Friday, October 29, 2004

Anniversary Waltz

On Oct 28 I completed 28 years of faithful (kaff-kaff) government service, which incudes the 28 months I was in the Army. Lots of 28s there. This doesn't include the 12+ years I spent as a Navy brat. I'd trade it all for a good lottery ticket.

A couple of days ago I got the Ultimate Chopper in the mail. The first time I used it I overdid the chopping and ended up with pureed onions. Yesterday I made egg salad and it came out great. The machine itself is all plastic and some parts look flimsy, but I don't imagine I'll be using it for anything strenuous and if I'm careful it won't break too soon.

Early on Thursday I watched some sports show where a bunch of alleged pundits commented on the World Series and Red Sox. Several were tripping over themselves to dismiss the Red Sox victory as nothing special and the team as a lucky bunch of misfits. Obviously these were members of the New York press corps.
What they seemed to forget is that not only did this supposedly cursed team win The Big One, they came back from an 0-3 deficit to beat the best team in the AL--a feat never before performed in baseball playoff history--then turned around and beat the best team in baseball four straight. And before this eight game rampage they'd suffered a loss that would have staggered any normal team. What was that score, 19-8?

I think a new curse is at work: The Curse of the A-Rod. Ever since that greedy bum went to Texas he's jinxed his team. And to think he could have played for Boston. The mind boggles.

I don't think Ramirez should have been the MVP, however. Anyone who makes two straight errors in the outfield shouldn't be considered for any special honor. I might have chosen Curt Schilling. At the least his performance was heroic.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Steff's Day

Happy Birthday to Stephanie, my older daughter. Today she turned 15, and I can't believe so many years have passed. I recall clearly the day she was born. She was delivered by C-section so she wasn't all misshapen and red like most newborns. She was a perfect little bundle of beauty with a thick shock of dark hair and big green eyes. To me she was the lovliest sight I'd ever seen in my life.
She's a young lady now and looking forward to her learner's permit instead of the latest Barbie, but one thing that has always been a part of her personality is her huge heart and deep sensitivity.

Happy Birthday, Steff. I love you more than I can ever say and I'm forever grateful that you're in my life.

Friday, October 22, 2004

The Week That Was

I've been enjoying a chest cold for over a week now, and even though it hasn't slowed me down a lot it's thrown off my wake/sleep cycle. And I've had some coughing fits that threatened to blow the top of my head off. So I naturally called in sick the last two days of work last week and again tonight. I have this theory that if you take one sick day people think you're goofing off. If you take several you look sick for real. And I am sick. Perhaps I'd best be described as walking wounded.

You'd think all this time sitting around the house would have been condusive to reading or writing, but that wasn't to be. All I read were chapters or stories for my critique group and while I wrote a bit, it wasn't as much as I'd hoped. Thanks, in the latter case, to one of my dear daughters leaving the power cord to my laptop behind the couch. See, I take the laptop with me to the stable and work while they have a riding lesson. Without the cord I was only able to get a short stint in before the machine "hibernated." New rule: kids keep dirty mitts of laptop.

The chopper I wrote about earlier is The Ultimate Chopper.

I'm delighted that Boston won the AL pennant, but would have preferred the Astros were representing the AL. I'm not sure we've ever had a World Series of only wild card teams. The question now is will the Curse of the Bambino manifest itself again. Anyone who saw the infamous Billy Buckner error must shudder in anticipation.

Despite the lack of time to read this past week I have started a new book. Sue Grafton's "R" is for Ricochet. Despite some flat spots in this series I'm still enjoying it. The current one starts out like The Big Sleep, with Millhone visiting an aging rich man at his home to get her assignment--a wayward daughter. We'll see where it foes from there.
The last one, by the way, would have worked better for me if there hadn't been a glaring error in the beginning. She had two deer hunters stumble over a body in the month of August. I'm sure that there isn't a state in the union that allows deer hunting in the summer. Sloppy research, and something that could have been confirmed with a simple phone call.

Last Sunday I managed to stagger up to Seattle for a toy soldier show. It's at times like that I regret not being filthy rich. I could easily have filled a truck with the figures I saw. Instead, I picked up a few pricey guys I wish I'd bought ten years ago, like three Arabs from the Captain Gallant set and three WWII Japanese soldiers made by Lido in the 1950s. Ten years ago I could have had them for 40% of what they're going for now. On the new release front I bought two different sets of Confederates and two of Union troops by a company called Conte. They do some of the best contemorary figures around, and the price was below retail. Finally, I got a bag of new Hong Kong cowboys and Indians for $2.00. Oh, and a couple of free doughnuts. Can't beat that.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Slicer-Dicer Update

A couple of mornings ago I again saw the infomercial for the slicer-dicer I almost bought a week earlier. I decided to buy it. It's called the Something Chopper. Miracle Chopper or some other meaningless adjective. I'll just call it The Chopper.

So I call the toll free number and some young woman answers. We go through the name and address bit and then it starts. For an extra $15 I can get another Chopper. I say no. She starts to enthuse. And today, if I buy two I get a third free. I say no. Well, for an extra $50 I can get the blender attachment. I not only say no, I say I don't want any other offer as yet unheard. In that case, I'm told, she has to get her supervisor to okay skipping whatever other junk they were trying to load me down with.
The supervisor comes on, affirms that I wish to eschew further offers, and hands me back to the original operator.
Now, this Chopper is supposed to have five different colored activation switches available. They're pretty large switches. I say I want yellow. The operator tells me that there's a three month wait for anything but white. I ask why. I'm told it's because there's such a huge demand for the product. So I ask why they're running infomercials for something they aren't able to provide. Why don't they have some inventory on hand before they advertise? No satisfactory answer.
Then the killer. The plain white one will take four to eight weeks to deliver. Huh? The order is being processed virtually as we speak but I have to wait a month or two for delivery? And if I want to hold out for yellow will that add three more months to the delay, making a total of five months before I get this damn thing? I mean, all I want to do is chop a few onions.
In the end I said go ahead and send the damn thing.
I doubt I'll ever order anything from a TV ad again. Not even Girls Gone Wild. And people wonder why I'm a curmudgeon.

Yesterday was a hassle. I noticed we had messages on our voice mail so I listened in. They consisted of three pests "returning" my wife's internet application for a home refinance deal. What really annoys me is that there's no way to eliminate these messages until they've played out, and one of those people ran off at the mouth for a long time. And I knew that Linda never made any such applications.
All day long the calls kept coming, however. The first few I gave my usual crazy man rant to, but after a bit I got to wondering why, all of a sudden, did these companies think Linda was interested in their product (which included a long distance outfit and Phoenix On Line College). So I started asking them where they got our number. None of the answers were satisfactory, and some were obvious lies, but they all promised to remove us from their sucker lists.
What has me scratching my head is who got Linda's name into these data bases to start with. My best guess is The National Wildlife Federation. A month or two back Linda foolishly sent them a few dollars. Since then we've gotten solicitations almost daily begging for more. The general tenor of these solicitations is that if we don't clean out our bank accounts and send them everything we have NOW, all animal life on the planet will die by Tuesday. I'm to the point of wishing they would die off just so the National Wildlife Federation would get off our backs.
Of course, NWF may be innocent. Perhaps some brat at the school where she teaches signed her up for these offers. Maybe the state driver's license people sold her name. Maybe her recent membership to Pure Fitness was the villain. I suppose I'll never know, which is one of the frustrating things about modern life. It seems like anyone can invade your home, upset your privacy, and waste your time with complete impunity. Great thing, this modern life.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

On the Road

Don't let the title fool you. This will have no relationship with Jack Kerouac's classic.

Yesterday morning, Sunday, I drove from work to a place in Seattle for a toy show. Old toys, classic toys, collectible toys. Or so I hoped. I knew it was asking too much that I would be able to fill some gaps in my toy soldier collection for a reasonable price, but hope springs eternal. So I drove the hour up there, paid my three bucks to get in, and circled the room six times in search of something, anything, I might want. I ended up with a 100-piece kid's jigsaw puzzle. The picture was of a cowboy roping a steer. The cost was four dollars but the guy sold it to me for half that.
There was one dealer with some Marx playsets, but his prices seems a tad high to me. Another guy had some Marx figures in bags, and his prices were way up there. As I was looking over one bag of six or seven common pioneers with a $27 sticker on them he said to me, "I can do better on that price." I replied, "I should hope so." I'd estimate that half the tables there had junk that was neither old nor collectible. Fast food giveaways, action figures, broken, rusty, moldy items that have lost all value. What are these people thinking?
A few tables had legitimate collectibles. I saw a Lawman lunch box for $37.50 in decent shape. I saw some old model kits, games, advertsing pieces, and comics. Nothing I needed, but the kind of wares that indicate that the dealers know what they're doing.

We're down to one more baseball playoff game in the first round and I'm hoping Houston defeats Atlanta. I feel somewhat responsible for Houston's loss today. You see, I'm a jinx. When I got back from the toy show I tuned in the game and the Astros were ahead 5-2. Not ten seconds after I switched on the set an Atlanta player hit a three-run homer and tied it up. My fault, I know it.

By now the 2004 Bouchercon is over and I'm looking forward to all the reports from those lucky enough to attend. And by reports I of course mean the dirt, the scandals, the lowdown. At the same time I'm feeling a little less connected to the mystery world nowadays. I find too many of the books bloated, the field dominated by women who, while perhaps talented, don't speak to me. It seems the mystery has become a forum for social and political cant and it's losing me. I hate cozies, too. Luckily there are still some authors left I enjoy, and I'm not about to desert the genre entirely, but I can't see myself wallowing in it the way I once did. Not until it changes; and I have a feeling it won't change in a way that suits me.

Happy Columbus Day. Makes you wonder, though. If they can have a holiday for a small city in Ohio why not a large city somewhere else? I think the fix was in on this one. But it means a night off work for me and I'll take that any time.

Friday, October 08, 2004

The Hermit Emerges

I've spent most of my waking hours at my computer this past week. The reason is that the deadline of OWLHOOT, the Western apa, is nigh and I've been printing out my zine and the apa's covers. Since I print everything on my desktop printer, and every page has color, it's a very slow process. Costly, too, when you consider how much an ink cartridge runs. But I guess I've complained about that already.
The bright spot is that I have a chance to watch the baseball playoffs. All the teams I'm rooting for won their opening games, but the Twins look like they're going to fall to the Yankees and I'm not happy about that. I'm still hoping for a Red Sox/Cardinals World Series.

I've been a fan of Rodney Dangerfield's since I first saw him on The Tonight Show back in the sixties. When he died a few days ago at age 82 I wasn't surprised, since I was aware of his health problems, but I was surprised he was 82. He's looked about the same age for the past 20 years. Maybe he didn't get any respect, but he had a beautiful young wife and left behind a lot of fans who will miss his rapid-fire jokes and self-effacing style. Ed Gorman has a fine tribute to Dangerfield on his blog.

I've been asked to write a tribute to Fan Guest of Honor Beth Fedyn for the 2005 Bouchercon Program Book. I can't wait. No one deserves this honor more than Beth and I hope I can do justice to her.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

The Grand Old Game

Baseball's 2004 regular season will be over later today and as the fan of a team that has lost 98 games so far all I can say is good riddance. When Seattle won it's game Friday night one of our announcers boasted that beause of that win we were guaranteed not to have a 100-loss year. Well thank god for small favors. At least we got to witness Ichiro's record-breaking single season hits record, and last night there was a farewell ceremony for Edgar Martinez. If you aren't familiar with The Gar, he's the greatest designated hitter in baseball history and one heck of a fine human being. He's underperformed this year, as have a number of players, but his lifetime stats are excellent and if there's any justice he'll be in the Hall of Fame in five years.

I'm not sure who my post season picks are, but I wouldn't mind seeing a St. Louis-Boston World Series. I don't like Atlanta or L.A. so my second NL choice would be Houston, if they get in, or S.F. if Houston doesn't.
I was a rabid Yankees fan when I was younger, but lately they aren't the team I loved and I'm not rooting for them. Not rooting against them, either, but I'd be satisfied if they were knocked off in the first round.

Getting back to my dull little world, I didn't see another infomercial for that slicer, dicer contraption so I'll worry about obtaining one some other day. I did see an infomercial for a similar machine, but it seemed to puree everything and that's not what I need.

I think I have a cold coming on. The other members of the household had them last week and I'm starting to get the early warning signs: cold body, sneezing, stuffy head, cough. I stayed home from work last night which, I note, means I haven't worked a full week since the first week of August. And next week has a holiday so I can keep my record going a little while longer.

I needed a new tricolor cartridge for my printer so I ordered a couple on line, along with a couple of black ink cartridges. It cost me $70 for the four. But I didn't want to wait until they arrived so I went to K-Mart yesterday morning and bought a lone color cartidge. Cost: $35 plus tax. What a burn. Ink cartidges are the french fries, or the Nikes, of the computer accessory market. They cost pennies to make and sell for an arm and a leg. And we're not talking about some huge cartidge that's going to last for months. This thing is about the size of a Chunky candy bar. It's tiny, miniscule, dwarfish. When I was in my twenties we had a saying: "Come the Revolution, there won't be any more__________." I'd fill in the blank with $35 printer cartidges.

I had a most enjoyable and fascinating time on this blogspot site recently. I logged on to Bill Crider's archives and read everything he posted for the past two years. There were achievements I hadn't known about, political rants I'd never heard, honors he was too modest to mention, and insights into his life I've never witnessed. SEE Bill face his imminent retirement. HEAR Bill comment on GW Bush and his cohorts. SMELL Bill's sweaty comments about jogging. TASTE Bill's savory reminiscences about his old home town. SPEAK back to him if you like. Yes, Bill's entertaining entries aren't at all senseless drivel (I should know, I'm a master of it) but insightful, intelligent looks at life through the eyes of a great observer and a man with a storehouse of cogent memories.

Yesterday I climbed up on my roof, leaned over the edge, and painted the fascia boards under the eaves along the second floor. Since we had the siding installed I can''t use a ladder against the house, so this was the only option. I don't have a problem with heights, but I still didn't enjoy the experience.

Pets? We have pets. Right now the Napier Zoo consists of two dogs (shepherd mix and Chihuahua, and the little dog's brother is a frequent visitor), a 16-year-old cat, a bunny, a rat, and two fish. That's only seven animals total, which isn't bad. In the past we've had as many as 20, but that included several rodents and a tank full of fish plus a bird or two. I told Kristine when she was small she could have a kitten when the current kitty died, but that old cat just keeps going. Admittedly, she's a good cat. She doesn't claw the furniture, prefers to crap outside, and spends most of the summer in the beauty bark out front, sleeping. In the winter she sleeps either on my waterbed or near a heat vent.

Friday, October 01, 2004

It slices, it dices

For some time now I've been wanting a compact, simple, well-made vegetable slicer-dicer. I like to cut up an onion and sautee it with some mushrooms for a side dish on my Atkins diet.
The other night--wee hours of the morning to be precise--an infomercial came on for just such a product. Mind you, I rarely watch these things, but the female sidekick on this one was so ugly I was mesmerized. I think she was the last dumb blonde character on Three's Company.
Anyway, this handy dandy machine seemed to be the answer to my animal sacrifices, er, I mean prayers. It did everything from make peanut butter to salsa to chopped liver. It takes up very little counter space, which is important in our crowded kitchen, and it was only $40. But wait! It also came with an eternally sharp, ergonomically designed slicing knife, four steak knives, and one other thing I can't recall. Free shipping, too.
But I didn't make the call. I just can't believe that anything one buys from an infomercial is worth a wad of spit. Cheap plastic, poorly tempered blades that actually do go dull the first time they meet a peanut, dangerous wiring, and a motor that burns out as soon as the last unit is sold. That's what I assume they're hawking.
I also have this theory that the people who sit in for the taping of those commericals are the ones who have invested in the product or work in the factory that makes it, although the lack of Indonesians in the room may put the lie to that last idea.
So I could go to the store and see if I can find a different slicer-dicer or I could continue to use a knife. Or I could channel surf again this morning and see if the same deal is being offered.
Stay tuned.