Saturday, September 24, 2005

rage, part ii

A continuation of this issue. Beware of formatting: emphasis required.

September 24, 2005

Still no recovery disks. Make unhappy call to emachines. Technician Amber says that the disks have not yet been sent,...

at this point, Customer Kelly starts to zone out, unable to hear anything beyond the fact that the disks have not been sent

... attempts to blame Hurricane Rita for the delay, and suggests that she'll try to escalate the issue. Customer Kelly calmly-yet-very-firmly reminds Technician Amber that the disk order was escalated on September 18th by Technician Mary, and that they were supposed to have been shipped immediately thereafter. Oh and by the way, Hurricane Rita hit Texas yesterday, five days after that call.

I tell Technician Amber that I'm getting cranky and request to speak with a supervisor. After a 10-minute hold (all of this, on my dime), Customer Service Supervisor JT cheerily answers the phone and asks what he can do for me.

What can you DO for me?!?! You are the tenth person I've talked to at emachines over the past two months. I want a *&#$!)% computer that works, and I want it NOW! THAT's what you can do for me.

OK, so I didn't actually go ape on him. Having been a computer technician in the past, I know it's not his fault. That said, he needs to make it all better. He promised me that the disks will be sent first thing next week. I didn't tell him my plan (because chances are good I wouldn't talk to him again next time anyway), but if I don't get the disks by Wednesday, they're getting another call from me with a demand for a new computer or a refund.

Customer Kelly is just about done with this crap.

when things get too serious

Remember the Gates project in Central Park? Well, this newest 'version' of it made me laugh out loud. A little light in a dark world. Too bad the chasers had their brows in a furrow about it.


Lots going on. World is scary. Life is shifting about. Writing is cryptic.

I need to go into the office today and get some stuff done. This happens far too frequently on Saturdays. Ted's working, too. When we're both done, we head for the car dealership to put the deposit down on our future (salsa red pearl) car . It'll be January before it comes in, but we're equally excited and patient.

Meanwhile, I've applied to "adopt" a soldier. I'll get into this later. Must go to work now. Must not write so cryptically while there.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Monday, September 19, 2005

inspiration gone wrong

Every now and then, I poke around the web looking for interesting art. I love photography, and painting or graphics with lots of color and interest. I'm not an artist myself, although I did take a watercolor class a couple years ago. The teacher was not as inspirational or insightful as I hoped (and needed), and so it didn't really stick. I might try again someday, but not just yet.

Meanwhile, I always enjoy doodling even though I rarely do it anymore. Years ago, my every spiral-bound notebook had margins full of posies and vines, geometric shapes, and various attempts to create my own type styles.

Then today, my printer made a mistake. Its serial cable partially out, it misinterpretted a letter I'd sent to print. When I turned the paper over, the first thing I thought was how interesting it looked (not really about the fact that it printed incorrectly). I decided to take some highlighters, a couple Sharpies, and a Dryline to it. This is the result.

I call it "Dear Mr. Scrap." A bit silly to title a doodle, but I can't help myself (it's the writer in me). The combination of a faulty scanning job (that is, my fault), the use of a very faint medium (highlighters), and a large reduction in size (to fit it into this finite venue) makes some elements invisible here. Not that it's spectacular to see in person. Just more vivid.

Oh well. Perhaps I'll be more inspired to try some new things. Until then, good night.

rage against the (e)machine

July 16, 2005

Buy a new emachines T6520 Media Center PC at Best Buy. The thing's loaded. Excited to replace my incredibly slow old machine, but very busy so it'll have to wait just a little while.

July 23, 2005

Set up new emachine. Spent about seven hours configuring, uninstalling unneeded software, installing new software, registering stuff online, and beginning to transfer data. Machine loses internet connectivity for unknown reason. Attempt to recognize internet is immediately followed by machine crash. Technician Elvis (yes, really, his name is Elvis) chastises me for not creating recovery disks before making changes and says he will send a set to me.

August 2, 2005

Still no recovery disks. Technician Jody tells me that Elvis entered my quandary into the notes but didn't actually order the disks. She will do so, and gives me a case number to prove it.

August 9, 2005

Still no recovery disks. Technician Linnay (a trainee, the spelling of whose name I have no idea) took my information, repeated things to me that Unnamed Trainer her was saying to her, put me on hold for more than 10 minutes, then disconnected me. Technician Walter says my order for recovery disks was just entered into the system today. Despite their repeated gaffes, they cannot send the disks express.

August 15, 2005

Recovery disks finally arrive. Turns out they can send express, as they arrived in a FedEx envelope.

August 16, 2005

Attempt recovery of crashed machine to no avail. The exact same thing is happening as did on July 23rd. Technician John thinks it's a bad motherboard. Orders an empty box and mailing airbill to be sent to me so machine can be shipped to them.

August 29, 2005

Receive empty box and airbill to ship machine back.

September 1, 2005

Ship machine back.

September 7, 2005

Machine returns with cryptic form that appears to say motherboard, hard drive, and RAM were all replaced after repeated attempted to re-image the hard drive and re-program the motherboard. Too much going on at work and home to set this up now.

September 18, 2005

Set up refurbished new emachine. Appears to be working, although it did not require me to go through the fresh-out-of-the-box new setup process. Spend a couple hours uninstalling unneeded software, installing new software, etc., and discover that one of the front USB ports doesn't work. Upon testing all four UBS ports, discover that none of them work. Technician Monica attempts to uninstall UBS ports from Device Manager so machine will re-recognize the hardware. Not a bad attempt, except the machine does not recognize it as new hardware. She has me start the destructive recovery process and tells me to call her back in about half an hour when it's done.

Five minutes later, the recovery process appears to be done having only used one of the five recovery disks. I call back. Technician Theresa says that Monica shouldn't have had me start the recovery process through Windows. She also thinks the brand-new-only-once-out-of-the-envelope recovery disks are dirty, and tells me she'll wait on the line (my dime) while I take them to the kitchen, wash them in warm sudsy water, rinse them, dry them off, an bring them back. She has me attempt the recovery through system configuration this time, and tells me to call back in five minutes when it's done.

Three minutes later, the recovery process appears to be done having only used one of the five recovery disks. I call back. Technician Mary thinks maybe the hard drive is bad. Customer Kelly intimates that she'd be keenly unhappy if one bad hard drive was replaced with another. (Sorry, I started talking in the third person there. How very Bob Dole.) She then talks with Unnamed Supervisor and returns to suggest that the recovery disk is probably faulty. She'll send new ones. Customer Kelly reminders her that the first time recovery disks were promised, it took more than three weeks to receive them, and that that sort of delay would not be acceptable. (There I go again.) She promises me, on her mother's honor and her unborn first child, that she will order them and escalate the ticket so that they disks will absolutely positively be sent right away via FedEx.

September 19, 2005

I decide that the second computer tower sitting on my desk with a keyboard and mouse on top of it might be a good message board (hey, magnets will stick to it, right?). I never had a message board that cost so much money, caused so much frustration, took up so much space, and required 104-key dusting.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

weak trees

Despite the continuation of sweltering summerlike weather here in New England, there are a few tell-tale signs that the heat will abate soon enough: trees already changing color. Juxtaposed against a relentlessly hot sun, air drenched with humidity, and an otherwise thickly verdant landscape, the orange and gold patches speak to me. They comfort me.

I think I should be sad for these trees. For their precocious display is an indication of their inevitable demise. Instead, I hail them as the harbingers of autumn.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

faith in humanity

Just as the hurricane pressed people into action and -- once again -- restored my belief that people are fundamentally good, something like this happens. These people should spend the rest of their lives in the same conditions as the ones they created for the children.

I'm sorry. I want to believe that people are good. But sometimes, it's extraordinarily difficult.

Friday, September 09, 2005

tabula rasa

I keep talking about this. My best explanation for not letting it drop is that I can't get my brain around it -- the severity and the enormity of it. Every time my thoughts even begin to go in the direction of the hurricane victims...

It's just so hard to process.

I've been thinking about how the devastation has the potential to clear the path for a better life. Tenements, slums, and otherwise-poorly maintained housing can be replaced with brand new, strong, safe, affordable housing. The money from the federal aid package ($51.8 billion as of today) and private relief efforts can not only bring real emergency help now, but real permanent change for the long haul. This may be naïve, but I imagine neighborhoods once plagued with danger (from both the buildings and the crime) given a second chance for safety and security. This is oversimplified. But I am hopeful.

For some reason, reading this CNN article today made me feel better. Of all the people who might be appointed to head up the rebuilding charge, Colin Powell is one of the few in whom I have the utmost confidence. I feel like he will get the job done right. I also feel that Harry Connick, Jr. and Wynton Marsalis -- native New Orleanans who have aligned themselves with Habitat for Humanity's rebuilding campaign -- have the passion and the dedication to lend their own brand of credence to the job. The right people helping and the spirit and determination of the Gulf Coast residents can do this.


I have the great good fortune of speaking my mind, closing down my computer, petting my cats, going to sleep in a comfortable bed in a safe home, and knowing that I can enjoy a relaxing weekend with numerous members of my family before I go back to a good job on Monday. Would that the people of the Gulf Coast were so lucky.

Real post time 12:31am

Thursday, September 08, 2005

broken promise

Dan Barry wrote a piece in today's New York Times that is immensely moving. I think it should be required reading.

Macabre Reminder: The Corpse on Union Street


NEW ORLEANS, Sept. 7 - In the downtown business district here, on a dry stretch of Union Street, past the Omni Bank automated teller machine, across from a parking garage offering "early bird" rates: a corpse. Its feet jut from a damp blue tarp. Its knees rise in rigor mortis.

Six National Guardsmen walked up to it on Tuesday afternoon and two blessed themselves with the sign of the cross. One soldier took a parting snapshot like some visiting conventioneer, and they walked away. New Orleans, September 2005.

Hours passed, the dusk of curfew crept, the body remained. A Louisiana state trooper around the corner knew all about it: murder victim, bludgeoned, one of several in that area. The police marked it with traffic cones maybe four days ago, he said, and then he joked that if you wanted to kill someone here, this was a good time.

Night came, then this morning, then noon, and another sun beat down on a dead son of the Crescent City.

That a corpse lies on Union Street may not shock; in the wake of last week's hurricane, there are surely hundreds, probably thousands. What is remarkable is that on a downtown street in a major American city, a corpse can decompose for days, like carrion, and that is acceptable.

Welcome to New Orleans in the post-apocalypse, half baked and half deluged: pestilent, eerie, unnaturally quiet.

Scraggly residents emerge from waterlogged wood to say strange things, and then return into the rot. Cars drive the wrong way on the Interstate and no one cares. Fires burn, dogs scavenge, and old signs from les bons temps have been replaced with hand-scrawled threats that looters will be shot dead.

The incomprehensible has become so routine here that it tends to lull you into acceptance. On Sunday, for example, several soldiers on Jefferson Highway had guns aimed at the heads of several prostrate men suspected of breaking into an electronics store.

A car pulled right up to this tense scene and the driver leaned out his window to ask a soldier a question: "Hey, how do you get to the interstate?"

Maybe the slow acquiescence to the ghastly here - not in Baghdad, not in Rwanda, here - is rooted in the intensive news coverage of the hurricane's aftermath: floating bodies and obliterated towns equal old news. Maybe the concerns of the living far outweigh the dignity of a corpse on Union Street. Or maybe the nation is numb with post-traumatic shock.

Wandering New Orleans this week, away from news conferences and search-and-rescue squads, has granted haunting glimpses of the past, present and future, with the rare comfort found in, say, the white sheet that flaps, not in surrender but as a vow, at the corner of Poydras Street and St. Charles Avenue.

"We Shall Survive," it says, as though wishing past the battalions of bulldozers that will one day come to knock down water-corrupted neighborhoods and rearrange the Louisiana mud for the infrastructure of an altogether different New Orleans.

Here, then, the New Orleans of today, where open fire hydrants gush the last thing needed on these streets; where one of the many gag-inducing smells - that of rancid meat - is better than MapQuest in pinpointing the presence of a market; and where images of irony beg to be noticed.

The Mardi Gras beads imbedded in mud by a soldier's boot print. The "take-away" signs outside restaurants taken away. The corner kiosk shouting the Aug. 28 headline of New Orleans's Times-Picayune: "Katrina Takes Aim."

Rush hour in downtown now means pickups carrying gun-carrying men in sunglasses, S.U.V.'s loaded with out-of-town reporters hungry for action, and the occasional tank. About the only ones commuting by bus are dull-eyed suspects shuffling two-by-two from the bus-and-train terminal, which is now a makeshift jail.

Maybe some of them had helped to kick in the portal to the Williams Super Market in the once-desirable Garden District. And who could blame them if all they wanted was food in those first desperate days? The interlopers took the water, beer, cigarettes and snack food. They did not take the wine or the New Orleans postcards.

On the other side of downtown across Canal Street in the French Quarter, the most raucous and most unreal of American avenues is now little more than an empty alley with balconies.

The absence of sweetly blown jazz, of someone cooing "ma chère," of men sporting convention nametags and emitting forced guffaws - the absence of us - assaults the senses more than any smell.

Past the famous Cafe du Monde, where a slight breeze twirls the overhead fans for no one, past the statue of Joan of Arc gleaming gold, a man emerges from nothing on Royal Street. He is asked, "Where's St. Bernard Avenue?"

"Where's the ice?" he asks in return, eyes narrowed in menace. "Where's the ice? St. Bernard's is that way, but where's the ice?"

In Bywater and the surrounding neighborhoods, the severely damaged streets bear the names of saints who could not protect them. Whatever nature spared, human nature stepped up to provide a kind of democracy in destruction.

At the Whitney National Bank on St. Claude Avenue, diamond-like bits of glass spill from the crushed door, offering a view of the complementary coffee table. A large woman named Phoebe Au - "Pronounced 'Awe,' " she says - materializes to report that men had smashed it in with a truck. She fades into the neighborhood's broken brick, and a thin woman named Toni Miller materializes to correct the record.

"They used sledgehammers," she said.

Farther down St. Claude Avenue, where tanks rumble past a smoldering building, the roads are cluttered with vandalized city buses. The city parked them on the riverbank for the hurricane, after which some hoods took them for fare-free joy rides through lawless streets, and then discarded them.

On Clouet Street, where a days-old fire continues to burn where a warehouse once stood, a man on a bicycle wheels up through the smoke to introduce himself as Strangebone. The nights without power or water have been tough, especially since the police took away the gun he was carrying - "They beat me and threatened to kill me," he says - but there are benefits to this new world.

"You're able to see the stars," he says. "It's wonderful."

Today, law enforcement troops began lending muscle to Mayor C. Ray Nagin's vow to evacuate by force any residents too attached to their pieces of the toxic metropolis. They searched the streets for the likes of Strangebone, and that woman whose name sounds like Awe.

Meanwhile, back downtown, the shadows of another evening crept like spilled black water over someone's corpse.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005


Small groups of motivated people work hard to bring issues into the spotlight by handing out pamphlets, holding rallies, passing around petitions, going door-to-door, and creating websites -- all in the hopes that their idea will be embraced by enough ordinary people to elevate its importance with the majority of people.

Size acceptance is one of those ideas for which it is particularly difficult to gain support, because people have been sold the idea for years that they are unacceptable as they are. Grassroots campaigns are always underfunded when compared to the mainstream campaigns, usually by a massive amount. Who will spend $46 billion this year in the U.S. (telling us that it's OK to accept ourselves as we are) to counter the $46 billion that the diet industry will spend (telling us that we must change)? Nobody. Because there's no money to be made telling people that they don't need to change anything.

I meet resistance when I even gently suggest that the only reason for changing eating habits is to improve the quality of nutrition and therefore the level of health. That the important numbers to watch are blood pressure, glucose, cholesterol, and heart rate, not those on scales, clothes, or measuring tapes. That by dramatically reducing calorie intake, you only teach your body to fight against future starvation by slowing down metabolism. This virtually guarantees that you will not only not be able to keep off the weight you lose, but you will almost certainly gain more -- which will be harder to try and lose the next time around.

But this is where I start to trail off into the tangent that requires me to write a book to address every aspect of the issue. Today, in lieu of that tangent, I'm happy to announce the Love Your Body campaign! Created by the Women's Health Project of the National Organization for Women's NOW Foundation, this campaign encourages people to accept themselves as they are. It focuses on appearance issues (diets, fashion, cosmetics), particularly for women. But I would contend that it can be the newest in a series of building blocks to promote "acceptance" universally.

Accept me at my size. Accept me as I look. Accept me in my gender, my skin color, my religion, my political leanings, and my sexual preference. Accept me for my preference for lilacs over roses, for autumn over summer, for cats over dogs. Accept that while you may not accept my beliefs, they are a part of who I am. Accept me for who I am. Most importantly, accept yourself. And accept that other people who are not like you are capable of accepting you for who you are.

Monday, September 05, 2005

colors and shapes

Here's some cool art I found while wandering the Blogger trails. William H. Miller is done with the rat race and is dedicating himself to art. He works a wide variety of styles and media, and I find just about all of it wonderfully fresh. Here is just one piece.

So Lovely
© Copyright 2005 William H. Miller All Rights Reserved

Billy's friend, Jim Frederick, also creates some amazing works. I'm hoping to show some of it soon, as well. Until then, here is the link to his online gallery. Between the two of them, there's a lot of amazing art.

I'm envious! Of their talent, and their commitment to their art.

"we'll take one of each"

Ted and I went car shopping today. Inspired by my recent $43 tank of gas and the long-held desire to get rid of his car, we test drove a Toyota Prius. In a word... cool. We've been talking about getting a hybrid for more than a year, although we had been focused on the Highlander. Because we planned to keep our Honda CR-V, we decided that two SUVs in the family was one too many -- even if one was "small" and the other "medium." And thus, the Prius. We are now on the waiting list, which means it will be 2-3 months before we actually get the car.

While we were at the car dealership (for a couple hours, mind you), Ted suggested that we trade in the Honda and also buy a new Scion xB. He had test-driven one a couple months ago and really liked it. The dealership had one on the lot (Scion is made by Toyota), and so I decided I'd drive it, too. They even had a 5-speed stick, which is my transmission of choice. And Ted was right. It was a fun car to drive. Sure, it looks like a box! But it's got great cargo (and passenger) space, and its gas mileage is even better than the CR-V's.

We didn't drive out with new cars today (I'd planned on the waiting list for the Prius, and didn't plan at all for the idea of trading in the Honda), but we are well on our way to ending up with two new cars before the year is out. The gas mileage alone justifies the seemingly impetuous nature of this decision. The Prius gets 60 MPG city and 51 highway, compared to our Acura's 23 MPG highway and 21 city. Plus there's the added bonus of reduced emissions. And the Scion averages 35 MPG where my Honda is around 25.

It feels dangerous, buying two new cars at the same time. But it just might be the right idea.

Friday, September 02, 2005

devastation, disgrace, disbelief

There are so many sad stories about slow disaster response in the Gulf coast, it's easy to place blame and point fingers. It's tempting to be distracted by the shouting and the jumping up and down. But while I agree that it's important to pinpoint the cause of lapses in appropriate emergency response time to fix the problems and prevent them from occurring again, the critical issue is to help these people now. Do what needs to be done, and go back to account for it all later.

I've asked before that people give something to the process. Money, supplies, time, blood... whatever you are able to give. I'm asking again. Clean out your closets and find a drop-off center that will ship clothes to the hurricane victims. It doesn't have to cost you a cent to help. Stephanie Klein is donating the proceeds from her online ads for the whole month. Go to her site and click the ads. That stuff adds up. Just ask The Hunger Site.

It's all drops in a bucket, pennies in a cup. It may not seem like much going in, but when everyone does it, it adds up and it makes a difference. It does.

Can you imagine having mere moments to get yourself and whatever is most valuable to you out of your house and then risking your life to trudge through a raging storm in search of safe haven? When it's over, you realize that you have nothing but what you were able to grab as you fled from home? Then to discover that the most basic human needs like water, food, and sanitation are not available? That poison and disease and schrapnel endanger your every step? That the fate of the people you love most is unknown? That you're jobless despite being employed before the wind and rain came? Any one of these things is enough to try a person's soul. Compounded together, it's nearly inconceivable.

Please help. I promise to stop asking. Although I admit I may mention it again as progress occurs, I'll cease with the outright requests.

Sleep well.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

flashback 1995

My freshman year of college, there was a tight housing situation on campus. A new dorm would not be completed by Fall, which meant that the freshman and sophomore women were required to live in triples for the first semester. So, I had two roommates. Pam was one. As it turned out, she and I ended up rooming together for all four years, and have stayed close ever since. Michelle (a.k.a. Meet-shell) was the other.

We were happy enough together that we remained a triple, even after the new dorm opened in January and all the other residents spread out. I remember one sleepy morning when all three of us were still in bed, the dean knocked on our door, opened it, and upon seeing us asked the RA, "why are there still three girls in this room?" When we told him that we wanted to remain in a triple, he thought we'd all gone mad.

Meet-shell only stayed there for that one year before transferring to a different college. Although our contact has waxed and waned over the years as we both made various moves through several states, we now stay in touch through our blogs. Recently, she posted an entry about her wedding anniversary, detailing that one of the fun components of the celebration was renting a brand new Mustang for the day.

Michelle with the new 'Stang in 2005

This made me chuckle as approximately 10 years ago, I, too, had my picture taken with a brand new Mustang that was mine only for a short period of time (I rented it while I was home for the holidays). So, I told Meet-shell that I would post that picture here.

Me with the new 'Stang in 1995

I guess it's just natural to want to take a picture of yourself with a cool car that isn't actually yours! Happy anniversary Michelle and Jason!

Cool four song combination that just played on my iTunes

[1] "Testosterone" - Bush llll
[2] "Chicago" - Sufjan Stevens llll
[3] "Parting Gift" - Fiona Apple llll
[4] "Behind Blue Eyes" - The Who llll