as Ren says: “what izzzz it maaan?”

Wow. Eleven days since my last entry. That’s the biggest gap yet.

Things have been very busy. As the merry month of May progressed, the cold reality of a hard deadline at work loomed. I was going on vacation on May 22, and certain software by yours truly had to be delivered. As the task of producing the desired deliverable seemed ever more like the trials of Sysiphus, it began to absorb more and more of my time.

Things came to a head on Wednesday of this week. I was leaving to visit the parental units the following day. Software had to be finished… though “finished” turned out to be a moving target. I believe I worked a full 40+ hour week in three days. When I was done, I had software that worked… though not containing all the features that I could have hoped for.

Oh well.

In the meanwhile, various kinds of mayhem ensued. I upgraded my computer at home, replacing a five year old CPU, motherboard, and memory with modern (though not the top of the line) replacements. This certainly gives my computer at home a certain snap that it hasn’t had in years.

I have learned that most fiendish of operating systems Windows XP handles this sort of hardware change, but not perfectly. It turned out that the change caused the software I use to work from home to no longer function correctly. This raised my blood pressure another couple notches as I could not work from home for a brief while… and with deadlines looming, I needed to work from home.

At the same time, however, my errand to replace these parts resulted in damage to my car. I was parked in a multi-level parking structure. As I was backing out, I misjudged the distance between my car and a large truck across the aisle. As the truck rides to much higher off the road than mine does, its bumper rode up over the top of mine and put a dent in the truck (or for my British readers, the boot) of my car. It was minor damage, and hurt my pride more than it probably hurt my car.

Finally, there has been marital mayhem of the best kind. A ring has been repaired, a proposal has been made, and an answer of yes has been given. Forms have been filed with the Catholic Church and deposits have been made. The Church is going to make us wait at least six months and Fiancee S. wants a summer wedding, so… it looks like the happy day will occur sometime in June 2004.

Of course, we have now both learned that “congratulations-have-you-set-a-date-yet?” is really all one word.

I am also being asked questions… questions like what music will we have during the Mass? The Parish where we will be married has a form for such things, and it includes may lovely though standard choices in sacred music. Since I know that a choralier or two has been known to read my words, perhaps those enlightened few could make some suggestions in case I need to think outside the box?

In any case, I have temporarily fled the madness near hearth and home for the next week or so. Instead, I get to spend some time with the parental units in the land of my birth. I just got back from visiting with a childhood friend who I met when his desk was next to mine in the First Grade. He will most likely be the Best Man at my wedding. We celebrated that by opening a bottle of the Signatory 14 year old Laphroig — a truly wonderous dram possessing many of the virtues and few of the vices of other bottlings of Laphroig.

things that are annoying me these days

Top 10 things that are bugging me these days.

10. Women celebrities who are so famous that they have one word nicknames or are known solely by their first names. I’m tired hearing about the likes of Britney, J-Lo, Shania, and Mariah.

9. The objectification of the women with the word “poontang”.

8. Occultists. If I hear one more time about how Edgar Cayce said that the remains of Atlantis would be found in 1968 or how secret knowledge would be found under the Sphinx, I’ll scream.

7. That damn Windsor Pilates infomercial. Daisy Fuentes is a babe and all, but, I don’t need to see her talking about Mari Windsor and Pilates 24/7.

6. Reality TV. I’m told that the United States is an aberration because the majority of its television programming is still not reality based. I’m not in favor of going with the majority of the world on this one.

5. Radio shock jocks. When did interviews with strippers and porn stars about whether or not their girlfriends shave become the necessary litmus test for First Amendment freedom?

4. Microsoft. Not that they’ve done anything in particular lately. I just work with computers, have an advanced degree, and know better.

3. Bell bottoms and faux fur. Are women’s fashions going to be perpetually trapped in the waiting line for Studio 54 on July 17, 1978?

2. The pimp as a male role model. Maybe I’m just being very old school here, but, when did a man who gets women to sell sex for money become someone worthy of emulation? Any 20 year old guy who is described as “pimpin'” and thinks it’s a good thing needs to be bitch slapped.

1. John Ashcroft. I keep hoping a SWAT team will descend on his house and throw him in jail for three weeks before he gets to see a judge.

Thirteen again

I recently had occasion to travel back to University town S. and visit my grad school stomping grounds to get my hair cut. Don’t laugh. I’ve had the same hairstylist for almost 10 years now, and I like the way she cuts my hair. I’ve also had occasion to hang out with her socially once or twice, and I think of her more as a friend than just a hairstylist. But I digress.

While there, I had a few minutes to kill and I ducked into one of my favorite high end housewares/cookery stores. As I was entering the store, two women were exiting. One had very arresting blue eyes, and they seem to be looking right at me (they were probably looking at the door behind me, but oh well.) I felt myself suddenly become the awkward teen somewhere inside all over again, as I tried a small smile in acknowledgement (in case she was actually looking at me.)

It was only afterward that I realized that my initial reaction to the gaze of a beautiful woman across a crowded room has not changed in better part of a quarter century. Some part of me always folds and wants to shrink into a corner.

I suppose that this is why I used to be absolutely clueless about picking women up in bars and at parties. Intellectually, I can say to myself that a better attitude is coolly and confidently recognize that I’ve got at least something going on that is worth a woman’s attention. Saying that and doing it are two different things, however. There is always something in me that is shy, awkward, and thirteen years old.

I hope that the whole question is now academic. I’ve found a great gal. I hope I never have to find another.

rubber chicken and retirement…

I found myself thinking about my father yesterday.

My parents were both chemists and met while working for IBM (International Business Machines to strangers, Itty Bitty Machines to its friends and relations) — making me and my sister “IBM brats”. Mom left the company in the late 1960’s to become a homemaker. Dad ended up staying with IBM for 31 years. He retired in 1991 during the summer between completion of my undergraduate degree and my start of grad school.

I found myself thinking about my Dad’s retirement party that summer. My Mom very much wanted by my sister and I to go. Neither of us did. I’m still divided on the whole issue, twelve years later.

On the one hand, as my Mom puts it, it would have been good to see the respect accorded to my Dad by his colleagues. He was evidently very well thought of by the people he worked with. I can see why; he is a steady, industrious man for the most part, with a measure of integrity that prevented him from stepping on others. That makes him the kind of man I aspire to be — not the guy determined to be out front, leading the pack, but, rather the sort of fellow that is be backbone of every effective organization. It would have been interesting to see a side of my Dad’s life that was otherwise opaque to me.

On the other hand, his world at work was largely opaque to me. My Mom and Dad did have friends they socialized with from their days together at IBM that I got to meet, but, most of these divorced, moved, or (in some cases) died by the time my Dad retired. What my father did during the day between the time he left for work and returned was an unknown to me, with the exception of the few occasions when I got to visit on IBM “family days.” That began to change once I reached adulthood — schooling as an electrical engineer meant I finally could understand what he did for a living in some detail, and, a summer spent working for IBM manufacturing (graveyard shift!) meant that I had a better idea about what his work world was like. Still though, that retirement party would have placed me in a room full of strangers who all knew each other and my Dad, but, knew nothing about me. I’m not always the best at cocktail party chitchat in such circumstances, and I’m not sure what it would have been like.

My feelings have swung back and forth on this issue. At one point during the mid-90’s, I was feeling cut off from where I had come from and fuzzy on my own sense of self-identity. That made me think about all the things I didn’t know about my father, and, how I’d not taken opportunities to know him better. Later, my sense of self was repaired and my desire to know more about my Dad became less immediate, and my attitude has been more “wait, see, and learn.”

I thought of all this because my current work life is very much walled off from my non-work life. I work with a good bunch of people, but, we don’t socialize together much. Most of the folks I work with are in their 30’s with wives and 2-3 small children. Leaving work means running home to them, not out with “the boys/girls from the office” to have a drink or what-have you.

Does this mean that when I retire, my son/daughter won’t go to my retirement party? I don’t know… but that does seem karmically just somehow.

body image update

Dear Dr. Geek,

Hi. It’s me, the scale at the gym. I just wanted to write to see how you were doing. You looked so dejected after you came to see me yesterday. I thought maybe a few lines from me would make you feel better about seeing me more often.

From what I’d seen of you the gym lately, I know you had every reason for hope that visiting me would be a cause for joy. I know that you’ve been coming in regularly. I’ve also noticed that your workouts have been more intense lately, both in terms of cardio and weight training. A careful look at your physique shows that there is now firm muscle on your legs and arms where there was none before. You also seem to just be feeling better.

I’m sorry that I had to be the bearer of potentially bad news. An additional five pounds is nothing awful… if it’s muscle. I know, I know. I can’t tell you your body fat percentage so you can know if you’re a fitter five pounds heavier or a fatter five pounds heavier. I know that you keep hoping that you can look like that product manager I see you talking to occasionally — she is very ripped, without an ounce of fat anywhere on her body. Just remember, you still can get there if you want to… you just may need to adjust things a little bit.

From what you mentioned about that bag of potato chips (along with the explitives), it sounds like you haven’t been very rigorous about following your diet. Have you been cutting a few corners here and there? Especially on weekends when your girlfriend is around? I think you need to just be more careful about keeping your caloric intake under control.

Think back to last year. You lost 15lbs in about four months — it’s a shame you got lazy and regained most of that back. You were so happy to see me then. I hope you’ll be happy to see more of me again soon.

Your Friend (yes, really),

American Standard Scale #495761983

kicking over the traces of what was

Among my other activities in a University computer lab this past weekend, I had the chance to finally bring a 9mm DAT tape together with a DAT drive to retrieve a cache of backed up files from my early days as a graduate student. Among these files (as expected) were class programming projects from my first two years of graduate school, along with the digital version of my Master’s Thesis. One of the more unexpected items that turned up in this collection, however, was a backup of some old e-mail. Among them were most of the messages sent to me by ex-girlfriend K.

I’ve mentioned ex-girlfriend K. before here. For those coming in late, I was spellbound with her physical beauty and her flirtatious wit. It was a relatively short association that ended very badly when I discovered that she lied about not being married (she was separated).

Reading over those messages evoked several different kinds of feelings in me, most of them conflicted. First and foremost, I hadn’t read these messages in about 7-8 years and time had softened some of my memories of the situation. In that time I had come to the conclusion that there was an overt sign early in our relationship, some hint in what she told me, that alluded to the fact that she was really married and I missed it. Though these e-mails by no means form a complete record of what happened, the language of her messages to me show no such hint. In fact, she gave many signs of being as attracted to me as I was her and purposely told me not to believe what her husband said about them being married after he called.

With the eyes of experience, however, I can now see a pattern in our correspondence that has doubtless been repeated by many people then and since. In practical terms, our attraction grew online and on the phone. A few dates then dispelled this illusion for her, and she gently tried to tell me “let’s just be friends”. It almost saddens me in a way; it changes my memory of something that seemed life-changing and passionate at the time into something much more commonplace. The fact that our association had such a spectacular epilogue now seems a testament to my thickheadedness. Alas, when it came to the women I met when I was single and dating, it always took me a little longer to ascertain what our chemistry was. It was true in this case as well.

This is the price of consulting primary sources, I suppose. Myths are dispelled and truths are laid bare before the revisionist’s scalpel. But perhaps this is a good thing. I can now fully close this chapter of my life as a look forward to another, more interesting one.

Satan’s toothbrush (redux)

Please, dear reader, forgive the apparent repitition of the first part of this entry. I composed the first part on a computer in a University computer lab, and the computer’s owner needed it for more important dissertation research before I was able to finish. I now offer it in its entirety.

I’m beginning to think that my girlfriend’s electric toothbrushes are possessed.

About 5 months ago, Girlfriend S. saw an ad for the Cybersonic Toothbrush and decided to get one. So, one delightful Saturday afternoon, we decide to march on over to our local franchise of the “three B’s” home housewares chain (that isn’t your name, but it is their initials) and bought one. I tried it. It looked cool, but, using it felt weird. It did, however, clean teeth and tongue like nobody’s business.

Fast forward about two months. After around 8 weeks of regular use and commutes between my place and hers on weekends, the Cybersonic toothbrush suddenly died in its charger on my bathroom vanity. It manifested no usual symptoms; it was working perfectly at bed time and somehow decided to become an “ex-toothbrush” overnight.

Some negotiation followed. Girlfriend S. had either lost or already thrown out the sales slip for the “ex-toothbrush”. So, upon returning to the “three B’s” franchise, she was told that she should contact the manufacturer. The manufacturer, to their enormous credit, did not disappoint. They sent Girlfriend S. a new Cybersonic toothbrush. All seemed well in the electric toothbrush kingdom.

Things took a decidedly bad turn at about 11:30pm last night. Girlfriend S. was staying over for the weekend and we both decided to turn in at about 10:30pm in anticipation of a very early start to the following day. About an hour into hour pleasant slumbers (yes, we are, no doubt, doddering old fogies for turning in at 10:30 on a Friday night), we were both suddenly awakened by a loud buzzing noise in the area of the bathroom vanity in my apartment.

Somehow the Cybersonic toothbrush had decided it to turn itself on. Moreover, it was now possessed by dark forces and would not SHUT OFF. Shaking it would not work. Pushing the power button would not work. Using a screwdriver in a doomed attempt to pry apart the toothbrush at any viable seams in its construction (there weren’t any) would not work. Swearing at it using every profanity in my considerably educated lexicon would not work.

After considering my options, I decided to leave it out on the balcony of my apartment. I live in relative proximity to a major highway and the buzz would easily be drowned out by passing cars (so as not to offend the neighbors). The balcony of my apartment is also relatively fireproof, allowing for the remote possibility that Satan’s electric toothbrush should decide to burn itself up in a toxic dance of death. Dance also turned out to be the correct word describing the destruction of the toothbrush — when I stood it up on my balcony it began spinning slowly around like some mad dental dervish in slow motion.

We discovered the icing on the cake of this whole experience the following morning — the whirling vibrations of the toothbrush actually left a small ring on the faux-concrete floor of my balcony.

Needless to say, we will not be buying another Cybersonic toothbrush (I have a Braun that seems quite reliable) or recommending it to anyone else.