Sunday, December 31, 2006

Mal Appetit!

Would you eat this dish?

It's some special kind of black rice, cooked in chicken broth, with smoked sausage and bacon bits and onions and peas. But you were supposed to rinse the rice first! You were supposed to rinse it first!!!!

Anyway, if anybody wants it, let me know. We're having Whataburger.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

A Little Electroshock Therapy'll Clear That Right Up

Just now I was curled up in bed, dozing off an excess of caffeine, and I had the most horrible dream.

I was trying to log into my email. But while I can read, speak clearly, and even sing, I can't write or type, dial a phone, run, or scream in my dreams. I'm sure there's a perfectly good neurological reason for this.*

Anyway, I was trying to log into my email, but kept botching up my username so badly that I eventually got a message saying, "Bilge software is FREE! But it will take just a moment to download," and my cursor was the little spinning rainbow disk, because my computer's low on memory; and I was trying to highlight over the message and retype my username over it, but my computer was completely frozen up.

Finally it finished downloading what it was downloading, and apparently "Bilge" is a DOS-based chat client (on an iBook?!?), and in my fumble-fingered attempts to stop the download, not only had I inadvertently signed on, but I had sent an instant message to, of all people, Coworker-You-Idiot.

The message just said, "Hi there!" which isn't all that bad, except that it is, as I'm sorry to say I've learned the hard way, somewhat unwise to pay unnecessary attention of any kind to C-Y-I. But my display name was "BootyCall1974."

I woke up in a cold sweat.

*It's called "you're crazy."

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Use Your Imagination

After work today, walking across the parking lot to my apartment, I passed a minivan with a Jovita's bumper sticker on it. And another little, tiny one, with fine black print on a white background, that I couldn't make out at all.

I had to walk right up to the van and bend over at the waist and squint to read it. It said,

"This is the smallest bumper sticker you have ever seen"

The Actual Blog Post
This afternoon a coworker was telling me that his grandson got a motorized car for Christmas. Not a remote-controlled one, but a big toy car he can sit in and drive around in his driveway.

When I was little, I had a cardboard box. It was supposed to be a VW Beetle. I'd cut out the top and taped on a cardboard windshield and steering wheel, colored the whole thing with blue crayon, drawn tires on the sides, stuck some old keys into the box next to the steering wheel, and hung my dad's expired license plates on the front and back, which added a nice touch of realism. And do you know what?

I'd much rather have had a real car.

Actually, I can vividly remember feeling disappointed in my imagination when I was small, because Sesame Street and Mister Rogers and The Electric Company were always saying that playing pretend was just as magical and wonderful and fun as if the make-believe things were real - but it never was. Upending all the kitchen chairs and scrambling over them was not as good as climbing a mountain; a one-inch plastic lion was nowhere near as exciting as the real thing; a cat made a piss-poor substitute for a horse (as, indeed, the cat would be the first to point out); dolls weren't as lovable as real babies. Not even Baby Alive, which ate and pooped pink goo.

Granted, when something you wish for comes true, it's often not as good as you imagined it would be. But that doesn't matter. A mediocre reality trumps a great fantasy any day of the week.

Now I have a 1992 VW Golf - which did, I'm pleased to say, make it to San Antonio and back without incident. But the screeching-belt sound it used to make only on turns, and only when the engine was cold, now seems to be more or less constant. This is a little embarrassing. I've been trying to pretend it's a really cool car for some time now, but either my imagination or the clutch is going to give out before much longer. Maybe I'll ask my coworker if his grandson would be interested in a trade. Failing that, maybe my dad still has my old Beetle in a closet somewhere. I think a cardboard box probably has a better chance of passing inspection than my car does, assuming the mechanic has a good imagination.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Salvation: What a Bargain!

I downloaded a Messiah off iTunes the other day. And I highly recommend doing this if you feel there's something missing, if not from the deeper meaning of existence, at least from your holiday music collection. There's not much of a selection, but isn't that always the way with Messiahs?

I have to note, though, that a lot of the Old Testament prophecies transcribed in Part I of the piece did not actually come true in any way that would have made sense to the people who authored them. For example,
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given:
and the government shall be upon his shoulder:
and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor,
the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.

This is actually one of my favorite chorales - very stirring and uplifting; but it sure seems to me like the prophets had a king of great earthly power in mind. After all, these were guys who were scrabbling out a meager living in some of the crappiest real estate on Earth, fully employed in fighting off neighboring tribes who were eking by in even less hospitable terrain, and not a one of them enough of an outside-the-box thinker to go discover Greenland, or at least the Ukraine. And we expect these guys to have come up with a prophecy that would have meaning for all of human existence?

And this doesn't even begin to get into the fact that the whole "virgin birth" thing came from a mistranslation of the Hebrew "young woman" in the first place, and that of the four Gospels, only Matthew discusses Mary's virginity at the time of Jesus' birth. Did Mark, Luke and John just consider that detail too unimportant to mention?

Still, everybody should have a Messiah. I sang this for a few years running with the Austin Civic Chorus, so I have the printed music as well. If you don't belong to a choral group, you can always go to the Sing Your Own Damn Messiah for full participatory effect.

And if you get one off iTunes, get the whole thing, none of that highlights shit. Mine is on 2 CDs and comprises 43 tracks, yet cost only $7.99; whereas if you bought each track individually they'd cost 99 cents each. So where's your Messiah now? Huh??

What the Hell Kind of Howard Johnson's Is This?

It's the kind where they have free wi-fi. Hooray!

Anna's asleep, Katie's watching movies on the other laptop. She got Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest for Christmas, so that should keep her busy for a while.

We had a really nice Christmas. I have scads of pictures, which I'll upload later. My mother-in-law made boeuf bourguignon for Christmas dinner.

Sometimes the kindest things people do for you are such quiet, offhand things that you almost feel that in being grateful, you're reading too much into the gesture. My mother-in-law made no fuss over it, just matter-of-factly served a dish she knows I associate with my mom, at a time when she knows I've been lonely and homesick (my sister-in-law reads regularly - largely her idea, I suspect). She said it sounded like a good recipe and everybody's tired of eating turkey all the time anyway. It was delicious, but the incredible thoughtfulness of the gesture was the sweetest part of all. Also a bit humbling. I should maybe do things like that for other people sometimes.

On the flip side, she politely declined to accept the frozen turkey I got from my coworker. So he may be sitting in my freezer for a while (the turkey, not the coworker).

Free wi-fi they may have, but the beds still appear to be made from recycled cardboard as required by Federal law. I'm tired enough not to mind. Goodnight everybody!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas!

In 1,000 words, from Anna:

I have to say, I'm really not sure she's buying into this whole Santa thing. I realize that's what we get for taking her to a cheap-ass HEB Santa, but if you think I'm setting foot in a shopping mall between Thanksgiving and Christmas? You've got another think coming.

Here's hoping you get everything you want. Love and kisses!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Easy On the Diphthongs, There, Sparky

Bing Crosby may have had a passable croon, but when I hear him doing "Adeste, Fideles" in Latin, I can feel the vibration of every voice teacher and choir director I've ever had spinning in their graves. Which is kind of sad, because I don't think any of them are dead.

"Vayy-nee-tayyyy ah-dorr-ayyyyyyyy-moos, Doooow-mee-noom!"

Or at least, they weren't dead...

The Big Day

This morning a coworker of mine is coming over to give me a frozen turkey. Isn't that nice? I wonder if there's a catch?

I plan to take it to San Antonio on Christmas and give it to my mother-in-law. She'll know what to do. She's a domestic goddess, whereas I, looking around the apartment, am forced to admit I'm more along the lines of a domestic Antichrist. If I attempt to cook the turkey myself, it will probably explode and bring the building down in flames, yet still manage to give my entire family food poisoning.

Last night Katie and I went with Margie and her boyfriend to Attic Ted's Christmas party, at Grady and Lauren's house in San Marcos. It would have been a better party if the cops hadn't arrived before 10pm to bust things up. But we did get to hear Attic Ted's new Christmas suite, Immaculate Misconception: Mary's Little Secret. Not for the devout.

The show was noisy, but was followed by a reading of amusing and sad poems and fiction by New York author Mark Wisniewski. The police arrived shortly after his reading was finished, so we good-humoredly blamed the noise on him and went home. He and his wife Elizabeth are absolutely lovely people, though. You don't normally expect to meet New York intellectuals at a backyard party in San Marcos.

But it's all right. I needed to leave early anyway so I could get my place cleaned up for the frozen turkey.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Holiday Generality

I. Why are we supposed to eat so much at Christmastime? I think it has something to do with an ancient drive to build up fat stores to last us through the cold season. Hey, evolution! News flash! I live in Texas!

Sausage-and-cheese kolaches are pretty tasty, though.

II. My high-school friend from Huntsville and her family and I wondered who some of the characters were on the Nativity Scene on 37th Street. We recognized Rummy, Cheney, and Condi, but not the two women standing over the manger. Turns out the Holy Parents were Mary Cheney and her partner. Very nicely done! I'm glad we have the Chron to 'splain this stuff to us. But the article didn't mention the best part of the display, an additional figure with the face cut out so that visitors could take their place in today's policital /religious gestalt.

III. For the approval (I hope) of a certain friend of mine, I feel I should tell you my most recent three iTunes purchases:
1) Rock the Casbah - The Clash
2) Electric Avenue - To Kool Chris
3) I'm Through With Love - Chet Baker

Well, they don't all go on the same playlist.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

A Farewell To Kittens

The kitten went back home to her people tonight, after 3 weeks with us. I think my heart is broken.

It wouldn't have been so bad if we could have found her some other home ourselves. I've gotten pretty attached to her, and don't like giving her to people who have to be cajoled into taking her back after dumping her off for this long. They have dogs, too. Are they going to give her cream every time they make coffee? I hope they let her cuddle up with them and suck on their fingertips. I'm afraid they won't baby her enough.

And when we got ready to leave, we had to remove her gently from Peachy, who was nursing her and giving her a bath. Both of them were purring loud enough to rattle the walls.

"'Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all," says Tennyson. But I bet that smarmy bastard never had a kitten.

Phone Duty

My favorite thing about my job (aside from going on break) is that the phone never rings. I hate the phone! One time I did an afternoon's temp assignment as receptionist for some property management company called [Collection of Random Initials] Corporation. They had a really elaborate greeting you were supposed to use when answering the phone - it went something like "Good morning!/afternoon! It's a beautiful day at [Collection of Random Initials] Corporation! What can I do to help you?" There was also a laundry list of which employees could have calls transferred to them directly, which ones you had to screen for approval, and which ones you just took a message for; and a few basic questions you might have to answer for some of the callers.

That temp agency never called me again.

At my current job, I get calls maybe once every other week or so. Most of them are for someone who retired a couple of years ago and used to have my number, and they sound a lot like bill collectors. They're definitely commercial; they're generally surprised to discover they're calling a business number, and they always apologize a little too profusely for bothering me; but they have the hostile, grating quality to their voices that distinguishes their kind from telemarketers.

Once a month or so I get an actual business-related call, though that's picked up some since our branch's new supervisor started. She likes calling people (sigh).

But this week and next, our section director's admin is on vacation, so somebody has to cover the main phone line. Today was my turn.

Our section director's admin has a real phone, with lights and buttons and multiple lines and Caller ID and all that jazz. I haven't seen one of those in ages! My desk phone, you may recall, looks like this, so I barely remember how to use a real one. I've covered the section's phones before, but we used to be allowed to forward them to our own desks. Apparently there were too many dropped calls, so now they're actually making us sit in the admin's cube. Only no one ever showed us how to use the buttons and whizgigs and doodads on the actual phone.

Fortunately there was only one caller all afternoon. I had to put him on hold while I tried to figure out how to transfer him to his party. But his party's phone was forwarded to the section phone I was covering, so I just rang myself. So I hung up, but couldn't figure out how to get him back off hold and eventually he dropped off into limbo. Thank goodness I had Caller ID and could see that he wasn't anyone particularly important.

I had to miss afternoon break for it, too. I hate the phone!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Keep Christmas Weird

Showing off your city to out-of-towners always gives you fresh appreciation for where you live, unless of course your city is Laredo.

This past weekend I got to visit with a really cool former high-school classmate, her husband, her brother, her sister, and her small, highly adorable daughter. We spent a Sunday afternoon browsing through the shops on South Congress Avenue, and then Monday evening taking in the 37th Street Christmas lights and sipping mocha lattes at Flightpath Cafe. What a treat all around! Like Pam, Tammy is someone I didn't know particularly well in high school. Also like Pam, Tammy's someone I wish I had known better - and am really glad I get the chance now. I guess I was too wrapped up in my own personal adolescent cocoon of angst to have any idea what bright and interesting people were around me - but that's probably normal. For high school. I'm not sure what my excuse is now.

37th Street is still spectacular, despite the loss of a lot of houses to rental residents who can't invest the time and money it takes to put on such a fun and freaky light show. Everyone who does participate deserves a huge heartfelt hug and kiss, don't you think? How about a trophy for "Best Austinite"? The Zilker Tree and the Trail of Lights are wonderful, but 37th Street is just totally f***ing weird, and I love them for it. I mean, does the Trail of Lights display pumpkins with a big sign next to them proclaiming, "These are Christmas pumpkins!" No? All right then.

And even though not as many houses are as ridiculously lit up as I remember in years past, this is the first year I've seen a live jazz combo playing an impromptu set at one end of the street. (Granted, it's been a couple of years since I was there.) They were really good, and looked like they were having a lot of fun. We walked past and I felt a surge of pride in my unpredictable, musical, artsy, goofy, beautiful city.

After Flightpath we took I-35 to Sixth Street to take my friends back to their hotel. And on the upper deck, I found myself admiring the glittering downtown skyline. Sixth Street is festooned with garlands and lights from end to end - lively, on a Monday night (it's usually a bit more lively than I can handle on weekends) with music wafting out of the bars and clubs.

I hope Tammy comes to visit again soon, because it was great fun to catch up with her. And all you other out-of-towners, come and let's visit Barton Springs and the Town Lake Hike-and-Bike and Mangia Pizza and Pease Park and moonlight towers and the Warehouse District and Oat Willie's and Amy's Ice Cream and the State Capitol and Kerbey Lane and Travis Heights and the Stevie statue and Electric Ladyland/Lucy in Disguise and Toy Joy and the Hole in the Wall and the Drag and La Zona Rosa and Deep Eddy and oh, I don't know, maybe one or two other places besides.

Corpus friends, you should come visit! And remind me never to move to Laredo.

Saturday, December 16, 2006


We were supposed to give Katie's friend's kitten back today. Actually, we were supposed to give her back last week, but there was some kind of complication and we couldn't. But Katie's friend now says that her mom's landlord won't allow a second cat, so she can't take the kitten back.


Anybody out there in blogdom want a friendly little stripey gray female kitten? She's bright, cuddly, and adorable, and hardly ever poops in the bathtub.

The philodendrons, well, that's another story.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Loose Laps Sink Chaps

They tell us not to gossip in the workplace. Do they tell you that? I think every place I've ever worked, they tell you not to gossip - even though the management who's telling you this is generally the worst culprit.

"There's absolutely no truth to the rumors that all of you will be let go because we're phasing out the software that you work on," our section director assured us in a surprise meeting this morning. "So nobody spread that."

We're all getting let go?? What??? First I'd heard of it!

I like our section director. She seems to have a pretty firm grasp on reality, including the fact that the people who write and implement the software we work with, the people who handle seating and placement logistics for our section, and the people who hired those ever-present, never-attentive security guards on constant and useless patrol outside our work area are, as she put it, "a bunch of orangutans." I suspect orangutans would have done a better job; but who am I to argue with senior management?

One of today's highlights was the gift of a slightly naughty magnetic word poetry set from my Colorado-bound friend b.r. I can get myself in a fair bit of trouble with that one, oh yes, oh yes I can. I don't mind, as long as I get a little help from my friends. I have it set up on a magnetic surface that is only visible from the inside of my cubicle, looking out.

I plan to use it to spell out preposterous workplace rumors and see which ones take root and make the rounds of the office. Who's in?

Thursday, December 14, 2006


Home is where you can look around yourself, just being yourself, and feel like an integral part of everything around you.

Or, more to the point, where you don't usually notice that feeling, because it doesn't occur to you that it could be any other way. But one of the great benefits of travel is coming home and realizing how good it is to be there.

Have I ever mentioned how much I love Austin?

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Yes, We Have No Pictures

So apparently they don't have AA batteries in Laredo. Maybe it's a Christmastime thing. I have not been able to find any.

Here's the hotel where I'm staying. In the eighth picture on the page, you can see the door next to the door to my room. I'm on the fourth floor. Don't come knocking; I'll only call the cops, and I'm checking out in the morning anyway.

And here's San Augustin de Laredo, whose bell tower got all washed out in the only picture I managed to take before my batteries died. C'est magnifique, n'est-ce pas?

And here's a really interesting photo essay of Laredo. I haven't seen any of the swanky stuff, and I kind of suspect it's a little disproportionately represented; but then, the rich always are. The downtown photos were not taken at the Christmas season. All the ghastly tacky shops are open and completely swarming with people now.

Two more random facts about Laredo:

1. Upon consideration, I'd rather live in Corpus.
2. I'd also feel a lot safer driving on I-610 at rush hour. Does everybody here have a death wish?

That's all, goodnight, bonnuit. A bientot, mes chers amis! Je vous aime!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Hills Like White Elephants

My training presentation today went pretty well, except nobody was laughing much at my jokes. Perhaps I should have tried a song.

Our new district coordinator may not last long, I thought at first. She doesn't like Laredo. This is putting it mildly. She was shocked that my coworker and I are staying downtown, where she would never, never, never set foot.

And I have to admit she has a point. There's a "variety store" in Cropwell, Alabama, where my grandparents live. It's called the Pink Store, for reasons which would be fairly obvious if you ever saw it. The merchandise covers pretty much everything from hideous, pastel-colored weeping resin Jesuses to Kewpie dolls to can openers to electronic goods of dubious provenance to knock-off designer labels to baseball caps to animated fish that sing songs you wish you'd never heard of. Everything is covered by a very fine layer of dust, and the whole place smells like it hasn't been aired out properly since about 1973.

Got the image? Okay, now imagine that store as occupying every single retail space in twelve city blocks, completely thronged by people who are practically climbing over each other to buy it. There were some incredibly cute shoes, actually, but none of them in wide widths.

I dragged my coworker out to stroll and shop with me in hopes of finding some unique treasure, some special handcrafted item to pick up and take back to the office with me. But I realized after about fifteen minutes that if I wanted a true souvenir to bring home and remind me of what Laredo is really like, it would be more along the lines of a big bright green plastic frog squatting in fake grass with "Welcome" stamped inexplicably across its nether regions.

Undaunted, I dragged my coworker back to the hotel and asked the bellhop where we could do some "authentic" shopping. My heart actually fell when he immediately produced a handful of slick brochures; but what can you do? Within twenty minutes we were in a warehouse building with a sign labeling it "Art by God" featuring dozens of dead stuffed mounted animals and a small poster reading, "If children are exposed to Nature, they will learn to love it." Well, or blow its fucking brains out. I guess for some people, that is love.

The most horrifying thing in that shop was a gigantic trophy - the forequarters of an African elephant with magnificent tusks, priced at $17,500. We left very quickly. I felt sick.

So I understand our new district coordinator's aversion to her adopted hometown. "I hate Laredo," she confided after the afternoon training session, as we were preparing to leave for the day. "It's so nice to have friendly people come visit. You all seem so nice."

"I felt that way about being in Corpus for two years," I said. "It's so hard to live somewhere you don't feel like you belong."

"It really is," she agreed, almost wringing her hands. "People here are not very nice. I don't really know anyone. I never get out at all."

"How long have you lived here?" I asked.

"Sixteen years," she said.

It's three margaritas later and I could kind of go back down to the lobby for another. It's been a rough, weird day. I miss you all. See you Thursday.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Mirror, Mirror

There's a giant fancy magic magnifying mirror on the bathroom wall in my hotel. I don't like it. It talks.

It says, "Well, I'll be damned! You are thirty-seven!

"And a half!"

The reason they mount those things on swivel arms is so you can turn them to face the wall.

Bienvenidos a Laredo!

This is the view standing directly outside the French doors to my hotel room. I wish the lighting were better - there's an old mission steeple at 11 o'clock, but it's about the same shade of beigey gray as the overcast sky, and the light washed it right out of the picture. Then my batteries died. So, we're off to a somewhat unpromising start.

We got an Official State Toyota Prius for the drive down. Oddly, the interior smells like hamsters.

I don't know about the outskirts, but downtown Laredo does not feel like a U.S. city. The streets are extremely narrow, lined with tiny shops, and choked with nonchalant jaywalkers. Traffic is fairly anarchistic. It's cramped but clean, the buildings are scrubbed and brightly colored and cute, and there are lots and lots of palm trees. The hotel sits at one side of a big brick square with a gazebo in the middle; on the other side of the hotel is the Rio Grande, Nuevo Laredo stretching out into the distance. There's a lot of street noise up here. A couple of people looked hard at me getting out of the car and walking into the lobby to check in - there don't seem to be that many redheads about. I think I wouldn't go walking by myself here, but hopefully I can drag my coworker along for a spot of shopping.

We listened to Christmas music pretty much the whole way down. Did you ever notice that "Baby, It's Cold Outside" appears to be about date rape?

More pictures, observations, and ruining your Christmas favorites to come later.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Outward Bound

Tomorrow a coworker and I are going to Laredo for district training. I worked on updating that presentation that was so embarrassing in Wichita Falls and am giving it myself this time.

Last night a thought suddenly struck: At my job in Corpus, if I were traveling Monday to deliver a presentation, I would not be having a weekend. I tried to imagine my coworker calling me up in a panic to tell me I need to come in on Sunday and pull together some more data to get the presentation ready. Yeah, that's not gonna happen...!

Of course, there's not a seven-figure contract dependent on wowing the Laredoans.

There's an internal job posted for a trainer/educator in a different division, and I've been thinking about applying. I should. But my work self-esteem has dropped quite a bit over the past few years. I always used to think of myself as highly competent and thorough; but in Corpus I just couldn't do my job at all. Neither could anyone else who worked there, but still it was really hard to take. Getting written up hurt so badly.

I'm not bad at my current job, but that would take some doing. I'm first and foremost a data entry clerk now. Aside from the friendships and the shenanigans, it's dull as dirt. And my friends sure aren't sticking around.

So I've been looking at this other position, and like every other job in the agency they require a bachelor's degree, which I'm several credits short of (can the defective state employees around me, who are so far on their way to morphing into old Selectrics and Improved Hummers, really be better educated than I am?!), although they'll accept relevant experience as a substitute for the degree on a year-for-year basis. I think I could oonch by. But then that professional self-esteem issue kicks in and tells me there's no way they'd even consider me; or worse yet, I'd do well enough on the application to get an interview and then be exposed as a complete fraud.

Defeatist? Moi?!

It closes on the 15th, so I'd need to hurry, and although the website encourages applicants to submit online, it's common knowledge where I work that online applications arrive in HR completely blank. Maybe somebody should point that out to HR, as they apparently haven't noticed, and remind me not to apply for a job in that division, by the way.

Things to think about on the way to Laredo.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

The Face of Innocence

Don't let it fool you. This one punches in her sleep.

Friday, December 08, 2006

For You Alluring Ailurophiles

Via snopes, possibly the funniest message-board thread I have ever seen.

I especially like it because the first two cats pictured look so much like Bingo and Slappy White.

Cats do things 2 u

Edited to add one I made with our visiting kitten.

How To Make Friends

"Mommy," says Anna at the dinner table tonight, "do you know how I became friends with Mia?"

I do not.

"In the cafeteria?" says Anna. "There was a Lego? Under the table? And I said to Mia, 'I found a Lego?' And she said, 'If you give it to me, I'll be your friend'? That's how I became friends with Mia!"

That's pretty much how I got all my friends.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Bomb Threat

Have you ever had a job where you had a bomb threat script posted by the phone? I did once, several years ago, when everyone who worked in my department took turns spelling the company switchboard operator during lunch hour and breaks.

I mention this because my son Eric got sent home from school early yesterday due to a bomb threat. I haven't thought about it in years, but I remember the script required the person answering the phone to keep the caller on the line as long as possible, ask lots of detailed questions about the location and makeup of the bomb, and take copious notes about the call: traffic or other background noises; sounds on the line; whether the caller had a disguised voice; whether the caller sounded nervous, angry, polite, etc.

And I remember being struck by the "polite" bit. I've never taken such a call myself, but do they ever ring up and say, "Ah yes, good morning, I'd like to place a bomb threat, please?"

Or maybe they're only polite in comparison to a high school office administrator, who I imagine would just grunt, then put the caller on hold for twenty minutes in order to rummage through a desk drawer for the script, then go for a quick ciggy before the smoking area gets reduced to rubble.

Which it wasn't, incidentally. Eric went back to school today, as did whoever called in the threat, I'll bet. It's too cold out to play hooky.

There Goes Another One

When out walking on the Town Lake Hike & Bike, for God's sake, don't play "chicken" with the power walkers. They're called power walkers for a reason.

My friend b.r. gave notice today. Another one of my inner circle off to bigger and better things! He'll be working for a great cause at the National Renewable Energy Lab in Colorado, where he's always wanted to live. He's so overjoyed, I think he's giving off enough happy rays to power a small village for a month - possibly one of the skills they hired him for, I don't know. You can't look at him without smiling.

I'll miss the living bejeezus out of him, of course. But on the other hand, I can now safely set my iPod on "bouncy" and turn the headphones way up and dance around in my chair without having to worry about him creeping silently into my cubicle, sitting down in my guest chair, and laughing at me for five minutes until I turn around and notice him. So I'm fairly philosophical about it.

Hopefully, renewable energy scientists enjoy being snuck up on. It's more than I can say for the power walkers.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Happy Holidays!

I only say that to piss off Bill "Falafel" O'Reilly.

Do you love the holidays? They're always an exciting time, though they're a homesick time too, at least for me. I miss Christmases at my grandparents' house growing up, quiet and cozy and comfortable. I miss having to slit all the tape with a penknife and carefully remove and refold the wrapping paper for later use. I griped about this as a kid and don't get me wrong, I'd damn well gripe about it if I had to do it now, but I still miss it. I miss the dull gray tinsel icicles that we picked off the tree every year to reuse. (My grandparents came of age during the Great Depression.)

I miss cousins, sharing a room and staying up half the night to see if it would snow, and my cousin Gretchen falling asleep in midsentence. I miss the music - Christmas records played on my grandparents' ginormous stereo console; my dad or my uncle playing the piano. I miss the best holiday food ever, except for the cranberry relish which had a completely uncalled-for amount of orange peel in it. Blech!

No TV. No raised voices. No chaotic free-for-all at the Christmas tree. Just so much love and warmth and belonging and happiness.

But I'm making myself a little sad, and the holidays are a happy time. I love the lights and the decorations and the smell of cinnamon and eggnog and gingerbread and pine needles (though the last tends to set the cats off into an ammonia-fueled peeing frenzy). I even love the cold, within reason - 35 degrees Fahrenheit is about the lowest temperature I'm willing to put up with, and that only if there are sparkling lights and a sense of excitement in the air. It's almost impossible to be excited and cold at the same time.

And starting with Thanksgiving, it all leads up to what is really my favorite night of the whole year, New Years' Eve. I love New Years' Eve! I love dressing up and dancing and drinking champagne and kissing at midnight. I don't do all that resolution crap - partly because I'd break them all, and partly because, come on. I'm perfect already, n'est-ce pas? Well, close enough, Whatever. But I love, love, love the festivity and the sense of new beginnings, new hopes and dreams, and all the mystery and excitement and promise of a whole new year.

So I won't say "Happy Holidays," since some folks get so awfully het up about it. Instead, in honor of our friend Bill O'Reilly, I offer a new holiday greeting: Here's falafel in your eye! Bottoms up, darlings.

Monday, December 04, 2006


Today at lunchtime I was walking on the hike-and-bike, and passed by someone at just the spot where I passed the "Smile!" guy from last week.

It did strike me, as I approached him, that it might indeed be the same guy. I don't really look at people when I'm out and about - do you? It's kind of second nature to avoid eye contact. I'm really very shy, you know.

So I didn't really remember what he looked like as I hadn't seen him closely in the first place, but he looked like he could be the same person, so I was thinking about the encounter as we passed. And as we did, he said something to me. I didn't hear it clearly. But it sounded an awful lot like, "You're right."

Do you ever freak out? What if Bitching Smoker is reading my blog? Fortunately, I've stated on several occasions that I think she's pretty cool. But what about Coworker-You-Id - oh, never mind, he wouldn't be able to figure out how to use the internet. But what about other, slightly more highly-functioning coworkers? Ex-in-laws?? The Wilford Brimley lookalike from the Horseshoe Lounge??? My boss???? Any and everybody on the World Wide Web?!?!?

Man, I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

37th Street

Of all the things I love about Austin, the Christmas lights on 37th Street are one of the things I love the most.

I actually lived on 37th Street with friends for a couple of months once, though it was during the summer, so I didn't get to participate in the electric bacchanal that is the Christmas light display. But I've been strolling down the street at least one night near Christmas every year. Last night my snopester friends Gayle, Kev and I walked up after a few beverages at Spider House. Gayle took pictures, but with a disposable film camera. My digital camera has devoured all the double-A's in sight, so I didn't get any.

Going this early is sort of like attending one of the final rehearsals of a stage performance. A lot of the lights are up, but several of the houses aren't ready yet. There's bare framework in front of several houses where lights will be strung. The motorcycle and the old oven are out, but haven't been decorated yet. People were out in their front yards with ladders, tools, and in one case, a backhoe. (I suppose the backhoe might be unrelated to the light display, but then again, this is 37th Street we're talking about here.)

It's spread to neighboring streets now - around the corner and down a ways, the communal display has grown over the last several years. It's a wonderful thing to see.

Afterwards we went to the Showdown for a few beers by the wood stove. Have I mentioned that I love Austin? I'll be back to 37th Street in a week or two to see it in its full glory. I'll buy some double-A batteries first.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Too Early in the Morning

At this moment I am leaning back on the couch with a small, ridiculous kitten perched on my chest, purring. She needs a pacifier. I had to take away the one she was using so I could type with it.

I would like some coffee brought to me, please! I can't get up.

I had a cat once named Space Kitten Spiff who liked to nurse on my earlobes. She left tiny little hickies.

A few random thoughts, apropos of nothing in particular:

A friend of mine mentioned that Bennigan's has a mixed drink called an "Irish Car Bomb." Is it just me, or is that in incredibly poor taste and fairly offensive?

Yesterday someone did something funny and sweet and unexpected for me that made me really, really happy. This person is like that.

Last night I dreamt I was in a really cool, very elaborate movie apparently loosely based on my workplace break group. It was great fun, but I was sad when the filming was done and it was all over. Also I was in NYC at night looking for a bus, but didn't know where I was trying to go. Probably just as well I woke up then.

I really do want some coffee, but the kitten has stopped purring and fallen fast asleep with her chin resting on my shoulder. Looks like I'm not going anywhere for a while...

Friday, December 01, 2006

Look Out! Teh Internets!

Today at work the head of our internal IT department held a brief presentation on how the Internet is dangerous and why you should avoid it.

I liked the email he sent out announcing the session. My initial impression was that perhaps he was presenting a canned course and quoting from the promotional literature that accompanied it.
During this time of Holiday bliss we often find ourselves somewhat less vigilant when it comes to computer and network security. Unfortunately unscrupulous characters cash in on this period as well. Cyber Criminals don't let technology pass them by. Why should you? Join me in a short info session on Computer security and Network security. These tips will help us maintain a secured computer network environment and may also afford you with helpful techniques to use at home.

We knew we were in for a treat when the department head began by attempting to sign on to the laptop in the conference room, which was already hooked up to the projector. He mis-tabbed and began accidentally typing his system password into the username field, where everyone could see it.

Lesson 1: Don't do that.

Then he had a lot of trouble getting the wireless network to connect, which is nothing new. Every time anyone tries to sign an agency-issued laptop onto the wireless networks, it takes an extremely long time, lots of effort, and eventual help from the one guy in the internal IT department who actually seems to know anything.

Lesson 2: If you can't get online, the spammers can't get you!

Eventually, of course, he got the computer hooked up and began delivering his presentation. I was a little disappointed in that the main reason I signed up for the session was because Coworker-You-Idiot was also signed up, and I planned to be highly amused by the stupid questions he would ask. But he didn't ask any, more's the pity.

There were still a couple of good ones from the peanut gallery:

"What's Paypal exactly?"
"What's that thing, I've heard about it, all the young people are on it these days, 'MySpace' or something like that?"

They are things you should steer clear of, dear reader. Also, you shouldn't put your picture online. Because if anyone steals your identity, then they can look you up and find your picture and trace it to the source and copy and paste it and use it to make a fake driver's license with all your information on it! That's just asking for trouble!

I considered raising my hand and asking why an identity thief would want a fake driver's license with your picture on it, but thought better of it.

There were also the usual tips for setting passwords that are hard to crack. "A good password is one you can't remember!" is the only note my friend Robbie wrote down during the class. And they briefly mentioned cookies, which, I'll tell you right now, are bad.

Now if you'll excuse me, I should probably go dip my iBook in bleach to make sure it doesn't pick up any viruses.