Bad Soup

Here’s a conversation that Kris and I will not be having ever again.

Kris: Honey, for dinner why don’t you have this three-week-old garlic-onion soup and this three-week-old wine?
Me: Okay.

Why won’t we be having this conversation again? Because from now on I’ll be saying “Hell no! Throw that shit out!”

I’ve spent all morning (the last three hours) spewing bodily fluids from various openings. I’ve never vomited so much in my life. And it all tastes like garlic-onion soup (mixed with bile, of course).

I can only hope that I get over this by about noon, which is when Fellowship of the Ring starts.

Gotta run. Stomach is rumbling again…

A Helping Hand

I got up early this morning and joined Dave and Karen at their new house for some pre-move-in sprucing up.

They’ve bought a nice little 1926 bungalow located in Southeast Portland. It looks to be in good shape for its age; still, there is much to be done before they are willing to live in it. In particular, they are attacking the hardwood floors (which are in nearly every room in the house) with great enthusiasm. Dave is sanding like a madman, and together they are painting and applying polyeurathane (did I spell that correctly?).

Dave has helped me with house- and yard-work in the past, so I was pleased to be able to return the favor. He put me to work in the Very Cold basement, applying a thick paint-like substance to the floor (and part of the wall). It’s a moisture barrier of sorts, and smells exactly like the ammonia with which my mother used to mop the floors when I was a child. The work was tedious, and my knees became quite sore after a couple of hours, but I was not unhappy. Work is good sometimes, especially when you’re helping a friend.

While I was out today, I bought a new Compact Flash memory card for my digital camera. I’m a poor photographer (with unfounded aspirations to greatness) and tend to take many shots of any particular subject in order to maximize my chances of producing at least one acceptable photo. I but a memory card four times the size of my current card (which holds about 55 pictures using my typical settings). Well. I bought a 64mb card, assuming that I had a 16mb card at home. Wrong. I have an 8 mb card at home. A 64mb card is eight times the size of my previous card. I can now store 440 pictures on one card. Yikes. What am I going to do? That’s far more memory than I actually need!

I have four options, I guess:

  1. Keep the card. Just take a huge number of pictures between downloading sessions.
  2. Keep the card. Increase the size and/or quality of the photos that I’m taking.
  3. Return the card and replace it with a 32mb card. Trouble is, I don’t much like the mall. It was unusual for me to be there in the first place.
  4. See whether I can get a friend to give me a 32mb card and $25 for this card.

I think I’m going to explore options two and three. I think higher quality pictures would be keen, but I may already have the camera producing at its highest settings. I’m not interested in larger pictures, either. I currently store the photos at 640×480 and see little need for them to be larger.

I am still Very Cold after having spent so much time in Dave’s Very Cold basement today. I’m making a pot of cocoa and am going to go soak in the tub. I need to warm my inner core.

Rugby and Stephen King

Fox Sports World keeps showing the same rugby match over and over again. For the past week, I’ve been trying to tune in to watch some more rugby. I want to learn more about the sport. I want to try to determine when a ruck occurs and when a scrum occurs. I want to determine why and where a team has to be on-sides. The sport is fascinating its foreign-ness: similar to football and soccer, but sufficiently different to be something completely original. It’s not gratuitously brutal like football, and seems to have some depth to it.

But whenever I fire up the digital cable box and jump to channel 107, the only rugby game I can find is the NLC match between Canterbury and Otago that must have been played weeks ago. I always seem to find the game at about the eighteen minute mark, about the time that one of the Canterbury players becomes enraged at an Otago player and lays into him with his fists, pummeling him to the ground. The score is tied 3-3, but I know that by half-time Otago will hold a 16-6 lead, despite being the underdogs.

“Don’t get too cocky!” I want to shout. “Stay sharp!”

I know that the second half is a long and painful one for the men in the blue shirts. Canterbury comes out and dominates, moving the ball at will. I don’t recall the final score, but I think that Otago gets only another try, but Canterbury gets nearly 30 points in the final half.

“Watch your backs!”

I really want to see another game, though, not Canterbury vs. Otago again.

As I read Stephen King, I am again struck by how effortless he makes it seem.

King doesn’t write well, in a technical sense, but he doesn’t write poorly, either. His writing is serviceable, and in fact lives to service the story. It’s his story-telling that enchants the reader, dulls the outside world.

I’ve heard that a movie is well-directed if the viewer is unaware of the direction. Maybe the same is true with writing. Maybe a book is well-written if you don’t notice how it is written (technically). I’d like for it not to be so — I dearly love the work of Ursula LeGuin, and books like Cold Mountain and As I Lay Dying, books in which the writing is obvious, is part of the story, is a feature that cannot be ignored.

With King, though, you don’t notice the writing. You swallow the story effortlessly. You consume it. You sit down to read a few pages and when you look up, an hour has passed. Where did the time go? How many pages did you read? What’s going on around you? You note that you’ve read seventy pages. Seventy pages in an hour? That’s impossible; you don’t read that quickly! Oh crap — didn’t you put the tea kettle on? Damn! It must be dry by now. (A whistle-less kettle seemed like a good idea at the time, didn’t it?) How could you forget about that? And why is it dark already?

Several times, Kris and I have tried comparing Stephen King to Charles Dickens. Dickens was immensely popular in his day, both in England and in the United States. The masses loved his novels. For the most part, his stories dealt with every day life, every day concerns. They were populated by distinct characters and propelled by compelling stories. King’s work is nearly identical in these regards: popular, based in the every day, with strong characters in strong stories.

Admittedly, the two authors differ in objective and tone, but that’s not necessarily a strike against either one of them. Critics often deride King’s books as lacking merit, as being fluff. I used to join the chorus, denouncing King as a hack churning out one piece of junk after another. I’ve had to change my position after actually reading him, of course. In particular, his recent work has become something greater than what he once produced. His stories acquired greater depth, as if he were consciously attempting to add resonance. Is there symbolism in his work yet? Perhaps not, but not all great work needs symbolism (and some would be better without it).

One hundred years after his death, Dickens is firmly ensconced in the English canon. In fact, he’s generally elevated into the upper echelon of English writers, resting at the feat of Shakespeare. Will King ever attain such heights? I doubt it. But I suspect that one hundred years from now, his place in the canon will be more firmly established than we can possibly imagine: greater than Lovecraft (who, honestly, does not even near the canon), greater than Poe — King will be recognized as the greatest author of supernatural that ever lived.

Daily Life

I’ve been biking the past few days. After two months off the saddle, I remounted to join Paul and Autumn on a 27-mile ride on Sunday. The ride was my longest in three years and, after an early bout with nausea, went quite well. I enjoyed it. Paul and Autumn were great company, the day was radiant, and the ride itself was energetic but not taxing.

I took Tuesday off to stay home and play the Diablo II expansion and to read Tom Sawyer. I was back on the bike yesterday, and rode it to work again today. It feels good.

One curious aspect of these past few rides is the absence of a bike computer. The battery on mine has failed, so for the first time since I started riding four years ago, I’m riding without a clock, without an odometer. Amazingly, it is a joy. It’s nice to be riding for the sake of the ride rather than to compete with myself. My initial urge to replace the bike computer immediately has waned; I’ll try to go as long as possible without buying one.

I’ve been playing Diablo II on-line, on Blizzard‘s and enjoying myself. In the past, I’ve mainly played solo games, with a few LAN games. Playing on is more fun, and my fears of “player killers” seem to have been greatly exaggerated. The other players seem genuinely willing to play as a team and to share the spoils of war. Mostly. I don’t know how long Kris is going to tolerate my obsession with the game. She’s been patient so far, and is earning Wife Points (though she may not care).


Well, I’m home today, feeling ill and run-down. What I want most is to sleep, but the phone keeps ringing. Twice it has been Jeremy, and twice more there was nobody (though one nobody let voice mail pick up and the background noises sound like Canby Ford, which would mean Jeremy).

Jeremy likes to use the phone instead of e-mail. His reasons for this are difficult to fathom, but I humor him. E-mail is non-intrusive to the recipient, and can be replied to in free time. Telephone calls require immediate attention. Actually, this may be the reason Jeremy prefers telephone calls.

After having my sleep interrupted five or six times, I gave up. I decided to fix myself a nice filet mignon for luch, accompanying it with some cabernet sauvignon. Rather than cook the steak on the grill, however, I tried to use my new(ish) cookware. Big mistake. Once again, I’ve managed to char the bottom of the pan. Despite this, the steak was far, far underdone (after twenty minutes — I was aiming for medium and got blue instead, maybe even rarer than blue). I had to microwave the thing.

I’ve had enough wine to get slighly intoxicated (doesn’t happen often, but is easier when I’m feeling sick). Whee!

After my steak, I made a “hot fudge Thursday”. Basically, this is a hot fudge sundae made with frozen yogurt instead of ice cream. It’s not very good. I like the fudge, though. While eating, I’m watching the animated version of The Lord of the Rings. Boy, does this stink! It’s easily one of the worst films that I’ve ever seen. Why do I subject myself to this torture? Well, I’m rereading the book right now and wanted to see Tolkien’s creations brought to life. The books are amazing, and an example of high-quality writing in the realm of fantasy/science fiction. I’d use this an example for Dane of the level of quality that I want in all the books I read (but is sorely lacking in nearly all scifi/fantasy).

I’ve begun ripping all of my compact discs to mp3. I have my ripping program (dbPowerAMP) running almost constantly while I’m at home. I already have about 10gb of mp3s that I’ve downloaded via Napster or Bearshare or that I’ve ripped from my personal vinyl collection. I figure I’ve got about 15 – 20gb of CD material to rip. Each CD takes about 15 minutes, so it’s going to be a month-long task. In the end, I’ll probably get yet another hard drive (drives are cheap) to allocate exclusively to music. Ultimately, I’d like to be able to set up my Linux box as an mp3 server for the house and for away-from-home. More later on the feasability of this endeavor. I’ve got nearly 75mb of hard drive space in this machine, so theoretically I don’t need another drive. I want one, though — a nice 50 or 60 gigabyte beast giving me room to grow.

I spent about ten hours on Computer Resources Northwest related work over the weekend. Cool beans. I finally will get some money to cover the cost of Andrew and Jeremy’s cell phone…

Tintin is Dying

Tintin is dying.

For eight years Tintin has been our faithful companion. When we lived in the apartment on North Knott, Kris wanted a cat despite the fact that they were prohibited by the rental agreement. We visited the Humane Society in Turner (just outside of Salem) and Kris immediately fell in love with a pure-white cat with pale blue eyes. He looked frightened and dull to me. I thought she should choose a frisky (and cute) little kitten. She ignored my suggestion, and we took the white cat home.

We wanted to name the cat Snowy, after the dog in the Tintin comics, but we thought that name was too wimpy. We named him Tintin instead.

At first Tintin was jumpy; he was quick to claw and bite. Kris surmises he may have come from an abusive home, but soon she and Tintin had formed a bond that has lasted to this day.

When we moved to the house (and, at the same time, acquired my cat, Toto), Tintin became a very happy cat. He loves to roam the yard, to sit in the flower beds, to lay in the sun. We have a stone cat statue that has become his best friend. (None of the other cats are as accepting of him as Stony is.) He loves to sit on Kris’ lap, and he’ll even tolerate my attention.

Tintin is well-loved and an important part of our small family.

Over the past several months he’s been losing weight. His appetite has diminished significantly. At the end of April I noticed that he was drinking a large amount of water. Also at that time, Kris noticed that she was having to change the litter box two or three times a week instead of just once a week. I spoke with Mac, who has some background in vet medicine, and he advised that we have Tintin examined immediately.

Tintin has diabetes. The vet says that he could maybe live another year if: (a) we sent Tintin to board at the vet for a week while they established an insulin regime and (b) we game him insulin injections twice daily for the rest of his life. Kris is not willing to do this. Neither am I.

Tintin is a happy cat, even if his health is failing. He cannot jump up onto the bed anymore. He can’t jump onto the bathroom counter, either, but we’ve trained him to use the toilet as a step. He is beginning to look emaciated. His left eye at times looks cloudy, as if it may be going blind. He drinks about eight ounces of water a day. Minimum. He doesn’t eat much. I think that he only has a few weeks in his tired body, but believe that Kris is expecting months. But he can still sit on Kris’ lap while they watch The Price Is Right. He can still lay out on the patio, basking in the sun. He can still come running (slower than before) to lick out a bowl of ice cream. He’s never been happier, from what we can tell.

Tintin rolling on the patio

I’m sad to be losing a friend like Tintin. He is a good cat, loving and gentle. Kris will be heart-broken, and so will I.


On 12 October 2004 (06:11 PM),
bill said:

Spoil Tintin…i am writing you as part of my grieving. Tigger my 12 year old cat died yesterday at 7:44. We had to put him to sleep he had terminal cancer. The procedure was performed here at the house. It is a peaceful process, i never thought that i would get so attached. My prayers are with you and your family…God Bless.

Bachelor Life

Yesterday was relaxing, which is nice. Kris and I did get up at 4:30 a.m. (which is not relaxing) in order to get her to the airport for her flight to Virginia. On the way home, I stopped and Mac and Pam’s where they graciously served me breakfast. I also made a jaunt over to Powell’s Books where I picked up: Life on the Mississippi by Mark Twain, the first volume of Proust’s Rememberance of Things Past (I think the first volume is called Cities on the Plains, but I’m not sure — it doesn’t matter since it’s one book in seven volumes), Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman, and Contact by Carl Sagan.

I came home and played some Diablo II. Of course. I’m working on my hardcore Paladin (Linus Torvalds), but the going is slow. It’s slow because (a) I’m playing a Paladin, a character type with which I am unfamiliar (and find a little tedious) and (b) in hardcore, you just cannot take the risks that you can take in regular mode. I’m finding that I need to retreat far more often than I normally would. In normal mode, if you die you start back in town. In hardcore mode, if you die the game is over. So, I’m running away quite a bit.

I watched a little of the Mariners game, but they were getting blown out by the Toronto Blue Jays 11-3. The Mariners lost two of three to the Blue Jays, so after Seattle won its first nine series of the year, it finally dropped one. The team’s pitching has been a little shaky during the past week. I’m curious to see how things go over the next week or two. The fast (20-4) start was nice, but it’d be even better if the Mariners could play above .500 for the rest of the season.

After talking to Kris in the evening (her trip was fine), I played some more Diablo II. Before bed, I started Twain’s Life on the Mississippi. I’ve never read any of his extended work, only short bits here and there. He is a fine writer, I must say, easy with the language and able to tell a compelling story. Certainly a change from the drudgery of Asimov, which I’ve been trying to get through for book group. I’ve never read Huckleberry Finn before, but I think I just may do so after I finish Asimov’s Prelude to Foundation.


Have I tried to post an entry from within Linux before? I can’t remember. I’m going to try it now. My browser, Opera is choking on some of the code, though: instead of having a huge area in which to type, I’ve got a tiny little box. We’ll see if it works.

The 2001 Hugo Award nominations have been announced. Maybe they were announced a while ago. I don’t know. I just found them, though, and the nominations for best novel are:

  • A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin
  • Calculating God by Robert Sawyer
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling
  • Midnight Robber by Nalo Hopkinson
  • The Sky Road by Ken MacLeod

Sometimes I worry that I have some creeping fatal disease. I’m not a hyponchondriac or anything (well, I don’t think I am, anyhow), but sometimes I worry that I have a Brain Cloud or something similar.

For example: last night Kris and I ate exactly the same thing for dinner. (Actually, I had two Burgerville cheeseburgers and she only had one Burgerville cheeseburger.) Yet, I ended up with intense stomach cramps. I ended up squirting like a goose. She got to relax and watch the Mariners move to 22-6.

This morning, I woke up with a black tongue. That’s right. I said a black fucking tongue. What in the hell is that? My mouth was all pasty and my saliva was black and my entire tongue was black. Holy cats! (A web search reveals this is a potential side-effect of taking Pepto-Bismol type products, so it’s likely nothing.)

Sometimes I worry.

So, I redid my mix. It’s much better now, has more cohesion, and is fun to listen to. Here’s how it ended up:

  1. The Boy Who Giggled So Sweet (Emiliana Torrini)
  2. Central Reservation (Beth Orton)
  3. No Angel (Dido)
  4. Sweet Jane (Cowboy Junkies)
  5. Babylon (David Gray)
  6. Alison (Everything But the Girl)
  7. The Girl From Ipanema (Bebel Gilberto)
  8. Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps (Doris Day)
  9. One (Aimee Mann)
  10. Why (Gus Gus w/Emiliana Torrini)
  11. Life in Mono (Mono)
  12. Sleep the Clock Around (Belle and Sebastian)
  13. Unemployed in Summertime (Emiliana Torrini)
  14. Mr. Zebra (Tori Amos)
  15. Nothing is Good Enough (Aimee Mann)
  16. There’s Too Much Love (Belle and Sebastian)
  17. Mad About You (Hooverphonic)
  18. She Cries Your Name (Beth Orton)
  19. Woman’s Realm (Belle and Sebastian)
  20. Tonight and the Rest of My Life (Nina Gordon)

I like it.

For whatever reason, I’ve always had an aversion to doctors. I can be so miserable that I can barely function and still I’ll be reluctant to schedule an appointment. However, the swelling in my abdomen and the soreness in my shoulder have gone on long enough to concern even me. I’ve made an appointment for next Friday at 2:30. I hope I live that long.

With Kris going on a business trip to Virginia, I’m going to have about ten days to myself. With some of that time, I’m going to be playing Diablo II. I’m going to be testing the water with a hardcore character or two. I like the idea of having death be final. Novel for a video game, eh?

I just played a little with a Paladin. I got careless and died on the Stony Field. That’s right, the Stony Field. sigh That’s what happens when you wander a third level character into a spot designed for sixth level characters and then you encounter a lightning-enchanted boss while surrounded by Fallen. (I’ll be this makes no sense to people who have never played the game.)

I’ve discovered (or re-discovered) a couple of cool things about the game. Chief among these is that it is compatible with my Sound Blaster Live‘s environmental audio effects, meaning that I get surround-sound from my speakers. Coolness. For some reason, the environmental effects were switched off (maybe they are in the default install?) and so I wasn’t getting the full glory. Now I have birds and crickets and monsters emitting noises from all four corners of the screen.

I only discovered this when I turned the game’s music off so that I could listen to Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana. When I was making daily sales calls, I listened to classical music almost exclusively. Tonight I realized that I haven’t really listened to classical music in almost five years, despite having a small collection of it. Guess what? Time to change that. I enjoy it, and was even learning something about various styles and composers before I stopped listening. I’m going to make an effort to listen again.

Dane’s worried that the swelling in my abdomen might be appendicitis. I’m pretty sure it’s not. Don’t worry, Dane. The swelling is just below my ribs, which I believe is way too high for the appendix. I do have a doctor’s appointment, though, and I’ll have Pam (who is a doctor, though actually a pathologist so maybe that isn’t much help) look at it tomorrow to see if she thinks it needs immediate attention. I’m positive it’s fine, though, and is just some minor thing that may need treatment to go away.

Back to Diablo II.

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Mediocrity

Kris and I spent the weekend at Eagle Crest, a resort near Bend. We rented a house with other members of the MNF Investments group and we ended up with ten adults and one infant together for three days. Fun was had by all.

I’m pushing myself too hard on the exercise front, though. I am fat, old, and out-of-shape. For some reason, though, I am not taking these factors into account. As a result, I am in tremendous pain. Last Saturday I had my bicycle crash at the high school. I still have bruises and swelling from that almost ten days later. During the middle of last week I undertook two rides that would have been moderately difficult even if I were skinny, young, and in-shape. These rides drained my thighs. On Friday, our first full day at Eagle Crest, I rode fifteen hilly miles, played two hours of racquetball, and went on a walk. I played another hour of racquetball and played some baseball on Saturday. Now my entire body aches.

My right shoulder, which had been feeling somewhat better, is once again a source of intense pain. While playing racquetball, I twisted my right knee so that now any non-standard use of it sends bolts of pain up my body. My elbows are sore. My ankles are very sore from so much thudding around during racquetball.

I don’t mean to complain. I had tremendous fun. It’s just that I need to take it easy, to ease into this program of fitness.

On a side note: despite the fact that I did so much exercise and was careful about what I ate this weekend, I’m heavier than when I left. sigh I’m attempting to focus on making a life-style change that will lead to better fitness and lighter weights, so this lack of weight loss ought not matter. But, it’s difficult to do things differently than I always have, and I’ve always focused on weight-loss as an indication that I’m exercising and eating well.

While on vacation, I was able to finish Dave Egger’s A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. This book is a memoir of sorts, written by a young man about my age, relating the story of his parents’ deaths and his subsequent life, which largely consists of raising his younger brother. It is a very witty book at times (I laughed out loud in several places). It is very self-conscious, though, with copious annotations in an included appendix; with a very large dedication/preface filled with information similar to that found in the appendix; and with self-analysis and soliloquies throughout.

The book is neither heartbreaking nor genius. It is, however, mostly well-written and mostly entertaining. The book’s glaring flaw (to my mind) is the author himself, and the manner in which he imposes himself upon the narrative. The first hundred pages or so are very good: well-written and engrossing. After this point, though, Egger’s voice literally begins to intrude upon the page. The narrative becomes less first-person memoir and more self-conscious journal (oh hey! just like this!). I wouldn’t mind reading this kind of thing on-line, but it doesn’t work well as a book.

Eggers sees his life as tragic, as if it were somehow both more important and more grief-filled than other people’s lives. His parents both died of cancer within five weeks of each other, and this fact makes Eggers feel marked, annointed, set apart.

I think that Eggers is just like everybody else, though. All of our lives are filled with tragedy, touched by bizarre coincidences (right, Jennifer?). Where Eggers differs, though, is in his paranoia, his delusions of grandeur.

Don’t get me wrong — I liked the book. I think that Eggers would likely be a close friend if I knew him. It’s just that his “look how special I am” attitude grew stale after, oh, the preface. I look forward to seeing more mature work from Eggers’ pen.


On 30 April 2004 (11:43 AM),
mart said:

JD: if you’re ever ready to give eggers a second chance, his second book “you shall know our velocity” is excellent. i never read aHWoSG though.

16.9 Miles

16.90 miles 1:05:49 (15.40 mph) 33.4 max 24 deg celsius

An amazing ride!

I didn’t set any kind of speed record, but that wasn’t my goal. This early in the season, in the kind of shape that I’m in, I wanted to complete a ride of moderate length comfotably (and enjoyably). I exceeded these goals in every respect.

My speed was not half-bad for my current fitness level. Better, I was never exhausted or frustrated or in pain during the entire ride. I took it easy. I’m a competitive person and too often I compete with myself. I force myself to go faster faster faster when there is really no need. When bicycling for fitness one only needs to maintain a comfortable aerobic pace. I did that today.

Later in the season, when I’ve dropped twenty pounds and developed some leg muscles, I can attempt to kill myself by setting speed records. I don’t know why I do that to myself, but there’s no stopping it. I don’t enjoy it nearly as much as I enjoyed my ride today, though. Maybe I should take a lesson from that.

Why did I enjoy my ride today?

The weather conditions were perfect: sunny, but not blazing, and about 75 degrees fahrenheit with variable breezes. Light traffic. The birds were out and singing. The fields were newly plowed and the lawns newly mowed. The dogs were out but too lazy to give chase; they like the sun, too. I prepped for the ride properly (eating at the right times and drinking a liter of water in the two hours before starting). My mental attitude stayed positive throughout.

This is all important early in the season. Now is when it’s difficult for me to maintain commitment, yet now is when I need commitment. If I begin to slack on my rides during the last of April and the whole of May, then no real riding will get done during the summer. However, if I establish a pattern of riding for pleasure, I’ll be ready to ride every morning.

Hell! I want to go attack the Central Point hill right now! I want to add another ten miles, taking on the biggest ugliest hill around Canby!

I’m not going to, though. I’m likely to injure myself and/or cause myself to rationalize away riding tomorrow. That’d be a shame.