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January 2001


Monday, 1 January 2001, 2:35 pm

Some kind soul or at least someone with six grand to spare has apparently adopted Molly; she's disappeared from the dealer Web site.

And by this time tomorrow, this site will have received its 50,000th visitor. I can't explain that either.

Tuesday, 2 January 2001, 5:20 pm

From the Taunt the Victims Department: The Weather Channel, apparently ignoring the three inches and odd of snow cover, this morning posted a predicted high temperature of 69 degrees for Thursday, which reflects a level of bogosity I haven't seen since Bob Dornan was in Congress. (Normal for this date is 47, not that we've seen a normal temperature more than two or three times since Thanksgiving.) As of this writing, they have cut it back all the way to, um, 64. We should be so lucky.

The real joke here, of course, is this: What if, as a response to the seemingly-endless cloud cover, I've actually developed seasonal affective disorder? And since the stuff I take for my blood pressure demands that I stay out of the sun, what am I supposed to do about it?

Wednesday, 3 January 2001, 6:20 pm

It's some catch, that Catch-22 Degrees: the snow can't melt until it warms up, but it can't warm up until the snow melts. Insurance companies are wont to refer to weather "events" as "Acts of God", which suggests to me, anyway, that old I Am Who Am hath a warped sense of humor.

And just for the record, unlike the other three million people in this state, I don't much care who wins the FedEx Orange Bowl.

Thursday, 4 January 2001, 5:30 pm

People out in the western reaches of Soonerland got high temperatures in the 60s today, and Dustbury itself flirted with the 55-degree mark before the sun set. This is far higher than any of the local guys would have dared to predict, which perhaps says something about keeping one's perspective at the proper distance. At the very least, I've learned never to second-guess The Weather Channel (which is parked in Atlanta at some location not owned by Ted Turner) again.

Even if you believe that there can be objective standards of beauty, a proposition I'd just as soon not be called upon to defend, there's no way to single out the most beautiful woman on the planet. On the other hand, one of our staff members did a substantial wardrobe upgrade over the holidays, and its, um, more tangible benefits were sufficient to induce me to reshuffle my personal Top Ten list. "Is she already spoken for?" If you can ask this question with a straight face, you must be a new reader.

Friday, 5 January 2001, 8:25 pm

The line of snow and ice out in the parking lot is receding about eight inches a day. Unfortunately, it's still two feet beyond the back bumper of my car, so if the present rate of melting holds up and how likely is that? the stuff won't disappear before February.

Saturday, 6 January 2001, 4:15 pm

The kid took the turn too fast, and the combination of gravity and (lack of) friction took over from there; he slid horizontally into the shade beneath the nether regions of a long-immobile Chrysler Cordoba. Apparently undaunted, he picked himself up and cycled another 150 feet, where he encountered a shambling figure with a snow shovel.

He stared in disbelief, stopped, stared some more. "Go ahead, don't wait for me," I said. "This stuff has been here three weeks. Another ten seconds won't make any difference."

I picked up a ten-pound trapezoid of ice and held it sideways. "Two, maybe two and a half inches thick. If somebody doesn't do something to break up this mess, it will be here until Labor Day."

The kid shrugged and rode away, wondering who'd opened up the psycho ward for the weekend, and I went back to pounding a massive sheet of ice into pillow shams and dust ruffles.

Sunday, 7 January 2001, 6:00 pm

A friend from Minnesota once explained that they enjoyed (well, "enjoyed" isn't the word he used, but bear with me) a true two-season climate: winter and road repair. And with December's ice and snow finally starting to disappear, I'm starting to see what he means: the repeating thaw-refreeze-thaw cycle is leaving our streets with enough holes to fill the Albert Hall.

One of the things I'm going to have to do this year is get back into the habit of going nowhere. It used to mean nothing to me to throw a couple days' worth of clothes in a bag and set out for Points Unknown. Lately, I can't even go to the grocery store without planning an itinerary. Obviously this will not do, especially if I plan to do something other than Web work during my vacation.

Monday, 8 January 2001, 7:20 pm

The Pothole Patrol was out today in front of the shop. Were they fixing a hole where the (frozen) rain gets in? From the looks of things, they were attempting to weatherproof a manhole cover with some bizarre mixture of Vegemite and Colorforms.

Criminy, but I hate frames.

Tuesday, 9 January 2001, 7:20 pm

Quite reasonably, considering the circumstances, Linda Chavez has bowed out, but it's really a shame, if only because I was getting the impression that the usual suspects on the Democratic side of the aisle were united under the banner of "We hate her, but we really don't know why," and I was curious to hear their explanations.

Rain tomorrow night, maybe, and best of all, it's supposed to be liquid!

Wednesday, 10 January 2001, 5:20 pm

No way am I going to give lessons in How to Hedge, but the company 401(k) statements came in today, and unlike most of our hotshots who descended into the porcelain facility with the Nasdaq, I wound up with a whopping 1.67% positive return on my investments. I now have sufficient resources to retire until Valentine's Day.

Speaking of whopping, those wonderful folks at Ford Credit advised me today that during calendar year 2000 I paid them $40,404.04 in interest. Obviously, if I do retire, I should not buy another car.

Thursday, 11 January 2001, 5:00 pm

After a mere thirty days, my parking space is actually clear of ice and snow. The next batch isn't due until next week, and its arrival is still uncertain. I am, of course, not what you would call hopeful.

Someone, noting my smattering of trivial knowledge in a number of unrelated fields, asked why I'd never appeared on a quiz show like Jeopardy! I pointed out that my one television appearance was a paragon of dorkiness, and worse, that I'd probably sacrifice the game for a cheap laff. Example:

Me: I'll take Sports for four hundred, Alex.
Alex Trebek: For two consecutive years, Pete Rose led the National League in these.
Me: What are bad haircuts?

I'd be lucky to have bus fare home, let alone anything to wager in Final Jeopardy!

Friday, 12 January 2001, 5:00 pm

Paging the Four Horsemen Dept.: Microsoft is running an ad in computer magazines (I spotted it in the February PC World) that actually has the temerity to depict a Blue Screen of Death, a move you'd think would be about as likely as a US government open house at Area 51. The only thing weirder would be to see Firestone spokespersons on television brandishing strips of tread.

According to Wednesday night's forecast, it was supposed to clear up Thursday noon. No sign of the big orange ball in the sky yet.

And it's been twenty-three years. Of course, I remember.

Saturday, 13 January 2001, 9:40 am

Of course, he had been ready when the doors opened.

The crowd pushed its way in and gathered around the periphery. They were a well-behaved bunch; nobody slipped past the fence and fell in or anything. The shtick was familiar, to him and to them, and he ran through the program with his usual aplomb: the dives followed the perfect curve; the ball stayed balanced through dozens of spins; finally, he nosed the ball into the air and it swished through the net with ease. The crowd cheered. Even the fish seemed a little fresher than usual, and he made a mental note to let the staff know that he appreciated it.

And then it was over, and the crowd pushed its way out, and he made his way back to his cave, and he noticed that, despite what he'd learned about the changing of the seasons and everything, the nights were getting longer and darker.

And he slept, though not well.

Sunday, 14 January 2001, 5:15 pm

Yawn. Another copy of Entertainment Weekly with Eminem on the cover. In case you missed the first bazillion years of cultural history, here's the lesson: it's perfectly possible to be a big-A Artist and still be a pain in the arse. This has been true since before Leonardo started writing backwards, but no matter. Nor does it really matter to me whether The Artist Occasionally Known As Marshall Mathers is really exorcising some serious internalized demons or just goofing on the rest of us; at this level, he's basically jerking off, and while I would argue that masturbation is generally good for you, good for me, and presumably good for Slim Shady, I can't think of any compelling reason any of us should have to spend time in the observation booth.

Monday, 15 January 2001, 5:15 pm

Not much wind, temperature in the upper 40s, lots of sunshine of course, it's a one-shot. This time tomorrow we should be up to our dudgeon (and my dudgeon, of course, is always at least moderately high) in snow.

And happy birthday (sort of), Dr King. No matter how horrid things look today, it was still a dream worth having, and worth remembering.

Tuesday, 16 January 2001, 7:20 pm

Once again, we are blessed with one of God's little practical jokes, that wonderful stuff known as freezing drizzle. Evidently that vaunted divine omniscience doesn't extend to realizing that this crap gets very old, not to mention very dangerous, very quickly and that's the kindest possible interpretation.

Day after tomorrow, a lawsuit is supposed to be filed in Oklahoma City; the plaintiffs plan to show that the Sixteenth Amendment the federal income tax was not, in fact, ratified by the requisite number of states, and that the whole thing was pushed through in a big hurry by a Secretary of State with ulterior motives. Plus ça change, and all that.

Wednesday, 17 January 2001, 5:55 pm

To be up front about it, I really don't care what John Ashcroft thinks about abortion. (I barely think about it myself.) Can he enforce a law he thinks is a grievous error? Police and prosecutors are called upon to do this every day. I mean, the man practically took an oath in front of the Senate's inquisitors, and I can't believe for a minute that Mr Ashcroft is the sort who takes oaths lightly. Somehow I don't recall Janet Reno getting this kind of treatment until after she assumed her post.

Now if I had a question for him, it would be something along the lines of "What can be done about random twerpitude?" One of said twerps went dancing through the parking lot last night in the middle of a rain/snow mix, yet and bent one windshield-wiper blade on each vehicle. If I were calling the shots, retroactive abortion would seem to be just the ticket for this character.

Thursday, 18 January 2001, 5:30 pm

Surprising as it may seem, even is affected by California's rolling blackouts; this is, of course, because the actual Web server is located in San Jose, and no amount of backup server redundancy will make any difference if there's no juice at the plug.

This thought on John Ashcroft was ventured (not by me) last night. Paraphrasing slightly: "If he's sacrificing his principles just to get the job, then he shouldn't get the job." Idealist that I used to be, I can see the point; on the other hand, I rather doubt anyone would have wanted to give a bully pulpit to, say, Janet Reno. (This is the extent of my idealism: I wish sauce to be distributed fairly among all the geese, regardless of gender.)

Friday, 19 January 2001, 5:20 pm

One of the nicer aspects of the American system is that the transfer of power this weekend doesn't actually demand one's attention. The weather in the District of Columbia tomorrow is expected to be frightful; I refuse to consider this an omen.

As for the previous resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, well, as Dennis Miller used to say, "That's the news, and he is outta here."

Saturday, 20 January 2001, 4:50 pm

One of the prerequisites for this year's road trip is getting back into the habit of driving, as distinguished from merely commuting; while getting from point A to point B is important, at least a couple dozen other points get overlooked in the process. Today's stint on I-40, however, was dispiriting; not only was there more than the usual number of big rigs, which would block any scenery if we had any, but I kept coming up on and having to brake for randomly-situated members of the Anti-Destination League. The one guy in the shiny new Jaguar S-type was the least forgivable; okay, I was doing about 67 in a 60 zone, but Mr I-Paid-Ten-Grand-Extra-So-Don't-Call-It-A-Lincoln was plodding along at 43, like some nonagenarian in a Town Car on the way to the golf course. At least he didn't have his turn signals on.

Sunday, 21 January 2001, 10:15 am

Apparently the domain, where I usually pick up my mail, is down for regrooving; if there was something you absolutely, positively had to get in touch with me about, please resend it to dustbury at oklahoma dot net, where it stands a chance of actually getting here before the repair work is done.

Sunday, 21 January 2001, 5:20 pm

Well, the mail is running again after about a 48-hour outage, though most of the backlog proved to be the usual cable-TV descramblers, penny stocks supposed to rise to $5, and other detritus. It is, of course, pointless to send back Remove messages; all this does is verify that the email address does in fact work, which will bring you even more garbage. I have some boilerplate phrases marked for filtration, but obviously I can't catch everything. On the other hand, if I ever catch the person who originated this "Yen To Be A Millionaire" crap, which automatically propels me into IE 5's kiosk mode to fill out its damn form, I will pound him into pulp and feed him to the starlings, and if anything is left, I'll throw it to the very end of the Internet.

Monday, 22 January 2001, 6:45 pm

On the strength of various message-board postings and a handful of pages herein, I seem to have become one of the go-to guys when someone is contemplating buying or fixing a Mazda; my mailbox runneth over with questions about the products of Ford's Japanese protectorate. This is, at best, a mixed blessing: a lot of the questioners are so obsessed with trivialities and so fearful of having made the "wrong" choice that I wouldn't be at all surprised to see some brain-dead loser (who, in turn, hired an ethically-bankrupt loser as counsel) try to sue me for not talking him out of buying a 626. Impossible? Hardly. Every week I see someone sobbing about some Honda or Toyota that, astonishing as it may seem, somehow failed to run for a hundred thousand miles with no oil changes, and how come Consumer Reports didn't mention this?

On the other hand, if you were going to be stranded by the side of the road, this was the day for it: not much wind, temperature in the lower 50s, and a fair amount of sunshine. Perhaps needless to say, it's all downhill from here.

Tuesday, 23 January 2001, 6:40 pm

Except for the cloud cover, today was much like yesterday. Even the irritations remain constant. Herewith, an actual message-board posting, so representative it's reprehensible:

"I'm thinking about buying a 1995 mazda 626 with 100,000 miles for $5,400. Are there any problems that i should know about it. If there are please email me at [email address deleted out of the goodness of my heart, which ain't much] thank you"

Email him, indeed. What, is he too good to come back and check the board? Then again, he apparently didn't read it even once, so what are the chances that he might read it twice? And at this point, I snapped, in more ways than one:

"Yeah, the left front tire is about 3 psi low, and there are mouse droppings under the spare-tire well.
"In other words: There's no way anyone can tell anything about this car without actually examining it. There's enough stuff about the fourth-generation 626, not all of it written by me either, to fill a small book (or a very large pamphlet) by now, and much of it is easily accessible on this very board. And frankly, there are only so many ways I can rewrite the same old caveats, over and over and over and even so, there's nothing that says what everybody really wants to hear, which is 'Will this happen to me?' Any used car indeed, any new car is a crapshoot; some just contain more crap than others."

Speaking of crap, you should see the kids who post questions from their science homework on WHquestion so they can cut and paste the answers. And I thought I was prone to corner-cutting.

Wednesday, 24 January 2001, 7:10 pm

The disclosure that I am planning an extensive road trip this summer has led some people to believe I am having a mid-life crisis. Not so. The middle of my life passed by quite a few years ago. This is more of a "How much am I going to hate myself if I don't do this?" situation.

(Yeah, I know. Don't even think it.)

Thursday, 25 January 2001, 5:00 pm

Two anniversaries to note: First, it's the 50th anniversary of the publication of J. D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye. I mention this because it's a certainty that Salinger won't.

And it's the first anniversary of our corporate contract with CFI Care (not their real initials), our current health-insurance provider, which was more than happy to offer us somewhat more than half the coverage this year for somewhat less than twice the price. Our old pal at the used-car lot, Sascha Diehl, evidently has moved up in the world.

Friday, 26 January 2001, 5:20 pm

Fifty-six and sunny today. Naturally, tomorrow we'll get hit with a two-day ice storm. Fabulous argument for maltheism.

Saturday, 27 January 2001, 5:10 pm

It dawned on me today that I have given absolutely no thought to the Super Bowl, or even what Roman numeral denotes it. Perhaps I haven't lost as many brain cells as I had thought.

An unexpected nugget of wisdom today in, of all places, Harper's Bazaar. Somewhere off to the side of the endless parade of waifs in dress sizes that can be expressed only as square roots, former dot-comrade Amely Greeven offered this commentary on the present-day tendency to equate freedom with Net access:

"In place of experience, we had been accumulating information; who needs to actually go to base camp if you can talk about it as if you have, thanks to the e-journals and video streams you can see from your desk?....It's a phony kind of freedom that gives a quick fix, then leaves you hanging with bloodshot eyes, still in your office at 10 in the evening. When so much seems to be just a click away, you live your life half tuned in, scanning not just your immediate environs but the whole world for options that might be better or sexier. Always jonesing for something but unsure what exactly that something is, you're unable to commit to the present."

To me, anyway, this is ultimately more important than knowing which one's Dolce and which one's Gabbana.

Sunday, 28 January 2001, 4:15 pm

One thing about ice: you don't get it at 33 degrees Fahrenheit. And apart from a few minutes when the temperature dropped to 32, that's just about what it's been for the last 24 hours, so our ice storm has been a bust. (Instead, it moved about fifty miles west of here, making everyday life a nuisance for a different bunch of folks who didn't deserve it.) The rain continues to fall, or at least dribble out here and there, and it's supposed to turn into snow eventually, but snow, at least, can be driven upon with comparatively little difficulty.

I dug out the old Vac-O-Rec and spun a few 45s through it; it still works, though some of these vinyl artifacts are going to need more than mere dust removal to become anything more than the aural equivalent of emery boards.

Yesterday's jaunt to the supermarket reminded me that Valentine's Day is coming up, so naturally I bought an extra bottle of a Pepto-Bismol knockoff. (What can I say? This particular, um, holiday makes me queasy.)

Monday, 29 January 2001, 5:10 pm

We wound up with two inches of rain, which with only a slight change in storm track could have been three inches of ice or twelve inches of snow. File this under BulletsDodged. Not being a TV evangelist, I'm not about to claim credit for any of this.

Speaking of credit, Ford Credit has revised the amount of interest I paid last year, indicating it to be about three bucks this time instead of the implausible $40,000 they had reported previously. If I got $769 of $772 paid applied to principal, I must be getting a better interest rate than I thought I was.

Or maybe arithmetic isn't a major skill in the auto biz anyway; I also got a letter from the dealership suggesting that now that I've rung up "approximately 4285" miles, I should be coming in for a 5000-mile service. (In point of fact, I'll hit 5000 miles some time in June or July; it is my policy, however, to get the oil changed every four months regardless of mileage, so they'll see me in the next thirty days regardless.)

Tuesday, 30 January 2001, 7:05 pm

So far as I can tell, "faith-based" is the new, government-approved short form for "We can't break down the wall of separation between church and state, but we can sure as hell throw money over it." Mr Bush emphasizes the point that religious groups can often perform social-work functions more efficiently than government, but being more efficient than government is rather like being heavier than hydrogen.

Besides, it's not like we couldn't see this coming. Texans, by all accounts, love Jesus more than they do barbecue, and damn near as much as they do football.

Wednesday, 31 January 2001, 6:40 pm

Good riddance to this month. While the weather went from sucky to, well, less sucky as the days progressed, not a whole lot of good has come out of January, unless you're one of those benighted souls who thinks Linda Chavez is the Antichrist.

The most galling thing, of course, is that my meager $24 in savings-account interest for the past year pushes me just far enough up the tax bracket for the Feds to siphon off $14 of it.


 | Copyright © 2001 by Charles G. Hill