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Saturday, September 30, 2006

Party Like It's 1499

The old Steven Wright line still holds up: if they say you can have breakfast anytime, ask for French toast during the Renaissance.

We did Ren Fest today. I wish we could do it more than once a year, but it ain't cheap. In fact, if I'm not mistaken, ticket prices went up this year, from Unreasonable to Dear Gawd!

But worth it.

Last year I wanted to get Mo on the Pirate Plunge, but for some reason I remember it as being too expensive. Or maybe it was too long a line. But this year, I saw it was $5, and for what it is, that seems reasonable.

I wanted for all three of us to do it, but Em was scared (it's a scary deal) and I'm too fat. They have a strict 200lb weight limit, and yes, they do weigh you. They even weigh little kids to make sure they get on one that has enough lines. The four rigs have various quantities of bungie, depending on the girth of the victim.

It was a long wait, probably around 45 minutes. They bent the policy that said I couldn't wait with Mo since I wasn't in line to go myself. I was ready to explain about autism, but the guy who had strapped her harnass on seemed to get it. I said, 'I know you've bot this policy and all, but I really doubt she'd wait in line on her own and if I'm on the other side of the net when she bolts, it'd be too much head start.'

It wasn't a problem. He clearly didn't want to have it be his obligation to catch her.

She did really well with the wait overall. Then, when it was her turn, it was too exciting. She flopped face down on the trampoline and would not stand up. The guy running the one she was on, he was great about it, kind of catching her with the hooks that go through the harnass loops.

Then the giggling began. She might have been this happy on the Mamba at Worlds of Fun, but this might have topped that. At a rough guess, she was 30 to 35 feet in the air at apogee. The only bummer is after all that waiting the whole thing is over in like a minute. They stopwatch it (I guess they'd have to), and I'm guessing it's sixty seconds once you're flung.

I think they could have had eight or twelve rigs instead of four and kept them busy. And if I'd seen the underside of 200lbs in the past twenty years, I'd be doing it too.

We caught the usual suspects too. Missed the joust this year, but caught the Jolly Rogers, the blacksmith, various performers, etc.

We rode a spinny ride. I tried to get the girls to ride an elephant. I wanted to ride it, too, and at $4 per person, it seems reasonable. The food and veterinary costs of an animal like that must be enormous. And what a singular experience, to actually ride the world's largest land mammal.

Then again, maybe it's just as well the honyocks left that $12 in my pocket.

Oh, and they really knew how to handle time-outs for kids in the good old days!

As we were heading out, we came across an actor who was what? A village idiot? A primitive recycler? A rubish fetishist?

He was the Renaissance version of the Peanuts character Pigpen.

He tried to get Mo's attention, but his schtick didn't seem to connect with her. He'd about given up when Em, bored, noticed a ticket stub on the ground and picked it up.

He held out the trash pail he was carrying for it and she put it in, a little nervous about this grubby weirdo.

He immediately fell on his face, appearently kissing the earth before her in gratitude. Which elicited a gasp at first, and when he stayed down, making a moaning noise, she ran behind me.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Seeking the Gutter

Okay, after the terrible outing we had a couple weeks back trying to do Special Olympics bowling on a Saturday, we tried the Wednesday alternative.

We had the place practically to ourselves, so all the overload sensory input of the previous try was absent.

If they would invent a game where the goal was to punch a hole in the boards with the ball, Mo would medal in it. I've been trying to convince her that throwing the ball from chest height is not the way.

She loves gutter balls. I think they appeal to her sense of order. Or to her contrary nature. But at least when she aims for the gutter, she's not smashing the lane to splinters.

Can you believe people pay $200 and more for their own bowling ball? I did see one I would want if I was that into it.

And one that made me think of my friend Firefighter Bernie.

Em decided she wanted bumpers. Mo couldn't have them because the Special Olympics rules forbid them. Not to mention they could potentially deprive Mo of gutter balls. When you consider how much effort she puts into not hitting a single pin, the 25 she bowled today is remarkable. That's 25 more pins than she meant to hit.

On My Desk

I don't have anything to say about this.

What If They Had A Walmart and Nobody Came?

I know, I know, I shop there too. I'm too mercenary for my own aesthetic values.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Apples & Onions

On a PC, I type, for instance:

On a Mac, I have to take the semi-useless one function mouse (don't these assholes know about right-clicking???) and climb up from 'Desktop' to 'Network' to 'J alias' and scroll down to folder 6503, and then if I don't type the extension Illustrator should already know 650305 is not even visible on the PC side.

The customer supplies their fonts, and I load them into Suitcase, and Quark launches and maybe acknowledges that I have the fonts, but I save the pages as an EPS and it tells me to update all their links. I can't select everything and hit 'yes to all' because there is no such key. I have to wait for it to ask me to hit 'OK' twenty eight times.


Then, when I open the EPS in Illustrator, on the same goddamn machine with the same fonts loaded, it tells me it doesn't have any of the fonts and makes me (with too much mouse action, no keyboard shortcuts) reassign these fonts to themselves. For Arial MT, use Arial MT. For Arial MT Bold, use Arial MT Bold. For Adobe Garamond Book, use Adobe Garamond Book.

And then, after all that, the spaces are replaced arbitrarily by question marks in the whole document.

And the Mac-fan next to me says I have to hand it to the Mac people, the font handling is far superior to the PC.

In what universe???

I try to play nice with the other kids, and PC fans in the graphic arts profession are rare birds indeed, but Macs just suck.

Plus, Macs are way more expensive and I'd have to get new software across the board, no upgrading anything, which would add an easy $1000 to the already ass-raping price.

Don't try to tell me otherwise, I've got access to both platforms at work, have had for a decade and whatever advantages a Mac offered when 'Pentium' might have been part of a Robert Ludlum title, are long, long gone. For that matter, those Apple-heads can't even point to a fictitiously superior chip, because new Macs ship with Intel Inside. And that's not even the best chip on the PC side.

Macintosh is for people who don't want a computer. Because the one advantage I have to give them is styling. There are gaming-oriented towers out there, sure, you can find sexy PCs, but basically a PC comes in a tan tower that looks about as appealing as an open running sore. Macs look great, but when you use your computer, do you want it to look good or get the job done?

Why are there Apples? There's just no excuse anymore. I'd rather have an Onion.

Saturday, September 23, 2006


When I met the Artist Formerly Known as Frau Lobster, she had a cat. She'd named her Calypso for the Homeric goddess. Not long after we started dating, the late, great Rasta was added.

Rasta went to Kitty Heaven about five years ago. When my then wife and cat departed for the vet, I bawled. Em consoled me with perfect Kindergarten clarity: 'It's okay, Daddy. It's not your fault.'

Calypso was, for all intents and purposes, immortal as far as we could tell. She was approaching 20 years of age and still kicking the dog's ass when he tried to horn in on her food.

She was always aloof. She wanted to be petted, but at arms length. She would not get on your lap, and if you tried to make her get there, you might develop a blood leakage. She used to smoke, which is to say when me and my ex smoked, she liked to find the stream coming off the cherry and inhale with visible pleasure. Which doesn't seem to have shortened her life at all, though I don't suppose that voids the Surgeon General's warnings.

She would lay on people if they were sick. To the extent we used her as a diagnostic tool: if Calypso got on you and started making kitty biscuits, you didn't wonder if you were sick, you just hoped it wasn't anything serious.

Back when we lived in the hood, in this crazy old house full of hardwood trim and floors, we'd listen to the Calypso Show. Presumably she did this when we were off at work, but at night, when the house got quiet, she'd go a little nuts. We'd hear her loud, sharp, meowing, and she'd run around, skidding on the hardwood and crashing into walls. Yow! Yow! Skid, thud! Yow!

She also did a little daredevil act on the railing above the bench at that house. Instead of following the contour of the stairs, the rail was horizontal, about twelve feet above the floor. She'd walk back and forth on it, even though there was only about an inch of wood you'd call flat. She only fell once, on me while I was on the phone, nearly inducing heart failure in us both and disconnecting the call.

'You're not going to believe this, but I didn't hang up on you. The cat landed on the phone.' I don't think I was believed.

She'd slowed down the past couple years. Still had a surplus of Cattitude, but the Calypso Show was rarely performed, and we often wondered if she'd gone completely deaf. Or blind.

About a year ago we had to switch her to soft food. She'd still crunch an occasional morsel from the dog's bowl, but she would have starved to death on dry food alone. She puked on the rug a lot the last few years. I think she got to where she didn't know if she'd eaten, and assumed she was hungry if a human stood by the bowl. Then she'd eat too much and get sick. Or something.

She scared me a couple weeks ago, yowling Calypso Show style but standing by the bed. She wasn't too steady on her feet, and I thought, 'No! Don't die, I have to go to work!'

She didn't die. I fed her and she seemed fine. Or as close to fine as she's seemed in recent days.

But something was wrong. I don't know what, but she deteriorated with alarming speed. First she looked like she was gaining weight, which was a good sign. But then it was too much, and too fast. She bulged in the middle, and quit eating, more or less. She quit kicking the dog's ass over her barely-touched bowl. She sat kind of funny, like her hind legs didn't work. And increasingly, she walked like she was drunk.

When we finally took her in today (my Ex met me at the vet), I didn't have a cat carrier, but I didn't need one. She didn't fight me at all. Which was proof I should have taken her in sooner. If I'd tried picking her up like that two weeks ago, she'd have clawed the shit out of me and gotten away. Instead, she let me put her on the seat of the car. And instead of diving under the seat when we got into motion, she just lay in the sun on the seat while I stroked her alarmingly skinny shoulders.

They gave her a shot to conk her out before the shot to stop her heart. She didn't seem to notice, and never closed her eyes. I think that first shot would have finished her off if they'd let it. She was breathing when they gave her the second shot, but not much else.

I cried, even though (as Em might have told me) it wasn’t my fault. The vet said the most likely explanation for her condition and the rapid decline was kidney failure, that the bloat was fluid built up from that.

They said it was illegal to bury her in the city limits, but fuck it. We buried her by the side of my house, next to John Gerbil. Calypso would not have wanted to abide a stupid law.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Obsess Much?

Em took piano until it became a battle. Now she's in Band, clarinet.

She's into it, though. She noodles around on the thing constantly. When she plays random notes instead of tunes, she says she's 'working on her jazz.'

Oh! And I made pizza. About got the hang of it, too.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

And So On...

I tried to start Mo out on the Special Olympics bowling season. They have a Wednesday group and a Saturday group. Since I typically have the girls on the weekend, and not Wednesday, it was obvious to get her into the group I'd be able to take her to.

But we get there, and it's bowling under black lights, 80s rock roaring like a Blue Angels flyover. For an autistic kiddo, they might as well fill the room with tear gas. It was overload even for me.

We tried. She got in half a game, sort of. It's hard to get the ball to go where you want it to when you're trying to keep your fingers on your ears.

That, and Mo wanted to use this ramp for the disabled that a girl on the neighboring lane was using. In her case, she physically couldn't swing the ball in the conventional way. Mo was curious, and I indulged her curiosity some, but I can't see letting her use it when the only disability she has related to bowling is an inability to give a damn whether the ball stays on the wood or even enters her lane instead of one of the adjacent ones.

Kind of like when she did track. She's wicked fast, but she won't run when and where she needs to in a competition. She'd take off before the gun and run hell-bent for the long jump sandbox.

When we checked out, I found out the noice and lights were for a birthday party. The alley only books birthdays at the same time as the Saturday SO session, so we're going to try Wednesdays as Trigger-time if Jalinda will let us switch days.

So we did the zoo. Again, I know, but that's why I bought the membership. And once upontime, there were three turtles...

Today we did my birthday dinner at my Dad's. I took this shot of a painting a student did back when Dad was teaching high school. Dad's narcoleptic, and while he detested the job, he was pretty lucky in this respect: he wouldn’t have found another gig where they'd pay for a Master's Degree and tolerate sleeping on the job. Sleeping at your desk so much it's what your students think of as essential to your character.

In fairness Dad, most of the students probably weren't working hard enough to deserve a teacher who stayed awake.

For all you who are about to post a comment about underpaid teachers, don't bother. I have a ton of teachers in my family: Dad's wife is a retired school nurse; I have a step-brother who's a high school Spanish and debate teacher; a brother in law who's a principal, etc. I won't say they're overcompensated, but for the amount of time off, the level of benefits, and the education required to get the job, they do pretty well.

But the actual dollars a person gets paid is not how they guage whether they are underpaid. The more you hate your job, the more underpaid you are. No matter how much you earn. People who really enjoy their jobs never bitch about the pay, even if it's truly peanuts. They might bitch about it if they have to take a job they hate because the small wages won't sustain them, sure, but I think that's different. They're not bitching about the low pay, they're bitching about the fact that they've found themselves obligated to earn more than that, and what's worse, they have an alternative that's more lucrative.

But other people's children are, universally, annoying. Hence, the large number of teachers who feel they are underpaid. Especially if their degree would make them $10,000 less a year in the private sector. That would seem to indicate they're overpaid on the face of it, but that's the source of the bitterness: it's a trap.

Oh, and the girls thrilled me by playing nicely with each other. A stethoscope turned out to be the key to sibling harmony.

Anyway: we took the fleet out for a launch. There's a soccer field complex I think I'm going to try. Almost did today, but they had so many games going, it wasn't a good time. If I can hit it when they have few or no games going on, it would be perfect. There's like a dozen soccer fields clustered together. It's a little hilly in places, and there are tree lines, but we'd still have a way better chance of recovering our rockets.

Speaking of which: we lost Sabrina and Salem (the yellow/blue and blue/black rockets) on their maiden voyages. Sabrina Bermuda Triangulated on us, Salem was visible under canopy but a mile or more away when he went out of sight. Miss Splodeyhead disappeared on her third launch of the afternoon. Elephant Lobster came down without getting the parachute fully deployed on a second launch and busted a fin off. I think I'm going to have to retire that one, though Em has expressed a nearly magical faith in Super Glue, and I might just try it.

Gonzo II did great.

I used some B engines this time. Not exclusively, Sabrina and Salem went away for good on C's, and it was a C engine that Miss Splodeyhead was last seen with. She's a hard one to figure, too, because she was more or less straight overhead, and she's a streamer recovery, so she shouldn't drift much but she didn't come down that we could see, even though we had a good 200 yards in every direction.

The B engines turned out to perform better than I anticipated. They take off with all the fury of a C, but they run out of umph while you can still see the rocket. Which means you have a much better chance of recovery. I'd been thinking about trying one of the large engine kits, something in an E engine (each letter is double the thrust of the previous, so an E-9 fires for nine seconds with four times the thrust of a C-6, and the C-6 would only fire for six seconds). So on an E-9, you're going to get serious altitude.

But E engines cost three times what B and C engines do. And those bigger kits, they aren't as cheap. Sabrina and Salem came as a two-pack for all of $9. Miss Splodeyhead, Scribble and Scribble II, and Nike were all kits I got for $4 to $8. If I only have a 50/50 shot of getting the sucker back, it's easier to confidently launch a $5 rocket than a $25 rocket. And if the larger the engine, the less likely the recovery...

I know, my testosteroney side might get the best of me yet. Still, I look at that big sucker and I think, heck, I could rebuild the whole fleet of smaller rockets for that.

This was the first launch were I re-fired recovered rockets. In the past, Em has vetoed further launches once each rocket has gone up once. She gets o upset when one disappears, and she doesn't want to take the risk. I think she's getting more comfortable with the potential loss. She likened it to the Gilbert Grape chorus of 'I can go at any time. Any time.' Started giving the rockets that voice.

Thing is, it's true for all of us. We can go at any time. Any time at all.

Oh, and on the way back from the zoo, I needed a CD/DVD burner (the one in my PC crapped out and I was getting anxious about backups), so we went to MicroCenter, where I saw the coolest car!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

I'm 444!

I turned 444 months old today. Such a nice, round number, don't you think? It sounds less 'practically forty' than the conventional way.

Give or take a few, that's 2,268,840 hours, but I don't want to think about that too much because I'd feel older than Yoda. I don't know why 444 sounds better, but it does.

This chick at work, she had a picture on her desk, and I thought it was a kid sister. No kidding. I wasn't trying to flirt or anything like that, but the resemblance was striking. So one day, in casual conversation, I asked if it was her sister or what.

It was her daughter. I guess I'm a bad judge of age, because I would not have guessed this chick to be over 25. She's 37, and said I'm officially her best friend for being wrong by so many years.

But I don't feel like 37 is old. Sure, in some respects, my efforts to extend adolescence have failed. For my birthday this year: a vacuum cleaner from Mom, a dishwasher from my kid brother, a replacement of my broken primary eyeglasses from Dad, all of which I was delighted with. See also a garden hose and spray nozzle. These are not presents that would delight the uber-young at heart.

And I occasionally get set straight on how much of an old man I am, too, when I am actually trying to flirt. Like the time I was chatting up a chick who really was all of 24, and thought I was doing okay...until she made a comment about older, heavier men and realized she considered me thoroughly in the 'older' and 'heavier' categories. Clearly, even if she thought I was sweet, she's not in the market for an aging Clydesdale.

My ex left a happy birthday voicemail message for me. Which isn't wrong, it's not like I'm not glad to hear such tidings from any quarter, but it surprised me.

And Em gave me a box of soap slivers from Sunshine Soap Company, very cool. She could even sniff and name most of them. 'That's cucumber-melon,' she'd say, and when I smelled it I was like, 'Yeah, it is, isn't it?'

I took Mo to the dentist in the morning. The abscess that got us into the dentist who did her oral surgery a couple months back, I thought, had come back. But it turns out to be a different deal. She did awesome, absolutely rock-star, and let the dentist do more looking and inserting of mirrors than I would have imagined possible.

She did a little dance when it was time to go, too.

Then she had a seizure at school. Not a big one, but still.

Things had settled to nearly normal by evening, and I made pizza. Including an obscenely thick pepperoni with layer on layer of cheese and pepperoni and huge, doughy handles. I made a more normal-scale prosciutto and three-cheese pizza, too, as Em doesn't do pepperoni and prefers olive oil to alfredo sauce (which was what I used on the testosteroni pie).

Mo capped off our dog walking by bolting from me and leading me on a half block chase after running out into the middle of the street without looking. I hollered, there was a time out involved, and I'm pretty sure I said a few things that would get a call from school if she repeats them.

Mom cooked fried chicken last Sunday for a birthday dinner, and Dad is taking us out next weekend. So it's the usual, Trigger's Birthday Week bonanza, I guess.

And Mo has started asking me, more and more, 'Camera please!' She wants me to take picture after picture, which I do...