January 2008 Archives

shovel on a little more coal

saturday i was able to get in touch with someone at state farm and solve the mystery of the stop payment check. evidently they cut a check straight to the shop, but then cut me a check the next day by accident. so they put a stop payment on the check. someone should have got in touch with me to let me know, but they didn't. they offered to pay the $3 bank fee if i sent them a copy of the bank documents. so at least that wasn't painful.

later i went by sound waves and picked up a few cds:

  • * odelay - beck (bong load/geffen)
  • * brighter than creation's dark - drive-by truckers (new west)
  • * all the greatest hits - lynyrd skynyrd (mca/universal)
  • * icky thump - the white stripes (third man/warner bros)

i ate at goode company bbq, then went by an aaron brothers and picked up four more frames while they were basically 1/2 off. i dropped by an old navy to use the gift card i got for xmas, but they were either closing or shedding almost all of their inventory -- the place was about half empty and pretty much everything was on sale. from there i headed by a toys'r'us and picked up a few games: candyland, trouble, yahtzee, and a set of double 12 dominoes. i took those over to the potts for a game night. when i got there, sue was sitting in the driveway and said she'd hurt her knee falling down. she could hardly walk, and over the course of the evening it started to swell pretty good.

sunday i got up and ate a late lunch at niko niko's. it was supposed to be getting warm, so i rode my motorcycle -- though i did wear my leather jacket. i'm glad i did, because it never got as warm as it was supposed to, and by the time i headed home later it was pretty chilly. from niko niko's i met emily at the angelika and we watched persepolis. i'd bought the graphic novel a few years ago when it came out and liked it, so i was interested when i saw a preview a few weeks ago. they animated the movie in a style similar to the comic art style in the graphic novel. i really enjoyed it, and thought the animation was really well done and was a joy to watch. it's the story of a girl growing up in iran, being a very young girl in the 70's. it's about her life, but intrinsic to that is how she has to deal with the politics and culture of iran -- and their change through her formative years -- on a personal and familial level. it's subtitled, but if you can handle that i recommend seeing it.

sunday evening, after doing some research online, i headed to border's to make some purchases and order some cds so i could use the gift card i'd gotten for xmas. unfortunately, several of the things i wanted they couldn't even order (which seems odd to me, but maybe) so i had to modify my plans some. but then when i went to pay i forgot about the gift card and paid with my credit card, so i guess it's all sort of irrelevant anyway. here's what i got:

  • * the information (deluxe) - beck (interscope)
  • * twitch - ministry (sire/warner bros)
  • * the district sleeps alone tonight - the postal service (subpop)
  • * we will become silhouettes - the postal service (subpop)
  • * the white stripes - the white stripes (third man/sheridan square)
  • * bucky fellini - the dead milkmen (restless)

that last one is actually on order. what couldn't they order for me? kraftwerk's trans-europe express and ministry's the mind is a terrible thing to taste. i gave up after they claimed those were unavailable.

monday night i watched the holiday with emily. it's interesting that they cast jack black in that role. he really had to try and restrain himself a lot i think. i identified with his character though. it's not a movie that was high on my want list of things to watch, but i remember seeing a preview at some point and thinking it had possibility. it was a pretty decent movie. not completely predictable (well...), and an interesting mix of character personality types. i thought that was almost the most interesting thing -- how it developed two very different personalities both going through the process of self-discovery in somewhat similar situations. sort of a relationship chick flick version of freaky friday, except they switched houses instead of bodies. ha.

one step forward, two steps back

my brother mailed me the check for the element on jan 17th. he sent it certified, so i was going to have to sign for it -- but i figured they'd just leave a note and i'd go by the post office to pick it up. after talking to my brother wednesday (the 23rd) and getting the tracking number, thursday morning (the 24th, one week later) i finally decided to see if maybe i'd just missed the note letting me know i had a certified letter to pick up. i went in and they took my name and went to check on it. no, no certified mail for me. i told them it'd been sent a week earlier and the tracking info appeared to show it'd already arrived there. she went and checked all of the certified mail, not just the stack mine should have been in, but couldn't find it. i gave the postal employee the tracking number and she took it back to someone else. i guess they looked it up and verified they'd gotten it. she came back up front and told me a supervisor was looking into it. after waiting some more, the supervisor came out and told me she'd called the carrier and they'd had it out for delivery the day before. the carrier said she'd handed it to her supervisor, but that supervisor wouldn't be coming in until later. i asked when it had arrived at their office and she said on the 18th. (so i'm not sure why the 23rd was the first day they attempted delivery.) the supervisor told me she'd have it delivered that day, but i told her i wouldn't be at my house. i gave her the tracking info and my cell number and she said she'd call me. i didn't get a notice in my mailbox yesterday, or a call, so this morning i went back by to see what if anything had happened. the supervisor i'd talked to yesterday came out and had the letter. she said she hadn't called me because she didn't get it until this morning. so i don't know what the deal was, but i finally got the check. i couldn't see anything weird with the letter, like it'd been run over or ripped or something. but my brother was fretting about having a check for several thousand dollars just floating around somewhere unknown, so he was more glad i finally got the check than i was.

when i got home this evening, my satisfaction with finally getting the check for the element was countered by two new pieces of mail. the first one was a letter from the dentist office i'd gone to months ago. they said they'd miscalculated my costs compared to insurance coverage, so i need to pay them $172.90. i've been getting bills from them, but i kept waiting for insurance to pay it or for them to drop it. the thing i'm wondering about is if my insurance didn't cover it because they submitted some of the same stuff twice. and why would they do that? because they messed up my first crown and had to redo it. if that's the case, then i'm going to be paying for their mistake, which i would find greatly annoying. i'm going to go back over the paperwork and insurance claims and see if i can piece the costs together. it just seems like a pretty big error in insurance coverage estimation compared to the total cost of the work that was done.

the second letter was from my bank. in it was a statement that the final check i'd deposited from state farm had had a stop payment on it, so they pulled the money back out of my account and charged me $3. why did the check have a stop payment? i have no idea. i have gotten no calls or letters or anything from state farm indicating an error was made, or anything else. the thing i'm worried about is i finally dropped the element from coverage a few days ago, so now i'm wondering if they're going to try and say the vehicle isn't covered anymore or something stupid to annoy me. i hope not, but i don't know why they would have put a stop payment on the check in the first place. and why i had to pay $3 for what from my perspective looks like their mistake or problem.

it's also annoying that when i get home and get letters that disturb or upset me related to any kind of financial stuff, it's seemingly always after the business hours or whatever entity i want to try and get in touch with. so i have to just sit and stew and wonder about what's going on, instead of being able to get in touch with someone right then and have the issue figured out and dealt with.

yesterday evening i met emily at a le madeleine for supper. i got there first and decided to go ahead and order. when i got up to the register, the girl said "are you a mechanic?" i kind of looked puzzled, then she said "do you work in a shop? because of your shirt." mostly hidden under my jacket, i was wearing a mechanic shirt. i wear them fairly regularly. i looked up and said "no, i just like to dress this way." another employee, a black guy, was walking by and overheard this exchange and started laughing. she kind of stared at me. then i realized what i said sounded kind of snarky, if you assumed i was a mechanic. so i quickly said "no, i'm not kidding. i'm not a mechanic, i really do just like dressing this way. i work in i.t. i work with computers." so she replied, "oh okay, i worked in a shop for 8 years, so i can tell the shirts and i was wondering. but lots of different people wear those kinds of shirts...a/c repair, i.t....." i replied "i don't wear it because i have to. in fact, i actually probably shouldn't be wearing it. i probably should be wearing polos or dress shirts." then she said "oh, that means you must be really good at what you do. to get away with that. that's cool. i wish i could dress how i want to. but i'm pretty sure it'd get me fired pretty fast." she was wearing the le madeleine chef uniform with the pastry hat. i didn't think of it until later, but i wish i would have said "so you mean you're not dressing right now how you'd like?" i thought about mentioning the fact i like older cars and what i have. but i didn't say much of anything, and she went back to work and i went over to pick up my tea and numerous pieces of free bread with butter and preserves. i had also noticed early on she had a ring of some sort on her left bezymyannyi palets. i'm pretty good at looking for that. not that it really matters much for me, since all i'm ever apparently doing is collecting data.

thursday after dealing with the parking tickets i headed over to the bopho studio. i helped sue change out the old door lock for a nifty new one with a numeric entry pad. mission accomplished, i headed back to my place.

a little later i went over to natalie's. i got to play mario kart on her kids' game cube, which i'd never played before. i'm not sure i'd ever played with a game cube at all, actually. she's also got a really cool, mellow cat i hadn't met before. we went and ate at an asian food place (which was pretty good), then we went back to her place and watched scrabylon. i'd been holding onto it for some time, waiting for the opportunity for us to watch it (since she's a big scrabble fan). the documentary was actually really short. i think it came in at only around 45 minutes. but there was quite a bit of extra footage in the extras that didn't make it into the actual...well, i would say "movie" but it was more like a documentary tv show due to the length. it was interesting and had some funny stuff in it, but i think word wars was better. and of course, as is almost a prerequisite now, natalie started falling asleep. but she lasted until almost the end of the night, so that's not bad. ;)

friday after work a co-worker and i headed to sig's lagoon. he's a fan of lounge and 50's kind of stuff, so i had been wanting to show him sig's for some time since there is some of that kind of stuff there. while there, i picked up a couple of cds for myself:

  • frankenchrist - dead kennedys (manifesto)
  • bedtime for democracy - dead kennedys (manifesto)

i also told them to order a cd for me. i wasn't sure the one they mentioned was what i was actually asking about, and when i got home i checked and it really wasn't. but it's not a cd i have, so i think i won't mind having the one they ordered either.

later, i met up with emily and we decided to eat at the macaroni grill. i wasn't sure where the nearest one was, so i went on their website and checked. i didn't realize they'd dropped to only two stores in houston. i remember a number of years back when there must have been at least 5 or 6, if not more. it had been a number of years since i'd eaten at one though. i sat facing a couple who looked like they were what was referred to in eternal sunshine of the spotless mind as "the dining dead". i kind of felt sorry for them. she seemed despondent and they didn't really talk or make eye contact pretty much the whole time. at another table was a bleach-blonde, tanned sorority girl that was doing all the right things with clothes, makeup, etc. -- but didn't have the starting foundation to really achieve exactly the end affect other girls can and do. i think part of it was her face looked a lot like a child, so she looked more like one of those scary girls from a pre-teen pageant than a college age girl. but maybe that's just me. she certainly talked like a sorority girl, and about the kind of things they seem to really enjoy talking about.

saturday i ate lunch at the house of pies. i think this is the evening emily and i watched a lot like love. i wouldn't have picked this movie to watch, but emily had brought it over and wanted to watch it. it wasn't as bad as i'd feared it might be. the girl definitely looked the best during her punk phase, which of course was when she was supposed to be the youngest in the movie.

sunday i ate lunch with a few people who had been at kaleo. from there i went by an aaron brothers frame store to pick up a couple of frames. when i got there, i learned they were having a "buy one frame, get a second of equal or lesser value for a penny" sale. i bought a frame to put a copy of the Texas land grant document my great great grandfather had signed in 1848, and i also bought a long skinny frame with 4 4x6 holes to put some postcards with pictures of old Texas flags in. i'd bought the postcards back in 2002 or whenever the mfah had the Texas flags exhibit there. i also made a mental note to measure a few things i'd been meaning to frame and go back before the 27th (when the sale ends).

that evening i went over to the bopho loft. i met sue and the kids there. i ate with them and played some with the kids, then sue and i watched a movie she'd rented: next. i don't know that it's a movie i would have picked on my own, but it was actually pretty decent. nicholas cage plays a character who can see about 2 minutes into his own future.

monday i had off of work for the mlk holiday. i ate lunch with the potts family at chick-fil-a, then i headed back to aaron brothers. i picked up frames for my going away posters from my nasa jobs at lockheed martin (1995-1999) and dyncorp (1999-2001). i also got a frame for a certificate i'd gotten commemorating phase one of the shuttle-mir program. it includes a flag that was flown aboard the shuttle discovery to mir on mission sts-91. they flew a lot of those little flags and gave them out to a lot of people who worked on the program, but i still think it's kind of cool to have. as my penny frame, i picked up an 8x10 frame i thought looked cool that i'll figure out some use for. monday evening emily and i ate with shannon and her daughter at jason's deli, then emily came over to my place and we watched one of my dvds.

tuesday after work i met up with emily and a few other people at pei wei for supper, then i went by border's to take advantage of a 40% single cds coupon (limit 3). here's what i eventually picked:

  • the gilded palace of sin and burrito deluxe - the flying burrito brothers (a&m)
  • kid a - radiohead (emi / capitol)
  • de stijl - the white stripes (third man / sheridan square)

the flying burrito brothers disc is a single disc with their first two albums on it (digitally remastered). these are the two fbb albums with gram parsons. i bought the radiohead album because i really feel like i need to give them a chance. i'm still worried they're going to be one of those bands it seems like i should like, but i just can't ever seem to make it happen. and now i only need the first white stripes album to have all of their earlier albums.

at lunch today a co-worker (same one as mentioned above) and i went to taco bell. it was freaking freezing! it's almost always cold in that taco bell, but today the vents never stopped blowing air and it never stopped being cold. i think maybe the heat was broken, but they left it running so it was constantly blowing outside air that was unheated into the dining area. everyone in there kept their jackets and coats on. i kept my hoodie over my head. the funniest thing though was at one point i was talking and i saw a slight quick motion in my vision, then again near my co-worker. i realized i'd had one of those moments where you spit while you're talking and eating. then i realized it had hit him right in the eye. well, it would have, except he wears glasses so it was just sitting there on his glasses. we both sort of fell silent for a couple of seconds, then he pulled his glasses off and said "i was going to try and not say anything, but i couldn't really...do...that..." and we both started laughing. i'm certainly glad it was someone i know, and they have an odd sense of humour like myself.

after work i met sue at brazil for supper. she'd originally been planning to watch a movie and i was going to join her, but she had to work later than planned so we just ate supper instead. i had to be at kpft by 8pm for the radio show, so there was a window of opportunity that needed to be met. we split a large pizza and talked about life, future plans, etc. it was an enjoyable time.

parking for pleasure and profit

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so...thursday afternoon i went down to the houston municipal court building to try and take care of my two parking tickets. i had poked around online for awhile earlier and managed to find a page on the houston parking website that listed all of the permit parking streets by zip code, when the permit rule went into effect, and what the restrictions are. for the area code where i park, lockett is the only street listed. (which makes sense since it is the only permit parking street.) i had printed this out to take with me. i thought about going by and taking pictures of the streets and the signs, but i figured i shouldn't need to since the city of houston website specifically says which streets have permit parking and the one i was on -- the one on my ticket -- isn't listed.

i got to the building and pulled a ticket to park. i removed all of my many various metal objects so i wouldn't have to deal with the metal detector much, and after getting in the building i proceeded down to the basement where the parking offices are. i signed my name on a sheet of paper, they took my tickets and my driver's license, then -- like at any good government institution -- i sat down and waited.

this process is known as having an instant trial. basically, you go into an office with one person, you plead your case to them, and they dismiss the ticket, reduce the fine, or tell you to get bent and pay the whole thing.

he asked about my earlier ticket first. i explained how events had unfolded, then said i understood i had parked somewhere that was contrary to the signs, but even though i hadn't paid attention to the signs and it was my fault, i didn't understand why parking meters which are aware of the time would let me put money in and show me i had x minutes of valid time when it wasn't true. he laughed and said they are sometimes hard to program, sometimes the signs have just been changed, or whatever else...but he understood, so he would drop the fine to $15. in the future, he added, i should look at the signs though.

we then proceeded to the second ticket. i explained the cop had made a mistake because the sign is angled poorly, but lockett is the only permit street there. i then showed him the print out from their site. he looked at it for about a second, then said "where are your pictures?" i told him i didn't take any, but the site shows it isn't a permit street, plus i have been parking in that area for a couple of years and i know when they changed lockett, but it was only lockett. plus i talk to the residents on that street and if it was changing they would have told me. he was still adamant about having pictures. i explained the sign is angled though, which is why the cop mistakenly gave me and someone else tickets. i also said lockett has a number of no parking signs along it, but this street has no other sign along it around there. he countered by saying the street only has to have one at each end, so it might be around the corner. he said he was going to dismiss the ticket, but the next time i should bring pictures. i restated that the sign was angled a lot, but he said if he saw it he could read the sign. i stopped disagreeing at this point since it wasn't worth it, but i figure if a cop can see the sign and mistakenly write me a ticket, there is no reason to think he would read it differently. plus, how is it a picture matters if their very own website doesn't list the street as being a permit parking street? and how many pictures would i have to take to prove the street doesn't have a sign at the other end or anywhere else along it? should i take a video? and, again, how does this matter if the city of houston website doesn't list it as being a permit parking street?

i thanked him and left, went to the payment line and waited for an open window, then paid my $15. i took my parking ticket and paid $3 for the time i was there. all told i paid $18 for what was originally one justifiable $65 fine (because even though the meter let me pay and told me i had time, the signs were there and i didn't notice them) and one completely bogus $65 fine. i figure i came out alright.

orange you glad i didn't say banana?

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by the time i actually posted the last entry, it was already out of date. but i'd written it over a couple of days so i went ahead and posted it. so let's backfill...

thursday i took a sick day from work. i've had a sinus infection for at least a month...maybe two...but last weekend i started having some throat problems, then my ears started hurting now and then. after a day or two of this, i finally got a flashlight and looked at my throat in the mirror. yikes. i had some big red welts in the back of my throat and my tonsils looked thoroughly pissed about the status of things. i was concerned i might have strep throat, so i decided to see a doctor.

i don't think i've been to a doctor since i moved from 9023, so i didn't have a place i'd gone to around where i'm living now. i did some searches for "convenience" clinics near me and wrote down a couple. i drove out westheimer and passed one without seeing it, so i went to fountain view. the address was 26xx, and the street sign at westheimer said 2700 in one way and 2600 in the other. i turned, but the first address i saw was 24xx. i turned around and went the other way, but the first address i saw in that direction was 29xx. huh? i turned back around and at the light for westheimer i called them. i asked where they were located and they said at the corner of westheimer and fountain view. i asked which corner and they said the heb grocery store. "by it? where?" i asked. "no, we're in it." she replied. ah. uh...in the heb. what kind of place was this, i wondered? i asked if they could write prescriptions for antibiotics and stuff and she replied "we can write them if it's appropriate. we don't just give out antibiotics unless it's necessary." i said i understood, but i had a long-term sinus infection and might have strep throat, so i wanted to be sure they could diagnose that kind of stuff and prescribe antibiotics or whatever. "if we determine you need antibiotics. we'll have to make that decision." i assured her i was just trying to make sure they could prescribe stuff, then hung up. i went into the heb parking lot, parked, and walked in.

so imagine in your mind those little cubby hole businesses in grocery stores. you've got your tax return place, your nail place, your little bank, customer service, maybe a watch and jewelry store...and that's pretty much what this place was. it was like a little tax return office, but with a doctor. there was one receptionist and one doctor. they took your information in the waiting room, which was the small foyer. then they had two examination rooms. but the wait wasn't very long, and it was actually like a micro-clinic.

the doctor came in and talked to me a little, then looked in my ears. she said they were a little red and i probably had some fluid behind the ear drum and some infection. she felt around my face and my neck and asked if any of it hurt, then she said "let's take a look at your throat." i opened my mouth and she signed the light down there and immediately said "oh yeah. we're definitely doing a strep test." she started that, then while it was cooking she did the cool trick where you turn out the lights and shine a bright light through your eye socket at your sinuses. if they're free and clear, they'll glow like a light. she did the ones above my eyes first and said "yeah, this one is pretty blocked up. oh, yeah, this one is too." then she moved on to the ones below my eyes. "oh wow, this one is pretty much completely occluded. yikes. this one is too." she went back to the strep test and it was negative, so it was probably just that my sinus problems eventually irritated and/or infected my throat. she wrote me a prescription for augmentin and some mouthwash stuff to gargle.

i dropped that off at the pharmacy at heb and they said it'd be about 30 minutes, so i went to the texadelphia that's near there for lunch, then went back by and picked up my meds. i went back home and decided to go on my next adventure...dealing with my parking tickets. i'll make that a separate entry.

and btw, i feel much better than i did then. my throat feels normal -- although i haven't looked at it in the mirror or anything -- and my sinuses (and head in general) feel much more normal. it seems like about half the time i get sick i end up with a sinus infection that doesn't want to ever go away on its own. it's very annoying. i asked the doctor if there was much i could do to help avoid that, and her only answer really was "drink lots of water." ah, the miraculous insights of modern medicine.

...because i'm going to be taking the element off of my car insurance, and it was full coverage (due to the fact i had a lien on the vehicle). of course, that full coverage with $100 deductible came in handy since i hit that antelope. but i just feel like it helped justify the 20 years of me paying car insurance with almost no claims. (like maybe 3 total including this one, both of the others being less than $1000.)

man, i hate most drivers when the ground gets wet. they go way, way below any reasonably cautious speed. plus, tuesday evening one slow guy decided he didn't want me passing him in the contraflow lane on alabama so he split lanes as i started to go around. then he slowed down until he was able to cut through a yellow turning red and i had to stop at the red. of course, i watched him, and 4 blocks up he made an illegal left turn out of the contra lane. sonofab!tch. of course, i did have the pleasure of pressing my brakes down and having the rear of my pickup slide into a fishtail while i worked at keeping my front tires straight. that kind of stuff is fun if you don't get in a wreck. so that was enjoyable. i guess something decent came out of the whole ordeal.

when i got home and checked my mail, it turns out all kinds of people who don't live here got more mail than me. owners, renters, past renters...and somehow, tamara got three pieces of junkmail. i've probably seen 6 pieces for her since i've been here. what's up with that? why is she getting junk here all of the sudden? it's like her craziness (or the universe's) is trying to cause me problems when it realized maybe i'm mostly over it. i wonder how many more moves her mail will follow my trail on?

tuesday night i watched the weatherman. it was pretty good, but not great. it's one of those movies i doubt i'll remember the details of in a few months, other than cage gets food thrown at him numerous times.

how about the macworld keynote? i'm not too excited about the itunes movie rental crap -- even though the interface looks pretty nice -- but the $70 price drop on the apple tv is nice. i'm still not sure coverflow on my tv is worth $230 though, as that's about the only value i see in the device. but i have netflix, and i can rent dvds for $1/day at numerous kiosks around town. i also don't have a hdtv, so i don't care about hd video at this point. and i don't watch or download video over the net. so i don't think i'm really their target market. still, the first apple tv didn't appear to have a market really, and i'm not sure their current rental prices are worth it. (although being able to switch from tv to laptop to ipod to whatever is slick.) i don't have an iphone so i don't really care about the iphone software updates. it's cool they added the apps to the touch, but the $20 upgrade price is kind of lame. and the wireless access point with built-in drive (which can be used as nas i've been told) is pretty nice. it's possible i might consider that for central nas storage and an automated backup solution.

which leaves the new laptop. now that's pretty slick. we were discussing price at lunch since i left before he'd detailed all the specs or the price and we figured between $2500 and $3k. i was pretty interested to see it starts at $1800. with a 10% edu discount, that could be a pretty nice replacement for my old 12" ibook. people are complaining about the lack of an optical drive, ethernet port, firewire ports, etc. my opinion is it's a laptop not a desktop -- and an ultrathin, ultralight, slick one at that -- so judge it as such. you don't need all those stupid connectors to use a laptop. if you do, get the macbook or macbook pro and quit whining -- you're not the target of this product. the fact is, i don't see most people using the ports on their laptops very often, other than for a usb thumb drive (which it has a port for) or a video connection for projectors (which is a much smaller group than the thumb drive folk, but it also has a port for...if you use a connector, of course). but even these uses aren't all that common. i see people sitting at tables using their laptops with no wires...in meetings, in coffee houses, etc. having an rj-45 port might be nice, but if it's a concern get an adapter. i'm not crying because i've needed a serial port from time to time and they're getting scarce on laptops. i can't say for sure, but my guess is apple did market research and built a forward-looking product that attempts to take advantage of trends that are just now starting to grow. i guess we'll see how things pan out.

i left my pickup lights on when i got to work yesterday. my boss called me at lunch and told me. when i went out there to turn them off, some ignorant public servant had put a ticket on my vehicle. i've been parking there for months, and as far as i know the parking on that street hasn't changed -- so he must have misunderstood the sign for the other street as including the one i was parked on. i'm so glad i hadn't gone to take care of my other ticket yet, as i'd be miffed to have to go back for their mistake. i guess i'll have to verify that the street isn't zoned as no parking...not sure how. otherwise i'll just be taking pictures and pleading my case to a judge that is ignorant of whether it is really zoned as no parking or not. and i'm going to be insanely pissed if they try to make me pay one penny of it.

i got the title to the bel air in the mail today. yea! glad that is taken care of. i also watched some plates i was interested in before (the ones i didn't win before i got the ones i have now) get relisted and end up selling for $125. oh well. i've got '55 plates on mine so i'm content. (even though the plates would have worked out so well numerically.)

i also mailed off my title to the honda element to my brother, along with the u-130 form. yep, my brother and heather and purchasing the element from me. so i've managed to get rid of one vehicle. now if i can just get rid of that vw camper bus. i'm still pissed tamara made us buy that for her, then when we divorced she made me keep it and pay her half of an inflated value on it. what b.s. at some point i guess i'm just going to say "screw it" and get rid of the thing cheap.

i forgot to mention in my earlier story about me buying my dad the pipe and everything, he called me up a few days later and left a message telling me he'd gone out on the porch one evening and used the new pipe and some of the new pipe tobacco i'd bought him and had a good experience and really enjoyed it. so that's cool.

friday i was able to go into work late since it was a maintenance window for work. i was planning on eating lunch with people from work, but it didn't work out. i ate alone, so i decided to drop by a barnes and noble near the chick-fil-a i ate at. i ended up buying a book:

  • * revolution in the valley: the insanely great story of how the mac was made - andy hertzfeld (o'reilly)

friday afternoon at work i got into a really vile mood. and it had absolutely nothing to do with work. this continued some over the weekend, but kind of resurfaced again at work today. the best way i could think of how i felt on friday was via the scene in fight club where the narrator (edward norton) brutally beats angel face. the quote in question is:

i felt like putting a bullet between the eyes of every panda that wouldn't screw to save its species. i wanted to open the dump valves on oil tankers and smother all those french beaches i'd never see. i wanted to breathe smoke. [...] i wanted to destroy something beautiful.

you see, i'm having some issues dealing with relationships (or the lack thereof) and emotions. nothing new when viewing the overall timeline of my life, but not something i've dealt with in the same way in a while. (and despite the quote above, i'm really not a violent person. i've never even been in a fight. or a fight club. of course, if i was i couldn't mention it i guess...so you'll just have to take my word for it. you know you can trust people on the internet anyway, right?)

i was one of those guys that was generally a loner, but when i had female friends i was the guy that they could come and talk to and get advice about their boy problems, or whatever else. i was a good listener. and i always heard from older women what a good husband i'd make, and from girls my age what a good boyfriend i'd make...for someone. that period of my life had sort of passed at some point during or after college, and when i was married it didn't really matter.

but now that i'm single again it seems like it's come to revisit me. i listen, i try to help, and i'm told by various women the same sort of stuff about making a good boyfriend or husband or whatever. i guess it's nice to hear -- or better to hear than how i should just concentrate on being single -- but in the end it's kind of frustrating to hear positive things and never see any benefit or results from this supposedly positive thing. further complicating the matter is that there are some cases where they would be interested if available, or are interested, but i'm not, or shouldn't be. knowing some of the things that i would like to experience are there but not available, or available but not right, is maddeningly infuriating.

i never liked being single, but i suck at trying to initiate dating or any kind of relationship. heck, i suck at meeting new people in general. even though i generally like who i am as long as i'm not comparing myself to others or trying to judge myself through the eyes of others. anyway, all that to say, lately i've been feeling rather emotionally frayed and frustrated with things. hopefully it's just a phase and something good will happen to divert me from my current state.

back to better things...saturday i dropped some glass and batteries and paper stuff off at the westpark recycling center. i ate at pei wei by myself, then went over to ikea for awhile. from there i went over to the potts'. jack left at some point to go on a "date" with his oldest daughter. (she was all gussied up in a princess dress and with her hair done and nail polish and everything...it was so cute.) sue and i watched a netflix movie i'd brought: cinemania. it's a documentary about these five people that live in new york city and are...well...obsessed with watching movies. none of them really work, and they spend most of their days watching between 3 and 7 or more movies. i mean every day, all the time. they spend hours or days trying to plan which movies they are going to go watch each day, the routes and times to get from one theater to another, etc. it's very interesting, but kind of sad too. i guess it seems to make them happy and keep them occupied though.

sunday i went to river oaks with emily and watched there will be blood. it's based on an upton sinclair novel (oil!) which i haven't read, but knowing it was sinclair i figured it'd be anti-businessman and anti-religious. i also knew the main characters were a self-described "oil man" and a faith healer. i was right -- not surprisingly, given the information. the movie is over 2.5 hours i think, and not all that fast-paced, but it's a good slow burn. there were a few really great scenes, and the overall look of the movie was nice.

we ended up coming back to my place and then getting supper and watching a movie a friend from work had given me to watch: stardust. i love gaiman -- as my pretty extensive collection of his output in the comic world will attest -- but i didn't think the movie was as good as he deserves. it was okay, it was fun...but i think maybe there is just some fantastic element to his writing that didn't seem to make the leap from the page onto the screen. maybe the worlds gaiman paints in my mind are darker, even though the comedic element still exists.

i'm curious about steve jobs' keynote address at macworld. i'm pretty much in the market to buy a new laptop (my 4+ year old 800mhz powerpc 12" ibook is still fully functional, but just getting too far behind), so it'd be nice if he mentioned something cool relating to laptops. or if they bumped up the drive space a lot on the ipod touches -- since my 20gig ipod is way too small to hold all of my music, but the touch is very nice. (i'm not banking on that one at all.) we'll see. most likely it won't help me make any decisions, but it'd be nice if it did.

stuff. lots and lots of stuff.

okay, finally the entry about the stuff i've accumulated...

back before xmas, i used a couple of coupons at border's to pick up a book and a cd box set:

  • * Texas: then and now - richard reynolds (westcliffe publishers)
  • * various - people take warning! murder ballads and disaster songs, 1913-1938 (tompkins square)

the book is a book of photos, one old and one current of the same thing or same area. i decided to use the coupon to buy something that seemed cool but that i normally wouldn't buy...so i went for a large coffee table sized picture book. the music is a 3-cd set of old folk and roots music dealing with natural disasters, disasters, murders, etc. it's pretty cool packaging and write ups, i think. plus there is a picture in it of the iceberg that sank the titanic. i never thought about there being a picture of that. it's kind of weird seeing a picture of it...there it is...what sank the titanic...a picture of it. (it was taken from one of the rescue ships.)

next up is an order i placed with bloodshot records. they were having a year end sale, so i picked up some various things...

  • * bobby bare jr.'s young criminals' starvation league - ok - i'm sorry... (bloodshot)
  • * bobby bare jr.'s young criminals' starvation league - from the end of your leash (bloodshot)
  • * bobby bare jr.'s young criminals' starvation league - the longest meow the bottle rockets - zoysia (bloodshot)
  • * robbie fulks couples in trouble (bloodshot)
  • * old 97's - wreck your life (bloodshot)
  • * various - for a decade of sin: 11 years of bloodshot records (bloodshot)
  • * various - bloodshot records sampler #7 (bloodshot)

the last two i got for free, as well as the bare jr. i'm sorry... ep.

next we have what i got for xmas. emily made me a cool ceramic square plate with skulls on it. (perhaps i'll take a pic and post it once i find my photo editing software key.) my brother and heather got me a gift certificate to border's (which i haven't used yet). my mom and dad got me a gift certificate to old navy (also haven't used yet), a flannel dickies jacket with a hoodie, and a couple of books and a dvd:

  • * chevrolet chronicle - the auto editors of consumer guide (publications international, ltd.)
  • * the german settlement of the Texas hill country - jefferson morgenthaler (mockingbird books)
  • * blade runner: four-disc collector's edition - ridley scott (warner brothers)

in austin this last weekend i picked up a few things at half price books:

  • * various - ohm+: the early gurus of electronic music (ellipsis arts...)
  • * beck - mellow gold (bong load/geffen)
  • * bare jr. - boo-tay (immortal/epic)
  • * beastie boys - to the 5 boroughs (capitol)
  • * rancid - ...and out come the wolves (epitaph)
  • * various - stompin' singers and western swingers: more from the golden years of western swing (proper)

oh yeah. in mostly unrelated news, i paid off the element today (friday), so i am officially completely debt-free at this point in my life. other than monthly living expense obligations, i have no outstanding debt. that's pretty cool. now if only the relationships area of my life were going generally as well as the rest of it, things would be pretty awesome.

i met my nephew

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before leaving for austin on saturday, i stopped by the briar shoppe in rice village. i figured my brother had been pretty occupied with the early arrival of his child, so he wouldn't have had a chance to buy some cigars. i bought him a box of "it's a boy!" cigars. while there, i also decided to buy him and my dad some pipe tobacco. then i decided to buy my dad a new pipe, pipe tool, and cheap lighter. my dad has some pipes, but all of them are pretty old and used, and i think only one of them was actually his. i didn't get an expensive pipe, but i figured he might enjoy having a newer one to use.

i drove the bel air to austin. the trip went pretty well. once there i met my mom and dad at my brother's place, then we went together over to the hospital. it was kind of unreal seeing my brother and his wife with a baby, and realizing he is my nephew. i gave my brother the box of cigars. (he hadn't bought any yet.) i held miles for awhile. he was pretty much sleeping most of the time. heather seemed to be doing well. she hadn't slept in i'm not sure how many hours, and my brother hadn't slept much either. it was cool to see miles and hold him, but as i said in my previous entry it's kind of sad personally because it just sort of reminds me of possible opportunities and experiences that i lost because of what happened with my marriage. my mom and dad and i left and ate supper. from there we dropped by half price books, where i bought some cds. (i'll have to detail them, along with my xmas and other stuff, in another post.) when we got back to the house, i gave my dad the pipe stuff. not surprisingly, he said i didn't have to buy a pipe for him.

saturday night my brother came back to the house and i helped him put together a stroller they'd bought. i also helped him get the carrier base put into their tracker correctly, and showed him how the belt and clasps worked to hold a child. it's kind of funny, considering i don't have any kids of my own and am single. but i've spent a lot of time around the potts kids, so i'm pretty well versed in such things.

sunday morning we got up and at ate kerbey lane. we went back to my brother's place since they were supposed to be coming home from the hospital. i had planned on going by ikea to get them a gift certificate, but i wasn't sure i was going to have time. i was thinking we should have made a banner and gotten some balloons or something for when they got home, then about that time my mom said the same thing. i said "let's do it." but she didn't know where to go, and wasn't sure anything would be open on sunday. i told her to get on google and search for party city in austin. we found one nearby and it was open on sunday, so we went. although when we got there it was called "party pig" and not "party city". odd. but we bought stuff to make a banner and bought some ballons and a yard sign. i was putting the banner together on the way back, then i finished it at the house. i was trying to figure out where to hang it when my mom suddenly said "they're here!". i opted to just lay it on the ground in front of the door.

after they'd gotten situated, my brother and dad and i went out on the porch and smoked cigars. it was a nice slice of time for us three just to sit out on the porch and smoke cigars and talk. i'd done that with my dad one afternoon while i was visiting over xmas. he was outside smoking some of the sausage they'd made, and i brought a couple of cigars out and we sat and smoked and talked. sitting, smoking cigars or pipes, and talking is one of those things that i tend to identify in my mind as some kind of special moment or something. i'm not sure why.

sunday afternoon i left and headed back to houston. during the trip i continued to notice that my car gets way more looks and reactions than my pickup. (although a guy did give me a thumbs up in my pickup a few days ago in houston.)

i've got a few pictures i was going to put with this post, but when i upgraded to leopard the transfer evidently didn't copy over my keys for some of my software. so when i started it up for the first time on leopard, it wanted me to enter the keys. which i have somewhere, but i don't know where. so i wasn't able to edit them. but hopefully soon.

last night i watched the diving bell and the butterfly. i was really impressed with it. it was really a unique, inventive, and beautiful way of telling the story. touching and sad, yet with hope and happiness running through it. plus it had a really good soundtrack.

say uncle.

well, as of about an hour ago i'm officially an uncle. looks like i'll be making an unplanned trip to austin tomorrow.

i'm excited for my brother and his wife, and my parents (their first grandchild), but there's also some amount of sadness for me personally because of what happened with tamara and my marriage and my expectations of having a family. such is life, i guess.

happy new year. now with 95% less hair.

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yes, i ran out of hair gel so i cut my hair. i was planning on that, but it just happened to coincide with the new year.

on friday the 28th i went by the tax office to get my title and registration done on the bel air. i got up earlier than normal so i could try to take care of it before the time i'm supposed to be to work (9am). i got downtown and there were a couple of cars parked in front of the building, but ample space so i parked and put some coins in the meter and went inside. it took a little while, but i was able to transfer the title and register my 1955 plates with no snags. yea! i went outside and noticed there was a little fluorescent green envelope under my windshield wiper. a ticket. i was confused, since i'd parked in a regular spot, gone to the electronic meter, pressed my number, inserted money, and seen 40 minutes of time pop up (which i was well within). i looked back and none of the other cars who were still parked there when i got there had tickets. so then i thought maybe someone else had gotten a ticket and put it on my vehicle. i pulled the ticket out and looked at it. "parked in tow away zone"? i looked down...no yellow or red curb...i'm in a numbered spot, and not even the number one spot. i scanned the ticket further...$65 fine. yikes. then i saw the plate listed on the ticket...it was mine. huh? i looked around, and then i noticed it...further up the block and on the inside of the sidewalk was a sign saying this was a tow-away zone 7am-9am. when was the ticket issued? 8:55am. son of a public worker's b1tch. what really chaps me is that those automatic meters change to tell you when parking is free, but that little mechanical piece of sh1te happily let me feed quarters into it and told me i was all legit, while that heartless ticket writer probably sat and watched me do it. quite a tidy little no-effort-required profit mill for the city. the only reason i'm not livid is because the title and registration went off without a hitch. i think i'm going to go to try and get out of the ticket though. even if i don't, i want to find out why those "intelligent" meters don't keep you from thinking you're paid up and legal.

in other news related to the bel air, on sunday night i was coming home and on the overpass exchange between 610 south and 59 north one of my hubcaps came off. i heard it ping and then bounce and roll. unfortunately, that overpass is two lanes at 40+ mph with no shoulders. there was no way i as one person could go back and get it. *sigh* the next day some coworkers went with me during lunch and drove the path, but we didn't see the hubcap. i still want to see if i can find it further down in the median or somewhere.

friday i took the bel air to work and was looking forward to a relaxing day, taking my car to lunch with some coworkers, etc. i ended up having to meet some ibm guys at the datacenter at 11am. a coworker said he was going and offered me a ride, so i went with him. then the installation went on...and on...and on. we didn't get done until 8pm. well, at this point no one was left at work and the shuttle buses weren't running. so i started walking back to my car. it was dark and chilly, but it was only about 1 or 1.5 miles or something. i tried a few people to see if anyone was in the area, in a car, and bored, but didn't find a ride.

saturday night i was not in a particularly good mood, so i drank. a lot. at home by myself. because why should anyone want to get drunk in public? morons. warning signs, shmorning signs. i don't drink to escape. i can't escape. i don't crave alcohol. in fact, i often think about giving it all away. but then i end up buying more because i like the idea of trying new stuff. anyway. i did have an extended im conversation with someone until like 3:30am. then i stumbled into the bedroom and flopped face down on the bed. i woke up about 7 hours later in exactly the same position...clothes on, lights on. and feeling like crap. i got up and drank some water and took some tylenol. i wanted to go back to sleep, but my head and eyes weren't cooperating. eventually i guess the tylenol kicked in enough that i fell back asleep. i slept for a couple more hours, then woke up and was hungry. not being experienced with hangovers, i wasn't really sure what the best action to take was. after some discussion with the person i'd had the im chat with during the night, i decided to go to empire cafe and have some pasta with butter. except when i got up, i decided maybe i should just lay back down and try to move as little as possible. eventually i got up and got dressed and went outs...holy crap the sun was bright! i got to empire and had to wait in a long line, but eventually i got my water, then salad and bread, then pasta. it was all so good. then i went home and took a couple more tylenol.

after that experience, i really wasn't too excited about drinking on new year's eve. i was also pretty ambivalent about going out at all. i'd never rsvped to mary and chris's party, which i usually attend. i thought about going, but decided since i'd never replied or anything to go ahead and forgo it. i ended up going over to the bopho loft and hung out with emily and eric and amy and some other folk. most of them were married and their kids were downstairs (except when they came upstairs). not the kind of new year's events i've generally attended in the past few years. amy had some cigars, so i got one and a few of us went outside and smoked in the new year.

i'll detail the various things i've bought or got for xmas or whatever later.

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