a few shiny toys

Company O. paid me a bonus today. The bulk of it is going to be placed in a high yield savings account for future use. I couldn’t help treating myself to a few shiny new toys. Hopefully, Mrs. Geek won’t mind either… seeing as how she just signed up for that Scrapbooking convention a couple weeks ago and the registration fee just went through.

I got two digital discs. One is the Warner Bros. re-master of Casablanca. I’m a rather late convert to this film; I don’t think I saw it all the way through until a few years ago. Once I did, I was taken with the rapid fire peppery dialogue and wry humor. Like the other great Warner Bros. re-masters I have purchased, this one is pretty much flawless. I don’t know exactly what they did to make the black and white images look so crisp and new… but I wish all classic films could look that good.

I also got a CD copy of the new Norah Jones side project The Little Willies. It’s basically a mix of laid back honky tonk country classics (by the likes of Fred Rose, Kris Kristofferson, Townes Van Zandt, and Willie Nelson) with a few originals thrown in for good measure. Country purists will probably find some fault with it… but I find the fun the band is obviously having to be infectious. Personally, I have to think that Willie Nelson (the band’s namesake) would love The Little Willies rockabilly groove. That’s good enough for me.

Finally, I got some whiskey. I got a bottle of 16 year old Black Maple Hill handmade sour mash Kentucky Straight Bourbon. It’s smooth, very smooth, with a backbone of vanilla flavors and some interesting smokey accents. I also got a bottle of A.H. Hirsch 21 year old Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey. Rumor on the web that this is actually a single barrel version of Rip Van Winkle Rye. I don’t know about that… but this is a good stiff drink that any Scotch drinker ought to love (at least one who likes peat-y concoctions like Laphroaig like me.) The rough accent is more rye bread (as the name suggests) than smokey peat, but who cares.

cars, interviews, and rainbows

Thanks to everyone for their good wishes and positive thoughts about my job interview. While the interview wasn’t a complete slam dunk, I think I did pretty well… a sort of B or B+ performance. Some of the prep work I did was helpful, and let me give solid answers to a couple early questions. I am grateful that bulk of the questions lay in familiar areas of expertise.

I can’t really rate my effort too well this morning though. I awoke at 4:30am this morning to find that my brain was checking and re-checking my answers. Fatigue and paranoia are taking their toll on my objectivity. I just have the modest goal that one of these phone interviews will actually lead to an in-person interview one of these days. I have no idea if my phone interview will get me there… but here is to hoping.

In a conincidence that one might take to be a good omen, I finally got a call from the body shop yesterday afternoon. Repairs to my car are finally finished. Mrs. Geek and I picked my car up immediately following the job interview. The final repair bill made my eyes pop out a bit — the total cost pretty much hit the estimated value of my car minus its salvage value. Total cost to me was about $600 with the deductable and rental car fees. I breathed a big sigh of relief once I got behind the wheel of my car again.

There was also another possible good omen for yesterday: rainbows. Mrs. Geek and I saw several on our way to the body shop and rental car place immediately following my job interview. It’s been a very wet month of March around here, with alternating days of sun and rain for the last few weeks. That does leave me wishing for drier, sunnier days… but rainbows are lovely too. I’ll take them as a sign that the planets were properly aligned yesterday… I need all the good omens I can get lately.

blind date number two

I another phone interview for a job today, my second. Everyone keep your fingers crossed. I’m a smart guy, I have a Ph.D., and I’ve worked as a software engineer for the last five years, but the amount of material perspective employers seem to want you to have at your finger tips these days is daunting. I’ve been prepping myself for this interview off and on for the last 10 days. Like a final exam though, I fear that there are still more than a few questions out there that can do me in.

Wish me luck. I get the feeling I’ll need it.

party anxiety

It’s been a few days since my last update. I really drained my batteries on Friday and Saturday. Mrs. Geek and I had to attend a birthday party and we were asked to bring the cake. I decided to bake one.

Communication leading up to the event was lousy. We heard only intermittently from the party organizer, and did not get a firm headcount for the event until last Thursday. We also heard little in the way of cake preferences from the guest of honor, except that he liked carrot cake. To further confuse matters for me, Mrs. Geek was trying to take the emotional temperature of the party planner and came up with unsettling answers (“she seemed somewhat surprised that you would want to bake the cake”.)

All this really started to raise my blood pressure. At first, I was thinking that this was a somewhat homespun birthday party — and event at which a custom-made cake would be a welcome addition in my family. The vibes that I was getting from Mrs. Geek were making me uneasy, however. What if this was a somewhat more formal event? This question became more important when I finally went back and looked at the invitation to the party — it wasn’t being held at someone’s home; it was a catered event at a local Italian American club! On the other hand, the lack of headcount until the last minute made it pretty difficult to order a cake ahead of time… unless I decided that taking home half of a sheet carrot cake home with me was a good thing to do. Plus, my mom’s carrot cake recipe is a pretty damn good one (though not for the calorie counters — 1 cup of canola oil in the cake, and 2 cups of confectioners sugar and 4 oz. of cream cheese in the frosting!)

I baked two carrot cakes at about 9pm on Friday night. I then had all day Saturday to decorate them. Taking my cues from the The Icing Man Cometh episode of Good Eats, I frosted the top and sides of both cakes, added some nuts around the sides. and put on a green border around the edge of the top. It was far from metaleve’s high standard of excellence, but it was a modest freshman effort that didn’t involve too many crumbs in the frosting. I even managed to put a “Happy Birthday” message on one of the cakes… even if the two types of frosting did NOT want to stick to each other.

It all came out well in the end. The party, though catered, was a fairly informal family-style affair — complete with an elderly Italian-American matron who gave Mrs. Geek the evil eye while serving the food because Mrs. Geek wasn’t eating anything other than pasta. My two cakes fit right in… and were a big hit. Several people inquired if the recipe was available.

So Sunday found me feeling much relieved… but tired, damn tired.

ps. I’ll try to get a couple pics of the cakes on here eventually… I don’t think Mrs. Geek has downloaded them from her camera yet.

a moment of silence for the passing of Buck Owens

Buck Owens passed away today. He’s an artist I’ve always looked at from slightly afar. Pioneer of the “Bakersfield sound” of country music, and longtime host of the show “Hee Haw”, he certainly was an influence on many… including the Beatles. He falls into that category of artist whose music I have not yet really explored, but who is most definitely on the list.

All I know is that I got to hear the ’66 “Live At Carnegie Hall” concert version of “Act Naturally” with the Buckaroos shortly after I heard that he died this morning. There may be other pieces of music as good out there, but there are probably none better… both in terms of composition or execution. Ever.

Bye Buck.

mommy wars: the early years…

For those following the controversy surrounding Leslie Morgan’s new book about “the Mommy Wars”, I learned something rather interesting while watching Ken Burns’ documentary Not For Ourselves Alone about Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton:

Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony started agitating together for women’s rights in the 1850’s. At that time, Stanton was homebound with seven small children and Anthony was something almost unthinkable for the 19th Century — a single career woman, more devoted organizing, speaking, and agitating for “the struggle” than ever marrying and having a family of her own.

It turns out that even though Stanton was a brilliant writer and speaker and felt like “a caged predator” when she was stuck in the house, she felt bound and determined to stay home and care for her children. Indeed, she even felt compelled to have more children after she and Anthony met and began working in common cause together. She only stopped having children because she was no longer able to do so; her last child was born when Stanton was 44. That’s having a child at 44 in the 1850’s people. She was really taking her life into her hands.

It also turned out that Susan B. Anthony resented Stanton and some of her other key allies when they chose the life of marriage and children over the commitment to the movement that she exhibited. When two of her trusted lieutenants left the equal rights movement to marry a pair of brothers who were Ministers in Ohio in spite of previously promising to never do this, Anthony was livid. Stanton had to console her by more or less saying “let them go and do this, they’ll be back”. The two women evidently also had some advise for Susan as well: “find a good husband — it makes all the difference in the world.”

No matter what else you might think about “the Mommy Wars” (a term I actually find objectionable), the debate between women over what their “proper” roles should be is one that has been with for a long, long time.

Too old to rock and roll (and too young to die)

I saw an interview with Jimmy Page on VH1 Classic the other day. It was kind of sad in a way. On one level, Jimmy is looking good… better than he has in a few years. He’s obviously dropped some of the weight that bloated him in late 80’s through the 90’s. He’s also cut back whatever that unruly hair cut was that kept in those years. The only thing that’s got me sad about Jimmy Page is that he’s oh-so-very-obviously dyeing his hair. Is it because he wants to look more youthful and vibrant? Is he married to a woman 25 years his junior? I don’t know.

What I do know is that Jimmy shouldn’t be anything but his age. Blues guys can get old. Members of N’Sync and 98 Degrees and Rick Springfield (and probably George Michael) can’t get old… but guys who play the blues, they just get more dignified and soulful when they get old. They get like old leather… you can see the mileage, but that’s ok. It turns them into cultural heirlooms of a sort. Sure, they aren’t the sex symbols they once might have been… but they can still rock the house. B.B. King still rocks the house. Eric Clapton still rocks the house. Listen to some of those Son House recordings from the early 60’s — they rocked the house hard.

So why for the love of God, Jimmy, would want to make your hair look like it did when you were playing skiffle during the Eisenhower Administration?

I’m sorry. I just needed to get that off my chest.

ps. Paul McCartney, I’m talking to you too. If you get any more face lifts, you’ll be singing “When I’m 64” with lips located where your eyes should be. I don’t care if Heather Mills is decades younger, or you were a father again at 60. Age gracefully.