Sunday, February 27, 2005

Two, two, two posts in one 

One of the recurring problems I have with my blogging is that something happens, I decide to blog about it but put it off 'til the next day. From there the results vary--I lose interest in blogging about it, something else happens that was more blogworthy, or I put it off for yet another day. So it happened this week. But this time I'm going to try and catch up. So here is the double feature post:

Ooooh, my wallet hurts. Noodles, that psychic wife of mine (I mean general psychic, not marital psychic. All wives are marital psychic.), had a sneaking hunch that our proch replacement was venturing over budget. Yesterday we received confirmation that this was so. 1500 bucks. Ouch! This being our first foray into serious home improvement we were nigh devastated by the shock. Paying that up front would run us into debt. (Well, I guess either way we're in debt, either to the contractor or the credit card company.) Fortunately, the contractor has said that they would be flexible with our paying the added costs. Still it threw us on war footing--all unnecessary expenses are hereby cancelled for the duration. sigh. But the porch does look beautiful. And there was enough scrap lumber to provide for Bunnah's carpentry lessons.

Had a good time watching Balkanarama tonight. (Okay, so we've bent the definition of "unnecessary expenses" a bit. I'm unused to this poverty thing.) They had a performance/recording session over at the Seattle Drum School. I guess the School does this on a regular basis. The guy I talked to said that usually they feature pop or blues artists--this foray into world music was something new. Anyway, after a three song set by a duo doing Indian-style music (didn't catch their name, alas), Balkanarama did a six or seven song set. They had a couple of false starts and ended up redoing two of the songs. Not that we really noticed the problems. It was a nice, intimate space with only four rows of seating. The crowd was quite small, and nobody danced (not even Poodlepums!), but that didn't seem to hamper their performance. So anyway, now I'm trying to figure out where else I can see this band. I've seen them at a recording session. I've seen them at festivals--outdoors, in a mall and at the Seattle Center. We caught them in a restaurant. I've even seen half of the band in a bar, when they played as Eva Moon's backup band. What's left? On the street corner? In a high school gym? In a big arena show? (ugh, scary thought. I wouldn't begrudge them having that sort of fan base but... ugh, what a comedown that would be.) I know. Maybe if I sell the porch I can hire them for the girls' weddings. That would be fun.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Fed Up 

Ooooh, my brain hurts. In addition to my pathetic attempts at home improvement, we had set a goal this week to watch the Up series. Basically, back in 1964 a program called "Seven Up" was broadcast on British television. It was a look at various seven year old schoolchildren in Britain--a peek at the future executives, shopkeepers, et al of the year 2000. Seven years later, someone got the idea to interview the featured children to see how they changed. Seven years after that they tried again and so now there have been six films peeking into the lives of these people. I've found it a fascinating series, having first caught the 28 Up installment back in the 80s. I got Noodles hooked on the films with 35 Up. A few weeks back I discovered that the entire series had been released on DVD and so was eager to see the older films.

This is where the headache comes in. The series was released in one collection. To watch the half hour "Seven Up" I'd have to give $11 of my hard earned money to Scarecrow Video and take home all five discs. I know, $11 isn't really all that much--Noodles and I probably paid more than that to watch 42 Up in the theater. But frugal lad that I am, I feel compelled to get my money's worth. So if I take home 5 DVDs, I'll want to watch each and every one of them. Anyway, I thought I had figured out a plan to rent the vids, watch the vids, and not spend a sleepless weekend in the process. Since I would have the week off, I figured I'd rent the collection at the start of vacation and we could watch the whole shebang at our leisure. Heh. Such a dreamer I am. I neglected to take Noodles' schedule into account. I rented the vids on Friday night, but the first time we could finagle TV time was Monday night. That left three more evenings to squeeze in five films--in addition to the home improvements, regular schooling, etc. So last night we stayed up past two am, running a double feature. Haven't done something like that for years. Today, I'm paying for it. And tonight I'll once again be watching the Up people--enthralled by their development and sniggering at their fashions. (Should be the 80s this time round.) Why can't I ever obsess about something that's good for me?

Tuesday, February 22, 2005


The wait is over. The Hamburger clan is cleared to go to China. Unofficially. Noodles finally broke down and called the Sauerkrauts this afternoon. (One can only check the e-mail so often in a day.) Turns out that we were also supposed to be interviewed by the team leader in Yunnan. Apparently it all depnded on her okay. Well, happily for us, we were going to be talking to her tonight. (Noodles has been corresponding with her for a while now and she was going to call to answer some questions.) So the "interview" was tacked onto the phone call. She gave us her rubber stamp and Noodles spent the rest of the evening making phone calls, sending e-mails and writing letters. Of course, we haven't got anything in writing yet. And they have yet to send us our official Sauerkrauts secret decoder ring...

If I were a carpenter 

Today I had my first real experience working with drywall. My 1925 vintage house came complete with an old coal-converted-to-oil burning furnace. Early on we had that old octopus removed and replaced with a new, more efficient oil furnace. Of course, we also got smaller, more efficient ductwork which left us with a gap in the wall of the basement bedroom. Patching that sucker has been on my to-do list for years. Like I tell my wife, eventually some items on my to-do list do get done, and today was the day.

The difficulties I encountered weren't all that memorable and I'm too lazy to embellish them. Suffice it to say, I live too much in the electronic world. It's real easy to type in the proper coordinates to build a box layout, or even (I would imagine) an architectural drawing. A real world ruler, on the other hand, requires one to pay attention not only what numbers you measure, but how the thing is lined up. I ended up whittling the last piece of drywall to get it to fit into the space. (I somehow doubt that one's in the Home Depot do-it-yourself guide.)

Of course, now I have to tape up the gaps and paint it all. Noodles will have to help there. If she doesn't talk me out of delegating the task to Poodlepums, we'll end up with a mural in the basement.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Still waiting 

Friday passed with nary a word from the Sauerkrauts, as did the weekend. (The latter, of course, was to be expected.) This morning also found the e-mail in box vacant. Given the holiday today, that too, might have been expected. However, this has become quite a serious problem. I'm on vacation this week, and had originally planned to do a series of home improvements and other tasks directly related to our going to China for a couple of years. If we've been rejected, I'd much rather goof off. ;-)

Friday, February 18, 2005

Sitting by the phone 

No word from the Sauerkrauts today. In the past I've been pretty confident we'd be accepted, but today I had a moment of pessimism. All the little reasons why they would reject us came to mind. Of course, if we do get rejected, it'll probably be for some reason we never considered. Oh, well. No sense fussing 'til we know for sure what's next.

Curioser and curioser 

Hmmm, looks like the HaloScan problem is tied in with work. There, I can't access their site and loading a page with HaloScan comments takes forever. Apparently Unearthed Ruminator hasn't had that problem and here at home, I don't either. Trés bizarre.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

We hardly knew ye 

I began the work day rather depressed. I found out that a co-worker's father had died. Now I'm not empathetic enough that such an occurrance would normally affect me beyond the usual sympathy and prayers one might offer to a greiving friend. I mean, this man--whose name I don't even know--isn't a big part of my life. I have, however, been able to eavesdrop on his world. My co-worker's desk is within earshot and since she is blessed with a loud voice, I've heard her side of a number of conversations with her parents. She's in Seattle, they're in Anchorage and yet they call her quite regularly. Anyway, from this end of the phone line, her Dad sounded like a really fun guy--definitely someone who enjoyed and loved his daughter. I'm kind of amazed at how I could get an impression of this complete stranger, and how I can be saddened by his loss. I'd like to think that it speaks to the caliber of this man. Or maybe just the caliber of his relationship with his daughter. Either way, death sucks.

Do not adjust your screen 

I don't know what's up with Haloscan, but it's not been responding the last couple of days. I'm attempting to disable the Haloscan comments from my template, so it doesn't take forever to load a page. I'm also attempting to activate Blogger's comments, so I can be sure you guys are still out there.

Addendum: I guess you've got to click on the time and date there to get to the comments. I tried stealing code from other blogs that actiually have a "comment" link under the post, but it wasn't working. It'll take more monkeying than I wish to do at this point. Hope Haloscan gets fixed soon...

Monday, February 14, 2005

Irreconcilable differences 

Noodles and I had a knock down, drag out argument in front of the kids the other day. Somehow the movie Back to the Future came up and she started explaining it to our inquisitive young'uns. Soon, however, she tried to tell them that the crux of the plot was that Marty McFly went back in time to fix his dysfunctional family. I hit the roof. I loudly and lovingly explained how the true gist of the plot was that Marty went back to 1955, interfered in his parents lives and had to restore things to their proper course. The subsequent wealth and social status were but a side effect. Anyway, the whole incident brought back a concept that I hadn't thought of in a while: Noodles and I are incompatible.

If you've ever filled out a dating service application, (you know you have, even if it was only one of those mass mailing flyers addressed to the "single person" at your house) you'll see a number of questions about your interest, education, etc. Well, suffice it to say, back in the day, no reputable dating service would have fixed us up. They would have asked, "what would you like to do on a nice summer afternoon?" Noodles would have answered, "Go to a baseball game." I would have answered, "Go to a movie." We'd both read each other's responses and say "ew." You get the picture. No romance. But fortunately, we didn't waste money on a matchmaking service. Instead we happened to get introduced by mutual friends and within a few months were searching for whatever conversational trivialities might prolong the evening.

So now, 17 years later, a trivial disagreement made me wonder about the genesis of our relationship once again. What exactly brought us together? When we discussed it over dishes (one of the great pillars of our marriage), Noodles put forth the theory that I was attracted to her openness to discuss and explore new ideas. Works for me.

(I know, I should have some more schmaltz here, it being Valentine's Day and all. But if I really got romantic on V-day, I wouldn't be here blogging, now would I?)

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Life's simple pleasures 

This week's adventure was loading System software onto the laptop. It came with System 9.0.4 and I reinstalled the whole system on Monday. I was quite tickled to discover that the Chinese language kit, which I bought cheap from Half Price Books and never used, was included in System 9. On Tuesday, OS X was delivered, but too late for me to attempt installation. I did open the box and peeked at the "getting started" literature. Noting that it recommended the latest version of System 9 in order to use Classic, I resolved to check Apple's site for updates. This I tried to squeeze in on Wednesday, but I discovered that the road to the latest version included three updates which threatened to take about 5 hours for my trusty 56K modem to download. So, I shlepped the laptop to work (Hey! There's a name for the machine--"Shlepp") to take advantage of the faster connection. I was happy to discover a nice feature which allows one to make the iBook behave like a Firewire drive. It makes transfering files from my work Mac almost as easy as when I had the old machine with the built in Zip drive. What was not so pleasing was the fact that the first update wouldn't touch my language kit enabled System unless I had the CD. Sooo, my sliver of free time on Thursday was filled to overflowing with uninstalling the language kits, running all three updates and then loading OS X. The latter ran over into lunch, which I spent chewing and running up and down stairs. (Had I planned it better, I would have installed the files at Noodles' desk in the kitchen.) Friday I spent setting up the Internet connection and the different users.

Of course, none of this is my point.

What I didn't mention was my little shadow--Poodlepums. Poodles loves the computer, and spent a good part of the time looking over my shoulder. Back when we switched to OS X at work, I borrowed The Robin Williams Mac OS X Book and let Poodles read it too. She fell in love with OS X and had longed for the day when she could play in it. Naturally she is very excited. I've been a bit excited, too, but my euphoria has been tempered by the need to make the silly thing work. Still, I had to long for the day when a little thing like a computer upgrade was an event to celebrated. Damn this middle aged cynicism!

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Is there anything else we should know about you? 

We had the interview with the Sauerkrauts this morning. Actually, only one Sauerkraut. I forget her title but she was in Portland for some such and actually drove up to Seattle just to interview us. It seems a bit extreme, but then I did do the same road trip in reverse for a concert, so who am I to talk? Not much to report. When she showed up I had a middle aged moment when the 50-something person I had envisioned turned out to actually be 30-something. I had a brief thought along the lines of "this young punk is supposed to evaluate us?" But of course, I got over that real quick and we had a nice interview. It was more along the lines of a job interview, except that we were sitting on our own couch and I got to drink tea and eat cookies. (If I'm ever in a position where I interview people, I'm going to provide cookies.) She seemed very positive regarding our--well, Noodles'--chance of placement, but then she definitely had that aura of professional politeness about her, so who can tell? The decision gets made next week and we should hear one way or the other by next Friday. If it's a go, we hit the ground running with the fundraising and ship out in early August. If not, well, then Noodles has an emotional breakdown and I have to take back all the nasty things I said about my boss.

Oddly enough, a couple of more coworkers came up to me today and asked me about the whole China thing. Maybe it's a sign? Of course, one was the company language expert who shuddered at the thought of trying to learn a tonal language like Mandarin Chinese. That made me feel real good....

Monday, February 07, 2005

Round-em up 

I've been lax in blogging about a couple of things, so here's the (hopefully) short list of things on my mind:
You might have noticed that I had a book on t'ai chi on my reading list. The book was subtitled "10 minutes to well-being" so I thought, "Great! A simple exercise that I can do before bedtime that might alleviate my all too common morning headaches. Well, the exercises might have taken 10 minutes, but learning them was going to require a bit more dedication. During the week I had it checked out from the library, I never once came home and thought, "Hey, I could try that t'ai chi now." My thoughts turned either to bed or conversation with my wife, on those evenings she was awake. (Then there's thoughts of bed and wife, but I won't go there.) Maybe sometime I might take up a bit of t'ai chi, but it will have to be via some sort of class. For now, I'll have to settle for self-medication with Anacin and Pepsi and maybe the radical notion of not staying up so late.

I failed to mention that on February 1st Wombatsch officially bought out Bloatmeal. We got a nice little e-mail from Mr. Wombatsch telling us that the deal was complete and assimiliation was commencing and, oh yeah, Bloatmeal's CEO was getting the axe in favor of Junior Wombatsch. I can't say I was really happy that Mr. CEO was the first to go, but it seemed to be a nice touch somehow. Of course, later that night, it occurred to me that it would be an ideal situation if I got to be one of those laid off with a nice severence package, seeing how I'm hoping to quit and all. Probably won't happen, though.

I heard the news that Enterprise has been cancelled. Can't say that I was really saddened. I wonder if it's blasphemous to say that the franchise has pretty much been sucked dry? Or maybe they can retcon the old series like they've been doing in comics for years and years.

Whilst exploring new spaces, I came across The Mysterious Traveler and stayed long enough to calculate my Starbucks density. Do you believe that I have 79 Starbucks stores within 5 miles of my house? (including the store at corporate HQ) sheesh. Now if only one of them served Vienna Beef hot dogs, I might actually patronize it.
Well, glad that's all clear. Now I can go home and get ready for our interview with the Sauerkrauts tomorrow. I'm not quite sure if it's an honest-to-Ghandi job interview or just a getting-to-know-you chat. Noodles made me cut my hair, just in case.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

At the end of the day 

Well, this time I am posting this from the laptop. Not that there's any good reason to be posting from the laptop. I actually just shut off the desktop machine after sending out a couple of mails. (It's been a productive weekend--I wrote three letters today.) (Well, one I started last night.) But I must use the new technology once just to say I've done it. Actually, I already did find a practical use for the machine earlier today. I tried to access a site that wasn't coming up on my desktop machine. Whether the fault was with iCab or System 8, I don't know. But I was able to hook this puppy up and access it with good ol' Netscape Navigator. (It'll be real nice once they deliver OS X and I can use Safari or Firefox.) It's nice to have options.

Anyway, I have nothing significant to write. I almost finished my taxes, but selling off some mutual fund investments we had made for the kids have taken me into unknown realms of the tax code. I'll have to contact the friendly folks at the IRS for guidance. I was so tempted to run to H&R Block. Sometimes I miss the days when I could just fill out the EZ form.

Friday, February 04, 2005

I'd hammer in the morning 

Where has this week gone? It seems like I have accomplished zilch. Well, actually, I've been doing a lot of things, except the big thing on my list--preparing my tax return. Just haven't been able to eke out the desk time. And of course, I also volunteered to put in some weekend overtime. That may sound stupid, but in addition to my new computer (which is now fixed, by the way), I have to pay for a new porch. Late last year, we had arranged to have our carpenters of choice, Johnson Bros. Construction, to replace the porch. .... um, just a minute. I guess I don't have to work this weekend. Golly, we must have been quite the busy beavers this evening. Anyway, where was I? Oh, yes. We got a call from the Bros. way too early Monday morning and our assigned carpenter has been coming in way too early every day since Wednesday to tear down the old porch and raise up the new. I've been trying to leave work and get home on time, in order not to lose too much sleep. It's sort of worked.... but I think I'm going to be rather cranky for the next couple weeks.

Anyway, I guess I'll have to take advantage of my newly awarded weekend.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Meetup report 

Went to the East Side Weblogger's Meetup tonight. (So did these folks) I wish I could think of something witty to say about it, but my brain is tired. It keeps asking if it can go home yet and if we can stop and get cupcakes on the way. However, tradition demands that I write something about the meetup. Upon reflection, 'tis a silly tradition, but a tradition nonetheless. Anyway, the report...

Um, well, we had a larger turnout than previous meetups. Instead of being overwhelmed with tech-speak, I actually met some folks who knew about pre-press! As a result I had an actual chatter moment, blamming about trapping and pdf files. I know, what a waste of a perfectly good chatter moment. Oh, well. The rest of the conversation, at least at my end of the table, was rather general. Nice folks, a nice way to spend an hour.

On the way back to work, I was mildly surprised to realize how comfortable I have gotten with the whole thing. There was no anxiety about talking to strangers, no fears about appearing like a technological lightweight or neophyte blogger. I suppose I felt the same last time. Perhaps there's some deep psychological insight to be gained here, but I doubt if I'll analyze it long enough to figure it out.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Moral compromise 

On Sunday, for the second time in my life, I purchased a computer. I would have used it to make this post, but alas, it's in the shop.

My first computer was a Mac II ci, bought in 1992. It served for about eight years until I picked up a discarded computer at work and embarked upon the hand-me-down upgrade path. Lately, we realized that we were going to need to get a newer laptop that could a) run the latest World Book encyclopedia software and b) be easily lugged to China. So, with a tinge of guilt, I decided to put my pride aside and once again actually pay money for a new computer. I did a lot of online searching, thanks to Low End Mac and was ready to make an investment. However, on a whim I also checked out a local Mac store. To my surprise, I found that they not only had used computers for sale, but they also had one that fit my specs--a G3 iBook. I took a deep breath and bought it--assailed by the same doubts I had when I bought the ci. ("Do you really want to spend this much money?")(Though actually it cost about a quarter of what I had spent on my original setup.) But my nerve held, as did my credit line, and I headed out the door with Mac in hand.

I got home, proclaimed my victory and booted the sucker up. Soon, my elation faded. The DVD drive wouldn't open when I pressed the button on the side. Fortunately, I am a power user and have my own set of tools for dealing with recalcitrant computers. Poking the bent paper clip into the little hole, I was able to open the tray and insert a CD. The drive itself worked fine, and the computer would happily eject a disk when given the command. It was just that little switch that wasn't functioning. Having lived with worn, imperfect computers for many years now, I was tempted to just deal with it and start carrying paper clips around with me. However, since I had just compromised my frugal ways for this computer, I was more inclined to head back to the store and demand satisfaction. Which is what I did yesterday. The technician gave the machine a once over (using the same tools as I did, I might add) and decided that it was indeed broken. This time I headed out the door with a sheet of paper instead of my Mac.

However, I'm afraid this story isn't over. Not that I fear any complications in the repair process. No, rather I still need to upgrade the operating system and encyclopedia. And I also have been hearing the whispers of the techno-demons as they whisper their temptations in my ear:
"Hey, you need a CD burner so you can share files with your desktop computer."
"Nah, just a SCSI to USB converter, so you can use your existing peripherals."
"But with a CD burner you could swap files with your work computer as well."
"Actually, an ethernet network would be much easier. It might even add rental value to the house."
"You could do an ethernet network and get a CD burner."
"And the converter, so you could hook up the scanner."
"Hey, if you add a .Mac account you could swap files over the 'net and you wouldn't need to shlepp anything extra over to China."
"How much do digital cameras cost, now that you have a USB port?"