Monthly Archives: December 2008

Clancy and I were due for a conflict. We arrived in Colosse but needed to drive to Beyreuth on the opposite side of the state to visit her family. Fortunately my parents have an extra car. I figured we’d be driving my old car, which has a tape player. I bought Dad a tape-to-MP3 converter and figured we’d use that for the drive. But then Dad suggested that we take the convertible because my old car was having some troubles lately and he wasn’t comfortable with the 200 mile trip taken in that car. the convertible has a CD player. I had no CDs. She did.

Car music is one of those areas of inequality in our marriage. I tend to dominate it though I do take care to put in CDs that I know that she likes. There is a fair amount of music that I’ve introduced her to that she’s taken a liking to. I’m not sure I’ve been quite as broadminded with listening to her musical tastes. There have been times in the past where we’ve been stuck with CDs or for whatever reason had to rely on her music. We listen to Melissa Etheridge and a Delosian band that we both discovered and liked independently (a story for another time). She’s been in an Indigo Girls mood lately and they’re one band that I have not been able to get into (though I’m not sure how good a chance I’ve given them). But given how often she listens to my music, I was not comfortable with the prospect of tuning out hers by listening to something on an earpiece or something like that.

Then I remembered that my old CD collection was stationed at my parents house and sure enough, I was able to uncover it. The collection is spotty at best. It’s mostly stuff I liked and listened to years ago and never took with me because I had it all ripped. I figured a tentative solution to the conflict was that we could switch back and forth between a CD of mine and a CD of hers. If she put in Indigo Girls, that’d be her right, but I also might put in something that I knew she was less fond of (though nothing that she absolutely hated, of course, since I don’t hate the Indigo Girls).

The solution came in the form of CDs that were already in the car. Mom’s CDs! Well, Mom doesn’t actually own CDs, but for Christmas Dad took all of her old tapes, downloaded as many of the tracks as he could, and made CDs out of them. Clancy looked it over and found some of her classic rock stuff that she likes. I looked it over and it had some of the schmaltzy easy listening hits that, while I can’t say I’m a really big fan of anymore, have extraordinary nostalgic value.

So we listened primarily to my mother’s CD collection. A lot of Willie Nelson and Anne Murray. Some Janis Joplin and Janis Ian. James Taylor and Dolly Parton. It was really quite fun. We passed through the songs that neither of us liked. There were some that she liked and I didn’t care for, but I listened through them. There were more than I was fond of but she wasn’t. Some of the songs I really didn’t like much at all, but I liked how they took me back to when we’d be driving back from Ouachita having visited family and I’d be laying in the back of the van listening to those songs with my parents. I was surprised at how many of the lyrics that I remembered to songs I have not heard in over a decade and how easily they can get stuck back in your head.

{Singing to myself, “Nobody robbed a liquor store on the lower part of town. Nobody OD’ed, nobody burned a single buildin’ down. Nobody fired a shot in anger, nobody had to die in vain. We sure could use a little good news today…}

Category: Road

I commented a week or two back that the question of whether or not Sarah Palin was the mother of her alleged youngest son could largely be settled in the next couple of weeks. If Bristol Palin gave birth to her kid on schedule, that would make it virtually impossible that she was Trig’s mother as well. I even went as far as to say that if something happened with the pregnancy, such as a miscarriage, an extremely late birth, or an on-time birth of an extremely small baby, that I would lend more weight to the notion that the whole thing was a hoax to throw people like me off. I wondered out loud if Half Sigma would admit that he might be wrong if the baby arrived healthy and on time.

Apparently not. The baby arrived Saturday, but Half Sigma finds it suspicious that it took three whole days for the announcement to go public. Further, he says, there is no proof that Trig is Sarah’s even if it is not Bristol’s and that Tripp, the new baby, is Bristol’s at all. Here is the problem with each of the theories:

If Trig is neither Sarah’s nor Bristol’s, whose is it? This actually provides an excellent opportunity for Half Sigma, Andrew Sullivan, and others. Find the mother! Sullivan thinks that asking potshot questions qualifies him as a journalist. How about doing a little more investigative journalism than asking the Palin campaign to do it for you! Now there’s also the question: What’s the motive? Previously it was to cover up Bristol’s unwed pregnancy, but if Trig wasn’t Bristol’s the issue is moot. It wasn’t to get elected governor of Alaska because she already was governor of Alaska. Why go through the whole charade? That’s a lot of risk with comparatively little upside.

If Tripp is not Bristol’s, whose baby is it? This provides the same excellent opportunity. Should be easier considering the increased scrutiny the Palins have been under. Even if it was the case that everybody in on the alleged switch of Trig’s maternity, this time around everybody involved (including the mother) has a strong financial incentive to spill the beans. This time the entire pregnancy has been under watch. Even though in this case the motive would be clear, the opportunity isn’t.

Of course, in the event that the Palins did manage to pull off this stunning deception, that would mean that Half Sigma is still wrong. Well, we already knew he was wrong because the story up until it was disprovable was that the baby was Bristol’s. But even if we overlook that he’s wrong again. If the Palins did successfully pull this diabolical scheme off, they cannot be remotely as dumb as Half Sigma has suggested.

Category: Newsroom

University of Delosa graduates have a well-earned reputation for arrogance. They often seem to believe that anybody that didn’t go there was automatically too stupid to get in or otherwise demonstrating their stupidity by choosing to go somewhere else even if they could get in. Of course, it’s not all DU graduates that thing this way, but it doesn’t take too many to give an entire alumni a reputation. The pride they feel is not completely unearned, however, as U of Delosa is the most difficult school to get into as well as the state’s flagship university.

Since graduating and having read blogs from across the country, there are apparently worse schools than DU in this regard. And worse regions. The notion that somebody went to a state university that isn’t considered an automatic exception (U of Michigan, Berkeley, etc) is a sign of diminished intelligence. Knowing nothing about it, Half Sigma said that the University of Idaho (Sarah Palin’s alma mater) sounded like a “bogus school”. The thing about a lot of people (though certainly not all) that feel this way is that they went to competitive private schools. A lot of them don’t realize that there school does not carry special weight in large swaths of the country, but they are the people that define success by the ability to make it in New York City and their degrees will carry more weight there so they don’t need to care what Idahoans think.

The most dumbfounding case of collegiate arrogance I have ever discovered, however, is DeVry University. Many of you may not have heard of it, but for those who have, yes I mean that DeVry. Formerly the DeVry Institute. Buyer of daytime TV ads across the country with those lists of areas of study scrolling across the screen.

I had never thought a whole lot of DeVry one way or the other. I had thought about going to a technical school upon graduation, but my mother talked me out of it. DeVry had the notability of being one of the first for-profit vocational schools to offer bonafide bachelor’s degrees. So credit to them for that, but beyond that, I figured that they were much like the others. I don’t mean that as an insult. I think that places like ITT Tech are unfairly scoffed at when in many cases they provide the education that the future-worker needs. I do not look down on people that have graduated from such places.

That being said, I was stunned by the number of people I knew in Deseret who believed that a degree from DeVry University was a bragging point. An argument settler, even. “You may think that you know a lot about OpenOffice because you use it extensively, but I went to DeVry University!” Okay, it wasn’t quite that bad, but not far from it. Any time Teddy Forbes and I would come to verbal blows, he considered his trump card that he had a college degree. “When you’ve been to college, you realize that you being screwed and my having it easy is the way that the business world works. I made a point never to brag about my college degree when I was out there because it’s tasteless and also because it leads to the retort “If your degree is so awesome, what are you doing working here?” I wanted to ask Teddy that question. He had no such compunction about flashing his two-year DeVry degree around to prove that he was right about all things business-related.

One former coworker at Falstaff, Sal, was talking shiznit about having gone to DeVry, saying that he had a full-ride scholarship offer to the University of Deseret but had determined DeVry to be the better school and had gone there instead. Now it’s possible that DeVry has a better (or more applicable) computer science program than UDes on the merits, but I suspect that the vast majority of employers won’t see it that way. Not to mention that, for Sal in particular, he’s more likely to get a better college experience and save tens of thousands of dollars going to UDes.

One day I was complaining that the College of Industrial Technology had me taking math courses that made it difficult to change majors. “That’s why I went to DeVry”, coworker Edgar said, “because they don’t have that problem.” He may be right, though there is the issue of almost none of your very basic credits being transferable to just about any other university that is not a DeVry campus. Edgar of all people should have known this because he failed out of DeVry and could not pick up where he left off at local Beck State University. Sal might say that’s because DeVry’s classes are so far above-and-beyond anything Beck State had to offer that BSU just had nothing that could compare, but saying that you have the best degree program in the entire nation but that almost nobody knows about it is comparable to the philosophical question about a tree falling in the forest. If nobody thinks that your degree is superior, is it in fact superior?

I wish I knew who the salesperson for DeVry was in the Mocum area. Whoever they were deserved a raise. They convinced Sal, Teddy Forbes, and Edgar not only to pack up their things and go to college 1,000 miles away from home, but that a degree from DeVry would make it worthwhile. I want to know whoever that sales person is because I have this idea about selling ice to Eskimos that I think that they might be ideal for…

Category: School

-{I tried to write a post putting my thoughts together on something Bob wrote a few months ago, but I couldn’t find a way to say anything that I hadn’t already said in the comments. So this post consists primarily of slightly modified nuggets of Trumwisdom from that thread}-

In my experience, guys that befriend a girl and are afraid to ask the girl out are usually justified in their fear of rejection. They’re just prolonging the feeling of not being sure that it’s not going to happen compared to the next most likely alternative (which, needless to say, is not “it happening”).

Guys should be honest with themselves about whether or not they are befriending them for the sole pupose of getting together. The best way to do this (in my experience) is to ask him or herself “Would I still want to be this close if she met the man of her dreams and were married to tomorrow?”.

On at least a couple of occasions I “befriended” someone with the sole intention of getting together romantically with them. I wasn’t exactly sneaky about it, though, as they knew how I felt and knew that simply being friends wasn’t an option to me.

The issue arose when she wanted to put me on the “friend” shelf for future consideration. That can sound like a good deal, though in my experience it isn’t (for the interested, anyway). Once you get put there and it’s determined that you’re fine there (at least for the time being) and that you’re interested, you get put in permanent reserve status for when there’s no one else available to them. Then, when that moment comes, you are seen as this dreadful comprimose candidate and she will do anything to avoid having to “settle” for you.

Some women insist that the “Friend Zone” doesn’t exist, but it does at least in the above incarnation. Sometimes people think that they’re in the FZ when they’re really in the Wasnevergonnahappen Zone, but sometimes not. It’s difficult to tell the difference sometimes.

Being just friends with a girl you’re interested in is more problematic. Your interest in your friend becomes apparent to girls that you meet through them. The facts that they don’t want to be a second choice and the fact that one of the earliest things they know about you is that you’ve been rejected are not fertile ground for a relationship.

The second thing, which happened to me but only when I was younger so I would probably do better with it now if I were dating, is that you can become quite resentful of their efforts to shuffle you off to someone else. You view the recommended friend of the friend as a second choice and can find flaws that you wouldn’t be looking for in other circumstances.

Some of this depends on how interested in them you are. If it’s a mild interest, it’s great to just be friends. I was interested in a girl once and was rejected, but I asked her out early enough in the process that I was able to let it go pretty swiftly and became involved in her social group (without being known as “The Guy Who Digs X”, which is important).

I don’t see any problem with wanting to be with someone romantically and not wanting to be friends with them and don’t necessarily see that as indicative of a problem. Or at least it’s much less a problem to insist to yourself that you should be friends around someone that it hurts to be around. To be friends with someone that you are attracted to romantically can make it extremely difficult to be comfortable around them. Comfort is a key ingredient to friendship.

Noteworthy in that two of the three above instances that come to mind, they did become romantically interested in me… but only after I extricated myself from these lives and after it had been long enough that I lost my position in her life as a hanger-on. So it’s sort of a catch-22. You only get it after you’ve accepted that you can’t have it and moved on. Another way of looking at it is that you only get a shot after you can take some time to reload or the old saying that she can only miss you if you’re always there.

It seems to me that in general, one of the bigger problems here is the carrying of a torch as it becomes larger and larger without confronting it before it becomes a forest fire.

That’s one of the problems with the LJBF thing when combined with the possibility that things could change or that things could have been different (if they could have been different, they could have changed in the future)… it means that a guy can’t entirely put the flame out and it’s hard to keep such things minimized but alive.

It’s also the problem for guys that are interested in a woman but hover around too much waiting for the right time to make their move. Their feelings can sometimes grow way out of proportion and it complicates things and makes sure that the right time never comes (or at least greatly reduces the likelihood of it). It’s also why it’s dangerous to be attracted to someone that’s with someone else, even if you don’t think their current relationship is permanent. In fact, just about any situation where you give yourself too much time to build up your feelings and desires without being able (or willing) to act on them is a recipe for a meldown.

Category: Coffeehouse

It started snowing in the Zaulem Sound area last evening. Those that had a northbound commute were allegedly trying to wait it out until 9 or 10 o’clock before heading home. Fortunately, I was southbound so I didn’t have much trouble. There was a little bit of snow, but not all that much. It was snowing a little more by the time I went to bed. I sighed that this probably meant that I would need to scrape off my windshield in the morning. On a brief aside, this didn’t make sense to me. I bought an ice-scraper on Wednesday night. The mere fact that I bought an ice-scraper meant that there should be no more need or it for a long time. It’s only when I don’t have a scraper that these things are supposed to happen.) I also timed my trip into work a little bit later so that if necessary the required army of snow-plows and maybe a little heat has the ability to lessen the problem. If there was one thing I learned in Deseret, it’s not worth your while to try to get an early start when weather is going to push your arrival back. You should just accept a bit of lateness and work from there.

Just to make sure that Mindstorm wasn’t closed for the day, I called the 1-800 number with that information. It said that the “Zaulem Sound” facilities were open with “limited service”. I wasn’t sure what they meant by Zaulem Sound facilities. Did that include the main HQ in Enterprise City? Or was that a separate campus? If that was a separate campus, did that mean that HQ was completely open or not open at all?

On mornings where there is a real question about commute times, I like to get to the first sign indicating travel times before I get my morning faux-coffee. So I did that this morning. Unfortunately, the sign said “Heavy snow. You’re screwed.” rather than giving any more specific estimate than that. But I-3 was moving along at a relatively brisk pace, all things considered. I decided that I would wait until I got to my favorite Shell station in Orrinwood before stopping for the faux-coffee. I thought for a moment that, given the alleged “heavy snow” that was to come that maybe I should drive through Zaulem rather than taking the always-risky Splinterstate, but since I missed my faux-coffee I wanted to be able to stop in Orrinwood. There aren’t any stops along the Zaulem route. Besides, there was no telling what the bridges would be like in this weather. Even at its worst, there was only so bad that Splinterstate 803 could be.

803 was worse than usual from the moment that I turned onto it, but not too bad. Until it got too bad. Unbearably bad. I reset the meter on my GPS and determined that I was going an average of 6 miles an hour. Then 3. It was stop and go. Then stop… and go. I was beyond relieved when I finally made it to Orrinwood, two and a half hours after I left our Soundview home. I couldn’t even enjoy the break because I knew how much I had left to drive. It was probably going to be another hour. Another. Hour. So I got back in my car after only five minutes or so and realized that my car was stuck in the snow in the parking lot. The parking lot was at an incline and unfortunately when I turned around I found my way to the road blocked by an air pump and I was unable to steer my car clear of it. Thankfully, a nice local was able to help this southern hick get himself out of the pickle he’d just found himself in. He pushed my car away from the air pump and that did the trick.

I was hoping that the Interstate had cleared up a little bit by the time I got back on the road, forgetting that my shortened break meant that was less likely to happen. Oh well, at least it couldn’t get any worse. An hour later, I had gone less than a mile. I know this because my GPS told me that my average speed was now .8mph. That average even included when I was earlier cruising along at 6 and 3 miles an hour before my Orrinwood detour. During that hour, as I watched the GPS average speed fall, I decided that I had to do something. Anything. Worse yet, I was missing the next installment of my audiobook CD, which meant that I either had to start a new book or do something else. I decided to call my father to find out if he could get any traffic information that might explain my .8mph speed. Dad wasn’t there, but I had a pleasant chat with my mom. I then called Clancy’s mother. I was actually calling to talk to her father, who could look the information up for me, but I realized that I would have to chat with her before I’d be able to get her to hand the phone off to him. That was fine, though. It wasn’t like I was going anywhere.

Unfortunately, the state Department of Transportation site was bereft of valuable information. It apparently wasn’t even bothering to pick up travel time information, instead opting for the increasingly familiar “Heavy snow. You’re screwed.” He and I had a good talk about college football, though, and some new office software suite that he’d found. After he and I were done, I decided that it was a mighty decent time to change the main address on my Discover card as I had been intending since they’re supposed to send me a new one next year. After that was finished, for the first time in my life I volunteered to do the “customer satisfaction” survey. Why not? I wasn’t going anywhere. Stop………… and go. Stop…………………….. and go. Stop……………………………………………………….. and go

Finally around New City it started to clear up. I was speeding along on mud at an astonishing rate of 20 miles an hour. That was enough to let me limp into a Mindstorm campus that was open but wasn’t actually in use. There were a handful of cars in the parking lot, but they looked suspiciously like they had been there overnight. Unfortunately, the parking spots hadn’t actually been cleared of snow and I didn’t want to get stuck like I did in Orrinwood. Then I thought to myself “Hey, if there’s any area that they did de-ice and de-snow, it would be the parking garage. Right? So I drove by and turned juuuuust a little bit to get a view. It was apparent that though there were tracks, there was enough snow on those tracks that I was unlikely to be able to get back up if I drove down there. No matter, the slight incline I was at was enough to prevent me from getting up and out anyway.

A couple people walked by and tried to help me push the car back, but they were not successful. Then good fortune really struck and a half-dozen people, including my boss, happened by. It took six people to move the car, but they did it. I exclaimed that I didn’t know where to park. My boss said I should just go home. I said that I’d been in the car for over five hours and was not interested in spending another five driving back to Soundview. I said that I would figure something out. I ended up parking in about a foot of snow, plowing my way into a parking spot I wasn’t at all sure how I would get out. Ironically, by the time I got to work, I was too exhausted to work. I filed a couple of reports that needed to be filed and walked over to my boss’s office.

I asked him if this weather was going to push back an extremely strict deadline we had for Tuesday. If so, I was going to regroup and probably spend all day working, getting both Thursday and Friday’s hours done, sleep on the campus, and leave the next day. Otherwise, another five hours or no, I was going home. He asked if I had really driven in from Soundview. I told him that I had and he said that I should never come into work when it’s snowing and that I should leave immediately so that I might get home before dark. I had never talked at 2:30 in the afternoon about leaving work to get home “before dark”, but suddenly that was a very real concern. I told him that given the givens I would not be coming in on Friday. He said that was fine. So I went back to my desk, worked a little more, went to the cafeteria (which was open!), got some food, and drove home. Despite having actually worked today, my wife managed to beat me home.

Things that I wish I had remembered, realized, or known:

  • My boss’s phone number.
  • There was a parking garage that was almost certainly dry and almost equally certainly had vacancies on the first floor, making my trip to the underground garage particularly stupid.
  • Cascadia does not have the facilities to deal with snow and ice the same way that Deseret does. I had been lulled into a false sense of security by my previous ability to rely on Deseret making primary roads drivable.
  • Studded tires are good for ice, but they are also good for snow, too. At least I assume this to be the case by how easily I was able to get stuck in snow compared to when I had studded tires in Deseret.
  • When my audiobook ran out, I could have watched TV shows on my Smartphone. It’s not like I was doing much actual driving
  • The 1-800 number tells you if a facility is open. Not whether anybody is actually working.
  • If I had checked my email before I left, I would have seen an email from the junior VP of the Stormcast division telling everybody not to come in to work.

Category: Road

You remember that kid that you knew in high school or college that no matter what they did, it only further proved their social desperation? Or that would-be lover whose every move, whatever that move might be, was further proof that he was obsessed? It seems like NBC has been about reaching that point. A couple years ago I made the following discovery about NBC:

It’s surprising how poorly NBC as a whole is doing. CBS is canceling sitcoms in the 60’s (The Class was at #65 and was cancelled, there was talk of How I Met Your Mother being cancelled at #61) and NBCs highest rated sitcom is #58. NBC has no shows in the top 10 and only two in the top 20.

When I was growing up, there were only three networks. Fox was bold for attempting to be the fourth. NBC had Cosby and Cheers and later Frasier, Friends, and Seinfeld. I don’t know if they were on top the whole time, but they were always right up there. It’s hard to fully wrap my hands around the idea that the once giant is now in a distant fourth place. The original network, predating CBS by a year and spawning ABC down the road.

Articles like this don’t breed much faith. Most of you have probably heard that they’re giving Jay Leno a variety show at 10/9pm, which cuts off hourly dramas. I can only hope that Life doesn’t become one of the shows cut.

Then again, maybe they’re on a right track. NBC has yet to call me up and ask for my opinion, but it seems like one of the best ways to get back into the fray is to try different things. Fox succeeded by getting people to watch things that they swore they wouldn’t watch, like cartoons with dirty jokes and early reality TV. One angle that NBC has talked about is having year-round roll-outs rather than the fall pilots, which could be a great idea. Another idea might be having TV movies that are actually good. Surely NBC owns the rights to some good movie options that they won’t be spending a full movie budget on any time soon.

There are also certain demographics that are being ignored by the other major networks: younger senior citizens, Christians, conservatives, families, residents in places that are not located on the east coast, west coast, or Chicago. It seems to me that there is a big blind spot in making shows that producers generally don’t want to make because they’re unhip but nonetheless are or would be popular with viewers. It seems that a lot of the TV and movies being made are the kinds of things that Hollywood writers and directors want to make rather than what people like to see. Ever notice how some shows once they succeed spawn like ten knock-offs but others spawn maybe one or don’t spawn any. Where were the attempts to ape the popularity of Touched By An Angel and Seventh Heaven? I think that the audience was there, but not so much for the creative energy in Hollywood that equates gritty and edge with realistic and artistic. I say this as someone that hated Touched By An Angel and preferred the concept of Book of Daniel to Seventh Heaven. I just think that part of the problem is too many networks are trying to appeal to people like me (who are, in turn, people like them) and not enough on less hip consumers. I think that NBC could, if it wanted to, really take advantage of that.

Category: Theater

The onslaught continues. I can’t remember the last time I had pizza at the cafeteria but it’s nonetheless still a staple of my diet.

Last night there was a little hitch, though. Whoever ordered the pizza seemed to do it with stunning disregard for what kind of pizza people might want to eat. Typically when ordering pizza for a group, you get some variation of four major kinds (cheese, pepperoni, sausage, Canadian bacon) with maybe something more exotic thrown in there for people that want something a little bit different. Tonight’s collection had something like 10 pizzas with exactly one of the above four staples and nine of the exotic kinds.

The pepperoni was gone within ten minutes and the rest had not more than a piece or two taken out. Now I do sometimes like variety. In fact, except when my options are limited I’ve stopped eating tomato-sauce pizza almost altogether. When my wife and I order pizza, we almost always order pesto sauce. I’ve also somewhat reluctantly come to like BBQ sauced pizza (in small quantities) and always love Alfredo sauced pizza. I’ve never been big on tomatoes anyway and while I tolerate the sauce, it’s the tribute to all the cheese that I get with the pizza.

There was one type of exotic pizza in the line that I did eat. It had artichokes, onions, and feta cheese on it and it was pretty good. I’m not entirely an unadventurous eater. I’ll really try just about anything once. The thing is that I have to know what it is. The pizza we got last night was full of stuff that I couldn’t identify and that’s about the worst kind of stuff that there is! I did give one new kind a try that didn’t look like it had anything too exotic, but it had something in lieu of the tomato sauce was so dreadful that I threw away my first piece of pizza in living memory.

It’s hard not to realize what a prick I am for complaining about free food, but I never claimed not to be a prick.

Category: Kitchen

My wife can take away my Velveeta, but she can’t take away my Spam!

I’ve been on the strangest Spam kick lately and I have no idea why. I got some Lite Spam a few weeks back and ever since then I have not been able to stop eating the stuff. In some ways it really is the perfect food. It doesn’t taste particularly good, so there’s no temptation to just keep on eating it. I like foods that are self-limiting. Eat too much of the sugar free candy and you will regret it. Sharp cheddar is better than mild if for no other reason than that the taste buds tire of (or get annoyed by) it sooner. And so it is with Spam. I can eat turkey pepperoni all day, but not so much for the spam.

Yet… yet… I crave it. I crave it more than I enjoy eating it. It really makes me wonder if they have some sort of addictive substance in there. Something to make your taste buds say “Hey, remember that? You didn’t think it was all that good at the time, but I just way you to know that it was, in fact, awesome. Get more now, please. Now. NOW!”

My doctorly wife of course does not approve. Partially she’s just confused about it. Why would anyone eat it voluntarily. She’s started buying Deli ham as a substitute. It works somewhat. Unless I’m having an all-powerful craving I’ll go for the ham. Partially cause my wife wants to, but partially because I know that the ham will go bad in relatively short order while the Spam will kick molds in the ass for a considerably longer time frame.

According to the New York Times, Spam has been making a comeback in a big way because of the economic downturn.

Spam, a gelatinous 12-ounce rectangle of spiced ham and pork, may be among the world’s most maligned foods, dismissed as inedible by food elites and skewered by comedians who have offered smart-alecky theories on its name (one G-rated example: Something Posing As Meat).

But these days, consumers are rediscovering relatively cheap foods, Spam among them. A 12-ounce can of Spam, marketed as “Crazy Tasty,” costs about $2.40. “People are realizing it’s not that bad a product,” said Dan Johnson, 55, who operates a 70-foot-high Spam oven.

Hormel declined to cooperate with this article, but several of its workers were interviewed here recently with the help of their union, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union Local 9. Slumped in chairs at the union hall after making 149,950 cans of Spam on the day shift, several workers said they been through boom times before — but nothing like this.

Spam “seems to do well when hard times hit,” said Dan Bartel, business agent for the union local. “We’ll probably see Spam lines instead of soup lines.”

I had been wondering why Spam prices have been going progressively up over the past few weeks. Looks like we might be facing a Spam shortage. Maybe that’s what it’ll take to shake me loose of my current addiction.

Category: Kitchen

At Mindstorm I am on the Stormcast team. Stormcast is Mindstorm’s foray into portable multimedia with software that goes into or onto cars, specialized stereo systems, and portable devices that allow it to play local digital files or streaming audio from a handful of sources*. What I didn’t know when I took the job was that Mindstorm was working on cell phone implementation. This presented a bit of a problem for me because I had, up till taking my job, stayed away from smartphones. Smartphones are phones with more comprehensive operating systems that allow you the ability to do more than the relatively few tasks on a regular cell phone.

Up until recently, I was phone having two devices on my belt. I liked being able to upgrade one product without having to worry about the other. I liked not blowing $600 on a stupid phone no matter how smart it was. Since I never knew what I was missing out on, it was never a problem. But it’s never a good thing for my pocketbook when I have better toys at work than I do at home. I first upgraded to a 15″ monitor at home because I had one at work. I got my first 17″ and 19″ monitors for the same reasons as well as targetting my computer upgrades at home as being “better than that at work!” So when I was given a device to work with at work that was better than what I had at home, I had a feeling what that would ultimately mean.

I might have been able to hold out had it not been for one additional thing: Mindstorm’s security policies prevent me from bringing any sort of processor-using device that can be hooked up to a computer… except a cell phone. So in other words, while my Pocket PC was banned, if I had a cell phone that performed the same functions, that would not be banned. I could go back to listening to music or TV while rewiring this or that. Since Mindstorm’s approval is notably more important to me than Soyokaze’s (my last employer) was, I decided that I would be more conservative in any event, but music is generally more allowed at Mindstorm than Soyokaze so I wasn’t as hesitant as I might have been.

Security policies aside, it was mostly a matter of playing with gadgetsat work and watching my coworkers play with their beta gadgets. Though there was no way that I would be able to get an actual Stormcast with phone capability since I don’t have field-testing privvies and seeing as how I can’t buy it retail because the product does not exist yet, getting my hands on a Smartphone running Mindstorm’s software was the next best thing. Better, in some ways, because there are a lot fewer bugs since it’s an actual released product and all that and doesn’t have the gargantual functionality blind spots that products often have before they’re… you know… finished.

Also helping me along is that I was involved in testing precisely the functionality that I was interested in: multimedia, bluetooth peripherals, and compatibility with the retail operating system that my company puts on cell phones on the market right now. Further, knowing precisely which models were used for testing told me which models I would want to get! I also had access to all sorts of bluetooth hardware and my ear to the winds and knew which brands to get and which to avoid. I would come into this with much, much less risk than I shouldered when I bought my first Pocket PC. So I bought the exact device that I had reason to believe was the most likely to work off eBay.

It’s dreadfully ironic, knowing all that I knew, the little bits of information that I did not know. I’ll get to that.

Getting my SIM card switched over to the Smartphone that I got was a breeze. Before I knew it, I could make and receive calls and 2/3 of my address book had been absorbed into the system (the other third, oddly, is still on my old phone. I guess it got stored into memory rather than onto the SIM card). The trouble began when I tried to listen to music on an approved headset on an approved device. It didn’t work. Following the exact same steps I followed on my Pocket PC, I could not hear any audio that did not directly involve phone functionality. Further, it became apparent that I would not be able to listen to anything non-phone unless I bought a new headset. That was not part of the plan!

I spent an entire weekend trying to figure out what I needed to do. I didn’t want to buy a new headset. But even headsets with stereo functionality (which is apparently what I needed, even though I didn’t need stereo sound and the headset I had worked both with the Stormcast software being tested and the old software on my PPC) weren’t working. Sound would cut out after a couple seconds.

So then I googled the problem and that’s where the trouble began.

I found a little application that would pipe all audio to the headset. Yay! But once I turned a headset off it wouldn’t work again until the system restarted. Boo! Also, and this was particularly distressing, even when I did get it working, the audio was extremely weak. I could barely hear it in even relative quiet. The reviewer of the application said that sound wasn’t great, but this was barely tolerable. I found better and better applications to pipe audio into the headset, but the volume problem remained. Then I became like the hypochondriac surfing WebMD. Every volume problem described seemed to describe my what my phone was doing so I would install this hack or that hack (figuring that I had the OS backed up if I needed to go backwards). Nothing. Worked. In fact, the option to turn on stereo, the only thing that had originally worked before (before the sound cut out), was suddenly gone.

I can’t even remember how I discovered the problem. I knew the second that I saw the screen that I had, but I can’t remember how I got there.

Turned out there was a double-secret way to get the volume louder. It’s called “Volume Settings” and the command entails doing something called “turning the volume up”.

Pretty wicked, no?

Of course, of course, of course I looked under volume settings. It was one of the first things that I did and the volume settings told me that volume was amped all the way up. What I did not realize is that there were two volume settings. One for the phone (which was all the way up) and one for the rest of the device (which was on its lowest audible setting). So when I turned it up, it worked marvelously and I could hear everything about as clearly as I could with the old Pocket PC.

Of course, much was damaged in the process and restoring the system did not fix it. So having discovered this amazing thing called Volume Settings (Screen #2!), all of the functionality-adding I had sought to do actually cost me functionality. It does what I need it to do, but it’s less flexible than it would be if I’d not mucked it up.

I console myself by telling me what a good software tester this whole affair demonstrates me to be. I troubleshooted until I discovered 100,000 things that the problem was not. But mostly, though, I experimented and broke things. That’s what a good tester does.

A shame that I broke my thing, though.

* – A lot of you know who I work for. Do not take any information I give on this blog in regards to my employment as being strictly factual. I am making it accurate enough so that my real experiences make sense. I may not be talking about what you think I’m talking about. I may be making aspects of the product up to explain some odd peculiarity of my job. While this post is true as it pertains to me, it is only as accurate as I need it to be as it pertains to my job and my employer and not a bit more accurate than that.

Category: Server Room

Phoebe Maltz wrote an interesting piece a while back about how, despite all of the advances that women have made and are trying to make, there is at least one area where there is absolutely no movement:

Even for those against a traditional definition of marriage, who think dating bills should be split, that both parties should work outside the home, and that both parties should be allowed to be of the same sex, the notion that (among straights, obviously) the man must do the proposing has, it seems, gone nowhere. Even the NYT, home of the librul media elites, features Vows videos, one after the next, of ‘when he popped the question.’ We could look at this as a quaint and harmless tradition, were it not for the increasingly common situation of women towards the end of their potential childbearing years essentially ‘waiting for the boy to call.’

To examine this, it helps to go back a stage, to the who-asks-who-out. From ample anecdotal evidence, amongst my fellow heterosexuals, relationships tend to work out better when it’s the man who does the asking. This is because, when a woman asks, she will doubt the man’s interest for the duration of the relationship. If he liked her, why didn’t he ask her out?

This is one of those areas where I’m progressive in theory but conservative in fact. It’s sort of like how a woman should be free to ask out a man at any point, the statement that she makes by cutting against that particular grain is problematic. The women who do cut against that grain often poorly represent women as a whole. Not because they bucked the norm specifically, but the same attributes that freed her from cutting against that norm can sometimes also cut against other norms that are more useful. It’s been generally true in my life that people that are inclined to follow good social norms are also predisposed to follow bad ones. People that buck bad norms also often buck good ones. Still. If I were asked out by a girl that came across as uncrazy, I wouldn’t hesitate to say yes if it was someone that I could be interested in. Another worry would be that the woman might come across as domineering. This is of course totally unfair, but as I mentioned a couple paragraphs ago it is not unfounded. Women that have the gumption to ask men out are often more aggressive in general.

From the girl’s point of view, though, it’s a lot more problematic. It’s not just a matter of lingering doubts on her part. The problem is that there are a lot of men that will, if asked out, say “yes” and think, with all the cogency of Beavis & Butthead, “Heh, heh, she wants to jump my bones.”

Or if there thinking isn’t that crude, the fact will cross a lot of men’s minds that “Hey, she likes me! I won’t even have to try!” It’s a stereotype but true that men are often at their best when they’re put in the position of having to prove themselves. Men are more inclined than women to do as little work as they need to in order to get the job done.

Of course, all of these problems could be solved if more women in general asked more men out in general. You wouldn’t have the skewed representative sample. Men would learn that being asked out is not a proposition for easy sex and that yes, they will have to try in that relationship just as they would in any other. Men can be kind of dense so it would require several failures before it gets through their thick skulls what the deal is. Right now they don’t get enough experience with it to discern the patterns. So to get it so that women that do ask out men are not to be considered doormats, crazy, cavalier, or aggressive, more women will have to voluntarily have to put their neck out and have that assumed about them to start bucking the trend. Any takers?

As a brief aside, it seems that from the comment section on Phoebe’s blog and elsewhere that some women really underestimate the difficulty of it all from the male point of view. It’s one thing to think hypothetically “I should ask him out” but it’s another to actually do it. Someone suggested that under the current regime men get the best that they can do and women get the worst. Not true. Women are asked out by men that they’d never have the courage to ask out. Men fail to ask out girls that would probably say yes. It’s all strategic in ways that a lot of guys are not good at strategy. I do prefer the male role in things and think that we do slightly have the better end of things, but only slightly. It’s possible, though, that in a society in which men and women do the asking in roughly equal measure that it will become less painful for everybody involved. Being asked out on a regular basis would likely give men some insight on what to do and what not to do. Not to say that the approachment would be the same, but there would be lessons to learn. I think that men’d also be more understanding of the terrible position it is to be asked out by someone that you think is a pretty nice person but that you don’t want to date and women’d would get a better understanding of why men become embittered with constant rejection (even a man that is not desperate and lonely faces rejection with startling regularity).

Now on to the main thrust of Pheobe’s post, which is marriage proposals. I think that this is something just too ingrained to have any prayer of changing. The cultural norms tell us precisely what is going on when the man proposes. Particularly if he’s on one knee with a ring box in his hand. I think that if a woman asks a man to marry him, he doesn’t automatically know whether it’s a knee-and-ring situation or just putting out feelers. One of the more humiliating experiences in my ex-girlfriend Julie’s life was when she thought she was proposing to her then-boyfriend Tony and he thought that she was putting out feelers or otherwise outright joking. On the other hand, my friend Dave Linas’s wife proposed to him and it worked out fine.

Despite the formal knee-and-ring tradition, I do think that the process of proposing has become more egalitarian. My oldest brother Ollie proposed to his first wife at her request and my older brother Mitch and his wife Brynne decided together to get married. The actual proposal was, in both cases, a formality. Clancy and I didn’t have any formal discussion on the matter, but I constructed a pretty straightforward way of determining whether it was something that she was open to and ready for. I think the days of popping the question in a way that’s anything more than momentarily shocking are passing. I think that women are in general a lot more emboldened to needle if not outright ask. And I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with the tradition of the man outright asking.

That brings me to Phoebe’s original post, which inspired the one above. She asks the question:

Why, if a woman asks for marriage, is it an “ultimatum,” and if a man asks, pure romance?

The short answer is that if a woman says “no” it doesn’t necessarily end in a break-up. Phoebe says it should, but I’m not so sure. If I proposed and was told “no” with the inflection that more time was needed and not that she didn’t want to marry me, I wouldn’t view that as the end. It would certainly be a blow to my self-esteem and could cripple the relationship, but wouldn’t necessarily. An ultimatum, by its definition, would.

In some ways, though, the ultimatum is the much more fair way and it definitely shouldn’t be viewed as “nagging”. A man can pop the question to a clueless woman and really put her on the spot. As I said above, it seems more frequently than not it’s discussed, but it’s not necessarily so. And if the man does so choose to break things off after she says “no”, he’s heartbroken and more likely to get sympathy. If a woman demands that a man propose immediately (or almost immediately) with no forewarning and threatens to leave if he does not comply, she’d come across as positively nuts.

So in conclusion, I think that Phoebe is quite right that women should not be tagged with the label of “nag” for agitating for marriage. Women should be free to ask out men that they would like to see, but I don’t blame them for failing to do so and (with the exception of the Beavises) don’t blame men for being a little wary of being asked out. I disagree with some of her analysis, but it definitely got me thinking about the subject.

Category: Coffeehouse