Leaving tomorrow for Pennsylvania...

Jon and I went to Austin's Trail of Lights last night. Lots of lighted displays along a trail, with all kinds of twinkly things in the trees--very dreamy and Christmassy. We chatted with the folks in front of us while waiting for the parking shuttle. They had moved here in '68, I believe. Austin sure has changed since then. He talked about putting in the upper deck of IH 35, and he used the words "before MoPac."

It's always a little awkward, talking to an old Austinite about moving here. We get to say how much we love it here, but there's always the tacit admission that we're part of the traffic congestion that is strangling Austin. They're actually justified in saying, "Damn fer-ners," but...they're Austinites, so they never do.

This lunchtime poll, on fluff and lint, had a pretty even response. "Teddy Bear stuffins" eked into first with three out of ten votes. "Personalized pocket lint" and "Dryer lint," understandably, have a similar audience and split the votes, getting two each. "Marshmallow Fluff," "Harry Potter," and "Carpet Fuzzies" all held their own, with a vote apiece. This one just didn't inspire great passion, one way or the other. ...Kinda feels like an election...

Memories from my youth: Freezing rain, closings and late starts, scraping the car... All made a reality for me again, coupled with *sand* (not salt) trucks, power failures, and phone outtages. I saw two people in my parking lot, looking forlorn and pathetic, pouring water (water!) on their windshields. I lent my scraper to one woman who was watching her windshield wipers skitter ineffectually over the ice, holding an empty pitcher. Too pathetic not to help. The big guy with the scraper and the spritzer bottle, I left to his own devices. I felt a bit smug.

But everything was *beautiful*. It's winter now. I feel better.

Weather or Not: Today, the high is 73. Tonight, freezing rain is expected. It is very weird here.

And in keeping with that theme... I tutor a second-grader on reading. We were going through a worksheet (with st words), and she opted to explain the word "frost" to me. I'm thinking windows on winter mornings, windshields scraped with a student id (which is why I hang onto it), hoary gray grass in the back yard, but she, little Texan that she is, says, "That's like when you put a steak in the freezer. When you take it out, it has frost on it."

Boy howdy.

Sparkly: The Dell holiday party was on Saturday. We rented a tuxedo for Jon, and I wore a silver ball-gown skirt with a burgundy, sparkly shirt. ...Do you know that Dell has a lot of employees? Holy cow. But the theme was Mardi Gras, and there was dancing and champagne and jugglers and magicians and a guy on stilts and crawfish and other fried, possibly seafood, things on a buffet in the dark (meet Jon, my tastetester).

But beforehand, Jon took me for a walk along Congress Street, over the bat bridge. The moon was full, Christmas lights hung along the bridge, the Colorado River glistened below. And then he made that most cinematic of movements: Reach into the tuxedo's inside jacket pocket, remove the little velvet box, and get down on one knee.

And then he stood up and told me about the warranty on the diamonds...

Do I want an ISSN for my blog? Hmm... (found via that charming, swell guy at ZedneWeb)

Apartment Update: The fabled sheetrock-replacement did not occur on Monday. No phone call, no notice, simply a failure to appear and do the work. Is this what having a teenager is like? I called the office just now and got—oh joy of joys—a new clueless, vapid assistant. I quickly gave up on getting my questions answered and just opted for leaving a message. Sigh...

BlogVoices: Carrying on a tradition that was championed by the good folks at Blogger, chrish has created, all by his lonesome, this really cool blog accessory that allows site visitors to add comments to any post. Freeware, developed because it's cool. I like this new trend.

I'll add in the discuss image when I get home and can upload it.

Tee hee. Now here's something I haven't seen since '94: the Geek Code. I'm much geekier than I was back then, but then, so's the whole world. Anywho, here's me:


Version: 3.1

GIT/TW d- s+:+ a- C++>+++ ULC P+ L+>+++ E+ W+++$(-) N o? K? w(---)$ M V PS++(+++) PE++() Y+ PGP>++ t+@ 5 X+(-) R+ tv b+>++ DI++ D(---) G e++ h- r++>+++ x+


But now, this froody geek created a decoder, so here's me, packaged for the masses.

Woah! Readership bloom. I got more votes on this poll than any other. And since its topic was what the next poll should be about, I have listened to your outcry. Overwhelmingly, my readers are fans of fluff and lint, with that item getting 12 out of 14 votes (no, I did not recou--I can't bring myself to make that joke. *sob*). But within that topic, it was not difficult to accomodate my other two readers who wanted to talk about Harry Potter, and copyrights and piracy (who would have expected marshmallowfluff.com to exist?). Nobody, but nobody, wanted to talk about current events, sending a resounding zero chads--hanging, pregnant, or otherwise--to the items "Floridians," "The lesser of two evils," or "That college we can't get into."

So, gentle readers. You asked, I respond. Vote away!

(Brought to you by The Lunchtime Poll, recount-free for nine months.)

So much to tell, so much to tell. And I've got a new reader! (Hi, Faith.)

Apartment: Supposedly the carpet pad is being replaced and the concrete sealed as we speak. Cleaning should happen before the end of the week. Sheetrock replacing will be a little longer. Movement! (like through sludge, but movement nonetheless)

Work: App has successfully passed user acceptance testing and the more challenging process of getting approved by Change Management. We are go for launch! Friday, at 5 pm. Woo hoo!

Win2K migration of my workstation was painless. And I have finally found the secret coffee stash of our IT department. It was recently hidden because non-IT people were helping themselves. Our group, which sits on a different floor from the rest of IT, reacted to the news of the coffee hiding with, "We had free coffee?"

Turkey: Jon and I spent Thanksgiving with our friends Ben and Natosha on Ben's parents' 800-acre ranch. Much eating, much loafing, much strolling on beautiful open spaces, much petting of horse noses, much pouncing by dogs. A good time was had by all.

Steak: Ray's Steakhouse, on Guadelupe, although being the most I have ever spent on dinner for two, was outstanding, quite worthy of being our romantic, two-year-anniversary restaurant. The Austin American-Statesman captured it well: hunting lodge meets white linen. How Texan. There were lots of mounted heads on the walls, but the food was quite excellent, and our waiter Manny was so cool. They served me the only cheesecake that Texas has done right. Dense. Thick. Not-sweet. Cream-cheesey. Ahhhhhhhhh...

Domination: I found a service, buydomains.com, that lets you register a domain for $16/year and then provides free forwarding, so you can host anywhere. Which is exactly what I was looking for for this site and the new blog that Faith and I are cooking up. I've registered spyderella.net, but they need a few days to switch it over from domainmonger.com. Once I know, I'll let you know what I think. Then you all can quit bugging me that you can never remember my url.

In related news, ICANN approved the creation of seven new domain suffixes.

Heh heh heh. We saw Charlie's Angels last week. It was very neat.

Don't you think I look a little like Drew Barrymore? Consider your answer very carefully.

I got my app done in time for Monday's user acceptance testing. Yaaaaaay. My system should have been migrated last night to Windows 2000 (yikes). I'll find out later today if I've survived; I'm in ASP class right now.

In other news... Two Years. Can you believe it's been two years? But here it is, the Leonids meteor shower again, so it must have been two years since we started dating. We're going out for a fancy dinner tonight.

Man, when did it get to Thursday? Yeesh. On Friday, we had a blast at Margaret Cho's show. It was less like stand-up comedy, and more like a frank discussion from a funny person. I like her a lot. Her parting thought is that gay people should be allowed to get married like straight people, and straight people should have sex like gay people. Right on.

Also sometime last week, we watched Hitchcock's Rear Window. I like Jimmy Stewart. ^_^ Hitchcock is weak on endings, though. He doesn't fool around with any messy denouement stuff; just wraps it up 30 seconds after the dramatic climax. But we'll forgive him, won't we?

Saturday saw an enjoyable evening spent chatting with friends. We were supposed to be getting together to watch The Sixth Sense, but we found each other more entertaining. Chris is planning a haunted bed-and-breakfast and was pumping us for ideas. Boy, it would be neat.

My apartment is finally on the mend. Friday, I am told, the ducts will be cleaned. Then at 8 am on Saturday, the floor will get sealed, the carpet pad replaced, and the carpets steam cleaned. After we know that the leak repairs are holding, they'll fix the sheet rock in the walls. Should be good...provided it happens. (The duct cleaning was supposed to occur last Monday. Hm.) I mentioned in one of my letters that I would write another letter to the corporate office, this time in thanks, if stuff got fixed. However, I can't think of any opening to the letter that doesn't sound like, "And when they finally got around to what they should have been doing all along..." I'll keep working on it.

Mom has arranged for all my local family to be at their place on Christmas eve, when I'll be there. Then, right when I get back, Faith will be arriving for us to spend a Wild Girls Week in Austin. This will be a great vacation.

Well, if popular opinion has any bearing on truth, eating raw cookie dough won't give you food poisoning. I'd always wondered, since it contains eggs (not that that stopped me), but my poll results show that no one else is concerned. Four people deemed it the best stuff ever, and three (possibly some overlap, there, since it's an ambiguous ballot) stated that it makes appropriate hors d'ouvres (I've had it served to me—more than once). One person flouts the strong warnings on the packaging and microwaves it. But nobody is concerned about salmonilla.

Regardless, it's clearly time for a new poll. But I just can't think of any pressing current events. Can you?

Austin, Texas, is an interesting town.

Here we are, capitol of Texas, downtown shut down to accomodate Bush's victory party, but Austin voters are not so staunchly Texan. According to the Travis County results at 9:45 this morning, almost 52% voted straight-ticket democrat. And the Green party got 3.78%. Across-the-board Republicans were only 43%.

And the Presidential race is even more interesting in Travis County. Bush took 46.5%, Gore ~42%... and Nader: 10.36%!

Now, the light rail referendum lost, but only just. Less than 2,000 votes separate for and against, out of 237,042 total votes. They both round to 50%. So close, so close...

The ultimate write-in candidate. Vote Kiki!
(Find out why we love Kiki in Sluggy Freelance.)

Lot's of things...which makes sense, since I haven't posted in a while.

Apartment woes continue

Since we moved in in July, our apartment has given us nothing but grief. There are a million small maintenance issues, and a few that are not-so-trivial, and we had to innundate the office with mail to get any action. In my final letter on that front, I noted which items were being mentioned for the fourth time in writing, aluded to the fact that this violates our lease, and said that I was sure the management "would appreciate the chance to address this customer service opportunity." That got action. Go fig.

Then there was the water. Leaching up through our carpet. Making our walls soggy. (Lots of people have asked what floor we live on. I tell them that the people downstairs are pissed. We live on the ground floor. Duh.) Jon wrote a letter about this soppiness. Five days later, I sent a letter, certified mail, return receipt requested, to both the apartment office and their corporate office in Colorado, stating the health risk (mold, which is leading to my vertigo--see below--and might give Jon asthma attacks), outlining our requested remedy, providing a deadline, and citing the section of the Texas Property Code that would allow us to terminate the lease if they don't meet that deadline. (I love being able to start a letter with, "By Subchapter B of Chapter 92...") They phoned yesterday (our postal service is that fast? Hot damn.) to say that all the contractors in Austin are booked because the rainy season makes everybody notice their leaks. We're apartment shopping tomorrow. I think our current place should give us another apartment. We'll see.

But if you live in Austin, Promontory Point gets a big thumbs-down. It's a drag, too, because their facade has this nice red brick.


Since July 99, I've had occasional bouts of dizziness, and I've gotten varying diagnoses. Today, I saw a new doctor and finally got an answer that makes sense. (She was so delightful. I'm sad I'll only get to see her when I'm sick.) My middle ears feel full, but nobody ever sees any fluid in there. Well, Dr. Ezekoye said the congestion is in my nasal passages, and that is pressing on my eustacian tubes, preventing them from functioning (so the pressure in my middle ears can't be equalized, hence the full feeling) and causing sympathetic discomfort over in my ears. Then the dizziness is probably tied into that. She gave me some samples of and prescribed a decongestant. Finally, an answer!


Jon and I made masks. We went to one party on the 21st, found ourselves strangely free on the 28th, and helped our house-enabled friend hand out candy on the 31st. His party will then be on the 4th. At work, our group had a party, including a costume contest. I did not win the "scariest" prize, but my teammates decided that the judging (by applause) was lame and that I was robbed. So at our staff meeting, they presented me with a ...um, what is this thing? It's like a snow globe, only without the snow. The globe is squishy, not glass. And it's got a big *spider* inside it! What a great desk toy! ^_^


Our friend Ben and his family are our adoptive Texas family, so we'll be there with the whole brood for Thanksgiving. Then, in order to have Thanksgiving and New Year's off, Jon has opted to work on Christmas, and I'll be visiting my parents in their snazzy new house. Local grandparents and cousins and such will probably be there, too. Then my friend Faith is spending a few days here right after Christmas. I'm trying to get her to see how hip Austin is and how often they don't shower you in pesticides here.

Daily Bliss

The lunch from the cafeteria was really good today! Pork loin and green beans and herb potatoes. Yum!

Because today is the 17th of a month, Jon wrote an email to wish me a "Happy 1.9167th anniversary!" I love my geek.

More role-playing and fresh bread last Sunday. I'm playing a fighter who's so good and noble it makes your teeth hurt. And I keep being all chivalrous at Natosha's elf. Hee hee.

Giving my Toastmasters speech in just over an hour. Brain useless. Bleah.

Tonight, Jon and I are getting together with our friend Dave to have a photo shoot. It should be fun. Dave knows everything. He even used to own a printing company. That's kinda relevant.

If you're the same kind of geek that I am, you'll enjoy these constructed languages links:

I did it. I did it! I sat still for about an hour and had plaster of paris strips applied to my face. I've got the beginnings of a Halloween mask. I can't wait! (And the division of Dell I belong to likes to have costume contests and dress-up days. This'll knock their socks off.)

Also, I've signed up to give my third Toastmasters speech on Tuesday. The talk will cover physics, physiology, and philosophy. My topic? The ear!

(Making use of my major every time I can...)

Last weekend: the Texas Renaissance Festival with Natosha and the entire Texas contingent of the Gibbs clan. We got quite rained on, finally justifying my moving that huge wool cloak, taking up a whole box by itself, to Texas from Pennsylvania. I was nice and toasty.

We had a great time watching the Fakespearean players, Sound and Fury, in their production of Testaclese and the Sack of Rome. (*cough*) Their website has a cool, addicting message board that they, the players themselves, often post to. They're cute, clever, and vegan. What more could you want?

Driving to work this morning, I realized it was only 12 hours after I had left the evening before. And then I realized that I didn't mind. I'd been turning over my programming puzzle all night anyway; now I'd just get to go see if I'd figured it out.

This, my friends, is bliss.

Walking out of the grocery store, Jon and I spotted a "Last Day to Register to Vote" sign. Our steps slowed in unison. We glanced at each other. We envisioned a country run by George dubya Bush. With a singularity of thought, we registered.

What an international week I'm having! I'm attending a class on SQL (database), and there's no refrigerator available to us, so I'm resigned to eating out all week. I've hooked up with four of the other students, and we've been trying all the different restaurants around here. Monday was Chinese; Tuesday, Thai; and Wednesday was Korean (with sushi! eek). Today, we're debating between Mexican and Indian. (It wouldn't be a big deal—just do one today and the other tomorrow—but one of our group is Indian, so she won't eat during the day on Friday (is this every Friday, or something special about 10/6?). It will probably be Mexican today, since she's been wanting to try it all week, and Indian food is kinda old hat for her.) Austin is so cool.

When the radio kept announcing the Barenaked Ladies concert, I had no idea they meant it was this soon. It's today! ...and I don't have any tickets. *sniff*

(Do you know how hard it is to find a link to that band without pulling up a lot of embarrassing sites you don't want fellow computer classmates noticing over your shoulder? Yeesh.)

I also ended up sitting in the parking lot with my radio on for about 10 minutes (ate my breakfast) to hear just who it was who deserved so much hype and drama about holding a concert this weekend. Heh.

We already saw that concert, also in San Antonio, back a few months ago (and you read about it here first, folks).

The "happy hour" invite turned out to be on the up-and-up (oh, well), and I had a nice time. Duane, the invitor, treated for everybody. I did not abuse this as much as I could have. I'm just nice that way.

The callig workshop went well, but nobody but Beckie and the host showed up. Call it a good practice run, then. And Beckie still gave me a nifty pair of scrapbooking scissors and a template for my troubles.

Calligraphy class tomorrow. Yay!

My friend and co-worker Beckie has gotten me hooked on this addictive hobby of scrapbooking. (I'm glad, though, because now I'm archiving my photos, and in a way that's fun for other people to look at, too.) People stress about their writing, when it comes to scrapbooking, and I happened to notice that Creative Memories' "bold tip" markers are actually the chisel edge that's perfect for calligraphy, and they're the size of a C-3 nib, which is the size I use most often. So I made a pitch to Beckie, and here I am teaching a calligraphy-for-scrapbooking (a.k.a., "Neat Printing") class tomorrow. I've been promised "neat scrapbooking goodies." ^_^ Should be a good time.

And a co-worker, not in my immediate team but a member of the business side that we, as programmers, make products for, asked me to join him and some others for "happy hour." (Business professionals use the term "happy hour"?) So I've said yes, since it will be a good opportunity to meet more of the business side and improve the I/T to Business relationship (which is my project in our Employee Retention Corrective Action Team). A little paranoid piece of me is waiting to see if anyone besides the invitor actually shows up. I can't get a read on this guy. I just talk about Jon a lot and how I live with him and all.

At Ben's on Sunday, after playing some rounds of Dungeons and Dragons: Third Edition and after eating more home-made bread and cookies than any human should, we watched Cannibal: The Musical, a Rogers and Hammerstein-style musical about the only American to be convicted of cannibalism, with the unlikely writer, director, producer, and star, Tray Parker, co-creator of South Park. I was reminded of my friend Carmen's masterpiece, Red Zone Cuba: The Musical, the only musical about the Bay of Pigs Invasion.

"It's a Shpadoinkal Day" (Cannibal) and "Ruby, Where's the Tungsten Mine?" (Red Zone Cuba) are competing for Most Likely to Get Annoyingly Lodged in Your Head. Oh, how I suffer.

Lexical Accessing:

Since Saturday, I had been struggling with what to call the thingy that Toastmasters gave me for placing second in the contest. It has writing on it, but it isn't really a plaque. It stands up and has depth, but it isn't a statue, because it isn't shaped like a person.

Finally, yesterday, the word rushed into my brain like a college student late for an exam: Trophy!


My life is filled with so many synchronicities.

At work, I'm humming while I go through an on-line training module. I am humming "No One Is Alone" from Into the Woods. To amuse myself while trudging through this training module, I fire up AOL Instant Messenger and am surprised to discover that Jerry, an old friend from high school, is on. He is likewise thrilled to see me (though he gushes a bit more than I do). I had been thinking of him this morning, while trying to gauge how big a guest list I'll probably have for my wedding next year. Jerry tells me he works for a Broadway production company... the one that is doing Into the Woods. (And the cow prop, Milky White, is sitting 10 feet from his desk. Guess they get a lot of bull there, too.)

And then he tells me that I am the person who got him interested in Broadway shows, now a significant part of his life. He tells me he remembers talking on the phone together, listening to Les Miserables.

Lastly, while searching for an Into the Woods link for this post, I found a band named that, located in... central Pennsylvania.


This past weekend was the Toastmasters Area-level humorous speech contest, which I competed in because I won our Club-level contest. I won second place at the Area-level, and that's just ducky with me. The woman who won first really did an excellent job, and now I don't need to go to the District-level, which is a relief.

Jon played along at the contest, participating in the non-competition Table Topics activity they used to fill time before lunch. He did a great job; everyone gave him lots of compliments. The way Table Topics works is that you're given a prompt and then have one to two minutes to talk about it, unprepared and off-the-cuff. For this day's activity, each speaker drew a "hard" word from a bag and then gave a (probably made-up) definition and used the word as their topic. Jon drew "ankh." We're too much of geeks not to know that word, but he made up a fun definition anyway: a pygmy, two-foot tall elephant from India.

In other news, we went shopping for Halloween mask supplies on Saturday (yay!), and my African violets (gift from Dad) have started blooming (double yay!). I'll be taking an SQL database class next week, which should help me feel slightly qualified for my job. Our friend Ben got the new Dungeons and Dragons edition, recently revamped and re-released by Wizards of the Coast (now an arm of Hasbro, the Unstormable Citadel of Fun (thanks to Jeremy B. for that title)), so on Sunday I played (here's a big surprise) a halfling rogue (barely indistinguishable from an elven thief). Yay, geekdom.

The Mix 94.7 Retrofest was on Saturday, before the Party At Bruce Sterling's House (see below). It was fun, though the local, modern band Dysfunction Junction had more energy and played more songs we knew than the 80s bands we were there for.

And poor Flock of Seagulls. I believe the term we used in the 80s, before the current "poseur," was "wannabe." In their defense, it was awfully hot out.

Bleah, time for a new poll. Results of my Shameless R&D are that two folks haven't ever bought a copy of Monopoly (1 under $10 and 1 over $50). The other five voters figured it should be $20 to $25, which is what we'd been thinking would be reasonable.

Now, then, let's have something more fun, shall we?

A party at Bruce Sterling's house. *ahem* A Party At Bruce Sterling's House.

And I was there. He lives in Austin. How cool is that?!

Oh, Jon came, too.

And then on Sunday, we celebrated our friend Chris's (1 of many) birthday with a barbecue (but not that barbecue). It was much fun. And we gave Chris a DVD of The Dark Crystal, which I am deciding, more and more, was a really awesome gift.

Which reminds me that I hadn't mentioned that Jon got converted from a contractor to a full Apple employee the other day and will soon be purchasing a DVD-playing "snow" iMac with his 25% discount.

[Sharon waits on hold...] You know that "Your call will be answered in the order in which it was received" schtick you get when you're on hold? You know why it sounds dumb? Because single items aren't in any order. They should say, "Calls are answered in the order in which they're received," or, better still, "Calls are answered in order," preferably followed by, "and we'll get to yours as soon as possible."

But anything's better than today's entry: "Your call will be answered in the order it was received."

Nectarine pits make for good, low-tech gore.


I took an organizer class yesterday. They gave me a planner and a four-hour class on how to use it. "Four hours?" you say? Yep. And well worth it. Clutter is off my desk, I know where everything is, and I know what I need to do and when I have time to do it.

I feel in control.

And tomorrow is Mix 94.7's Retrofest, with the great 80s bands Flock of Seagulls, Wang Chung, The Outfield, and The Knack. Aaaaaannnnd, my awesome friend Ben won four free tickets (on two separate attempts) and is taking us. How cool is that?

And then 20 minutes after 5, it's sunny.

Stupid Texas weather. 20 minutes to go on our bet, and then it pours.

I'm cold.

We have a friendly wager going on in the office. The weather report predicted a 40% chance of rain today, and the sky, during our staff meeting this morning, was all gray and forboding. On the other hand, lamenting about one's parched, dying lawn is a recreational activity for Texans. It doesn't rain often.

So the bet is thus: If it rains, right here, in this part of Austin, on our parking lot, before 5:00, then those of us who said it wouldn't (me, included), have to go outside and play in the rain for five minutes (this is losing?). If it doesn't rain, then the rain predictors have to provide bagels for our next staff meeting.

'Course, I can't see a window from my cube...

I won. I won! Our Toastmasters club had a club contest, and in the humorous speech category, I won.

I feel all the more important because they gave me a snazzy, hefty medal that I don't know how to hang in my cube.

I talked about my old roommate Marci and how I tried to pull a stunt she had used to cook a frozen pizza with a toaster. (Hers was on the floor, with a paper towel in front of it. Mine was, um, up on a table, with nuthin' but air in front of it.) It's a fun story that I enjoy telling. I guess that helped.

Anywho, wow. And yay, me.

I'm underappreciated, I tell you. *ahem*...

After you eat a lot, you should increase your kinetic energy. After you drink a lot, you should decrease your potential energy.

Ahead of my time, ahead of my time.

Boy, oh boy. First a blinky star and then 200 stock options!

I got a blinky star! (You got a what? A blinky star!)

Today is Dell's all-employee event (36,000 Dell employees, 50,000 UT students on their first day of class, Austin's deficient highway infrastructure. Ugh.), so each team is doing things to identify itself. The theme of the event is Wild, Wild E (as in Dell's new Dell-E-com branding), so western hoo-hah has been in abundance this month. As a member of the IT department, I got a snazzy, long-sleeve, embroidered denim shirt; a straw coyboy hat (no comment); a glow-stick necklace to use as a hat band (pre-snapped, so no longer glowing); and just now: a red bicycle-reflector star with a blinky light inside! Plus, we've been promised the opportunity to see Michael Dell in chaps.

Man, oh man.

I finally feel compelled to link to another blog simply because the person behind it has such wonderful things to say, in such a wonderful manner.

Feng shui isn't so hard, when you remember the most basic tenet: If the space makes you feel good, it's right.

We're using our Ikea furniture (and way cool paper lamps) to create a warm conversation space in our living room. Last night, we put up the Ivar (Ikea's modular pine system) bookcase and put books and stuff (including our galloping horse sculpture, a gift from my old boss, Dr. Kuo, symbolizing the way our success should go charging forward) on the shelves. The set-up uses three of the Ivar end-pieces, so it makes two sets of shelves, side by side. Like this: [|] The shelves on the two sides don't line up, so we don't have any harsh horizontal lines across it. Then, to make interesting space and to display our knick-knacks in a way that doesn't make them look like cluttered knick-knacks, we would fill a shelf most of the way with books, but leave a space at one end or the other for some special item (like the horse, or my little stuffed Tigger). It was very much like laying out a two-column newspaper story with pictures; both deal with flow.

We're using the Ivar-built coffee table (only way to get one low enough to sit at) to form a boundary between the living room and the now-extant hallway. That makes the living room into this cozy little space in front of the fireplace. We'll fill it with big pillows, and everybody can come over to lounge on the floor with us. ^_^

Either my readership has increased, or my audience prefers silly polls. The results of the choco-vote are three for dark, five for milk, and a surprising six for white. Who says you can't learn things from the internet?

So please, if you would, take a crack at my new poll.

I gave my first Toastmasters speech today! The first in the workbook is the "ice breaker," so I had to talk about *me* for four to six minutes. But it went really well. Everybody gave me very pleasant feedback, and I won the "best speaker" ribbon (out of three) for today. ^_^

With a rebel yell, she cried, "IKEAAAAAA!"

I am such a nerd. But it's fun stuff. Jon and I went to Ikea in Houston last weekend. We got a bunch of cool stuff, including some Ivar pieces, but they were out of stock of some of the components, so we'll have to go back. Still, it won't be long before I'm comfortable having guests over; it's starting to look like a home.

Woah. Just the other day, my poll had no votes for white chocolate, and today it has *four*. Jon, are you skewing the results?

Family Values:

A while ago, I was reading Drawing on the Funny Side of the Brain, by Christopher Hart, about drawing comic strips. (It actually detailed variations in graphical elements like stance and facial features that were inherently more funny than others. Fascinating, even for the non-artist, which I am.) Hart discussed how the topics in successful comic strips have to remain pretty conservative and run-of-the-mill. The primary readership of the funny pages is in the senior-citizen range, and people don't like to be challenged or shocked at 7 in the morning over their toast and coffee. I remember when many papers dropped For Better or For Worse when Lynn Johnston brought one of her characters out of the closet.

Suddenly today (Microwaves are great for introspection. Ovens give you enough time to go off and do something else; microwaves are fast enough that you might as well stand there and think.), I remember The Lockhorns, the most offensive comic strip—consistently so, too—that I have ever read. It's about a dysfunctional married couple who hate each other. That's the comedic conflict. That's the whole gag. Over and over and over and...

I stopped reading it years ago, when I got old enough to realize that I didn't have to read every strip on the pages and that some were never going to be funny (at least Mark Trail tells a story. Slowly.). And yet The Lockhorns continues to run, while more interesting, more touching, and better scripted strips receive nasty letters and get dropped.

(Simply my opinion, but it seems that all the crappy strips come from King Features, while a lot of gems are syndicated by United Media.)

This is part of why I love on-line comic strips. There is no syndicate. There are no advertisers to appease. The readership can be counted on to be more liberal and more willing to simply not visit a site that irritates them, rather than to feel the need to squash it out of existance.

Plan Nine Publishing carries a bunch of great on-line features. I read regularly:

And I recently picked up Clan of the Cats, about a 20-something were-panther witch (I can relate). Jon regularly reads Sin Fest, which takes regular pot shots at religion and pets.

(Since we're talking about comics) The Best Ever (*sniff*): Calvin and Hobbes.


On Friday, I sold my 90 Nissan Stanza to a mechanic at the Nissan shop for $400. With that, I bought a vacuum cleaner, a stereo, three floor pillows, five Brita water filters, and lunch for two. There's still enough left to get the craft table I want.

I learned to drive in that car. Sigh...

I bought a car on Saturday. I have my very own red 97 Honda Accord EX. Last night, Jon and I drove down I-35 singing along to the B-52s with the sun roof open to the cool, post-rain night air. It was the most fun I've ever had driving in Austin.

I like my car.

Woo Hoo! Spent last night in my new apartment, got up at 6:45 this morning, and arrived at work at 8:05! And I don't feel like I need to kill anyone (I don't have to drive on IH 35 anymore). There's a millipede issue, but I plan to tell the management about that today. And we've got a whole nother room. Yay!

The Reunion Tour was a lot of fun. We didn't get to spend quite enough time with anybody, but that's preferable to feeling like you spent too much time with them, right?

Tuesday, July 4

Still in Austin, we attended my friend Dave's fajita barbecue party. Jon was thrilled because he got to fulfill his life-long dream: float in a pool under a clear summer sky with a margarita on his tummy. Dave made guacamole from scratch, and that was fantastic, too. It was a good way to start the vacation.

July 5 - July 7

Flew into Philadelphia and took a shuttle to Grandma Sandy's. On Thursday, she finalized the sale of her house to one of her tenants, becoming a tenant herself, so she was practically clicking her heels together. We hung out with her and the new house owners, Marge and Ken, drinking espresso, eating brownies, and admiring Ken's paintings and sculptures. Grandma seems to be doing well, and my hug reservoir is a little more full.

Friday, July 7

Took a Septa train back to Philadelphia to see my college friends Jen and Melissa. They've got a regular menagerie: two cats, four birds, two dogs (one of whom is a stray they are trying to find a home for; I'll get the Pet Finder link from home and post it later), and they have become rather serious fish breeders, so they have about 10 tanks. Oh, and I forgot the toad. Jen and Melissa looked successful and happy, and I learned a lot about fish breeding.

Saturday, July 8

Jen and Melissa drove us up to Allentown. We saw my parents' new house, in the process of being built. Um... big. Really big. And it's got great ceilings and a commanding view of the valley. I think they'll like it. Also on Saturday, we attended a picnic at "Leandra's Grandma's" just like old times. It was great chatting with Myra, Linda, Leandra and Gene, Leandra's brother Stephen, and my friend Steve and his new wife (!!!). (One notable absense, Jerry.) That was a great picnic—it was like nothing had changed there. Well, except for the wife part. And Leandra wasn't married in high school. And...oh, nevermind.

Sunday, July 9

At this point, Mom lent me her sports car, so travelling became a lot more fun. We drove out to Brooklyn, and Faith took us for a ride in her very own plane. I was so impressed, watching my own friend flying a whole plane, all by herself. We couldn't take the long tour of the Twin Towers that Faith had wanted because we passengers were too heavy. That's okay, though. The short flight was more suited to my bravery level. Maybe next time, though. It sure was incredible to be up there.

Also, Faith looked fantastic. She told me her hair cut was from a salon in State College (Joe at Looks Hair Design on Calder Way), so I got a cut there myself, later in the week; I'm quite pleased with it (finally!). Jen and Melissa (and Anna and Tango) joined us in Brooklyn, and Faith had a friend, Christian, visiting, so we all stayed up late talking, which was much fun, of course. Christian and Jon talked tech geek to each other (Faith and I agreed this was quite sexy). And Faith's futon proved to be the best bed accomodations we got outside of a hotel.

Monday - Wednesday

Off to State College. Saw my former boss and had lunch with the old gang from the lab and the new secretary (my replacement—well, actually, my replacement's replacement). I like being a programmer. Also hung out with my old roommate, Jer, and some of our LARPing friends. I hadn't realized how good the live-action role-playing scene in State College is until I came to Austin. I miss the old game. Visited Charlie and Dave at the Creative Oasis and confirmed that they are doing well and getting ready for Arts Fest. Friends I met through Jon threw us a big picnic on Tuesday, which was awesome. People cooked really fancy stuff; I was impressed. (And Dax brought the popsicles, an essential at a Jon-picnic, of course.) It was a great party. Had an early breakfast with Catherine and caught up on all the doings of Four Quarters Farm. Seems everybody is really thriving. Also on Wednesday, I got a hair cut. I still like it, which is such a relief. Didn't manage to see Fred, which makes me sad. Sorry, buddy.

Wednesday to Friday

We returned to Philadelphia to visit with Jon's mother and also to see Jon's old pals Frank Truelove and Rick (The Odd Couple, though it's hard to figure out which one is the neat one). I saw some old photos of Jon (baby geek. tee hee) and got trounced at Chinese Checkers by his mom. She took very good care of us. Finally meeting the infamous Frank Truelove was a hoot; we talked about gaming and business, and he challenged me to find out the name of the infinity symbol (He gave me the answer on a folded piece of paper, but that would be cheating.).

Friday to Sunday

Friday we drove down to Ocean Pines, MD, which is near Ocean City, and caught up with my parents. Saturday was the Cichelli-Sweetman family reunion. Those folks are always a lot of fun, but the reunion was so short. My grandparents, parents, cousins, aunts and uncles, Jon and I went out for seafood (or chicken, if you're a Sharon) and then off to the boardwalk. My California cousins, Dianne and Joan, were quite in their element on the boardwalk; we won a number of tacky stuffed animals. Sunday, my grandfather's family assembled for brunch, and then it was over and I was on my way, until the next three-year reunion.

My parents, with their his- and hers-Stealths drove me and Jon, respectively, up to our hotel in Philadelphia. We stayed at a Microtel, which was quite nice and very reasonably priced; I recommend it.

Monday ...

Weather cancelled flights, we were stuck in Houston (without our luggage!) over night, Continental did not impress me. Then my car was dead, with engine and rack-and-pinion damage, probably coincidentally, rather than because of our trip. Bleah. But, I'm back at work (they didn't mind much that I was two days late), our new apartment did not get rented in the time it was put on the market because the manager didn't get our message that our flight was cancelled, and my mechanic at Nissan got me a discounted rate for an Enterprise rental car (and all they had was a Lincoln Town Car. *snark*).

Random thought that may be useful to me later: "It's a web, web, web, web world."

Here's a list of the movies I've seen recently, as a reminder to myself to comment on them: Tombstone (neat), Dead Again (sweet), Being John Malkovich (challenging), Arlington Road (distressing).

I had an amusing realization while discussing M:I-2 with Jon. Ethan Hunt (Cruise) puts together the perfect D&D adventuring party. He's the Fighter: unimpeachable morals, extreme physical dexterity, cute as a button. The girl is the Thief (no duh). Then he's got the computer whiz, dressed in impractical clothing and kept far from the skirmishes, yet absolutely essential for clearing away the opposition to let the hero in: The Mage. Finally, the cute Australian guy, who is a reasonable fighter but is mostly used for his disguises and tracking skills, is clearly the Ranger. Some formulae work, ya know? (But I lost count of the rip-the-mask-off-to-reveal-I'm-the-bad-guy bits and couldn't help thinking, "And I would have gotten away with it, too, if it hadn't been for those meddling kids.")

On Sunday, I performed the most effective rain-summoning ritual I have ever witnessed.

We scrubbed my car with tar and bug remover (made by Gunk), packed up the hoses and such, and went inside to let it dry so I could then wax it. Within ten minutes--ten minutes--it started to pour.

And to think, Austin officials put restrictions against washing your car in drier months.

I made a cup of coffee in the break room at the end of the hall. I then walked the entire length of the hallway, back to my desk, over 100 paces, with a full cup of coffee, trying desperately not to sneeze.

Oh, the adventurous life I lead.

The sky is much more salient in my life now (as is traffic, but never mind that).

And speaking of Martha Stewart [pillow-bomf on the head from Jon], I went to a scrapbooking party (like a tupperware party) last night. I'm totally ashamed of myself, but I thought it was really fun. I bought some of the simpler supplies (I've been wanting a photo-safe album for many years) and went to town. I took photos of Tameka's wedding out of the stupid Wal-Mart sleeves I had them in, trimmed here and cropped there, and created a beautiful page that showcases the photos and includes a long essay on my part in the wedding and my feelings about my best friend. Ten years from now, I'm gonna sit down with her, and we'll laugh and cry over it all over again. And sixty years from now...

I'm totally hooked on this new hobby.

Have you ever had one of those semi-dreams, just as you're falling asleep, that you're falling, so you jerk your body to catch yourself, waking yourself up? (Just-falling-asleep dreams are hypnagogic hallucinations.) I had one last night, but instead of falling, I dreamt I was slammed in the face with something really heavy, like a wrecking ball. That triggered the hit-in-the-face reflex of jerking backward, which I did with no small amount of force. Good thing Jon wasn't spooning too close. Yikes.

Aunt Joanne put me onto the idea of a family website. I'm psyched. Ideas I've had so far are:

  • password-protected page of real-world contact info

  • links for email and personal websites

  • posting of Granddad's monthly newsletter

  • weblog for which we are all members

  • photo album

  • gift registry application, if I can get database access from somewhere (Dad?)

  • space to host individuals' pages under the cichelli.net domain name

I intend to get an account or use part of my 300Mb with ev1.net, which is $10/month (good service, gang! Quick response on tech support, too.). And I also plan to register www.cichelli.net through www.DomainMonger.com for $17/year (less if you sign up for more years). (I think I'll snag one for myself, too.)

I'm so pumped. This is neat. I should be able to make some headway on this on Saturday, after I book travel reservations for the reunion.

No, no. September, 2001. We'll get hitched then. This way, I can get all the friends (from all over the dang world, these days) there I want. And we have time to rent the zoot-suit tuxedo from the tux shop on Pleasant Valley. Yay!

Thinking about this wedding thing, I've got a bit of a song from The Muppets Take Manhattan in my head: "Because you have a love so big, I now pronounce you Frog and Pig." Jon identifies with Kermit, and I've had a few hi-yahs in my day.

I've developed a to-do list, which I won't bore you with here, and I've found the colors I'd like to suggest:

orange cream and lavender orange cream and lavender

As for a gift registry, I intend to post a list of things we'd find useful and provide an electronic guestbook to allow visitors to tell each other what they're getting. We won't look at the guestbook. I think this is a pretty good solution: those who want to can be sure they're not duplicating gifts.

I'll get informal invitations out before the end of this week.

Two more movies this weekend.

Gray's Anatomy: Spalding Gray is still awesome, but he sure is a fruitbat. Stories of eye injuries are incredibly difficult to listen to. This one is enjoyable for fans, but probably a turn-off for the non-initiated. Start with Swimming to Cambodia, instead.

Meet Joe Black: I never would have rented this, but a friend from work recommended it, and he's got oddball tastes in movies. I always figure Brad Pitt will be inept because everybody thinks he's pretty. I'm amending my opinion: I think he's pretty, and he's really quite talented. Anthony Hopkins is in this, too, so--wow. It's just about three hours long, so it made itself an afternoon's event, but I'm glad I invested the time. I enjoyed the premise, the execution, and the actors. [Attn: Mild Spoiler] It ended on an all-okay-in-the-end note, which I found disappointing. It had its happy ending; it didn't need the extra manipulation to give it a sparkly, perky ending. The writer in me objects; the girl in me is quite pleased.

The sane solution seems to be to effect the marriage during the reunion trip in July. This makes me happy.

Please check out our travel itinerary to help us make this trip work, especially if I'm thinking you'll be driving us somewhere.

So, for the sake of covering Jon on my health plan, I'm researching marriage licenses. In case you're wondering, the process seems to be thus: get a marriage license from the County Clerk's Office; wait the waiting period; before the license expires, get married by a Justice of the Peace or a County Court of Law. I'll keep you posted as this develops.

And for the brides who obviously don't work and can dilate time, Martha Stewart's wedding tips.

Oh, I know, I'll just hand address all these invitations...

"Dreams are maps." -- Carl Sagan

From Space Art in Children's Books 1950s-1970s, posted to Invisible Broadcast System by Jeremy.

[tap, tap] *cough* Is this thing on? [weeeooooo]

Dell made me an offer!

As a programmer, no less. This is the opportunity I was looking for. Things are awesome. Conversations with my honey now include words like "health insurance" and "stock options" (that one has a particularly nice ring to it). This is a great chance to learn a lot (a daunting lot, at that) and tackle new challenges.

I'm pumped.

Woo hoo! I'm an actor again. Through some of our new friends, Jon and I joined a community theatre troupe, Vagabond Repertory Theatre (VRT). On Saturday, this group performed short skits and comedy improv at the Cedar Chopper Festival (chainsaw sculpture is not conducive to theatre, but what else would you expect?) in Cedar Park, Texas. I had a whole mess of fun.

Experience, harsh teacher that she is, allows me to offer this lesson: When planning to hop around in the sun all day being funny, even if it's cloudy in the morning, wear your sunblock. (ouch)

Now, some of the promised reviews. Office Space was better than I'd expected, and Pushing Tin was not as good.

Office Space: I keep expecting to dislike Mike Judge's work (Beavis and Butthead, which I could do without, and King of the Hill, which surprises me with its cleverness and sincerity), but Office Space does not resort to farsical slapstick—it develops its characters and tells a complete story. And Judge totally pegged working for an IT firm in Austin; he has clearly sat in the same traffic jams I have, and I've had a ghetto kid try to sell me magazines at least *three times*. It was cute; it was funny for a fellow Austinite; I think the humor will play well for anyone stuck in a cubicle farm. And it has a happy ending: What more could you want?

Pushing Tin: I was expecting a comedy, and it wasn't. It especially suffered for following Office Space. But it's still worth seeing. John Cusack again. I don't think I'll ever get bored with him. But he's playing a jerk again (after High Fidelity). Maybe he's being an anti-hero; it's easier to like the antagonist. The main thought I came away with, though, is: "My goodness, I hope air traffic controlling isn't actually done that way." But I have a nagging fear it is.

Perhaps the novelty will wear off eventually, but we've watched two more movies on our new TV and VCR this week.

The Muse: Skip it. Sharon Stone and Andie MacDowell are as delightful as always. Jeff Bridges is weird, but I like him. Albert Brooks whined a lot, but he made it work relatively well. But the script... There are lots of topical (read: "soon to be obsolete") references to the film industry, and there are some fun cameos that you need to be really in-the-know to get (I wouldn't have recognized Martin Scorsese if it weren't for Animaniacs). And then there's the ending—or lack thereof. The film is strolling along, then some twists and conflict are introduced, and then the credits are rolling. --wha? It ends so abruptly I can only guess that it suffered from thought-of-the-ending-first syndrome: The writer gets an idea for a twist ending, tries to craft a plot that leads up to it, realizes he's meandering far too slowly, and quickly dashes through the last steps to the brilliant and surprising finish. There's a brief shot of Sharon Stone's well-crafted behind, and that's about all there is to recommend this film.

Run Lola Run: Oh, yes. Yes. It's about entropy, it's about choices, it's about quantum physics—all wrapped up in a visually captivating and admirably aerobic sprint. It's German, with subtitles, which I didn't realize until the opening credits rolled by, auf Deutsch. The style is clearly not-American, which I appreciated. Australian films (such as Muriel's Wedding and Strictly Ballroom) have their own signature feel, as do the French films I've seen, Delicatessen and City of Lost Children (granted, same director); Run Lola Run was my first glimpse at a German movie. And I liked it—kept my heart rate up the whole time.

Many things to review... Before the nose-wrecker, we saw American Beauty. Then, on Saturday Jon and I bought a TV and VCR, if you can believe it, so we have, in the past two days, watched Office Space, Pushing Tin, and Shakespeare in Love. Tuesday, we saw Delicatessen. I will post reviews of these bit by bit over the next few days.

With my handy poll, I was able to determine that, among my grand readership of four, 75% of you wanted a meatier question. I hope this Elian Gonzalez poll satisfies that desire. As for that one soul who wanted more orange: Here ya go!

'Sides, it's quality, not quantity, that matters, right?

A doughnut would improve my morale.

Little did I know that college would be the last time I'd have free time. Funny how I'd believed the opposite.

Hey, what is it about April? At least two of my friends are in a bad state of malaise, and I'm not singing in the produce aisle, either. Winter blahs?

I've decided to stick my head in the sand for a while. ...into the sand of the virtual world and, therefore, poking out into the real world. Absent here so I can be present there.

There's something deep lurking in that idea...

Yay! The Very Hungry Caterpillar! Sunday, Jon and I went to a puppet-show rendition of my all-time favorite book, performed by the Mermaid Theatre at the Paramount. It was so much fun, and they did it just right. After the performance, the puppeteers came out and answered kids' questions. It was an evening filled with wiggling and giggling and much eating (especially on Saturday). Tee hee hee.

How do you get to be 24 without learning how to eat an orange?

I don't know, but nobody ever taught me. I tried a new method today. I have filed it under: Failure.

At least they make my cubicle smell nice.

I finally got my photos page moved over to my current site. It needs a smidge of housecleaning, but 4+ browsers will view it fine. After posting it last night, I remembered that I was missing a lot of the photo links from my old site. I'll get them up there soon, maybe tonight.

So this was surprising. NPR interviewed Gov. Jesse Ventura, and he was fun to listen to. He can certainly hold his own in a debate, and his answers are startlingly honest--startling because they sound like a real person's, yet they're coming from a politician. He actually came out and stated his stance on a number of issues. He's got real opinions, and he tells you what they are.

...and I found myself agreeing with many of them. Maybe we should elect more wrestlers. The OWOW organization is shamefully untapped.

Yipe. Jeremy is not only reading my blog, but picking points of it to debate with me. Follow suit.

And speaking of Jeremy, it is now officially Invisible City Productions, Inc., thanks to Jon.

First a real tech writer job at Dell and now member of the board of directors of a corporation. When am I gonna get found out?

In my media experiences post, I forgot to mention seeing Brazil, directed by Terry Gilliam. (There's an American release that you should never, ever watch. Get the European version.)

Beurocratic dystopia. I'd like to talk about the ending of the movie, so skip the rest of this post if you want to go see the movie first. I mean it. Here comes the ending. .........still here? Okay. So all hopes are dashed as we learn that Sam's dramatic escape was just a delusional fantasy. And, if you've flouted my advice and seen the American release, you know that Universal decided that ending was not commercial enough and Sam should get the girl and live happliy ever after, blah, blah, blah. No! Don't you see? In that society, dissenters will always be hunted, especially those who might be off having a nicer life than the beurocrats. Sam found the only true escape--he, alone, is truly free, beyond the Ministry of Information's grasp: He has retreated to the perfect world inside his skull. He doesn't have to run, or hide under the couch every time there's a knock at the door, or bite his fingernails to the knuckles when Jill goes out for a quart of milk. He wins!

Would this be the first time that Universal Studios completely fails to get it? I think not.

It's been a great few days for media experiences. Bucky, the Buckminster Fuller play at the Zachary Scott Theater, was wonderful, moving, and inspiring. Jon was hoping for more about his inventions, but I enjoyed that it was about his ideas. The most important lesson I'm currently aware of absorbing is that, to excise limited, outmoded thinking, you must become conscious of and then shun old-fashioned language. The words "up" and "down" perpetuate the notion of a flat earth. Try saying "in" and "out" for a day.

Last night, Jon and I actually splurged for a movie--paying full ticket price in a theater, of all things. Luckily, High Fidelity was worth it. We're big fans of John Cusack, and this movie is pretty much his monologue. Tim Robbins, whom I can never get enough of, also makes a delightfully hateable appearance. Of course, you can't have a movie co-directed and co-produced by John Cusack without seeing sister Joan, and we love her, too. And, though you wouldn't guess it from what I've said here, the film even has merit outside of its cast. Cusack's Rob is endearing yet hard to like (mostly, he needs a cosmic smack upside the head), and the film is an unsympathetic look at co-dependence. I think Rob finally gets his emotio-mental act together, but I'm not sure I'd ever label him healthy. Makes me feel better about myself, anyway.

And if you've ever owned a retail store that attracts fans, geeks, and collectors (I think I was laughing more at Jon than at John), this film will strike a chord. I watched these three dysfunctionals (Rob and his two, um, friends) and thought, "Geez, I *know* these guys."

Yeah, go see it.

I love using a language that has such a specific word as akimbo. It is an adjective that means having your hands on your hips with your elbows bent and aimed out, showing that you're impatient or annoyed. Unless you get metaphorical, the only thing that can be akimbo are arms. How odd.

I'm going to see a play about Buckminster Fuller tomorrow. I love this town.

From the It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time Department:

Dell has changed its branding from "Be Direct" to "Dell E Com" (no comment). This comes with a new logo that has the old DELL (with the turned E), then a floating blue ball with a crooked E on it (complete with shadow underneath it), and then a gray COM. To promote its new branding, Dell has given each of us a styrofoam E-ball car-antenna topper, I guess to make it easy to find our cars in the Dell parking lot.

They're wonderfully aerodynamic.

Again from NPR, quoting someone important whose name I have forgotten:

Perfection is achieved, not when nothing can be added, but when nothing can be taken away.

Earlier I discussed Neverwhere and the Harry Potter books; I suggested that a possible explanation for their popularity is that they propose a hidden world, implying that this isn't all there is.

Last night, from a bus window, I was watching people in the pools of lights in front of buildings going about various tasks, and I was struck by the notion that so many of my fellow travellers are cold, lonely, and sad. Continuing that theme, I heard on NPR this afternoon an interview with the authors of a book on Nietsche, who suggested that people need to believe in heaven when they are not satisfied with their existance here.

You will never enjoy the party you're at if you spend the whole evening thinking the party down the street might be having more fun.

It is a cool, sunshiney day in Austin, and the air is so bright and clear it makes you squint. The wildflowers are incredible. Yes: heaven.

I've always been fuzzy on disinterested versus uninterested, so I thought I'd post a blog entry and clear it up for both you and me. Merriam-Webster's on-line dictionary reports an interesting usage history for these two words (found under the entry for disinterested).

Prescriptive grammar snobs will scold you and tell you that disinterested means unbiased and uninterested means bored. M-W tells us this is not entirely accurate. The two words used to have the opposite meanings. During the 18th century they swapped, taking on the senses I listed above. Early in the 20th century, the bored sense of disinterested experienced a revival, which is now attacked as "incorrect."

This is as good a forum as any to express my opinion on prescriptive versus descriptive grammar. When you're being told rules you have to follow or else get labeled as wrong and ignorant, you're experiencing prescriptive grammar. Linguists, on the other hand, seek to develop a descriptive grammar, which sets down the rules you unconsciously follow as a native speaker. Some utterances that are grammatical in descriptive grammar are ungrammatical in prescriptive (splitting infinitives and ending with prepositions are two examples).

Dialects are not "wrong." They have their own grammars; they have coherent rule sets. Social bias is what labels a certain dialect as ungrammatical. Black English/African Vernacular/Ebonics is not agrammatical; however, it fails to comply with the rules of another dialect, SAE (Standard American English). If you'd like a good job in the US, you'd do well to learn the latter, not because it is "right," but because employers think it is. And this is at the heart of all the hubbub about getting Ebonics accepted as a "language" (I assert that it is a dialect instead). The real debate is (should have been) to get Ebonics acknowledged as equally valid as SAE, to make educators and the rest of the public stop telling black kids they're wrong and bad for the way they talk, and to get them to teach SAE as a second dialect, useful for getting along in mainstream white society.

Likewise, ASL (American Sign Language) (and all the other natural sign languages, for that matter) is not agrammatical. Deaf kids should be in ESL (English as a Second Language) classes, not speech classes or, worse yet, special ed/remedial/mentally retarded classes.

If you're interested in learning more on this topic, a college-level intro to linguistics class will address descriptive grammar, as will a text book for such a class. Look for LING 1 or 101. Also, you can chat with me about it further.

What a weekend! First, my friend Fred is visiting from State College, so we're trying to show him all the cool reasons he should move to Austin. He's actually thinking about it. Neat.

Saturday saw three great events. We visited the capitol (looks just like the National Capitol, except for the statue on top of a lady holding aloft a star...and that it's pink). It's open to the public--you can just walk in. It's really stunning inside, with mosaics on the floor representing the six flags that have flown over Texas, marble statues of Steve Austin and Sam Houston (everybody looks good in marble), paintings of all the governors of Texas (a few were women, yay!), and a view clear up the inside to the top of the dome. Wow.

In contrast to that bit of dignified history, we also attended the annual Spamarama. Oh, the rich cultural palette Austin has to offer. I tried many different dishes in the Spam cookoff contest, the last of which was an egregious error. The hairy men in drag, dressed like Girl Scouts with pig snouts (thereby becoming the Girl Snouts), should have clued me in. Failing that, the three Worst of Show trophies were a good hint. But, no. People started to cheer, men with pigtails and lipstick were tittering, and, really, they wouldn't serve me something horrendous, would they? Decide for yourself: Girl Scout cookie, Spam puree, rainbow sprinkles. I might have been alright had I chosen a shortbread; I went for the peanut butter and chocolate. Erm.

But Jon wins the Stupid Food Trick of the Day award in our household. He and Fred participated in the Spam Olympics: as a team in the Spam Toss, and just Jon in the Spam Put. And then Jon, bravely flying solo in the Spam Cram. The name of the event plus the lack of entrants should have warned him away. The contest is thus: How quickly can you eat the entire contents of a can of Spam (but still keep it down for two minutes)? At the two-minute mark, Jon had not finished, so they let him off the hook. The winner completed his ordeal in 47 seconds. Second place, at 1:03, gets the highest style points from me: a gentleman named Hutch, in his flannel shirt and trimmed beard, munched happily along, one hand in his pocket, after unassumingly stating, "My mom used to make it."

I consider Jon a success simply because he didn't hurl. It was touch-and-go for a while, and we left the event hastily to get him non-Spam-flavored food and a whole lot of water. Lots of people recognized him and congratulated him, even later that evening at the Paramount theater: "Hey, that's the guy!"

Which is the third thing we did on Saturday: Spalding Gray performed his new monologue, "Morning, Noon, and Night," at the Paramount. Funny and moving, brilliant as always. What a hoot to actually be there in person.

As for Sunday, we humored Ben and went out for Pho, which is Vietnamese soup. Yum. Then we took Fred out for a Texan treat: Amy's ice cream. Double yum. And, because of that stupid daylight savings time change nonsense, we were over an hour late for a meeting with the theatre troup we belong to. When are we going to abolish this anachronistic remnant that no longer serves any purpose other than disrupting sleep schedules and making everybody late to stuff in early April?

Ruminating on romance, I realize it has very little to do with roses and much more to do with sprinkling cinnamon on the applesauce you pack in your honey's lunch.

One of these takes art.

Jon conspired with AggieCon to get Rocky Horror Picture Show songs stuck in my head. Talk about inappropriate humming material for a cubicle farm.

I think the Space Program is neglecting some very promising avenues for development of inexpensive shuttles.

Mashed potatoes are alarmingly non-conductive. They take forever to get hot, but when they do, woo-nelly. Their reluctance to heat makes them an excellent candidate for heat shield technology.

Earlier, I described the potential for using raisins on mottled carpets as a propulsion technology. As explained by Newton's third law of motion, it doesn't matter whether you're dropping the raisin on the carpet or the carpet on the raisin. Therefore, I propose the creation of a raisin spring board. Carpet-covered shuttles (with mashed-potato undercarriages) could then be dropped upon it. They would bounce in a random, previously unforseen direction, as per the nature of raisins on carpets. In fact, if enough observers were to watch the falling shuttle closely enough, it might propell itself in a wholly atypical spatial dimension.

[Ed.'s note: In the midst of all this pseudo-science, I had a real scientific error: Where it now correctly cites Newton's third law of motion, I had previously called on the second law of thermodynamics, which, I remembered in a sudden explosion of memory the other night, deals with entropy. Nobody called me on it. Sheesh.]

Yay, fixed! (Well, except for that goofy table edge thing going on with IE4.) I needed to re-upload the images and the stylesheet--they were gone. *shrug*

Now that that's settled, time to think about what I'm really doing with this blog. I'd like to be witty, insightful, and poignant. That's not too much to tackle, is it? What do you want to see?

Jon, who actually reads newsy-type items, tells me that ev1, my ISP and webhost, was transferring servers and had asked us not to update our pages for a while. I see no such notice now, so I assume it is safe to blog again. I like ev1, by the way. They're inexpensive and reasonable. Texas only, though.

So AggieCon was a lot of fun. I got flyers made up in time and had fun distributing them around the flyer tables and such. I feel so important. I met neat people and got to listen to Terry Pratchett and Harlan Ellison, along with some Texas authors whom I am becoming familiar with through these cons. The Con Suite had great food. Radio Free Oz dj'ed the dance, and it was the most fun I've had at a con dance in a while. I made some new friends whom I did not have enough time to talk to—Eric, if you happen to stumble upon this site, say hi to me. It was a good con.

To attend the con, we stayed with our friend Ben and his family in Huntsville. They live on a ranch: vast expanse of land with huge, dark (but cloudy, this weekend) skies, big old pine trees, and horses! I got to say hi to the horses. I also rode through the mud in a Jeep and considered firing a rifle (too much mud; we would have sunk up to our knees--maybe next time). Ben's family is a lot of fun, and it felt so good to get out of the city.

*skritch, skritch* What on earth is going on? I view the page, and there is clearly no CSS and no images. I go somewhere else, then use the [Back] button, and the page looks fine. I hit the [Refresh] button, and it's back to blech. I'm so confused.

Aieee! What happened to my directory?! Everything that is called by the blog document is gone. Style sheets, images--all poof. And I'm not going to be able to fix it until Sunday. Oof.

Going to AggieCon tonight. Terry Pratchet and Harlan Ellison are guests. Woo! As a result of the last-minuteness of the decision, I'm dashing about trying to prepare Invisible City propaganda. The up-side is that I get a chance to try my hand at design.

More words of my day from Merriam Webster: Equivocate (intr. v.) means to lie, to avoid making a commitment in your statements, to evade; and tergiversation (n.) means equivocation. Therefore, unequivocal (adj.), a word I'd stumbled over for years, means undisputed and without doubt. Ahhh...

Raisins, when dropped on a mottled carpet, can travel really far. Perhaps there is a future propulsion technology hidden here.

This is probably the height of vanity. I am so taken with my new blog design that I want to post over and over. But I can't think of anything to say. Um... Things are shaping up for Invisible City Productions (Jeremy is back in Chicago now); we've got a cool blog over there. And, um... The T.W.I.N.K.I.E.S. Project is amusing.

Apparently the problem is just with IE4. And if I copy the source of the file to a local copy on my harddrive, the page works fine. Bother.

So this is a switch. Something looks cool in Netscape and totally fails in Internet Explorer. Note the metal sheets these witty words of wisdom are etched upon. In Netscape, they look like metal sheets (though the colors won't appear to match, even though they do mathematically). In IE, it's anybody's guess as to which side image won't load. I don't think there's anything wrong with my html, especially since if I change the tag for any one image, the non-loading side on every sheet will switch. Pfoo.

It came it came it came! And it looks terrible. But, for better or for worse, I now have an official Texas driver's license.

Yee haw.

From the 'Bout Dang Time department: Girlstart, an organization dedicated to empowering girls in math, science, and technology. This jives right in with my Grace's Girls movement, and it is holding its grand opening here in Austin, next week.

New name! I was feeling out-cooled in the blogging community, and I lamented this fact to Jon last night. And Jon, brilliant, sexy guy that he is, suggested this froody new name: Phlebotomy. Get it? Spider... collecting blood...

Well, I'm pleased, anyway.

Vindicated!! Vin-dih-kated! Merriam-Webster's online dictionary lists, as a fourth definition for couple, "an indefinite small number: few." See? See?! It does mean more than two.

This has plagued me my entire verbal life.

So I'm another starry-eyed, slathering fan of Neil Gaiman, but, darnit, he's good. I read Neverwhere yesterday—creepy, clever, yummy. The day before, I read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (J. K. Rowling) at my mother's urging; she's right, as usual. So what do these two books have in common that makes them so unbelievably popular? Both talk about a hidden world, seamlessly and invisibly interlaced with the one we know, that permits
magic and wonder, though it isn't always nice. Perhaps this hits at the same human need that Heaven appeals to: This isn't all there is.

Or, maybe they're popular because they take place in England. *shrug*

Wow, I understand more about corporations now than ever before. We spent many hours last night hammering out how Invisible City will work. I think we're getting there. It's so weird to think this will be real, that I really will be on the Board of Directors of a corporation, that people might even think I'm some kind of responsible grownup.

But I really wanted to share an amusing anecdote in this post. So Jon's a tech support agent at Apple Computers; he answers the phones and tries to mollify whiny people (so be nice when you call tech support, or I'll come growl at you). The other night, he was radiating heat like mad, while still under the covers, so I asked him, "Are you too warm?" He replied, proving he's so good at his job he can do it in his sleep, "You should usually follow the instructions on your screen, but this time go with 'Yeah, I'm too warm.'"

Jeremy's here! We took him out for proper Texan (center-cut Angus) steak last night (*drool*), and then went to this funky little coffee house that I'd never noticed before (MoJo's Daily Grind on Guadelupe and 27th) and played 1000 Blank White Cards. (Jeremy will probably scan some of the gems and put them somewhere on the ICP site, so I'll tell you where when he does.) We also talked about important Invisible City stuff, so things are really kicking into gear.

Jon's work schedule has finally become something reasonable (M-F, 8-5), so that's all-good, too.

My only real heartbreak has been watching the Dell stock creep steadily upwards these past few months, knowing I don't own any shares. They put the current stock quote on the internal website homepage. It's just mean.

Going to pick up Jeremy from the airport today--Yay!

The Weird Al concert was so cool. Sure, sure, he did stuff off his most recent album (and his Trent Reznor parody was convincing enough that I now don't need to subject myself to the kind of people who go to Nine Inch Nails concerts), but he did his best old stuff, too. Like a Surgeon, Eat It, Addicted to Spuds, Dare to be Stupid... Complete with costume changes. He also performed some songs that were new to us. One reminded me of Jer, my old roommate: in a pizza delivery uniform, to the theme from Titanic, "Near, Far, Wherever you are..." He puts on a fantastic show.

The crowd spanned a wide age range, and that got me to thinking. Song parody is a popular form of humor among kids, so Weird Al gets kids to be his fans. Then the kids grow up and have kids, and both generations are still fans. Plus, regardless of what music style comes into vogue, he can stay current by being a complete chameleon without alienating his fans--in fact, they expect it.

We spent the weekend with the friends we went to the concert with, played lots of dominos (a second game I can beat Jon at, so we'll have to get a set. The first is RYB.), saw the Alamo, and walked around the San Antonio River Walk. Great day. Plus, it's March, yet the trees are all in bloom. ^_^

One of the new friends I made this week is a published romance author. Her nom de plume is Pamela Ingrahm. So, after all the flak I've given my mom about her "trashy romance novels," I finally read one. It's about a Texas Ranger (*raowr*). It was entertaining, but I don't think I'll be turned to the Dark Side. I like more *realism*, which is why I read sci-fi. Er...

Jon and I are going with friends to a Weird Al concert tonight! Jon is wearing his Hawaiian shirt for the occasion.

Six Pence None the Richer covered ABBA's Dancing Queen. It's awesome!

Happy...er, Ash Wednesday. Dang, I always think of these things the day after. There was a Mardi Gras party in downtown Austin that lasted from Friday to Tuesday. We didn't go, but we did have a lovely Fat Tuesday dinner (I still reek of garlic) with our friends Chris and Donna. I learned that Mardi Gras is French for "fat Tuesday"; makes sense.

I miss the Fastnacht doughnuts of back home.

Today is International Working Women's Day, so the Dell cafeteria offered a free cup of coffee to every woman who bought some item of food. As I'm drawing myself my cup of java, it occurs to me that, if we're such an unrecognized and underpriveleged group (see also, Women's History Month and Black History Month) that we need a special commemorating day, then is a cup of coffee really sufficient? I'd rather have a raise, respect, and job security, thanks.

Notice that this didn't stop me from getting the free coffee. Sigh...

I applied for my Texas drivers' license last night.

Once the finished card arrives, I will be fully and completely a committed Texan. I even already have boots.

I feel really far away.

In the Good News department, our friend Jeremy is coming to visit in a smidge more than a week. We'll definitely work on Invisible City stuff, but we'll also have a blast tooling around Austin. Also, my friend Fred, currently living in State College, PA, will come visit me (yay!) at the end of March, partly so he can evaluate whether he might like living in Austin. Follow the example of these two folks, people.

Pfoo, missed a good opportunity. Yesterday was leap day, giving me a chance to roll out a new word from Merriam-Webster's dictionary: bissextile year. It means, um, leap year.

So Julius Caesar recognized the need for an extra day every four years, and he put it into February. The Romans stuck that extra day after the 24th. They also had a custom of calling the last few days of a month according to how far they were from the start of the next month. Now, Merriam-Webster's tells me that Feb 24th was called sextus because it was six days before March 1st. That certainly isn't the case anymore, but February did have 30 days, once upon a time. However, it was Julius Caesar himself who moved the extra days (into July and August, for him and his pal), so I'm struggling with my chronology. My best guess: The custom of calling 2/24 "sextus" was in place before Julius's time; Julius decreed the need for an extra day every four years, so it was stuck in after 2/24 and called "bissextus" (second sextus); then Julius went and redistributed the days, but the bissextus name stuck.

Leap Day gets a Latin name meaning "the second sixth-day-before-March." Although all the conditions that made that true have changed, the term "bissextile year" is still used for leap year. By someone.

(Merriam-Webster posted it as their word of the day, but it is not in their on-line dictionary.)

Oh, this just got a whole lot easier. Blogger makes it stunningly easy to add to this page from any internet terminal—for free. Kudos to them.

Because the timestamp is automatic, I'm not sure how to recreate items I had had on here before. Therefore, I shall recap items that were on the old incarnation.

I'm in Texas, and life is good. Invisible City Productions is looking spiffier and spiffier, and we have a blog (one of these) there, too. Because of ICP, you can get to my homepage using http://www.invisible-city.com/sharon/. Jon and I are expecting a webcam, purchased with the Christmas gift certificates from Grandma Sandy (thanks!), any day now.

Happy belated birthday to Jen Kennedy (I called!). I think matte white nail polish is just groovy—highly recommended. Tell me what you know of Diazepam (4mg/day) for treating vertigo (I'm skeptical).

My words of the day, from the Merriam-Webster online dictionary are:

  • obnubilate: (tr. v.) to muddle (from ob, to get in the way; and nubilate, pertaining to clouds)

  • nugatory: (adj.) trifling, inconsequential

  • desultory: (adj.) (1) unplanned, without purpose; (2) off-topic; (3) sluggish (from the Latin, desultorius, which refers to the way a circus performer jumps from horse to horse (they have a word for that?!))

  • calumniate: (tr. v.) to malign