Monday, November 27, 2006
A private pilot's license is beginning to look reasonable (for ludicrously high values of reasonable).
Gas signs from the past.
Friday, August 18, 2006
One person I met was a young guy who had lived in Saudi Arabia with his father, who had some ongoing business in the KoSA. Some people think SA is terribly anti-American; while I agree that it is rather bigoted, certainly Western society, as a whole, presented a similarly depressing picture back in the day. And that is what I took from this young man. First, the Saudis are not under any illusions that the KoSA is rather unique: when you disembark you are required to sign a document that informs you, in stark language, that the penalty under sharia law for many minor offenses is either death or something close to it. We find this disturbing. I would find it far more disturbing if they tried to cover it up or claim it was normal, a la the Islamic Rebublic of Iran. KoSA is every bit as exceptionalist as the U.S. but in a different way: homeland of Mecca and Medina, SA is almost the Vatican, the Solomon's Temple, of the Islamic world and, indeed, as you might expect of the Papal States, the royal family is terribly weak unless, and only unless, their official acts are seen as completely orthodox and conservative; then they act from a position of strength. Note that bin Laden turned professionally anti-American when the King allowed American soldiers in the Kingdom only to repel Iraq from Kuwait. That act was a radical change and radical change is bad.
How old-fashioned is Saudi Arabia? This kid told me a story of tooling around the desert in a dune buggy until his old man cut it short. The father saw, on a far dune, horsemen: the bedou. In the old days, the bedou made pocket change by raiding and kidnapping. Since it is hard to tell if a man cares he is living in the 21st century by his distantly-viewed face, the father got his kid out of there in a hurry: they were known to hit isolated targets even today.
It is romantic, in a way, to think of the bedou, old even in the time of Christ, as a going concern. It is also a bit frightening, given that even the city Arabs and Turks found them troublesome and rebellious. It is a living reminder of the age of the world and the thin veneer of civilization papering over all that blood and strife, just as I feel when I read, pace some blogger, that the age of the iPod is in fact powered by electricity usually generated by coal.
My landlord is another type I had not met in Michigan; an ex-Colombian living in the U.S. College-educated, his first name is Adolfo. He was named after Adolf Hitler.
He was born in 1960.
As it turns out, his grandfather was severely burned in a barn fire as a boy. He ended up in Germany, which was the only country which could, more or less, repair burns of that extent. Apparently, in addition to the medical care, the young man was quite impressed by the Nazi response to the Depression. And thus "Adolfo".
The truly humorous part of all this is that the grandson is quite liberal. I mean, Socialist. Which means simply that he pursues the same old bad ends from an international, not chauvinist, perspective. One might be tempted to suggest different ends. One might also harbor fantasies of a Five Year Plan for peace in the Middle East. According to this guy:
- Vincente Fox is all for the rich. (Yeah, what did those lousy Morgans, Fords, Gates and Astors ever do for America?) The next Mexican President, of a different party, will also be for the rich.
- The U.S. government dictates currency devaluation in all of South America.
- South Americans are only allowed to buy Esso (you know, Exxon) oil while the Norte Americanos must share their home market with British Petroleum. The same goes for cars, soda, &c. This is the way the U.S. wants it and Europe and Japan meekly accept this.
- France is full of diplomatic geniuses thwarted by that cowboy in the White House.
- South American pharmaceutical companies produced "generic" anti-HIV drugs before the bad U.S. free-trade agreements. The term "pirate" never occurs to him, just as it never did to the Russians I met who thought Linux was a bad deal when you could "distribute" MS Windows for the cost of a CD-R.
- He has no idea why South American unemployment skyrocketed in the 1990s. Apparently, the thought that Malaysians, Taiwanese, Koreans, Chinese and Indians are now in the jobs market does not occur to him, nor that the Norte Americanos also suffered from this dislocation.
- The Chinese will soon overtake America as the great power. Their crippling bad debts and political rigidity does not occur to him, nor that they may suffer the fate of the Japanese. ("Our Economy Is Stuck On Suck.") Nor does he think that trade will tie their war hand.
This reminds me of the great blog post on the Arab Parallel Universe. In fact, I see one of the commenters spelled it out: "Man, I feel so related to this post: change Arab Parallel Universe for Latin American Parallel Universe, and you get almost the same. And I thought we were [the] land of Magical Realism!"
Apparently, our State Department sucks far more than I thought: these thoughts are the common currency of people who do not read hard news. Quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus indeed. What do we pay those goons in Foggy Bottom for, again? Are we no longer the land of Madison Avenue? Deep down I know that America was like this back in the day: Washington and Adams both risked ultimate defeat in negotiating peace treaties with England and France because the great mass of American opinion, among the low, in those days was virulently paranoid about aristocratic, monarchial, European influence on our way of life and our government. We were lucky to go through that then, before the age of nukes, before suicide bombers and sarin gas.
"I am not a Pillar, but a Buttress, of the Established Church. I support it from without."–Lord Melbourne
Thursday, August 03, 2006
New landlord: nice guy. Stupidly liberal in that weird, So. American way. He does outreach for Latinos and the Catholic Church. If you think some Americans are paranoid about Wal-Mart, go talk to a Latino. You will get a whole new appreciation of living in a country that does not hate capitalism. Politics aside, he is pretty cool for a total neat freak. I did laundry all day today, and have a bunch of clothes in my closet with a floor fan blowing the air in on them. I am bunking on my camping pad and a blanket, using my sleeping bag for warmth. I am enjoying the wonderful, whole townhouse cleanliness while I can, before I am embittered by excessive housework.
Oh, and don't bother with the Fastmail address, either. That is unreachable as well. Please write me at Dell, although that means that any pictures you send me pretty much have to be pried out of email and sent along to my home (long story). In fact, if you have any pictures, please send them to Fastmail. I will get them eventually.
Oh, and I saw my first black widow spider last night, just outside my new place. Something new everyday, huh?
Currently, we have a society with rankings, slowly and ever changing, that provide good enough lives for the majority and opportunities for the minorities to negotiate different lives. Our generalized others have priorities. Some people think it possible to eliminate this; I think any change will simply substitute one bigotry for another. Eliminate all social ranking and a few will be happy without oppression and the majority will flail about looking for guidance. (You may try to convince me this would be better; you may also teach a pig to sing, if you like. As I noted, a good society allows the dissatisfied to spend their time however they wish.)
Are you satisfied working a counter nights? Do you like "fat" chicks or "loser" guys? Do you think Hudson Hawk is sorely underrated? Is reality television the greatest thing ever? Do you really not want to get married? (Most twenty-somethings who denounce marriage and/or kids do so in the same way that eight year-olds pronounce sex "icky" and may safely be ignored in my little poll, or you may regard them, per my theory, as breeders unwilling to admit they do wish to hitch up and squeeze out a few puppies.)
Either way, how do you know what you really want? And if you figure it out, will you proclaim it proudly or skulk in the corners?
In 1994 Clerks. was a cornerstone film for me. Kevin Smith described my life perfectly: annoying customers, romantic failure and buddies driven by American pop culture and pr0n. Wanting a cinematographer and cash, Smith created a pure comedy of words not seen since the Marx Bros. were at the top of their game. I was dating Stacy at the time. I love her still but hindsight shows what I knew but did not want to know at the time: we were not working out and we never would. I was twenty-five years old and had worked at Majik Market, Gateway Shell and the Speedy Marathon across from the Kalamazoo Fisher Body plant (since closed). I could quote any Bob Dylan song you could name. Smith's world was mine.
Twelve years later, Smith gives us Clerks II. In purely cinematic terms, II is a little under-written. (I am almost aghast that Smith found no time to brutalize the Star Wars prequels, and am surprised that Smith seems unwilling to include politics, which is, in the 21st century, a kind of pop culture.) May I perish before including spoilers, but Randal's speech at the end was crunchy because Randal has to admit what he really wants... and it made me think.
I am living 531 miles from the place I called home before it drove me from its shores (bear with me, I am feeling poetical) with watered-down Socialism that the paranoid voice-in-my-head tells me is designed to "right-size" the native population for some purpose obviously nefarious because it is otherwise senseless. I have never been too fond of Michigan. A lot of people criticize it for being unfriendly, something I, in my perma-bubble, have never noticed. Some people in Michigan, though, were and are important to me. Some I loved are now dead. Two of them are not only alive but ready to kill me for leaving. I have known both for more than twenty years: unimaginable for a kid who moved around all his young life. The one I loved enough to marry. The other, again pace Kevin Smith, "Hello, I'm Jay and this is my hetero life-mate, Silent Bob." (Really, we even look like them!) And, of course, I have my own little rugrat who specializes in adorability and obstructionism.
Leaving was not easy. I am living farther from my family than anyone else I know. My brother was further when he left Allentown, PA for college in Wisconsin, if only by a couple hundred miles (and our extended family was there in Greater Cleveland for emergency outreach). But here I am. Why? My wife told me, some time before I left, that if I did not have a job it was because I was not looking hard enough. My reply now is, boy, were you right. I had to look a lot harder, and farther, to find one. Was it worth it?
A hard question, that. I think I still have not found my niche in life. I am good at computer support, but would rather work on the server side of things. I may never be qualified for that. On the other hand, maintaining this blog is reawakening my taste for writing. I know I have not written much lately, but if you only knew how much this job exhausts me. I am an unpeople person in a people job. But really, I have never known just what I would be best (or just really, really good) at. I read biographies where people meet a person who changes their track entirely or helps them on the right one and I almost explode with envy. I am, of course, thrilled to be making money. Everyone down here is pretty upbeat and friendly. Life is stressful but fairly rewarding.
I may never know what I want, but I know what I need right now and, apparently, TN and DOC are it. It sucks a bit that not everyone is completely supportive, but enough of the right people are and I can not ask for anything more.... Well, heh, who am I kidding?
Definition: the generalized other is not "what the people you know will think", it is "what the people the people you know will think." The people you know are significant others; we know this because you, uh, know them.
Monday, July 31, 2006
Now this is God picking you up and setting you down where you need to be. My new landlord will probably drive me insane with cleaning but after this place, he is welcome to do so. A former Colombian, he works in Catholic and immigrant outreach. Sometime, I will write up our conversation with the one I had with an American kid who lived in Saudi Arabia and the one I had at KLUG with the Russian exchange um, students? Businessmen? Whichever, I will post it here; truly, we live in Fortress Disneyland and the world is much scarier than we thought.
A day of discovery:
- I always surprise myself with how well I learned packing from Dad. I stuffed almost everything I brought down here into a single carload. I only have a chair, the computer, bedding and a few clothes left. When I crept out of the apartment complex, the speed bumps bottomed out my suspension.
- How empty even carpeted rooms sound with nothing in them; surprising even after all these years and moves. A lonely sound.
- I need furniture: a bed, especially, perhaps a dresser. I may make that an excuse to shift my days around and drive up to Kalamazoo, though really, I could not bring down a bed with my car. Maybe if I bought a supercheap ticket, I could fly? But what would I do if showed up and the rental truck was not available?
- My new place, on Sunday afternoon at least, is nine minutes from work. Bliss. Happiness. A lot cheaper.
Guh. Bed. Now. While I can enjoy it.
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
Two places, and a couple people who will hotel room with me if they fall through. Feeling a bit twitchy, here.
And another thing about the 30-day contract people... I am basically their slave until they get tired and release me from the phone. I feel like a genie, which reminds me:
A genie, imprisoned in a lamp, alone and desperate to escape, promised it would grant three wishes to whomever released it.
A thousand years later, the genie swore to bring untold riches and treasure to whomever would free it from its prison.
A thousand years after that the genie swore unending pain and torment on whichever luckless bastard finally set it free.
Genie, I so totally understand you.
Monday, July 24, 2006
Don't read H.P. Lovecraft just before going to bed... especially do not read "The Shadow Over Innsmouth" because that one is the scariest of the bunch...
I am still looking for a new apartment. I have a number of good leads, though, including a couple very near where I work. For that matter, I have been looking through jobs ads as well, and found an opening in Ypsilanti which might be interesting, though it lists GM as one of its customers and I am not sure how much longer GM will be around.
I found one duplex which would be fantastic. It is in Inglewood, which is right across the Cumberland in a little neck of the river, with a fantastic, gorgeous park just down the street. Cross your fingers...
My current schedule is Mon-Tue-Fri-Sat, 9 am to 8 pm. Traffic is much lighter then, which is nice. My call volume is up and my refunds are down, which is also nice.
I lost some personal possessions when my group got moved while I was out for two days. The guy who took my desk threw out the notebook I kept during my training and my aspirin. I hope to get my headphones back, at least. Nice guy. I am currently sitting next to two guys who are pretty cool. The one is friendly, the other is post-modern cynical. Better than isolation, I guess.
I am not looking forward to moving, but I have little choice, as staying here with all new roommates does not attract me. Also, I do want to live closer to Nashville and a night life of some sort, even if it is only some cafés.
Yes, I should be sleeping. But that story...
"Iä! Iä! Cthulhu fhtagn! Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah-nagl fhtaga--"
QOTD: "In his house in Raleigh, dead Elvis lies dreaming."
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
This watch rocks. I used it to time my breaks. Two breaks of exactly 30 minutes total time. Heh. But I find myself wanting a watch fob for it. Also, I regret that I could choose the stopwatch OR the compass.
I bought an umbrella. I got to use it about twenty minutes later. Thunderstorms here hit like a wall; you drive along and suddenly, you can't see. The rain also comes in bands that you pass in and out of. Surprisingly, aside from the ant situation created by roommates too dumb to realize that ANTS LIVE ON SUGAR and that DRIED SODA POP on the counters is nothing more than DRIED SUGAR WITH FOOD COLORING, the bugs here are not too scary. Excepting, of course, the beetle I saw crawling along the parking lot next door which I saw while standing on a THIRD FLOOR BALCONY. I think it was a beetle, puppies do not glint in the sodium lights like that.
I have today and tomorrow off, therefore I will be apartment hunting for these two days. I have a bunch of numbers to call. Here's hoping.
Monday, July 10, 2006
Well, that was a load of happy horsesh… um, you know.
I apologize for not posting here since my job actually started. My energy is very low as this job is extremely stressful. I have three categories of customers:
Normals: these are the ones with the 30-day getting started contracts. They are not necessarily smarter nor better prepared than my other customers: they simply have not had their computers long enough to do any damage to them. Some normals are tricky, though. One guy, who sounded nice enough, wanted to “fix AOL”. Without reinstalling. Folks, AOL has released three different versions of AOL 9.0! They don't know how to fix it either! I was on the phone for two hours before I pounded that through his skull!
Okay, so maybe they are stressful, too.
Muggers: using threats and abuse, they try to get what I can not give them: free support and/or miracles. A decided minority, but more upsetting when they do show up.
Leapers: they have term papers, theses, and business reports they need to recover now, exactly in the form they were in before they messed up their M$ Office installation. Suicide is a definite undertone in these conversations; police negotiators should train with DOC to learn just how desperate the people standing on those building ledges are. Fortunately, I have an ace up my sleeve that many others do not: I know about OpenOffice.org, the free software M$ Office-compatible software suite. It works, it is easy, and installing it won't mess up their current Office installations any more or less than they were before.
Ten hour days are very exhausting. Gene, our trainer, advised us to keep our favorite analgesic pain relievers in our desk drawers; he was, of course, absolutely right.
I have slowly begun to beat myself into a proper tool for this job. I am too easily affected by other people's emotions and that is a critical failing in this job. Almost by definition, most of our customers are simply irrational.
I have been getting a lot of fan mail, though: I am a hit with some people. I had one woman at Boeing with a problem we were basically powerless to solve, but I managed to cheer her up by asking about the 787 versus the A380, comparing the latter to the Concorde: an impressive money hole. Government in civilian aviation: really, did the R101 teach us nothing??
Honestly, though, my calls are down and my refund rate is too high. I fear I will not make it at this rate. Which is a bit overblown: I am learning a lot about Windows (aside from learning that I will never, ever run Windows on my computer ever in my life). But it is obvious I need to learn faster, and more.
One spot of good news: my new schedule is nine AM to eight. Yay! No more rush hour traffic!
I also need an apartment, and have a few phone numbers to call. I also drove around looking at places listed in one of those free apartment guides (gaining familiarity with the local neighborhoods). Other than that, I have not moved forward on this, and I need to. I am just so drained that I am incapable of writing, or coding, or doing anything other than surfing the net (which is just watching TV, 21st century-style). I sit in front of a computer all day, but web surfing is out: I am jumping almost every minute of the day.
So what have I learned?
Some good news on cystic fibrosis.
Reading this article gave me instant flashbacks, “Yeah, that is why I moved, too!” In Michigan, the lawmakers fund huge tax breaks for old industries that repay them by going out of business or moving out of state. They pay for these with high taxes; exactly like Europe, they cosy up to cartels, then tax the hell out of the little guy starting a business in his garage.
Socialism is for the people? Which ones?
In the New York Times, meanwhile, we discover that “the supply siders” are trying to paint the growth of America's economy as overly stellar: after all, revenues have not reached 2000 levels (they do not specify real dollars or not). Interesting, though, that they are so close with such a radically lowered tax base. The rest of the article is not worth the foolscap it is printed on, of course, for they cite no names for “revenues did not match expectations.” It is all spin.
[H]ow many big al Qaeda secret plans has the New York Times revealed?… A [British reporter] went undercover at some mosque at Brighton, in England, and came out with all kinds of material. How come nobody at the New York Times seems to be interested in devoting any editorial energy to exposing what the enemy's up to? That's an important question. —Mark Steyn
In other news, Ann Althouse is still cool. My favorite comment: “I would use a stronger example. Creationism is relatively benign. Why not allow Neo-nazi's to diverge from Western Civ to teach the Protocols of the Elders of Zion? Or Ex-Keagles diverge from a biology or genetics class to teach race theory?” In the world of slippery slopes (a code word for “stop thinking here”), how shall we oppose teaching creationism in biology (as opposed to social or religious studies) unless we oppose Barrett teaching that CIA controlled demolitions destroyed the Towers?
The U-W is reconsidering their hiring policies since getting tarred-by-association with Barrett:
If my arguments that the “Islamic terrorist threat” is fabricated, that “al-Qaida” is really al-CIA-duh, that the “Bin Laden confession video” is ludicrously phony, and so on, were viewed as crazy, I would hardly have been chosen to teach the introductory courses on Islam at both the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Edgewood College of Madison next fall.
Wait for it.
Thursday, June 29, 2006
I am not feeling too up, lately. The first two weeks on the phones is up, and I have taken quite a beating. The most important thing is refund rate: Dell on Call is a satisfaction guaranteed service, and the goal is one or less refunds a week.
Well, Monday was a two-refund day. Basically, when someone has a disk drive with NO C:\ PARTITION left, we are in data recovery territory, and DR is a no-win situation. Basically, no one in the industry will guarantee your data can be recovered and I can say, with little fear of correction, that the chances of me pulling your data off a HDD with a messed up partition if YOU REFUSE to purchase Partition Doctor is about a million to one.
I know that I, in effect, have to sell this solution but I have a hard time in sales. I will blog more here but I am really just stressed out from my learning curve and wanting only to veg lately. I will be better in the future.
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
“Thus the honest man has a reputation as a liar.”
I do not have Gore Vidal’s United States here with me, but I do remember something he wrote: the individual stories of history are largely an amalgam of facts accepted as genuine by a shifting majority. This was not some deconstructionist diatribe, rather Gore was resignedly accepting, among the controversies over his novel Lincoln, that his contemporaries’ self-serving gossip was being taken as fact. (Gore did not understand how Truman Capote, by far the worst offender, could never bring his astonishing gift of fabulism to his actual fiction.)
Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi is dead, and Nick Berg's father says:
“Zarqawi felt my son’s breath on his hand as held the knife against his throat. Zarqawi had to look in his eyes when he did it,” Berg added, pausing to collect himself. “George Bush sits there glassy-eyed in his office with pieces of paper and condemns people to death. That to me is a real terrorist.”
In other news, the Donner family, late of the infamous Donner party, was stranded with a broken axle twenty-one miles behind the cannibals in the main party, munching on wildlife, roots and the family dog.
People do like to note that three-quarters of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudi-born. No one likes to note that the Saudis had already exiled half of them from the kingdom. Zarqawi was Jordanian, as was Abu Nidal, and the kingdom of Jordan wanted them both dead, and performed valuable field assists to the American effort to bring a thousand pounds of high explosives to Zarqawi. Both countries are valuable American allies. Both have problems. Both are far less dysfunctional than, say, Egypt or Iran. Or, for that matter, Ba’athist Iraq or the Afghani Taliban.
Accepted facts. Handle with care.
All weakness tends to corrupt; impotence corrupts absolutely. — Spalding Gray
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
Today I learned that the people behind the lighttpd web server wrote the entire thing in K&R C, that is, they wrote without function prototypes so that the compiler has no idea where any given function should be found, nor what arguments it takes. Dennis Ritchie, though noting that ANSI-style declarations are a bit clumsy, approved of function protypes.
Some people are on crack.
In happier news, I scored a 92% on my final at Dell. For the rest of the week, I'll be on the phones from ten to seven p.m. The test took out four people from my class, and we are now down to seventeen.
Lord knows I should have recopied my notes in preparation for tomorrow, but I found Ian's copy of “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead” and watched that instead. Existential tragedy makes me smile.
Our trainer, Gene, was really good. He is just a fun guy, and really good at teaching. We had a couple reps come in from the floor who really knew what they were talking about, but Gene really just got us moving. Someone once said that was Patton’s true talent: talented at tactics and strategy, but a genius for shoving the whole thing in motion. Gene did that well.
pantransit.reptiles.org: 16MB MP4 of Snow-bo
verabee.com: 5MB Quicktime of the same movie
Heh heh. I also got him to show the film linked to above (the latter has a bit about the film) today after the final. He thought it was funny, if a little twisted. Which, of course, it is, heh.
I got my oil changed. I also put in a new air filter. No news yet on any possible action by the apartments on my unauthorized sublet. We shall see.
Sunday, June 04, 2006
This morning we had our first hailstorm since my arrival. The hail was small, about a quarter inch or so in size. I know a guy who does vinyl siding and he said all his work was repairing hail damage. Hmmm. I knew I needed an umbrella, but now I know I need one made with aluminum mesh rather than polyester.
Last night at midnight Baptist Keith turned twenty-one. He celebrated by going out and buying a single twenty-four ounce beer. The Captain and Tennille came out just to see him drink it. It was rather funny.
My car is halfway unpacked now. The interior is empty but I need to clean out the trunk, which can wait until everything I have dragged upstairs is put away.
I have been very busy with various things, some of them useful. First up, I now have a monitor for my computer. It is Dad's old Macintosh monitor. It used a cable with a DB-15 plug, which is to say it was a plug with fifteen pins in two rows of eight and seven. PCs use an HD-15, with three rows of five.
Why yes, getting them to talk to each other took a bit of persuading.
Running Gentoo Linux, as I do, I have had to run about two hundred package upgrades that have accumulated over the last two months.
The truly sad thing is that not buying a $30 used monitor may have cost me quite a bit more. I got nabbed by the police Thursday night.
As most of you know, I have been using the Activity Center computers to post to this blog, read and send email, what have you. I once saw a cop down there using the computer: badge, uniform, gun and all (everything but his hat). He never paid attention to me. Sadly, Thursday night he chased a bunch of non-residents out of the pool; not that I care, but I had just walked up with a cigarette and he asked me a few questions.
I was unaware that he was a resident of the complex, that he was, in effect, the "house cop". Mixing public law enforcement with private contracts is a bit of dirty pool, in my opinion. Had a manager grilled me, I would have cheerfully lied through my teeth but as it is, I try not to lie to cops.
So the policeman (who is not your friend) went and got a manager, who informed me that subletting was going to be expensive. I suppose that my sublessor and I shall split the cost, but it is going to be expensive.
In other news, there is one heck of an ant infestation in the kitchen, because Certain People can not be convinced that ant colonies send out scouts who look for crumbs (or entire pizzas left on the counter) and that they invariably bring the whole worker colony along for the food.
Last week we had our first session on the phones. For my first call I got to help a guy take about twenty-five screws out of his laptop to yank the whole thing apart so the plug of the touchpad, the mouse-like apparatus, could be removed and reinserted. I was sweating the whole time, but it worked. Dell will be hiring up to a thousand people for our call center over the next year, so I am hoping for a permanent position here so long as I am not an outright danger to my callers.
Monday we take the final. Tuesday through Friday we take calls on the floor under the eyes of the trainers, then we get rotated out into our stations. I took the time to locate mine, it is right next to the windows. I am a bit scared but mostly looking forward to it. Today I will be typing my class notes into the computer, rearranging them into a far more coherent form, then I will be mailing them to myself at Dell. Wish me luck.
Tuesday, May 30, 2006
$2.71 at Meijers on Westnedge
$2.61 at some gas station in old Louisville
$2.50 at Kangaroo gas station here in Murfreesboro
That Kangaroo station must purchase only gasoline that "fell off the truck".
The little bit of Louisville I saw is indeed pretty; aside from the rough neighborhoods I travelled through, I saw a lot of beautiful, older brick buildings. I sort of wish more of Nashville looked like that; of course, it's so big that I could have just missed those parts.
My spawn is obstreperous as usual. At least: one month's absence did not erase her memory of me. She has a summer cold, and the drugstore had no pseudoephedrine in syrup form, so I got to cajole two half-doses of Theraflu down her, one at eleven PM and one at two AM.
My car is stuffed with my junk. Sadly, some bits I could want are not in there, but overall it was a productive trip. In every other wise, Kalamazoo was rather completely stressful.
And HOT. It was hotter in Kalamazoo than in Nashville; what the heck...?
Saturday, May 27, 2006
Can I call 'em, or what?
Little Poopsie needs her sleep, so I will let her see me tomorrow. Besides, she is usually a little cranky at night.
On the way back, as on the way there (it seems ages ago) night fell just as I was exiting Louisville, Kentucky (which I still think is pretty, and the Ohio is a very large river). Frankly, driving through a dark Indiana is not that much different than driving through it in daylight.
Thursday, May 25, 2006
Yesterday the class had a gang shadow. This refers to doing one-on-one listening sessions with our future teammates while they take, and hopefully resolve, calls. Some people had horror stories about techs with attitude, chewing gum (loudly) or reading stories while talking to the customer. I had three good techs; one was from Minnesota and was happy to work our queue, because he had a chance to really talk to people and help them. One was a former hardware guy who was much less polished, but quite competent. One was a short-timer who had a bit of a wonky customer manner, but seemed okay. (He had all non-technical calls, so I was not able to really judge his technical savvy.) Again, I am a bit nervous, but I do feel pretty confident. My biggest worry is suffering from stage fright during my first calls under a supervisor's eyes.
I am almost at the end of the third week. When I started this I thought four weeks seemed so long, and I had no idea if I would make it to the end without the car blowing up, or starving, or what have you. I am pretty thrilled to have made it so far and only pray I continue to have the opportunity to see this through.
I got my new ATM card in the mail today, which is also thrilling. Now I must run back to the apartment to get the PIN to see if it works.
Sunday, May 21, 2006
Health-safety activist Michael Jacobson denounced the new [burger].
"They would argue they are just giving people what they want. I would say this is beyond the pale," said Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. "Probably no nutritionist ever imagined that a product like this would be marketed."
All we need are Tycho and Gabe arguing over the burger: "There's no way you can handle that much nougat, let alone the flowing caramel. Hand over that Snickers®!" "You'd have to kill me first."
Really, do all nutritionists lack imagination? I guess they do. Creme brulée, Babe Ruth, sausage gravy, Diamond Jim Brady and Gorgonzola-smothered chicken have left them completely unprepared for this fresh assault.
In other news, the Captain and Tennille are, I fervently hope, going to end up in jail. Probation violations are like that. And dealing out of the apartment to crowds of the young and stupid. Not to mention messing with the A/C controls. That right there will cost them heavily.
Automotive: Nissan v. Ford/GMC. On the road, people use short beeps instead of long honks. Slow cars (like mine when my transmission acts up) are tolerated. Sometimes, I thought the police were preparing to pull me over when I was only trailing some private citizen who was simply following instead of zooming around me.
Weather: Well, Kalamazoo has a Patchy Frost weather advisory for Monday; Murfreesboro does not, heh heh. The sun down here is intense, though we have not seen much of it lately; the cloud cover and rain have been near constant for about two weeks. I thought I saw a lot of people carrying umbrellas when I came down here, and I note now that Nashville gets about fifty inches mean annual precipitation compared to Kalamazoo's thirty-five. Mean annual air temperature is fifty-seven here compared to thirty-seven back home.
Power: The microwave has the current time on it and had it when I moved in. I am pretty sure no one in the apartment besides myself could care or know about adjusting the time. Ergo, the power in Tennessee rarely browns out.
Let me state that again. The electricity in Tennessee has never browned out while I have been here. No dimmings as if the Atlas that holds up the grid just shifted the weight on his shoulders. No substation switchings that blank everything and cause thousands of generators to cough to life. None of that. Power generation and usage in Tennessee and Michigan are quite different. Through the 1990s, power useage in Michigan was steady at 98 Mwh (million watthours) while Tennessee's grew from 76 to 93 Mwh.
The most interesting thing about Tennessee is that nuclear power provides twice the watthours as in Michigan. 74.6% of power in Michigan is fossil fuel-based compared to only 60% in Tennessee. In fact, hydroelectric and nuclear showed growth in TN (after the nationwide post-Three Mile Island stagnation), while the only move in Michigan was to increase the capacity share of natural gas. Obviously, Michigan's hydro power potential is limited but that is all the more reason to strengthen the atomic sector.
Yes, the Tennessee Valley Authority is supposedly "Socialism done right." But note that TVA, though government-owned, has been self-financing since it expanded into non-hydro in 1959 and has several times heavily slashed its employment rolls to hold costs down, very unlike a government or union monopoly. Until Robert A. Heinlein's Shipstones (nearly perfect batteries, available in almost any size, in his sci-fi novel Friday) become a reality and you buy your power off a delivery truck that replaces the Shipstone in your basement just as the coal and fuel oil companies resupplied your coal and oil, power must always be distributed over wires: those wires are the prime sticking point between public and private.
Thus, some company will always have power access to your street and home. The only question is, how do we assign which territory to which power company? With TVA, the decision was made to assign territory using the "facts on the ground": the Appalachians and the Tennessee Valley were used to define a territory and a company was formed by government, rather than by private interests, to gain and apply the Federal power over navigable rivers. TVA pays tax equivalents and issues bonds instead of stock to finance new growth. The company may hire and fire as any private company might, protected by the Right to Work law in Tennessee. Interestingly, though the board of directors is listed at their website, how those directors are appointed is not.
I do not think these are the reasons for TVA's success: I have no doubt that it would be less profitable without atomic power and that a significant revenue decline would deteriorate the grid. If anything, TVA is successful because it is successful: its prestige as a well-run, public-spirited, nominally Socialist (but positively free enterprise) entity allows it to split the anti-nuke and anti-capitalist activists and install cheap, reliable atomic generators which feed its prestige even more.
Don't call it a comeback, he been here for years, rocking his peers, putting 'em in fear, making tears rain down like a monsoon, explosions overpowerin', over the competition LL Cool J is towering. LL Cool J — stands for Ladies Love Cool J.
It just gets more and more exciting, no?
Still no ATM card, but I decided to celebrate my first paycheck by… cleaning the bathroom. Sponge, brush and Comet. I still think Comet is the cleaning product of the millennium. Everything else takes too long and leaves dirt behind. The bathroom was none too clean when I moved in, and I have not helped things, what with the ring I left in the tub when I took my first bath in weeks and the ring I left in the sink when I washed my hands after repairing my front brakes. The toilet is white again. I also had to remove a plug of… uh, something that clogged the throat of the drain, which was about as nasty as you are imagining, or remembering, right now. Perhaps the last occupant washed his or her hair in the sink.
And then I had to fix the drain plug lever, adjusting the ball and lever position and adding an O-ring to the screw cap so the threads would not bottom out before the ball was properly compressed.
And then I had to buy an aerator for the faucet. Why is it that about the first thing I do anywhere new is install or fix faucet aerators? I mean besides not wanting the faucet to splash water all over the crotch of my trousers, or waiting five minutes for a cup to fill so I can rinse and spit after brushing my teeth. What do people do with aerators? Are they unaware that they can be cleaned? Do they steal them for use in meth labs? Should aerators join pseudoephedrine behind the pharmacy counter at Wal-Mart, available only with picture ID, thumbprint and record checks?
One thing I have noticed about these kids (aside from the fact that the Captain and Tennille are definitely dealing) is that they know how to fix, clean or operate nothing more complex than a microwave. Setting the air conditioning at 60°, so constantly running, will freeze the heat exchanger and leave us to steam in an 80° apartment? You don't say! Putting a pan on the oven rack below a frozen pizza will keep the fire alarm from going off? You're kidding!
Baptist Keith believes in global warming. I know the leftists are promoting this pathetic "idea" (the successor plague to the population bomb, dioxin, DDT, tobacco, alcohol, nuclear winter, Alar and anti-communism) but this is actually encouraging. The far ends of the spectrum, left and right, even when advocating the same end, do so with such violently different motives that the meeting is usually utterly destructive. It will be tough to keep the anti-globalization jihad in formation when the first born-again Christian mounts the Earth First! podium and takes a sideswipe at homosexuality.
Oh, and the real reason not to see The Da Vinci Code.
While spinning around the Web, I noticed that two of the all-time great Star Trek episodes, "Shore Leave" and "Amok Time", were written by Theodore Sturgeon. One of the reasons that ST survived so long as it did in syndication purgatory was that "real" science fiction authors (i.e., writers of published short stories and novels) wrote many of the episodes. The most popular episode of the original series, "The City on the Edge of Forever", is a work by Harlan Ellison, right down to the style of the title. The Next Generation had greater budgets, quality control, and ensemble acting but the secret weapon for TOS was always the scripts.
Saturday, May 20, 2006
I celebrated by stopping at Wal-Mart; I now have peanut butter and jam to complement the ham sandwiches.
The last couple days have been interesting. I got ten out of ten on my last three tests, and got to stand up and deliver a lecture on RAID (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks) to explain to the class why, exactly, it existed. RAID is a bit odd to explain to people without a background in, or familiar with, industrial-scale computing. RAID is neither data backup nor immune to damage; it can improve hard disk performance, reliability or both, but to most people it is expensive and useless: they would be better off with a DVD-RW making regular backups of important data.
Wednesday a quarterly meeting was held; we lowly trainees were allowed to attend. The best thing about these meetings is that, in exchange for looking attentive while someone recites a speech for the nth time, you get free food. I had a Coke, three corn dogs and two or three nacho servings. (You learn to take what you can get.) The speeches were actually not bad, fairly direct and usually humorous; awards were given; a raffle was held; they even had a pie-eating contest. That was when eight or ten people in my class managed to humiliate themselves by having a smoke break before the meeting was actually over and were brought back as a group in front of a woman who is about two or three spots below Michael Dell. That bought us a lecture on when exactly break is and that meetings were not exceptions.
Was I among them? Me? Wander off without permission or notification, on my own head?
Perish the thought.
Thursday morning, our chief trainer noted that Dell had always shipped Intel processors and chipsets (a chipset is the thing that supports the processor by providing the bus, the channels, to speak to the PCI expansion cards, USB, keyboards and mice, RAM memory, and often the integrated hard disk controller). My hand shot up because I had read the news last night that Dell, for the first time, would be offering AMD Opteron processors in the high-end servers. Our chief trainer read us an email by one of the CEOs of Dell, sent just that morning, noting this. The letter closed with a line, after listing all the changes that Dell would be making to restore growth and crush its rivals, that our trainer had forwarded to his colleagues: "Competition in the future will be much tougher—for them." Heh.
Wednesday and Thursday mornings were pretty rough, anyway. The alarm clock speaker sound was cutting in and out, which is usually a problem with the volume control dial, but this was different. (I am terrified of sleeping through the alarm.) Eventually, I took the lid off and discovered that the circuit board was screwed to the clock base and the speaker to the clock lid. Two pillars with springy ends rose up about two inches from the circuit board to carry the current to the speaker; I bent the ends up a bit to ensure a tight connection, which certainly would have worked had I been able to then reassemble it.
See, the buttons on top of the clock had their own pillars, growing down from the top, which were there to translate your finger presses to the switches on the circuit board. Well, it was impossible to do it; I could not get the two halves to mate at all. The first night I had to borrow Keith's phone as an alarm clock (I had lost mine), the second I was up until about quarter to two trying to fix it. (I had found my phone, but it had no alarm capability.)
And fix it I did. It took one stove burner on HIGH, one pair of Vise-Grips, a drywall nail, solder paste, and the disassembly of my one jumper wire for the two alligator clips on either end. (Had I had both jumper wires in my tool box, I could have gone to sleep at 11:30 PM.)
Yeah. Thursday morning I was pretty wrecked.
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
Fellow trainee David is a very cool guy. So laconic he speaks with a non-Southern drawl, he walks with a tremendous limp: his knee has lost most of its cartilage from a motorcycle racing accident. I had to go to the bank today during lunch and told him so, which led to a discussion on banks that revealed we customed the same bank. He very nicely agreed to drive me, which was nice because we had an interesting conversation and I did not have to risk running out of gas before I got cash to a gas station on my lunch hour.
His car is a white Grand Marquis. Having been in a couple car accidents (and having twice gone through a windshield), he prefers large cars. So, it was a bit like driving with Dad, except that Dad does not drive like a race car driver. I found it very unusual to be hanging on to the hand straps in a big, paternal car like that. We traded crash stories along the way. One of those times he went through the windshield, a Jeep slammed to a halt in front of his friend's pickup truck. Arm hanging out the passenger window, he bounced off the windshield (putting a hole in it), broke the backglass with his head when another car hit them from behind, then went through the windshield again when the front took another hit, ending up draped all over the Jeep's roll bars.
He has almost no facial scars, for all these accidents; probably the kind of guy who prefers full-face helmets. Obviously, he is my new role model.
David had his own business in St. Joseph, Michigan until Whirlpool let him go. We had a fascinating conversation about that, revealing that any cash transfer of more than $4,999.99 requires days to process. Also, even cashier's checks are subject to holds from certain banks. It must make business tremendously hard for small retailers.
Of course, the necessity of arming yourself to make a deposit at the bank in Benton Harbor/St. Joe probably didn't help. The riots there a couple years ago were sparked when a kid was killed by a policeman's accidental weapon discharge. (True? False? More on that later.) Another kid died while eluding police on a motorcycle. This led to the rule that motorcycle riders would not be chased through St. Joe. This led, in turn, to motorcyclists using St. Joe's Main Street to shake off police at 150 m.p.h.
Well. Bad laws are known as such when they reward criminal acts. Rumor has it that Murfreesboro sheriffs, even Tennessee state police, are corrupt. Confiscating marijuana to sell it in county jail, running over a wife's lover and planting drugs on him, various acts. The Tennessean paper ran a story on state police background checks: an allegedly tremendous number had various convictions for violent crime. One had been allegedly convicted of sex with a fourteen year-old girl. (No word if he was thirty-five or eighteen at the time.) On the other hand, with the law outlawing human judgment, anyone who wishes to use his or her judgment is an outlaw, and it's the criminals complaining loudest about those awful police. So file these under "possible BS people once told me".
I am again ducking the question of why I moved. I am just not up to it today, nor has part of that issue been laid to rest, which makes it impossible to write about unless I give myself hours in this blog to dissect my emotions and then bleed them until no color, no life is in them. I keep this blog to avoid having to maintain a mental mailing list, but it also serves a useful purpose: by grouping everyone I know, I just imagine speaking any given sentence in front of them all. It has a wonderfully concentrating effect on my mind and removes the impossible task of rereading every letter to see who should read that particular letter. Anything better said in private is said, later, in private email. This puts me in complete opposition to the general birth cycle of blogs where kids (and dumb adults):
- start a blog,
- invite a select circle,
- insult and denigrate anyone outside of that circle,
- get at loggerheads with a circle member,
- get exposed by disgruntled ex-intimate,
- close the blog.
Monday, May 15, 2006
So, seven out of thirty are now "Dell-badged", which gives us 76.8% attrition. Sounds bad, yes?
No, it doesn't. What happened to the other twenty-one people? According the people I talked to, the biggest wasters of new employees are finding other jobs or poor attendance. In class every day, I observe: some of the most talented people are interviewing elsewhere. (Heck, Nissan is paying part-timers over $16 an hour.) Some of the least are just not the people who will make that boring commitment to be at work twenty minutes early every day.
Everyone is very friendly there; I've not seen a lot of cranky people about. (Just one, who is likely to be my boss. Argh.) I am sure it is a high-pressure environment. I am not sure how I feel about that: it will be either a great experience or a horrible one, I'm sure. And who cares? I will last at least six or eight months, and I will be saving a good part of my income, and time will tell after that.
You know, I have no idea what "ETA" means, apart from Estimated Time of Arrival. But I see other bloggers use it, so...
Last night I checked the phone lines and found nothing that could be causing the problem. Either this apartment complex or the phone company has a wiring snafu, which creates a problem, as one roommate thinks he needs to call the apartment managers, and the others think they need to call the phone company. So, again, no phone for a while.
I went to an Episcopal church here in town yesterday. The contrast with Bethel Murfreesboro was pretty extreme. I would rather not badmouth a particular church or congregation in public (or as public as this gets) but I suppose I would rather have my quota of stiff formality in some place other than church. More looking is in order.
I am halfway through Tocqueville's Democracy in America and The Theban Plays of Sophocles.
Because someone asked: to post comments at this blog, just click on a post, go to the end, and click "Post Comment". You get a text editing box to write your comment, and a choice of how to identify yourself. Unless you have your own blog here at blogger.com, go ahead and click "Other". You have the option of entering your name and a personal Web page, but you can enter both, one or none. Click "Publish", and the page should then say, "Your comment is awaiting moderation." Eventually, I get around to approving the comments. This last step allows people to post without having to get their own blogs and keeps out comment spam.
Oh, and I have tried to be discreet in my use of names, so you should be, too. And if my discretion slips, if anyone asks, you never heard of this blog. ;-)
Friday, May 12, 2006
At the end of the four weeks, the final will have fifty questions, and we will have two hours to complete it; I will need to score 70% or more to go on as tech support.
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
Well. And the full timers make $23 plus. That is indeed tempting, and indeed worth sending in my resumé. Obviously, I would prefer to be IT, even in tech support (which is bottom of the food chain in IT), but I would feel I was spitting in the face of Providence not to at least apply online. (I will also be handing a printed resumé to that guy at work.)
I also told the woman who gave me my phone interview at Dell that I would try to put her in touch with Pfizer's soon-to-be-ex-IT staff. One hand washes the other's back....
Speaking of work, I spoke to one older man in training. He was able to give me the name of a computer shop that probably has used Wyse and DEC VT monitors. He guessed that they would sell one for $15.
In other news, I read a Rolling Stone issue at the library. It had a review of Liz Phair's newest, very commercial album, which noted, "Why would the greatest mumbler in recent memory choose to be a mediocre pop singer?" A good question. Tonight, though, I popped in a CD and was suddenly seized with a thought: Liz Phair's next great album would be a duet with The Magnetic Fields.
Think of it:
'Cause I always say I love you when I mean turn out the light,
And I say, let's run away, when I just mean stay the night.
But the words you long to hear, you will never hear from me,
I'll never say, happy anniversary,
Never stay to say, happy anniversary,
So I think I need a new hea-ea-art...
You said you were in love with me.
Both of us know that that's impossible.
And I could make you rue the day,
But I could never make you stay.
Not for all the tea in China,
Not if I could sing like a bird,
Not for all North Carolina,
Not for all my little words.
Oooohh, yessss... someday.
I went to Wal-Mart tonight for some groceries as I needed gas ($2.75 a gallon) and I would rather not go there some other time, wasting more gas. I have been living on ham sandwiches: wheat bread, mayonnaise, ham ($2.30 a pound or something, which, for real ham, is a good price), tomato, lettuce and a little onion. Aside from the mad craving for an odd snack just to shake things up, it seems to keep me going pretty well. Of course, my roommates have no pans or sharp knives (I should be glad they have silverware and plates) so I slice my veggies with my ancient Marine K-bar-style knife. (I had forgotten where it was, and am glad I have it now, as otherwise I would have to use a tiny Victorinox pen knife.) I also got more coffee. This was a bit more involved, as it required a hammer and a screwdriver.
A screwdriver; yes, the screwdriver is necessary because I have no cold chisels here for some damnable reason or other and dulling the K-bar would be disasterous. Yes, I have no can opener. Hold your laughter: the tin can was invented fifty years before the can opener so I am not so unusual. My roommates, I think, have never seen cooking that has not involved a microwave. I think they would be confused if they tried to eat anything out of a can without a pull top. (Even Campbell's soup has fallen prey to the new, godless, and opener-less ways.) I punch out three sides, then use channellock pliers to tear off the new flap and crimp down the rough edges.
coffee == creativity
The downstairs neighbors should be glad the floors are concrete and steel because it takes a while to punch a proper-size hole in a coffee can. With a screwdriver. And I had to do it tonight because I would rather not do it tomorrow morning, late for work, bleary-eyed, and terminally short of caffeine: I'm lucky enough to still have all my fingers as it is.
Tuesday, May 09, 2006
Now that I have indeed woken for three days in a row (including church) using the new alarm clock I may be able to relax enough to go to sleep early enough. Also, I might be able to car pool with two guys from work, which would save us a tremendous amount of money over the next three and a half weeks. Yes, I made fun of car pool lanes just now. So? You speak of the environment. I speak of money.
Monday, May 08, 2006
And indeed, I was right to have so worried. I made it in on time, of course, but the trip itself... well. I drive from exits 78 to 56; traffic stopped dead at about mile marker 65. The worst, of course, was the drifting, but not stopped, traffic: fast, slow, fast, slow. It is practically designed to trigger my transmission problem, and sure enough, it did. At one point, staying with traffic had me pushing 4500 r.p.m. in second gear (red lines at 6500).
That isn't very fun. I will simply have to leave about twenty minutes earlier, which should push me in front of the great mass of rush hour. (I hope.) The truly odd thing is that the transmission did not drop into limp mode the whole way home.
Work. Well, not work, training. We have three instructors. One is a guy about my age, ex-military, I think, who, if you close your eyes, sounds a lot like Wilford Brimley. Another is an older guy who is quite witty. The third is a younger guy, with Dell only two years, who just started training people a month ago. Which is why we have three instructors, I think: the younger trainer is being trained himself.
We started by talking about ourselves. Several people there were from Michigan. One guy worked for the Whirlpool IT department before being let go, and had 15 people at his own ISP. Now he's down here. I think that after Pfizer's IT department is let go, Dell may have majority ex-Michigan classes. One was downsized from AOL; a lot of the people there were downsized from somewhere, recently or not.
The premier jokester sat down next to me (I swear, not the other way around). We managed to crack each other up over our Coke bottle lids (they were white, black and red. He was black and had the black lid, as he pointed out. Another white guy had the white one. I exclaimed, quietly, "I must be part-Indian! Cool!"). We continued with "A Brief History of Troubleshooting" and finished up with a test. I finished first (way first) and got 103/125, or 85%. No, I couldn't have improved it: I have not been buying new computer equipment for some time and so some questions about WiFi, Bluetooth and Serial ATA are simply beyond me for now.
The Michigan guy was born in Findley, Ohio. We chatted a bit during lunch (I had a whole tiny bag of Doritos and coffee). He was not unhappy to leave Michigan. As he put it, he had to get used to a whole new speech down here: "Hello", "How are you?", "Thank you" and "Have a nice day". I had told everyone about sleeping in my car; he had done the same when he moved to Michigan ten years ago.
I find it hard to believe that this will take four weeks to complete. Of course, I say this now; time will show me how hard it really is, I suppose.
I have a few books I brought with me from Kalamazoo. A few nights ago I finished Conrad's Lord Jim and started on Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America, vol. 1. I have had this book for ages, and now I intend to finish it. Part of the reason it is so difficult is that so many of his points (news then, so explained slowly and at length) are old hat now. When he wanders into European government it actually gets much more interesting for me. The amusing thing about DiA is that half the Democrats in America now would choke and gag on de Tocqueville's admiration: the "sacred right of property", the importance of wide-spread democracy and individualism over central control or group or minority rights, the importance of an armed citizenry. He also made an important distinction between centralized government (a near absolute in the early U.S., when the state Legislatures reigned supreme) and centralized administration (practically non-existant). de Tocqueville's observation on how self-reliance is a greater good, and a greater public virtue, than perfect government service would gag and kill a post-Katrina Bush-hater today.
Or the French, for that matter.
Sunday, May 07, 2006
Bethel Murfreesboro is an Every Nation church. EN is an offshoot of the defunct Maranatha Campus Ministries, which, indeed, was accused of cult-like behavior: most of these problems arose from abuse of an idea called discipleship, which is far too involved to explain here. Some interesting points are made at this discussion board. I can only note:
- Religious fervor, or, even better, belief itself is often cult-like, as any number of quotes from the New Testament, if not of Christ Himself, may illustrate,
- Religion without belief is hollow,
- I agree with the poster on the board above who noted that EN is fulfilling a genuine need for fellowship and belief; society is better off reforming the denomination's dysfunction, and
- If I want religious authority, I know where to find it.
They had about six people doing vocals. You couldn't call it a choir. No, that word evokes Gregorian chant and Protestant hymns; these were modern vocalists, standing in front of a modern band, cordless mikes in hand, laying down modern vocals. It was very pretty, very moving, and the minister, or rather, pastor, made a good sermon.
After, the three of us repaired to a Chinese restaurant for the lunch buffet (they even had sushi). It was only $5.25, and I am very happy about that, as it will be my only restaurant meal from my second day in Nashville until at least the 19th of this month.
(At this point I must note that Internet Explorer crashed and killed a lot of this post, which is annoying, but, oh well.)
Saturday, May 06, 2006
In this instance, I have these shims on my brake assemblies. The pads line up on each disk, one to a side. Each shim goes on the assembly mount (one at twelve o'clock, one at 8 o'clock) and the ends of the two brake pads ride on them, sliding into and away from the disk.
So. New pads. New shims? Or no shims? I had no shims on the rear pads and one rusted solid and gouged my disk into Replacementland.
I installed the shims. Tomorrow, I will look at them, and take them out, most likely. Then I will drive around a bit and see if I like them like that.
And the next day, I will probably put them back. I am someone's wife, always rearranging my furniture, only I do it with car parts.
I accepted an invitation to go to Baptist Keith's church. (I should note that he actually goes to an interdenominational church.) Actually, I should go home so we can talk about it. He was thinking about accepting the mailman's invitation to his church. Also, I need to impress upon him that my Church background is pretty much vanilla and non-Evangelical.
I used to think I was Congregationalist; this was based on rather hazy memories of the sign in front of the church my family attended. I was rather embarrassed to discover, from my mom, that I was in fact baptized in a Methodist church.
Me: "I'm an Anglophile."
Todd C.: "Please. You don't even belong to the right church!"
Amusing, that after repairing so many Episcopal church organs with Todd, it turns out I am indeed a member of the Anglican's sister church. (And, of course, the Congregationalist church is so English, though Independent, it bleeds pints of bitter. So, nyeh, Todd, wherever you are.)
Oh, and just in case, on the off chance, you understand, that the church Keith takes me to is actually a cult, and someday you see me handing out religious literature and pounding a tambourine in an airport....
Friday, May 05, 2006
The other day, when I rotated my tires, I became a bit alarmed to see that the front driver's side brake pads were wonky. More exactly, it looks like a chunk of braking material came off the inside pad backing plate. Judging by the rust, this happened a while ago.
Needless to say, this freaks me out, but only a little. I mean, it isn't like the transmission, which has frustrated me thoroughly for two years and may require expensive repairs. Brake pads are easy. I did the rear pads a while ago, the front ones are sufficiently worn that they need to be replaced anyway, and new pads are $19.99 plus tax. Depending on the rest of my chores, I should get it replaced today or tomorrow. I have almost no doubt that car repair in the parking lot is not allowed but little more that I will be done before anyone notices. Hmm. Most of the staff here in this complex are residents. I think early morning would be the best time.
I do not want to drive on I-24 in rush hour with wonky pads. It would be like a death wish.
And if I don't get a phone book soon, I will tear someone's throat out. I mean, come on! A phone book! People pay phone companies to place ads in it! You would think trucks would drive around throwing them at pedestrians and into open car windows year-round!
“My gorge rises to think on’t,” said Hamlet.
It comes with everything a young college student needs; I’m sure they even have lawyers on call for the occasional misdemeanor possession charge.
I just did a Google search for “apropos” to see if it needed an acute or a grave, and in the helpful completion bar Internet Explorer throws up (so to speak) I see someone did a search for “collage grove appt”, which is, I think, undergrad for “college grove apt”.
Yes, I will need to thoroughly enjoy this place, this Activity Center, then escape, running and screaming, to Maturityland come August. Oh, and speaking of August...
I spoke to Captain Smack’s girlfriend today. She is nice, a little flighty, but she is only, I think, nineteen years old. She offered me a freezer McMuffin when I left this morning for my photo shoot, which was awful nice of her. I offered up, by way of conversation, that she didn't have to spend all day cooped up in the Captain’s room, as it must get claustrophobic in there after sixteen hours or so. She said she didn't mind, and besides, she had a room herself in the complex, but the girls she roomed with were constant partiers, cramming as many as one hundred people in their apartment and private rooms. And the Captain worked six days a week, I think in construction, she said (a little proud), and she herself was off to job interviews.
I had thought, as I explained to her, that she was in there all day, as I had no way of knowing if they were in or out and, wishing each other luck, I left.
I had spoken to the Captain (sum of conversation: “Hello.” “Hey.” Lucky I spoke first or I would have gotten no words from him at all) once, and had seen the girl more often, usually doing laundry or putting together food in the kitchen. But she, again, was flighty or shy, and, aside from her poking her head out the patio door while I was smoking, which apparently startled her into speaking, we didn't really talk.
After the shoot, I scoured a couple Goodwill stores looking for a single pot and pan. When I got home, the Captain led a party of four guys out of his room. I said I was sorry to have missed the conference, which got some laughs. Then when the girl (haven’t nicknamed her yet, oh wait, yes I have) when Tennille got home she found the room locked.
I had her. She had to talk to me.
As I noted a while ago on this blog, I am suffering from a deficit of human conversation. Lately, cashiers find me unusually chatty. Since most of you know me as a dedicated anchorite, a hermit, I should explain. A person not needing much human contact can miss what little he has more than you think. I have spent my life, all except for the year in my own apartment, cohabitating with family, then roommates. I find I need those other people. I don’t need much: perhaps relating some story or picture I saw on the web can do it, but I need it and miss it.
(Incidentally, no one can find the street address and apartment number I had when I was in that apartment. Even I have no record of it. Coincidence? I think not.)
So, anyway. She needs to speak me. Muahahaha. I have her now in my clutches. She calls the Captain, complains, hangs up. I ask her how her job interviews went. Well, she has a problem. Turns out she was in a car with several other students when it got pulled over and one ounce of marijuana was found. Everyone in the car got charged with felonies but she got a lawyer and had it reduced to misdemeanor possession; she is now serving out her probation. After she is done, the record will be sealed, but for now, “I hate telling them. They’re all happy until they get to that section, and then their faces change, and they talk different to me.”
I understand how she feels.
She can get a warehouse job, but with a misdemeanor she ends up on third shift, which she, like most people, cannot handle. She also ends up there with tweakers, meth or cocaine abusers. She joked to some guy that he looked like he had been up for days.
Turned out he had.
Being a partying, drinking, toking and thoroughly modern girl, tweakers creep Tennille out. Also, you can have any kind of misdemeanor (assault, DUI) and work at a gas station (Mapco is the chain all over Tennessee) unless that misdemeanor is narcotics-related.
Then you’re screwed.
We chatted a bit about the police stop. Aside from bloodshot eyes and speeding (with the accelerator), it was a knock-and-talk operation. She complained that other cops had used the line about going easy if you cooperate and had meant it, but this guy didn’t.
“Wait, how many times have you been pulled over with weed?”
“Oh, like nine times.”
“NINE?! And you got busted once?! As your amateur psychologist, my diagnosis is that you have burned up all your bleeping luck, young lady.”
She laughed and agreed. She admitted to using tears to get cops to let her go. I was very bitter at this, and wished loudly for more female cops. Her dad was upset, too. That she got caught: both her parents toke.
What’s the emoticon for “rolling my eyes”?
The cops turned out in force, bragging about this being the kids’ first arrest, “like a party” she said, with about ten cop cars, taking three and a half hours to interrogate them before placing them under arrest and taking them downtown. Cavity searches for all!
I’m serious. Dumb local kids get nabbed with one ounce of pot and get cavity searches. All of them. Everyone in the car, because they were in the car. Now, if that doesn’t scare kids off drugs, and away from drug users, I don’t know what will. It’s right up there with Chris Rock's Tossed Salad Man.
Oh, but she still smokes. Apparently some nationwide nutrition supplement chain sells a “blood purification product” that, oddly enough, purifies you enough to pass urine tests. She has two months to go. Finally, her boyfriend shows up. His two friends, teasing her, talk about the plain brown wrappers (unmarked cop cars) hovering in the parking lot when they drove up.
“Dude, if anyone knocks, you don't know me. ‘Tennille who?’”
And folks: I knew that guy was Captain Smack. I didn’t smell anything, he didn’t tell me nothing, but I knew. I rule!
Heh. Baptist Keith (no tobacco, no alcohol, no coffee) and Captain Smack (vodka in the fridge, pothead girlfriend if not him as well) each have the rooms farthest from each other. Go figure. Me, I just want company: I know no one here.
Suddenly, I find myself playing social director.
Gah. 1:14 AM. And so to bed.
Thursday, May 04, 2006
Afterwards, a few of us were chatting in the lobby about the Dell On Call games room: a dark room filled with networked computers loaded with games, especially first-person shooters (Unreal Tournament, Quake 3, &c.). For my breaks, I can choose games or a cigarette.
I think I'll quit smoking.
Meanwhile, a young woman with short brunette hair walked in, wearing a white top and bell-bottoms. She was pretty, but perhaps the most noticeable thing about her was that the fabric was about one step removed from sheer, and, as far as we could tell, she was wearing only a thong. And yes, I looked (discreetly), but mostly I had fun teasing the Georgia boy who had some trouble with the "discreet" part. Honestly, I was wondering more about what her business was that this kind of outfit was considered a "good idea", or even "not remarkable".
I mean, really. It was almost sheer. Like the shirts female, bra-less celebrities wear in front of flash photographers to get their nipples in the tabloids.
I went to Goodwill in Smyrna yesterday and bought a phone, an alarm clock and a French press. The phone ($3) is useless: I thought one of the land lines in the apartment worked but I was wrong. The alarm clock ($4) works fine. The French press ($5) works great. It was so nice to hit the Murfreesboro roads (lots and lots of traffic) with a full dose of caffeine next to my blood cells.
I am lusting after monitors and keyboards, having left mine in Michigan. Nevertheless, I have held off purchasing any before I decided whether or not to come up to Michigan this weekend. Well, I have decided to hold off driving up until after the first few weeks of classes: if I am doing well, I will come up then. Meanwhile, I am looking for a used computer shop that has a DEC VT220 terminal for $5.
Yeah, cheap bastard, I know.
I missed 1 Dell Parkway when the plane roared down the bridge across Murfreesboro Pike and took off directly overhead. I had thought it was a taxiway, not a runway, heh.
Baptist Keith thinks he needs to call the office to get the phone lines fixed. So maybe I will get to use the land line!
The French press (retail $29.95) is, I think, already saving me lots of money on gas station coffee. That's a good thing. Hey, I was down to one cup a day, which for me is almost nothing, but every large cup was $1.20 down the hole, plus tax and gas. I bought a small can of Wal-mart Columbian for $2.16 plus tax. After seven cups or so, I will have amortized the cost of the setup. Of course, having no pans, I microwave the water in my travel mug, then dump it in the press.
Tennessee taxes: the state has an 8.25% sales tax. Many municipalities charge another 1% or so. There is no income tax. Unprepared food is also taxed, but at a lower rate.
The radio today was complaining that Tennessee is facing a budget surplus.
My schedule as a future D.O.C. technician is fluid, but for the training it is strictly 8-5. That means four weeks of fighting traffic on I-24. I am in the wrong place for it: everyone commutes from Murfreesboro. If I was coming down from Nashville, it would be easier, so I think I will look for a place there, once my position is more secure.
Having discovered the "free" computers provided for residents, I have seriously downgraded the KVM (keyboard/video/mouse) search. It can wait, and I can post here. UPS deliveries to apartments are a pain in the butt. And I never thought I would say this, but I am heartily sick of the libraries—or rather, their computer time limits. And of not being able to check anything out.
All these computers have is Internet Explorer and Office 2003. But, that's all the library computers have. No, this will do fine.
Wednesday, May 03, 2006
I paid my first month's rent. I am now down one mind- and spirit-crushing anxiety and only have one or two to go. One thing to worry about is this weekend. Hopefully, I could come up after I get my badge Thursday. On the other hand, I am loth to spend $100 on gas for the round trip before I know I am at this job. Randy, who rented me the room, seems to think on-call tech support is good and steady. He had thought I was in sales, where tenure is much more volatile.
Having had a few days at the new apartment, I've pretty much emptied my car into the room, leaving, of course, much more room in both room and car. I have food in the fridge and a bed with a sheet and my sleeping bag draped over it. I've already made myself useful by thawing the air conditioner and telling Keith Moon to not run the A/C with the door open. (I don't know if he did, actually, but the A/C seems to work fine otherwise.)
Also, I had to tell Keith Moon because I never see the other roommate. I think I'll call him Mr. Smack, because, though I know he has a girlfriend who is usually in there with him, he spends way too much time in there for anyone who isn't coding or doing heroin. I mean, I remember being twenty, but even I took the occasional walk, you know? So: Mr. Moon, Baptist, drummer, closet Donnie Darko fan, and Mr. Smack.
I am now on the lookout for a supercheap monitor and keyboard. Failing that, I will accept a VT220 or the like, heh. I still need a phone, the land-line phone number and sundry other things... oh, an alarm clock. I need to get an alarm clock. Yes.
Monday, May 01, 2006
Orientation done. Drug test passed. I go in for a badge Thursday. Monday begins a four week training course.
Sorry, that's just my Pre-Traumatic Stress Syndrome, finally letting me go.
I can't believe they asked me about my GED: my non-high school high school diploma. They wanted to know when it was issued. I said, "1987 or 1988, probably."
It'll have to do.
The best part was out-professionalizing the recruiter. I showed up, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, at 10 AM today. I stopped and asked a woman where new hires went to report to security.
She was the recruiter, outside on a smoke break.
We had a laugh and I showed her my notes where I had written down "May 1 10 am". She noted that her usual times to run orientation were 9:30 or 1 PM. I said I had no idea how I had gotten it wrong, but agreed to return at one.
Fifteen minutes later, my cell phone buzzed. It was her, asking me to come back. Her usual scheduler was absent and she was working on half a brain that day (I know the feeling). We shared another laugh and I turned the nose around again.
Orientation was surprisingly painless. Many companies test your patience and boredom resistance at the orientation, with evil videos and paperwork. The video was short, filmed there at the Nashville call center, and the paperwork was only mildly evil. I was given to a support technician to watch him do his thing for 30 minutes. The customer service paperwork (all computerized, of course) was quite complex, but with four weeks of training, I should be okay.
I am so tweaked.
I celebrated with... more White Castle. Only five burgers this time. And it wasn't so much celebrating as trying desperately to stop my blood sugar from plummeting. I need to get that ATM card down here: I'm sick of starving myself every Sunday night after drastically underestimating my potential costs. Like Kinkos. I was rather surprised at how quickly twenty cents a minute adds up: all I needed to do was log onto my webmail, download a file and print it out. First I took a card and put two dollars on it. Then I logged into my email and saved the Word file. Then I had to get up and put more money on the card to print it out. There was a line.
Um, it cost more than I thought it would.
Also, I had no coffee this morning. The gas station's small size was $1.20 and I had $1.08 and no more time to search. I swear, by the time orientation and the drug test was done, and I had found a bank to make a withdrawal, I seriously thought I was getting the D.T.s. Either that or, again, the plummeting blood sugar.
Frankly, given all that, I am probably lucky I'm here posting this.
Oh, wait. I *am*. :-D
So, last night I slept on a bed, had a nice talk with Keith (Moon, the drumming Baptist roommate's nom de blog, who is a really nice guy: he's so nice, I feel seriously bad that he can't use my room for his drum kit), and... realized I forgot to pack the alarm clock. Gah. How did I forget that? I am convinced it is still in my car and I am just too dumb to find it. Fortunately, Keith had to pull an all-nighter (exam time) and he very kindly woke me at 8:30 AM.
And when did I start liking pickles on hamburgers? I can narrow it down to two things: how hungry I am when I finally order food, or that Good Eats episode on homemade pickling.
Sunday, April 30, 2006
I had to, as I had no shower curtain.
I wish I had been bright enough to bring my brain, I mean, notebook into the library with me, but there you go. Rather than leave half the people I know with the wrong address, I will simply wait to post it. It has a land line. I will have to get a calling card to make outgoing long distance calls, but those are $5 at Wal-Mart.
Yeah, I don't know the phone's number, either. It's like you know me or something.
I think my sis, via mom, gave me a spare card. I have no idea where it is. And, anyway, I will probably use the entire thing to speak to Michela, whom I miss terribly.
One of my roommates has not been seen.
The other plays drums, and keeps his full kit in his room.
Charming. I mean, he's charming. A nice kid. I intend to fill his brain with King Crimson.
I see lots of little kids down here. My sub-lessor is father to a six year-old with way too much energy.
I pointed Gregg from Pfizer here via email. All my Pfizer buddies should be warned that I keep saying I will post about why I made this move (aside from the blatant, financial reasons) but I never do. I will. Someday. When I have the Internet access and the time. And a monitor. And a keyboard. And maybe a mouse. (Hey, I live in a building filled with parental wealth-burning, stupid college kids. I should go through the trash!)
My skin feels weird. Almost like air, and drafts, are getting to it or something. Almost like I'm... exposed.
I think I should retrieve my brain and eat, now. Oh, and I no longer look like General Longstreet. I was trying to trim around my goatee until I lost my mind to burning impatience to get in that tub and, hey—no more hair.
Saturday, April 29, 2006
I've found an apartment to sublet; the lease expires July 31st. It is in Murfreesboro, which means I am getting farther and farther South. So last night I slept in the Murfreesboro (that's a lot harder to type than Nashville) Wal-Mart. I shared my corner of the lot with an RV and a couple SUVs and cars.
Last night, back in Madison, I shared it with one of those NASCAR RVs (with the mini-garage in the back over about eight wheels) and a delivery truck. And the Zamboni. How could I forget the Zamboni? Parking lot sweepers have haunted my dreams for a week. I'm surprised the Devil hasn't chased me with a Zamboni across the Abu Graib Skating Rink in my dreams yet.
But it was not sleeping in a parking lot that attracted official attention. I needed to go to the bank to check my available balance. Showing up before the employees did may not have been the wisest move, nor was kicking back in the car reading Borges for hours. My sister called about 10:30 am CDT and as I was talking to her the police showed up.
I have ended up in nice, polite conversations with many inquisitive policemen in the past. Being 20, long-haired and bearded in a leather jacket will attract far more attention than you think, a lot of it mistaken or unwanted. Especially if you're given to wandering around a city at night on foot, thinking poetic thoughts, as I was then.
So, the policeman and I had a nice conversation, revealing that I was in fact a customer of the bank, with an account, I had just made a handshake deal on a sublet and would be working for Dell Tech support soon. He noted that Nashville had suffered a rash of bank robberies (as has Michigan) and police all over Tennessee were keeping an eye on banks.
I suppose the fact that I look, now, like a Civil War general (Grant or Longstreet) does not help me much. If I don't shave soon, I'm afraid my beard will start consuming things independently.
Afterward, Sis called back, somewhat concerned and wishing to know if I was, in fact, on my way to the bank or the pokey.
I move in tomorrow.
Can a cop tell if you're thinking poetic thoughts?
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