Sunday, October 31, 2004


I never did get around to writing about this Fall's Friends of the Library sale. Oh, well. The only thing worth mentioning about at this late date is one aquisition: a graphic novel called When the Wind Blows by Raymond Briggs. It was published in 1982 and tells the tale of a retired couple in the English countryside and their "survival" of a nuclear attack. It tugs at the heartstrings, as you alternate between chuckling at the patter of the "very married" couple and lamenting their ignorance in the face of death. I bought it mostly out of nostalgia, in memory of the ancient 80s, when the boogy-man was a Soviet ICBM aimed at your city. I had a slight nuclear anxiety back in the day. I had read a book about how to survive a nuclear war (assuming you didn't get smoked in the explosion, of course) and had half-heartedly filled some empty Pepsi botlles with water and stored them in my bedroom. But I didn't take the whole thing too seriously, being busy with life and all. Had they nuked Chicago back then, I probably would have been just as dead as Jim and Hilda in the story. The only difference is that I would have been aware of why I was feeling ill and losing my hair.

Anyway, like I said, I now read When the WInd Blows with an air of nostalgia. There probably still is some sort of ICBM pointed at me, but like most folks, I don't worry about it too much. (Living closer to ground zero undoubtedly helps.) Today, the boogy-man is terrorists. Agents of evil who seek to kill me and mine with dirty nukes, biological weapons, smuggled explosives or a simple sword to my neck. I'm even less worried about them. Part of that is the same old excuse--too busy with life and all--part of it is a greater cynicism about life. Yeah, ol' Mr. Taliban is gonna soak the streets with my blood. That's assuming that a drunk driver or a mugger or a tainted hamburger or some other threat doesn't get me first. There's an amzing amount of things that can go wrong with one's life. Or to put a more positive spin on it, if God wants me to die now, I'm dead; if not, there's absolutely nothing you can do to change it.

And that holds for the other boogy-men of our times, be they four more years of the Bush administration, gay marriage, global warming, corporate globalization (or is that global corporatization?), high property taxes or copyright violations in the music industry. One can take some precautions against them, but they're all things that are pretty much out of an individual's control. The trick is not to let them kill your spirit, even if they threaten your body. People have survived all sorts of tsuris in the past, shall we do any less?

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Don't forget to vote 

I said I was fed up with all the election campaigning, but my union, the Graphic Communications International Union, is forcing me to comment again. I accept the political aspect of labor unions as a necessary evil, so I don't really mind when they try to tell me how to vote. However, the other day I got a letter from my local telling me that I really should vote for Don Barbieri for the U.S. House of Representatives. Don Barbieri, you see, strongly supports investments in public schools. He supports prevailing wages and will battle to protect overtime pay. I was told all this by the letter. What I wasn't told, however, was what district Don Barbieri is seeking to serve. Democrat Jim McDermott has held the congressional seat in my district for as long as I've lived here. Until I read this letter, I had never even heard of Don Barbieri. A bit of internet research revealed that he is running somewhere out by Spokane. Why my local union is intimating that I, a resident of Seattle, should vote for him, I don't know. I suppose I could write him in, though I doubt that would do much good. McDermott is one of those guys who seem to have their office for life.

Another electoral irritation came from the international union office. The powers that be are seeking to merge with the Teamsters union. This is a big step and the rank and file have to vote whether or not to take it. The powers that be dutifully published the text of the agreement in our union newspaper, for us to read and consider. Then they published it again, incase we missed it. Then today I received in the mail a booklet containing the text of the merger agreement. Sheesh. I know I should be happy that my union siblings are getting a lot of printing work out of this, but if we have to pay for all this printing of stuff I've already read, couldn't they print internet jokes or something?

Anyway, I think when it comes to political advice--be it public or union elections--I'll take GCIU recommendations with a big grain of salt. But I will vote. And I hope you do to.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Gee, Mom, I want to go home 

Two hours left 'til quitting time. I think Friday night is the worst part about working second shift.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

To boldly go 

I first heard of The Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame earlier this year when they had the advertising blitz announcing their opening. It was a series of faux commercials featuring the world of the future--things like hover busses and environmentally controlled condos. My first reaction was to wonder why they didn't have a distopian ad as well. Maybe something featuring radioactive panhandlers or a society in the grips of initiative-based totalitarianism. But despite my sarcasm, the seed of the desire to visit this place was planted. So when Thessarabian over at the Old Lutheran board ordered me to scope it out before her Seattle vacation, I gladly complied. (Well, it took me a few months...)

Admission was a bit pricey--$12.95 per adult--though the AAA discount made it more palatable. The first gallery was a general collection of artifacts, a timeline and the Hall of Fame. It focused on the big picture, the nature of SF and its relationship to society. That was the room that contained Capt. Kirk's chair, though I got a bigger kick seeing a couple of Star Trek shooting scripts that once belonged to Nichelle Nichols. (I do wish they had explained the significance of the numbers she wrote on the cover.) I was a bit perturbed that Harlan Ellison wasn't in the Hall of Fame, but I would imagine that his time will come. He was well represented in the exhibits.

The rest of the galleries were downstairs. The stairwell looked like something that was designed to be a service stairwell for the Experience Music Project, but got drafted into service when the added the SFM. They did a good job of decorating the walls and piping in a soundtrack to create a SF atmosphere, albeit more like Dr. Who than Star Wars. The basement galleries carried more of the cinematic artifacts--models, props, costumes. Those were kind of disappointing because they all looked so fake. I was hoping for solid steel bat'leths and real knobs on the tricorders. At least it made me appreciate the contributions made by the cinematographers and gaffers in bringing the special effects to fruition. My favorite section was the spacedock display, where you could peruse a computer database of different spaceships while a video loop of those same ships visiting a spacedock was projected on the wall behind. The oddest thing was a vid which offered a brief, serious analysis of the milleu of The Jetsons. I kid you not.

Overall, the museum was well done and I enjoyed the couple of hours I spent there. It reminded me of the visit I made to the little historical museum in my hometown a couple years ago. There were pictures and artifacts of my community--from places and events I had only heard of to those I actually remember. (Why, oh why did I give away my Revenge of the Jedi button and let my Starlog magazines get trashed?) I felt at home at the SFM, and I think that if I had Paul Allen's bucks and the inclination to spend it on myself, I would enjoy amassing a similar collection. That said, however, my trip through the museum didn't entice me to buy a membership or plan another visit. Instead, I'm more likely to visit a bookstore, rent a video or attend a con. SFM only scratches the surface of the SF fandom.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

It's the thought that counts 

We had dinner at my mother-in-law's Sunday--a birthday celebration for my sister-in-law and myself. (Mine was last week, hers is forthcoming.) Mom gave me a nice gift card for Target. But the odd thing was that she also gave me the gift receipt along with that in case I want to, um, exchange it. Weird. Not so much that she gave me the receipt, which is arguably within the realm of her behavioral norm, but rather that someone at Target gave her the gift receipt for the gift card. I'm half tempted to see if they'd really let me exchange it.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Dance all night 

Well, actually it was Poodlepums who danced all night. I've been nursing a cold all week and so spent the evening firmly planted in my chair. Not that it was an easy task, since we spent the evening catching a Balkanarama performance. Balkanarama is definitely the type of band that entices one onto the dance floor. Poodles started dancing at about the third song and lasted through the rest of the show. Bunnah followed and invented a dance I called "The Little Sister". Basically she followed directly behind her dancing sister, running if necessary to keep on her tail. It was vaguely reminiscent of a Buster Keaton routine. Even Noodles got up and attempted a couple of line dances, though they threw her for a loop when they added a turnabout to the hora. All in all it was a great time. The performance was at a place called Third Place Books, in a space that's basically a food court with a stage and dance floor. The audience was a really great mix of kids and adults, the latter ranging from 20-something parents to hoary headed grandparents. It was great seeing such a crowd celebrating together, the highlight being when some little kids were dancing in a circle as a line of adults snaked around them in their own dance. A little taste of heaven. And of course, the music was superb, as I've come to expect from Balkanarama. Their new guitarist, Amir, is great. (I should say "hot", to go along with the family joke, but my role in that schtick is to be the jealous husband.) And... well, heck, the whole band is great. I don't know whether it's the band or the musical genre, but I really love how the show features the ensemble--with the different instruments and voices sharing the spotlight and blending together to create a thouroughly enjoyable musical experience. One of these days we'll have to go catch one of their paying performances.

Friday, October 22, 2004

A good problem 

Yowsa! I've got to use up 18 hours of vacation time before the end of the year, and another 40 hours before March 31st of next year. I haven't had that problem for years. Whatever shall I do with that time off? Redesign the blog? Visit the Science Fiction Museum? Catch a flick? Do some genealogy research? Plant myself on a couch and read 'til my brain hurts? Do some chores around the house--Hey! Who put that there?

Quote of the day 

Yesterday, Noodles made a flub in her Cantonese class. She thought that her tutor was asking her how much money she had in the house. But what the tutor actually asked was:
"[How many people are in your family?]"
"I don't know."
"You don't know??"
"Yeah, my husband is responsible for that."

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Call 425-564-5000 

KBCS is in the middle of their Fall pledge drive, so for the past week I've been hearing a smidgen of music and a bunch of deejays telling me how wonderful community radio is and nagging me to call in my pledge. I'm kind of surprised that I really don't find that too annoying. I mean, sure, the hawkers have their moments of tediousness and inaccuracy. (Like today when one claimed that the KBCS news programs are unbiased.) But overall I don't mind the chatter and find myself caught up in their enthusiasm. Maybe it's because, unlike public television, I'm not tuned in for a particular show, but rather just want to hear some music while I work. I don't know.

Of course, I haven't actually renewed my membership yet. I did volunteer a couple weeks back to answer phones but nobody returned my e-mail. It's kind of disappointing, but only when I hear about all the food they offer the volunteers. Anyway, I am planning on pledging--I just need to figure out during which show to pledge. I did a blues show and the Celtic music program the last two times I called in. I wanted to pledge during "The Old Country", but things were so busy on Sunday that I missed it. I also failed to call in last night during the zydeco-spinning "Eh Toi!". I briefly thought about pledging during Saturday's "The Hawaii Radio Connection", but I really only enjoy it for the banter rather than the actual music. I suppose I could call in during the morning--as I enjoy an occasional splash of big band music. More likely I'll pledge tonight during "The Spice Route" or tomorrow during "Music of Africa".

UPDATE, 10 pm: I called in tonight. After a half hour, no one had called into "The Spice Route". Either folks don't appreciate South Asian music (which is growing on me each week), or all the regular listeners are Red Sox fans and in the midst of celebration.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Thanks, I'm full 

Okay, I've officially have had enough of the election. I went to Scarecrow Video last night (I gave myself a birthday present and slipped out of work early), and came face to face with big wall displays for Outfoxed, Farenheit 9/11 and other political films. I figured that was enough and I no longer want to hear anything more about Bush, Kerry, Nader, Badnarik, Cobb, Peroutka, Brown, or even Stan Lippman. Well, okay, I am curious if Stan is running for anything this year. But the rest can leave me alone.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

A time to post,... 

...and a time to refrain from posting. Well, it's not really a matter of refraining--I wanted to write, but just didn't know what to write. Lot's of little things are happening, but nothing blogworthy. Not even according to the loose standards of this blog. I tried to coax something out of the fact that Noodles, dedicated home-schooling parent, started helping out at the neighborhood school's academic kindergarten, but for her first day at least, she was able to look past the shortcomings of the concept and enjoy herself.

I could also quote a letter from the friend I mentioned a few days back, whose brother is recovering quite well. But what can I say, beyond this quote: "Tonight, to encourage him, I shared with him how many people are praying for him, literally, around the world: In, Korea, Indonesia, South Africa, France, Germany, Spain, Belgium, Denmark, Latvia and in the U.S. In, WA, OR, CA, CO, MT, KS, LA, TX, Il and MA. His eyes got very big and I believe he is truly grateful, and so am I." The internet is an amazing blessing? Y'all probably already know that.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

A. K. A. 

Monday night was my last night working at Bloatmeal. No, I didn't quit, nor was I fired. (At least not yet. You never know what's happening tomorrow.) As of today, October 12th, Bloatmeal has officially rebranded itself and changed its name. If you've peeked at my Guide to Hamburgerland, you know that the company I was hired at 12 years ago was bought up by a larger company. The current corporation is basically an amalgamation of smaller companies within the realm of printing and graphic arts, all with their unique names and emphases. They tried coming up with a new corporate name a few years back, but at that time decided it was better to keep the old names. (Well, in part, anyway. My particular shop was weaned from it's old name to that of the pre-press company that gobbled it up.) Earlier this year, some muckety muck changed their mind and decided that they wanted all the divisions to adopt a common name to emphasize our ability to provide total solutions to our clients, or some such hype. They solicited the employees for suggestions (I submitted some half-baked, Latin sounding name as a joke) but eventually decided to just use the name of one of the divisions, seeing how they had already done all the research regarding trademarking, cultural propriety and all that junk. It all seems like a bunch of hooey to me. I mean, I can understand wanting a recognizable brand name and all. But the brands I know and respect (and buy) are those that offer good product or service. I use Kodak film because I tried a number of brands and theirs was the film that gave me the best results. On the other hand, I used to avoid McDonald's because I wanted my hamburgers with ketchup only and they took forever to fill my order. So I can't imagine too many potential customers suddenly knocking down our doors just because we've changed the logo and answer the phones differently. But, like it or not--understand it or not--a new era is upon us. However, I like the psuedonym I created for my employer, so on these pages Bloatmeal shall remain Bloatmeal. (At least until I can come up with something funnier...)

Monday, October 11, 2004

Spoke too soon 

I thought my day was done when I posted last night. But then I decided to add a few tidbits to my genealogy database. I ended up spending at least 45 minutes using census records, online church records and info I dug up back in Illinois to straighten out my great-, great-grandfather's family. Those goofy krauts had to name their children after all of their sponsors and apparently the kids were so bad that each one needed at least three godparents to keep them on the straight and narrow. So my great-grandmother Anna Sophie Magdalena Carolina Trampolina Hindenburg Schnitzelmitnoodles or whatever it was, had a sister named Anna Sophie Magdalena Alvina etc. And since the children were baptized at two different churches, some researcher had listed the two girls as twins. (At least in the original family tree I had cribbed from.) Anyway, it was nice to have figured it out (having the extra RAM to run multiple applications with impunity is so sweet), but I really could have used the extra sleep.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

That day is done 

Wow, another productive weekend. I had wanted to write something substantial (well, relatively) about the whole "Hell House" schtick. Instead I did other things and now I'm too tired. Oh, well, maybe later this week.

So what did I do? Well, I managed to make a serious dent in a pile of papers that have been accumulating since summer and rearranged a few boxes full of comics to make room for new aquisitions. In the process, I decided to divest myself of almost all my accumulated Green Lantern comics. I don't know if this is the first step in making drastic reductions before China, or just an anomaly. We'll see. Of course, all I did was move them into the spare bedroom with the other piles of comics I plan on discarding. Actually selling them is a whole 'nudder matter, as long as I continue to nurture delusions of getting more than, say, a quarter per issue for them. I suppose the X-Men issues might go for 50¢.

I also managed to go to the company "Oktoberfest" this afternoon. 'Twas very sparsely attended, mostly by first shift management types. Why, I don't know. Maybe it was the lack of beer. (Cursed corporate policies!) I exchanged a few pleasantries, but to be honest, I felt about as comfortable there as I did at last week's weblogger meetup, where I knew no one. But hey, it's only the third company function I've patronized in the 12 years I've worked there, so I can't complain if it's not my crowd. It was a nice park, with good food and beautiful weather.

On a more somber note, I heard this morning that a brother of a friend of mine attempted suicide. He failed, thank God. But as you might imagine, there's still plenty things to pray about for him and his family.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Why should I care? 

Neglected to mention the other meetup on Tuesday, a "state of the company" meeting with our production manager. The main announcement was that the sale of our building has finally become official. We've a one year lease with an option to stay another year. Not really something that concerns me, I thought. What I hadn't considered is that for the longest time--longer than I've been here--they haven't had to pay any rent on the property. That has changed with this sale, and now the monthly rent is added to our bottom line. The first year won't be as painful, as they negotiated a sweet lease, but still that's more profit that we are now required to produce. And nothing was said, but I truly doubt that the million or so they got for our property is going to be applied to our bottom line. (That's too bad, since it would have been nice to have this Sunday's company picnic in Acapulco or something.) Our PM also mentioned how the shop's performance is being evaluated on a monthly basis. If this month doesn't measure up--the grief comes down. Which explains why in the slow months we play musical hours and jump from 7-hour to 9-hour shifts as the workload fluctuates. As I dwelt 'pon it all after the meeting, I wondered why the halibut we keep doing it, working for money guys who obviously don't give a rip about our lives or our craft. Of course, that's no great mystery. Some are trapped by the good salary, others by lethargy. I also wondered what it would take to change things. To wrest control of our lives, our jobs, or even our industry. Is the cost too high, or is it just a matter of faith and perseverence? But then ennui set in and my ambitions returned to their baser level--profit from the job as long as it lasts or until the first avenue of escape opens up. It's a lot easier to be part of the problem.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Hello, My Name is... 

I don't know what possesed me, but I went to the local Weblogger Meet-up tonight. Okay, I do know what possesed me--that curiosity that arises upon occasion and moves me to check something out. So anyway, 'round 7 o'clock, I punched out to lunch and headed down to the Crossroads Mall. I gathered the strength of will to walk past Half Price Books and made my way to the food court. There was a crowd gathered by the stage area and my suspicions that they were the Weblogger group was confirmed when I saw a couple of laptops in use. I was greeted by Anita Rowland, the big meetup kahuna in these parts, who told me to grab a nametag and a chair and have fun. I scribbled my name on the tag and wandered over to the least crowded table. I then hastily added my weblog URL onto the tag, following the example of others. I wonder if maybe I should have just foregone the name and just wrote my URL. Nah, that'd be a bit too geeky. Anyway, I met some folks, forgot some names, and saw a few other folks I recognized from my perusal of their blogs. I seemed to have sat at the Microsoft table, but then as one guy said, given the proximity to Redmond, every table was probably a Microsoft table. Had I remembered everybody's name, I would have made a list of the folks I conversed with, but since I didn't, I'll refrain. (Anita posted the official list of attendees for your convenience.) The event progressed pretty much as I expected--I listened a lot more than I talked and my eyes glazed over a few times when the conversation got technical. I did enjoy myself, though, because the first time I checked my watch, I found out that I had already spent my self-alloted hour. So will I do it again? Ah, maybe. Time is always at a premium and working late after a long lunch gets boring real quick. But it was fun to meet folks and eavesdrop on a bunch of chatter. One thing's for sure: if i do go again, I will definitely order something smaller than the huge pile of chicken fried rice I had tonight. (urp.)

Monday, October 04, 2004

Run, run for cover 

Hey, Mt. St. Helen's just had another eruption this morning. The network affiliates are having live coverage. It's another steam explosion--nothing dangerous in itself, rather a harbinger of things to come... maybe. It's funny when the talking heads try to sound authoritative even though they really don't know what's going to happen next. Ah, well. At least Friday's eruption gave my sister an excuse to call. It was good talking with her.

Everbody's waiting for the weekend 

Well, I tried to have a productive weekend. One of those when I try to emulate my old man and do all sorts of manly things around the house. The problem is that my manly projects invariably end up being incomplete and/or less then excellent quality. For example, the last time I attempted a major project, taking up the old carpet, my dream was to also gussy up the hardwood floors underneath. Removing the carpet took longer than expected, so instead we just left the floor as is, looking forward to that mythical day where we'll either have time to do it ourselves or have the inclination to pay for the pros to do it. And as long as the floor keeps us from falling into the basement, that day will probably remain far off.

Anyway, my ambition for this weekend was modest, really. Our neighbors had removed some ivy from their property, which meant that the branches that had satarted growing on the front of our garage shriveled up and died. Sometime during our August vacation, those branches came down--whether on their own or with human help, I don't know--and took bits of the paint with them. The pattern is not all that interesting, so I figured I should touch up the paint. Sometime Friday, as I listened to the weather reports, I figured that I should jump on that task this weekend. I said no to overtime and after the ladies left on a farm tour, I ran down to Fred Meyer to get the paint roller pad and tray that I needed. (I also needed socks and bologna, which is why I went to Freddies instead of Home Depot.) When I got home and finally got around to it, I discovered that I hadn't secured the can of blue paint last time I used it and that sucker had dried clear down to the bottom. Since we're talking about replacing the porch, I figured that the ivy damage can just wait until we get some paint to paint the entire porch. I did, however paint a couple of panels on my garage door which should have been painted the trim color far too long ago. So endeth my manly work for the day. sigh...

The rest of the weekend I spent paying bills, playing with the girls and finish setting up my new Mac G3. (They gave it away at work because of "booting problems". I've been booting off of an external hard drive for about a week now with no problems... except that since yesterday the misbehaving internal hard drive has mysteriously started to mount up. Goofy computer...) All useful tasks, but somehow lacking that satisfying feeling I get after doing some major, physical project. I don't know if it's the fact that major projects tend to stay done for a few years, or that the physical labor induces some chemical process that relaxes the mind, or if it's just a psychological phenomenon where my subconscious is pleased that I'm imitating my father. My dad wouldn't care. He'd just grab a Pepsi, pull up a chair and watch some TV.