Friday, November 30, 2007

Chuchundra No More!

I've always enjoyed Kipling's tale of Rikki-tikki-tavi, the mongoose who saves his Anglo family from Indian cobras. (Yeah, yeah, I know - Kipling's work smacks of patronizing colonialism - I like the mongoose, okay? Sheesh. Go organize Santa's elves, why don't you?) Anyway, among the animal characters in the story is a muskrat named Chuchundra, who always skitters around the edges of the room, too scared to dart out into the middle. Despite this, he is able to provide Our Hero with useful advice that helps enable Rikki to kill the murderous Nagiana.

When it comes to technology, I've always been a bit of a Chuchundra, too frightened to really dive into all that digital pixels, binary code, and things that go "ping!" have to offer. But I was reflecting on this just the other night and darned if I didn't discover that I'm a lot further away from the wall than I was a year ago. Let's see . . .

1. I have a shiny computer with a flat-screen monitor. Mind you, my television is non high-def, non TiVo, I don't have a fancy satellite-style package (which means no BBC America - blast!) and the TV itself has more depth than many of my postings - but my computer monitor is slimmer than an anorexic's hips.
2. As I write this, I'm having to pause to switch out holiday CDs that are being imported into iTunes. From there, I'll synch my iPod so I can belt out Christmas carols in my car.
3. I created not only this blog, but one for the BtVS class, which I've maintained regularly. I even learned how to add links to Websites (didn't know that back in May) and pictures.
4. Speaking of which, I've learned how to upload photos from trips (Istanbul, anyone?) and become an active member of a couple of online communities.
5. Thanks to my friend and partner-in-crime rainbowcipher, I received assurance that yes, I had in fact defragmented my computer properly to improve its digestion. Further, I think it counts that I can use the term "defrag" in casual conversation.

Hmm. Where's that wall again? I can barely see it from here. But I still think I'll steer clear of hooded serpents.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


Well, it had to happen. Purely in the interest of research and the lofty goal of attaining knowledge, Stacked Librarian and I attended a Renaissance Fair. I'd like to think we went in with the proper attitude, which was (for us) one of willing amusement. I mean, it's hard to maintain a sense of cool detachment when people in wimples are attempting to entice you by waving giant turkey legs in your direction.

Now, I'm all for playacting. In fact, I have degrees in that area. However, it's important to remember that Ye Olde Ren Faire is hardly historically accurate. And thank the stars above that's the case! Oh, look, Rufus, there's a plague rat! Mabel, I think that woman is in the stocks for being a sharp-tongued scold! (Medieval times would not have been kind to Mockingbird, as you can see.) Not to mention horrible food, a greatly diminished life expectancy, and a (to put it delicately) lack of attention to personal hygiene.

Still, it's great fun to walk around, once you buy into the slight absurdity of it all. We stopped to jeer at the victim of "Vegetable Justice" who was taunting two small children. In turn, they were allowed to step closer with their tomatoes. (Shades of Jackson's "The Lottery," now that I think about it!) We cruised through a maze that was really meant for much smaller participants and crowed delightedly when we found "gold" coins on the edges of the path. We missed the jousting (darn!), but did compliment one performer who was clearly a master of the nose flute. Nope, that's not a typo. Nose flute. We also splurged and bought clothing that is reinforced with steel. Practical? Not in the least. But certainly no crazier than standing in line outside Wal-Mart at 4 a.m. on the Friday after Thanksgiving.

Aside: As a fully-spurred Discount Knight, you may think that I'm sharpening my lance for Black Friday. And you'd be wrong. No way, no how. Yes, you can find fantastic deals, no doubt about it. But - the glory of being a Knight is finding deals that other people don't find. Black Friday is the retail equivalent of a canned hunt where beaters shoo the game out toward a clearing and the hunters blast away from their tree stands.

And I don't care for salivating crowds. No offense meant; other people love it. Just not my hunt.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

When One Door Closes . . .

. . . have the hatches battened down, matey, because it's going to stay that way for three flippin' months!

Being a homeowner has many advantages, including some nifty tax ones. However - mine is an older house with all sorts of hidden delights in the plumbing and electrical systems (ooh, look - fuses!) and very little of anything here is square or plumb. (Then again, I'm a bit off-center myself, so perhaps Ithaka and I are well suited for one another. Yes, the house is named "Ithaka," at least to me. Don't laugh before you've re-read The Odyssey. We're all looking for our own Ithakas. But I digress.)

The project of replacing an old door snowballed into a much larger project and then the fun really began as miscommunication and pilot error turned the whole snarled mess into a real-life version of the kids' game Telephone. Remember that one? Someone would whisper a sentence to the first kid, who would whisper whatever they heard to the next kid and so on and so on until it got all the way around the room, by which time the resulting sentence was mangled like my temper after the fifth visit to straighten out yet another kink in the project. I talked to employees, independent contractors, installation managers, store managers, district managers, and corporate personnel. I put my woes in writing and still wound up wondering if duct tape could serve as weatherstripping.

Long story short (trust me, this is short) - three months and several fits of temper and pique later, I'm marveling at the door (which was provided to me at an extremely discounted rate, due to - oh, everything. Very nice, but I still would much rather have had the door two-plus months ago). Mind you, it's just an ordinary steel exterior door - nothing custom-made or beveled or carved. I should be filled with righteous indignation - "Well, I gave them a piece of my mind!" or "I showed them just who they were messing with!"

You have any idea how ridiculous that sounds? To begin with (and at the risk of sounding extremely hug-a-tree-ish), there really isn't a "them." There's just "us" in this world and people usually are about as good as you expect them to be. I've yet to find the person who responds positively to being screamed at and/or treated as if he/she is a cretinous pinhead. Further, one of the greatest gifts I've been given in the last five or so years is the realization that the universe isn't out to get me; that I'm just not that important. (Don't get me wrong - my ego often tells me that I'm not only important; I'm cool enough to store meat in, but the universe isn't out to get me because of it!) So I stayed as polite as I could throughout the process, although I tried mightily to point out what efforts I was taking to retain my temper. I couldn't stay for the whole installation - some unexpected tilework added some time to the project - so I left for work, hoping for the best.

I got home from my night class tonight and - well. A solid door is firmly in place, nicely trimmed out with tight miter joints (and those aren't easy, me bucko!), primed and ready to paint. The locks are of excellent quality and turn smoothly. I have a new tiled entryway and old pieces to use under plants. My carport was swept clean and the crew even cut up a nasty-big tree limb that I hadn't been able to chop into manageable pieces. Heck, they even changed the bulbs in my porch light and quite literally left a light on for me!

Now, you might say that that's the least they could do, after inconveniencing me for 90 days.

And I'd call you a lousy cynic.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Taking It Outside!

No, the title doesn't refer to your intrepid correspondent getting rowdy in a honky-tonk. Rather, yesterday I took a brief break from piled-up responsibilities and headed West. Not too far, just enough to be in the mountains for the afternoon. It's full autumn here and while the colors aren't the best (drought, don't you know), the air has turned crisp enough to make you dig out gloves and a jacket. Stacked Librarian ditched her weekend chores to go with me and I acted as Ping-the-Sherpa, toting the water and trail mix.

It was a little hike, really. Nothing off-trail, nothing involving ropes and carabiners. But it was so nice to get outside for a while - to drive just far enough to justify saying (should the cell phone ring - always carry one for emergencies), "Sorry, can't. See, I'm out in the mountains . . ."

And it was a beautiful day for a hike. Bright, clear blue sky; maples and oaks changing their clothes for the winter dance; enough of Shinny Creek still flowing despite the drought to gurgle and splash; and enough of an upward climb to feel like I hadn't just taken a prolonged walk in the neighborhood.

I feel better for it. Or maybe that was the result of the ice cream on the way back.