Friday, December 18, 2009

Life in the Virtual Lane

Lisa's up to her ears in Google Wave and all-things-Google. The dog has been out to tinkle and had her mid-day snack. UPS brought me one of the video cards I bought on eBay so, if I can find a machine to test it on, I'll send it to the friend who needs it but can't afford it. We diced up some leftover meatloaf, stir-fried it with leftover short-grain-brown and wild rice and had it with fried eggs and bacon for breakfast. I spent a half hour practicing jazz licks and sundry minor scales on the funky-but-cool little Kay guitar Clenton gave me. We got a picture of our grandsons and a card from my middle daughter in the mail, along with a card from Jerry Fox who's a good friend though we've never met. He's one of the folks we describe as web-siblings. I don't think that's for lack of a better term, I think that's about as accurate a term as we could find.

Web-sibling: noun   (hyphen optional) Someone who is as close as family but whom one has never met in person.

We own a TV set; it's connected to the VCR and a DVD player in the living room. My daughter Lily gave us a digital converter box. One of these days I'll probably put up an antenna. We don't rent or buy movies but we borrow one from the kids every now and then. I snagged a copy of the BBC's Planet earth series on There are five DVDs in the set and we've watched the first one. It was three hours in length. Gosh knows how long it'll take us to watch the other four. Three hours is an awfully long time to be sitting in one place without a mouse or keyboard.

I've been upgrading from Debian Etch to Debian Lenny and I think I'm going to like it just fine. I set up a PCLinuxOS 2009.1 machine to use during the upgrade (as a sort of back-up w/learning-curve in case something broke). PCLinuxOS is awfully nice but some things don't seem to work well. For example, I can't get Konqueror to do a file search and I've no idea why. Very frustrating. In Firefox, when I click to bookmark a website the scrollbar won't work on the subsequent dialog box and in Thunderbird there's no scrollbar on the right side of the screen. All of which makes it highly likely I'll just settle back into my Debian machine and use the #2 machine to play with other distros. I've been wanting to try Puppy and Frugalware again anyway.

We're going to visit the Beierle's this evening. We're taking dinner with us. Venison sausage w/Bavarian Sauerkraut (hot buttered brown and wild rice on the side). Charlie (Beierle) is our favorite Linux Geek. He's got more computers, and more different operating systems, than anyone we know. For example, he's got an SGI computer which uses the IRIX operating system; I believe this is the type of machine used to create the original Pixar animations. He's also a geophysicist with a Ph.D. and one of the all-around nicest people we've ever known. He's our go-to-guy for problems with Windows, Mac or Linux and the buck usually stops with Charlie. I'm going to take the little Kay guitar and Lisa's taking her washboard so the Beierle's are in for a surprise. With luck, it'll be a pleasant one.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Today we took our ezine's first tentative step into the ambiguous waters of Google Wave. We're not at all sure what we'll find there or how it will affect our little newsletter but Lisa's excited that we might be the first 'Wavezine'. As the technical director of our web expedition I'll have to figure out how to provide folks with a link to our wave....


I just hate performance anxiety.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Ahead for Business (knot)

A few years back my friend J asked me to play a small cafe with her. She said 'It doesn't pay much but I'll be happy to split it with you'. So I played the gig. Afterward, as we were packing up to go she thanked me for being there but didn't pay me.

Call that strike one.

A couple of years ago she asked me to build a frame for a Mexican string art portrait that had belonged to her father. I was reluctant to try it but did some mental math and told her it'd cost fifty dollars. She told me to go for it. I spent $12 on cedar, $18 on a piece of non-glare glass and spent around four hours making the darn thing. When I delivered it she thanked me but didn't offer to pay me. She propped it against the wall of her living room, behind a rocking chair (and noticed a few weeks later that the glass had gotten chipped and bitched at me about it but I ignored her).

Call that strike two.

J has used me as her 'man about the house' for a number of years and there have been numerous occasions when her nit-picky ways have caused me a great deal of stress but she paid me well enough, most of the time, and I actually like her. I'll admit that the attraction was most sexual in the beginning but it didn't take long for that to fade to a sort of fraternal fuzziness. By now she's more a sister to me than the one biological sister I have left.

A few weeks ago she offered me a job helping to take care of an older couple who live about an hour away from here. She offered to pay me for my travel time as well so I happily accepted the offer. After a few days work I thought a great deal of the folks I was helping to care for and found it a joy to be there for them. Circumstances have arisen which made it necessary for the family to hire a 24/7 nursing firm but the contract isn't final and, because the nursing firm is neither licensed nor bonded, J and her crew (among whom I am numbered) are under consideration for taking over the job. I was on the phone with J this morning and wanted to discuss some thoughts I had about making our rates more competitive. Somewhat coldly, she insisted 'that's between me and them'. I believe that I correctly interpreted this to mean our rate structure was none of my business. Well, I'm content to be an indian and have no desire to be the chief but my trust for J is already an unsteady, provisional thing.

I decided to call that strike three.

I resigned, via email, a few minutes later. In a reply, J asked me if I didn't think I was being destructive. I didn't respond because I don't think she'd understand anything I said but, from my perspective, my behavior was preventative. Nobody will screw you over faster, or more thoroughly, than family.

Managers who believe that information is proprietary are, thank goodness, self-limiting. Keeping secrets from your employees is like taping their mouths shut, handing them a saw and crawling out on a limb.

Wasn't that a good analogy?

If you want people to respect, trust and work for you, begin by respecting, trusting and working with them.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Nobody Gets Out of Here Without Singing the Blues

Ever watched a movie that was just awful? I think everyone has. It's probably an unwritten rule but, once in a while, even a really stupid movie can have a redeeming scene. For example, in Adventures in Babysitting, an undeniably stupid movie, there's a wonderful scene with Albert Collins. I won't give away any part of the movie but the music is great and the scene is hilarious. Another film that stand out in my mind is Kansas City. This isn't a stupid movie, it's a grusome movie. The story is morbid but the music is great and there's a magical scene where it's supposedly sometime in the wee hours of the morning and there's only a handful of people in a jazz club while two upright basses and a piano are jamming. The whole movie is worth that one scene.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

No, I wanna hear about your problems

It's reached the point where I'm annoyed when none of my 'regulars' has updated their blog. Never mind the fact that it's been ages since I updated mine, I've had it 'up to here' with my life, I want to read about somebody else's. I'm not saying it makes me happy to read about other peoples problems but it does make me feel less overwhelmed by the drama (and trauma) that's going on in my own life.

For example...

My sister insists we sell mom's house, where I've lived for over 15 years now (mom died in July of 2008), and my wife and I have no place to go thereafter. My job, in a convenience store, is demanding, stressful and frustrating. Oh I enjoy the work well enough but the management seems carefully designed to inflict as much damage as possible to my psyche and, as the only male on the staff, I'm subjected to rather a lot of sexual discrimination by which I mean to say that mistakes made by my female coworkers are shrugged off (if not outright ignored) while any mistake I make is placed under a microscope and dissected at length.

...and there's more but, as I said, I'm trying to get away from all that.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Walk Softly and Carry a Water Gun

I'm a musician and normally a band leader but 'band leader' is an ambiguous title when you consider that ramrodding a weekend-warrior band isn't significantly different from herding cats. My band members normally describe me as 'the guy who's driving the bus' despite that fact that we're far from being the sort of band who could afford a bus. Most of us have some sort of frequently-changing day job and I suspect that musicians, in general, have a substantially higher level of drama in their lives than other folks but I admit this is only conjecture. Most hard-core weekend-warrior musicians play more than one instrument, thus improving their chances of getting a gig, and are members of more than one band. I played the guitar in a rock and roll band in high school and played bass in a jazz trio while I was in the Army (sure wish I knew whatever became of you Vic). In 1978 I 'went Country' and have been playing one instrument or another, in one Country/Western band or another since then. Fortunately for me, Texas audiences are open minded so we're no longer expected to play Country all night. Audiences seem to enjoy hearing a little blues and rock. The blues can be new or old but the rock should be at least 20 years old and older is better. Most of the time I play the guitar but I own and can play, bass or keyboards. My wife owns a set of Roland V-Drums and I've been privileged to play them a time or two. I'd never have imagined that a completely electronic set could sound, or play, so nice. They're a real treat.

I've been living in the same town since 1990 and, by now, I've become a fairly well known and respected veteran musician. It's wonderful to be able to call on the most talented musicians in the region and know that they'll be as pleased and honored to work with me as I am to work with them. I've never been motivated by money, which I suppose is just as well since I've never really had any, but I find the respect of my peers to be a pearl beyond price. Of course there are musician in the region whom I dislike or who dislike me, I don't think there's any way around that, but I'm old enough to know that nothing is forever so I try to keep my mind open and my mouth shut. Rock on.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Linux Lead Me On, Broke My Heart and Left Me Hanging

My first Linux distro was Debian Sarge. Learning how to get 1024 X 768 video resolution and the sound running was a really geeky challenge but I figured it out and was really proud of myself. Then came Debian Etch and I no longer had to bother with the sound and video, they just worked, the first time, exactly as I wanted them to. Wow, what amazing progress. Now, Etch has become obsolete and Lenny has become the stable version of Linux only now my 16 Meg nVidia TNT cards come up with 800 X 600 video resolution and there's not a darn thing I can do about it. Nor is this 'interesting' phenomena confined to Debian, it's also true of the Ubuntu family (in all its many incarnations, or at least the ones I know about). Yes, I've tried to find a solution but, so far, nothing I've tried has had any affect on the problem (and yes, I'm grateful that the sound, at least, is still working as it should, for whatever that's worth). I'm not hard to please, I don't use Compiz or dual monitors, I don't need super high resolution and I'm not a gaming geek. I just want 1024 X 768 video resolution and I don't care if I'm required to go through some geeky stuff to get it (like I learned to do with Debian Sarge) but I don't like being made to feel like I can't get there from here even though my hardware worked great with an older distro. This makes me very unhappy.

As if this weren't enough to sour me attitude, KDE has, in their incredible wisdom, elected to castrate the finest file manager I've ever used. That's right, the 'new, spiffy' version of Konqueror is a total wimp compared to it's predecessor. Yeah, I know, Konqueror is supposed to be a browser, not a file manager, right? Bull, there are too many browsers out there already and I like all of them better than Konqueror but I've never used a file manager with as much power as Konqueror 3.5.5 (on my Debian Etch system). By comparison, Konqueror 4.2.4 is far prettier (as if all I cared about were cosmetics) while being substantially less user friendly. You want specifics? The home page on my Konqueror 3.5.5 (about:konqueror) offers me instant access to my home folder, storage media, network folders, trash, applications and desktop settings. The same page in Konqueror 4.2.4 offers instant access to the home folder, trash, network folders and bookmarks. Disregarding the bookmarks, since I'd never use Konqueror as a browser, what's left is exactly half the functionality of version 3.5.5. Now that's progress isn't it?

I've been using Debian stable with KDE for about four years now. No way am I ever going back to 'that other OS' (which doesn't deserve the publicity of a negative comment which mentions it by name). Now, suddenly, I'm left hanging. I can continue to use Etch, which currently meets all my expectations but will become steadily more obsolete or upgrade to Lenny which doesn't meet my expectations. Isn't it great to have options?

Yeah, right.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Friends, good pennies and yo-yo's often return

Dad was career Army. That meant we never lived in one place more than three years. From late 1964 to late 1967 dad was assigned to Fort Ord, California. I have many fond memories of those years but the best and worst of them revolve around a girl named Randi. She was my first love and she was the most wonderful girl in the world. She was smart, she had a quick wit, she was pretty and she loved to laugh. I was madly in love with her and her fabulous family. Her mom encouraged me to be more outgoing and less worried about peer pressure. Her dad was a strong, quiet, intelligent man who wasn't at all intimidating to talk to. Her younger brother got me started playing the guitar. Her youngest brother was an impressive pianist and smart as a whip. I even loved their dog. Of course I was a teenager, knew everything and my world mostly revolved around my newly discovered libido so it was only natural for Randi to, finally, break up with me. In retrospect I can describe the two following years as my 'Gothic Emo' period but those words, in that context, didn't exist at the time. Suffice to say that I wore a lot of black and was extremely depressed most of the time. I refer to those as the 'hard years', by which I mean, it was always hard and I never got to use it. I poured all my passion into my guitar (excepting only the occasional bit that went into a kleenex).
Fast forward forty-some-odd years and I was able to track Randi down on the web. She has fond memories of me because she went on to meet lots of guys who were way bigger jerks than me. So now we're old friends, meaning sometimes we bicker, other times we ignore one another but beneath it all is a secure, comfortable bond, built on love. Sort of like family would be in a perfect world, but that's another story.

Monday, May 11, 2009

A man's gotta do what a man's gotta do.

Back before we got married, while Lisa and I were still dating, we worked as stockers in a Super S market in Llano. The assistant manager caught me kissing her in the stockroom and primly advised us that we should avoid overt displays of affection while on duty. Later that day I had occasion to pass Lisa as she was stocking on one of the isles. Rather than stop and speak to her, because the assistant manager was a few feet away stocking on the same isle, I leered at her and said 'Hey lady' as I passed. She instantly leered back at me and responded 'Hey sailor'. The assistant manager frowned but didn't say anything. To this day, that exchange serves is as well as a kiss and a hug when we're in public or in a hurry.

The store PA system played classic rock music. I guess that's a big thing with lots of supermarkets. We mostly ignored it but Lisa doesn't care for old Bob Dylan tunes and one Dylan tune, I Want You, came up often in the music. Of course Lisa hated it and I knew it but, if no other employees were in a position to see me do it, I'd loudly sing along on the last two words of the chorus, 'so bad' in a really terrible Dylan-impression voice. I thought it was a pretty cool double entendre, acknowledging that my significant other didn't care for Dylan while reminding her that I really did want her, 'so bad'. Sure enough, if she was anywhere near me I could hear her laugh when I sang out with Dylan and I assume that some of my coworkers figured out the joke because, even though nobody ever said anything about it, I sometimes heard them laugh too.

Life is good, love is wonderful.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Can someone loan me a (reg)fly swatter?

I've been getting emails from, formerly, complimenting me on having been a good customer since 2002. I finally tracked down an online feedback form to tell them what I thought of their ads. Here's what I told them:

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ treated me horribly. They took my money but wouldn't apply it to my account (or show me how to apply it to my account). Consequently, both of my domains, one being very important to me, were lost forever. I elected to write off the money I gave to Registerfly as the price of learning a lesson and that should have been the end of the story but it wasn't.

Now you're sending me email, talking to me as if I were a valuable customer who you'd like to bring back into the fold; as if had never ignored or abused me. Nor is there any sort of link in the email where I can click to opt-out of your charming advertisements.

So, some seven years have gone by and not much has changed with registerfly except your name (which is now regfly); you're still abusing me and I'm still putting up with it.

All that's really changed is that I got myself a new domain, from another provider, and haven't had any trouble with it at all.

So, if you were in my place, how would you feel about these ads you've been sending me?

Was I too harsh? Do you think they'll understand? Is there any chance I'll stop getting email from them? Guesses anyone? :)

Monday, February 23, 2009

Did it have to be Friday the 13th?

Lisa awakened me at 6:30 on a Tuesday morning complaining that she couldn't breath and had already been up for two hours fretting about it so she didn't want to wait until 8:30 when the clinic opened. I took her to the ER (at the hospital in Llano, 20 minutes from here). The doctor took a chest x-ray and sent her home with an antibiotic, cough suppressant and an anti-inflammatory. Thursday afternoon I came down with whatever-the-heck-it was so Friday (the 13th) she drove me to the ER (at the VA hospital in Temple, a little over 2 hours from here but substantially more affordable). The VA doctor had my chest x-rayed and sent me home with an antibiotic, cough suppressant and an anti-inflammatory. Neither doctor gave the condition a name but both appeared to have seen it before.

On the way home from Temple an idiot hauling a front end loader on a monstrous trailer pulled across the road in front of us, completely blocking the highway. Lisa, who was driving, managed to come to a full stop without hitting the trailer. The guy behind us was less fortunate. He rear-ended our car. The car is history, that's what the wrecker driver figured anyway. After calling 911 to report the accident we called our daughter Lily and, in relatively short order, our son-in-law, Kirk, arrived and drove us home (Thanks Kirk!).

As of tonight (Sunday) we've both got sore muscles in our necks but are otherwise alive, well and slowly recovering from our respiratory conditions. Tomorrow we'll go to the clinic and have our necks looked at.

It's all well and good to live in interesting times but, honestly, we'd much prefer having the words 'drama' and 'trauma' remain a little more abstract than they've been of late.


Friday, February 06, 2009

The Army is still changing my life (thanks uncle Sam).

About eighteen months ago I started having asthma-like symptoms. I thought my childhood asthma has decided to revisit me in my golden years. At first the symptoms were mild and non-threatening but they gradually became more intense. After a kilo-dollar trip to the ER where they gave me a fifty cent Albuterol treatment with a nebulizer (lets talk about the rising costs of medical care) I went to the clinic in Llano. She gave me a prescription for Albuterol (we already had a nebulizer machine at home) which is very inexpensive and a rescue inhaler (Albuterol in a very small aerosol can for $40 ostensibly due to an exotic but necessary propellant) and that worked just fine for a few months. I scrounged an extra nebulizer machine to wag around in the van in case I had an "attack" while I was playing a gig and wound up using it on several occasions but my symptoms continued to become more frequent and more intense. I made another visit to the clinic and asked my PA if I was going to wind up needing a nebulizer treatment every four hours for the rest of my life. She gave me some samples of Advair and made it clear that she couldn't treat me for long with samples. Advair worked great and I only had to use it twice a day but a quick trip to showed me that it was going to cost around $400 a month. That was going to be a serious monetary obstacle for us. A few years ago I needed a complete physical and when the local clinic explained that it would cost several hundred dollars, reasoning that it was bound to be at least somewhat less expensive, I drove to the VA hospital in Kerville and got the most thorough physical I've ever had in my life for a grand total of $25. So, I said to myself. "Self, it's time to go see the VA again". I was able to get the forms online and fill them out. We had to drive to Temple (a little over two hours from here) but I'm getting superlative treatment and, so far, it hasn't cost me anything at all. My asthma-like symptoms have been diagnosed as COPD, I've had some minor skin cancers removed and I'm soon to be fitted for a CPAP machine to treat my mild sleep apnea.