Monday, January 30, 2006

Burned Again

I tried posting a beautiful photo log of That Day on Siyeh Pass about 500,783 times today (as friends who have an RSS feed and got pinged every time I posted corrections will attest). I failed miserably (and wasted several hours of time I do not really have to squander).

That post I had earlier about new technology? Well the interface for this blog service qualifies. It is supposed to be WYSIWYG (what-you-see-is-what-you-get). They lie. They lie about compose mode and they lie about preview mode. Compose mode, preview mode and published forms ARE ALL DIFFERENT. And I was naive enough to think that if I got it right by trial and error in publish mode I would be done and it would be pretty. Hah! I changed browsers (I keep IE and Netscape around for just such checking) and it looked like crap, crap, crap!

The great and brilliant Jonathan (from an earlier post--and sadly the one who gets RSS pinged) suggested I get a pc-based client for posting. I think he is just tired of his computer chirping whenever I do something stupid. He also said I have a posting sickness and should consider counseling/medication/institutionalization. I don't blame him.

More Technology That Blows Me Away

I was going to get back to work and stop posting today, but I saw something in the fridge that I had to put out into the world first.

Remember when big milk-carton-like boxes of wine with spigots on them came out in the 70's or early 80's? White wine on tap in the fridge was a great thing but not very sophisticated, and it went away. Then came plastic corks. They feel really cool and do not flake off into your wine when your server in the restaurant feebes out while opening the bottle. Then came screw tops on "good" wines (can you say Conundrum?).

But all of these pale in comparison to a gift we got a week ago: Champagne (well, actually sparkling wine as it is from California) in a can with a little straw attached just like they put on juice boxes! It's from the Coppola vineyard and the back label reads: "California carbonated white wine, store and drink chilled, vinted and canned by Francis Coppola Presents, Lawrenceburg, Indiana..."

The can has faint words printed on it: "Reactionary", "Revolutionary", "Effervescent", "Fragrant" and "Petulant". That's what I want, a petulant wine! No thank you. The whole mother-of-a-four-year-old thing excludes me from an attraction to petulance. Come to think of it, is anyone attracted to petulance? Is this really a desirable marketing term or was a non-English speaker in charge of label design and just went for most compatible sounding words?

They come is a very cute little four-pack box and I understand they are all the rage in L.A. Ah those wacky Californians. Maybe we'll get to visit the winery (factory?) when we are out in California in a few weeks...oh wait, Lawrenceburg Indiana. Rats. Much easier to carry cans in a suitcase than bottles.

I Have the Power

In my alter cyber entity Glass Incarnate I mentioned that I got a 60 gig iPod for Christmas from Santa (I was Very Good indeed!). I wanted it for music but I have now broken the technology barrier and this is the story about going from ABC/NBC/CBS to Battlestar Gallactica at the Apple iTunes store.

When I was young, there were three channels on tv: ABC, NBC and CBS. They ran their series from Labor Day through sometime in spring/summer, and then the re-runs began. My memory is that you could watch the entire season again in the summer and catch the episodes you missed because *there were no vcr's*. Forget Tivo. A technology which is already obsolete was not even around when I was growing up. Dinner was scheduled around the times of the hot shows. Saturday Night Live debuted when I was almost finished with high school. I was in my first apartment when MTV came out and couldn't afford the cable fee. Friends with cable and MTV were VERY popular for parties.

OK, I think that is enough history. You know where the bar was set for me. But I am a technologically malleable person. A geek even (I score pretty highly by Ren's standards anyway). But I was blown away last Friday by what is now available and even relatively easy to make work.

We all know most technology takes over your life and makes you easily as miserable as it makes you happy. A life improvement? I think not. Can you say Windows XP? And iTunes 5.0 which Apple thought should interface with Microsoft Outlook's calendar? What genius decided that was a necessary feature in a music playing application? Oh yes, and every. single. solitary. universal remote control you have ever owned. Even my favorite to date: The Home Theatre master MX-700. It worked great till we got a big tv with "source" and "picture size" settings which do not seem to be able to be learned, thus requiring we keep that remote. I did get the playstation 2 working on it, but it was a struggle. And now there is the iPod. I haven’t even tried. While I like my toys, I am not an early adopter. Let someone else's blood pressure suffer while they get the bugs out. Then I will try it out. That said, I was forced to Early Adopt this week and I am ECSTATIC!!!

We have Tivo. We got it early, but not first. Lots of friends had it and told us exactly how to set it up before we took the plunge. We did pop for the lifetime subscription so we have been reluctant to upgrade from our series one box, even though we have an HD TV and can't get HD through Tivo. Last year we Tivoed the new Battlestar Gallactica from the beginning. We watched it over dinner at our leisure and really liked it. This past fall I started Tivoing it and for whatever reason, we never watched. Dave finally bought the fall season of on dvd and we have been watching it again. And then I did a stupid thing. I did not realize the second half of the season we are watching started in January and I got ambitious and Cleaned Up The Tivo. Dave looked up just as I deleted the second episode and it was Too Late.

So I did what I always do when there is a geek show we really want to see and don't have it: I IM'd Jonathan and asked him if he still had it and could we get it from him. He is our ultimate geek and early adopter. He asked me didn't I get a video iPod for Christmas? I said, why yes, but it's for music. He said, go to the Apple Music store in iTunes (and I have been there a lot--the whole buy-almost-any-song-you-want for $.99 is very compelling) and the Battlestar episodes are up there for sale within a day or so after broadcast. And he was right, they are. And they cost $1.99 each. I was very skeptical about it working, but I figured I could invest $6 for the episodes we missed and give it a shot. I set the limit of the effort I was willing to put into it and only exceeded it by a little by needing to buy a new AV cable at the Apple Store because I couldn't find mine. So here's the process:

You go to the Music Store from within your iTunes software and you click on the link in the lower left for TV shows. There you will find Lost, the Office, Desperate Housewives, Battlestar... the list just goes on. You find what you want. You click the Buy Now button and the episode downloads to your computer. Figure about 200 mgs (according to Jonathan). Then you plug your iPod into your computer and copy the episode to it. At 200 mgs a pop you can get roughly *250 episodes* on the 60 gig iPod and still have room for the OS and some music...

But (yawn) I am not impressed yet. Getting the technology is always the easy part--it's trying to do anything with it that makes me want to run naked down the street with Dave's graton-edged santoku disemboweling all in my path. So without much hope but willing to be a good sport I used the new AV cable and hooked the iPod dock up to the receiver. Sure enough, when I turned it on I got sound but no video. *sigh*. But I gave it one more shot and looked in the video settings on the iPod just to see if there was a quick fix. Yes! There is a toggle setting "TV Out" which is off by default. I flipped it to on, AND THERE WAS PICTURE ON THE TV! Some would sneer at the 4:3 aspect ratio and 320 X 179 resolution, I say they are just spoiled and should be forced to go back to 1965 and CBS, NBC and ABC.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Jessie Agnes and Cecil Edwin Cook

As I lay in anxiety-induced sleeplessness I tried to calm and comfort myself by focusing on the "Battlestar Gallactica" tech post I wanted to write today. I was thinking of "When I was little, we had three channels on tv: ABC, NBC and CBS..." and as thoughts will at 2:30 in the morning in the dark, mine jumped way back in time to sitting with my grandfather and grandmother. I remember Grampa had a rogueish twinkle in his eye and he was telling me how they walked to school barefoot in the snow and Gramma chimed in "uphill both ways". I know those weren't the actual words they used, that was my mind overlaying my memory with a now worn and comfortable phrase. But the event did happen, and as I lay there I was taken with the need to talk to my grandfather and ask him to tell me again how he got to school everyday so I could picture it in my mind.

My grandparents grew up in Kansas and attended school in a one-room schoolhouse. They lived in a rural community, and there was a horse in the story. That's all I can remember. This all happened almost 100 years ago. But I can't ask my grandparents because they are gone. And their siblings--all but one--are also gone. My grandfather died of cancer in 1996. My grandmother went without warning one night in her sleep in 1985.

With Gramma, there was no preparation. She didn't have any notice to tell her stories one last time--at least that I knew of. She had prepared as people do prepare by leaving notes in things. "This sugar and creamer is Brenda's!" The note is still in the creamer in the china cabinet in my diningroom. I will leave it there for my daughter Jessie. I lived with grief for years because the night she died we were all to have dinner at their house and I did not go. I was back in college, living at home, and had homework or something and decided not to go.

Grampa knew in advance and he prepared. He wrote a beautiful document which I haven't seen since his funeral about all the things he saw and did in his life. He shook Franklin Rossevelt's hand. He saw "Wrong Way" Corrigan fly or did he shake his hand? That's the funny thing about memory. It's been 10 years since I saw that document and, like the walking-both-ways-in-the-snow incident, what I remember are not the details. I remember Grampa's humor and Gramma's teasing and the joy. I remember being filled with awe that my grandfather, old when I knew him, had seen and done so many exciting things and lived through such history.

Is it important that I know the true details and what really happened? The anal-retentive side of my personality insists upon it. But the part that is just maybe getting a handle on what's really important says no. Let go the details and remember what they meant, how they felt. It isn't important what Jessie and Cecil did. It is important that they lived and they loved and were loved so much.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Live in the Now

I always thought that if I didn't have to be tied to a job I would be much happier. That is not to say I wouldn't work, but my time would not be driven by an employer's clock. I would "work" from home at my own tasks—the ultimate telecommuting. As I needed to be a Mommy or a Friend or a Wife or a Family Manager I could, without guilt. But I don't think it has worked that way. The better my life gets—the ultimate spouse, the perfect child, relaxation of financial pressures, good friends, a comfortable home, satisfying professional recognition—the non-happier I am.

What does that mean "Non-happier"? Does it mean I am less happy? No. What it means is that as things get better you should get happier. I know there is a scientific formula for it. But I am not happier, I am the same. I am me. Brief burst of happiness at the achievement of a goal followed by a return of the emotional status quo. So am I unusual? I don't think so. We read all the time about rich, beautiful people who have everything bitching about how unhappy they are and we just. cannot. relate. We think that if we had everything they have we'd be happy—how dare they not?!? But it doesn't work that way. We are happy because we are, or unhappy because we are. "Things" don't make one happy. Good health, financial security, friends and family, lack of fear and pain take away our stress and anxiety, but they don't make us happy. There is more to be found in this line of thought and I am not there yet. I need to ponder more.

I have wasted a hell of a lot of time in my life to date "looking forward" to something instead of just being happy in the now. And I am still doing it! I endured much of the fall hating Atlanta and the south with a passionate intensity and blamed my depression of the time on living here. But there are as many good things about living here as there are bad things about living in Montana or back in Austin again.

I spend a lot of time despising the culture here—the lack of ambition and education and the stench of right-wing "Christian" morality—but when I walked out my front door yesterday morning I literally caught my breath at the beauty of two of my red azalea bushes which decided to bloom in the middle of January. My camellias—planted to provide scarlet joy in the depths of winter—haven't even bloomed yet and the little azaleas just up and popped.

I immediately notice when the neighbors three new dogs start yapping in their 24X7X365 kennel in the backyard next door (the dimensions given are temporal rather than spatial), but I know I often miss the gentle susurration of our wind chimes—Music of the Spheres alto and tenor Japanese scale—which hang from the deck beneath our bedroom windows. I take for granted that it will not snow or sleet or rain dismally for weeks on end like it does in other parts of the country at this time of year. And I am not happier because of it. Of course I also don't remember being more miserable when I lived in other areas of the country where Weather was Nasty (ten years in Chicago comes to mind...).

When Dave and I were first married it drove him insane that I was always yearning towards something next week, next month, next vacation, next job, next house, next… He is very grounded-in-the-now and it made him anxious that I seemed to be so dissatisfied by everything all the time. His discomfort made me think about what I was doing and saying and throttle back on constantly blurting out my escapist thoughts. Because it is escapism—just the way that the majority of the books I read are meant to provide escapism rather than provoke thought. I think I am present in my skin and provoking and prodding life enough on daily basis that sometimes I just need to get the hell out of it.

A side note: “Ronnie and Neil” by the Drive by Truckers has the same opening chord as “What’s the Frequency Kenneth” by R.E.M. Interesting.

So have I just had a life-altering epiphany about happiness? I would like to say yes, but no. I see that I am wasting time and energy and letting good things slip by under-appreciated. And I feel that I am teetering on the edge of the chasm of Greater Knowledge (the kind you find in the self-help aisle at Border’s). Right now I’m just squinting down into the darkness below. Maybe over the next few posts I will become Enlightened and be able to share. But not tomorrow. Tomorrow is dedicated to the evolution of technology and Battlestar Galactica on the iTunes Music Store. Now I must get to work—glass awaits!

Thursday, January 26, 2006


That's me in the top center in June of 1990. The place is Siyeh Pass in Glacier National Park. We all hiked up and had lunch on the pass. Then we put holes in big green garbage bags for our legs, put the garbage bags on like big plastic diapers, and slid three miles down the mountain on our butts screaming all the way. A defining moment in life.

Blogging is Addictive

If one has an addictive obsessive personality--and I do--blogging is just another drug. I started "Glass Incarnate" as a professional blog to chronicle my adventures as a professional glass artisan writing a book. But there is so much more to say. Things which are inappropriate there clamor to Come Out.

So what else am I? Well, I am Stranded in the South, first in Texas (ok, Austin. It's not in Texas, it's surrounded by Texas, but it's still too damn close to the Bushes and the DeLays for comfort) now in Georgia. It could be worse. It could be Mississippi or Alabama or Florida. When did I become a geographist? I am still not racist or sexist or speciesist or queerist (coined by a good friend with an "alternative lifestyle") in spite of the numerous proximate opportunities, but I am not liking the South.

But the people are so nice! Everyone is so polite and friendly and courteous! So why isn't that what I take away at the end of the day? The individuals I know are truly wonderful, but I am worn down by my interactions with everyone I do not know who is rude, a bad driver, lazy, arrogant, entitled, and ignorant to boot! I want to be Elsewhere.

So this blog is about my unfortunate state of mind. Notice I do not say Unfortunate Circumstance because I think I am going to find after a bit of blogging exploration that the problem is with me--not the south. And I need to evolve. Let's face it, one's 40's are all about evolution--evolve or die, my new motto. And I am not going to be restricted to the once a day posting I allow myself on Glass Incarnate. Nope. Whenever the hell I want to get something off my uncensored chest it is going to come spewing out. Be forewarned. And nervous.

In Montana Men are Men
Women are Scarce,
and Sheep are Nervous.