Knott Blog

Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair.

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Location: Dark Side, The Moon

"Don't you know that I'm still standing, better than I ever did, looking like a true survivor and feeling like a little kid..." - Elton John

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Captain Black Cloud

There's this lady I know -- actually, I am serially related to her, but more on that later -- who used to listen to me when I got in one of these foul, bitchy moods with great sympathy and restraint. I say restraint because instead of telling me to get my head out of my ass as I'm sure she was tempted to do, she would say, "Wow, Captain Black Cloud certainly is visiting you today."
Well, she was right, he did like me pretty well back then, and days like today prove that he hasn't entirely given up on our relationship yet, either.
First off, I ended up sleeping on the couch more or less all night. My son still has his strange, symptomless cough, and the doctor didn't offer to see him as an emergency, so we're still fussing over him in hopes it will improve things. Then, when I got up, all of the power was off. My house is very, very old, and there must have been a stroke of lightning some time last night (or even just a flash of heat lightning, it's so old) which tripped all of the circuit breakers. So, I had to wade down through my basement to the circuit board and reset things before I could even properly shower. Y'see, my house used to be what they called a "spring house." Back before refrigerators, farmers would make a small building right on a stream bed, and let the running water keep things cool for them. The stream ran right in one wall, through a trench in the floor, and right out the other wall -- which it does to this day, regardless of how I try to stop it.
Then, I couldn't find anything at all when I was trying to get ready. Oh, my wife (a saint, blessed be her name) got my clean towel, underwear and socks ready for me last night, but I still couldn't find my shoes, belt, comb, cologne, wallet or ID badge. If I'd been able to turn on the light, it might have been different, but she didn't want the baby disturbed. On the way to work, my car kept making this suspicious noise, which makes me think that my tie-rod is getting ready to let go, a $200 fix. Once I got to work, the woman I share an office with was back from vacation, and neither one of us was glad to see the other. She hates me, and I would return the emotion if I had that kind of energy.
So  I came straight here and read my motivational spam about how "I am the only one who can decide what kind of day I'll have today," and "nobody can make me feel bad, I can only let them make me feel bad," but before I could get to "so I'm going to have a good day today!" I realized that I was going to hurl if I read all of that happy crap.
But I AM gonna have a better day today, even if it kills me.

Monday, July 26, 2004

True confession

I tried and tried to get my older son to take a picture of me that didn't make me look fat. I kept telling him, "try another angle," and "what if I stood over here?" Finally he looked over the camera at me and said, "You know, they say the camera adds ten pounds, and you've obviously been photographed sooo many times before...."
So now you know. Despite all my efforts, I am fat. Oh, not so's you'd notice in a crowd of my peers, but when I stand next to The Boy, who is two inches taller and around 60 pounds lighter? Bingo! Moby Dick.

Oooh... scarey

I cannot believe it. I was sitting at my desk today, and one of my co-workers from the Financial Aid department stopped by my desk. She had this neat little magazine all about federal and state financial aid, and how much your child qualified for based on your income, and how you and your child can increase the amount of aid (both in grants and loans) that you can receive. I thought it was a pretty slick little publication, and was idly leafing through it -- yes, it gets that boring at my job when classes aren't in session -- when it suddenly hit me like a brick right between the eyes.
I am in my mid thirties, and I have a child who will be going to college in two years. No, LESS than two years. I honestly thought my chest was gonna cave in.
Y'see, she's my daughter from my first marriage. I was married very young and VERY disasterously to a lady with some major personal problems (alcohol and fidelity would top the list) for a roller-coaster ride that lasted less than two years. When we split, she went into rehab within eight months, and I got custody. (Not just of her, but also of her sister, my stepdaughter, who is in college right now and making us incredibly proud. But that's another post.) I was already dating my current wife (no wait, that doesn't sound right. My forevereternalforgiving wife, that's better), and as luck would have it, we were already seriously with child. I remember those days very clearly: lots of emotional turmoil, lots of not knowing how we'd ever make it through alive, and not a lot of clearheaded planning for the future. But then, we had The Boy, and things looked up. We got married, we moved back to my childhood home (and still live here!), I got a really great job with the phone company, and everything started gushing out some serious blue sky and roses.
Of course, time seemed to take longer back then, if that makes any sense, and after things had gone well for what seemed then like a long time (and in hindsight seems like five minutes) , we decided to have ANOTHER baby. The only one we planned, god bless us. We were starry eyed, we had big dreams for our children and for the future--
And it all came crashing down faster than you can say young and stupid. My wife had an unbelievably difficult pregnancy, culminating in a mini stroke and confinement to her bed for the final two months. The phone company traded our whole division to Bell Atlantic for some of their wireless territory, and EVERYONE got fired, right down to my boss who'd been with the company for 26 years. My car caught fire -- an engine fire -- and halfway exploded before I could properly pull over. The baby was born with complications, and she's had problems ever since. We spent five minutes consoling each other about five weeks after she was born, and four weeks after that we found out we were pregnant again. I mean, the skies practically clouded over and rained shit for a solid year straight.
We pulled out of it eventually, of course. I got another job, my wife got better, and there were years and years between our middlest daughter and the next one.  (Okay, four and a half years, but it seemed longer to us.) Things got better, and worse again, and better... we lived and we learned.
But things speeded up somehow. Time got shorter. The kids grew an inch every time we turned our heads for a minute. Right now, inside my head, I'm only twenty six, maybe twenty seven tops, because there hasn't been time for the outside to soak through my thick skull to the inside. I think things are still the way they were... until I get one of those sudden flashes like I did today, which is kinda like an icepick in the kidney just when you least expect it. How can my little girl, the one I had on my own (for that ten minutes between practice wife and real wife, natch), how can my sweet little princess be a JUNIOR IN HIGH SCHOOL, for God's sake?
I tell you, it's all just some dirty trick. I don't remember who said it (I'm famous for forgetting the little things like that), but it's still true: youth is wasted on the young.

Just too funny

This is hysterical. I actually laughed out loud, especially since I appear to be the only one in our entire office who knows the difference between a dog toy and a marital aid on a consistent basis. After I thought about it, though, it actually gave me serious pause for a moment. I mean, what does it say about someone when they can't tell the difference between an implement intended for a dog's mouth and an implement intended for a person's.... wherever?

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Pet Population

Let's see: one dog, two cats, a tree frog, two anoles (little chameleons), a firebelly toad, an albino african clawed frog, three aquariums with twenty four fish, one goldfish pond with seventeen fish, four frogs, and an eel.
Wouldn't a chinchilla be redundant?


Kids and pets go together, right? At least that's what I'm trying to tell myself. The older of my littlest girls just told me she wants a pet for her room, just like the other kids have in theirs. I'm thinking maybe dwarf hamster, hermit crab.... a ginea pig at the outside. I ask her what she's thinking; she strikes a very serious pose, finger on her chin, and mulls it over.
    "I know," she finally says. "I want a chinchilla."

Today's Weather

It was fairly nice for most of the day today, but I was still kinda bummed. Today is the (symbolically) the last day of the vacation. Tomorrow it's back to the salt mines with a vengeance. I am soooo ready to find another job.

Smart Mouth son says (apparently oblivious to my presence):
     "I want to weigh as much as Dad..... Only I want it to be all muscle."
     "Hey!" I say. "I'm all muscle!"
     He smiles. "That's what I said."
     He's so lucky that I love him. But then, so am I.

Bitchin' in the Kitchen

I'm teaching my oldest daughter to cook some of their favorites. One of them is the masterpiece we're rendering today, my own Cheapass Barbecue. This is how it goes:
You buy the small cuts of pork left over from cutting butt and loin roasts (around here they call it "city chicken" and it sells for around 1.09 a pound) and brown it in a large skillet. In a jar, you mix half a bottle of ketchup, about half a cup of honey or corn syrup, to taste chili powder, pepper, garlic powder, fresh ground onion (get all the juice!), molasses, brown sugar, white sugar, a tablespoon or so of french dressing, a tablespoon or so of soy sauce, and a cup or so of salsa. Mix it all up and viola, you got barbecue sauce faster than you can say stone broke trailer trash. (But we live in a real house!!! just so we're clear)
My daughters will inevitably break something. I don't know what. This morning it was a beautiful hand-blown glass thermometer, the kind with  the little glass balls full of colored water inside? I think I have a picture -- anyway, she was wiping off the shelf and oops! there it goes. Naturally, we're too poor to have bought something like that on our own -- it was a gift -- so we won't have anything nearly as nice to replace it with. (okay, I might get lucky at a yard sale, around here you never know what you'll find.) Okay, enough with the boo-hoo for me parade.
The girls are in the kitchen banging pots around, which is my signal. I better go before they bust that really nice Braun mixer our Aunt gave us.


Allegedly a day of rest, at least for those who have no children.
Actually, it isn't too bad most Sunday mornings, as there's nothing that really interests the children on TV. They tend to stay in bed, or to congregate upstairs and engage in weird little fights conducted entirely in whispers.
Last night, though, the little guy was sick, so my wife and I were up a lot. He's got a bad cough, but no fever or sore throat; I think he's working his way up to full-fledged asthma or something. My oldest brother had it, but he outgrew it. Or, if you prefer my mother's version, she bought him a chihuahua and "that dog just sucked the asthma out of him." She absolutely swore by this theory, because she'd read it in Dear Abby. I have already assured my wife, dear readers, that we WILL NOT be getting a chihauhua, or however the hell you spell it. We have one furry eating machine already, and I absolutely loathe the way those overbred little yap-yap dogs tremble constantly. It's like living with a meth-addicted soprano midget who occasionally pees on the carpet, just for comic relief.
Anyway, we were up a lot, so this morning started very early. Pancakes and fried eggs on todays menu, with lots of syrup and butter. I figure at the rate we hand out carbs, red meat and cholesterol, they should all be super-vegans by the age of twenty one out of sheer rebelliousness. I have to work a little today, but only a little; if the weather holds up, look for pictures. The kids have a full agenda planned: tormenting us, fighting with each other, and the ongoing demolition of our home.
I just saw the dog trot by with a fried egg in her mouth. Gotta go. 

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Breakfast at our house

2 boxes of cheap knockoff cereal:         $4.50
1 gallon of milk:                                       $3.38
1 loaf of bread:                                         $.79
1 stick butter:                                          $.69
about ten bananas:                                 $2.29
1 pot of coffee:                                         $1.00
Total:                                                        $12.65

Mind you, I'm not griping, or at least not very loudly. That's getting off pretty cheap compared to what it costs for one person to eat breakfast in a reasonably priced restaurant in the city. I'm pretty much already running my own little restaurant -- not only for my own, but also for their little friends who always want to hang around because our house is "so cool."
There's a ringing endorsement for you.
In fact, there is a small restaurant in our fair town for sale, and if my credit weren't so terrible, I might go for it. I'm a pretty good cook, I have lots of experience at preparing several different meals simultaneously (no matter what you fix, there's always someone who won't eat it), and I spend my life rushing around cleaning up after other people. Plus, my wife's primary work experience is as a waitress, which certainly comes in handy around here.
Anybody wanna lend me about $50 thou? I'm good for it.

Friday, July 23, 2004

Twilight Time

I love this time of day. The sky is still blue and beautiful, but the shadows are long enough to hide how badly my lawn needs mowed.

More Weather

It finally did get decent here this evening, and since the temperature's settled down the ground is drying out a little bit. I hope it doesn't rain again first thing in the morning.

Today's Weather Forecast of Doom:

Our weather has achieved new permutations. Today it was cold (and yet humid!), then rainy (and catastrophically windy!), and finally hot, humid, but occasionally pierced with a strong, cold wind. But at least it beats the winters here!

Long Day

We had to go to the city to pay our quarterly tax payment today. $780 is a big bite for our little budget, and pretty much wipes us out until next Friday. The kids were kind enough to lend us some money. (they joke around about interest, isn't that cute?) That will cover us for gas for next week, so we'll slog through somehow.
But, on top of having to visit the "county seat" and the courthouse, my son was doing a volunteer stunt for a charity, and that took a good chunk out of our day, too. I'm really proud of the way our kids have turned out; evidently we learned something from our parents, because they're a lot less screwed up than we were, at least so far. Time will tell, I guess, but like all parents I'm hoping for the best. What else can you do? Anyway, they do walk-a-thons and 5-k and 10-k runs and stunts, and they have to raise money for each one. This time my oldest son raised $100, which isn't bad considering he hits the same circle of people up for a donation about once every three weeks. I'll always be proud of him, provided he doesn't become a politician. I mean really, we must draw the line somewhere, right? (Just kidding. If he turns out to be a politician, I'll squeeze it for all it's worth, natch.) Long story short, he demonstrated once again that he's a good unselfish kid, and got his picture on TV for around 5 nanoseconds.
Then we all came home, and I grilled. My wife has to work, which sucks; I'm investigating a job in town, a non-desk-job (if that makes sense) which rocks; and to the kids, it's just one more day of endless summer.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Evening coming on

Everybody says how good the old days were, when they were younger and things were better. Of course, I don't think that things necessarily were better back then, but what I do feel kinda nostalgic for is the way time seemed to pass at a reasonable pace. As I get older, it seems like time flies by faster and faster without anything good to mark it. That's really a tragedy, too, because when you're younger, you just want time to pass faster so you can get to the good stuff, and when you're older, you wish it would slow down so you could better enjoy however much you have left.
Right now, I'd give just about anything for a few of those long, meandering hours I spent in the days before college, without anything to do. Even when I have time to myself these days, I feel compelled to use it to some advantage, instead of just enjoying the moment I'm in.
So I think now I'll go hang out with the kids, and see if I can find the old moment again.

Whole Family

So there you have them, my entire repertoire (did I spell that right?) of offspring. Not bad for a busy guy, huh? Of course, they inherited all of their good lucks and redeeming qualities from their mother, who has not yet consented to have her picture posted here. I'm working on her, though!
So, to those who wrote me to express disbelief over my number of progeny, I say a big 'so there.' (But not to HR Lady, I love your blog.) I'm very proud of all of them, and of my wife and I for surviving in spite of them for this long. Don't take any bets on how much longer we'll last, though. There's not a bookie in Vegas who would touch those odds.
Now I'm going out to take the little girls for a walk, and take some pictures. I'm sure I'll be posting more of them soon. Maybe I'll even take a nap. I understand they're very refreshing.

Seventh Son

The boy we thought we'd never see. "What a little devil," to quote his grandfather. So far, he seems to be exactly like me at his age. Poor kid.

The Little girls

They're always together, so it was easier to take their picture this way. Both very smart and talented, like their older sibs, but dedicated to true princesshood and GIRL POWER.

Our Middlest

Our resident diva. She knows she's fabulous, and you'd better too. A winner of contests, pageants, and athletic events too numerous to name.

Next - To - Middlest

She's our "special needs" child, although so far as I can tell those needs amount to mind-warping video games and goofy anime tv shows. We love her, and she manages to tolerate us quite nicely.

Oldest Son

For a long time, he was our only boy. It's made him a bit (*cough* understatement! *cough, cough*) headstrong, but he's amazingly smart and good in school.

Oldest Daughter

The oldest, and most in command. She babysits, washes dishes, and rules with an iron fist. Next conquests: cars and boys.

Day Off

Wow, a very rare day off. With pay, no less.
Of course, the place I work (the med school) has such an aura of draconian repression about it that I actually spent the early morning hours (5 AM - 6: 30 AM) worrying about whether I'd get in trouble for taking the vacation days. That's when I'm usually getting ready to go to this job, provided I haven't worked the other one the night before.
Oh, I jumped through all the hoops: first I asked my boss, then I called and asked the HR Overseer Lady. I was going to take it off unpaid and just work extra time at the factory job, but HR Overseer Lady said that's bad, it counts as absentee time whether you have permission or not. Take vacation days instead. Okay, so I go back to my boss with a memo saying I would like some vacation days, please (think Oliver Twist asking for more gruel), and he says okay if HR Dragon Lady says okay and Office Manager Dominatrix says okay too. So, I copy the memo off to Dragon and Dominatrix. The nice Dominatrix lady came tottering over on her four inch spike heels (bad if you're not height/weight appropriate, kids) and gives me signed approved copy of my memo from HER boss. So, now I have a signed okayed copy from my boss, from the Dominatrix, from the boss of the Dominatrix, but nothing from HR Whipslinger Lady. So I said screw it, I know she got the memo, I'm just gonna proceed on faith. Plus I didn't tell the other woman who works in my office with me, which will probably be what gets my tender parts caught in the vise again. She hates the idea that I get vacation now (especially without having to beg her for permission, too!) and last time she screamed -- and I do mean screamed -- at me for ten minutes about how I didn't deserve a vacation, and the fact that I had a second job was keeping her from getting one, and how completely selfish, inconsiderate and pigheaded I was for breathing in the first place. So this time I just didn't tell her. Screw it.
I'm soooo very ready to quit the day job, but it really keeps the money coming in, and it has health insurance (really crappy medical insurance, mind you, but insurance just the same), and I'm just frankly scared to be without it. I'm supporting eight other people, and responsibilities like that can do strange things to your mind.
But this is the last time I'm going to even think about it between now and Monday morning. After all, if they fired me, at least I wouldn't be able to blame myself for quitting, right?

Go See Bubby!

She beats the pants off Dear Abby in my book. You can read her advice to me in the July 12th post.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Won't stay down

Hardly a new problem, but certainly a consistent one with all our kids: the baby won't stay in bed.
When my wife decided he was big enough to be out of the crib, we got him this car bed (above). He liked it - as a toy - but preferred to sleep in our bed. No matter how many times we put him back in his own bed, no matter how often we told him how lucky he was to have such a nice bed, he still didn't want to sleep in it. So, one of us always ended up giving him our side of the bed, and my wife or I would end up on the couch.
So, I sent the car bed back to the store. Why pay so much for something he won't use? I got bunkbeds instead for the little girls. They love them, and neither of them has fallen off the top bunk.... yet.
The baby got a new toddler bed, not nearly as nice but just as unused. It's empty right now, while he's lying in our bed. Crosswise.
Wonder how we'll both fit on the couch...?

Hump Day

Am I ever tired. I know I'm supposed to be happy to be able to do my part as a good little capitalist/consumer, but this two jobs thing is really starting to grind me down.
Now, I want to qualify the whining, puling, moaning, and general candy-*ss bellyaching that is to follow by saying that I'm glad I have work. Lots of people in my hometown don't, and would kill (or at least do serious bodily injury) for even one job that pays more than minimum wage. To them, I say: forgive me. It's no fun to be out of a job, any more than it's fun to work a job that is solid frustration and grief with no hope of betterment. (is that a real word?)
And that's kinda where I see myself, too. My "day" job is at a medical school, and it's just one more variation on your standard desk job with one hour commute. It makes me kinda miserable, but I guess I'll stick with it until something better comes along. Then there's my "night" job, which is at a plastics factory in my hometown. I work there at least three 12-hour shifts a week, more when I can get it. Believe it or not, I really like that job. I would say love, but it is a job, and work that you do for someone else is just never as good as work you do to accomplish something for yourself. Most of my graduating class works there, and it's so completely different from my other job that I think half of my enjoyment comes from the sheer novelty factor.
Of course, what I'd really like to do is just stay home with the kids. If I could magically make about 40K a year just appear out of thin air, I don't think I'd ever have another serious gripe in my life. And to those who know me well, yes, I only say that because I know the 40 grand will never materialize, so I don't have to worry about going completely against my sour, carping nature any time soon, understand?
The real gripe I have with things now is that I am never home, and I'm always exhausted. When they say that they use sleep deprivation as a means of coercion on Iraqi prisoners, I know for  a fact that they're using a guaranteed method. After you've gone just so long without sleep (around 50 hours in my case) every possible action - including thinking - just plain hurts. If somebody came to my desk today and told me that I could stop working all those hours if I would just tell them where Osama Bin Laden was hiding (and I knew, of course) then he'd be toast faster than you can say "forty winks."
But, since nobody is likely to come to my desk and do that (although pretty soon somebody IS gonna come around and ask when I'm actually gonna do some work), I guess I better get back to it. Rock on, people.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

My Head

Some people -- people I would never have guessed would read MY blog -- emailed me to say that they didn't believe the number of kids I claimed in a previous post. So, naturally, I wanted to prove them wrong. After all, I'm not just proud of how much they cost; kids are just about the only investment you can count on to surprise you by paying off in ways you never expected.
But, my wife and children were against having their pictures on the Internet. Part of it is our small town mindset, I think; we have a tendency to see the Internet as a vast seething pit of sex perverts, requiring only one false step to send us plunging down into our worst nightmare.
So, I got most of them to agree to the entirely reasonable compromise of not posting anyone's face on the 'net, just back-of-the-head shots a la brian. Of course, my wife's still against it, but she'll come around in time.
Until then, I think I'm gonna hafta find out where brian gets his hair done -- it's always so shiny and nice in his pictures! I don't think the shot above measures up... Plus, it makes me look fat.
Oh, well. Who's gonna see it, anyway?

Viruses, Trojans and Worms, Oh My

You know, I remember vividly how when Windows XP came out, I didn't like it. I mean, I was gung ho at first, but when I got on a computer running it and gave it the old college try, I thought, "Man, they are going in the wrong direction with this." And so, I clutched my Win98SE to my bosom, and vowed never to let my baby go.
Then they made me upgrade at work. I got to try Windows Movie Maker, which ain't half bad. If you're a mac user, I know you're tearing your hair out right now and screaming "fool! fool! You've never tried the real thing!" Sure, I know. I do. But I'm not dropping two-three grand on a machine for my entertainment, period. If I spend that kind of money, I want to be able to drive it AND live in it if needs be, thank you very much. So where was I?
Oh yeah, I tried XP and after awhile, I kinda got to where I liked it. You know, kind of like the way you get to like cocaine if someone spikes your coffee with it every morning but never tells you. You know? I'm not a big fan of the "cosmetic improvements," but it sure does crash less, and it has some features I like.
Unfortunately, every hacker, virus and trojan writer, and spammer also like XP. In a big, big way. Most of the stuff that comes out nowadays goes sailing right over Win98 and under, but it homes right in on XP and goes to town. I found this out when I got XP at home with my broadband connection. (Oh, and right here, I'd like to take my hat off and say a tearful thank you to Verizon for making broadband not just available but cheap enough for even a lowly peasant such as myself to afford, many are the hosannas I say in their name.) First, I got a trojan, which made some of my most important desktop icons disappear -- apparently forever -- and then screwed with all of my settings. The real kicker is that I only knew that I had the trojan because my AVG software said so. It popped up a scary message that said,
"WARNING! virus backdoor/trojan blah blah found in folder blah blah blah!" It even made an extra scary sound when it gave me the message, just so I'd pay attention. "Run AVG for Windows!" the warning commanded. So, with hands trembling with fear, I did. And what did I get, kids? Why, the old thumbs up! "No viruses were detected during this scan." This, from the same program that told me I had the stupid thing in the first place. Okay, says I, and downloaded about five other programs designed to get rid of trojans. Or so they said. Now I'm starting to think that they're actually more trojan programs, scattered over the Internet for cheapass pennypinchers such as myself to find. Many, many attempts at fixes later: AVG no longer says I have the virus. So, either I got rid of it somehow, or AVG doesn't recognize it at all now. Of course, my icons still haven't come back.
So, I broke down and got better antivirus software. Well, my kids talked their grandparents into buying some, anyway. They spend more time on my computer than I do, so I didn't feel too bad. In fact, I thought this might just be the answer, at least for now. And, as people so often do when they think they have found The Answer, (flourish of trumpets, please!) I found out only too quickly just how wrong I was. My boss got a virus at work, an email one, and it mailed itself to everyone in a flash. It also snagged everyone's email address, and sent itself out again from new email addresses, INCLUDING MINE! Yep, gotta love that. Thanks, Czechoslovakia.
So, it arrived at home looking like it came from me at work, and one of my kids opened it. Bingo, whole new can of worms. AVG went nuts again (WARNING! Virus blah blah detected in yada yada!), but this time it was a bit more helpful -- it pointed to exactly where the virus was, but declined to touch the dirty thing with its delicate digital fingers. I went in, found it, deleted it -- and today, my browser doesn't work at all. I can send/receive email, all right, okay, but no web side of the Internet. Kaphooey.
So, all of my web time is gonna hafta happen at work today. Now, don't you feel bad for me? 

Sunday, July 18, 2004

Breakfast at Our House

Breakfast this morning:
11 out of an 18 carton of eggs       ($1.49)
1 loaf of bread                                  ( $.79)
1 gallon of milk                               ($3.39)
1 6-pack pecan twirlies                   ($.99)
6 bananas                                      (~$1.25)
1 pot of coffee                                  ($1.00)
Total:                                                ($8.91)
They made french toast. I was happy with that. Then I found the dog eating a rather large plate of french toast, complete with syrup and butter (incidentals you'll notice I left off the list). I wasn't really happy with that. And they wonder why I'm grumpy in the morning.

Saturday, July 17, 2004

Summer is just flying by me. I feel like I've hardly seen any of the things I love about this time of year. What's that line in the Don Henley song, "I feel it in the air, the summer's out of reach..."

Friday, July 16, 2004

My oldest son got me this really cool lamp. My oldest daughter is out shopping for something right now; my middlest girls both made me presents, and my littlest girls both drew me a picture. And the baby? Well, he kinda is my present.


I just want to say, my kids really are pretty great. I know, I know, worrying about them all the time and working myself half to death sometimes makes me a tad crusty, but I try to write out all the really snarky things I think about it rather than say them to kids who won't understand and be hurt. Because I would never want to hurt one of them; they're the best thing that ever happened to me, hands down.
I was one of only three kids, all boys, but my mother was one of seven, and we lived next door to her widowed mother. (I vaguely remember my grandfather, but my clearest memory of him is his funeral.) In addition, almost all of my mother's brothers and sisters lived within a few blocks of us, and they all had families too. I was surrounded by a crowd of family from my very earliest years. Later, when I'd had enough of that, I struck out on my own -- only to end up recreating what I'd had before in my own family.
So now we have lots of kids, and I love them all. They made this whole damn day all better, even though it started out pretty crummy.

I went for a walk on my birthday, and you could really tell that it's rained a lot in the last few days. Over seven inches in an hour and a half, at one point.

I got some nice cards for my birthday. I doubt that anyone who sent them is reading (they're mostly not the computer type) but I want to send my love and thanks to them anyway.

The Big B-Day

Woohoo, let the bells ring out, I'm another year older and closer to death. Today is the anniversary of my arrival from the womb, and what a corker of a day it is.
Naturally, I am at work, and nobody even knows that it's my birthday here, which is exactly how I planned it. My kids know, and they're handling it the way kids always do: bafflement that you aren't as excited as they are on their birthdays, and peevishness that you can do all of the things that they only wish they could, but you'd rather spend the day in bed with the covers pulled up over your eyes. Oh, they've come up with the requisite cheerful presents and handmade cards and earnest wishes for many happy returns of the day (as if you hadn't had enough reruns of this particular milestone by now!), but mostly they just think that I'm handling it badly.
God, they tell each other, eyes rolling until they almost fall out, he's always so unhappy and mean. What's his problem?
Well, lambkins, my problem is that I am saddled with overwhelming debt which I cannot pay or bankruptcy away, there is literally no place or way to escape my constant worries, and to add to that, I keep having these weird chest pains that I know (deep down) are just acid reflux, but when they do that travel-down-my-left-arm thing, they get me a bit anxious, too.
Oh, I know, I'm doing that depressive stick-in-the-mud thing again, too. How boring.
Anyway, not only is today the dreaded celebration of my nativity, but tomorrow is my wedding anniversary. Why it's the day after my birthday is a long, long story, but suffice it to say that it showed very poor planning with regard to the way the observation of birthday/anniversary/deathwish from a cash point of view. I am so broke from taxes, children's birthdays, bills, and trying to find a whole new car for the same price I'd normally pay for one tire. I can't afford to celebrate, and I don't want to. I just want all of this part to be over.
Do you think that's wrong?

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Just Me

Okay, so I think I've illustrated my position on absolute good and evil (recap: don't exist), and at least outlined how I feel about politics (there's too much of it, and almost everyone involved in it is a jerk). So, who else can I piss off?
Well, let's talk about my feelings about my home town! Yay, that will make them ALL love me!
Okay, I was born and raised here, not just in the US in general, but in a very small town very far from anywhere important. I recommend this as a pretty good way to completely miss out on the defining moments for your generation (or anyone else's, unless they were born before the advent of the internal-combustion-driven manure spreader). Now, you might think that this would make me a knee-jerk reactionary, the way it seems to have done for most of the rest of the rural population. But you would only think that because you are unfamiliar with the place where I grew up.
Where I'm from (and names don't matter, so we won't use them!), money is a much talked-about but little-experienced phenomenon. To illustrate, let me just say that the budget for our town for an entire year is probably less than most really successful people's annual salary. Let that sink in for a moment: in most parts of the country, "making it" means earning more money as one single person that all of us in my home town together can come up with in a year. You might say, "well, sure, it doesn't take that much money to run a town of... what, two, three hundred?" For your information, there are around seven thousand of us, and the average (median) income is around $22K a year. Of course, the average family size is around four children, which further deflates the value of $22K a year. I mean, if you're single, then that is definitely enough to keep you in a reasonable amount of beer and skittles for a year, but if you're married with four or five kids (and I have more than that!!!) it's a struggle just to feel like working is worth the effort. If you're really, really frugal, and have the same view of 'necessities' that your average homeless person has, then earning $22K a year is at least as noble as running in place. You don't get ahead, but you don't fall behind either. Of course, if you value cleanliness over frugality, or if your children want to be clothed in something manufactured AFTER 1975, then even economically running in place is kinda out of reach.
This has made the natives of my fair birthplace rather uniformly bitter and sullen. When we can afford a TV set, it only goes and shows us more stuff we CAN'T afford. When we can afford the very modest price of some flat, vaguely bitter on-tap beer down at the bar, we have only those in the same situation to commiserate with, and none of us have the energy to entertain anyone else's problems. Of course, if there were any more entertaining or enlightening venues in which to spend our time, I'm sure we would be as a whole uplifted, but there is no theater, all the restaurants are either bars with food tacked on or McDonalds, and the drive-in only runs for six weeks in the summer. That's probably why our major form of entertainment is fistfights.
Now, add to this unhappy situation the fact that, despite our being the poorest-per-capita in our county and tri-state region, we have the best paid police force in either of those indexes (starting salary: $40k a year), and the further fact that those cops feel that they are being paid to bust heads and in general run our town like Noriega ran Mexico. The result is that even church-going, kitten-loving old ladies spit at the cops every day, and most kids look at law enforcement the way people during the Cold War regarded Russian military leaders. In short, we hate them with a burning, squinty-eyed hate.
I know this probably sounds like the rant of every young person who grew up in a small town and wants to see something bigger and better, but let me hasten to qualify. I am no longer as young as I was (at 37, I'm more than likely already halfway through or better), I've seen both bigger and better, and rather than just gripe, I've honestly tried to improve things. I've "gotten involved," I've volunteered, I've been on committees and distributed flyers and pushed petitions, and it all just finally convinced me: the world in general is made of crap, and each unique location is just one more example of crap in a new arrangement.
Example: where I live, you can get arrested because you accidentally wore your T-shirt inside out: you get accused of public intoxication (you must be drunk, you didn't even put your shirt on right!) and resisting arrest (you insisted you weren't drunk and didn't want to get arrested just to prove that you weren't), but when it goes to the hearing they plead it down to disorderly conduct with a $150 fine WHEN ALL YOU DID WAS ACCIDENTALLY WEAR YOUR SHIRT INSIDE OUT.
But nothing can be that bad, right? I must just be pissing, moaning & groaning because that's my general nature, right? I mean, if I was really serious, I would print the name of our fair little town, so others could come visit and judge for themselves, right?
Are you kidding? I'd get sued twenty ways to Sunday by everyone who came, saw, and realized that I hadn't even scratched the surface.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

I can hardly believe summer is half over. It seems like I'm still waiting for all the snow to melt. But the green, green woods are all there, waiting for me....

Not Really One or the Other

A few posts ago, I wrote about why I would never be a conservative, or at least not a good one. I read a lot of pundit blogs, and war blogs, and just blogs period, and I find that (at least to some people) it can be important to identify yourself in those terms, if only so people don't assume that you are a like minded soul with whom they can commiserate about how the world's going to hell.
Well, today's bit is about how I don't think I'll ever be a good liberal, either.
Take the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. I've read so much about this from so many conflicting viewpoints that I sometimes sit and wonder if we're all living on the same planet. It's a good lesson in how everything is subjective, I suppose, and that there are no empiricals, no absolutes of good and evil; or rather, that there is nothing that is purely good or purely evil, but only a swirling mixture of the two in varying proportions. With the conflict in Israel, I see the Israelis as basically doing what they feel they have to, and I don't condemn them for that. I think that killing people is a bad thing, and whether you're doing it for the right or the wrong reason doesn't make it any less bad. I get the sense that the Israelis understand that, and that the Palestinians somehow don't. It's one thing to be a soldier, and to choose to do what you feel is right even if you know it might get you killed. It's quite another thing to be a suicide bomber, knowing that you're going to die even if no-one else does. And it's a third, utterly repulsive and despicable thing to convince someone, by virtue of their youth, inexperience, and some sort of religious authority (I guess!), to become a suicide bomber. I think even the inestimable Mr. Lileks would commend me on making that judgment. What I don't think that he and a lot of others feel is what I feel, and that is a certain sorrow - maybe even anguish - for the Palestinian mother who loses her children, and for those who lose their homes for whatever reason. It makes me sick inside that people can look around and see that the world/nature/laws of physics makes no provisions or exceptions for us, that the planet we live in is a hard, hard place to be and that people can yet go on and make things worse by living in hatred and causing death.
Y'know, I think it's that peculiar little disability of mine that keeps me from ever really being one thing and one thing only. I always see both sides, and how both are right AND wrong to some degree. It's the way everything is, in my opinion. To quote the Bible (which I never do): 'In the midst of life, we are in death.' At the cellular level, we've started to die before we're even formally born. Every part of good on this planet has its own sort of evil; nature can be calm and beautiful and inspiring, but like the wise ones before us said, it can also be 'red in tooth and claw.' Even a tree can look like a harmless, productive organism from one perspective, and a factory of phytochemicals that poisons its predators and competitors and shades its smaller rivals to death. It's all just a struggle, and for every winner there's a loser.
A lot of people would tell me that this particular take on things is just another way to duck responsibility, I guess. You know, that not committing to anything is the coward's way out, you have to take a stand sometime, and so on. Well, I had a lot of philosophy in college, and I can tell you that once you take God out of the equation, there's no justification for anything. I myself never was really big on having God in the equation to begin with; I haven't made up my mind on whether he's there or not, but granting that he is as a premise, I still can't posit him being any more interested in us than I am in the social interaction of E. Coli. I wanted to believe for a long time in the humanist line, that things mean something because (puff out your chest) dammit, they HAVE TO mean something. If God won't give us absolutes, we'll look to nature or science or... well, most people are stuck right there flipping back and forth between those two channels. That, or they live by the code of 'My Parents Told Me So,' which pretty much guarantees that they didn't learn anything at all from their parents.
Now, I'm not exactly looking to be convinced, either. It's not like I'm just waiting for that one devastating argument that will make it all slip into place, and make everything from peace in the middle east to the ultimate question of life (why? and why now?) all slip into place. People who are just waiting for that kind of reason always find it in the worst possible places, and become skinheads or Jehovah's Witnesses or lifetime McDonald's employees.
No, I think I'm gonna stay right where I am: on the outside, looking in.

Friday, July 09, 2004

Not Doing So Hot

Boy, is Captain Black Cloud ever following me around lately. I'm really trying hard to keep my head up, but it just seems to get harder every day. It's not so much the bad stuff -- I'm used to bad stuff happening to me, and on a regular basis at that -- bad stuff is just part of being poor. Not to harp on it, or anything, but when you've got no money, you've got no recourse.
Even so, I know lots of people in the same general state of desperation as myself, and they don't seem to be as miserable as I am. Oh, they get upset and unhappy when the bad stuff comes down, same as me, but then a day or so later things have somehow worked out again. It's just not that way for me. I can't seem to find anything that takes my mind off the constant worries that I have -- money, my kids, my marriage, nothing to unusual. Just constant. I can't sit through a movie or read a book when my mind keeps obsessively returning to the problem at hand, the way you find yourself scratching and picking at a scab even though you know damn well you shouldn't. It's been this way for a long time now, and for most of that time I just accepted it as normal. But now, even I can't hide from the negative impact it's having on all of my relationships, the ones with my wife and kids that really matter AND the ones with people at work that I really couldn't care less about. I don't want being around me to be bad for my wife and kids, but I know it is, and that makes it all worse somehow. I know I shouldn't take it out on them, because they're not the ones at fault, but somehow it just keeps happening and I don't see it until it's too late.
I'm not trying to be melodramatic or anything, because attention really isn't what I'm craving here (if it was, I suppose I could find a couch in an office somewhere to whine my heart out on). I just have to say it to myself, out loud AND in writing:
Life just doesn't seem worth it any more.
Oh, I'm not planning any high dives off a bridge (there aren't any that would really do the trick around here, anyway) or anything like that. It just seems like all the things that really made me want to get up and see another day are gone, or have turned into flat grey imitations of themselves, like getting a xeroxed picture of a great meal instead of the real thing.
I keep telling myself that it's my job's fault, that I'm really unhappy there and that it's just poisoning the rest of my life, but even when I'm just whispering it in the back of my head instead of writing it, it still feels like a lie. This is something that starts with me, that is welling up out of some black pit at the bottom of my mind like sewage leaking into drinking water.
Since I work in the medical education profession, I am constantly surrounded by doctors. I'm sure any one of them would be the first to say, "Oh, you're just depressed! Take one of these pills every day, and sorry about the side effects." Fact is, I don't think that's a way out for me. Number one, I've given antidepressants a try, and they're less effective than Haagen-Daz ice cream. Number two, it's a good rule of thumb to be skeptical of any drug whose pharmacology statement begins thus:
'the primary mode of action of this compound SEEMS to be...' Trust me, if they don't know exactly what it's doing to you, they can't tell you if the results will be good or not. That's why they say that they 'might have to play around with the dosage a little, or try another drug if this one doesn't work.' Personally, I think they'd be just as far ahead to give you a nice fat shot of heroin for depression. That way, when you went screaming to them that you are an addict now and need a fix, they can grin and say, "Well, yeah, but I bet you're not depressed anymore!"
Anyway, now I've exposed my shame here for any and all to read (not that anyone will, thank god). And so I now move on to the wait for the next bad thing to fall on me.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

The storm clouds are rolling in again, and I'm actually glad to see them. I think I'm becoming allergic to the sunlight from being chained in the bowels of my work place. Can an aversion to crosses and garlic be far behind?

Speaking Out

The other day, I read a pretty good blog, good enough that I actually thought about it quite a bit over the next few days. And now, I'm even gonna blog about it.
The post (which I don't want to link to) was in a blog written by what I'm guessing is a fairly young lady. She didn't go into a lot of details, but she said that she felt her blog was fairly private, and that she wrote something that expressed feelings that she held very deeply about someone else in one of the posts. She was then very taken aback when she found out that someone she knew only at the casual acquaintance level had not only read her blog, but had managed to guess the identity of the person she'd blogged her heart out about. This acquaintance then went on to use this information to cause the young lady some very real grief. She didn't specify what kind, either, but she painted in enough of the details that anyone could fill in the missing spaces out of their own lives.
Now, this bothered me, but I couldn't put my finger on why at first. It took a long time, and consideration, but then in the car on the way to work one morning, I heard a song that tied it all together for me. It was an oldie, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road by Elton John. I listened to that one way back in fifth grade, man. Eons ago, when dinosaurs roamed the earth, and yada yada yada. Music often makes a point for me that I can't quite express (at least not as succinctly or poetically) in my own words. Isn't it that way for everyone? Anyway, the bit that got me was the line,
...sweet freedom whispered in my ear
you are a butterfly
and butterflies are free to fly
fly away, high away, bye bye

Boom, just like that, I got it. This young lady told the truth as she knew it, and it hurt her. But her blog was good, it was real. It made me realize that I want to write the truth, and just let it spill out where it may. I want to be free, and if it hurts me, at least I'm hurt and free, instead of all chained up inside my head and miserable.
Besides, nobody ever reads what I write here, right?

Wednesday, July 07, 2004


Okay, I know it's been awhile since I posted, but I've been mulling over a post on my relationship with that web juggernaut, Yahoo!, and I knew that it would take some time.
Y'see, I first found Yahoo back in college, sometime around early '97. Yahoo was still pretty new back then, and very eager to please: as with most of the 'Net in those days, everything was free. Of course, Yahoo was only a portal then, a glorified list of favorite links supplied by its inventors that was tied to a rather limited search engine. I liked Yahoo then, mostly for the free email address and quick news stories.
But then.... My real problems with the big red Y started when they bought e-groups. I was a devoted fan of e-groups, and I really liked the way they worked. I thought, 'maybe this won't be so bad, I like the way they run the portal site, maybe they'll do a good job with e-groups!' Ah, how delightfully naive I was then. But things did go along all right for awhile: the groups ran pretty much as before, and Yahoo went right on acquiring some of my other favorite sites, like Launch, and they seemed to do okay with that, too. Until, until. The dot-com bubble burst, and it all came crashing down.
First it was the email service. The size of my inbox shrank, and then I was no longer able to use a pop3 client to download my email from them without a fee. Like most people who are asked to pay for something they've always gotten gratis, my reaction was a bit huffy, to say the least. I closed several of my Yahoo email accounts forever, and swore never to trust them again.
Then they decided to make all of their adult email groups unlisted. This meant that you could make a group if you wanted, but if it was dedicated to an adult subject, you had no effective way to advertise it. You were limited to the groups and friends that you already knew, and had no way to reach the wider world. People got very upset, but once they learned that the groups were all still there, they calmed down. So, Yahoo started deleting adult groups, sometimes apparently at random. Granted, some of them probably contained questionable subject matter, but many others were no more pornographic or violent than the latest copy of Cosmopolitan. This made a LOT of people upset, which Yahoo apparently liked, too.
Then, they started unveiling their "premium" services. In most cases, this meant that they took the best features of services they already offered, and said, if you want to use those features, you must pay for them. Well, I suppose (in retrospect) that this wasn't so bad, but at the time, I was (understandably, I think) upset by the whole deal. I mean, I had five Yahoo addresses that I relied on, and once they made the pop3 access unavailable, I stopped using them. I've never really liked webmail, and I have always found Yahoo's mail page design subliminally frustrating without being able to put my finger on the feature that really causes my annoyance. So, there went my groups and my email addresses.
Since then, I've continued to use Yahoo, but warily. Every time they come out with a feature that I like, I use it with utter trepidation, sure that they'll snatch it away the minute I depend on it. In fact, I have only recently begun to use their messenger again, and that only because I can play my Launchcast station in the messenger while I'm instant messaging. I know that they have recently expanded the size of their email inboxes and the attachment size limit, but I still haven't gone back to my old email addresses for fear that I might come to rely on them again. They continue to have free radio and videos on Launch (or at least, sort of free), but I use those with caution, too, sure that very soon they will become entirely pay services.
So that, in essence, is the major part of my beef with Yahoo. They once symbolized everything the Internet was then: free, unrestricted, and instantaneous. Now, they symbolize a great deal of what the web's become: lots of advertising, lots of pay services, and not much more than one long commercial in a variety of formats.