Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Moving - vignette

I went with my father to pick up the moving van from the U-Haul place. They had been very nice, calling me twice, once to confirm, once to remind me that indeed I had reserved a truck for the day and I would be expected to bring it back.

When we showed up, the woman at the counter surprised me by affectionately referring to the truck as "she." I hadn't really thought about a gender for a 14 foot orange-and-white behemoth, but throughout the conversation "she" was waiting for us right out the door and "she" had been started up just that morning.

She was also apparently PMSing because she had an enormous appetite both for boxes and bins (which she swallowed without complaint although I had that inevitable sense of dread that the truck wasn't nearly big enough for all of our stuff), and for gas as well. She happily guzzled five gallons in about ten miles. She also seemed a little cranky, wasn't exactly responsive to persuasion, and complained a bit about the way she was fitting into the driveway.

I have to say that I returned her without much regret.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Moving - Sad Truths

Sad Truth #1:

The amount of stuff one thinks one has is inversely proportional to the amount of stuff one actually owns.

Sad Truth #2:

The approximate value of the stuff one has valiantly moved is inversely proportional to the number of packs/unpacks one has performed on one's stuff.

Sad Truth #3:

The total weight of said stuff is inversely proportional to the total in Sad Truth #2, and will inevitably increase exponentially with each additional shift ie stuff --> moving van --> temporary situation in new house --> unpacking venue --> final disposition.

Sad Truth #4:

No one is going to want to admire one's moving bruises nearly enough, nor will they be interested in hearing more than once that you can't remember how on earth you got it, but isn't it a fantastic shade of purple? And doesn't this one on the back of my calf sort of resemble a young Fidel Castro?

Sad Truth Subsection A Which is Just a General Sad Truth and Not Moving Related:

As a history major I am probably completely misusing the term "inversely proportional" but it makes me feel pleasantly intelligent so I'm leaving it in there. Even though my pleasant feeling of intelligence is probably exposing my ignorance. Dangit. That's probably inversely proportional in some way too.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Character Analysis - the Moving Test

So I'm moving. Again. And you would think that after all these moves (this is the... hold on while I add things up on my fingers... 18th move) I would have learned the fine art of Not Keeping Stuff. I have not.

I suppose the sort of Stuff one accumulates is a direct window into your psyche (sort of like the snail death thing, but with less mucus). I would like to say that I am the sort of person who accumulates small objects d'art, very tasteful and extremely expensive. Maybe I am that kind of person, I've just never had the budget to find out. But right now I cannot escape the sad truth (because the evidence is all too clear in front of me) that I am the sort of person who ends up with:

Boxes and boxes of books. Even after I've gotten rid of 12 boxes in the last move, there are still boxes more. I blame the family tradition for this one.

Lots of office supplies. Harks back to shopping for school supplies and those boxes of 64 sharp pristine crayons. I was never allowed to get the 64 crayon box, but as an adult I realize (looking at my several dozen unused gel pens) that I would not have been able to bear spoiling their crayonny perfection and they would never have been taken out of the box anyway. But I would have liked to look at them.

Thousands of identical white socks. Because I have three kids who never EVER remember to put both socks in the dirty clothes hamper I therefore refuse to buy them anything that requires matching. I used to tell Kirk that when we made our fortune I was going to hire a sock boy named Hans whose entire purpose in life was going to be washing and folding socks.

So that's the sum total of my worldly goods. But at least if the world comes to an end tomorrow we'll all have warm feet, something with which to write a touching final message, and a darn good book to read.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Character Analysis - the Gastropod Test

So I was talking to the Superior Aunt, and after she had firmly told me what I would not be allowed to write about here (but it was pretty funny - sorry you're going to miss it), we got to talking about snails; you know, as you do. You see, we've been having this strange, probably global-warmingly-ominous weather thing happening here, it's called rain. It's not Seattle type rain mind you, but it does manage to fall from the sky and land on the ground which is not always something you can count on in this area.

There have been two noticeable results. One is that some of the stunted, down-trodden, depressed looking - well, I suppose plants is the closest term - have actually had the courage to throw out a leaf or two here and there, with the result that the normally cat-box tinted landscape has, now and then, a hint of green. This is very odd.

The other thing is the snails. They must have been dormant for years, just waiting for this bizarre set of circumstances; now they're everywhere.

Which is why we began discussing our methods of snail destruction, and I realized this was better than a quick trip to the psychoanalyst for a down and dirty look into your inner-most soul. Take the three women in our family for example.

One of us picks up the snails, moves them to a hard surface, apologizes profusely, and stamps them into crunchy wodges of snail boogers.

Another one picks up the snails and tosses them into the road, wincing when they land with a loud crack, feeling guilty for the relatively lengthy death, but being far too chicken to actually stomp on them and feel the crackle of the shell.

The last one does the road toss, but claims she enjoys the sight of the crippled, mucusy little vermin trying valiantly to slither back across the pavement to the relative paradise of her garden.

I won't tell you which of us is which.

But you won't find me apologizing to no gastropods any time soon.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Big Brother is Watching. He's Just a Little Nearsighted

I have friends who are extremely concerned about the way personal information is so accessible. One managed to snaffle a grocery store rebate card without actually filling out the form because she didn't want her shopping habits to be part of the Safeway Conspiracy to Target Market. Granted, it was fun going with her to the store and watching the clerk's little face go all confused when they bleeped the card through and tried to give her a personal greeting. "Here you go Mssuzzz.... ermmmmmm havvaniceday."

For those who are convinced that organizations everywhere are keeping meticulous records of everything about us, I offer this slightly less than encouraging piece of consolation. Yes, they certainly are trying - but they aren't very good at it.

Case in point - today's mail which contained a nice letter from the good people at MOAA (Military Officers Association of America). It even had a real genuine stamp on rather than the computer salad in the corner. And it was addressed to:

Kirk von Ackermann
Col USAF Ret.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Random Sightings

Hari Krishna guy has been gone for a while now. I didn't notice when he left, but eventually I did recognize that the plaintive if highly repetitive strains of "Krishna krishnaaaaaaaaaaaaaa" had stopped. Maybe he's gone to Peru in a sort of street-musician exchange or something.

However, to replace him I now have yoga-master-cab-driver. He's always parked in front of the same apartment building early in the morning. The first week or so he was wandering aimlessly, apparently waiting for his fare to wake up. The next week he had started doing some simple side stretches. I didn't recognize those as intentional exercise at first because there's a homeless guy in the nearby park who does nearly the same thing and is either doing angry gesticulations at a faceless god, or is helping the sun rise. Or he's just really drunk and arm-waving is part of his bob-and-weave thing.

But yoga-master-cab-driver didn't stop with arm-waving. Last week he had moved on to deep knee bends, which I don't really mind because he doesn't wear the saggy jeans/boxer short combination that makes such things very unpleasant from the back. In fact I smiled at him in a friendly way as I went by, and decided not to tell him that deep knee bends are really tough on the joints at his age.

He must be taking some of those secret Costco bone supplement things though, because on Monday he was actually touching his forehead to his knees, and this morning he had one leg propped up on the roof of his cab - the roof mind you, not the hood - and was making a darn good grab for his toes.

I'm not quite sure what to make of this, but I'm starting to wonder if there is a plan for a new reality show based on quirky but flexible cab drivers of the American Southwest. Nah... that sounds about as fascinating as an hour long program on Bingo...

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

News of the World

Today's favorite news quote - from a Yahoo article about dolphin dialects:

"The Shannon Dolphin and Wildlife Foundation (SDWF) has been studying a group of up to 120 bottle-nose dolphins in the River Shannon using vocalisations collected on a computer in a cow shed near Carrigaholt, County Clare."

The alliteration in that last phrase is breathtaking.

But now I have an unshakable belief that the dolphins in Ireland are addicted to wireless and use remote cow-sheds to check email and upload files. And you just know which e-community site they'll use... Twitter, what else?

Monday, May 14, 2007

It's Monday, All Day

I had to work Saturday, because my job about-which-I-shall-not-blog has a distinct seasonality and one of the more important seasonal bits was that weekend. Normally I'm not tagged to go to these things, being a virtual person and all that, but it was barrel scraping time so off I went. I did scare them by showing up in a red t-shirt and jeans, but after doing my part of the non-digital manual labor I nipped up and changed so as not to let down the side. I don't think it was necessary for quite so many people to comment (with surprise and amazement) that I "clean up really well!"

The trouble with working Saturday is it makes Monday come along too quickly, and when it does arrive it feels off somehow, all day long. I feel a little like one of the Children who, having borrowed my boots, had been grumbling for hours about how they didn't feel quite right, and then suddenly announced "oh! I have them on the wrong feet!"

I think I have my Monday on the wrong feet.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Alan Johnston Wins Journalism Award

"BBC correspondent Alan Johnston, who was abducted in Gaza nearly two months ago, has won a major journalism prize at a London awards ceremony.

He was named broadcast journalist of the year by the London Press Club for his work reporting from the Gaza Strip."

Read the article on BBC News here.

Susie Dow - Three Part Article Now Online

Susie Dow (author of the Missing Man blog linked at right) has completed her three-part article about the Defense Base Act. You can read the entire article online:

"Part I traces how the lack of adequate insurance coverage can impact famillies.

Part II concentrates on how the appropriate Defense Base Act contract clauses that could have made a difference went "missing in action."

Part III focuses on the lack of information and access to low cost coverage for contractors based overseas."

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Out of Context

Driving home from work today I was behind a slightly battered white truck with a camper shell on the back and one of those oval black and white stickers.

I'm sure you've seen them. We encountered them first in Europe where a two-letter abbreviation announced to the world what country you were from. I think it was to help people sneer at the right cars - terribly embarrassing if you miss out on a Belgian because he wasn't properly tagged.

I didn't pay attention to them again until California where they sprouted on cars everywhere, announcing people were from HMB or SJ or SF. Our town was too small to support its own sticker, so one enterprising neighbor snipped the H off the HMB and defiantly stuck it on his Eddie Bauer edition SUV (with gold detailing and fawn leather seats).

This one was different though - it didn't announce a place, it shouted out a way of life, and took me right back to Alaska.

Fishing for salmon is not a solo effort. Even if you don't know a soul around you, you're part of a close knit community. There are rules, and regulations - social mores if you like. I had to hear three indignant fishermen tell the same story of the idiot from the lower 48 who not only cast over other people's lines and tangled their gear, but hauled in the mess, cut the lines and then pocketed the tackle.

There is one thing you can be sure of though (unless you're the tackle thief). If you do hook a salmon, anyone worth their salt as an Alaskan will smoothly and ably help you bring that fish in. You just have to know the magic words - usually shouted triumphantly if slightly breathlessly.

Fish On.

I don't know where that truck was going, but I'm pretty sure I wanted to go there too.