Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Clothing For John Q In This Episode Provided By Cruella

I noticed on my little retirement countdown counter that if I bought a dalmatian every week, starting today, then when I retired I'd have way too many dogs. I can retire in 101 weeks from today. But in the meantime, I'm spending my free time working the phone.
Last night I called Caremark, our pharmacy benefit manager. I talked to a young man named Tom, who I would guess spends his free time studying for the GED. They've had a prescription for Karen for two weeks, but say that the doctor has to call Blue Cross before they can fill it. Notwithstanding the fact that the doctor called them on Friday. If I have any other questions, I need to talk to Blue Cross.
So today at lunch I called Blue Cross. Their first response was to tell me that I needed to talk to Caremark. A little research, however, revealed that there is a shadowy group known as the Prior Approval Cabal. They have already denied the prescription because it's similar to another one that was filled recently. Apparently the judgment of people who graduated from high school (maybe) can be substituted for actual doctors. So we're currently stuck in some pharmacological limbo, awaiting the Reformation of the health care system. Hopefully in the next few weeks before Karen runs out of her medicine.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

I Almost Had a Camera This Time

I went on a long ride today with the touring division of the Arctic Bicycle Club. I intended this to be a short post. I was going to illustrate why it would be short by searching within The Hobbit for a quote about how hard it is to make anything interesting out of something that's really fun and beautiful. Once again, however Amazon has let me down.
So instead of quoting somebody insightful, let me just say, blue sky, sun glinting on Turnagain Arm, the Club in a line, undulating through curves, and endorphins flowing like wine.
There was a near tragedy, when one woman's bike slid out from under her on some leaves on the trail (fall is just beginning here, and will be ending in a couple of hours probably). Tragedy was averted when the rider right behind her was able avoid running over her. She was injured, but was able to walk a few blocks to a parking lot where her husband retrieved her.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Why Is There Always Money For Bubble Shields and Plasma Turrets, But Not For Love?

Monday was perfectly funereal. It was dark, rainy and Karen went to a funeral. It's kind of hard to be flip about funerals. Actually, of course, it's easy, but I don't want to this to be that kind of blog.
Last night was lovely, though. I went for a short ride. It was a short ride because I'm still a little tentative about clipless pedals and the bike trail was full of people walking, walking their dogs, pushing strollers, and even riding bikes. It was harrowing, so I turned around at Westchester Lagoon and rode towards home. Just before the duck pond I met a classmate of Sarah's from Sonrise who was skiing or whatever it's called when you have short wheeled ski-like devices attached to your feet.
We ended up talking for quite awhile. She had been to the same funeral as Karen. The lady that died had looked at her cancer as a sort of blessing because it gave her a chance to tell doctors and nurses and whoever about Jesus. What a contrast with so many of us who look at even a hang nail as a chance to complain. Well, especially those really bad hang nails that sort of start to tear. Man, I hate those.
She, Sarah's classmate, has just finished school and starts a job in her field on Monday. She's ready to start looking for a steady boy, but there don't seem to be any. She asked me if I knew any nice boys. "No, they're all playing video games, as far as I know,"
It turns out, according to Wired Magazine *that, as far as video games go, women, living women, at least are competing with Microsoft. Well, duh, but, Microsoft is really playing hardball. No, wait, that's Electronic Arts.

*here's a highlight from the article:
...because it is owned by Microsoft, which launches dozens of Xbox and PC games every year, Bungie has access to one of the most advanced game-testing facilities ever built. Pagulayan and his team have now analyzed more than 3,000 hours of Halo 3 played by some 600 everyday gamers, tracking everything from favored weapons to how and where — down to the square foot — players most frequently get killed.
Bungie doesn't just test its own games this way. It also buys copies of rival titles and studies those, too, to see how Halo matches up. "I've never seen anything like it," says Ian Bogost, a professor of digital media at Georgia Tech, who toured the testing lab in the fall. "The system they've got is insane."
It might seem like an awfully clinical approach to creating an epic space-war adventure. But Bungie's designers aren't just making a game: They're trying to divine the golden mean of fun. They need to create an experience that is challenging enough to thrill the 15 million existing hardcore fans of Halo — yet appealing enough to lure in millions of new players.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Shout Out to a Long Time Reader

I bet you thought we were done with the whole college topic. I know, I did too.
But while waiting at the dentist's* for Karen to finish up, I saw that Newsweek has named Smith the hottest women's college in America. How cool are you, Megz?!

*The hygienist told me I was doing a great job. I said, as I often do when praised, even for something as mundane as flossing, "That's going in the blog."

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Me and Mark Twain Have the Same Tailor

I had a chance to be the Voice of the Employee today, but I passed. If I'm going to be crying in the wilderness, I'd like there to be some point to it. It did give me a chance to listen to my supervisor for awhile as he explained the procedure. Sometimes he came so close to using the right word that I almost flinched.
As Mark Twain said*, "The difference between the right word and the almost-right word is the difference between the lightning and the lightning-bug,"
Oh, I was thinking of Mark Twain the other day when I took that ride out to Eagle River. I was wearing my leotard/bike pants. When the narrator in the Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court jousted, he wore that "simplest and comfortablest of gymnasts costumes... tights," although he had little blue silk puffings about his loins.
Later he had bicycles built and 500 mailed and belted knights rescued King Arthur. I was on a bicycle and I deliver mail! Coincidence?
*Unless it was Lincoln or FDR who together with Twain make up the triumvirate of quotable Americans. Playing second fiddle to their trio is Ambrose Bierce and on kazoo: Yogi Berra.

Pensive? No, Reflective.

It looks like I'm going to have to start wearing my Amphipod vest again to ride to work.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

A Ride Where I Was Second to None. None Was A Lot Faster Than I Expected.

Last night I girded my loins and went for a longish bicycle ride. I went out to the middle of the bridge over Eagle River. It was lovely, beautiful, exhilarating.*
On Friday we watched Meerkat Manor for the first time. It was very similar to Big Brother which we also watch except that the contestants are cuter, didn't lie as much and the prize is to not be eaten by the other players.
Right now, we're getting ready to go up past Palmer to visit our friend Art. He moved to Seattle recently, but he's back for a few days. We're going to his cabin. Obviously, I'm not getting ready; I'm just typing any random thought that comes into my head. Karen is having sort of a rough morning. She said she wasn't sure what was going to happen, but she was going to try taking a shower. I told her to knock herself out, but she didn't think it was funny.

*Did I ever tell you about my father? He was a superlative salesman. I'm embarrassed to tell you how much he got from Best Buy.

Friday, August 17, 2007

What If We Agreed That Not Every Post Needs a Title

I know I've whined excessively about what a failure I am and how it began with dropping out of school. Partly it's because it's true, and partly, I imagine because of the generic zoloft. Last night I decided the problem I was having wasn't that I was short of breath, it's that I was worried about being short of breath. I decided to look for brand Zoloft. I rooted around in the cupboard like an addict looking for his fix. Well, I don't know about "like" an addict, but anyway I found some and took it.
Bingo! This morning I was short of breath and realized I've been short of breath for years, forever really. My doctor (who has moved again!) was right 20 years ago; it's tension, tension that's been relieved for the last few years by the zoloft. Now, I need to figure out how to get real zoloft when I just got a 90 day supply of generic that's probably really lead coated sugar from China.
Anyway, to get back to the original topic of this post, I'm a college drop-out failure. Big deal. I'm not the college drop-out that's on the cover of the September Atlantic Monthly under the heading, "Lessons of a Failed Presidency". That's auto-didact Karl Rove. If only he had embraced failure as a youth. Together they could have had a life of quiet desperation, but no. Like a spurned love, failure waited for him biding its time until vaulting ambition became a mouthful of ashes. Like it always does.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Leave Me Breathless

I've been feeling short of breath lately. Karen wants me to see my doctor about it. I told her that I already did and he told me it was nothing to worry about. Admittedly it was about 20 years ago, but it was the kind of undemanding advice I like.
I would like to not be short of breath. Okay, if I had said that instead of typing it, it would have been a complete waste of breath, but besides not wanting to be short of breath ever, I specifically don't want to be short of breath while I get ready for a Tour of Anchorage bike ride that's in a couple of weeks.
It probably worked out for the best that I ditched the MS Ride. Our little group didn't want to organize a team so they've joined the FedEx riders.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Consider the Ant

Yesterday morning I was off, so I went for only the second bike ride I've gone on this month. The first was the night before. Both rides, though not that long, left me exhausted. I had never felt older. Of course, I never had been. Until now. Not that it matters particularly. I've decided to skip the MS Ride next month. I can't really justify the expense. Maybe I'll just go out to the garage that day and sit in my brand new antique chair.
Today, it rained and the weather matched my mood which spanned the spectrum from gray to blue. I'm not really asking you to feel sorry for me. If you want a job done right, do it yourself, and I've got this one covered.
I've been reading Piano Lessons. The author interviewed Tori Amos. She described her piano as her best friend. She loves just being alone at the keyboard. As I'm noodling away here at my keyboard, I can't help thinking, "It's like I've got a twin!"
No, really, I can't. If I understand the latest science on emergence, and I don't, then complex systems arise from the interaction of simple rules. Ants are not intelligent, nor are they guided by leaders, but they create complicated and hugely successful societies. In the same way, our billions of neurons are not guided by a central "me" they are just firing away, although so far, nothing in my head has created a complicated and hugely successful society.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Dear Mr Proctor

This probably isn't an original idea, but why does red dye that bleeds into white clothes, not bleed right back out instead of acting like, you know, dye?

Friday, August 10, 2007

It's Better to Have Loved and Lost

Or at least it's a lot less likely to lead to a lifetime of buying other people's cast off furniture. That's all I'm going to say about that, at least until I think of something else.
Last week I was writing about my pump. I can report that those of you who believed in me and thought there were two pieces to the pump, were vindicated as were those of you that thought I was a dork. I took the entire pump into REI and showed them that the piece they sold me didn't fit into the opening. The REI guy showed me, how if you took out the "missing" piece that was jammed in incorrectly it would all fit just fine. He took the pump in back to consult with the technicians how it should go together. That's what he said, anyway. Leah (who works in retail) explained that he took it in back so all the technicians could have a laugh at my expense. No charge for that actually; he gave me back my dollar.

Limits on Noise Canceling Technology

My iPod speakers have noise canceling technology built in. I had them turned up loud enough to induce seizures this morning, and they still couldn't drown out the voice in my head. "Why, oh why," it kept repeating, "would my wife buy enough 'antique' furniture to fill the garage when we have no money or space?"
I am working overtime delivering mail in Mountain View (a former All American neighborhood, where the most recent shooting was one block from where I was delivering) to pay off a Visa bill that coincidentally is the same as my social security number* and we're spending money on broken down furniture that even its owner didn't want? After buying two recliners last weekend?
It's not just my collar that's blue today.

*I read a similar line in the National Lampoon back in the '70's so I know it's funny.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Two Aha Moments

I had two "Aha!" moments today. Actually, I had the same "Aha!" moment twice. Two different times today, I was chatting with my customers (and their brother in one case) when they said they had to go, and I looked down saw my uniform and realized "Whoa, I'm not a visitor here, I'm a mailman!"

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Part II: Reunion Indeed

Saturday I accompanied Jody to the Peanut Farm, a local bar, where part two of her reunion was held. People were moving and talking when we arrived, so it was much more welcoming than the night before. There was another man there that wasn't from the class of '67, so he and I started talking. He had worked for the Anchorage Times while it was still operating and also for Fred's Bail Bonds. He had fascinating stories about the intersection of news and bail bonds. His wife hadn't known about the reunion and he had surprised her. She was furious with him, and in tears because she hadn't put on makeup or dressed for the occasion. I was soothing and comforting, so much so that she asked if I was gay. "No," I simpered, "but I do have a Pomeranian."
Then I saw a woman that had been in my kindergarten class, taught by renowned Alaskan artist Joan Kickbush. She, Ann, not the renowned artist, had married a man from my sister's class at East. We had some catching up to do. That bald statement doesn't begin to convey how exciting it was to have someone walk out of my childhood from nearly 50 years ago. Hmm, neither did that one. Well, here's the thing, Saturday I was not only excited to see Ann, but about how fun and funny this blog post would be. Boy, are you as let down now as I am?
Sunday night we had a barbecue for my birthday. Jody and I stayed up until way after dark, and then last night she went home.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Reunion Report

We went to the Snow Goose, which is a former Elks lodge, where my sister's reunion was held. We entered the lobby and headed for the large room where there was a group of happy people wearing name tags. There was a waitress serving drinks and music in the air. As we approached the table by the door the woman handing out the name tags said, "Are you East?"
We smiled, "Yes,"
"This is West," she said, "East is upstairs,"
We went upstairs and found the room, or cell, really where the East reunion was being held. We'd arrived fashionably late, we thought, but it turned out that this was a sit down meal and they'd crammed three tables into a small closet with no room for latecomers. We would either be placed at the end of some random table or be the only people standing in a room stuffed full with the handful of people that had come. My sister asked me if I was ready to go, and I thought she meant that she'd seen her friends and didn't need me anymore, but no, she didn't want to be there any more either, so we slithered out and came home. What hurt the most wasn't that West's reunion looked so much cooler than East's but that the West people could so easily identify that we didn't belong.

I Just Heard Myself Agree to Go to My Sister's Reunion

I'm going to a reunion with no possibility of running into someone I was looking forward to seeing. I suppose as far as that goes, that would be true of any reunion.

I did go to REI today and described my foray into pump valve switching. They had a case full of parts and sold me one. We'll see if it has anything at all to with my pump.

My great niece is here watching Sponge Bob. Apparently he never sleeps.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

My sister is arriving in half an hour from Seattle. We've been pushing as much of the squalor as we can into out of the way corners. In one of those corners we found a photo album that we got when my mom died. It contains pictures of the family before they moved to Anchorage and I was born. They looked so happy I don't know why they ever had another child.

[deleted] That's why I have a blog. So I can tell you about the little irritations I have. Last night we went to a potluck/bike clinic. Incidentally, it was held in a beautiful house that was featured in a 1967 Life Magazine. At the bike clinic, the speaker showed us how pumps can be switched back and forth to inflate Presta or Schraeder tubes. I have both types, so I was excited to try it this afternoon. I switched it and it didn't work on the Presta, so I switched it back and it didn't work on the Schraeder any more and then I started switching it back and forth, and then suddenly I realized that when I started switching I thought I had two pieces, but now, I was just turning one piece around and around. In the process, I let the air out of the tires on both bikes, and ruined the pump I would need to inflate them.I crawled around on the garage floor for twenty minutes looking for a piece that may or may not have existed. I never found it.

Sleeping Dogs Lie

Biologists, if they weren't victims of the same blindness
that afflicts us all, wouldn't hesitate to classify dogs as social parasites.

I was thinking about the Atlantic Monthly article quoted above. It's true, dogs will run away, but they always come back to bite the hand that feeds them. Essentially they are free range tapeworms.