Thursday, September 30, 2004

Bobblehead Rapture

The truth about blogs


Nothing should set off red flags in your gray matter like a headline that begins with "the truth about..." But for lack of anything else to write about, I thought I'd spout my own truth about blogs and blogging.

First, here is a nifty definition of a blog I found at http://www.marketingterms.com/dictionary/blog/

blog

Definition

blog
A frequent, chronological publication of personal thoughts and Web links.

Background

A blog is often a mixture of what is happening in a person's life and what is happening on the Web, a kind of hybrid diary/guide site, although there are as many unique types of blogs as there are people.

People maintained blogs long before the term was coined, but the trend gained momentum with the introduction of automated published systems, most notably Blogger at blogger.com. Thousands of people use services such as Blogger to simplify and accelerate the publishing process.

Blogs are alternatively called web logs or weblogs. However, "blog" seems less likely to cause confusion, as "web log" can also mean a server's log files.

So the term blog evolved because some lazy schmuck didn't want to type out "Web Log" and abbreviated it by typing "blog." Here's some news for you punks out there, writing is not for the lazy. Stop butchering the language and creating your cybertrash talk. You don't come across as cool, you come across as illiterate.

Now that we have gotten the definition out of the way (and my brief rant), let's really tell you the truth about blogs.

You won't get rich blogging. That's the word according to CBSnews.com. The article, "Blogs no Web of wealth," debunks that myth we all have that we will get wealthy by blogging. No shit Sherlock, forgive my French. I got news for them. I've already earned 27 cents by posting ads on my well-read blog. Can you say, "Financial Freedom?"

According to blogit.com, you can "publish, get read and get paid!" Actually, you have to pay them $5.95 a month to "publish, get read and get paid!" We all know who is getting paid in this transaction. Bottomline, don't write expecting to make money off from it. I have a perfectly good diploma I received that states I have a degree in Journalism. I don't regret having it, but it definitely wasn't a license to make money. Slapping up a blog about your latest pimple isn't the road to selling movie rights, either. Write because you like to and don't write to be read or to get rich.

If you need material for your blogs, I did find this cool site that should inspire you. It's better than most blogs I've read. Random thoughts is a site where people submit random thoughts that are displayed each time the screen refreshes. It's very entertaining for about 30 seconds (the average attention span on the Web. But it does drive home the fact that blogs are basically random thoughts strung together.

At least that's what the monkey told me.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

All the King's men


Elvis is a bit like Santa Claus. In certain cities, Las Vegas for instance, you can pretty much find him on every corner. It was that phenomenon that started down the path to study the mythology surrounding the King. Because damned if it ain't true, Elvis is everywhere.

To prove my point, my nephew recently got married at the Graceland Chapel in Las Vegas (it's the same place Jon Bon Jovi got hitched). Although the King didn't actually perform the ceremony, he did perform at the ceremony. And I know you're dying to see some wedding photos, so click here.

TCB.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

How many surrealists does it take to change a light bulb?


The answer is, of course, "the Fish." Get it?

I suppose not, but that has always been one of my favorite jokes, because, I am a Pisces. I am what the astrology world calls a double Pisces. I have a Pisces Sun and a Pisces Moon. If you know anything about astrology, you are probably wondering how I can possibly function? Well, if you must know, my Mercury is in Aries and Mars is in Aquarius. I believe that Venus is messing around in Aquarius, too.

Oh, and I was told by an astrologer that I also have a yode in my chart. This same astrologer also told me she had to stop looking at my chart because it was giving her a headache. I don't think that was a good thing...the yode or the headache.

Ok, you are probably looking up "yode" in the dictionary and thinking that I am just messing with you because the only thing listed there that is anywhere near "yode" in the dictionary is "yodel." And though I've been known to yodel on occasion, I don't believe it is caused by the position of the planets at my birth. A yode, apparently is an astrologically term for a rare pattern in a chart. I had it described to me as something akin to a "fickle finger of fate" pointing me at some cosmic thing in life that I was destined to do but probably will never figure out.

That sucks. I mean, I think it is true, because my entire life I felt there was some purpose I was supposed to serve but it was always dancing there in my peripheral vision just out of my perception.

Yet another astrologer told me I was destined to be a "social documentarian." At the time he told me that, I already had a journalism degree but was basically writing hack PR crap. I told him I wanted to be a novelist. He just shook his head and said in his thick mid-Eastern accent (which was pretty weird since he was Swedish) that "No, you will make your mark in the world of video or electronic communication."

This was pre-Internet days, so now I figure he must have been talking about the Web. I mean I was one of first people to mess around with HTML and blaze innovative new information trails with Disgraceland (which eventually became Dizgraceland due to a minor timing error buying domain names). I introduced people to page after page of useless stuff vaguely related to Elvis. But what I think the yode and the astrologer were really pointing me to was blogging. Because I (and millions of other bloggers, many not yet out of puberty) am now beaming my social documentarian views of the world into millions...well thousands....ok maybe a couple of dozen people's computers. And if I can only make a minor impression on just one person's life than maybe I will have fulfilled my destiny and can get on with important stuff like watching satellite TV.

Forgive me, it's the yode talking.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

High-fiving white guys

There used to be a local comedy show in the Seattle area called Almost Live that had a sketch called, "High-Fiving White Guys." These basically Wonderbread types would randomly break into high-fiving each other in this annoying, very uncool way. That was the point.

Almost Live unfortunately went off the air. The high-fiving white guys never went away.

I just returned from a Seahawks games in which they totally kicked the living crapola out of San Franscisco. Now granted, San Franciso was 0-2 already, but that shouldn't diminish the Seahawk's victory as they begin the season 3-0 and those of us who have prayed for a winning season are weeping for joy and inwardly terrified that they are just toying with us by winning.

I like to watch professional football. I like living in a city that has a team. Growing up in Boise all we had was high school football and the Boise State Broncos. I didn't like my high school team or the Boise State Broncos. Let's just get this out in the open, I was in band in high school. I was in fact the drum major. And while that is about as cool as you can get in band, it still leaves you on the fringe playing the Star Spangled Banner while the jocks break through the paper banners and admidst the cheers of the rest of the school. And it still leaves you getting wedgies from the jocks that were sober enough after the game to catch you at the pizza parlour.

Although I didn't continue with band in high school (there's only so much you can do with a bass clarinet) I did continue despising the jocks at Boise State. While I worked 60 hours a week despite my academic "scholarship," they got full scholarships and merely had to maintain that "C" average while taking their art appreciation classes.

Bitter? Slightly, but that is behind me now. Life teaches you to accept the inequities and move on quietly plotting revenge.

But I digress.

The one thing that would really drive me crazy is the way people who didn't play football, identified with the wins or losses of the team. If you failed an Algebra test, everyone in the class didn't rip out their hair bemoaning the entire school's loss. Conversely, if you aced a test, the school didn't globely celebrate their victory. For some reason, this is not true with sports. When a school's team wins, the high-fiving white guys start leaping and belly bumping as if they had anything to do with it. So throughout high school and college when someone would say something about how "We" won Friday's game, I'd point out that "We" don't play football and had nothing to do with the victory. This would inevitably lead to another wedgie, but I was smug in that I'd pointed out an inconsistency.

So, it is ironic that I am now a Seattle Seahawks fan. But then again, Boise never had a professional football game and I am now able to take community pride in the team that I fund through ticket sales and taxes for the new stadium that Qwest has bought the naming rights for. But don't get me started on naming rights.

I can now proudly pay $85 dollars for a ticket, $20 to park, $8 for a beer and another $25 for chicken fingers and garlic fries to sit in the stadium and cheer on my team in between the many time outs they take to accommodate network commercial breaks. But the thing that still remains to put a damper on it all are these damned high-fiving white guys, high-fiving and slapping each other on the ass and congratulating themselves everytime the highly paid professional football players complete a pass or make a touchdown. Listen guys, even though you are wearing a $60 shirt with the latest star player's name on it, you don't have a right to congratulate yourselves for their skill. And you don't have a right to cuss them or the coaches out when they make a mistake, especially the quarterback. If you had four or five 350 pound guys running at you at 50 mph, you would probably piss your pants and and make a few mistakes, too. Most of you are so out of shape that you are winded making your way to the urinal to make room for more $8 beer.

While I'm ranting, I'd like to point out that, after college, it's also uncool go to games, drink yourself into a stupor and puke on your shoes. And, despite the four $8 beers and the 25 little airline size bottles of vodka you snuck into the game, you are middle-aged and fat. So no matter how clever you think you are being by shouting stuff at the cheerleaders or commenting something crude about the 20-something year old girl a few seats away from you, you are still middle-aged and fat and are widely perceived that way by everyone around you except for your high-fiving friends who are, by the way, slapping you on the ass. Think about it.

All that being said, give me five, "Go Hawks!"


Thursday, September 23, 2004

Friends (not the series)


I used to have a best friend. His name was Michael Morgan. I used to call him Michael "J" for some reason. I'm not sure why. His middle name didn't begin with a "J." Anyway, Michael was the kind of friend you could not see in weeks or months and then get together and just start talking as if you'd just seen him the day before.

I first met Michael in college. He was a photographer for the college newspaper and I was the arts and entertainment editor and humor columnist. Michael and I hit it off because we had similar senses of humor. The big difference was that he kept his under wraps and I waved mine under people's noses in the school paper every week.

After college, we stayed friends. Even when Michael picked up one day, drove to Reno and got a job at Harrahs working in slots, we stayed friends. It was actually pretty cool having a friend living in Reno working at a casino. It definitely gave me an excuse to take a trip to Reno every year and not feel guilty about it. Reno is one of the more surreal places in the country. Perhaps that's why I like it so much and Michael moved there. Though the place eventually got to him and all he could talk about was moving back to Seattle. Eventually he did, but not for long. For some reason he could never get a job in Seattle. So, he packed up a U-Haul and I helped him move back to Reno. That's where the photo above came from.

The best part about visiting Michael in Reno was our trips out on the desert to shoot produce and various items we'd pick up at the grocery store. We'd picked up the hobby from a guy Michael used to work with at Harrahs. We called him Saigon Joe because he'd been in the Vietnam war and liked to go out on the desert to pop off a few rounds every now and then. Michael had a very obsessive kind of nature and quickly latched on to the hobby. Soon he had several guns and soon even I bought one solely for the purpose of target shooting on the desert. Neither of us ever thought about hunting animals. I'm a Pisces for pete's sake. But there was something satisfying about shooting a bottle of French's Low-Cal dressing and watch it explode in glare of the desert sun. And coconuts are a real challenge until you tame them with a .357 Magnum at a sporting range.


Oh, we'd gamble a bit. At least I would. After working in a casino for years, Michael had lost any desire to drop coins into slot machines. And we'd see a few shoes and get liquored up a bit at Fitzgeralds. And we'd talk. Michael was a good listener. Over the years he'd listened patiently to my various relationship sagas. And I listened to him obsess about one of his co-workers that he'd had a brief affair with before she left him for his supervisor. And I listened to his talk about depression.

But once again, Michael decided that Reno was his main problem and Seattle was the place to be. So once again he moved back. And once again he couldn't find a job. He even tried the local casinos. Eventually he ended up at a job he'd had in college, working on the grounds at a golf course. And for some reason, without Reno and the desert, we didn't get together much. Finally, Michael just disappeared.

It taught me something about friends and especially best friends: like everything else in life, they are temporary. When you are in grade school, you think you will have your best friends for life. But life happens. You get a girlfriend, a new job, go away to college, get another new job. You make friends with the people in your classes. But you graduate. You make friends with the people you work with. But they get other jobs or you get other jobs. "Stay in touch, ok," you say. But in this age of e-mail and cell phones no one stays in touch. The big gap between old friends is not distance, but time. Sometimes too much has happened in our lives to effectively catch up on with old friends.

But the hardest part for me is that people drift out of my life and in many cases I don't know why. When you end a romantic relationship, there is more often than not closure of some kind. But with platonic friends, I've found there isn't any definite closure. Even when I attempt to reestablish contact with people I was close to in the past, it has always been temporary. Time is a river endlessly drifting forward and our memories are washed up on the banks.

So Michael J, Gary, Holly, Janelle, Nellie, Dave, Robert, Shan, Tim W, and Irene, if you are out there, Tim says hi and hopes life is treating you well!

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Urban Native


Several years ago, when I fancied myself an artist of sorts, I created a series of native American chokers and breastplates fashioned out of non-traditional materials such as glass and copper tubing. But, I wanted to take my art a step further and become part of it. So, I asked a photographer friend to take shots of me decked out as what I called, "TheUrban Native." I took the black-and-white images and took my art up one more notch, as Emeril would say, and colorized it and framed them with actual feathers and copper beads. It was my three-dimensional potrait of myself and my art.

Other than frightening a few friends and co-workers (including the friend who took the shots), the images never really caused a stir in the arts community. But I've always like them. I've always liked the shocked reaction they get when people realize that the Urban Native is me.



But, basically, I'm the only one with any copies (except for the photographer, who I believe keeps the one I framed for her somewhere in a closet if it hasn't made its way to Goodwill). In July, my girlfriend and I took a cruise to Alaska. And in Juneau, I found a native American mask (actually I believe it was carved by a native Canadian) that I bought to add to my collection of masks from various parts of the world. It wasn't until a few weeks later, after mounting the mask on my wall, that I noticed the resemblance.

Ok, the color scheme is a bit different, but the eyes and hair are pretty much the same. My point? If you read my blogs, you should pretty much have given up on a point by now, but it pretty much drove home to me what I had originally had tried to capture with the Urban Native series. Despite our our high-tech lifestyle and so-called modern civilization, we are all still pretty much struggling with the same issues as the tribes that came before us. We just use different names like neighborhoods, communities, cities, counties and states. As an urban native, I still start a fire, cook my meat, worry about staying warm and keep the night at bay for fear of what's beyond the circle of fire. My lodge is a split-level wood hut with indoor plumbing.
And as you've seen from my blogs, I still struggle with the spirits that inhabit my trees, live (and die) in my crawlspace and inhabit nests in my gutters. I also struggle with the really nasty spirits that come into my house through telephone lines and e-mail. And I leave signs and symbols for those that follow in my footsteps.
Because I'm an Urban Native.


Friday, September 17, 2004

I held Snappy (but I wouldn't buy his t-shirt)


There is nothing like being a tourist. This dramatic shot was from a tour we went on in the Everglades. I think I paid three dollars to hold Snappy and get my picture taken. Then, in the gift shop, you could buy a t-shirt that boldly stated, "I held Snappy!" Now, taken out of context, this type of shirt could get the crap beat out of you in certain places, so I passed on the t-shirt and settled for the brief, but memorable experience of holding Snappy.

I have a similar photo somewhere of me holding an Iquana in Cozemel. I also have a photo of me in Grand Cayman holding a Stingray. Then there is the shot in Puerta Vallarta being kissed by a dolphin. Perhaps someday I will scan them and share them with you, too. Because, god knows what else I can do with them. They would be a nice companion exhibit to go along with my series of photos pointing at the various trash cans in Disneyland and Californian Adventure. Each land has it's own themed trash can.

As I said, there is nothing like being a tourist.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

All I am saying


The first record album I ever bought was Revolver by the Beatles. I was in first grade. I'd play it over and over before I went to school and sing along with all of the songs....Tax Man, Tomorrow Never Knows, I'm Only Sleeping, She Said She Said, Love You Too, Eleanor Rigby, Got To Get You Into My Life, Yellow Submarine, Doctor Robert, And Your Bird Can Sing and last but not least For No One. I wanted to be a Beatle (primarily because I watched them being incessantly chased by girls on television and in their early movies such as Hard Days Night). For reasons I didn't quite understand in first grade, I wanted to be chased by girls, too. I just didn't quite know what I expected to happen once they caught me. It just seemed like a pleasant thing to happen.

Regardless, I went on to buy all of the Beatle's albums and lament when they broke up after Let it be was released. Suffice it to say, I was and am a major Beatles fan. And all Beatles fans have a favorite Beatle and I can safely say that John is my favorite Beatle. I was in college at Seattle University and sitting in the school newspaper office when the word came out that John had been killed. It's pointless to even rant about how senseless that was. All killing is senseless. Let's pray for Karma and that the lunatic who shot John receives his.

I suppose my point is that you can tell something about a person's personality by their favorite Beatle. John was the rebellious Beatle, the bad boy, the man with the message. He believed in using his fame to try and make things better. Paul was the cute sell out. He was all about image and money. George was quiet and introspective, the spiritual Beatle. Ringo, well Ringo was the comic relieve of the Beatles. He couldn't sing and he could barely play the drums, but everyone liked him because he was goofy.

Ok, it's not astrology or anything, but it works. Think about it. Who's your favorite Beatle?

Just when you thought it was safe -- Log Blog III


When I got home last night, there was a large chipper parked in front of it. To those of you who followed my saga of cutting down the trees, it is no surprise that I found this to be an ominous sign. I had immediate visions that the disgruntled tree service had returned to cause more damage after following my now infamous blog expose. Sure enough, my backyard was once again littered with branches and tree removal equipment. Debris was covering my new twin-burner gas grill that I'd left the cover off. On closer examination, I discovered that my neighbors were removing two trees that stand (soon to be stood) on our property line. And being the socially inept people that they are, they failed to warn me that they were doing it and that the tree service would be using my property as a staging ground for the assault on the trees.

Okay, I won't miss these trees. For years they have showered my roof with needles and pitch. Every winter they drop major branches that smash the fence between my twitty neighbor and I (if they fall in his yard, he has this nasty habit of chucking them into my yard and it's his stinking tree). But, you can't blame me for feeling a little dread after my experience with removing trees and the subsequent curse. Nothing but trouble can come from it and I hope the curse moves blithely over to my neighbor and he gets to deal with plagues of yellowjackets, leaking roofs and dead animals in his crawlspace. He, after all, deserves it.

I've never claimed to be a good neighbor. I believe in privacy. I mind my own business and the neighbors can just mind theirs. I'm cordial, mind you, just not effusive when it comes to dealing with my neighbors. This guy and his family, however, haven't said boo to me since they moved in several years ago. So, we've been engaged in a "Cold War" of sorts. And he goads me every chance he gets. In addition to chucking his stinking branches into my yard he puts these stupid artificial sheep in his front yard next to this large black bear made out of some plastic material. Okay, a man wants to purchase artificial sheep, that's one thing, but they should be confined to the privacy of his bedroom and not displayed in the front yard.

He also has a son who plays in a crappy garage band. They had a big birthday party a few months ago and his son's band played in the backyard like it was a park or something. This is a neighborhood, not an amphitheater. They didn't have the courtesy to invite me nor warn me about the party, either. I'm glad it rained on them.

Okay, here's where the tree thing gets weird. As I'm getting into my truck this morning to drive to the park-and-ride lot, the tree service truck pulls up and, get this, it's the SAME tree service that did such a crappy job removing my trees and bringing down a curse on me! And as the kid driving the truck gets out, he gives me a sheepish (no pun intended) grin and a weak wave. The schmuck neighbor must have seen them working in my backyard and hired them to cut down his trees just to tweak me kicker is that they are the neighbor's trees and I've got the evil tree service working in my yard to remove them. So, I'll get the brunt of the debris.

Will this madness never end?

Monday, September 13, 2004

Bless me Father for I have sinned, I use a Blackberry

For the unhip (this pun is intended), a Blackberry is a PDA crossed with a cell phone -- a mutant so to speak. Yes, it connects me at the hip, 24/7 to both the telephone and e-mail. And that is why it makes me a major hypocrite because I have made it very clear that I hate the phone and I haven't even confessed to you that I find the misuse of e-mail a major evil that is fast approaching replacing both the telephone and Epinions.com as the number one DEVIL in my book.

In my defense, I have it for work. Because, being a man on the go, it is important that they be able to track me down at all times like the miserable corporate toady that I am. And it is extra important that I be able to read e-mails while I'm in the men's room (the stall near the window that catches the morning sun just right and warms the seat) about the financial tracking software being temporarily unavailable between 2 and 3 a.m.

The worst part about it is that I can't put the damned thing down. Every 2 minutes I pop it up and check my latest Spam. I can't help it. I tell myself that I'm being productive and staying one step ahead of my inbox. Bull pucky. They don't call it Crackberry for nothing.

But what really chaps my hide is that I haven't read a book on the bus since I got the thing. If I'm not checking my e-mail, I'm playing Brickbreaker -- the only stinkin' game the thing comes with. I play it over and over and over. At first I thought the levels would go on and on forever. But one day, I managed to get beyond the tricky wall of steel that you have to bounce your ball at an angle to wing over and break the bricks. It took me to a simple field of bricks thay you leisurely break. That's the last level. And do you know what happens after the last level? No, it doesn't try to get you to buy additional levels. I'd be okay with that. All it does is pop up a window that says, "Congratulations." Then you start over. Can you say, Sisyphean? Probably not, but it's something that is "incessantly reoccuring."

So, basically I'm stuck with my Blackberry obsession (which I imagine got its name because it invades your life like nasty blackberry vines complete with thorns) until the next trendy bit of technology comes along. My bet is that it will be an implant or something that you ingest that actually turns you into an organic PDA. And if I'm any judge of the people that come up with these things, it won't be ingested orally. Just some food for thought.

I've got to get back to my Blackberry.

Friday, September 10, 2004

The satellite installer always rings twice

I'm sure you are all curious about how the installation of my second satellite television receiver went yesterday. Well, while I waited patiently yesterday during the 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. window of opportunity DirectTV graciously provided me, the phone rang at 3:30 p.m. and I was informed that my window of opportunity had just expanded to between 5 and 5:30 p.m. Nevermind that I had to take a half day off work to be there (though the housepainter did stop by to give me an estimate on painting my house, but I'm sure that will be the subject of another, more dramatic blog because I've become very jaded when it comes to hiring contractors these days).

Being the pragmatic person that I am, I took the service delay with a grain of salt and went to the store to buy some new Fabreze air spray to cut down on the decaying animal smell that continues to come up through the air vents from my contaminated crawl space. But I've decided to spare you all and lay that subject to rest.

So, the satellite installer arrives at about 5:45 p.m. and apologizes for stealing from me four hours of my life that I will never see again. He is a nice enough fellow and doesn't mention the smell as he outlines his plans for installing my new TIVO system and shifting my old receiver to the den. This proceeds relatively smoothly until he gets everything pretty much hooked up and I'm still not receiving the premium channels that I am paying through the nose for because the signal is too weak from the satellite dish. Then Mel, or whatever his name is, proceeds to blame it on my neighbors lilac bush that has presumably sprung up to block the dish after I, yes, may the lord have mercy on my soul, had the two trees cut down in my back yard. His suggestion was that I do some covert pruning to eliminated the problem.

Well, not being too keen on neighbors, I've never really got to know any of them and especially the ones that live behind me. So, faced with the prospect of pixilated premium channels and being a fairly resourceful chap, I grab a hoe (garden implement for those thinking I'm using street slang) and a pruning shears. I hook the offending lilac bush over my fence and give it a crewcut that I hope my neighbor will not notice.

And Mel tells me that the signal is still weak. He then suggests I might have to shimmy up my Cedar tree and trim some of the upper branches. Okay, I've had enough bad karma for butchering trees lately, so I suggest to Mel, that it could indeed be a problem with the dish being misaligned, perhaps, and I only suggest this a possibility, perhaps the tree service crew did knock it about a bit while they were killing my conifer trees. Because they did pull apart one of the cables after all.

So skeptical Mel gets some equipment and messes with the dish for awhile and low and behold a miracle! The signal is restore and HBO, Showtime, Cinemax and Starz return in all their glory to my television. I feel the rapture! I shake Mel's hand and thank him for his genius (though it was my idea to actually check the dish). I wasn't even upset that I then had to spend another 45 minutes on the phone with DirectTV on hold waiting to talk to a technical representative to iron out bugs with the access card (I ended up having to talk them through what they needed to do, by the way).

Thus ends that saga. I spent the rest of the night walking back and forth between my family room and my den changing channels just to make sure I was getting all 210 of them and my money's worth.

I live a full and productive life.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

My crawl space



The Tony-winning director still finds those shivery, spidery openings into other worlds mysterious and attractive.
'The image of the crawl space is very important to me because it's emblematic of the hole in our heart that we try to fill up, with kings and queens and theater and images," she says. "It's not the 'just fine' part of us. It's the dirty, dark source of the creative drive.'"

--San Francisco Chronicle article by Annie Nakao about Director/Writer Mary Zimmerman
"As a child in Lincoln, Neb., Mary Zimmerman saw the crawl space in the basement of her house as "the most terrifying, enchanting, seductive and horrible place on earth."

Okay, it never ceases to amaze me the things people can romanticize about. A crawl space is a "spidery opening into other worlds," but they sure aren't mysterious and attractive, that is unless you find a nasty, dark space under your house full of pipes, ducts, spiders, cat urine and in my case, some dead animal, attractive.

I know that I harped on something dying under my house in my "The Curse" blog. But it has driven home to me how helpless we can be in dealing with stupid little things in life like removing some dead animal from under your house. Sure, my dad probably would have just crawled under there and drug it out with a rake. But then again, our crawl space growing up was in the basement and as far as I know, nothing ever died in it (though my brothers did threaten to stuff me in it a few times).

So, it leaves me with this dilemma of how to deal with it in a logical and sensible manner that doesn't involve me crawling on my belly in filth and putting my hand in god knows what to try and find the source of the smell under my house. Much as I love Google and it's amazing ability to find anything, it didn't quite cut it in my search locally to find someone who actually removes dead animals from under your house.

A search for "dead animal under my house" didn't yield anything. "Dead animal removal" brought up a few businesses that haul away dead animals, but these were primarily dead farm animals. There were "varmint removers" who humanely removed wild animals from your house or yard. And there were "pest controllers" who woul help you kill animals in your crawl space. Thus the crux of my dilemma: the animal is already dead and can't be humanely removed. And being already dead, it could pose a further dilemma for the pest controllers when faced with killing a dead animal. I don't think it's in their manuals.

Further searches turned up some useful information about having dead animals under you house and the length of time it would take for them to decay (a couple of weeks for a small dead animal and a couple of months for a larger dead animal...let's pray a stray elephant didn't wander in there to die). The article concluded that in order to stop the smell of the dead animal under your house, you had to find it and remove it. So, basically it puts me back at square one.

I would think some enterprising young person could make quite the business out of crawling under houses and removing errant dead things. As far as I can tell, there wouldn't be any competition. You could call it clever names, like: "Removing dead animals from under your house-R-Us," or "Ye Olde Removing Dead Animals Shoppe" or better, yet, "What died under your house, let us find out for you!"

But barring someone picking up on this breakthrough business idea, the best advice people at work seem to be able to give me is to hire some kid in the neighborhood to crawl in there and retrieve it. But, I question the wisdom of approaching neighborhood kids and telling them I'll pay them to crawl around under my house looking for dead things. It could be misinterpreted.

I've thought about asking the satellite television installer (who I am waiting for as I write this) to run the cable for my second receiver under the house. "And oh, while you are under there, could you look for a dead animal and kind of chuck it out here?" I think they'd be wise to that ploy.

So, I'm stuck. All of the technology in the world at my fingertips and I can't figure out a single way to remove a dead animal from under my house that doesn't actually involve me, personally physically going under the house to do it and tossing my cookies at the prospect.

And then I'd have that smell to contend with.

Sigh...

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

My dish is full

When I was growing up, when it came to television, you pretty much had three choices: NBC, ABC and CBS. Though, in Boise, as I recall, there were initially only two channels, Channel 2 and Channel 7. So, I'm a bit confused as to what happened to one of the major networks. Eventually we had Channel 4, but that was PBS and not really worthy of recalling (I never got into Sesame Street or Mr. Rogers and I don't really care how goat cheese is made). But I digress.

My point, if there is indeed a point in any of my blogs, is that now I have a satellite dish with more than 210 channels to choose from (unless it is raining or the dish is blocked by the branches of a tree) and am I really any happier?

Damn right, I am. I am in television hog heaven. And with Ultimate TV and TIVO, I have actually bypassed hog heaven and entered hog nirvana (not the grunge group). Because, although I'm not big on technology when it comes to phones, I live for television that I control. And by being able to freeze live TV and go to the John, I can truly say that opposable thumbs actually do make us superior creatures when it comes to using a remote control.

But despite being enamored with the prospect of 30 premium channels with almost first run movies (something I could only dream of as a boy while I watched reruns of old Tarzan flicks hoping to catch a glimpse of Jane), I have to express my displeasure with DirectTV, the company that offers satellite television to the masses.

Now, I've been a customer of DirectTV for at least five years now forking over lots of cash for the convenience of not having to deal with cable or antennas. So, you'd think that, being a valued customer, they'd be open to me wanting to expand my satellite system to other rooms of my house. After all, new customers can waltz in and get three rooms installed for next to nothing. I however, am not a new customer.

First, their Web site is baffling. You supposedly can order services and equipment online, but only if you have simple needs. I am not a simple man and my television needs are a bit more complex than the options provided online. So I attempt to call their customer service line. Foolish mortal. Four times I waded through their telephone maze of "press 1 if you've seen the Eiffel Tower" prompts and whining attempts to get you to hang up and deal with their Web site. Finally they send you into the holding cue with a prompt that you can expect to wait an average of ten minutes to speak to a representative. So I hung up three times in frustration. Finally, after desperately needing that second hook up for my newly remodeled den (I can't bear the thought of having a second television that can only play tapes, DVD's and video games) I settled in with a basket of laundry to sort and fold and waited for a representative to help me.

Okay, there must be a consultant out there who designs customer service phone systems from hell and really sold DirectTV on one. First you listen to bad 70s porn movie music that is interrupted by commercials for free movie week and a voice pleading with you not to hang up, someone will eventually come back from their break and take your call. And after folding all of my socks that matched and a few that didn't a live person came on the line.

Chelsea sounded as if she was about 17 and was really trying hard at the whole customer service thing. She asked me how she could help me and told her I simply wanted an additional receiver for my den. After 45 minutes of careful negotiating with Chelsea, I was able to get a new TIVO DVR receiver for my family room, convince her to swap my old receiver into the den (because each customer is only allowed to order one additional receiver every six months...probably because they think you'll sell them on eBay), switch my existing channel package for the "ultimate premium channel package" with the same number of channels as I had before (but for $5 a month more than I had been paying and a requirement that I commit to a one-year contract even though I've been a customer of theirs for six years...go figure) plus pay an addition $4.95 a month for having an additional satellite receiver. The downside is that I had to give up my Ultimate TV (the Microsoft version of TIVO that charges you $9.95 a month to pause and record live television) and the wireless keyboard to get the TIVO system (which will freeze live television and record it for free as long as you subscribe toe the "ultimate premium channel package).

In retrospect, I think Chelsea pulled a fast one on me.

But, get this, they are going to install it tomorrow within the traditional 4-hour window that installers love to give you just so you can't plan anything else while waiting for them to arrive. I guess I'll have to fold some more laundry. But it will be worth the wait. Because now I can run from room to room watching 210 channels of satellite television (including local channels which are basically network crap).

It don't get no better than that. That is until six months from now when I'm eligible to order another receiver and then the sky is the limit.




Tuesday, September 07, 2004

The Curse


Okay, if I were a religious man (which I'm not) and believed in signs (other than the standard traffic ones you have to know to get your driver's license) I'd say I have been cursed. I base this on standard Biblical standards of plague and pestilence and on some major motion picture references to curses. I think it has something to do with cutting down the trees (if you've been following me up to now, you know more about the trees than you wanted to know...and by the way, I still have plenty of free firewood if you are interested...if you don't know about the trees, see my archives).

Right after the first tree was cut down, I was attacked by Yellowjackets while cleaning out my gutters and stung four times. Okay, it wasn't a plague of locust, but it hurt like hell. That was the first sign that something was amiss.

Next I went to the doctor (who I've neglected to visit for a couple of years due to schedule conflicts and a basic lack of faith in the medical profession) because my Yellowjacket stung arm had swollen to the size of Rhode Island (not big for a state, but pretty big for a swollen arm). As usual, the doctor gave me advice that pretty much matched most of my co-workers advice, take Benedryl. He then took a sharpie and outlined the red part of my arm and told me that if the red spread much further I should return because that would indicate that the infection was spreading. This is the best a man with a medical degree could come up with.

So, how was the trip to the doctor a curse? It reminded the doctor that I hadn't been in to see him for some time and that I was in need of a full physical. Suffice it to say, that, although it may be recreation for some, having a full body cavity search is not my idea of fun.

It gets better

It was an unusually dry summer for Seattle, and then, a few days after the corpses of the trees reclined pitifully in my backyard, the rains returned. I woke up with a large puddle of water on my kitchen floor dripping from the light fixture. I'm no expert, but this is a sign of a leaking roof...a roof that is only six years old. For those who know roofs, six years should be the equivalent to the roof being in elementary school...well maybe middle school, but it certainly shouldn't be ready to retire. Thus began the saga of the roofers. The bids ranged from $300-$8,000 depending upon how serious I was about actually stopping the leak.

So, I called up the pest control place I'd asked to come out and deal with the Yellowjackets and cancelled, because I didn't want to pay $480 to kill wasps when I was faced with a potential $8,000 roof bill (on top of the $6500 I'd just shelled out for all new windows and the $700 I'd paid the tree service to kill the trees that cursed me in the first place). The pest control people were not happy. Not a curse, you say? Well it gets better.

Then I decide to refinance to get some cash to pay for the roof. Rates are still low, and I find a pretty decent deal on a 15 year mortgage. It still hasn't closed, so I'll let you know if it becomes part of the curse.

Anyway, I come home this weekend and the house smells like something died in it. My cat was still wandering around looking very much alive and her litterbox was relatively clean, so I ruled her out. But still, the stench was disgusting. I finally figure out that something has apparently crawled under my house and died. On top of this, flies begin showing up inside my house in major numbers, apparently hatching from whatever has died under my house. It is very much like that scene in Amityville Horror (the original, not the many sequels) in which flies plague the home.

My solution? I bough a flyswatter and a can of vanilla air spray. Now, I could crawl under the house looking for whatever died under there, but a) I'm claustrophobic, b) I've been under there before to fix the dryer vent hose years ago and I still have nightmares and c) I'm not sure I want to find out whatever died under there in case it has friends or relatives. I figure I only have to put up with the smell for a couple more weeks and nature should take care of it.

Okay, so the night I come home to discover that something has died under the house, my girlfriend broke out in a major rash while vacuuming my living room. Let's see, a plague of insects, flood, putrid odors, flys, and now pestilence. Can you say, "Curse."

I'm not sure what caused the rash, but I have a theory about the dead thing under my house. I think the pissed-off pest control people came by anyway and planted a dead rat or opossum under there to get back at me for cancelling my order. And I would have cancelled the pest control if my roof wouldn't have leaked. And I wouldn't have needed the pest control if I hadn't been on my roof cleaning out gutters and been attacked by a nest of Yellowjackets (which by the way laugh at those cans of spray you buy at Fred Meyers). And I wouldn't have needed to clean out the gutters if the damned trees I'd had cut down wouldn't have dumped some many fir needles in them in the first place.

So, it comes full circle to me having the trees "removed." But then again the tree service guys could have been in cahoots with the pest control company and planted the Yellowjacket nest while they were "removing" the trees. For that matter they could have poked a few holes in the roof while they were at it to get their buddies, the roofers, some business too. For all I know, my doctor is related to them all.

Bottom line is that I can't help but believe there is a curse here and it started with those trees (but I'm not ruling out the devils at Epinions.com or the telephone company seeking retribution after I unmasked them). But, at least it forced me to stop procrastinating and refinance. Because if Bush gets re-elected the rates are going back up and the economy will tank. Now that's a real curse.

Friday, September 03, 2004

I see a pattern here...

Occasionally, I browse through Blogger's list of noteble blogs and then wander through the endless list of blogs that have recently been published (though I never see my blog in either) and I've begun to see a pattern. Blogger's seem to go through 5 stages very similar to the five stages of grief: 1) Denial 2) Anger 3) Bargaining 4) Depression and 5) Acceptance.

We begin by posting our fledgling blogs with our witty reparte and profound wisdom and sitting back to bask in the glory of the masses as we are discovered and thought to be visionary and the funniest thing in the world since Beavis and Butthead left the scene. We wait for a few days for the e-mails and comments and most importantly, the page hits. And nothing. Then we enter that first phase of denial (it's not just a river in Egypt). "It just takes time to be discovered. There are a lot of pages out there and I just need a few people to visit and perceive my comic genius." So, we submit our sites to a few search engines and wait a few more days.

Then we enter that second phase: Anger. "Why is it that the blog about toenail clippings has received 40,000 hits in three days and I've got 3?" So we write blogs about Epinions being the devil. We spew bile at the Web world that has rejected us. We express anger that no one buys our crap on eBay.

But then we take a new approach and enter that third phase: Bargaining. "If I offer people tidbits about my life and free things, they'll read my blogs and link to me." So we write blogs about cutting down trees and offer free firewood. But still, nothing happens. Maybe a few friends drop by and read your blog and mention some obscure thing.

But its not enough and you enter stage 4: depression. "My blogs are not worthy blogs. I was never cut out to be a blogger. After all, I'm not a 17 year old teenaged girl with various piercings. What could I have to say that anyone really wants to hear?" So, you turn away from the blog. But it's still there, waiting patiently, watching and whispering gently, "Come on back, you know you can't stop trying." So you write blogs about mechanical monkeys. Because you've entered the....no, not the Twilight Zone..you've entered the 5th and final stage: acceptance.

Yes, now you really don't give a rip whether anyone reads your drivel or not. Because, darn it, it's your blog and it's one of the only things in your life that no one gets to edit or suggest how it can be improved.

Personally, I like it that my blog sucks and has no apparently point. It's my pointless blog and that just about says it all.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Kill your telephone


Okay, I would have started this blog with "Alexander Graham Bell is the Devil" but I've already established that Epinions.com is the devil. I didn't want to cause too much confusion (though I think there is room for more than one devil in the world...but that is another blog). Suffice to say, I think that the telephone is one of the most evil inventions that was ever made.

Oh, Tim-Elvis is just being obsessive compulsive or having paranoid delusions, you say. No, I just hate telephones. I can't stand it when they ring. Now most of you (go ahead and admit it) must answer your phone when it rings, don't you. Not me. That's why the antidote to the phone, the answering machine or voice mail, was invented. It allows those of us who have not succumb to the Pavlavian ring of the telephone to screen our calls. Because the "Do Not Call" list is basically a load of horse pucky, excuse my French. Telemarketers, while not the devil, are basically damned to h-e-double toothpicks. The answering machine short circuits their little plot to come between me and my hard earned money. If I want to throw my money away, I'll just go to eBay, thank you very much. So bless who ever it is that invented the answering machine.

What else do I hate about phones? They rob your voice of any feeling or inflection. They are not quite as bad as e-mail when it comes to being misinterpreted, but they are running a very close second. The term, "What do you mean by that?" originated with the first phone call. That and, "you are breaking up" when the cell phone came along (though this may have been used when the Hindenburg went down, too). Oh, and "I'll call you." Love that one. When? When will you call me? And why? I'm standing in front of you right now. Talk.

Cell phones are the most unholiest of the telephone family. When did it become imperative to have to talk to someone while you are grocery shopping or sitting on the crapper. And take your cute little bell tones and shove them, okay. They have a vibrate mode and it's much less intrusive and a heck of a lot more fun.

So, now you know about my hang ups when it comes to phones (that cracks me up).