it’s a micro$oft world some days

Spent the first part of my day in the world’s most confusing C++ class with my Chinese teacher. She was going through the text so fast that I didn’t even have to time to highlight, much less take notes on all the material that she covered. THANK GOD for my friend B.-, who programs for a living. (and lives for a-programmin’) (He’s a damn fine teacher, too, which is a plus.)

Spent the rest of the day trying to set up my stepfathers new Gateway 3.2 Ghz, 1 gb RAM, 80 gb hd machine with the DVD burner and the cherry on top. He’s running XP on it. Jesus, I hate Windows. Why is it so hard to get two machines to see each other on a local network? Between networking Linux machines and Macs, I have gotten spoiled. How do you network a couple of Macs? Plug ’em in. Boom, instant network. It’s not much more difficult than that with Linux. I don’t know what the deal was with XP today. I have set up peer to peer networks with XP before that didn’t take ten minutes, but for some reason, my stepdad’s machines just didn’t feel like talking. I did waste about two hours trying to get LapLink to work until I checked their website and found out the version that I had doesn’t work with XP.

One very cool thing- my stepfather has a mindspring.com email address that he has had for years. He gets his weight in spam a day. I set him up with an account at Knowspam.net. This is probably the best service out there for keeping spam out of your inbox. I wasn’t going to suggest it to him because it costs $20 a year, and then he told me he’s probably pay that a month to stop the insidious flow of spam into his inbox.

All the same, I was so glad to get out of there tonight. Somewhere between finishing installing all of his software and then setting up his peripherals, the machine lost its sound card drivers. All of a sudden, no sound. Windows is always pulling some shit like that. Makes me want reach across the internet and slap Bill Gates so hard that $200 falls out of his pocket to reimburse me for my time.

As nice as this smoking hunk of iron that he has bought for himself is, I hope that it’s more stable than it appeared to be tonight. It lost its DHCP assignment for no reason, too. That I don’t get. I had to reboot to get it back on the network. Hours and hours I spent on that machine. Feh. I am not impressed with Windows XP. It looks like the same old crap in a candy colored wrapper.

Alabama, you got the weight on your shoulders…

Wow, Alabama is just on fire right now. There’s a Republican governor threatening to try to reform the tax structure of the nation’s most regressive tax scheme, and there’s this…. BATTLE going on in Montgomery over the bizarre behavior of Judge Roy Moore and his New Confederate cross burners supporters. These folks aren’t like any Christians in my family. We have a rule about camoflauge- it’s for hunting, not scaring the bejesus (literally) out of people at demonstrations.

What is it about Alabama that things always get craziest there first when the nations starts to change? Look at the Birth of the Confederacy (the original capital was in Montgomery), Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the March on Selma, the Letter from the Birmingham Jail… George Wallace, Bull Connor, The Birmingham Church bombing (ferchrissakes, a CHURCH!!) and now THIS

I mean, what’s in the water that these people are drinking? (or shooting out of their firehoses?) The Rev. Jerry Falwell (ah, the good reverend, man of peace…) came to speak at one of the rallies at the 10 Commandments Memorial this weekend. Someone forgot to check the demographics, unfortunately, before they handed him his speech. David Neiwert has a nice overview of the folks that have turned out to show the love at the monument. Here’s my favorite quote from his article:

“A funny moment came when a clueless Falwell invoked Martin Luther King, saying that Roy Moore was just like King. The entire crowd skipped a beat … silence … and then the most tepid applause you ever heard.

Later, Falwell compounded the error by referring to America as a land of immigrants, and actually quoted Emma Lazarus. This time, the crowd’s answer was deafening silence.”

Reverand Falwell, perhaps you missed my article on it earlier, but these folks are HONKIES. Negroes and immigrants are the ENEMY.

Man. Alabama. I blame Patterson Hood.

Tractor issues

I didn’t mention before that I have a tractor, because, like so many things that I own (OK, everything) it’s something that I salvaged and tried to get working. It’s a 1965 Ford 3000 (a 3 cylinder diesel made in the U.K.). It had a really beat up front end loader on it. The P.T.O. has seen better days too. This old machine has been pretty battered by its previous owners and its engine was seized when I laid my hands on it.

I took it to some local guys to look it over. They couldn’t get it unstuck just trying to crank it. They had to tear the heads off and beat the pistons out of the cylinders with a wooden mallet. Once they finally got the pistons clear of the engine, it was pretty clear that the cylinders would have to be bored and have sleeves inserted for it to ever run again. That would run about $2500. for the rebuild, parts, labor that they already have in it, and everything else. If the tractor was pristine otherwise, I’d say “Go for it, I’ll find a way to raise the money.” But it’s going to need at least two new tires on the rear ($500), new bushings and seals ($200), new wiring ($??) and a new seat. (Gotta sit somewhere.) I think that this project might need to be scrapped. I had such big plans for that tractor. I need to drag a box blade down the driveway, I need to bushhog the roads back through the woods, and I need to harrow under some of the clearings so that I can plant winter grass for the deer. I hate to have to wait until Spring to do all of that stuff- it’s going to be that much harder then. But I have to take it as it comes, I guess.

I may have to start looking around for an old Ford 8N “Redbelly” (they’re gorgeous) to try and bargain for.

W00T!

Gone wireless in the coffeeshop! And on a salvaged wi-fi card, no less. Our connection at the cabin is dial-up, remember, so this is an extra-special treat, being on high speed, sitting in the air-conditioning, listening to Syd Barret (!??! someone has really unexpectedly eclectic taste in music- who would have guessed that was going to be playing in here? For those of you that don’t know, Syd Barret is the guy that got thrown out of Pink Floyd [for being crazy] so that the other members would have something to write about for the next three albums. He put out three records of really out there psychedelic pop, then moved in with his mum.) and sipping on an iced coffee drink.

I was feeling pretty uptown until I went to pay for a muffin and some hay fell out of my pocket.

Is this thing on?

You guys are sure quiet. I know you’re out there, I can hear the clicking your eyes make when you read.

(OK, not really.)

Empty comments boxes make the Baby Jesus cry… This, ideally, is a forum, so pitch in if you think of anything to say, even something snarky.

revisiting “OK Computer”

I haven’t heard “Hail to the Thief” yet. It’s not exactly on the radio down here in the land of Dead Rock Stars. (I swear to god, I turned on the radio and heard “Maggie Mae” AGAIN the other day. Amazing that I could leave a town and come back 15 years later and the same 25 songs are on the radio.)

But tonight I threw “OK Computer” back into the cd player just to see how it’s worn since, what, 1997? It’s still amazing. Taking a year or so off to listen to other stuff only makes this an even better record.

For years I was always telling people, “After ‘Nevermind,’ this is the greatest rock record of the last 25 years.” Well, I played “Nevermind” yesterday. “OK Computer” has now edged out the reigning champ.

Sure, there is a weak spot or two. “Fitter Happier” is kind of a mac experiment gone very wrong. And “Paranoid Android” has too much of a “Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy” feel to be taken seriously as a song title. But these are such tiny things…

The last verse and chorus of “Let Down” (after the snare drum finally comes in) just lift off like a rocket. It’s go to be one of the most sublime moments on a rock record since the crescendo of “A Day in the Life.”

A really mediocre song-writer that I knew once archly took the position that Radiohead was irrelevant. His criticism of Thom York was “Sure, the melodies are nice, but what the hell is that dude writing about? I don’t get it.” Never mind that I think that the guy was seriously threatened by Radiohead’s success- they were so antithetical to everything that he was about…

I spent an hour or so trying to even figure out what he was really asking. It’s like looking at an impressionist painting and saying “What’s with all the dots, man?” How do you even frame your response to the question?

He was long gone, off into a room full of other men with cocaine, cell phones and car keys very distinct to their particular brand of car, when it finally occurred to me what I wanted to say to him. We never spoke of it again, though. I wanted to tell him what Louie Armstrong once said (about jazz): “If I have to explain it to you, you’re never going to understand.”

Late Summer Chores

Down here where it starts to get hot in April, we are doing all those things that rural people do at the end of summer- planting fall crops (in our case, turnips, broccoli, lettuce, more pole beans, that kind of stuff), and getting in the last of the tomatoes, which are now so numerous that salsa and marinara sauce are both going in the freezer, and turning under the parts of our gardens that are not going to be planted for fall.

Also, the last of the summer hay is being baled, and my friend J.- has horses that eat like… uh… horses, I guess. Today, we went and picked up hay from a farmer that he knows. We were basically following the baler- I was on the back of the truck, the farmer’s 17 year old son was on the ground throwing bales up to me, and J.- was driving. It’s August, and while we’ve had a relatively cool summer, today was hotter than blue blazes. J.- and I had a discussion today about the sadistic son-of-a-bitch that designed the classic square hay bale- it’s just heavy enough that it’s almost too heavy, but not quite, so you throw your whole body into throwing them up onto the truck. And the twine that holds the bale together is always just far enough apart that no matter how big your hands are, it hurts like hell to grab both strands, which you have to do, or the hay bale will fall apart.

So we were out there for five or so hours, hurling hay bales up onto the truck. My overalls were completely soaked with sweat in the first half an hour. It was tough work, but I love doing it. It’s one of the things that makes me glad to be rural- people growing stuff and putting it up so that they can get through winter. There were a couple of really nice tractors out there today- a 1970s John Deere and a 1960s International Harvester. Very cool.

There were lots of rural people talking and laughing. The farmer’s son kept calling me “Sir,” which made me a little lightheaded. Still not used to that, but he was a polite young man. My son had better call men that he doesn’t know “Sir,” or by their last names with “Mr.” in front.

I am so whipped right now, jeebus, but I really enjoyed the day. This rural life is an endangered species. It only exists in little pockets here and there in this country any more, but to see it up close is so wonderful. I was struck by all the things that my girlfriend and I have learned this summer- how to make jam with fresh blackberries and blueberries, how to grow our own muscadines, that tomatoes do better if you plant them closer together, that corn dies if it gets too much rain, that once you start making your own bread you can’t stop, that peppers that you plant vary in hotness from one crop to the next, that you can grow you own potatoes here, and that firewood just about falls from the sky out when you live in the woods.

As were finishing up today, I was riding on the back of this truck with the hay bales piled thirty feet in the air (and me hanging off the back!) and the wind was blowing as we rode from one field to another, and the sweat in my clothes cooled me… I was thinking, “Y’know, I’d rather do this than just about anything. I’d rather be here than just about anywhere.”

….so….tired….must…….blog….

It’s been such a stressful week. Let’s not do this again some time, mmkay?

I am going to go to bed soon, and try to wake up with both my dogs here, a little money in my pocket, and a plan on how to circumvent the chinese c++ teacher.

Until then, have a lovely night. Talk to you tomorrow.

Allright, Cowboy… Go to town…

That’s the punchline to one of my favorite jokes. Ask me sometime when we’re sitting on the porch.

It’s relevant now, because I have to go to town and do some work today. It’s going to be such a pretty day out here today. The sun on the lake this morning is just gorgeous.

Had to submit a urine test yesterday as a precondition of employment at the new job. What an absurd ritual. Do people in other cultures have to surrender a cup of URINE so that they can go to work? It seems so vile and base that grown people want to play with my pee so that they can determine if I am pure enough of heart and mind to work in their restaurant. Jeebus.

Of course, the bottom line is cold, hard cash. I have been thinking about just why it is that every employer is a piss freak these days- the thing that I hear when I listen is that they get a “break from their insurance company” by doing pre-employment drug screens. That seemed a little odd to me, so I really paid attention as I went through the process this time.

The form I signed that said that I was willing to submit to the test said that not only was I submitting to this test, but that the employer has the right to test again at their discretion. When I got the the headquarters of the Pee Police (a real operation, I should add- PeePee Policing is a big business), I looked closely at the form that I was filling out, and there were several blanks for “reason for test:” Mine was “Pre-Employment test.” BUT there was another one- “Accident Follow-Up Investigation.”

Ah-ha. Let’s say Doogie the dishwasher smokes half a joint at a party on Saturday (his day off). Then on Wednesday afternoon, the dishwashing machine that the restaurant bought surplus from some other restaurant that went out of business pops open prematurely and sprays Doogie down with 160Ð water. Doogie is burned pretty bad and he ends up having to see a bunch of doctors and ends up needing a bunch of expensive procedures. Good thing that Doogie’s employer has insurance. But wait, they order him to submit a urine test as part of their investigation of the accident. Hey, Doogie has marijuana in his system. It was his fault! He was negligent because he was “on drugs.”

Doogie gets nothing.

It’s a racket. Doncha just love modern life?