Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Checking in

It turns out that I've got bronchitis. My doctor perscribed an oral antibiotic, a cough syrup, and an albuterol inhaler. I don't feel any better yet.

Our power went out in the storm Monday night. It stayed out for 22 hours. We lost a few things from the freezer and refrigerator, but I figure that if that's the worst we suffered, then we got off pretty easy.

Misty's mom cooked us dinner last night because it's Misty's birthday today. Wanting to check if the power was back on before we went home, we called over to our house to see if the answering machine would pick up. It did. When we got home, there was an excited message from Misty exclaiming "power!"

Monday, August 29, 2005

Going postal

Just after my run-in with the idiot receptionist, I had another run-in that pissed me off a whole lot more. On my way home I stopped by the downtown post office to mail some CDs I'd sold on half.com. Here's a transcript of the incident:

Postal clerk: Help you?

Me: I'd like to mail these three packages through media mail and this one through first class mail.

Postal clerk: (holding up the first package) "What's in this?"

Me: "A CD."

Postal clerk: "OK, that's covered under media mail. I wanted to check because it's so light. If we don't know what it is we'll open it."

Me: (thinking) Huh?

The postal clerk proceeds to weigh the first package and affix it with a mailing label. The price is something like $1.80. She continues for the next two packages. As she's weighing the third package, I notice a message flash past on the screen in front of me that says something about upgrading to a better service for a lower price. Because she was moving through her process quickly, though it disappeared before I could read it.

Me: "I'm sorry, what was this saying about sending for a cheaper rate?"

Postal clerk: "First class mail would be $1.06."

Me: "So I could actually pay less and they'd get there faster?"

Postal clerk: "Yes, first class is usually faster."

Me: "Oh, then can I send these first class instead?"

Postal clerk: "You could have, but you said media mail."

Now, I understand that'd she'd already printed and affixed the stickers, but that was the wrong answer. Nevertheless, I kept my cool.

Me: "Why didn't you tell me, then, that first class would have less?"

Postal clerk: "Because you insisted on media mail."

Me: "I didn't insist on anything. I..."

Postal clerk: "When I axed you how you wanted to send these, you said 'media mail'."

Check the transcript, folks. She didn't axe me that. In fact, she didn't even ask me.

Me: "Yes, I understand that I said I wanted media mail. I'm just asking why, if there was a different service that was cheaper and faster, that you didn't mention it to me."

Postal clerk: "Because you said you wanted media mail. And I axed you what was in this because it was so light. And you said it was a CD, so that's covered under media mail."

Me: "Yes, that is absolutely correct. I'm not questioning anything you said or anything I said. I'm asking why you saw it on the screen in front of you, but you didn't suggest first class mail if it was faster and cheaper."

Postal clerk: "You said you wanted media mail. We have that screen right there so you can see what the other rates are."

Me: (thinking) No fucking shit! That's why I'm asking you about it in the first place!

So far, I had been firm, but I had not yet lost my patience. Now though, I was indignant.

Me: "I would like to send these first class instead of media mail."

With a scowl, the postal clerk ripped the labels off the three media mail packages and printed out new labels for first class mail.

Postal clerk: "Stamps or anything else?"

I hope the people I'm sending the packages to actually get their mail. Considering that woman's attitude, she might have just thrown them in the trash after I left.

Obviously there are people who do their job and just don't give a damn, and there are people who do their job and make that tiny little extra effort for the customer's sake. But if you're one of the former, and a customer asks you for some help, there's no need to be a bitch about it.

Jeez! Freakin' idiot!

I've been sick for five days now. The first two I let slide, thinking I'd just caught Emily's cold. Saturday and Sunday were much worse, but I held off going to the doctor because I wanted to see my regular physician rather than the doc in the box (where I'll wait an hour to see him for 2 minutes just to get a shot). Just now, I called UAB Parkwest to make an appointment. I should point out, for the following conversation to make sense, that there are only two doctors at this particular clinic.

Me: "I'd like to make an apointment for today."

Receptionist: "OK. With which doctor?"

Me: "Dr. Bullock."

Receptionist: "Dr. Bullock is only working a half day today, and he's already booked up."

Me: "Then can I make an appointment with Dr. Copeland?"

Receptionist: "No, Dr. Copeland was on vacation last week, so she's all booked up today."

Me (thinking): Then why the hell didn't you say so in the first place, you nitwit?! Can't you hear that I'm breaking into coughing fits every time I try to speak?!

Me (reality): silence

Receptionist: "Would you like to make an apointment for tomorrow?"

Monday, August 22, 2005

Anyone? Anyone?

Tomorrow night WorkPlay is hosting the premiere of the Alabama-made film "Lightning Bug." Preceeding the movie is a meet-and-greet with the filmmakers and stars. Other than director Robert Hall, I don't know exactly which members of the cast and crew will be in attendance, but if you check the links, you'll probably recognize at least a couple of faces.

If anyone would be interested in joining me there tomorrow night, let me know. I'm going to take photos for al.com, but my usual date (see the blonde in the post below) can't make it.

Update:
Well, I went by myself (boo hoo). Here are the pictures.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Mommy's little helper

Saturday usually represents a lull for me in the amount of work I have to do at the office. My busiest day of the week is Friday, with Sunday running close behind. Saturday, though, brings a reprieve.

Today, I had planned to use my time to get some real work done, banging out event listings from all the things that have been submitted to al.com's entertainment calendars. However, I've just discovered that the calendar tool is broken, so I'll probably have to wait until Monday for one of the techs in New Jersey to fix it.

Since I have a free moment, here are some pictures of Emily helping with the dishes.

Emily helps with dishes

Friday, August 19, 2005

Misty's scheming mind

On the way home from work yesterday, Misty bought the last of her textbooks for this semester's classes. After we put Emily to bed, we were sitting in the living room, she parusing her school books while I read a novel. Every few minutes or so, Misty would interject something along the lines of "I think you'd really like this book" or "this class would be right up your alley."

I can see what she's trying to do. She thinks she can trick me into reading her textbook so that I'll help her with her class. I'm not falling for it. I'll proofread her papers for her, and I'll share my thoughts on any communications subjects I'm already familiar with, but I'm not going to go so far as to jump back into reading and research. If I wanted to do that, I'd register for grad school.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

The Notorious C.A.T.

I was pushing Emily around the back yard in her big plastic car yesterday evening when a sudden shriek erupted from the porch and Misty bolted outside. She'd been lighting the grill when a mouse had walked across the grate.

Luckily the igniter didn't work, because as Misty pointed out, she could just picture a flaming mouse running through the open door and setting the house on fire. I was charged with the task of confronting the mouse and turning the gas off, and Misty went inside to cook the sausages on the stove, vowing to wheel the grill out in the yard and scrub it down before ever using it again.

Today she called me at work to inform me that we're adopting a cat. "I know you'll say 'no'," she said, "but I'm bringing it home anyway."

"No," I said.

"It's too late, I've already decided," she told me. "He'll live outside, so it won't be a problem. He'll catch mice."

I'm allergic to animal dander, but that's not really the issue that concerns me. My disapproval stems from the fact that we've already got two dogs that drive us crazy. We really shouldn't have them considering our general lack of enthusiasm for their companionship, but there's that attachment you form before they're a pain in the ass, and you can't quite manage to shake it. Getting another pet, though, doesn't seem like a step in the right direction.

"We're getting this cat," Misty continued. "I already promised the vet I'd take him. I'm going to call him Sucka MC."

"No," I said.

"Isn't that a great name for a cat?" she asked, undaunted.

"We're not getting a cat, and you're not naming him Sucka MC."

I finally worked my position to compromise that we could get the cat if Misty would agree to part with the shih tzus. Every time I mentioned this option, though, she acted as if she didn't hear it.

A worthy replacement

Congratulations to the North Mississippi AllStars. They may be my new Sister Hazel.

Monday, August 15, 2005

The dark side of the Dreaming

I had a nightmare last night that woke me up screaming.

In my dream I was standing in my living room when the doorbell rang. I was only wearing boxers and a t-shirt, so I didn't answer right away. Instead, I was hoping someone else would get it. When the bell rang again, I sort of tapped on the door to let whoever it was know that I'd be with them in a moment. I looked up the stairs where my brother was, thinking he'd come down and get the door for me, but instead he walked into my bedroom. I didn't get the impression that he was ignoring me — just that he was going to do something else first. But not wanting to make the person outside wait any longer, I gave up hope of modesty and opened the door.

Instantly, someone rushed me and smashed me on the right side of my head with a sledgehammer. My body immediately hit the floor. I didn't see my attacker, and I didn't have time to react. It just happened so fast. In the following two seconds before I felt myself lose consciousness, several thoughts flew through my mind: I needed to warn my family that someone was in the house. I was worried for the safety of Misty and Emily. I needed to let them know that I'd been seriously hurt so that they could come to my aid. I knew that I was dying. And I gave thought to the state of the world in the news and something about cheesecake and a compass.

That last part is weird considering the scope of things, and I wouldn't bother mentioning it except that I don't want to overlook anything that might have some significance. As I said, all these thoughts flitted through my head in only a couple of seconds. After that, I screamed for help four times. The first two times, nothing came out, and as I tried, I feared that I would not be able to alert my family of the impending danger. The next two times woke me up, though, as I hollered, "Help me! Help me!"

For the rest of the night, I didn't sleep much. In fact, I was afraid to go to sleep. I was so unslettled from that blind rush of terror. Every creak in the house had me on edge. As I lay in bed I thought about going to see my physician about the dream. Or a psychiatrist. Or a fortune teller. I wondered if our house was haunted, causing me to have bad dreams. I thought about calling the previous owners and asking them why they'd moved — if they'd had similar nightmares. I wondered if the soup I'd had for dinner could have caused any of this.

Aside from the fact that I was attacked with a sledgehammer, two things continue to unsettle me about this dream. For one thing, whenever I dream about being at home, I'm at the house in which I lived in Houston. I assume the reason for this consistency is that I spent more time living in that house than any other (with the exception of an earlier house in Houston, but I was too young to remember it well). With this dream, though, I was in the house where I now reside. That element made the dream more real, and it troubles me that the shift to my current home would coencide with such a horrible event. The other thing that bothers me is that this is the second dream I've had within a month in which I've been murdered (the other time involving being shot in the head point-blank while being held as a hostage in a bookstore or restaurant).

Should I be worried about this sort of thing? Should I seek out professional help? At the moment, I'm inclined to see if it happens again before rushing off to see a psychiatrist. Two incidents is a coincendece, but three would signal something more significant, I think.

Because of Winn Dixie

Misty and I stopped by the Winn Dixie in Vestavia on the way home the other day. Since the store is closing, they're touting closeout prices of 30%-50% off everything in the store.

I quickly realized why Winn Dixie is going out of business. Even at 30% off, most of their items were still a little more than I usually pay at Bruno's.

For some reason people have the impression that Winn Dixie is a less expensive grocery chain, but it's not true. Their stores just look like they ought to be because they're always so dingy and poorly lit.

No news

We haven't had a new story in the search for Natalee Holloway in four days from either The Birmingham News or the Associated Press. So this morning, I suggested we remove the box featuring the special report from our home page. My suggestion was approved, though we were told to make sure that a link was easily visible from the top of our news page.

It took 56 minutes for someone to e-mail a complaint.

The grass is always bluer

One of my co-workers called me while she was out on her lunch break to ask me what a bumper sticker meant. She said she's seen several that say "My Grass is Blue."

Once I searched for it online, I felt pretty stupid about my initial guesses. My first suggestion was that it meant "I'm a Democrat," and my second guess was that it meant "I'm from Kentucky."

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Welcome home

When we returned from New Orleans this evening, we went to pick up Emily from Misty's mother and aunt. Upon opening the door, Emily's arms shot up in the air as she ran to me for a hug. Before I could scoop her up though, her attention shifted and she screamed "Ma Ma Ma!" as Misty appeared behind me. So I got about 2 seconds of appreciation before Emily grabbed hold of her mother instead.

I wasn't neglected for too long, though. We both sat down on the couch to regale the adventures of our vacation, while Emily lunged back and forth repeatedly between the two of us, hugging Mommy then Daddy, Mommy then Daddy...

Best welcome I've ever received.

Dethroned

A few months ago I read a book called Spam Kings, chronicling the history of spammers and the people who've waged war against them. So when I read this article in USA Today, I recognized some of the names.
America Online and Microsoft are hitting spammers where it hurts most: They are confiscating their assets and giving them away.

AOL, the world's largest Internet service provider, is awarding $20,000 in gold bars, a 2003 Hummer H2 and $75,000 in cash it seized from a major spammer as part of a legal settlement last year. It will hold a sweepstakes on its Web site starting Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Microsoft on Tuesday said Scott Richter, once considered one of the world's top spammers, and his company, OptInRealBig.com, agreed to pay $7 million under a legal settlement. Microsoft is donating $1 million to a New York program to provide computer gear to community centers. It will spend $5 million more on anti-spam efforts.

"We think it's justice," says Curtis Lu, AOL deputy general counsel. "We're taking the ill-gotten bounty these spammers have earned off the backs of our customers and handing it back to customers."

What a load of crap.

AOL isn't "handing it back to customers." They're using this as a marketing ploy, attempting to lure in even more suckers to their net with the hopes of winning a raffle.

Now, I realize that with 24 million U.S. subscribers, AOL would only be able to refund each person's bill by about a half-cent based on the spam assets they acquired. So doing that isn't really practical, but their chosen route is sleazy.

Microsoft, though, is donating their winnings to charity. Kudos to Microsoft.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Milestone

Something sad happened on my way to work this morning. As I crested the hill (Red Mountain) and passed St. Vincent's Hospital on Hwy. 31, my car warranty expired. Yes, just under 2 years and 4 months from the date I purchased my car, the odometer has already passed 50,000 miles.

But before anyone gets the idea that my excessive driving is a gross contributor to Birmingham's ozone problem, let me say in my defense that my wife and I carpool to work, and I'm usually the one who drives. Also, I drive a Jetta, not some preposterous monstrosity of an SUV.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Digging the music

Chez tagged me with the following music meme, so now I've got cooties. Apparently, the only way for me to get rid of them is to complete the meme myself and pass it along to five more people, so here goes...

The instructions:
List ten songs that you are currently digging... it doesn't matter what genre they are from, whether they have words, or even if they're no good, but they must be songs you're really enjoying right now. Post these instructions, the artists, and the ten songs in your blog. Then tag five other people to see what they're listening to.

My list:
They Might Be Giants - Damn Good Times - "I've got a friend who's a natural dancer / You could call her a jumpin' bean / She's got ants in her pants and she's gonna dance." This is totally Emily's song, and she does indeed love to dance to it.

Coldplay - Fix You - I love when the guitar kicks in about 2½ minutes into the song.

The Donnas - Fall Behind Me - Lyrically, the album is pretty weak, but if you let the music flow through you instead of trying to absorb it, you can just enjoy the fact that these ladies rock.

Death Cab for Cutie - Transatlanticism - Misty brought my attention back to this one. I love the way it starts out so somber and just builds in intensity over 8 minutes.

Grant Lee Buffalo - Dixie Drug Store - Because I'm headed to New Orleans this weekend. It's a song about meeting the ghost of "Voodoo Queen" Marie Laveau.

Rilo Kiley - Spectacular Views - This one goes on my "Special Monday Morning Mix" (see Barry/Jack Black in "High Fidelity"). It really peps me up, and "it's so fucking beautiful."

Fountains of Wayne - All Kinds of Time - Who'd have thought I'd love a song about a football game?

N.W.A. - Straight Outta Compton - I read an article recently that mentioned how it's difficult to explain to kids who know Ice Cube from "Barbershop" and "Are We There Yet?" that he used to be one scary motherfucker. That prompted me to revisit some of N.W.A.'s music.

Blackalicious - Passion - Because the aforementioned song made me realize that I need to listen to more hip-hop.

Michael Tolcher - Mission Responsibile - His whole album is great, but I can't pull myself away from this one. I'm looking forward to seeing him again at Big Spring Jam.

Snow Patrol - Chocolate - It seems that I'm always digging some song or another from this album.

The Flaming Lips - Turn it On - I've been trying to download this song for almost a year, and I finally found someone who had it (yeah, shiver me timbers and all that).

Looks like I couldn't limit myself to 10.

I'll tag:
Lindsey - because this is just the sort of meme she should enjoy

Leslie - so I can see how she's coming along since she made her plea for new music suggestions

Hubie - because he's probably listening to something I haven't heard of that I'll like

Jeff - because I just discovered his blog, and I refuse to believe he only listens to Glen Phillips

Kara - so that she can post more than once in a month (like I'm one to talk)

Monday, August 01, 2005

Ladybug rejection

The pacifier's days are numbered. Or, at least, we hope so.

Currently, Emily only requires her pacifier when she goes to bed, but Misty and I have said that we want to wean Emily off it entirely by the time she's 18 months old. To do so, we figure she needs a replacement security fixture like a blanket or a stuffed animal.

We've begun leaving both in the crib with Emily at night so that she'll get used to having them there. Emily has decided, though, that she does not want to share her bed with an animal.

Usually, when we put her down for the night, she's wide awake. She's pretty good about it though, playing with her aquarium and babbling to herself occasionally until she falls asleep. Only rarely does she cry out for us once she's in bed.

Over the past couple weeks, Misty and I have been peering around the doorway of Emily's room to observe her bedtime ritual. In doing so, we've learned that the first thing she does after we leave the room is to grab her stuffed animal, stand up, and drop it out of the crib. She'll then plop down immediately into her sleeping position (head down, butt up in the air).

After seeing her do this several days in a row, we thought that perhaps she didn't like that particular animal. We switched from the big ladybug to a pink bunny, and for the first night it worked. The bunny was still in the crib with her in the morning. The next night though, it was back to the routine of dropping the animal out of the crib.

So, we don't know if she doesn't like sleeping with a stuffed animal, or if we just haven't found the right one yet, or if she's just being defiant. Her rejection sure is funny to watch, though.

12 months, 12 books - maybe

I am envious of Largehearted Boy's reading project. This year and last, he's set a goal to read a book a week, reviewing each on his site.

For the past several years, I've attemted to just read one book a month, yet somehow I always fall short of my goal. Last year and the year before, I managed ten.

2003:
Prey by Michael Crichton
Tricky Business by Dave Barry
Left Behind by Tim LaHaye & Jerry B. Jenkins
The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown
Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling
Babyhood by Paul Reiser
Hey Nostradamus! by Douglas Copeland
Songbook by Nick Hornby
Dude, Where's My Country? by Michael Moore
Lost by Gregory Maguire

2004:
Lies (and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them) by Al Franken
Life of Pi by Yan Martel
Sleeping with the Angel by Nick Hornby (editor)
The Watermelon King by Daniel Wallace
Blankets by Craig Thompson *
A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket *
Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss
Coraline by Neil Gaiman *
We're Just Like You, Only Prettier by Celia Rivenbark
My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult
Off Ramp by Hank Stuever
We've Got Blog by Rebecca Blood (editor)
Little Children by Tom Perrotta
* does not count toward goal

If I allowed graphic novels or junior fiction to count toward my goal, I'd have made it last year. But it's not meeting the goal itself that I'm concerned about — I don't get a prize if I accomplish it — I just want to read more. Nevertheless, most of the books on my list aren't that profound. I mean, I read Left Behind, for God's sake (it was so terrible).

Oddly enough, while I don't count books like Coraline or A Series of Unfortunate Events, since I consider them primarily to be children's books, I do allow Harry Potter to count toward my goal (hey, it's more than 800 pages).

This year, I'm on track to miss the mark again as I'm only in the middle of my sixth book after seven months.

2005:
How to Be Good by Nick Hornby
Spam Kings by Brian McWilliams
The Untelling by Tayari Jones
Never Let You Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling
Everything Bad is Good for You by Steven Johnson

I am determined to keep trying, though. I read faster when I like the book (and I have a tendency to keep muddling through despite not liking it), so hopefully the rest of my selections this year will be enjoyable. So far, only Hornby's How to Be Good has dragged me down, but it made for a very slow start to the year.