Archive for March, 2006

Lucky Me!

Saturday night, I went to see Howie Mandel with my sister and her husband and two friends.  It was at the Westbury Music Fair, which is a tiny little theater in the round.  I had to get a few quick snaps with the phone camera, although you really can’t tell much from them.
Stop reading now if you don’t want
a spoiler about the show!
It started with a video of this old guy on a 60′s era TV show singing this dragging song with no life in his body whatsoever.  He stood perfectly still, arms dangling limply by his side through the whole song.  The video was so expertly edited, that it took several iterations to figure out he was singing the same two verses over and over again.  After about 10 minutes of this, the camera panned away, and it looked like an end was in sight.  Then, as seemlessly as before, it ran right back into the first verse again.  The crowed booed, cheered, chanted "HOWIE! HOWIE!", all to no avail.  Finally, he reached the end of the song, and the little "PLAY" logo on the bottom (I thought it was a botched projector-ism) switched to "REWIND", and the video backed up to the middle of the song.  All this repetition, and no one in our party could remember the lyrics beyond sun, moon and "Lucky Me!"  It was well over 15 minutes in total before we got to the comedian… John Mendoza!
I love John Mendoza – I think mainly because he’s an older, married guy.  He’s a few steps ahead of me in the parenting game, but we have commonality.
We then got a 20-minute break (?!), which it turned out WASN’T enough time to get a beer.  Then Howie came out.  I didn’t stop laughing until he left the stage (which didn’t happen until he gave up on us leaving first).  I sometimes think I’m just a few levels of introversion away from Howie.  I’d love to have the guts to mess with strangers’ minds the way he does.  Instead, I have to pick on my friends and family.  So far, they’ve dealt with it well.  I’d share the humor, but Howie Mandel does not translate well to text.  Just know it was hilarious!
A little note for those who think they know Howie, but haven’t seen him… his humor does get rude.  Don’t bring the little kids (I knew this… we didn’t make this mistake).
I read somewhere to use the French term "Au Revoir" instead of good-bye because it lacks permanence.  Something akin to "until we meet again".  This is what I mean when I depart from Disney.  Everyone comes back to some degree.
Today was my last scheduled day at work with Disney Cruise Line (I can be called hour-by-hour as needed, so I’m not totally cut off).  I basically spent the day in a fog, running from good-bye to good-bye in different areas.  Question of the day was "How do you feel?"  The answer to this was, "I’m not sure it’s all fully settled in yet."  Surreal is a good word to describe it.  It was the feeling I had, after living at home for 18 years, when I was leaving to live at college.  It was a good feeling, although heavily touched with nostalgia and a bit of melancholy. 
But this time, there would be no, "Oh, c’mon Mom, don’t mess with my room, I’m only going to college!"  Nope.  There’s a battle waging between two "siblings" for my space, a premium cube with a window.  One claims seniority, having joined our team shipboard in January of 2000 and having been shoreside for, I believe, 2 years now.  The other claims rank, holding a title a level higher than the first and bumping against the next level up.  I have an opinion, but it can only cause grief, so I’m not sharing it with anyone.  It’s not my cube to give, and it’s not my place to manage the contenders.
There were butterflies in my stomach today.  Not a good thing on a day that’s all about food and celebration.  And as verbose as I tend to be here and in conversation, I could barely come up with an appropriate speech.  I think everyone understood.  I was a bit flustered by the whole thing.
My work group is fantastic!  Kelly (not to be confused with Keli, who is also quite incredible) arranged invitations for upwards of 45 people to an after-work event, and management provided for a pizza lunch where the team gave me a gift package for the road.  There are lots of wonderful things in it, but I’ll just mention the towel here (every "Hitchhiker" needs one, and it wouldn’t cause gift-envy to the next guy to know I got it).
My user groups also gave me some very nice gifts.  I’m so paranoid about missing one, that I’m not going to mention any specifically, but I do love crystal/glass items (see my "101" article - item 11), and I won’t be paying for Starbucks for a very long time.
The pictures in the photo album are of events outside of work.  The daylight ones are from last weekend, when the CRS team (I was a member of this team from 1996-2000, but we’ve stayed in touch) took me out "Around the World" at Epcot.  The indoor pictures were from tonight.  We went to the Orlando Ale House and occupied an entire section.  I was very happy to see everyone on my last day.  Michelle and the boys came and everyone got to see them, too, which doesn’t happen often. 
I saw how many people I’ve touched and influenced.  It became even more obvious just how much I’m giving up.  But, everyone, from every department, was so thrilled at the adventure I’m undertaking.  They made it clear how important it is that I pursue the animation career.  I think this opportunity comes with the responsibility not to let down those who are coming along with me in spirit.
So, I’ll go off and clear out Dad’s house and get it ready to hand over to the buyers.   Then, I’ll walk into class, and that will be my entire focus for the next year.  Hopefully, when I come out, I’ll be able to call on the next surprise from today’s conversations.  One of my friends from this job who left a few years ago is now employed by Pixar.  I think we may have some reminiscing to do.
That’s about right… blue jeans, black tee, and a
messy computer desk in the background.
Hey look!!  It’s the new Bratz™ "EricAtRandom" doll!
It’s NOT a DOLL!  It’s an ACTION FIGURE!!!
Oh yeah?  What "action" does it perform?
SHUT…UP… or I’ll show you some "action"!!!
You wish!  M-O-O-O-M!!!
Thanks, Catholic Mom, for the suggestion!
This Entry Was Requested By Diana, A Friend Of Michelle And Me Since The Pre-Kids Days
16-Year Old Computer Saves The Day

Years ago (1996, to be exact), our house was robbed, including the computer, and that was bad.
What made it worse, though, was that I was always on call.  I was sole support for an application which had yet to be fully stabilized.  But, I didn’t want to rush into a new computer.  It generally took some research to pick that $3000 item (it’s still sitting next to me now, churning along at 200 MHz).
So, what was I to do when the pager started to go off?  Well, I had lost virtually everything with a microchip in it, but the two TV’s were left behind.  One of them was a 19" model from the early to mid 80′s, and the other was a 27" which proved too heavy for the thieves and had been left face-down on the carpet in front of its stand.  In 1996, I didn’t have anything but dialup anyway, and work was accomplished through VT100 software (pure text) into a SCO Unix box over a 14,400 baud modem.  Sounds ancient, but text-only at 14,400 is indistinguishable from being there.  In college, even hard-wired terminals were running at 9600 baud.
Hmmm… somewhere, buried in a box, I had my old Atari 400 (circa 1980 — now 16 years old!).  It had a floppy drive and a 300 baud modem (we’re not talking "acoustic coupler", here… we’re talking DIRECT CONNECT!).  One of those disks had modem software on it.  But magnetic media is only good for 10 years.  It couldn’t possibly still load, could it?
I dug up the equipment and booted up.  It read the Atari DOS disk (bip bip bip bip bip  b-d-d-d-d-d bip) and the screen came up.  I popped in the terminal software disk and the drive hummed quietly — too quietly as the disk was not spinning.  A little pressure on the front of the disk sleeve, and I could hear movement.  It loaded!  Program the number, press enter, and PRESTO!  A login prompt!  Granted, even on the flat pseudo-keyboard, I could out-type the modem, which was quite funny to see.
I was able to use "vi" and fix a file or two and evenutally resolve my issue using a glorified video game and a 300bd modem (at 40-columns per row of text no less)!  I kept the stuff in the storage box (no original packaging here) and left it near the TV for the remainder of the time between PC’s.  I used it plenty.  What a God-send that old computer turned out to be!
The simplicity of this setup led me to buy an actual VT420 terminal from a surplus warehouse and a 14,400 external modem.  We put it on a little phone stand and I used it for several years instead of waiting for the PC to boot each time.  Eventually, I switched roles at work and needed a graphical interface, so the terminal went away, but I really got a lot of use out of it until that time.  Sometimes, the lowest tech solution is the best.

I recently left a comment on Catholic Mom‘s site because an interesting Google search found me by one of her comments here.  Someone got here by searching for "cheerleader washing a car" (CM had earlier commented about her high school days and charity car washes).  Someone found her blog by "mom naked".
Rest assured, you won’t find cheerleaders washing cars here, nor will you find any naked moms on CM’s site (c’mon, we’re FAMILY people!).  But Google found the right combinations of words somewhere on the pages to consider them relevant.
Here are this week’s searches that have led people to visit me so far:

Kind of an innocent week, huh?  Were you aware that we could discern the exact search phrase used to find us in an external search engine?

In order to entertain the boys in Mom’s absence, I rented a DVD for them… "Howl’s Moving Castle".  While that’s an incredible film I will possibly purchase for them, it’s not what this entry is about.  You see, Blockbuster (what’s that?  you don’t have NetFlix???  GOSSSH!) gives me a free "Favorite" — or non-new — movie on weekdays with each new rental.
Nope, when Michelle’s away, that free movie is a "Daddy Movie".  It’s not what you think.  It’s a film in a genre that Michelle doesn’t enjoy and the kids don’t watch (independent, serious sci fi, and horror to name a few).  I’ve passed by the box for Pieces of April numerous times and have been drawn in by Katie Holmes’ dyed hair and heavy eyeshadow on the cover.  It’s always reminded me of college-age, non-college crowd (the Long Island crowd I hung out with over summers and holidays).  My friend/coworker, Todd, recently told me it was a good film for the 80′s new wave crowd, so I didn’t pass it up tonight.  It doesn’t take place in the 80′s… it’s current day.  But it certainly overlayed my 80′s experience well.
What a great film!  I will add to that the caveat that it’s entirely targeted.  It’s grungy, gritty, and even a bit chilling at times.  But if you’ve lived in or near the city, it all makes sense.  If you want heartwarming, it’s really not there for the most part.  But if you’ve ever been in a broken relationship, with one desperate chance and an absolute internal need to fix it, you’ll totally be in sync with the main character.
Here’s the deal.  April is the "first pancake", to use her own terms.  "The one you throw out," explains another character.  She’s the imperfect daughter in a "perfect" family.  Mom is dying of cancer, and opportunities for reconciliation are few.  She’s hosting her New Jersey suburbanite family in her run-down Manhattan apartment for Thanksgiving.  She knows nothing about cooking, but her boyfriend is helping her.  It gets really bad when she takes the stuff from the oven that she’s storing there, and it won’t light.  She has to rely on the kindness of her neighbors to cook the turkey.  Good luck finding kindness in a NYC apartment building (it’s not the one where Seinfeld lives!).
There’s humor (the film is tagged "Comedy"), but there’s a LOT of tension.  During the long trek from New Jersey, Mom is not feeling well.  The whole family is unhappy about this trip.  There’s humor, but it’s absolutely not the dominant atmosphere.  At the apartment, you can tell April is desperate to do this right, and you can feel the intense frustration as things go wrong, again interlaced with a dark, pessimistic form of humor.
A friend of mine named Michael once said things were going too well for him, that he needed a little depression to level things off.  I’d never thought of it that completely, but at the time (1988, in case you’re wondering), I totally understood where he was coming from.  This is the nature of Pieces of April.  So, when you’re ready for some bleak, the-world-isn’t-fit-to-live-in fun, watch this film.  And if you’re totally perplexed by that concept, look at the pretty girl on the cover (OMG.. you call that pretty?  Yes, I do!), and then continue walking by as I had for the previous two years.
Oh yeah… and that need for a little depression?  That, I believe, is a symptom of someone between achieving a post-college income and acquiring the worries of real adult life that tend to gobble it up.  I don’t have any need for that anymore, thankyouverymuch.
This is Starbucks.  The rest is self explanatory.

I know it’s redundant, but I have nothing else to post at the moment.
Angei suggested this entry’s title, albeit unintentionally.
You may have noticed my head is missing from my title graphic.  My reason for doing this was that I thought my graphic was too large and made it harder to get to the subject matter.  I’ve been feeling my site is too busy  (i.e. random?  chaotic??) but have yet to find the element that should be removed.
I still have the old graphic, and I’m not opposed to my image being in the header.  Any thoughts on whether I should bring it back?  I’m thinking I may try to get a photo that looks more like me, in either case, and to redo the cloud thing.  Perhaps a thoughtful look and no clouds… to keep the banner small but to get myself back into it.
I’ll be thinking, and I am not above taking requests.
Oh… and while I’m asking questions… has anyone found a way to "download" their entire blog for storage on a CD?  I’d love to have a permanent archive of this thing, because I fully understand the volitility of the web and the fickle nature of companies that support these things.
This is totally out of the blue, but interesting for those into 80′s music (did Dr. Cara just perk up and turn her attention this way?).  But it starts way earlier — 1969, I believe.
Wednesday, we were driving along listening to the radio when "Space Oddity" by David Bowie came on.  This is one of my favorite songs of the late 60′s, and the boys have latched on to it, too.  They like it because it has a guy named "Tom" who’s an astronaut.  What I like about it is that it’s plausible.  It’s an astronaut off in space when something goes wrong.  He ends up sounding somewhat euphoric and senseless (symptoms of CO2 inhalation?) until ground control loses contact with him, and he drifts off into space.  It’s unlike "Rocket Man" by Elton John (which I enjoy as well, btw), in which "it’s just my job, five days a week".  When you break down the lyrics to RM, it doesn’t make sense in real life.
I digress (it’s just what I do).  So, my boys wanted to know what ever came of Major Tom.  Did he die?  Did he go somewhere in space?  Does ground control ever hear from him again?  There are two answers I know of.  I started singing "Major Tom – Coming Home" by Peter Schilling.  They know the song, but couldn’t recognize it by my singing.  Ironically, it came on yesterday and the conversation started up again.  In interviews, Peter Schilling said he always loved "Space Oddity", but couldn’t deal with the vague – probably tragic — ending of the song.  He decided to address the story, himself, this time bringing Major Tom back home.  So, if you go by that, Major Tom gets back and is OK.  And we have another realistic sci-fi approach to space travel with a great tune.  And the name is no coincidence.
I think, though, that Peter Schilling perhaps forgot about the song "Ashes to Ashes", again by David Bowie.  In that song, the outcome leaves Major Tom alive, but not with such positive results.  Major Tom is apparently a junky, trying to stay clean and failing, tormented by hallucinations of little green wheels following him.  Bowie fans look at the song as Bowie’s attempt to leave "Space Oddity" in the past so he could move on creatively.  I could never figure out if, based on the second song, the events in the first song ever happened or were hallucinations themselves.
I love all three songs and speculating on what it all means.  The real-life implications of "Ashes to Ashes" are interesting, but not as much to me as the pure storyline perspective.  What do you think?  Has anyone else connected and given thought to all three of these songs?  Does Major Tom appear anywhere I haven’t mentioned?
OK, can anyone see this one (my co-worker told me it looked like a bug on my window)?  I had everyone in my cube.  This military helicopter shook the building before it even went overhead!  I think this beast , if the pilot so desired, could sever the lower half of the state of Florida!