, Thor, thousand points of light, Trailer hitch, vibrator, viking.'"

I did a little spotchecking in FlyBase itself and it appears to be true: one should never leave geneticists alone for too long.

Sometimes I've thought that I might possess the 'he's not interested' gene...

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

If you don't read Fafblog already... 

...it may be too late for you. But in case there is still time, go immediately to the fafblog and read about what to do if you come across a dirty bomb:

If the dirty bomb begins to growl or if its ears are pressed flat against its head this may be a sign of aggression. Back away slowly from the dirty bomb. Do not make quick moves which could make it nervous. Do not show fear...

If you are approached by a dirty bomb in a car do not get in even if it knows your name or offers you presents. Do not let the dirty bomb touch you! Stay with adults or Homeland Security officials at all times until the dirty bomb has left the scene. Tell a police officer immediately about what has happened.

Use Fafblog as a relief from the dry boringness of ordinary news. Use Fafblog as a relief from the dry boringness of ordinary news NOOOOOW!

Monday, May 03, 2004

Ouch! More gardening 

My entire back and shoulders are stiff tonight, and I expect to be almost immobile tomorrow, which just reinforces the fact that I really need to get back into the gym. We spent the weekend weeding. The previous occupants of this house appear to have done nothing in the way of gardening - even the boxes that line the railings of the deck were empty when we moved in.

Granted, it's a challenging lot - a steep hill in front, not much more than a blackberry-overrun strip in back, and most of it gets very little sun due to the abundance of pines and maples - but we decided we could do better than that, and the past couple of weekends have been the first battles of the campaign. J and I spent the past two afternoons digging out the weeds choking the front - I can't call it a yard - area at the street level, battling things with thorns and splinters and strange bugs to dig up what seems to be half a ton of assorted greenery, including roughly ten million baby maple trees, the product of the "evil seeds" (with their tiny, splinter-hairs that embed so easily in any exposed skin) that had plagued us so last fall. L worked up on the hill, raking up last fall's dead leaves, pulling up the sparser weeds that grow on the slope, and uncovering a baby garter snake that tried ineffectually to strike the rake and distracted us all from our work for a good half hour while we debated the pros and cons of catching it to give L's ball python Charla a friend (we decided to leave it alone; if I decide I really do want a garter snake I'll buy one from a pet store and get a pretty red one or something).

L and I are planning to put in a riot of flowers along the street. It's far too late to plant most bulbs but I've heard that Fred Meyer carries tulip & daffodil starts at this time of year, or else I might be able to get some pre-cooled bulbs and force them. I want some lilies in different colors too, and maybe some amaryllis. I guess tomorrow I should visit the various garden centers and nurseries in the neighborhood and decide what I want and can afford.

As for ground cover for the hill, does anyone know of a nice, flowering cover that doesn't need much sun? The hill is mostly shaded, but we'd like to put something green in there, with maybe a little color. We don't get much rain in the summer but I can probably convince my dad to help me set up a sprinkler system when he visits later this month.

Gah, look at how domestic I'm getting. Blogging about cooking and my garden. It's frightening, I tell you.

Why do I watch TV? 

So yeah, 10.5. So far, it's not the worst thing I've ever seen, but it sure comes close. It opens in media res, as the first earthquake is taking place in Seattle, with horrible, nausea-inducing quick-cut camera shots of some of our protagonists and some other random people (including a hardcore bicyclist who rides over crashed cars and cracking roads only to die later). The first 5 minutes are basically dialogue-free. Before it started, I was joking with J that one of the great things about disaster movies is the schadenfreude of watching models of national landmarks get destroyed, especially when MicroMachines™ are involved.

Turns out that there's not much schadenfreude to watching the Space Needle fall. The show doesn't get much better from there, although at least they stopped the awful quick-cutting. The writing is terrible, the acting is worse, and the effects are only so-so. And why did the crevice that was opening up behind the speeding train stop opening as soon as the train fell in? And of course the plot is entirely predictable. And those circa-1986 splitscreen & foursquare shots! What where they thinking?

What blows my mind is that as they were making this miniseries, and while NBC was promoting it, a fairly large number of people had to think, "Yeah, this is good stuff. This is great! People are gonna love it!" J kept asking, "Why didn't they make it better?" It had so much potential as a disaster show - ok, it was never gonna be great cinema, but it could have been great TV. So why didn't they make it at least a little better?

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Marriage is love.