Today marks the second anniversary of the death of the original Prodigy "Classic" service, for which I have posted some observations. Meanwhile, Prodigy's surviving service advised its subscribers today that they will be facing a two-dollar-a-month price increase come next month. Surely I'm not the only former Classic subscriber who finds the timing of this announcement just a bit disheartening.
Also today, there are some chalk drawings on the sidewalk, in a color I'd never seen in chalk before: sort of fuchsia, with maybe a little more purple than usual dialed into the mix. I was beginning to think that kids didn't do chalk drawings on sidewalks anymore; nowadays, I suppose this is considered "graffiti", and the police or the Neighborhood Association will come eventually to obliterate the stuff. But as the co-constructor, back in 1961, of a 200-section hopscotch court we even managed to jump through it once before the rains came I've really missed seeing the little lines that define, without at all binding, the imagination of a child.
The various credit bureaus are evidently recession-proof. On a day when offers for credit cards constitute 60 percent of my mail (three out of five, but hey), I have to figure that they're selling a whole lot of information, even now. (And I have quite enough plastic already, so I tore them up.)
Outside #10 Downing Street, guessing which way Tony Blair will slide on any given issue has become something of a cottage industry, a veritable Which Blair? project. Today, though, the PM minced no words: either the Taliban must bow to the demands of the Allies, or they will bow to something much, much worse. Blair's Labour party has not been exactly enthusiastic about the possibility of armed conflict, but I'd be surprised if he didn't win over a few converts with this speech.
I wasn't exactly running short of paranoia before, but when the power went off last night around 9:30, a few seconds after I had downloaded a rather large MP3 from Usenet, and I discovered that it affected only the neighbors to the west people to the east were unaffected I started to wonder, what with the total absence of storms and not a whole lot of wind. For an interruption this small, you'd think it was something simple, like a drunken idiot trying to drive up a light pole. No such luck; at least, I didn't find any such in my sweep through the neighborhood. The guy at the electric company sounded incredibly bored when I reported the outage, but I attribute this to the likelihood that he was in fact incredibly bored. And eventually, power was restored, at midnight, and I mean 12:00. Exactly. To the very second. It's like they planned it. Of course, I live rather too close to an Air Force installation, in the sense that it wouldn't take too many well-placed megatons to turn my living quarters into a heap of molten slag, a fact that wouldn't go away no matter how many Sominex I took.
So sleeplessness was the order of the night, and getting to work to discover that suddenly it takes 800 tries to get through to a perfectly ordinary 800 number I have to call every day ("Aren't you glad you use Autodial? Don't you wish no one else did?") did nothing to improve my disposition. And then some damned fool goes and hijacks a freaking bus. It's like I always say: things go from bad to worse, then the cycle repeats.
The Daily Oklahoman used to be, and may still be I avoid reading it whenever possible one of the last bastions of the disreputable practice of slapping a headline on a story that grossly misrepresents the actual text thereof. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised to find that this sort of thing happens on the Web, too.
Looming upon us is OU-Texas weekend, and as a resident of Oklahoma who attended the University of Texas at Austin, I'd just like to say that I don't give a flying fish one way or the other.
That's ten-four, good buddy.
The lights poured through the bedroom window at 6:05 this morning, at which time I was already staggering to the washbasin. But a display like this doesn't come along every day, so I swallowed way too much eau d'Ultra Brite and made my way back, where I discovered a doofus Ford Escort parked in the fire lane, so naturally I assumed I was seeing a tow truck. And then, having managed to get both eyes open at last, I saw the ambulance.
Now in this neighborhood, the arrival of an ambulance usually means either an overdose or a gunshot wound, or perhaps a combination thereof ("It's acute lead poisoning, Mrs Johnson, and at a very high velocity at that"), so I shrugged it off and headed for the showers. When I returned, both the ambulance and the Escort were gone. There's a story here, but I can't work up enough curiosity to find out just what it is.
On the non-emergency front, the phone company evidently botched the entire listing of non-emergency numbers for the front of the White Pages, and sent out a new page which I'm supposed to place over the old one. Or maybe, given the mood I'm in, I'll just lend the old, uncorrected book to the owner of the Escort.
I don't know if your local oldies station is playing "Eve of Destruction" these days, what with the Eastern world in a tenuous pre-explosion state and all, and yes, I realize that this is the second time in three months I've trotted out this song to make some inane point or other, but this morning's spin, on KOMA's Saturday Morning Countdown, detailing the Top 40 from this week in 1965, came with some unexpected baggage.
"Eve of Destruction" came in at #9 that week, and, remarked host Larry Neal, it was "tied" with another song: by some strange circumstance, the other #9 song was Middle America's answer record to Barry McGuire's counterculture anthem, "The Dawn of Correction" by the Spokesmen. Somehow I find it hard to believe, even in hyperconservative Oklahoma, that these two songs enjoyed exactly equal popularity. If your local Top 40 station, especially if it had been part of the Storz Broadcasting chain, did something like this, I'd be most interested in .
Yeah, I know, more bit-twiddling.
I'd been wanting to see the film version of West Side Story again, a simple matter of pulling the laserdisc off my shelf, but in the wake of the World Trade Center attacks, somehow I always managed to find an excuse not to. Last night, though, it having dawned on me that the movie dates to around 1961, well before the construction of the WTC and the story at the heart of it dates to more like 1561 I settled down with Tony and Maria and the Sharks and the Jets and gee, even Officer Krupke. This disc was issued in the early 80s, before anyone other than Woody Allen was thinking about letterboxing, which makes me think that I probably should get a DVD player after all. Then again, my television set, well over twenty years old, lacks the appropriate video input, which means that I'd have to replace a perfectly good (if antiquated) TV while I'm at it. (I suppose I could plug it into a VCR, but the wiring back there looks like burned fettuccine already.) Decisions, decisions....
I hesitate to call it World War III, or even Version 3.00 (Beta), but whatever the hell it is, it has definitely begun. And it's not like it was a particular surprise to the unwilling recipients of American and British ordnance, either; warnings have been coming out of Washington and London for days now.
And while I mourn for the innocents, assuming there are innocents it's hard to believe the Taliban have much of an approval rating, but you never know for sure I'm planning to cheer at least one result of the invasion: yet another postponement of the Emmy awards. If I really need blather and insincerity and general horsepuckey, I figure I can turn to any of the news channels to fill the void.
Congressman Julius Caesar Watts, the Al Sharpton of the right wing, apparently figures that what's good enough for us peons isn't good enough for him. Watts, you'll remember, was the clown routinely trotted out by the GOP during the waning Clinton years to remind us that "character counts", conveniently ignoring his avid interest in accepting bribes and his long-standing disinterest in paying child support. Most recently, he's decided that new airport security rules don't apply to him. The Republican threshold of embarrassment is evidently greater than I had imagined.
Any comparisons with Beethoven, I contend, are way off base (got that, Matt?), but Rush Limbaugh's public disclosure today that he's going deaf at an alarming rate deserves some mention, and yes, at least one comparison to Ronald Reagan, a master of communications in his own right, also brought down by an inscrutable illness. Rush's announcement was simple, unfuzzy, and, of course, not too humble.
And the server at 42nd and Treadmill observed the Columbus Day holiday by doing a creditable impression of a boat anchor.
The quality of stupidity is not strained; we get it in full, undiluted and unadulterated. And since the events of September eleventh, a date which will live in, um, infamy, we get so much more of it. (Thanks to Mark Pilgrim for the heads-up.)
There's an old-fashioned block party going on outside, with one notable difference: the background noise (some will insist it is music, but I demur) is relentlessly contemporary and rigidly formulaic. Yes, I know your parental units and mine said the same thing about the Beatles; on the other hand, the classical radio program Composers Datebook today was devoted to Lennon (whose birthday it is) and McCartney. I can't imagine anyone other than archivists and masochists reviving in 2035 anything being played today on Contemptible Hit Radio.
Damocles had to contend with a sword; I get to watch out for a warped piece of vinyl siding, on the far (which is to say "burned out") end of this building, that probably won't last through another stormy night. Fortunately, it's out of my usual walking path, but someone could get hurt.
And we could get hurt, insist Ari and Condoleezza, if the US television networks keep running unedited video from the Al-Qaeda camp; even if the tapes don't contain coded messages to bin Laden operatives, they're still just propaganda. The networks said they would consider each new item on an individual basis. I don't know about the rest of you, but when I happen upon the rant du jour in full-color OsamaVision", I hit the button for any other channel within reach. (Well, probably not the shopping channels.)
One month, and the other shoe has yet to drop. I can wait.
I still buy from CDNOW once in a while, despite their less-than-inspired track record with regard to the preservation of jewel boxes. The most recent arrival, an Australian Jackie DeShannon compilation, looked utterly pristine, yet it rattled once the shrinkwrap came off. I opened the box, and the disc slid into my lap; it seems that all but one of the little fingers that clamp the disc in place had broken off, or disintegrated, or otherwise rendered ineffective. It's hard to imagine how this could happen in shipping, so I'm guessing the CD packaging plant dropped the ball on this one. CDNOW, therefore, is exonerated. This time. Still, I've never heard a better-sounding "When You Walk In The Room" even if it does run twenty seconds longer than the single version so you must get this disc, from CDNOW or from your favorite retailer or directly from the issuing label, and buy your own damned jewel box if you have to.
John Krewson of The Onion, reacting in Wired News to the recent panoply of horrors, and the dearth of satirical material that followed:
"What we're seeing isn't the death of irony. It's the death of apathy. There is no upside to this, except in making people think about how far up their asses their heads have been."
The CD-ROM edition of Encyclopædia Britannica has arrived, and I'm not about to try to install it on This Old Box. (The new box, of course, will be here some time next week.) In the long run, I figure this edition will be far easier to transport than thirty-odd bound volumes that fit in no bookcase I own.
I question a statement on the carton, though: "...the world standard since 1768" is true for, at most, some of the Encyclopædia. The first edition of the Britannica was published in three installments, one per year, and was completed in 1771. (Source: britannica.com, which presumably ought to know.)
Scenes from a Mall: One of the middle-of-the-aisle display ads features some cartoon creatures advising children that they should turn off the television when they are not watching, for the sake of energy conservation. It occurs to me that perhaps it might be useful to advise children that they should turn off the television when they are watching, for the sake of brain-cell preservation.
Newly opened, somewhere west of Sears, was a furniture store specializing in, for lack of a better term, Rustic Americana, with the unfortunate name of "Hillbilly Heaven". Somehow I can't imagine Tex Ritter ("Tex Ritter?") approving of this sort of thing.
Asa Baber, in the November Playboy, expressing gratitude:
"The clitoris is God's way of telling us that we are lazy fools who forced him/her to design female sex organs with stupendous efficiency. For that blessing we should be appreciative."
This issue, incidentally, features an article by Will Lee called "How To Date a Girl Smarter Than You". Of course she's smarter: she turned me down.
How much feedback should I, as the keeper of a Web site and an online journal, expect?
The answer, I have always felt, was "Not much"; if a reader has something to say, fine, but I'm not going out of my way to encourage feedback. I mean, I have a message board and all, but it seldom gets any use, and I don't find that particularly worrisome: it's not like I spent an enormous number of hours or dollars on the script that runs it.
On the other hand, some people insist on some form of response, and others try to shape their text to please, or at least to avoid displeasing, the largest possible number of readers. And that's fine with me, but I don't plan to do the same. I have enough trouble trying to keep this place legible.
"Let's mail some powder to someone! Wouldn't that be kewl?"
Actually, it's prima facie evidence that you're never going to amount to anything anyway, and you should be squashed like a bug, unmourned but decidedly crunchy. (For that matter, there are days when I think mere use of the term "kewl" should be considered a misdemeanor at the very least.)
Speaking of powder, high winds whipped an enormous amount of Oklahoma red clay into the air today; orange skies at sunset are no big deal around here, but when the clouds at high noon appear to have been dyed apricot, you've got a full-fledged spectacle.
Vocal by Russell Thompkins, Jr.:
Today I saw somebody
Who looked just like you
She walked like you do
I thought it was you
As she turned the corner
I called out your name
I felt so ashamed
When it wasn't you
Well, obviously it couldn't have been, but tell that to my sick and twisted heart.
Lessons in Upgrading, Part the First: The biggest monitor you can afford will not necessarily fit into your car.
Lessons in Upgrading, Part the Second: They said they would create the partitions; they didn't say they would format them.
Jim Morrison, working tech support: "You cannot partition your drive with prayer!"
Some kindly soul has bestowed upon me Jeweled Rain (Orange Moon 28089-2), a lovely collection of piano improvisations by Catherine Marie Charlton, which item had recently been added to my amazon.com Wish List. Evidently I have somehow managed to stay on the positive side of the karma ledger this week, anyway. To my anonymous benefactor, thank you, and thank you again. It's going to be a long time before this one comes out of the CD changer.
Lessons in Upgrading, Part the Third: The number of mouse pads in a given location is never equal to the number of mice.
And whoever said "Anthrax is not funny": you were absolutely right.
Well, I don't have a secret admirer after all. (Big surprise.) The anonymous benefactor 'fessed up today. My prodigious level of gratitude, however, remains right where it was.
Lessons in Upgrading, Part the Fourth: Not every file that looks like an install file turns out to be an install file.
Elizabeth Hurley is on the cover of the November Movieline, seated, one knee not quite clavicle-high, and so far as I can tell, she's wearing a hefty ring, a lot of makeup, and nothing else. Some people scoff at this coy sort of pose not revealing enough, or some such business but not being the Gynecologist to the Stars, I'm not all that anxious to peer into celebrity crotches. For my, um, modest needs, this is quite sufficient. And apparently it suits, or unsuits, Ms Hurley; this is about the third time I've seen her posed this way.
Lessons in Upgrading, Part the Fifth: Hard as it may be to believe, it's not always all Microsoft's fault.
Lessons in Upgrading, Part the Sixth: Whether you have two cables or twenty stretched across the table, the amount of tangling you encounter is constant. (With one cable, it diminishes, but not enough to make anyone feel any better.)
And on that note, I am bound to report that the new computer is in place on my desk, to the extent that it fits on the desk at all. It's amazing how much smaller the old 15-inch monitor looked as it was being carried away. (It amazes me not at all how little it weighed; the new 19-incher is apparently imbued with some isotope of Unobtainium that weighs just slightly less than black-hole residue.) Still, despite being about two generations of hardware and one generation of operating system newer, it's still a Windows machine. So: meet the new box, same as the old box.
And as a reminder, I am controlling this shiny new hardware with a grungy old keyboard, manufactured by Big Blue back in 1990 when hardware was expected to last a while. It clicks and clanks and clunks, but it never misses a stroke, truly a role model for all of us of a(n un)certain age.
Bring on the broadband.
People have been mixing stuff with Coca-Cola about as long as there has been Coca-Cola, and probably with other soft drinks as well, though I have yet to see anyone in a bar ordering rum and Pepsi. The latest variation on this theme is "Diet Coke with Lemon", an actual company product I decided to sample (read "blow a dollar on two liters' worth") this weekend. It is, as advertised, Diet Coke with lemon, although the somewhat soapy mouthfeel of the stuff makes me think that it was prepared by stirring in a couple of spritzes of Joy dishwashing liquid. I was tempted to go buy a bottle of standard Diet Coke and test this for myself, but memories of earlier experiences with a mouth full of soap persuaded me otherwise.
Windows 98, I am given to understand, has problems with dealing with more than 512 MB of RAM. On the other hand, having less than that has suddenly become almost unthinkable. Must be some atavistic hardware-snob tendencies manifesting themselves.
Great weirdness afoot. Our traveling squads take with them an IBM ThinkPad and one of Hewlett-Packard's smaller DeskJets (both examples of BiCapitalization), joined together by the usual parallel cable or (in the case of newer notebooks) a USB cable. One of our peregrinating pavement-pounders informed us some time ago that he and his printer were traveling separately (don't ask; call it "the usual quality of planning") and could he please check out another one for next week? Not a problem, we said, and so we were much put off when he called us frantically from some Midwestern silo to tell us that ThinkPad and DeskJet were not speaking to one another. This made no sense, as we had bought a dozen identical printers, each of which had both USB and parallel connections. Had we (which is to say "I") by mistake installed the parallel version of the HP driver on the poor fellow's USB-equipped notebook? He got back today, and it turned out that we had not. So evidently there was a "This is not the printer you installed" message passed somewhere along the line. Does Hewlett-Packard brand its drivers with a serial number as they are installed? Inquiring minds would like to get this issue off the table while they still have electricity to compute by.
Is it supposed to be this warm in late October?
So which is worse: someone who calls and leaves no message, or someone who calls and leaves a message you don't particularly want to hear? I've had a plethora of both this week; I think I've had a total of one call worth answering in seven days, and I wasn't near the phone when it rang. Figures.
My anguished cry for broadband didn't exactly fall on deaf ears, but there is none forthcoming. Cable is out (fire damage to the infrastructure), DSL is out (too far from the central office), and satellite is out (Sprint's little fly-swatter dish is no longer available, and the landlord frowns on humongous DirecTV-size saucers). Meanwhile, I alternate between acceptable 42k connections and embarrassing 12k connections. The funny thing is, when I had a lowly 33.6 modem, I was almost always getting at least 28.8 no matter what. Then again, maybe it's not so funny.
Well, it's fall, the World Series is upon us, Microsoft is about to unleash its next Package O'Wrath upon its user base, and, oh, yes, there's that little business of a war. So what's the one, the only, topic of media attention?
Yep. You got it. Four-year-olds have been taught to fear every powdery substance from Amway to Zud, merry pranksters are loading envelopes with talc, and the news coverage, following the example you'll remember with Monica Lewinsky and Gary Condit, is now All Anthrax, All The Time. Fercrissake, folks, this is not an epidemic. A couple of dozen people might actually die? A couple of dozen people will die from the flu between now and noon tomorrow, and the lines for flu shots at Walgreen's are none deep. I honestly don't know why Mattel doesn't bring out Anthrax Barbie, with her own designer breathing mask and decontamination suit. It's the perfect gift for holidays overrun by fear.
Note to "Publishers Service", Denver: Do you really think I'm going to send my subscription renewal for [fill in name of magazine] to somebody whose actual address is a rental box at the South Gaylord Postal Center?
"All circuits are busy," declared the disembodied phone voice, more times than I cared to count. My best guess is that people were having trouble getting Windows XP activated. (Me, I've only just moved into Windows 98; by the time I'm ready for XP, it will have been replaced, and its replacement will have been replaced as well. Let someone else dance on the bleeding edge of technology.)
And it wasn't even the Smart Card: The bank issuing a credit card I had planned to get rid of in a couple of months has cut the interest rate by seven percent for the duration and to zero for the next 90 days. I swear, they can sense when they're about to lose a customer.
I always figured Blitzen was a girl, but all of them?
The Postal Service, presumably checking for powdery substances instead of addresses, delivered to me a box of checks intended for someone else a quarter-mile up the road. At least it was the same side of the street, but geez.
Friends of mine actually installed Windows XP yesterday; I wonder if they also installed the twenty megabytes of service packs and patches that were released in the first 24 hours of the product's existence.
About the kindest thing I've had to say lately about Michael Jackson has been "Is he still alive?" And apparently I'm not the only one who has decided that where the soi-disant King of Pop is concerned, no criticism is too harsh.
Ford thought it had a better idea with the "AutoCollection" concept, consolidating dealerships into huge multiple-brand megalots which Ford itself would own. Needless to say, this didn't play well with other Ford stores, even outside the Collection's marketing areas, and after three years, Ford has decided to kill the program and get out of the retail business.
The first visible sign of this in Oklahoma City sale of the Tulsa operation has already been announced is on the crowded Broadway Extension auto marketplace, where a Saturn sign is coming down, to be replaced by the flying-M of Mazda, a mere three-quarters of a mile from an existing AutoCollection Mazda operation. I'm guessing that Ford's deal to sell this location was contingent on not continuing the Mazda franchise. The new guys also sell Buick, Cadillac, Land Rover (their only other Ford brand), Infiniti, Porsche and Audi, so it should be interesting to see how they deal with the weird wonder that is Mazda. To be sure, they get Brownie points right off the bat for announcing that the service department will be open Saturdays, something unheard of at the local AutoCollection.
And speaking of Mazda, I actually made a trip to the redline today. That selfsame Broadway Extension is undergoing some serious (and way overdue) renovations, and temporary onramps are placed with seemingly no consideration for the possibility that you might want to see what's coming up before you merge. In such conditions, you floor it and pray. Sandy, bless her, didn't even flinch from the 4-1 downshift. When's the last time you had the tach up to 6500?
Small gathering of ok.general regulars last night, and I might have come across as more coherent had my guts decided to sit still instead of doing cartwheels, but all in all, things seemed to go fairly well, and unlike the situation in Afghanistan, we never found ourselves lacking for targets.
Recently arrived: not one, but two emails from the same person, warning about the inherent danger of Halloween from a Christian perspective. I take this exactly as seriously as I would a claim from my local Dodge dealer that inasmuch as Chrysler invented the minivan, it would be an absolute travesty were I to go for a spin in, say, a Toyota Sienna. Besides which, I learned to drive in a VW Microbus. And, since I live in Oklahoma, I am surrounded by people who believe in every freaking supernatural manifestation that could possibly exist, along with most of the ones that couldn't. This is, after all, the place where a high-school girl was suspended for, among other things, casting a sickness spell on a teacher. If there's anything to fear from Halloween, it's stuffing yourself with sweets a fact which is not lost on my not-anonymous-enough correspondent.
Note: One line dropped here because it was uncalled for.
The Balagia family tree continues to receive new wiring. The cousins (and there are a lot of cousins; my brother will happily testify that there are more than I can possibly keep track of) seem to have formed themselves into a cheerily-informal mailing list.
Last week, I was puzzling over a mystery involving a ThinkPad and a fleet of low-end DeskJets. Today, I decided to reconstruct the problem, and of course, once I did so, everything was blatantly obvious: how the hell are you supposed to be able to daisy-chain USB devices unless each one has a unique identifier? I dutifully took two Duh" tablets and reported my findings to the sysadmin. Of course, the end-user who first encountered the problem was delighted to hear that it wasn't his fault.
And good riddance, DST. At least there will be a couple of weeks when I can go to work in something other than the dead of night.
My 90,000th visitor today. Wow.
Someone from Mazda North American Operations, according to my referrer log, spent two hours at this site today. This can't be good. Surely they're not thinking of threatening me with another lawsuit, are they?
And speaking of having better things to do, I have been invited to (read: "drafted into") tomorrow's Management Team meeting in place of our sysadmin, who has evidently learned the value of scheduling one's medical appointments carefully. This is not the regularly-scheduled brain drainage, either, but a special session of the sort that usually occurs right after one of the Grand High Exalted Poo-Bahs receives the latest selection from the Management for Amateurs Book Club. Regardless of the circumstances, however, the topic is always the same: "How can we keep the chiefs in the lifestyle to which they are accustomed if you damn Indians keep asking for stuff?" Due in no small part to my unfortunate choice of ancestors, I will never be a chief, though I can count coup with the best of them.
Then again, in beautiful downtown Dearborn, William Clay Ford, Jr. today took the opportunity to remind Jac Nasser whose name is on the building. If the same is done unto me tomorrow, well, obviously I told them what I just told you.
So much for planning. The Management Team meeting scheduled for today (and grumbled about yesterday) was "postponed"; while I'd like to think it was because of my scathing criticism, the most likely reason, I suspect, is that they needed the chairs in the conference room to accommodate the corporate Halloween party.
Today's junk mail comes from WorldCom Wireless, and what makes it notable is the sheer effrontery of the packaging: the back of the envelope has the stern statement "TIME SENSITIVE MATERIALS ENCLOSED. DO NOT DISCARD." Uh, guys, this may come as a shock to you, but I will discard if I damned well please.
| Copyright © 2001 by Charles G. Hill