Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Rest beside the weary road 

Folklife was a gas. A great time was had by all. Poodlepums even said that her "old daddy was back."

Monday, it was back to crankiness as the painting dragged on (you don't want to rush when painting the trim) and then I did my obligatory four hours at work. Today I was the ├╝bercrank as I read through rental paperwork while waiting to see if my last Japanese Encephalitis shot would kill me. The rental agent recommends having all sorts of professional cleaning done before one shows their property. Ha! Sometimes I wonder if it would have been unethical to have gotten a second mortgage based on my current job and used the money to pay someone else to do all this repair work and then use the leftover money to make the payments until we start earning real money again in 2007. (Such optimism, eh? That we'll go back to making money after China.)

Anyway, I'm going to take my cranky self home and go to bed.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

I ride an old paint can... 

...and I lead an old brush
I'm paid by the hour, so I don't need to rush.

That's a modification of a cowboy song done back in grade school by my friend Eric. That's the closest I know to a painting song. I've heard many a labor song, but never one celebrating the efforts of our painting community. Ah, well.

The reason I bring this up is because I was listening to folk music on KBCS whilst painting my living room. Yes, it was another painting day, and today we actually painted! Of course, I spent just about as much time moving furniture, laying tarps and poking around at some flaws in the woodwork. (In a perfect world I would have replaced the windows and frames before painting and scrubbed the old paint off the fireplace stones. But instead of quality, I want speed, so I compromised. Not that I really got much speed. One room is painted, but I still need to do the window and door frames. sigh. I was such an idiot to volunteer for overtime work on Monday. But I thought putting in a half shift would salve my conscience and give me an excuse to drop in on a birthday party. (Since they're both on the Eastside....) Besides, I don't think I'll be able to do any overtime in June. sigh. Or maybe I should just skip the party and get some work done. I don't know...

Like I often do when I attempt some physical labor, I was struck by how different it is from deskwork. I mean, beyond the obvious things like stretching muscles and breaking a sweat. Dekswork is so... artificial. When I'm doing prepress work, I don't have to worry about tracking fonts through the shop or running out of a color. The whole environment is so controlled that once you learn the parameters, it's pretty easy to get your work done. Of course, maybe I'm kidding myself. Perhaps a professional painter would find prepping and painting my living room as easy as I find prepping a carton. Either way, I have to admit that it's good to get outside the comfort zone and do something different. Even if I don't have time for it.

Anyway, tomorrow will be paint free as we spend the day at the favorite of our secular festivals--Northwest Folklife. The burning question is, if Balkanarama doesn't have their new CD ready for sale at the fest, which CD should we buy? Something from the Toucans? Quichua Mashis? The Mazeltones? Or dare we even try something new? Oh, the dilemmas of modern life.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

They're breaking up that old gang of mine 

The painting project has started. Today, having a day off of work, I measured all the rooms (to figure out the amount of paint needed), spackled some holes, went out and bought paint and then we took all of the wall hangings down in the living room and I spackled some more holes. We didn't really have any time left to paint, what with our Mandarin lesson and Bunnah's carpentry lesson and all. Maybe Saturday....

But that has nothing to do with my headline. There's been some weirdness at work the last few days. The end of the tale is that the guy who hired me left the company yesterday. I think his official title was head of sales. Back when I was hired he was the production manager and a bit after Bloatmeal bought us out, they booted out the president and made him the head honcho. (Oh, let's see, he needs a nickname. Let's call him Gomez.) When Herman shifted over top head of sales, I don't know. There was no announcement or anything, I just heard one day that he had a new position. Anyway, the weirdness happened last Friday when it was announced that Gomez' wife, another sales person (this place is rife with nepotism. Most of our managers are married to other employees. I think it's because they work so much they get to meet other people...)... Where was I? Oh, yeah. Gomez' wife. It was announced that she got sacked. Nobody knows why--the boss said he wasn't at liberty to give us any details. So anyway, the big speculation was would Gomez stay or go. Well, he went. That means that our three biggest salesfolk are gone. If I wasn't scheduled to leave myself in a couple of months, I might be worried. Less that the shop would collapse than that they knew something about Wombatsch the rest of us didn't. Oh, well. I've seen so many personnel changes over the years, I really shouldn't be surprised.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Calling Tom Sawyer.... 

We met with the rental agent to start the process of renting our house out. Both Noodles and I were feeling a bit guilty. The last time he was out, he had made two suggestions: paint the place and add a shower. In the past four months we've done neither. Well, I did paint the new porch and a wall I mended down in the basement, but as for the main living area... nada. The closest I've gotten is to buy a can of paint for the kitchen. And the shower.... well, we all but wrote that off after the porch ran way over budget.

Anyway, guilt aside, it was interesting to actually start the process. It's a whole different mindset, really. Come August, the house won't be our home, just an asset to be maintain and used. Someone else will creaking the floorboards and dropping the shades to blunt the afternoon sun. As we were discussing restrictions we would place on potential renters--an affront to the civil libertarian in me, but something the breadwinner in me can live with--Noodles let slip a preference to renting to a family. The rental agent gave her a verbal slap on the wrist, pointing out the illegality of discriminating against a potential renter's family status. Who would've thought that it would be so easy to be prejudiced? I guess thinking like a landlord is just another change we'll be making. (Actually, I should be fair to Noodles and mention that the issue we were talking about was the number of residents we would rent to. Logically, two parents and three young'uns would fit better into the house than five adults.)

So now this landlord in training has three weeks to make a serious dent in the painting process before they put the home on the market. Of course, the highest paying potential renters--the ones for whom you want the place to look nicest--will be courted first, which makes getting things done all the more crucial. I'm beginning to think that if I do manage to get the tasks before me done on time, I'll be spending the last couple of weeks before departure twiddling my thumbs.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

What's my name? 

We visited my mother-in-law's church this morning. It was one of those services that projects the song lyrics on a screen rather than relying on a hymnbook. Most of the songs were "contemporary"--i.e. only 30 years old instead of 130--and had copyright info listed in small type at the end of the song. I didn't think much about it, until we got to the end of the service. We finished off with those classic hits "Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow" and "Holy, Holy, Holy". (It was the feast of the Trinity, after all.) Both of those songs were credited "Public Domain". That got me thinking. There just seems something wrong with the ownership society, a culture where we make sure we credit the owner of a song yet ignore the author.

(By the way, for the record, "Praise God..." was written by Thomas Kern, though I don't know the composer, while "Holy, Holy, Holy" was written by Reginald Heber and the tune was composed by John B. Dykes.)

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

That was the week that was 

I remember when I wasn't so busy that I could manage a couple of posts in a week. Those were good times. Well, rather than try and pick out one of the handful of topics that popped up in my mind in the days just past, maybe I'll just give y'all a report on my week.

Thursday, May 12: After making the previous post, I went home and went to bed. The rest of the day was nice--mainly because I had the day off. I've taken a "week of Thursdays" off so I can avail myself of some Mandarin lessons from Carol, a lady from church. It's been awhile since I've done any language learning. It was familiar, of course, since I've studied both Spanish and Cantonese in years past. It was also difficult, as Carol is teaching it all verbally, with no visual cheat sheets. Anyway, I can now go to China and, with a bit of hesitation, proudly declare Wa boo shi tau. (I am not a peach.)

Friday, May 13: Friday was uneventful. I had a morning, went in to work, did an hour of overtime, and then went home. I resisted the temptation to stay up late and watch the final two episodes of Enterprise, which was a good thing because...

Saturday, May 14: Road trip, redux. I couldn't sleep in, because I had some biz to attend to. Then in the afternoon, we all piled in the car and headed down to Oregon City for Noddles' cousin's wedding reception. It was slightly different than our last trip to Oregon. No concert, no sleepover at the cousin's house. But it was still a whole lotta driving for a short bit of fun. Not that I'm complaining--I had a great time.

Sunday, May 15: Rolled into town a bit before 1 am. The alarm went off at 6:30 am, so we could get up and make a presentation about the China venture. I ended up taking two naps in the afternoon--bookmarking a visit from one of Poodlepums' friends--and spent a chunk of the evening watching those Enterprise episodes. We also had dinner at Burger King. Surprisingly enough, the ketchup packets didn't have any Star Wars promotions on it.

Monday, May 16: Spent most of my morning at the doctor's office getting my official travel physical. I had to get two forms filled out--one for the Sauerkrauts and one for the Chinese visa application. I had to help the physician assistant fill out the latter, as they asked for my height and weight in centimeters and kilograms and he didn't have a clue as to how to convert from inches and pounds. I referred to the conversion tables printed in my pocket calendar (first time I ever used those...) and did some quick figuring via pen and paper. Sometimes you just can't beat low tech. Anyway, while my weight and blood pressure were lower than last time, they were still too high. But the doc gave me a clean bill of health anyway.

Tuesday, May 17: Oy, what a day. It was supposed to be another day off. But when we got back from a brunch in Puyallup, there was a message on the machine from work. Would I please come in and work, as we are on serious overload? I said yes, as this was the first time in 13 years they've ever asked me to cancel a vacation day. Noodles did not take the news too kindly and we spent a half hour squabbling about it. Then I went in to work--quite resentful over being stuck in the middle of my boss' needs and my family's. I checked in with Noodles later in the evening and we spent an hour on the phone discussing the whole issue again, only this time a bit more pleasantly. After work, we then talked some more, while Noodles finished up the dishes. Then we kissed and made out, er, up.

Wednesday, May 18: Uneventful. A typical busy workday, slightly colored by the fear that they would ask me to cancel tomorrow's day off. But so far they haven't.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

I don't know why she swallowed the fly 

Okay, tonight I'll take Sherri's quiz:
Why Blog? Quiz And remember, be honest. This is for posterity...

1) Why do you keep your weblog/blog/online writing thingie: for fun, for fame, for money, for popularity, or for another more obscur reason? What about the weblog gives you what you want?

For fun, of course. The weblog fills my need to write, to have someone read my writings and to get some sort of positive feedback.
Actually, there's an obscure reason, too. One thing that attracted me to reading weblogs was that it was like the people's media. I could read people's stories from all sorts of places and walks of life. And when a blogger happened to be on the spot when something newsworthy happened (like Where is Raed? in Iraq), it added a different perspective on the news of the day. I wanted to add my voice to the cacophany, in the off chance that one day I might have something genuinely useful to say.

2) Imagine that your weblog becomes wildly popular: your hit counter skyrockets, your comments are overflowing, and everyone is emailing you about everything you post. Name 3 positive things that could come of this, and 3negative things.
Bwah-hah-hah-hah-hah. Oh, that's a good one. Okay, let me put my science fiction skills to use:
Three positives would be that my ego would be purring, my Blogshares value would increase, and, um, I might be able to make some money.... no scratch that, I'm pretty much worthless at exploiting my resources for profit. Sorry, can only think of two.
Three negatives would be that I'd have too many comments and e-mails to read, I'd feel more pressure to make time to write, and um, Noodles might start taking my blogging seriously and would start actually reading what I'm putting in here.

3) What's the worst possible result you can imagine (short of being electrocuted or having your computer take over your brain, and who says it hasn't already?) from keeping a weblog?
I might say something stupid that would seriously offend or hurt someone who doesn't deserve to be hurt or offended.

4) What do you do to prevent that worst possible result from happening?
Speak the truth in love and keep the bulk of my criticisms and sarcasms to myself.

5) List 5 reasons that would make you stop keeping your weblog for a period of 6months to a year.
Five? Oh for crying out loud.... Um, extreme overwork, extreme depression, some other personal crisis, my new boss asks me to stop for the duration of our China venture, lack of internet access

6) List 5 reasons that would make you stop forever.
Death, the Second Coming, a debilitating stroke, loss of interest, a significant increase in the cost of blogging.

7) Describe your definition of a "successful weblog".
That which fulfills the blogger's reason for blogging.

8) Is yours successful by your definition?
I write, people read it regularly and leave comments, so yeah, I guess Hamburgerland is successful. There's still room for improvement, of course....

9) What pisses you off most in other weblogs? What pleases you most?
Interesting blogs that have white type on a black background. :-b Seriously, the only thing that comes to mind would be excess graphics that really don't enhance the design or communicate anything. But really, I hate that more in e-mail than in websites.
What pleases? Good content, be it humor, thought provoking writing or pretty pictures.

10) Make a list of 10 weblogs/journal style websites that you wish your weblog/website/writing site was like.
Eh, I think I'll pass on that. I don't want Hamburgerland to necessarily be like any other site, save that I'd like to post something interesting, amusing and/or worthwhile.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

I don't know how you came to get the Bette Davis knees... 

I forgot to mention that I got the results of the lab tests my doctor inflicted on me last week. Well, all except the HIV test--you know, the one for which I originally went in. I understand very little of it, of course. For some readings they list a reference range, and all of those readings fit right in the middle. I'm assuming that's good. Others just list a "result value", so I have no clue if they are good or bad. I'm going to be optimistic and assume that all is well. I mean, even though I only scored a 1 on my basophils, I figure that I might be able to get a transplant if it fails. The final kicker was the line that "Your doctor will contact you if these test results indicate a change in your treatment plan." Change my treatment plan? How can you improve on "if you feel too sick, go see the doctor"?

Teach your parents well 

(I'm strongly tempted to just take Sherri's Why Blog? Quiz, as that would be easier than writing on an original topic, but I've let too many potential blog posts slide in the past month or so.)

Another busy weekend. One of the things I managed to squeeze in was an interview with my kids. Y'see, I'm working on the second issue of our newsletter for the supporters of our China venture. One question we often encounter is "How do the kids feel about all this?" and Noodles thought that that would be a good topic to feature this month. (Beats the heck out of $100 vaccinations.) So Saturday, with dreams of a light-hearted article that would write itself, I grabbed a steno pad and started interrogating my young'uns.

What a reality check. I've been assuming that both kids were just little mirrors of Noodles and myself--a mixture of stress and excitement, with a dash of trepidation. The reality is that neither child has any real desire to make this venture. They're both resigned to it, of course, but the main emotion they feel is fear that they won't like it. I know, I know. I should have been able to figure that out.

It was very much of a downer, as the guilt started rolling in. Ironically, I had just watched Lost in Space the night before and had thought how stupid it was for them to drag their kids into potential danger like that. Now I was thinking that I wasn't all that different. Had my desire to support Noodles' dream led me to become a neglectful father? I tried to think of rationalizations for putting my kids through this whole process. The problem was, they were all pretty weak. Sure living abroad can be an incredible experience for them. But the bottom line is that our venture is about us, not them.

The question is, is that a bad thing? Should the needs and desires of the children always trump that of the parents? I have a strong sense that our going to China is the right thing to do. And I don't believe such things occur in a vacuum. In other words, if it's right for Noodles to go teach in China, it's also right for those affected by her decision, especially us members of her immediate family. That doesn't mean it's not going to be difficult, but in the end, it will be better to go than to stay home.

Or I could be wrong. Ah, I think this doubt shall bloom on every bad day we have. But I guess that we'll just have to make the best of it, even as we would have to do if we stayed home and kept on with the status quo.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Book was lost, now is found 

One of the books I'm currently reading is Big Trouble by Dave Barry. I picked it up at last month's Friends of the Library sale. This particular volume, however, was personalized. On the first page is a Post-It reading, "Marg Spiller's Book--loaned 10/01/01." So Marg, if you want your book back (or just the Post-It), send me an e-mail at seanet.com, the bk416 address.

Thursday, May 05, 2005


Just another day. I thought about holding some sort of special commemoration at 5:55 this morning, but decided not to. 11 November 2011 will be more my speed.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Bad habits 

Okay, if you've been reading this blog, you know that life in Hamburgerland is currently busy. So, with all the demands on my time, you'd think simplifying things would be a no-brainer, right? You'd think that when looking at what things to jettison, an hour+ sitting and talking with webloggers would be atop the list, especially since I can always just read their blogs. I admit that I did consider blowing off tonight's weblogger meetup, but that was only because I was in the middle of a big Photoshop assembly. But I went anyway, seeing how we were to discuss the new, belly-ache-inducing Meetup.com organizer fees and that Tom Reynolds, a London-based weblogger would be present. (Of course, there was no "discussion"--Anita has the whole thing under control-- and while I did see the aforementioned Mr. Reynolds, I never really said anything to him or even eavesdropped on any of his conversations. I did check out his blog though. Good readin')

It was another fun evening with a larger crowd than the past few months. (13 people maybe?) Jack made up for last month by talking some science fiction from the get go. He told me about an amusing and addictive Darth Vader blog and gave me his two cents on the current Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy movie. I was able to ask Tommy Williams about how the latest version of Photoshop is working for him. (I'm sure it won't be coming to my desktop for anumber of months.) While there are some nice new features, it seems like Tommy already has developed superior workarounds for all of them. Typical. And I also was able to see and read a copy of the fabled Bellevue Reporter article. Have to say that I'm glad I went. Though next time I have to learn the art of getting out of my seat and talking to all the people who attend.

Anyway, you'd think that with all the demands on my time, and the fact that I worked late to make up for a one hour, twenty minute lunch, that writing a meetup report would be atop my list of things to jettison, right? sigh. Guess I'm just a creature of habit. I don't know what I'll do come September. Maybe lie and pretend that I went to the meetup....

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Somebody get me a doctor 

Day 2 of my caffeine withdrawal.

I went down to see the doctor yesterday, as China requires a HIV test as part of the visa paperwork. It's been awhile since I've taken the bus downtown. You'd think I'd do it more often, as I enjoy the bustle of downtown and all. Maybe the fact that I don't do it too often is why I still consider it a treatg. Anyway, my doctor's office is in the City Center building, or mall or whatever they call it. I have to walk past a lot of fancy shops and restaurants to get there--places at which I not even interested in window shopping. Makes for quite a trip as I venture through the International District and Pioneer Square and then past the haunts of the affluent.

But I digress. Like I said, I went to see the doctor. You have to do that for a HIV test, you can't just come in and get stuck and be on your way. And, of course, seeing the doctor means you also see the receptionist, a medical assistant and one or more lab techs. So I did. The receptionist took my name and the assistant soon ushered me into the exam room, after doing the regular weighing and blood pressure thing. He asks me a few questions and as I'm answering, I'm wondering what this guy is thinking. You see, this is the second HIV test I've had in a few years. A couple of years back--whenever the last Star Wars flick was out--I got bitten by a mugger and I got tested to make sure I wasn't the 1 in 100,000 who would contact HIV from a human bite. (Yeah, I know, how humiliating is it when your closest encounter with big city crime is getting bit like a grade schooler?) Well, if the PA thought I was some promiscuous sleazeball, he didn't show it.

Finally, the doctor comes in and starts looking over the paperwork. He actually seemed to remember me, which is rather odd. (I've seen this guy about three times now, a record in my adult life.) But instead of simply giving me the HIV test pep talk, he starts commenting on the blood pressure. Too high, he says. (No surprise to me, given the past month.) So suddenly I'm not just getting a blood draw, I'm also given a urinalysis and an EKG. Sheesh. I felt akin to a guy taking his car into a sleazy mechanic. Fortunately, I didn't also get charged like a guy taking his car into a sleazy mechanic.

The upshot of the whole thing is that I don't want high blood pressure to screw up this whole China venture. While it could indicate a serious problem, I'm more inclined to think it's the result of mainlining caffeinated Pepsi products to ease my headache pain and to perk me up when my body's thinking nap. So for the next couple of weeks, until my official travel check up, I'm avoiding caffeine. Headaches and drowsiness will just have to be endured, or maybe I'll even try that naturopathic solution of actually getting a full night's sleep. SIGH. Life was so much easier when I was young and indestructable....

Sunday, May 01, 2005

How dry I am 

bleah. I am so tired. If I didn't have a friend who had just happened to write a novel in March, I would just blow this off... again. So much to do, so little time.

One evening I forgot to write up is now two weeks old. We went to dinner at the house of a couple of friends. These particular friends are Chinese, and so were quite interested in our little venture and had much advice. Some things we already knew. Others were a bit surprising. One thing I did discover is that if I ever get drafted I want to join the Chinese army. Our host did the cooking and it was delicious! He said he learned to cook in the army of all places. Anyway, that would tempt me to join far more than the lame, testosterone laden ads that the US armed forces currently use. Of course, the desires of us middle aged men are probably different than those of the younger punks.

But what has this to do with our dinner engagement? Nothing! I was going to pass on the advice I learned. I was most seriously warned that when I went to China, it is more than likely that at any banquet I attend, everybody is going to want to do shots with the big noses. And since I am the head of the household (and incidentally the family member with the largest schnozz), I am going to be the primary target. Now so far this isn't so bad. I'm not much of a drinker, but I don't mind the rare shot of Jack Daniels with a beer chaser. Okay, to be honest, I can't remember the last time I did a shot. Back in the 80s when we were all getting married and the parties didn't involve children. But I do enjoy being sociable, even to this day. Anyway, there are two complications to this: first, if I prosit with one person, the first person I don't drink with will be horribly insulted and I will have proven every ugly rumor about American rudeness that's out there. Secondly, far from trying to protect me from such cultural depradations, a typical host will be quite eager to see me drunk, as a drunken guest is a sign of a good party. There's some economics involved about saving money by getting only one guest conspiculousy lit. I missed the details, as at that point I was preoccupied with trying to find an amusing way to escape such a fate and the subsequent hangover.

My friend offered two solutions. Either endure the occasional bout of serious inebriation or give up alcohol for the duration. Given that I can still remember my last hangover--from my cousin Bob's wedding, now 20 years past--I think I'll have to opt for the latter.