Saturday, September 27, 2008

and on the 15th day, they rested

Lean in to your monitor. Can you smell it? It's the powerful perfume of electricity I'm emitting. That's right, faithful readers, there's a light. Over at the Epiphenita/St. Barbara house.

Off the grid for over fourteen days. An odd sabbatical from the usual. Educational, too. But all I can think of right now is being in my own bed while the air conditioner lulls me to sleep.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

day 13 pick-me-up

So I read some corny jokes to pick up my spirits. And now, I'll share them:

One-liners
So a dung beetle walks into a bar, and pulls up a stool...
------
If you shoot a mime, do you have to use a silencer?

Ageism
A couple in their nineties are both having problems remembering things. During a checkup, the doctor tells them that they're physically okay, but they might want to start writing things down to help them remember.

Later that night, while watching TV, the old man gets up from his chair.

'Want anything while I'm in the kitchen?' he asks.
'Will you get me a bowl of ice cream?'
'Sure.'
'Don't you think you should write it down so you can remember it?' she asks.
'No, I can remember it.'
'Well, I'd like some strawberries on top, too. Maybe you should write it down, so's not to forget it?'
He says, 'I can remember that. You want a bowl of ice cream with strawberries.'
'I'd also like whipped cream. I'm certain you'll forget that, write it down?' she asks.
Irritated, he says, 'I don't need to write it down, I can remember it! Ice cream with strawberries and whipped cream - I got it, for goodness sake!'
Then he toddles into the kitchen. After about 20 minutes, the old man returns from the kitchen and hands his wife a plate of bacon and eggs. She stares at the plate for a moment.
'Where's my toast?'
Sexism
One day in the Garden of Eden, God comes to Adam and Eve and tells them he has two gifts, one for each of them. The first, he says, is the ability to pee standing up. Adam starts jumping up and down excitedly and loudly declares that he wants it. Eve, listening to him jabbering on and on about it, rolls her eyes and asks God what he has left for her.
"Multiple orgasms."

Blondes
A blind guy walks into a bar. He says to the bartender, "I've got a great blonde joke for you!"
The bartender says, "Just a minute there, buddy. There's something you should know. I'm blonde. The guy sitting on your left is a Marine drill sergeant, and he's blonde. The guy on your right is a heavyweight boxer, and he's blonde. Now do you still want to tell that joke?"
And the blind guy says, "Well, no, not if I'm going to have to explain it three times!"
------
A young ventriloquist is touring the clubs and one night he's doing a show in a small town in Arkansas. With his dummy on his knee, he starts going through his usual dumb blond jokes when a blond woman in the 4th row stands on her chair and starts shouting: 'I've heard enough of your stupid blond jokes. What makes you think you can stereotype women that way? What does the color of a person's hair have to do with her worth as a human being? Its guys like you who keep women like me from being respected at work and in the community and from reaching our full potential as a person. Because you and your kind continue to perpetuate discrimination against not only blondes, but women in general...and all in the name of humor!'

The embarrassed ventriloquist begins to apologize, but the blonde yells, 'You stay out of this mister! I'm talking to that little bastard on your lap!'

Marriage
Mary, a good Scottish, woman lay dying. She begged her husband of many years,"Jock promise me when I die you'll sit with my sister at my funeral!" Jock answered, "Och, Mary...I hate your sister and your sister hates me!" Mary begged once more, "Promise me Jock that you'll sit with my sister at my funeral!" "Alright, Mary" sighed Jock, "I'll sit with your sister at your funeral. He paused. "But it'll spoil the whole day."

Simple Q&A
Q: What is "Perfect Pitch"?
A: It is the sound created by an accordion hitting a bagpipe in a dumpster.
------
Q: What did the Minnesotan say to the Pillsbury Dough Boy?
A: Nice tan.
------
Q: Why is the sand wet at the beach?
A: The seaweed.
------
Q: What did the fish say when he bumped into the wall?
A: Dam
------
Q: How do you get a sweet little old lady to say the F-word?
A: Get another sweet little old lady to yell "Bingo!"
------
Q: Why did the cannibal get sick after eating the missionary?
A: You can't keep a good man down.

[And, my favorite, I'm afraid:]

Critters

A State Trooper received an emergency call to respond to a highway crash. When he arrived he found that two turtles had collided and were lying unconscious on the roadway.
While investigating he noticed a snail sitting on a nearby fence.
"Excuse me," he said, "but did you witness this accident?"
"Yes officer," the snail replied, " but it all happened so fast..."

day 13 redux

I don't know whether I'm going to burst into tears or burst into flames.

(As if. When given a choice, my choice is combustion.)

day 13

This is not a catastrophe, it's just a huge inconvenience.

A huge, cranky-making inconvenience. Spent half the night in the truck last night. The trade-off is air conditioning and uncomfortable surfaces OR comfortable bed and sticky heat. Until 2 am, when we schlepped inside for a few hours of sleeping abed in reasonable temperatures.

A half-million Houstonians and I are fucking tired.

I'm not going to use sleep deprivation and temperature torture as license to be a raging lunatic. But, tranquility in the face of sleepiness is not my superpower.

I'm signing off now because I can't stand to hear myself talk about electricity, hurricanes or sleep for one more minute.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

day 12

No.

Monday, September 22, 2008

day 10

Slipping over here between jobs to say that we are now in Day 10 of the electricity-free torpor. The cool front has dissipated, the nights are hot, humid and allergenful. A few thoughts...

I am exploring the idea of hurricane-induced alcoholism. I have met more neighbors and drunk more alcohol in the past week or so than in the previous six months.

Steven and his mom imported (from San Antonio) battery-driven fans. Since there is not an inverter to be had in Houston or surrounding counties (or extension cords or batteries...but you can buy a generator for $800. EIGHT HUNDRED DOLLARS. Shit, we'll just get a room.), he and his mom should be given a medal from the mayor. It's hot but a little fan goes a long way. Thank you, thank you.

Word is that we won't have power until Thursday or Friday. For those of you not suffering from heat-induced counting dementia: that would be Day 13 or Day 14...or as I like to call it: Day Two Weeks. By that time I will have stopped haunting the home improvement stores for electrical inverters and will be stocking up on pitchforks and torches.

One gets cranky after two weeks of no a/c in the subtropical sauna that is Houston. Even pioneer frontierswomen.

Finally, the saddest note:
The day Ike hit Houston was the day David Foster Wallace hung himself. I just learned of this yesterday and am profoundly saddened by his death. What an incredible writer. 46 years old. Goddammit. Goddammit.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

losing the pioneer spirit

Okay. I'll continue with the recap in another post. My inner Sister Goodwife is about to get knocked over by a huge whine. It's Day 6 in the power outage. I've been sleeping in ragweed-sprinkled, mold spored "fresh" air for as many nights.

The across-the-street neighbors have power. The goddamn church next door has power. My sunshiny attitude is curdling like last week's dairy products. I want to slap the shit out of myself for being such a crumbly baby but I'm t-minus-2-days away from going commando and I'm sick of eating meals that remind me of warmed-up dog food.

Sorry. Will be back with better news. Soon.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

YES, hurrICANe

Your intrepid frontierswoman reporting here.
We're fine. Thanks for asking. House lost some shingles, garage apartment had a window blown out but no gargantuan limbs attacked structures or vehicles. Here's the chronology.

Friday
Drop St. Barbara off at work. Find two gas stations open and fill up both vehicles without too much waiting in line.

Expected the storm winds to kick in after midnight but the power transformer in our neighborhood couldn't hold out until then. Believe a harsh BREEZE knocked it out at 7:30pm. Across the street neighbors had power until 3:00am. The Heights Sweat-a-thon begins.

The night was long, people. I mean crazy-ass winds but enough rain so that the doors couldn't be left open. Since the storm was so huge, it seemed to take forever to pass over us. I kept watching the pecan trees in the backyard...willing them to keep it together. The house was so hot and humid that I lay down in a back room next to the a/c window unit. The gusts outside were so strong that periodically a little air was forced backwards through the unit and I got a wisp of breeze. Ahhhh.

But seriously, I wasn't afraid. It's not that I mean to imply that the rest of you are whiny pussies or anything (well, some of you actually are...but none of you read my blog, right?) but what is there to get hysterical about? If a tree falls on your house you can't stop it...just find a dry interior room and try and get some sleep. You'll just figure it out when the sun comes out. And if you can't sleep because it's so goddamn hot and humid, organize the linens. Or something.

Saturday
I got up every hour through the night, so I slept on and off until 7:00am. Continued to be rainy and windy until noon or so. I assessed the damage outside and was relieved. The church next door (that's right, campers, Fate has a firm grip on irony putting me next door to a church) had a huge pecan tree that could have easily fallen over onto the small office we rent out. But fell instead into the church parking lot. Proving once again that God doesn't give a shit. I suppose, one might say that He did, because it didn't land on the church, but I don't buy that. If the righteous are rewarded and the wicked are punished that tree would have been uprooted and replanted in my living room. Suck on that, you self-righteous Christian-types. (Of course, I'm not talking to you nice, Unitarianesque Christian-types.)

From 9am until 2pm I did what any good pioneer woman would do, I cooked all the perishables in the fridge. Goddammit, there'll be no wasted food in this house. I made potato/kielbasa hash; arroz con pollo, cooked the frozen flounder and hamburger. Hell, I even baked banana bread from the frozen ripe bananas. All I needed was a gingham bonnet.

Happy to have Eric & Steven stop by for a visit. Lori & Mary brought ice. True friends who see you when you look like you've been using Ol' Bacon Grease Hair Gel are friends forever.

I got to go pick up my St. Barbara early from her job, so I wouldn't have to travel crosstown in the dark. 15 miles and not a single traffic light working. So happy to have her home. We set up a pallet for sleeping, on the floor as close to the screened front door as possible. It's hard. It's hot. And totally not in a good way. 3:30am, I snap. We're heading for the car. Don't care how uncomfortable it is to sleep in a Honda Accord. Like magic, black magic, the skies open up...a thunder & lightning tropical storm. Amazing. No matter, we grab the umbrella, pillows and sheets and trudge out by 4am. Just a few hours of cool, dearbabyjesus. So we put the seats back and sleep off and on for a couple of hours. Around 6am I shine the flashlight on the dash. I ask St. B, so what kind of mileage are we getting? I'm such a kidder.

7am, we climb out of the car into our river-runs-through-it-driveway. Our street often floods but the water seems to be rising a bit too much for comfort this time. Soon it's over the curb, over the sidewalk and creeping up our lawn. Pioneer Women Engage! (Okay. So that's a completely lame reference to a completely lame superhero cartoon. I'm tired, please forgive.) The storm drains are crammed full of flotsam and jetsam (how long have I waited to use that phrase...almost correctly) so we arm ourselves with metal rakes and begin mucking out the drain grates. At times, we're more than knee deep in water. An hour-and-a-half later, the water begins to recede. Don't fuck with women holding rakes, people.

To be continued...

Friday, September 12, 2008

ooooohhhhh

The wind is picking up and the decent weatherman said that the storm stretches out 500 miles from the eye...which is 65 miles wide.

My what a huge eye you have, Ike.
You big ol' Cyclops.

you are so much tougher than i am

So here we are. Rather, here I am. The hurricane is about 9 hours away. I can tell, because of the interactive graphic the Chronicle has called Storm...Pulse...Tracker (Each ellipsis represents dramatic notes punching home every serious syllable. In my head.) and all is well. I mean, I'm not seeing anything but light wind and rain.

I don't watch television. Seriously, I turn it on so rarely that I forget which network is on which channel. It's because I'm not as tough as you are. Really. I don't have the stamina. On every local channel, of course, is hurricane coverage. Each newscaster trying to outdo the others in breaking news. Only it's not. So they take the skimpiest facts and wring them out for every useless iota of information. 24/7. I watch for 10 minutes at a time and I have to walk away. They are saying nothing new and using up all the dramatic adjectives so that when there is really something to report, we're all deaf and dumb to the importance.

The last straw: Geraldo Rivera. I've run out of epithets. Couldn't have imagined getting to this point. I can't find a word filthy enough to describe what a repulsive douchebag (see? it just glances off the side of my loathing) he is. Just now, he allowed himself to be tossed by the waves into the water. So he could cut right to the core of the reporter on location, cameras a'rollin'. His microphone is an electrical device, right?
IF
THERE
WERE
A
GOD.
But no. He doesn't get electrocuted. He isn't flicked out to the sea by the colossal hand of the Almighty. Flicked. He should be flicked right into Ike's gigantic swirling crotch and get fucked up but good. Wow, I got a little closer that time.

You see? I'm not tough enough for prime time news. My Bliss runs screaming out of the house and my Disgust hands me a pepperoni pizza and says, sit down honey, you're going to enjoy this.

Goddammit.

ay! ike

If it isn't one thing, it's a hurricane. We are 12 hours away from a significant hit on Galveston/Houston. It looks like Ike will remain a category 2 hurricane. Which is no reason to panic nor reason to plan an afternoon on the beach.

I'm not all that worried. Like most Houstonians my biggest concern is losing electrical power (read: air conditioning) for the hot, muggy aftermath. Next is flooding...but I do have, you know, that big, wonderful Tundra, just in case. Of course, I have no intention of getting out in all that if I can help it. (Traffic exiting Houston has been predictably insane.) Our streets flood but Tropical Storm Allison was the acid test for flooding (Houston was inundated) and our little house came within 6 inches of being flooded, so I'm pretty sure we're okay.

Last night we went to Target (for printer ink–I know, but you have your emergencies and I have mine) and drove past a half-dozen gas stations: all of them had bags over the pump handles. There is no gas to be had in this area.

Barbara had volunteered to help out at Menninger, so she'll be there from this (Friday) morning until tomorrow (Saturday) night. It's a psychiatric treatment facility so when they say they'll be in "lock-down," they damn well mean it. It's a little creepy to be anywhere using that phrase. She's a saint, I've said it before, and I'm glad she'll be able to help them out. But, of course, I would rather she'd be huddling in the interior bathroom with me, candles and a stack of books. Maybe some wine.

Okay, I'm signing off. Will update you on the thing before or after.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

cybulimia

Monday through Friday. No internet access.

Today is the second day back…will get to the backstory. Suffice it to say that I’ve been gorging on the internets all weekend.

Should have paced myself, but such restraint is sometimes out of our control. Consider this my “sicking-up” after the binge.

[In my frolicking about the web, post-famine, I caught up on blog reading and then some. And, it tasted great. However, I was reminded by the black-out of how much time I spend in front of this machine. Perhaps some time should be web-free. I know, it sounds like heresy…like hating chocolate…but we ate dinner together without the sound of a keyboard clicking. We did crossword puzzles together…using freakin' paper and pencil, even. I’m just saying that it wasn’t all gnashing teeth and cursing the dark this past week. Still, I'm glad to be back.]

support hosed

Racism and xenophobia are so repugnant. And yet it’s na├»ve to imagine we’re all free and clear on this one. Especially those of us who are cultural minorities and think ourselves politically sensitive. There is a thin, blurry line that separates racism from the acknowledgment of cultural differences. We often avoid mentioning the issue in order to never step over that line. I am going to attempt to navigate this morass.

Tech Support and Outsourcing. It’s a problem. I spent the better part of the week talking to, what felt like, most of the Indian Subcontinent and half of Southeast Asia. I had a problem that wasn’t on the list. A weird DSL configuration that I could. not. make. clear. Swear to god, I must have talked to 30 people. 40, maybe. I was escalated up to the next level. I was transferred. Double-transferred. Call back in 4 hours. We’ll call you back. Talk to the installation department (in Myanmar? Thailand? What does it mean that the tech support is mostly in India but the Installation and Customer Service is in Singapore? Why?) With each call my irritation mounted.

Years ago when I was in school, I worked at the public university library. I am a total research, book, info-junkie nerd. I LOVED working in the library. I went through months of training to work at the reference information desk. Helping students and professors find the answers for their research. Back when there was (jesussaveme) NO internet. We were phasing out the card catalog, starting to use some very clumsy databases…and the dinosaurs had just stopped roaming the earth. Anyway, the information desk was a source of great anecdote. A public library is just that—any crazy-ass fool can walk through the door and come up to you and ask a question. We were all about information, even though we couldn’t always help the ones with the tinfoil hats. We actually helped tons of people find sources for their research or papers. But we were taught that one of the more important aspects of that job is diffusing.

When people feel frustrated or dismissed or just stupid about a thing, they tend to get defensive. And angry at the person embodying their real or imagined ignorance. My daughter pointed this critical skill out to me when I was talking to her about tech support. When I worked the gay-lesbo-bi-trannie switchboard, I also tapped into this training. You need to be able to listen to a person, empathize, help them let off steam and assure them you will truly try and help them solve their problem.

That is, no shit, all most people need. Listen, empathize, convince them you’ll do your best (and of course, back that up by TRYING to do your fucking best).

However. This is hard to do. (Some of our crusty librarians were scathing. Their disdain for the requester's ignorance threw gasoline on the insecurity fire. It was, I’m afraid, quite funny in anecdote…but rare enough.) And this was basically within a culture and face-to-face. Cross-culturally and over-the-phone it is very hard to do. Not impossible, but quite hard. When you deal with a society weaned on leftover British Empire language/manner skill set, you end up with very polite and at times, overly formal responses to anger. This, I feel safe to say, drives most United Statesians completely bonkers.

And that’s just the social niceties part of the challenge.

So, people, outsourcing tech support may be here to stay but I’m pretty sure that this problem will come to a head someday. I’m afraid when presented with two comparable services, the one with the local help line is going to get my vote. And you bigots out there, can not count me in your club. This is all about expediency. We certainly don’t speak the best English in the world and our slang is prolific but we probably understand each other a little better than not.

One last note. When I was trying to get the brand name and model of the DSL modem that my ISP supported, the customer service person said what sounded and spelled out like SpeedCREAM. I said SpeedCREAM? No, SpeedPREAM? No, SpeedSCREAM? How weird. She kept spelling it out but I could not distinguish her t as in thomas from her p as in pomade? pumice? Swear, I couldn’t. She got fairly impatient (couldn’t blame her) and I finally understood that she was spelling out SpeedSTREAM. Oh. Well, that makes sense. She’s probably blogging right now about the illiterate, idiotic American woman she spoke to this week.