September 2007


This week, due to a quirk in scheduling, a large number of people were gone from my office and so I had the entire side of the building to myself and the associated peace and quiet should have been a boon to productivity. In fact I stayed very busy and focused but unfortunately the task I set for myself was (cue the scary music) software development.

I hate writing software.

I’ve done it enough for the past 20 years that I now know it to be a largely pointless, every changing, empty thing with no hope of ever ending. It is the quicksand of modern life. Just when you learn a tool, the entire landscape changes and you have to relearn everything. Even if you are a modern genius and get your hands on every tool available, your ideas expand to match the capabilities and you dream up every more grandiose ideas of what you want to do and you never reach any point at which you can say you accomplished anything. At least that’s how I feel this week.

One of my jobs took me away from the leading edge development of Windows-based programming several years ago and I missed several generations of Microsoft Visual Studio and now the world is a strange place that is difficult to navigate; full of unknown wonders and pitfalls. At this point, I’m about ready to give it up and call myself a project manager.

Hopefully, next week will see a breakthrough and I can move on.

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After a mere few weeks, my “new” car displayed the dreaded “Check Engine” light.  Pretty annoying.  One day I hope to buy an actual new car again.  Perhaps when I get the windshield crack and the seat rip repaired, I’ll feel better.

This time around, I went to AutoZone and had them read the code for me and found out what it was in general but the part is a bit pricey so I decided to take another tack.  It’s only emission related so I’ve got some time – nothing will explode if I don’t deal with it today.  I bought the “Haynes” manual for the car and learned how to read out the codes without the help of a $300 piece of test equipment or the help of the AutoZone guy.  Furthermore, I can test the part to narrow down the problem so that I may not have to buy the expensive gizmo.  Best of all, I shouldn’t have to get very dirty – the part is right on top where I can get to it.

We’ll see.

How can that possibly be interesting?  Well, I guess it’s not really.  But I always enjoy it.

I enjoy it because it’s the only medical profession where they never hurt you; they only sit you down and ask you your opinion:  “which do you like better – this one or this one?”  Fun stuff; plus you get to look through all sorts of optics and I’ve always liked optics.  I didn’t understand very well the course I took in optics but I still appreciate optics for what they are.

At the end, I went to the “frame stylist”.  This is the part I like because they are all very stylish looking women.  So when they ask me what I want, I respond with something like “what do you think would look good?” This is like asking the dog if she’d like to go for a walk; it always stirs up a happy frenzy.  The women at the optometrist’s don’t actually run around in circles like my dog does but they are obviously happy.  I was the last appointment of the day and so I had three of them trying frames on me and scrutinizing me; it was like having a makeover on one of those TV shows.  In the end, I feel like I’ll look pretty good even though I have no fashion sense at all.  That’s the beauty of making sure you meet up with the most fashionable looking person at the optometrist’s office as long as she’s about your age.  With this combination, you can’t miss.

After the lasik, I never thought I’d darken the door of the optometrist’s again but middle age showed up and forced me to need reading glasses.  I stayed away for about five years but finally, I had to cave in and go back.  Lasik does nothing about astigmatism either.  But at least the resultant bifocals aren’t of the coke-bottle type thickness that they would be otherwise.

Now if I could just get somebody like that to help me pick out my clothes I’d be set.  Too bad that isn’t partially covered by my health plan along with spectacles.

This week is Alfred Hitchcock week on the AMC channel and so I’ve been trying to record the movies that we’ve never seen. I would simply watch them if it weren’t for the fact that they’re on really late or during the workday. So it is no mystery (or perhaps it is) that the first day, I botched up the programming of the VCR and recorded two hours of drek from the wrong channel. I guess that movie is one that I am destined not to watch. Man I really need to get a DVR from the cable company.

While this was going on, we’ve been producing our own movies. Evan was busy working on the video for the school that he and his buddies filmed (videoed?) last weekend. It didn’t make it through final screening due to the fact that the sponsor apparently found something unspeakably obscene about a brief scene involving a leaf blower. It was a still frame with a kid holding a leaf blower (normally) and the text appearing to blow out the nozzle – text that told how much the T-shirts were to cost and where to get one. Mel and I want to call the teacher up and ask her what she found wrong with the imagery but Evan doesn’t want us to. He doesn’t like to make waves. It’s not like I would call her up and call her an idiot (although I do have my suspicions); I just want to know what she saw that I did not. Anyway, he edited that out and turned it in and all is well.

I took this as inspiration and worked on some of my family home video. I’ve gotten as far as Evan’s first birthday party. I guess you could say that I am not making very good progress in the two years since I bought the digitizing thing; I hope that I have many years more of good health in which to catch up. I’m getting a bit more efficient as time goes by though. I’ve finally learned a few tricks of how to delete most of your video and how important the right soundtrack is.  There was a bit of video from the time when we were packing up to move from Fort Worth to California and I remember that time as a bit unpleasant.  But rather than pick some melancholy tune that matched my mood at the time, I found some bouncy thing that made the whole video seem upbeat.  And this is how we reject the reality and substitute our own.  They do it in the entertainment business all the time.  Alfred Hitchcock was particularly good at it.  How else can you account for the fact that, in the movies, there is always a parking space right in front of the skyscraper when you drive up?  Or that the man always has exactly the right amount of cash to pass to the cabbie in a wad?

Anyway, now I can move on to his second year.  Check back with me next year for a screening.

Evan played in the band at Friday night’s crosstown football game as usual but came home with an ear infection.  It didn’t slow him down much but required a visit to the after hours doctor place.  It was his one free Saturday from now until Thanksgiving but he spent it with his buddies making a video on commission from the school.  It’s basically a commercial advertising the “Bash Union” T-shirts that they are selling at the high school.  He turned in the DVD this morning so presumably it will start running during the announcements this morning.

Small groups started at church yesterday and so Erin was all hyped up.  I spent the church time yesterday morning sitting in the car in misery from this season’s record breaking hay fever.  The pollen counts are at near record levels this year and my meds are only barely keeping up with things.  At times the symptoms break through and take me out of circulation for a few hours.

It’s probably due to my yard work.  This is the time of year when they tell us in the paper to do all that fall stuff to your yard and so I do it:  reseed, fertilize, mow (bag the clippings), etc.  I didn’t put out new flowers at the mailbox though.  All that stuff probably set off the hay fever.  Mel was trying to get Evan’s university applications completed (since he’s always off doing stuff with The Pride or homework).  If I could have one wish, it would be that he was not in marching band.  It just takes too much time for a student who intends to be an academic rather than a musician.  But the woman at TU that he interviewed with kind of said the opposite:  that she liked to see stuff like that.  But as a result of Mel’s continued involvement in the clerical side of things, I got to do the grocery shopping.  More exposure to pollen.

Still, it was all good; temperatures were cool and fall was in the air.  The only thing I haven’t done yet to keep up with traditions is to turn on a football game and fall asleep in front of it.  I hope one day to upgrade my cable system to HD so that I can nap in high resolution splendor.

For reasons that I never understood, my truck ad sat idle for about four days until I finally called Autotrader and demanded to know why it hadn’t appeared on the website yet.  Well, they remedied that immediately and I had a call within hours of that.  Indeed, the caller came out to see the truck (along with the whole family) and bought it right then and there.  I met up with them later the next day and got the money.

One ad that ran for less than 24 hours.  That’s not bad!  Of course, it was pretty cool looking; I had always thought it was tailor made for a 17 year old boy and sure enough, that’s who bought it.  Well, good for him.

After all is said and done, what with registration and everything, I traded even – no expense required on my part.  That’s pretty hard to beat.  The Honda has a few more miles on it but that’s about it.  One crack in the windshield that can be fixed at my convenience.  I’m pretty happy with how it all turned out.

Two Mondays ago, we bought the Honda Accord from Mel’s boss and I’ve been happily driving it ever since.  I spent last weekend prepping the truck for sale which took a surprisingly long time.  Detailing a car by yourself is a pretty long process.  Nevertheless, I finished the advertisement for Autotrader.com by Saturday night.

The only problem I have with it is the lack of anyplace to plug in my iPod.  I bought one of those radio-based devices but it can only be said to be a stopgap.  It just doesn’t work that well.  There are many options but they all involve taking the dashboard apart.  I have no problems letting a trained professional do that but I have this weird feeling that when it goes back together there will be rattles and squeaks.  That’s usually what happens when you take apart something complex and put it back together even if you know what you’re doing.  One of the things I like about the car is the quiet ride.

So we’ll see.

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