Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Bow down before the one you serve

Fucking Sears.

Fucking "American Home Shield" home warranty.

Why is it so difficult to get anything done simply these days? Why do I have to spend so many of my precious Nolan-free minutes on the goddamn phone with a goddamn robot trying to get someone to come fix my goddamn washing machine? It's not just: "Oh, the washing machine's broken, let me call the repairman." And the repairman shows up and fixes the stupid thing.

Instead, it's: "Oh, the washing machine's broken." Let me call the home warranty place (on a Friday) and get a robot and push button after button on their voice menu before getting a live human, who then proceeds to tell me to wait for a call back. So I wait for a call back and speak to a human for 30 seconds before being transferred to Sears to talk to their robot (who at least has voice-recognition software so I can talk instead of pushing buttons). I finally speak with a Sears human and am given an appointment time five days in the future (a Tuesday), which means five days of toddler living with no laundry getting done. Then when the repairman comes he tells me he needs to order a part, and when the part arrives THEN I can call to make another appointment to effect the actual repair. Under no circumstances am I to call BEFORE the part arrives (even though there seems to be a five-day lag in appointment-getting). The part finally arrives on the following Monday (after one Thursday trip to the laundromat sans car, trying to get Nolan to walk at a pace slightly faster than a handicapped caterpillar as I push my little-old-lady grocery cart full of dirty laundry and hold his hand at the same time. That was three hours round trip, only an hour and a half of which was actual laundry-doing.) and I call to make a new appointment. I am told Tuesday afternoon from 1pm to 5pm. I am stupidly happy to get an appointment for the next day. I foolishly assume that the information given to me on the phone by a Sears rep will be accurate and go to the gym in the morning, only to miss 3 phone calls from Sears wondering where I am when my appointment was for 8-12 that morning. I call back upon returning home from the gym (going through all the robot brou-ha-ha yet again) and am told that I'll have to reschedule. I say, "I don't want to reschedule, I want my washer fixed when you told me you were going to fix it." I am transferred to a "tech repair" specialist who takes my phone number and tells me she will call the local repair routing office and have them call me. Two hours go by. No one calls. I call the main Sears number again and am forced, through gritted teeth, to once more recite my phone number and address for the robot. The customer service rep based in Manila, Phillippines tells me she cannot transfer me to anyone in the "tech repair" department because she doesn't have that capability. I tell her the previous rep did exactly that, but she persists in wanting me to reschedule instead. I am unfailingly polite - I say, "That is unacceptable. I would like my washing machine repaired today, as I was told it would be." She clearly does not know what the hell to do and ends up giving me the phone number for what she says is my local repair department. I thank her, hang up, and call the number (which does have a local area code) and, like something from a Sartre play, am connected to the same fucking robot who wants me to tell her my phone number and address. I hang up and jump up and down furiously while hissing "fucking fuckity fuckity fuck fucking fuckers" under my breath, startling the cats, but thankfully not waking up Nolan. I decide it's really not worth getting that mad and surrender to the robot. I call back one more time and get an appointment for tomorrow afternoon. From 1 to 5.

I will keep my fingers crossed. And shove one more day's laundry into the hamper.

I hate that this has me so upset, and I hate that this is the kind of thing that's making me upset these days - it's so lame. It's so 1950s housewife. I'm in pearls and a full skirt vacuuming and telling KB "Darling, the washer repair got a bit botched, I'm afraid, and so you shall have no clean hankies for work this week." Blargghg! There are more important things I could be doing with my time!

Thanks for reading. Sigh.

Monday, March 24, 2008

You mighta heard I run with a dangerous crowd

How is this even possible?

This man, this smart, witty, kind, caring, gentle man...is dead.

But how does someone who's only 34 just...die? Of natural causes? He contributed to the world - he was a teacher and a writer, he inspired his students, family and friends, he gave unselfishly of himself...and now he's dead. Cancer. I can't think of any other thing to say than "It's not fair." A four-year-old's response, to be sure, but the truest one I've had.

I didn't know him well. He was a year ahead of me in high school. We were loose friends in college - we were in the same chemistry class one semester, so since we knew each other from high school we sat together and made snarky comments about the other students, the teacher, everything. And we formed a little study group. And once that semester was over, we would wave when we passed by on campus or out and about in Laramie...but that was about it.

He was one of those people that I would idly wonder about periodically through the years. I always knew he'd be successful in the traditional sense of the word - he knew what he wanted to do with his life and he had a plan for how he was going to get there (unlike me and 90% of college students, I think.) So I didn't really wonder about him like I wonder about some of my other Wyoming compatriots (E-Mul and Dru and Rose and Broc, you know I'm not talking about you here), whom I suspected might end up dead from unnatural causes, or in jail, or divorced with four kids by age 30.

No such worries with Chet. I never did get in touch with him again, never did try to find out what was going on in his life. I only know he died because the Rawlins, Wyoming grapevine is short and news travels fast along it. His life, as short as it was, had meaning and purpose. You should read his blog. And his "This I Believe" statement. And think about what you'd want to do if your life were going to end soon. Because it could, even though it's not fair.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

We will get by

Introducing Nolan and Spencer as The Two Goofy Guys in..."World's Shortest Jam Session"!

(Clearly, the presence of the paparazzi made them uncomfortable.)

And here you see Nolan and Spencer discovering the harmonica. What talent! What natural musical genius! (Yes, that's the favorite Pink Shirt Nolan is wearing.)

Thanks for reading.

Monday, March 10, 2008

I got something that'll sho nuff set yo' stuff on fire

We were on vacation last week. KB had taken a week off because we thought there was going to be an opportunity to see Alan and Kathleen, but that didn't work out. So instead, we stayed close to home and just did a couple little day trips.

We went to the aquarium in Camden on Tuesday afternoon, which turned out to be the perfect time to go - it was practically deserted, so Nolan had lots of running around room, plus the animals seemed very active; when Nolan and my mom and I went last summer, the hippos in the African River exhibit just sat there (not that I blame them, considering the weight they have to heft around) doing nothing, but this time they got out of the water, walked around, splashed back in, swam past the glass, etc. It was great! Alas, we forgot our actual camera, so instead we have several grainy cameraphone pictures.

We got to touch sharks (Spotted Bamboo sharks), jelly fish, sting rays (little baby ones, with the stingers removed), lobsters and shrimp. I refrained from touching the jellyfish, lobsters, and shrimp. Tempting, but no. Nolan was waaaaay into the touch tanks. Literally. We tried to roll his sleeves up, but that doesn't do much good when he's got his arm in the water up to his shoulder. KB swears Nolan had his face in the shrimp tank. (Of course, we took off his wet shirt and stuck it in a plastic bag in the diaper bag, where I forgot it until Sunday when we did laundry. Mmmmmm, stinky fermented shrimp water shirt.) The other good thing about the place being deserted was that when Nolan had his standard No Nap Today Late Afternoon Freakout, there weren't that many witnesses around. We like to have some privacy when we beat the boy.

Then I got to have some Me Time! I took the car, all by myself, and went up to Windham Mountain to snowboard for a day! Huzzah!

The Windham Mountain experience was a wee bit on the lame side, I have to say. I mean, the jones to snowboard was satisfied, so just on that alone I would say it was a good trip, but the place itself was kind of "eh." I drove up Wednesday afternoon (I got to fulfill my desire to play Vampire Weekend on a road trip! Woo-hoo!) and got to the mountain around 5, only to be told there was no night skiing on Wednesdays (something not mentioned on the web site). Waaahh! I wanted to maximize my ski-time to drive-time ratio! So I drove to my hotel thinking I would check in, get dinner, read my book and chill out. I checked in and was told that the hotel restaurant was closed on Wednesdays (also not mentioned on the website, or by the person who took my reservation over the phone). Argh. So I drove up and down the "main street" of the town of Windham looking for a restaurant that was open, and ended up in a (read "the only") diner. Which in and of itself isn't a bad thing, it was just...not what I was imagining. Then I went back to the hotel, took a bath and watched two episodes of "Ghost Hunters." (I love that show.)

I woke up at 6:30, thinking the mountain opened at 8, went down to the lobby to get my free Continental breakfast and check the conditions, only to be informed by the sign that the mountain didn't open until 9. 9 a.m.! What kind of mountain doesn't open until 9?!?! Sigh. But eventually, I got there, and then things were better.

[I don't have any pictures of myself from that day, because while I am a competent snowboarder, I am not skilled enough to take a self-portrait whilst riding, especially with my crappy cell phone camera (see above photos) or our chunky little Kodak EasyShare, which I did not bring since it would have gotten crushed the first time I fell. So instead please take this random screengrab of a dude (or possibly dudette) catching some air, and pretend it's me even though I have never gone that big in my life. Thanks.]

The conditions weren't great - mostly crunchy corduroy with occasional icy patches in the morning followed by tracked-out slush in the afternoon as the day got warmer - but I didn't really care. I was riding agin! Yay! There was hardly anybody there, so there were no lift lines to speak of. I rode the whole morning (about 9 - 12:30) with wrist guards (for falls) and without my iPod (to hear other people), just to be on the safe side. Had lunch (seven dollars for a tuna salad sandwich, eep) and mused over the lift operator (identified by his name tag as Javier from Santiago, Chile - why anyone from Chile would be working a tiny, crappy Eastern US mountain is beyond me) who asked me out of the blue, "Are you Alec's mum?" To which I said, "Uhhhh...no?" He said, "Oh, sorry sorry." And I was like, "No problem." but internally I was going, "Damn. I guess I still look like someone's mom (or mum), even while shredding."

After lunch I got my iPod out of the locker, and prepared to mellow out. One of the main reasons I love snowboarding is that it really forces you to focus on your body and what it's doing. You look down the mountain, you see the hills and the curves of the terrain and you have to simultaneously plan ahead - where to turn, what to avoid, how fast to go - but also to react quickly as things change and don't go exactly according to your plan. It's a very "in the moment" activity, and if I can hit my stride, really start carving and flying and I've got some good music playing...it's beautiful. That nagging voice in my head that's constantly got some yammering commentary finally shuts up for a while. There's no time for it, really, you're just focussing on your legs, your feet, the board, the snow...it's so peaceful. Or it can be.

But then, speaking of plans going awry, my iPod betrayed me. Big time. I hit "Shuffle Songs," which is pretty much my SOP - just give me something random, because everything that's on the iPod I put on there, so it should be good, right? Right. I forget sometimes that the iPod takes EVERYTHING that's on my iTunes when I sync it, no matter if I actually want to listen to the song or it was some random thing I downloaded (like...oh...say...giraffe sounds. Lots of them. Each one or two seconds long. To show Nolan that giraffes actually DO make noises*) eight months ago for some obscure reason. And damn if Binkley (that's my iPod) didn't keep throwing out the WORST possible songs at the worst possible times.

For instance: I'm getting on the lift when the lift operator decides he wants to talk to me about something concerning my lift ticket. I have to take off my headphones to converse with him. What does Binkley serve up? Amy Grant's "Baby Baby." Oh yes. Because, see, I was in charge of games at my stepsister's baby shower, and I made up a game that was basically just "Name That Song" that had 'baby' in the title. So I had to download a bunch of 'baby' songs to burn the CD for the shower. That's the only reason that was on there! I swear! I never once thought nostalgically about my high school boyfriend and his prediliction for singing that to me! Never! But there's no way to explain that to random lift operator boy. Nor would I want to - I'd come off like I have Tourette's, I'm sure.

And then, of course, as soon as I'm on the lift and swinging up over the trees and into my 7-minute ride up the mountain, what comes on? Iggy Pop's "Lust for Life," which is still cool despite being used for Carnival Cruise Line commercials**. I want to point the headphones back at the lift operator and crank the volume.

Next ride down the mountain, Binkley goes on a Muppet Show jag, and I get three Muppet-related tracks in a row, the final one being Kermit's nephew Robin singing "I'm Five." Now, I love the Muppet Show, but that's just not one of the better songs - what about "Mahna Mahna," Binkley?

Now, I hear you saying, "What the fuck, Athena? Just change the stupid song if you don't like it!" and I agree with you...except. Except there are bad songs that are just lame and can't even be enjoyed in an ironic this-is-so-horrible-it's-kind-of-good way, and then there are songs that are sort of mediocre and can be tolerated for a brief while. And you have to decide - Is this really that terrible a song that I need to 1) take my glove off, making sure not to drop it off the lift 2) unzip my jacket 3) open my interior pocket and 4) fumble with cold-benumbed fingers to press the scrollwheel and change the song? And then re-fasten all those unfastened items? Or do I just suffer though it and hope that something better comes up next? And I, being a "let's just stick with the status quo unless things get drastic" kind of girl, usually just suffer.

But it was like Binkley was onto me, and kept fucking with me on purpose. Going up by myself on the lift, where I can't actually ride or move or do anything? "Grey Cell Green," by Ned's Atomic Dustbin. Woo-hoo! Righteous! Righteouuuuuus!

Going down the last part of the run to the lift where other people may hear what's leaking out of the headphones? "Bananaphone," by Raffi. Sigh.

But, in the end, Binkley redeemed himself. The lifts closed at 4 (4pm! What kind of a mountain, etc.) and as I got on the lift at 3:50, I knew this would be my last run. So as I skated off at the top and made sure my step-in binding clicked, I asked Binkley to be kind and give me something good for my last run. I start carving, and what comes on? Chaka Khan. "Tell Me Something Good." Sweet. Peace at last.

Oof. I've got more Nolan pictures and more events to relate, but it is 11pm and I started this post at 9:30 this morning. I'm spent.

Thanks for reading.

*It's kind of a snorty/hiccupy kind of noise, in case you're wondering

**Which makes it #2 on my list of "Best (Presumably) Unintentional Heroin References" in commercial product marketing, #1 being UPS's "What can 'Brown' do for you?" campaign.

Monday, March 03, 2008

My friends say she's a dumb blonde, but they don't know she dyes her hair

So here's a stupid quesiton:

(Or, at least, I'm assuming it's stupid. It may, in fact, be a wicked smart question, but I'm defaulting to my life-long habit of just presuming everyone else in the entire world to be smarter, cooler, and more competent than me. It saves time.)

What do I have to do to be "safe" with my computer when I go to a public wi-fi spot? Now that we have a babysitter coming on a regular basis (3 days a week, woo-hoo! For a couple hours, anyway.*) I would like to take my laptop to...say...a coffee shop (gasp!) and actually, you know, do stuff on the computer for a while. By myself. In public. With a latte.

What should I be doing so that I don't have some crazy Princeton student/hacker/mad genius stealing all my private info? I have FileVault. Is that enough? Am I safe-ish (from viruses, anyway) because I have a Mac and not a PC? I'm not going to be going crazy with the online shoe-shopping or anything (not in public, that is), but if I wanted to buy a book from Amazon, would it be a very very bad idea to do it on a public wi-fi hookup? Is there some way you can encrypt your transmissions?

I never use my computer in public because I'm so freaked out about not having performed the correct prophylactic procedure on it. I would like to take it out and about more (it is a friggin' laptop, after all), but I don't want to risk getting our identity stolen. Am I just being paranoid? Do all those people typing away in Panera know something I don't? Or are they taking foolish risks?

I need someone to just walk me through it, step by step.

I've tried searching on a couple different online forums for help with this, but most of the discussions are either waaaay over my head (mostly on the Mac users forums), or directed specifically at PC users.

As Nolan would say, "Need help!"

*I have to say, despite her absolute wonderfulness, I have mixed feelings about having Kathy (that's the babysitter's name) here three days a week. Even though it's only 9-12, I somehow feel like I'm cheating by having someone else take care of my child during regular working hours. Nolan is my job right now, right? So how many people have a pinch-hitter at their regular nine-to-five job? (Of course, to be fair to myself, I have to say Nolan is more than a nine-to-five job. I don't get a lunch break. Or vacation. I'm on call 24-7. So I do need some time to do other things, like mail packages and buy groceries.) There. I've just justified myself to myself.

Thanks for reading.