Saturday, July 31, 1999

There are, boiled down, three real ways to appreciate a piece of artwork. You can enjoy the subject itself, the way the subject is presented, or the meaning behind the subject. And everyone is, of course, free to enjoy different things about any individual piece.

For instance, in this image of Hokusai's Great Wave Kanagawa, I love the spare color and lines; the way the wave frames Mount Fuji in the center, and the meticulous attention to detail (I like the way the subject is presented). I appreciate the boats tossed in the wave which say to me that humans and the things we build are transient and fragile compared to the violence and relative permanence of nature (I like the meaning behind the subject). But neither Mount Fuji nor tidal waves are especially fascinating to me, so the subject itself isn't something that appeals to me here. (But the subject of Mount Fuji appeals very much to Hokosai - and to a large number of other Japanese artists, so I can understand that level of appreciation as well.)
On the other hand, this image of the Star Trek ship the U.S.S. Reliant docked at the Newport News Shipyard (less than thirty miles from where I live) isn't especially well-composed (other than the effort involved in combining the two images) and there certainly isn't much hidden meaning involved. It's simply a humorous combination of two subjects I appreciate: Star Trek and the area in which I live.

That said, it occurred to me this morning while I was reading that there is a similar way to look at written artwork. You can appreciate a story or poem for itself, or for the way in which it was written, or for the meaning underneath it.

My mother and I used to have arguments when I was in high school about my reading material. I read (then and now) mostly science fiction and fantasy. My mother wanted me to read the sort of "classics" that give English teachers wet dreams. The thing is, I always hated encountering a story in high school that I really liked, and then having to analyze it until the enjoyment of the actual story was lost to me. And now I suddenly understand: the teachers were pushing the enjoyment of the meaning underneath the story (and occasionally the way it was written) to the exclusion of the enjoyment of the story itself. I don't know why they did that. Maybe they thought that since we could decide for ourselves whether we liked the story itself that they didn't need to emphasize that level of enjoyment.

But all it would have taken would have been a sentence or two: "Even if this had been written by a less skilled writer, it would be a good read." There was something in my high school English books to excite everyone except the most die-hard non-readers: Romance, adventure, revenge, history, magic, science fiction... But we read Hamlet twice in two years, and suddenly this elegant, sexy, and satisfyingly bloody story was subsumed in political analogies and symbollism. I think if my teachers had taken just one day each out of the weeks we'd spent on it to point out what a fantastic story it is, we might have been able to appreciate the ways the analogy and symbolism underlined that story, rather than letting them eclipse it. I was in college, analyzing Hamlet for the fourth time, when I finally began to re-appreciate the story, and it opened up the universe of Shakespeare for me that I'd never been able to fully enjoy before.

I got my first glimpse when we read T. S. Elliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" in my senior year. Until that point, I didn't really like poetry. It was too dense. "Prufrock" when I first read it, was almost completely incomprehensible. I couldn't make heads or tails of what it was trying to say. When we began to analyse it - that's when it began to come together and mean something beautiful. Now, it's my favorite poem.

I won't bother continuing to rant about poor teaching methods. The point I wanted to make was this: Any kind of artwork - painted, sculpted, written, performed, or whatever - can be judged on these three categories. The subject itself, the mechanics of presentation, and the underlying meaning. What makes something a classic - what makes it truly art - is if it can bring pleasure in all three categories at once. The novels my mother fussed at me for reading scored high in subject, and occasionally would be especially well-written or have some thin meaning to them. But very few of them met all three.

That isn't to say that they weren't enjoyable to read. But I don't expect any of those books to survive the ages. And this is why I don't especially care for most "modern" art - most of it has a deep meaning behind it, and some of it is interestingly and beautifully executed. But I don't enjoy the central subject. It's too abstract, or too distorted, to appreciate.

Isn't it funny that now, finally, ten or fifteen years too late, I finally understand what my mom had been trying to tell me? And like suddenly turning on a light in a room which before had been lit only from light leaking around the curtains, everything seems so much brighter and clearer.

I just wanted to share.

Friday, July 30, 1999

So. Yesterday I made arrangements to switch our phone service when we move. Hoo boy, was that complicated. Dual service and adding a second line makes for a pot of fun. Sometime soon I need to call MCI and make sure they'll treat our two lines as a single account. We can't really escape from the minimum long-distance fees, but I want to make sure we're only charged for them once!

We need to start making arrangements to switch the rest of our utilities over, too. It took me over half an hour to do the phone service. I suggested that as this month's bills come in, we call the various companies and make arrangements. How we'll get ahold of services we've never used before (like water, sewage, and trash pickup) I don't know. One thing at a time...

When we got in the car this morning, our radio station was taking calls from people who were donating money to the Ronald McDonald House. The second caller told us that when her son was born, his lungs weren't fully developed and he'd stayed in the hospital for several days until he died, and that she and her husband had stayed at the Ronald McDonald house during that time - and that the house wouldn't take any money from them.

I think that was a wonderful thing that they did for this woman, and I'm glad people are donating to them, but I didn't need to start my day with tears in my eyes.

I was extremely grateful when the cat woke me up last night. I had been dreaming in ASCII. Lately I've been playing an ASCII game called Moria a lot, and in the dream, I was wandering through a Moria maze and had just stumbled across two D's and a V (which is to say, for those of you who aren't familiar with the game, two ancient dragons and a vampire). Maybe I need to find a new game for a while. A few years ago, I started dreaming in Tetris, which wasn't fun at all.

Thursday, July 29, 1999

Dream fragment:
I am in a group of about four people, having a picnic in a very narrow valley. One of the people I am with is my fiancé.

Him: I really like this place. I could stay here.

Me: Me, too.

Him: His eyes harden with something like annoyance or irritation. You need to hurry up and decide!

Me: I just did! Fuck off! I get up and start to walk off, and he jumps up and follows me. I slap him, hard. Weren't you listening? FUCK! OFF! Don't you understand I need to be alone?

The valley turns into an auditorium, and I run up the stairs to the very top.
I woke up with my heart pounding from anger and exertion.

Yesterday as I was puttering around the house, I had a sudden flash of an idea of what I could write about today. But, of course, I have forgotten it.

I like peanut butter. It's one of my favorite foods. Too bad it's so bad for me. I learned to love peanut butter from my father, who is probably peanut butter's biggest fan. Because of my dad, I've discovered a number of very peculiar ways to eat peanut butter:
  • PB on toast (or toasted, which is even better.)
  • PB and pickle sandwich
  • PB and tomato sandwich
  • PB and cheese sandwich
  • on hot dogs
  • on spaghetti, mixed with tomato sauce
  • in chili
Of course, I'm assuming that PB-and-jelly and PB-and-banana are considered relatively normal. When I was little, my grandmother used to make peanut butter and butter sandwiches. Talk about bad for me! But they were so good. One of the people I eat lunch with, Elizabeth, eats peanut butter and cream cheese sandwiches, which I've never tried but sounds divine. I have a recipe for peanut butter pie in which you mix peanut butter with cream cheese, whipped cream, and sugar for the filling.

But my favorite way to eat it is plain, on a spoon.

Yeah, I'm a freak.

Matt mentioned yesterday in passing that he thought it was weird of me to list Monday first on my calendar. I mentioned that I'd bought real calendars that organized the week that way, and he insisted that he's never seen one. (I guess he wasn't counting weekly appointment calendars, which are almost always arranged that way.) I knew that listing Monday first was a little peculiar, but he made it sound like it was not only weird, but wrong, and I got sortof defensive about it. I'm even tempted to explain my reasons here, but I'm pretty sure that any thinking individual can come up with at least two of the three reasons, so I'll restrain myself. I just thought it was odd that I got so tense about it. I was irritable for at least half an hour after the subject had been dropped.

Oh, well. I can't remember my brilliant topic for this morning, so I'm going to go have some breakfast.

Wednesday, July 28, 1999

I left work at four yesterday to go to the gym. Rode the stationary bike for 25 minutes, then went to Weight Watcher's. At Weight Watcher's I learned that the leader was sick and couldn't find a replacement, so there was no charge for the meeting, and that despite not sticking to my diet very well this weekend I didn't gain any weight, which was nice. Then I went home and read for a little while. Let the cat out, then in, then back out again, and decided that I'd lie down for a while.

The next thing I knew, there's a weird noise right next to my head which I realized later was Matt picking up my book and my glasses and putting them on my nightstand for me. I rolled over, and Matt suggested I go back to sleep. Well, all right...

Suddenly, it was after eight. I got up for a couple of hours to make "pizzas" out of leftover hamburger buns, spaghetti sauce, and cheddar cheese. It took me a while to fall asleep when I went back to bed at ten, but I feel much better this morning, so essentially losing an entire evening was worth it.

We had lunch with my parents yesterday. They'd stopped by the house before coming in to the restaurant, and apparently they've begun running the electrical wires. Hooray! Matt and I will stop by soon, so you can expect an update to the house pictures any time now.

In yesterday's mail were envelopes from Ken (our loan officer) and Nancy (our realtor). Ken's envelope contained a new estimate of closing costs and monthly payments, based on our new mortgage rate, and a few things for us to sign. Nancy's envelope contained an addendum to contract which we had requesteed, and a limited disclosure that one of the partners of the firm who will be closing the deal on the house for us has an interest in the housing development. We don't much like the sound of that, so Matt is going to call her today and find out some more details before we sign it.

Dad suggested at lunch that we should start packing things that we won't need for the next month, like books. First of all, it's obvious that Dad has no idea how much I read in a month. (Though there are books I almost certainly won't want to read for the next month or so.) Second - I have no idea where we'd put packed books. We're planning on packing the paperbacks, at least, in paper bags. I discovered years ago that that's a good way to pack books, because one bag full of books is about as much as anyone wants to carry at a single time, and paperbacks are almost exactly as tall as grocery store bags are wide, so they fit nicely. But if I fill a bag with books, there isn't a single space in the apartment that I could stack that bag where we wouldn't be tripping over it. Lack of space is most of the reason we're moving! Well, maybe if I did it carefully, I could put the bagged books back on the bookshelves, I suppose. We really ought to be doing something, now that we're down to a month.

Less than a month! Four weeks from today, exactly, is our scheduled closing! I'm getting excited.

Tuesday, July 27, 1999

People have started answering my journal and Matt's e-mail about helping us move. Four definites and a maybe so far - two definites and the maybe from out of town! I feel loved, after all. (Okay, I wasn't really feeling unloved. I know how unpleasant moving is, and I wouldn't blame anyone for wanting to avoid it!) Now I just have to hope that they finish the house on time!

By the way, I've had a few questions about why my posts to the forum show up before anyone else's, even when I'm posting after someone else. The answer to that is simple: Because I'm the forum owner, and the system is set up to display the owner's posts before everyone else's (except for the original post in a thread). It's keyed on e-mail address, though, so from now on I'll try to remember to give my hotmail e-mail address when I'm replying to posts so they show up in chronological order. The forum's been sortof busy in the last week or so - if you haven't been by in the last week (or ever), you should stop in!

So after spending most of yesterday fighting with it, I think I've got my system working again. Sortof. Mostly. Because of some permission peculiarities, I have to log out and log back in the old way in order to install programs, make directories available to the network, and eject my Zip disk. That last one is pretty annoying. But at least I know why, now. I took advantage of the re-install to rearrange my system and get rid of some chaff. I managed to lose all of my bookmarks, though. I really need to remember to back those things up.

Not much to talk about today, I guess. Sorry, guys.

Monday, July 26, 1999

We're getting ready, in my office, to begin using a product that we make. That's all well and good, and a company ought to be willing to use its own products. Mind you, this product isn't really useful to me personally, but in theory, it doesn't bother me for it to be installed on my work computer. The problem is that because of a peculiarity of the system (or maybe just because someone is being a pain in the ass) I had to change the way I log in to the computer. This shouldn't have been a big deal, but instead, it changed all of my settings (desktop arrangement, menus, sounds, etc.) and I've had to re-install so far about four programs so far. To make matters even more irritating, for some reason I can't eject my Zip disk unless I log out and then log back in the old way. I tried re-installing the drivers, and that didn't work. How annoying. Hardware should be hardware, for petesake! (At least I can access the Zip drive; that's where I keep my web pages!)

Saturday was a bright, sunny, beautiful (if hot) day. The game was scheduled to start at 7:15, and we planned to get to the park when the gates opened at 6. To do that, we were going to leave the apartment at 4:45. (It's about an hour drive, plus some extra time in case we got lost - we'd never been there before.)

At 3:45, K.T. called to tell us that it was raining cats and dogs in Hampton, and that the game would probably be called. (She was hoping we'd ditch the game and go over to her place for the Werewolf game.) The sun was still shining brightly in Williamsburg, so I figured that this was one of those summer storms we often get where the rain lasts half an hour or so, and then everything is bright and sunny again. I told her as much, but promised to call the ball park before we left the apartment.

At 4:15, the Williamsburg sky went dark.

At 4:40 I called Harbor Park and got a recorded message: "The game is still scheduled to be on time at 7:15 tonight." Well, I'd heard that unless the field is flooded, baseball games aren't cancelled until the very last possible second. And it might still be the summer storm I'd thought of when I talked to K.T., if it was travelling north (which is unusual, but not unheard-of.) So we piled into the car and headed for Norfolk.

Traffic was intermittent hell. It took us over an hour and a half to get to Norfolk, and the directions were pretty good, so we found the stadium without much trouble. The parking lot was strangely empty, though... As we drove around the circle, a family emerged from the gates and the man in the lead shook his head sadly at me. We rolled down our window for him and were told that the game had, in fact, been cancelled.

So we turned around and headed back across the river. As we were zipping along toward the bridge-tunnel, I looked down at my clock and realized that we'd been driving steadily for two hours. So we stopped in Hampton for dinner at Darryl's, which was very nice, and then went to K.T.'s to game. Of course, we had completely forgotten our gaming stuff, but K.T. keeps copies of our character sheets, so we could fake it.

Nifty. One of the office techs just came in to see about the problems I'm having with my computer, and he can't log in as an administrator - he's getting Blue Screens of Death. So he's going to...

10:45 am: Sorry about that. I'm finally back on the computer after having my OS partition completely reformatted, and Windows NT re-installed. It didn't fix the problem I originally complained about, though, so we'll see what happens. It may be a while before I can get this journal entry up. I hate Windows.

1:04 pm: And again. I think I'm finally back in business, though I need to re-install a lot of stuff on my computer. I have, at this point, completely forgotten whatever else it was that I was going to talk about today, so you'll just have to wait until tomorrow.

Now, to go locate and download some decent sounds...

Friday, July 23, 1999

It happens fairly frequently that when I go to fill my water mug and get hot water for my breakfast, the water cooler jug has emptied. (I eat breakfast at work.) The water cooler jugs hold 5 gallons of water, which is to say 40 pounds of water. This is important. They're big round jugs with narrow openings at one end. You rip the plastic off the opening and upend the jug into the little well in the water cooler. This is easier said than done, but I've managed it with only minimal mess on multiple occasions. Yesterday, however, I managed to get my pinkie finger caught between the edge of the well and the jug. A moderately ugly bruise formed under the fingernail, and I couldn't type with that finger for the rest of the day. Today it aches to type, but I don't feel the urge to immobilize the finger, at least.

This is the same finger that broke two years ago when I tripped going up some stairs and which (because we thought it was merely a bad sprain at the time) healed crooked. Maybe I should just cut the finger off and be done with it.

I'm a little peeved at Amazon.Com. A couple of weeks ago, I gave my brother the book Pawn of Prophecy, the first in a series of five books. He read it and wrote me e-mail to say that it was terribly cruel of me to give him a book that was To Be Continued. So I decided to send him the rest of the books of the series now, instead of making him wait for his birthday. I logged onto Amazon, selected the books, and filled out all the various forms to have them sent directly to John. Imagine it: You've read the first book in a series and liked it a lot, and one day your arrive home from work to a package on your doorstep that, when you open it, turns out to be a present from your sister. You open it, and there! Are the other four books. Isn't your sister a Wonderful Person? I thought so.

As part of those forms, I asked them to wait until they had all the books and then make a single shipment.

When I checked my mail last night, I had a message from Amazon telling me that since I was such a good customer, they were going to send what was available right away, breaking up the order, without changing my shipping costs. They were sending John the fourth book.

Go on, imagine it: You've read the first book in a series and liked it a lot, and one day you arrive home from work to a package on your doorstep that, when you open it, turns out to be a present from your sister. Great! You open it, and there - taunting you cruelly - is the fourth book in the series. Where are books two and three? You don't know. Why would your sister do this to you? Isn't she Cruel and Evil?

I didn't want him to think I'd done that to him on purpose, so I had to write him an e-mail explaining, thus spoiling the surprise. K.T. thinks I should write Amazon and complain. I may yet, but I had e-mail this morning that the rest of the books had been shipped, so John won't have to wait more than a day between shipments.

Still no responses from people who had previously offered to help us move, so I guess they're reconsidering now that the event is at hand. Either that, or they don't read my journal, which is true in at least one case that I can think of.

The next survey that no one is going to answer is: If I were to set up a system for GMs to share plot ideas, would anyone participate?

Thursday, July 22, 1999

Here's a tip for you: If you think you might be going to bed early, don't drink a glass of Diet Coke and eat three peppermint sticks half an hour before you try to go to sleep.

I was so tired that I actually dozed off, but it was a sort of restless doze where I had to turn over every fifteen minutes or so. That lasted until about 11:30. Needless to say, I did not get caught up on my sleep last night.

In the car this morning:
"...kindof small - only twelve inches."

"Oh, you were just spoiled by Braz's big huge - what is it, fourteen inches?"
Laptop computer screens! What were you thinking?

I hate gambling. The prime interest rate has gone up by about one percent since we got our mortgage estimate several months ago. Now we have to decide whether to lock in at the higher rate, or take the chance that it will go down sometime in the next month. Our loan officer thinks it will go down, and he explained why he thought that. (His commission is the same no matter what rate we get, so he has no reason to mislead us.) But one percentage point is worth about $150 per month to us, so it's a pretty big gamble. If it goes up instead of down, we're going to have a pretty rough time making those payments. I hate gambling.

Matt says: "And you want to go to Las Vegas for a vacation?"

But the house is coming along pretty nicely. Not one single person wrote yesterday to say they were coming to help us move! Gee, three months ago the offers of help were sounding like it was going to make for a big party. Oh, well, I'm pretty sure we can do it with just my parents' help if we have to. Maybe we picked a bad weekend (27-29 Aug, if you hadn't heard yet). Or maybe you all thought, "She's not talking about me - they know I'm coming."

Or maybe fewer of you read my journal than I thought. ::grin::

I actually have work to do at work today! Let the masses rejoice! Okay, so it's almost the exact same thing that I did a couple of weeks ago, and it's a little too close to the testing department for my comfort, but at least I'm not stuck playing Moria and reading all day. I'm still waiting for a real project, but at least this isn't entirely makework.

Wednesday, July 21, 1999

I almost didn't get out of bed this morning. Matt was even helping, but I just didn't want to get vertical. Matt would haul me up, and I would flop back on the bed, laughing hysterically. It sortof reminded me of being a little kid, when I played a game with my dad to pretend to sleep through all sorts of nonsense when he was trying to get me up for school. And Crusade is on tonight, which means I'll be up late again. Don't expect me to be coherent in the morning, that's all I'm going to say!

We think the house might actually be done on time - which means we've got just a little more than a month to go before we move in. Wow. That's kindof scary to think about, actually. In a little more than a month, we'll be home-owners. (Well, home-mortgagers, anyway.) We need to start getting organized for the move, too. Anyone out there who reads this journal and who volunteered to help us move, please let me know whether you're still planning on helping, and whether you'd rather have pizza, subs, or whatever to eat at the post-move party.

Matt and I also need to get busy and go buy a refrigerator. Luckily, we already discussed some of the possible options and neither of us want any of the fancy trimmings like a side-by-side 'fridge or an icemaker. So we'll probably be able to pick up the 'fridge pretty reasonably, and it won't require installation - just plug it in and stick it in its nook.

And we need to decide whether we're going to get rid of our current couch when we move, or take it to the new house. That decision may hinge on how exactly how much cash we'll have to turn over at closing. Ah, the joys... Maybe it's a good thing there isn't going to be a Sci-Con this year; we wouldn't really be able to afford it anyway.

The Fresh Market two doors down from our bank is a little health-obsessed, over-priced grocery store, but they have some of the best produce in the area. (You have to watch out for the organically grown produce, of course - in my experience, "organically grown" doesn't really mean "healthier" so much as "way too expensive.") But I stopped in there yesterday after Weight Watchers and they had nectarines that were the size of my fist and perfectly ripe. I had one (along with some blueberries) for dinner last night.


Tuesday, July 20, 1999

No-one at all posted in the forum yesterday. Was the question that boring? You guys can post your own questions if you think mine are stupid, you know! At any rate, I'm way too sleepy to think up a new question today, so you're stuck with what's there.

So, the meeting with the loan officer didn't happen. He lost his daybook and didn't remember to meet us, so we've rescheduled for Wednesday. I'm not very happy about this guy. He was supposed to call us months ago to tell us about the different loan programs, but didn't, so instead we'll hear about them all at once and have to make a decision about them under pressure. I've gotten such a bad attitude about the people building the house for us that I actually suggested to Matt that he's just stalling in the hopes that interest rates will go up again before we can finish the paperwork.

As long as we were at the model office yesterday, we left a note for Donald - the construction supervisor - asking a few questions and making a few reminders. The real estate agent who was there looked it over and asked if we'd gotten this stuff put on our contract. We were pretty sure we had, and the copy of our contract isn't at the model house so he couldn't check. But Matt dug it out last night and looked at it, and none of it was there. But we definitely remember talking to Nancy about all this stuff beforehand. Did she tell us that these things didn't have to be contracted? Or did we forget to tell her to put them on the contract? What gives? Matt and I are a little irritable about it, since adding everything now is going to cost us a pretty penny.

I'm so sleepy this morning that I'm almost nauseous. I have got to get to bed on time tonight.

I added a picture to the family reunion photo album yesterday. I didn't bother mentioning it in the change history because it's such a minor thing, but I wanted to mention it somewhere. The picture I added is the formal family portrait. I think it looks nice, except that the background is so dark that some of the dark-haired people look like their heads just stop at the top of the forehead. I hope it looks better on the actual print.

We're going to a baseball game on Saturday as an office event. Matt's pretty excited about it, and I'm looking forward to it, too. I've only ever been to one live baseball game before (not counting gym class or Little League) and that was in Richmond. (These are minor leagues and farm teams, you understand; Hampton Roads has been trying for years to attract a major-league sport, but has so far been totally unsuccessful.) The last baseball game I went to was for the Richmond Braves, which is a farm team for Atlanta. They played, um... I forget. I remember that it was a Canadian team, because they played both national anthems and the crowd in the stands was moderately rude about the Canadian anthem. But I had a lot of fun. I was there with K.T., her mother, and Matt (who at the time was dating K.T.) and the three of them tried to explain what was going on to me. A lot of it didn't make any sense, but I had a great time. That game had to go through three extra innings before the Canadian team finally broke the tie. By the time it was over, I was starving (having had only a pretzel) and sunburned and hoarse from yelling.

The Tidewater Tides are connected to the New York Mets, if I'm not mistaken. Matt was poking around their website yesterday and noticed the souvenier prices. He confessed to "going fogey" at the $20 price tag on a simple cap. I goggled and told him I'd join him in the old folks' home over that one. I wonder how much it's going to cost us to have a hot dog and a pretzel at the game? Oh, well, it should be fun.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to crawl under my desk and go back to sleep...

Monday, July 19, 1999

I had a pretty good weekend. Friday evening I was talking to K.T. on the phone and got the distinct impression that she was feeling a little under the weather, so I suggested a movie. Matt and I picked her up and we went to see Tarzan, which was actually quite good. Very little singing for a Disney movie - or at least, very little from the screen characters. I liked that. And I was very impressed with the way they handled languages - that if a human other than Tarzan was in a scene, then the animals talking to each other actually sounded like animals. I had wondered if they were going to try to fit in the whole "missing Lord Greystoke" thing along with the origin story, but they didn't try. It's probably just as well - it would have made the action too rushed.

Saturday my AD&D game kicked off. It seemed to go pretty well, except that I didn't have enough planned. It's been a while since I GM'ed on anything like a regular basis; I'd forgotten how quickly players can scythe through a plot. But my brother just e-mailed me about ten of his favorite modules (he wrote them; I'm not talking about copyright infringement, here!) so hopefully I'll be able to adapt some of them. And I need to come up with crit tables, pronto! But everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves, at least.

Sunday we ran a bunch of errands, and then - because I had 20 Weight Watcher's points left for the day, we went to Ben and Jerry's for some ice cream. Yum! There's something about eating fattening food as part of your diet that makes it taste even better. I had my ice cream in a chocolate-dipped waffle cone, but I've decided I won't do that again; I actually like the plain waffle cones better. (I know, I'm a mutant.)

I got Richard and Carl up on my Who's Who page, finally, and I had a funny thought while I was writing them up. Carl is very tall and very thin, and Richard is sortof short and stocky. I want to take a picture of them standing next to each other and then doctor the picture to be Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. It was just a thought.

Today after work Matt and I are meeting Ken (our loan officer) at the model house so we can finalize things for our mortgage loan. For one thing, the loan rates have started going back up, so we want to lock in our rate! Of course we'll be stopping at our house while we're there, so you can probably expect to see new pictures if they've done any work. There are also a stack of questions that we need to remember to ask and reminders to make: Why is the frame for our pantry so much smaller than the one in the model office? Remember to run a heating vent into the garage, but cover it over with a metal plate. Remember that we'd wanted a driveway wide enough to support two vehicles. And for pete's sake, remember that I want the second shelf of the kitchen cabinets lowered!

Friday, July 16, 1999

Well, the meeting with the electrician went pretty well. Matt and I had taken a photocopy of the floor plan and drawn on it where we wanted outlets, phone jacks, cable jacks, and ceiling fan hookups. We showed them to the Mux (the electrician) and Donald (the construction supervisor) and they seemed to be happy that we actually knew what we wanted in advance. We told them which rooms really needed a lot of power and which ones had loads of outlets just for convenience's sake, and Mux told us how he thought he'd do the circuits, and we approved. Donald asked what our closing date was, and expressed confidence that it would be done on time. We went back to the model office and made photocopies of our plan for Mux to keep, and then went on our merry way.

Progress had been made during the week, as well: The ductwork had expanded, they had begun running water pipes, the bathtubs for the two bathrooms upstairs had been delivered, and they've begun putting the aluminum siding up. We had a few moments of panic when we saw a thick vent running into our coat closet - the coat closet is right next to the closet where they'll be installing the heater, and we thought they'd gotten them mixed up. But Matt walked over to the model office and talked to the person there, and that vent is actually supposed to be there - they'll cover it up with sheetrock when they're done so we don't have to look at it, and we'll have a dent in our closet which can probably be used as a shelf, so I'm not too discombobulated about it.

Bunches of people actually posted to the forum - I think this will work much better than the guestbook. We'll see, I suppose. In response to the demand, Jeremy posted a new topic, but as it isn't actually a question or a real topic, I doubt many people will post to it.

Karen wrote me yesterday to explain the origins of the word panniers (apparently the correct term for the bicycle saddlebags) and its multiple meanings. I had meant to post it for everyone else to read, but my brain went into auto-pilot and I deleted the e-mail. In short - panniers was the term for a pair of baskets, generally carried across an animal's flanks, but valid for any set of two containers acting as counterweights for each other. The 19th century women's fashion which placed smallish sets of hoops at each hip were called panniers after the baskets. Now you know.

It seems that I must apologize for the bicycle entry, after all. When I went back and re-read it the first time, I was willing to concede that it sounded grumpy, but not that I had actually said anything truly offensive. But Karen pointed out a few specific sentences which were, in fact, moderately obnoxious on my part. I missed them the first time because I tend to read journals as if a giant "in my opinion" were slathered across them, and as Karen pointed out, neither sentence would have been nearly as irritating if I'd tacked that qualifier onto them. So here in front of everyone I've offended: I'm very sorry. I didn't mean to be offensive, and I hope you will forgive me.

Thursday, July 15, 1999

Something new! Something different! Because my guestbook was being used as a messageboard, I thought I'd take advantage of a free bulletin board service offered by Greenspun to start a message forum. Go take a look, click on links indiscriminately, make a few posts, and let me know what you think!

In case you're curious, I found the site through Squishy, one of my favorite journals. Of course, Squishy gets enough hits in a day to post a new question/thread every day, which I doubt I'll do. But this system should allow you to answer each other and post questions of your own. If you like, you can be notified via e-mail every time anyone posts, or you can receive regular digests of all postings. I thought it was a nifty system - much better than I could do in a short time - and it was free. Please let me know if you hate it and I'll go back to using the old guestbook!

This afternoon Matt and I are going to meet the electrician at the house so he can mark where we want outlets, and we can tell him to do things like put the computer room on its own circuit and put the outlets in the garage at the same level as the rest of the outlets (for when we convert the garage to a den). We're going to make these decisions for ourselves today - draw them on a copy of the floorplan and pass it back and forth a few times - so that we don't argue about them when we get there.

I know, it sounds like I'm just assuming that we'll disagree. It seems a little fatalistic until you understand that we've already had one disagreement about the outlets. (If you're curious, it was about whether or not to use my Dad's suggestion of having the outlets in the computer room mounted halfway up the wall so we could get to them without crawling on the floor. Matt pointed out that we're not plugging any computers directly into the wall anyway - we're using surge suppressors - so that we're going to have to crawl around on the floor anyway. I thought it would be nice to put the suppressors on the desks instead of on the floor - I enjoy having my outlet bank on my desk at work - but it's not important enough for me to argue about. Also, we have to consider that we'll eventually sell the house, and I think it would sell better if the placement of the outlets wasn't weird. End of an entirely too-long aside.)

Really, the important thing for me is that we have lots of outlets. The only thing I think the electrician might possibly argue with me about is that I want two sets of outlets under each front window, which will seem like a bit much for such short sections of wall. I have one reason for it, though: Christmas candles. For approximately 10% of the year I plan to keep electric candles in the front windows, and I want the outlets spaced for it. (If you've got one outlet in the middle, the candles with their short cords have to sit so close together that they look stupid.) I also want several outlets on the outside of the house.

I know, you probably couldn't care less about my electrical outlets. I'm babbling. But it was a late night, an early morning, and babbling is what I do when I'm tired.

Go talk amongst yourselves.

Wednesday, July 14, 1999

I hate rainy weather.

No, that's not quite true. When it rains in the summer and I don't have to be at work, I love to sit by the window and let the sound of falling rain provide a soothing backdrop for an evening of reading, or to go out into a hard, driving rain and get soaked to the bone. Grey, rainy days like today can, if I'm at leisure, provide a certain relaxing, quiet melancholy that's really quite pleasant once in a while. And there's nothing like snuggling down under the covers and dozing while the rain patters against the window.

But I'm not at leisure. It's morning, and I have to be at work. The rain is making me sleepy, but I can't go back to sleep. We're having a bit of unreasonably cool weather for July, so it's no good to go out and play in it. The extra moisture in the air is causing my hair to tangle and my skin to swell so that none of my clothes seem to fit me quite right. And - as has become usual in the past two months - I'm not working on anything exciting enough to be worth waking up for.

Okay, so far I've had three people complain about my rant about bicycles. Which in and of itself is a little disturbing. These people seem to think that I was insisting that bicycles are entirely useless and stupid. I thought maybe (because I was irritated while I was writing the rant) that I had simply not been coherent enough. But I went back and re-read it, and I think it still says what I was trying to say: That I personally find bicycles terribly uncomfortable to ride for any length of time - which makes biking about as much fun as stubbing my toe - and that I find it somewhat disturbing that the pasttime is so popular. Okay, the tone is pretty grumpy, but that's because I was grumpy when I was writing the entry.

What I don't make clear is why the popularity disturbs me. It's because it puts me in the minority - and unlike most minority opinions, absolutely no one seems willing to believe that my opinion on this subject is just as valid as theirs. Being in the minority doesn't bother me as long as the majority is willing to accept my views. I dislike both seafood and spicy food - but everyone else has foods they don't like, so they shrug and tolerate my pickiness. I prefer cats to dogs, and the only time that bothers me is when people assume I'd prefer a dog if I had space for one. But on the bicycle issue, my opinion is greeted with a disbelieving "How could you possibly not like biking?" attitude. They try to tell me why they like it (with the distinct implication that this is why I should like it) and that annoys me to no end. It's like it's a religion, and that sort of fanatical devotion disturbs me no matter what the devotion is for.

And that's all I'm going to say on the matter.

I stayed up late to finish The Lions of Al-Rassan last night. I remembered from the first time I read the book that there was a duel between the two male characters at the end. I remembered that the description of the fight left doubt as to who won, and that the author played some dirty tricks for a good twenty pages to mislead you about the winner. But for some reason, I also remembered that they had both managed to survive the duel - that one of them had badly crippled the other, but that they both lived. (By the time the duel happens, the characters are actually friends, and both have the reader's sympathies. I cried all the way through the last fifty pages, both times I read the book.) But I had remembered wrong. One of them does kill the other. Why had I remembered them both living? Blind optimism, I suppose. For some reason, that false remembrance made the discovery that much worse when I got to it.

I think that what I like best about the book is that there isn't a bad guy. Everyone is trying to do their absolute best for the people they love. There are people whose ambitions collide; and there are people who, in doing the best they can, only make things worse; and there are people whose ideas of good and bad conflict. But no one is out for destruction simply for the sake of it. No one is evil. Everyone has redeeming features. The abmitious king adores his wife. The religious fanatic is absolutely loyal. The ruthless king did well by his people. I appreciate, occasionally, a world where nothing is black or white, but only the soft greys of a rainy day.

And thus we come full circle.

Tuesday, July 13, 1999

Ack. I hate that. How come they have to pack the Kleenex box so tight that when I start a new box, invariably the first ten or so tissues get ripped in half as I pull them out of the box? They might as well just put ten or so fewer tissues in the box, and then I might actually get a kleenex to my nose before I sneeze.

The house is really coming together - we've got an appointment on Thursday to meet with the electrician so we can talk about where we want outlets and how much amperage we need for each circuit. I've been joking that I want an outlet everywhere that there's a stud to screw it to (that sounded very perverted). And Monday we have an appointment with the loan officer so we can lock in our loan rate. (I suspect him of stalling in hopes that the rate would go up a little more - it's already gone up about a quarter of a percent since we last talked to him.) We're moving in just over six weeks, if they finish on time. Pretty soon we'll want to do some preliminary packing, and in a few weeks we'll need to go shopping for a refrigerator.

Last week I talked to the apartment manager and arranged for us to extend our lease by one month. (They usually don't allow that, but since I was asking well over sixty days in advance, and since they can wrench an extra fee out of us for the extension, they were agreeable.) If the house is finished on time, it means we'll be paying an extra month's rent for no reason at all, but I think it's worth the extra cost to know that we won't have to move twice if the closing date gets moved.

I still am not working at work. I just talked to my supervisor and he gave me some hardware to look at that I can't look at until I get a connector cable for it, and promised to talk to some people to get me on a project. It's only been, what? A month? Six weeks? Sheesh. I bet it'll be next week before I actually get work. And even then, it'll be makework. ::sigh::

I'm freezing. I guess this is my punishment for scoffing at my grandfather all weekend for being chilled in my parents' 78-degrees house and forcing everyone to congregate on the 100-degrees porch. Now the weather has dropped 25 degrees overnight, and the sudden temperature change is settling in my bones. I'm always cold at work - I keep a flannel shirt at my desk because the temperature in the building is very badly regulated. But now I'm cold everywhere. And this is July? Oh, well, I'm not really complaining; I'd rather be chilled than overheated - I can always put on some more clothes or snuggle under a blanket.

But it's cool and rainy outside and all I want to do is crawl back into bed and... zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Monday, July 12, 1999

Things That Woke Me Up This Weekend
  • ssssssssssWHAP!THUMP!WHAM! Which is to say, a book fell over and landed in the garbage can, knocking the can over. That one had me sitting bolt upright by the time we'd reached the THUMP! stage.
  • The cat, wanting to be cuddled.
  • The muffled pop of the fitted sheet coming off the matress.
  • The cat, wanting to be fed.
  • The scratchy feel of the uncovered matress.
  • The cat, wanting to be let outside.
  • Matt, rolling over into my side of the bed to avoid the scratchy uncovered matress on his side.
  • The cat, visciously attacking my toes.
  • A dream in which I was writing a letter to a friend with advice about some marriage problems (problems that existed only in the dream universe) while simultaneously trying to figure out what to do about a marriage problem of my own (another problem that existed only in the dream universe.)
  • The cat, purring in my ear.
  • The radio alarm: "-nother real scorcher today, so try to stay inside..."
  • The cat, not sure what he wants, but making sure I was ready to provide it.
  • A stiff and aching back.
  • The cat, breathing in my face.
  • Matt, breathing in my face.

Saturday, July 10, 1999

My apologies to loyal readers who waited in vain for me to post yesterday. I took the day off to spend with my family.

Some anecdotes:

I saw the niftiest thing yesterday as I was driving around town. There was a truck in front of me, getting ready to turn left, and along with the usual blinking taillight in the back, there was a blinking arrow inside the rear-view mirror. It was made of a bunch of little red lightbulbs that had been placed behind the mirror, so that when they were off, it looked like a normal mirror, but when they were on, it looked like, well, like a bunch of little lights were shining through the mirror. It was really neat looking, and I wanted to follow the guy for a while to find out when he turned right whether the lights would still be on the driver-side mirror, only with the arrow pointing right instead of left, or if the arrow would appear on the passenger-side mirror instead.

My grandparents live in San Antonio, and Matt and my grandfather were talking about the Spurs' recent basketball championship. Grandad mentioned that his dental hygenist had paid $50 to see the championship game. Matt said, "That's pretty reasonable for playoff tickets!" My grandfather: "Yes, but that had to be a whole week's salary for her!" After a moment's thought, he amended it to two or three days' pay. Now, I don't know what hygenists make, but, um...

My family has a tradition for fighting over the check when we go out to dinner as a large group. It's pretty good entertainment, and in recent years the youngest generation (mine) have begun to help their parents. (We're not expected to take part in the competition, though lately Matt and I have begun arguing with my father over the check when it's just my immediate family.) Last night, my dad managed to grab the check first, and my grandfather and grandmother immediately tried to get one of us grandchildren (sitting between them and my dad) to get the check and pass it to them. We refused. At one point, Grandmom appealed to John, and John said, "Did you say something?" while feining to be deaf. After we'd gotten home, Grandmom was still trying to make dad take some money from her, and John quipped that if she wanted to give it away that badly, she could give it to him. Never one to miss a beat, Grandmom turned around. "Did you say something?"

And one from last weekend that I had forgotten: While we were watching the fireworks, the guys were joking: "It's the same ending every year; I don't know why I bother to watch any more." "Yeah, the Americans win every year!" "Just once I'd like to see the Brits win. It's depressing!" "Well, I'm getting used to the futility." Without looking away from the fireworks, I said, "It's sortof like being a Cubs fan." I thought Matt was going to make me sleep outside, but it's pretty rare for me to actually get off one of those zingers with such good timing, so I couldn't resist.

My grandfather is almost frightening frail. He's been moving slower and more carefully for years now, but now it takes him almost ten minutes just to get in and out of the car, and he has trouble just standing up and sitting down. He absolutely refuses any help, but everyone is hovering anyway. I'm sure it irritates him to no end. When we went to see the construction on our new house, he admitted that he wasn't up to climbing the (finally-installed) stairs to see the second floor. I'm relieved that his mind is still mostly sound (his idea of fair wages and tips for waiters notwithstanding) but it's worrying to see how much weight he's dropped. My father says that he thinks my grandmother pushed for this reunion now because she isn't sure he'll make it until Christmas, and I think I agree. I'm afraid I'll be flying to San Antonio for a funeral before another year is past.

I've had brief conversations with my father and my brother about what will happen to my grandmother when that happens. She likes to present a very strong, self-sufficient front, and she's very adamantly opposed to "worrying" anyone else with their troubles. It's happened several times that Grandad will go into the hospital for relatively minor surgery (no surgery is really minor at his age) and no one else in the family find out about it until he was home again. And this despite the fact that Grandmom has e-mail and my parents call them every weekend. The consensus is that Grandmom will either handle Grandad's death with exquisite strength and poise and go on to become an energetic, busy widow - or that she'll give up and die, herself, shortly afterwards. It will be one extreme, or the other - Grandmom has never been the sort of person to do anything middle-of-the-road. But that second options scares us.

It makes me feel frightened, and vulnerable. I realized that I'd reverted to calling my father "Daddy" instead of just "Dad" - which I haven't done for at least a decade. Aside from greetings and farewells, we're not a very touchy family, but I keep reaching out and putting a hand on peoples' shoulders, or around a waist, or giving hugs. (One pleasant note - my two male cousins, Craig and David, didn't shy away from hugs or move forward with resignation on their faces the way they used to. Whether they've actually matured enough to be over the adolescent male anti-hug phase, or if they've just learned to control their facial expressions better, it's a good thing.)

Everyone gets older. Everyone dies, and my grandfather hadn't expected to live past 75 (none of his brothers did) and here he is at 86. I will die one day, and the idea doesn't particularly frighten me. I don't want to die, mind you - but I'm not afraid of it. But other deaths strike deep into my heart. They remind me how frightening it is to be alone.

Thursday, July 8, 1999

This morning, on the way to work, we passed a white-haired couple on bicycles. That, in and of itself, is unusual but hardly surprising. But these were reclining bicycles, which I thought only existed in stationary form in gyms. Full backpacks were strapped to the seat backs, saddlebags were slung over their rear wheels, and they were riding in the middle of the highway lane, side-by-side, rather than in single file in the shoulder, which was paved and plenty wide enough.

Matt and I were both amazed and slightly dismayed. Williamsburg is a very quiet, prosaic little town. You really don't see peculiar things like that around here very often.

Jeremy, when I tried to tell him about it, defended them. "If you're doing long-distance bicycling," he told me, "that's really the only way to go." Also, "It's not normal to pretend to be elves and dwarves and killing monsters, either. You shouldn't complain about other peoples' weirdness." (Jeremy isn't a gamer.)

I found myself vaguely offended. After all, we gamers at least know we're not normal. We admit to it, proudly, and we tease each other for our individual weirdnesses.

But then I thought about it. What, precisely, so disturbed me about this couple? I was moderately irritated that they were riding in the middle of the highway as if they were cars - that sort of behavior always irritates me. Bicyclists seem to think that just because they have wheels, they're entitled to cause traffic problems. But that didn't really disturb me; rudeness only irritates me. (And, to give them the benefit of the doubt, I'll assume that they plan to pull over when the traffic gets heavy enough that zipping around them isn't possible. But only because I'm in a good mood.)

I think, really, it was the saddlebags that got to me. They were made of the same colorful nylon that backpacks are made of, and looked like they held quite a lot. I couldn't see how the edges of the bags didn't get caught in the wheel spokes, but then I didn't stop to look closely - I assume the backs were stiffer than the fronts looked. And actually, it seemed like a very good idea. But the very idea that long-distance bicycling could possibly be popular enough to warrant actually manufacturing something like that disturbs me.

I couldn't wait to ditch my bicycle. It had nothing to do with effort or exercise, either. I was in good shape in high school. And I was a good bicyclist - I could ride all the way around my block (well, when you live at the end of a cul de sac, it's more like a blob than a block) without once touching the handlebars. In fact, I preferred riding without touching the handlebars, because that was the only way I could sit up straight. But I still didn't care for the bike. I just couldn't get where I wanted to go with the damn thing. Around the neighborhood, sure. But all my friends lived at least five miles away, along roads that were not safe to travel at less than 40 miles per hour. Once my best friend got a car, that was the end of the bicycle, though for all I know it's still hanging up in my dad's garage.

I've never understood the appeal of bicycling to begin with. Narrow, hard seats (and don't try to tell me otherwise; even the wide, padded ones feel narrow and hard when you've been on them for more than ten minutes. I remember!) An operating angle that's got to be terrible for your back and posture (it certainly hurts enough!) And nowadays the brakes are always on the handlebars, so you can't avoid killing your back by learning to steer without them. Dozens of gears that really don't make any difference in the long run - your legs hurt from pushing harder, or they hurt from pedaling faster, what's the difference? And that stupid bar? It used to be that girls' bikes didn't have a bar, but they all have them, now, unless you want a mountain bike. I've got news for these people: I'm short. I cannot straddle these bikes without getting a wedgie from that stupid bar. They simply do not make a frame short enough for me to avoid that bar - and I'm not even really all that short. I'm just not tall. (Yeah, the bar really offends me.)

I can understand biking as an exercise - it probably beats the heck out of jogging. But I never have and probably never will be able to comprehend biking for pleasure. It's just not a pleasurable activity.

I can understand that there are a few people who will enjoy any activity and make a vacation out of it, like this old couple going gods-know-where very slowly. Good for them, I say. At least they're taking the time to enjoy the trip as well as the destination. But the idea that there are enough people who enjoy this that there are actually manufactured saddlebags really bothers me.

Someone tell me this is just a fad.

Wednesday, July 7, 1999

Okay, so I didn't update again yesterday. I worked on my photo album instead. I want to work on the look of that main page some, but I think I'm finally happy with the organization.

If money was no object, where would you go and what would you do? That's what I was thinking about in the shower this morning.

I'd put together my own darkroom, and learn photography again. Maybe take it as an art class (rather than a mechanics class) and learn photographic composition. Color, or just black and white? I'm not sure. It's easier to be artistic with black and white - or maybe that's just this Ansel Adams perception thing. Maybe you can be just as creative in color. Maybe people discount color photography as truly artistic because it's so much easier.

I'd learn how to ride horseback. I don't know that I'd want my own horse, but maybe I would, once I learned. Or maybe I'd just like to take lessons and rent a horse from a stable to go on rides. I've only ever been on a horse twice before, but I loved it both times.

I'd learn how to ride a motorcycle. It gives my mom the willies when I say that, but I think it would be fun. I wouldn't want a motorcycle as a means of transportation - just as recreation. I promise right now that I'll always wear a helmet.

I'd travel. There are hundreds of places I'd like to go, if I could travel in style. I wouldn't want to fly overseas in a cramped commuter class seat, but I might be okay with going first class. Or maybe on a ship. (I don't know about the ship. I get motion sick in cars and occasionally in planes, but if I take Dramamine regularly I'm usually fine.) But I'd like to try taking a cruise. To the Bahamas or the Caribbean. And I'd take my mom on an Alaskan cruise. I want to spend six months doing a grand tour of Europe. I want to be someplace and feel steeped in history. I want to go to Pompeii and Herculaneum and view the ruins and try to imagine living in those cities, in those times. I want to go to London and see the changing of the guard and watch shows. I want to go to Germany and do a leisurely Rhine River tour and look at the castles along its banks. I want to see what's left of the Berlin Wall, because even thinking about it gives me the shivers. (Did you know, the Berlin Wall came down, officially, on my eighteenth birthday? How cool is that!)

I'd take another six months and do a grand tour of North America. (I was going to say the U.S., but I'd like to go to Canada, too. I've heard Vancouver and Ontario are beautiful cities.) I'd go to Maine and try lobster for the first time. I'd go to Cape Canaveral for a shuttle launch. I'd go to Seattle and go to the top of the Space Needle. I'd go to Chicago and take in a Cubs game. I'd go to L.A. and spend a couple of days watching for celebrities. (I didn't promise to be tasteful!) I'd go to Las Vegas and spend a little time gambling, but most of it watching shows. I'd go to New Orleans for Mardis Gras and watch it all from a balcony window. (I can only handle crowds in limited doses.) I'd go to Disney World every three years, and stay in their poshest resorts. But I'd go in the fall or winter, when it's not as crowded.

Nothing like a little fantasy to start the day.

Tuesday, July 6, 1999

For those of you who have been breathlessly awaiting updates on the house, for a second week in a row, no work has been done. I suspect this is because they know I bought a camera with the intent of doing regular updates. But while they were in town, we took Braz and Kris to see it, and they were suitably impressed.

It's going to be an odd week. The weekend didn't really feel like a long weekend because we spent most of Saturday waiting for Braz and Kris to arrive. We spent yesterday thinking it was Sunday. I puttered around the kitchen this morning thinking it was Monday. If Matt hadn't reminded me, I would have forgotten to write the check for the cleaning service. (Which would have been really bad, because I forgot last time, too.) Oh, well. Hopefully, this will mean that I'll be happily surprised by an early Friday.

I'm too sleepy to think of anything to write about this morning. Maybe you should check back this afternoon.

Monday, July 5, 1999

A bonus entry! Today is a holiday at my office, so I wouldn't generally write. But I know you're all out there on pins and needles just waiting to find out about my weekend, and I couldn't disappoint my four loyal readers like that, now could I?

Pop!We had invited Braz and Kris Brandt to spend the weekend with us. Kris had had to work the night shift on Friday night (she's an oncology nurse) so she took a nap Saturday morning and they arrived late Saturday afternoon. Matt and Braz are both the sort of people who enjoy being silly. When you put them together, the effects increase exponentially. They gave Kris and I a demonstration of how, if you pop bubble wrap in your mouth, you get a nifty, echoing effect; and that by changing the shape and tension of your lips, you can change the tone of the echo.

Yeah, the whole weekend was pretty much like that.

Watching movies?Every now and then, I feel a little sorry for Kris when the four of us get together. Braz, Matt, and I are all computer geeks, and while Kris doesn't mind using computers, she doesn't really get the same visceral thrill from them that the rest of us do. Unfortunately, since she's outnumbered three to one, we spend a lot of time on computers when we're all together. However, Braz's latest acquisition - a Mac G3 Powerbook - had a built-in DVD player. So while the boys hopped on my computer to check their fantasy baseball statistics, Kris and I fired up Contact and spent some time drooling over Matthew McConaughey. (Well, Kris did most of the drooling. No, really!)

When I was a kid, it was a Fourth of July tradition in my family to make homemade ice cream and homemade butter. Matt and I have an ice cream maker that Jeff gave us as a wedding present and we hadn't yet gotten around to using. So I suggested that we could make ice cream - an idea which was quite well received. (I didn't suggest butter because it's very time-consuming and it wasn't something we could just start and then leave for half an hour like the ice cream.) The ice cream recipe called for two eggs, and since you can't buy just two eggs, I made a batch of meringue kisses Saturday night while I was making the ice cream base. (The ice cream base had to refrigerate overnight.) The meringue kisses, also, were well received. Sunday morning, after Matt shot down the idea of having ice cream for breakfast (what a party pooper!) we made waffles. The ice cream followed by only a few hours.

That evening, the boys grilled hot dogs and hamburgers for us while Kris and I made mac'n'cheese and baked beans to go along. The heat index was somewhere over 100(F), so we decided to have our picnic inside. But in a flash of inspiration, I dug my picnic cloth out of the closet, and we had our picnic on the living room floor. It was a lot of fun, actually.

Happy Independence Day!Later, we drove over to Jeremy and Elizabeth's apartment - they live not far from Colonial Williamsburg, and had suggested that from their apartment complex we might be able to view the fireworks without having to fight the crowds. We wound up having to crawl through some bushes to get a really good view, but WOW did we find a great view! We're going to have to remember that spot for next year! Afterwards, we sat around talking (and the geeks now outnumbered Kris five to one) and trying to convince Braz that he wanted to move back to Williamsburg.

Braz and Kris will be heading home today, and Matt and I will have to do the laundry and go to the grocery store (for something like the fifth time this weekend) for the real groceries. But I'm feeling energized and excited about the week coming up. Even if I don't get a project at work, I'm deep into the planning for my first AD&D game, I've got some pictures to upload to my photo album, and I've recently picked up playing Moria again. Also, I'm planning on taking Friday off from work (I keep saying I might take only a half-day, but that won't happen unless I get a project to work on) to spend with my brother.

All in all, it's been a great weekend. Good friends, good food, lots of fun. I got to use a variety of kitchen gadgets that I'd almost forgotten I had, and I got to have fun cooking a lot of yummy food.

Friday, July 2, 1999

Matt and I dropped by the house lot yesterday and were very disappointed to discover that they haven't worked on our house at all this week. Our lease is up in two months. I need to call the apartment complex and ask them when we'd have to sign a new lease if we're going to stay on another month or two.

Braz and Kris are coming up (down? over?) for a visit this weekend. They were going to have to split time between us and Braz's sister, but Whitney is going home for the weekend, so she won't be around. So we get them all to ourselves! Yay! I'm not sure what we'll do. I think I heard Matt talking to Braz on the phone about possibly grilling out, and if they bring their swimsuits we could go to the pool, though the pool is likely to be crowded. It's supposed to be a real scorcher of a weekend; according to the radio, the high for Saturday is supposed to be in the upper 90s, and Sunday even hotter. Since Braz and Kris don't have air conditioning, I bet they'll be glad to be in Williamsburg! We haven't talked about going anywhere to see fireworks, either. Apparently Williamsburg is celebrating some sort of anniversary, so they're having a really big to-do. That means really huge crowds, and given the confusing roads, it also means that the colonial area will take hours to clear when everything is over. Matt and I usually watch the fireworks from the parking lot of a shopping center not far from the colonial area. The ambience isn't as nice, but crowds make me tense. But maybe with friends... Well, we'll see.

Because the Fourth is on Sunday, the office is closed on Monday. Yay! A short week! Even shorter, for me - The Luck family reunion is going to be next weekend, and my brother is coming into town on Thursday (I think). I promised to take at least half a day off on Friday to spend it with him. Depending on whether I get any work to do next week, I may take the whole day off. I kindof miss my brother.

Which is a weird feeling. We hated each other growing up. It wasn't so much that we thought of each other as rivals; it's just that our attitudes rubbed each other the wrong way. They still do, sometimes. When we're doing "the family thing" and John and I are together for more than a few days, or if one of us is especially tired, any little spark will get fanned into a bonfire. It doesn't help that we're both stubborn as mules.

But around the time that I was graduating from high school, we achieved a sort of tense truce. Our mom was going through a sort of rough time and drinking a lot, and in the face of her very erratic and frightening behavior it was better that we stand together rather than face the storm alone. And once I moved out of the house to go to college and we didn't have our contradictory personalities constantly irritating us, things improved even more. When Matt and I were considering having traditional attendants at our wedding, I was going to ask John to stand for me instead of a maid of honor.

We're a lot alike - it's probably part of the reason we don't get along. But we both like gaming, and we like a lot of the same people, and now that we've figured out how to be in the same room without irritating each other, we enjoy each others' conversation. And just lately, he told me that he's starting to read.

I was always the academic one. John's no dummy (sometimes he surprises me with how intelligent he is, even if he can't spell worth a damn) but he's always been more visually oriented. When I was three, I taught myself to read by memorizing my favorite books when my parents read them to me, and then figured out which word-pictures went with which words. John just looked at the story pictures. I think it was one of the reasons that he didn't like me - as he came behind me in the school system, teachers who ought to know better assumed that if he was my little brother then he'd be just as academically oriented. He had to struggle to get through classes that I mostly ignored. And he never really enjoyed reading.

In college, though, he took an English class for which he had to read Bram Stoker's Dracula and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. He adored those books. The movies which were based closely on the books came out around that time, and their visual beauty captured him, and we had long discussions about the differences. I had to go out and buy both books and read them just so I could keep up.

Now, he's stuck in a hick backwater town with absolutely nothing to do, and he's reading more. He told me a few weeks ago that he wants books for his birthday and Christmas - when he sent me his wishlist, he listed the few books he already has, and begged for more.

I'm very excited. I've been waiting for ten years to share my reading passion with John. There are a few series that I read over and over and over again, and I'll start him on those. I've got two books I want to give him when I see him next week, and if he likes both of them, then I've got his birthday and Christmas both wrapped up - that's about fifteen more books. (I like long series. What can I say?) I want to take him to the bookstore and make recommendations and find out what he likes.

I feel like a little kid, just thinking about it - I've got these treasures, and I can't wait to share them.

"Look what I've got! Isn't it neat? You wanna hold it?"

Thursday, July 1, 1999

Well, welcome to July! Do you like the new layout?

Today's entry isn't likely to be especially exciting, I'm afraid. We went over to K.T.'s last night to talk and game a little and we were there until 10:45. And then when we got home, we decided to wait up for Crusade. Of course, it had been moved up to 11:30 by the NBA draft (who the heck is excited by watching sports drafts?) and the draft dragged on until midnight. At that point, Matt thought he had the VCR working, so I went to bed after just watching the opening scene. But that means I only got, um... Hold on, I'll get it... About six hours of sleep. Which is more than enough for some people, but not enough for me. If I'm going to be short on sleep, I need to only get about three hours instead of almost enough.

It rained off and on for most of the day yesterday, which isn't unusual for Williamsburg at this time of year. In mid-afternoon, I looked at the window and the rain was coming down in buckets, slanting steeply sideways... crap! I'd left my car window open a crack! So into the heavy rain I dashed to close the car window.

I've always enjoyed walking in heavy rain. I love it when it's falling so hard and fast it's like being in the shower, so you really have no hope of getting simply damp - you're soaked almost the second you walk out into. Once you're soaked, there's no good reason to run or try to get out of it - soaked is soaked, so you might as well just go slowly and enjoy it. Yesterday was like that. Only, instead of coming inside to a clean towel and a warm blanket, I had to come back in to my office, which was too cold when I was dry. So I ran and lamented the lost opportunity. When I first realized I was falling in love with Matt, it was because he would come out into a summer rainfall with me, when no one else would. But it seems like we never have time for it anymore.

But it was really funny when someone offered me an umbrella after I came back inside.

::laugh:: I have a little program I picked up, called Runes, which I got to give me inspiration when I can't think of anything else to write about. Since I'm so sluggish this morning, I thought I'd pull it out and see what it told me to write about. This is what it tells me:
Tiwaz (Warrior) Reversed: One's energy and creative flow are blocked, mental paralysis, over-analysis, difficulties in communication.
How very appropriate. I think I'll take the gods' advice. You might want to check back later today, in case I post this afternoon - I seem to be prone to that just lately.