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&#151;...to see how this works. My web page below.
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November 27th, 2006


10:14 pm - tech question
Back when I did web stuff for a living, we had to make them 800 x 600 pixels. Is that still the standard? Or are we no longer catering to people with 10-yr-old browsers?

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January 5th, 2006


10:49 am - Vox Ex Machina
Ah, bliss.

Sure, i need a new clutch, and that's a $650 repair. But! But!

...My cell phone is not broken.




Today was a full day. It was an Everything day.

After dropping the car off at the mechanic, I decided to use my free time on foot to find a branch of my bank, Wells Fargo. There was a mall nearby...how hard could it be?

Molly Ivins likes to refer to Texas as America's Laboratory of Bad Government. That is, Texas tries out its bad ideas here (No Child Left Behind, Tom Delay), and then inflicts them on the rest of the country. May I suggest that an addendum to that is Texas's role as the Laboratory of Bad Urban Planning. Everything -- and I do mean everything -- is designed with a car in mind. If someone ever invents a drive-through gym, it'll be in Texas.

To get to the mall, I had to take a bus, and that actually worked fairly well. Austin has a pretty good bus system along its major streets. But, when I got to the mall, the first branch of my bank that I encountered was a "motor bank." This is a bank that only has a drive-thru section, and eliminates the need for a nervous system almost completely. I briefly entertained the thought of just getting in line with the cars, and doing a mime impersonation of someone driving up to the window. But eventually I decided to find the other nearby branch.

By foot, it wasn't that far. Perhaps 10 city blocks. But the getting there! I had to walk through various strange mall no-man's lands -- those grassy areas that look pretty, but abut heavy traffic, and have no sidewalks? Then, I had to cross a busy 4-lane highway. Getting someplace on foot in Texas is like being an insect -- it might work, or, you might get squashed. Today, luckily, it worked.

I still had some time to kill, so I went into the mall. As I was passing by a manicure kiosk, I heard this unearthly, Middle-Eastern-sounding singing. "Is that you?" I said to the young man standing at the manicure kiosk. The young Israeli man at the manicure kiosk said yes, and broke into an old Hebrew folk song. When he finished, his gregarious friend (there were three Israelis...like the setup to a joke)... he serenaded me with an Israeli folk song. And when I say "serenaded," I mean serenaded. With some dancing movements, he looked directly into my eyes and sang passionately, and translated snippets of the love song to me.

I felt a lot of things. Interested. Fascinated. Irritated that he had butted in, when I was more interested in his friend. Joyful to be hearing such great music, and in such an unexpected place.

Most of all, I felt acutely embarrassed.

Singing Israeli #2 continued, "...And then we Dance! Like This {dance, dance}! Come on! Why don't we show you how to dance?" But I demurred. Zorba could not get my Greek on. I was desperately tempted in some respects. The problem...the problem is that I am Spanish enough to want to sing and dance folk music in the middle of a mall, but I am American enough to feel mortifyingly self-conscious about the whole endeavor. So I did not dance, and I did not sing a song for them. We talked, I thanked the three singing Israelis and went on my way.

In Dillard's...or Foley's, or Penney's...I kept thinking, "Damn! Damn! Here you have Life! handed to you on a platter, and you are too chicken to take it!" So I went back. The moment had passed...only Israeli #2 remained, and his boss was back at the booth. ...But I gave him my phone number.

It's a start.

Rome. Day. Not built in.

And I did get to hear some pretty songs.




From the three dancing Israelis and their joyous work avoidance, I went to the local office of WorkSource, which is the faux-business "employment center" you get to hang out in when you're on unemployment, or welfare, or some other demoralizing thing. They try to make the place professional-looking -- there are banks of computers to use, and phones, and you can have them fax resumes to prospective employers -- but in spite of the office furniture and accoutrements of industrious job-seeking, the sense of futility and despair is palpable.

When I walked in, I heard a woman say, "Has someone called 911 yet?!" A woman needed to go to the hospital. She had had a seizure at WorkSource. Of course she had a seizure at WorkSource. How stressed out are you, if you have to go to WorkSource? I bet people have seizures at WorkSources, and Unemployment centers, and food stamps offices, all the time. But when was the last time someone had a seizure during a spa day?

Well, the sick person was down, in among the lines of computers, and computer users. We all just sat there. There was that...thing. That thing...how do I put it?

Have you ever heard that Public Enemy song, "911 is a Joke?" It's about how, when you dial 911 in a poor neighborhood, the police and/or ambulance take forever to arrive. And meanwhile, the person is close to death. You know that there's something, possibly something very important, possibly the difference between life and death -- something that should be being done for this person. But no one there is equipped to do this thing. Suddenly, you are reminded of the cheapness of life, that we are all just here on our own. You feel that there is no help for this person, and there will be no help for you, when the time comes. You are reminded -- in case you had forgotten -- that you are poor, and therefore, worthless.

I remember a time in Brooklyn, in Fort Greene. A man in my building cut a major artery. He was in the lobby, and blood was spurting out all over the floor. The doorman, Jesus, had called 911, but the ambulance kept not coming. We had to call several times. It made you feel...so. So bad. You know?

He made it, though. The Brooklyn guy.



Back at WorkSource, eventually medical help arrived. I do not know the outcome. I think the person had had seizures before. I wish I could say that I was filled with compassion, but actually I just felt overwhelmed by how depressing it all was. I got a desk way in the back and set down to work, and tried not to think about it all.

Well, so it was heaven and hell this afternoon.




I walked back to the mechanic's. Turns out, I need a new clutch. Well, I'm not that surprised. I learned to drive on this car, and learning to drive on a standard often means destroying the clutch in the process. Honestly, though, I think I was doing pretty well with it until I started driving around Austin. But the unfamiliar roads, combined with highway driving and..."Oh Shit! I have to turn left here?!? {Squeeeeeeeeaaal!} "...meant that I did bad things to my clutch. And, lo, it is finished.

The lady -- the mechanic is a lady -- she gave it maybe a month. Arrrrrghghggh.




So, I'm pondering clutch replacement vs. car replacement and feeling all blue, when Pretty Boy calls. P.B. is a guy I met while I was out seeing music. The first time I met him, I thought he was gorgeous, but when he asked me out I declined. I couldn't get a good sense of him, he smelled like beer (yes, it's a bar; I am self-defeating) -- and I was exhausted from moving.

But! Life gave me a second chance! I went out to hear music again, and there he was! What's that song from Avenue Q -- "There Is Life Outside Your Apartment?" This time, we talked longer, and decided to meet up. He's only in Texas visiting his parents for the holidays, which works perfectly with my fear of commitment, happiness, and general success at love. So!

So, we talked. As I hung up the phone, I thought, "Gosh! What a nice guy. How can someone so gorgeous be so nice? And his nose is perfect! I don't think I've ever seen that perfect a nose on a guy. Wow." Then I turned to look at my passenger seat, and noticed that I had accidentally submerged my cell phone almost completely in plain, acidophilus-rich yogurt.

My cell phone.

With P.B.'s number programmed inside.

I hurriedly cleaned off my cell phone, but it soon turned itself off, overwhelmed with dairy goodness. The little hole where you plug in the power was full of yogurt. I couldn't figure out how to make the yogurt come out. I remembered stories of people sucking out snake bite venom and then spitting it out, and tried to suck out the yogurt, but then my mouth tasted like metal, and I belatedly remembered that phones have circuitry, and circuitry has lead, mercury, cadmium. Or! What if the place where I had sucked had battery acid, and oh God, Oh God, have I poisoned myself?

So, this is me, driving home:

As I drive home, I'm tapping my cell phone on my pants leg, trying to drain out the yogurt. Meanwhile, I take a swish of water. I swish it around my mouth, then spit it out into the yogurt container. At stoplights, I roll down the window and pour out the disgusting mixture to the bafflement of cars behind me; then I keep frantically swishing and wondering how much battery acid, if that was it, I might have swallowed, and really it was just a minute amount of liquid I had in my mouth, but is it enough to give me mercury/lead/cadmium poisoning? It is an ecstasy of neurosis. And while I am worrying about how I can possibly afford a new clutch and a new phone, and I am simultaneously worrying about whether I have poisoned myself, and whether I should even bother calling Sprint's technical support and trying to explain, and of course no one will know but everyone will laugh at me... a part of me notices something. And what it notices is: I have a possibility of a date with a nice and eligible fellow...and this mere possibility has caused me to go into a Lucille-Ball-worthy orgy of accident-prone neurosis.

Sheesh.

Eventually, I stopped swishing and spitting. My mouth still tastes like metal, though. And my stomach hurts. But I'm not dead yet. If I die, I'll be sure to let y'all know.




So. I got home, and asked my retired-engineer roommate if he had a wet vac. Of course he had a wet vac. I felt a sense of doom, however, for my phone. All the way home, it would try to boot, then freeze, and shut itself off.

But! My engineer roommate had a suggestion: rubbing alcohol. And wouldn't you know, he kept a syringe around just for that purpose? So, there he was, filling a syringe with alcohol and shooting it up into my young cellular patient. Then, as the alcohol-yogurt combination oozed out, I would suck it out with the wet vac. We repeated the process a few times, then I plugged it in, and it worked! I could have kissed my roommate!...but I didn't.

I turned on the phone, and first thing, extracted P. B.'s phone number.

...Sheeeeesh.

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September 22nd, 2005


01:22 pm - No Houston Amtrak service.
Hello, everybody.

This originally was a post urging people to use Amtrak to get a train out of Houston. But then I called up Amtrak.

The line Houston is on runs from San Antonio to Orlando, FL. Those two stations are the only ones that trains can turn around in. The track in between -- at Nola, Biloxi, etc. -- was severe. Even before Rita, they expected it would take months to repair.

This is awful. Trains are crucially important to emergency infrastructure. In terms of crisis preparedness, trains are often the best bet in a crisis -- think how the subways run in NYC even during 2-ft blizzards. If you absolutely positively have to travel when the shit is hitting the fan, it's great to take a train.

But because the trains were already down, no one in Houston could evacuate for Rita by train. And as we see, the car method is awful. It's currently 12 hours to Austin (usually 3).

Well. Good luck to everyone in Texas. My thoughts are with you.

Love,
Polly


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August 1st, 2005


06:57 pm - New Blog...
Heya, kids. Well, I've finally done it: I've gone and gotten myself a blog on Blogger. It's at winnowingfork.blogspot.com . I've copied most of my posts from this blog over there, and I've also added some new ones.

I'm not super hip to the world of blogging -- I think I was born about 3 years too late, and a lot of it still feels newfangled to me. But it appears that, if you want to have a "serious" blog that people outside of lj link to, it has to be hosted somewhere other than lj. This seems ridiculous, as the actual *content* will be the same, but for now, I'm just trying to understand the rules, before I go breaking them.

Also, I submitted my new URL to the great blog digest (or whatever you'd call it), feministblogs.org. So hopefully in a day or a year or two I'll hear back about whether or not I've been "accepted." If so, then you'll be able to read me there, too.

Anyways...just wanted to let y'all know.

Polly

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May 21st, 2005


10:14 am - Hey Kids! -- Time to Call Your Senators
Hello, all --

I am writing a quick note because we're in the midst of yet another huge attempted power grab by the right-wing. I speak, of course, of the attempt to remove the filibuster, and with it, one of the last checks on an increasingly rapacious regime.

I had some ideas about what to do:

A) Rock back and forth in the fetal position, occasionally whimpering, Why? Why?

B) Reread any and all literature chronicling the rise of fascist regimes. To wit: The Handmaid's Tale, 1984, Darkness at Noon. *Then* proceed directly to fetal position.

C) Call up foreign consulate; ask to speed up citizenship application.

D) Wrap self in paper and tie a ribbon around to dress up as "Bill" from Schoolhouse Rock episode; go sit dejectedly on steps of Capitol while little boy intones, "Boy, it sure is a lot of steps to the top of the capitol building...but I wonder who that sad little scrap of paper is?" Then start singing, "I'm just a Bill..."

E) Call some senators.

The last option seems most compelling to me, so in case you also have spent too much time already exploring options "A" through "C" (I'm still seriously considering "D") , below are the names and contact info of the senators who are still in the middle on this issue, or otherwise have some sort of influence. I've gotten through about half the list so far. The people answering the phones have been very nice so far, and many of them say that their senators are interested in hearing from constituents from out of state.

So hey, if you have some time to call one or two of them...it can't hurt!

Thanks,

Polly

PS#1: If you have any ideas of other actions or protest on this issue, please let me know. I still feel I could do a lot more.

-----------------------------------------------------------------

Lincoln Chafee, Rhode Island
(202) 224-2921

Susan Collins, Maine
(202) 224-2523

Mike Dewine, Ohio
(202) 224-2315

Lindsey Graham, South Carolina
(202) 224-5972

Chuck Hagel, Nebraska
(202) 224-4224

John McCain, Arizona
(202) 224-2235

Lisa Murkowski, Alaska
(202) 224-6665

Gordon Smith, Oregon
(202) 224-3753

Olympia Snowe, Maine
(202) 224-5344

Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania
(202) 224-4254

John Sununu, New Hampshire
(202) 224-2841

John Warner, Virginia
(202) 224-2023

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March 24th, 2005


11:46 pm - Poverty



This time, I felt my poverty coming on, like an orgasm, or a sneeze.

...Um, except, poverty really sucks, and orgasms are great.

...Like...a freight...train?

Never mind. I'll stop with the tortured analogy.

It started in December. I was working for MegaCorp as a 'contractor' -- basically, a glorified, high-paid temp. MegaCorp paid me a regular salary plus benefits, and then hired me out to MegaBank at an ungodly markup. Even after factoring in my benefits, MegaCorp made as much as 70% profit on me. Meanwhile, I was supposed to feel grateful because, in return for exploitation, unexciting benefits, and no overtime pay, I was managing to just eek out a decent middle-class salary. Still, I had health insurance, and the knowledge that if I got laid off, I would make an ok amount on unemployment. "Finally!" I thought. "I have a safety net! Even if I lose my job now, I'll still be ok for long enough to find a new one! If I lose my job, I won't be poor! My compromises and lack of time to work on music are paying off!"

Um.

Here's my definition of middle class vs. poor. "Middle class" is when you can pay the front-loaded costs you need to pay, that keep you from getting poorer. You can pay the doctor bill, that keeps you from having to go to the ER later. You can pay for a security deposit, and that means you can sign a year's lease, and not get gouged paying rent month-to-month. Etc.

"Poor," therefore, is when you can't pay for those things, and, for lack of that smaller amount of money, end up owing a much larger amount in the end. So, "poor" is not how much money you have now, but how likely it is that in the future, due to your current situation, you will have even less.

Poor is also, I think, when you start making decisions about whether and when to go to the doctor based on your health insurance. And yes, by my definition, a lot of America is poor right now. (They're just poor with cable. But health insurance for a family of four is thousands of dollars a year, well beyond the reach of many...so, as long as you can't afford to be middle class, you might as well be able to watch Sex and the City once in a while. )

Anyway, back from the generalized poverty to my own...In December, I got a letter in the mail from MegaCorp's Corporate HR. "We're simplifying your health benefits with this new, improved"...Dammit. My "simplification" worked like this: From January 1st on, I would be on a high-deductible health plan. How high? $2100 a year. Now, since I see a shrink, and since I've been having regular problems with an ovarian cyst, and might possibly need surgery...the question was not if I would go through that deductible, but rather...how on earth would I deal with a $2100 extra expense? Immediately, I began thinking about finding a new job. But in the meantime, I would have to postpone getting surgery next year, at least until I found a new job.

Poor.

I needed to find a new job, but meanwhile, my current job was taking up all of my time. The project I was on went into crunch time. We all worked long hours, weekends, etc. I worked such long hours that I couldn't get the 6-month follow-up ultrasound on my cyst done before the end of the year. I worked such long hours that I ended up sick at home for a week with a terrible flu.

Poor.

What was frustrating about this, though, was that many of the hours were completely unnecessary. Someone high up would decide it would be "nice" for the QA team to be at work, and lo, it was done. New Year's Day fell on a Saturday, and we were at work at 8am after a full week of work already -- only to do nothing for the whole entire day.

How, I wondered, did I get here? To a point where I'm coming into work on a Saturday, for no reason at all? I thought about how, in the good old days, jobs like mine might have been covered by overtime. Managers would have thought long and hard before paying..what, triple overtime? (over 40 hours + weekend + holiday). And, if our time was being wasted, we would have at least had the triple overtime to comfort us. But no; I was salaried, and I felt I was having less and less say over the hours I worked. I worked long hours, and was grateful for them, because they were better than no hours at all. If I came in on Saturday, I just might have the opportunity to come in on Sunday!

Poor.

What has happened to the "good enough" job? What has happened to working as a secretary, so that you can have health benefits and make enough to cover your rent, while you write your screenplay/go to grad school/raise your kids? All I wanted, last year when I was looking for a job, was a decent nothing little job that paid $35k a year. What I found were nothing jobs that paid $20-$25k per year...which are poverty wages. I found $25k jobs, and $45k jobs -- but the $45k jobs were 'career' jobs, with hours and expectations and demands to match. Even though, in the grand scheme of things, $45k? Really not that much.

But there it was, the divide, pure as I could see: poverty jobs, and middle class jobs that require poverty work, and nothing in between. So I took the latter, and crossed my fingers.

But I got laid off. I thought, though, that after working 10 months straight at a decent wage, my unemployment would be...decent. Decent enough for me to have 2-3 months before I had to start panicking.

...Oh well. wrong about that, too.

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10:20 pm - On Being Poor...Again
Today, I went to "WorkSource." They gave us a two-hour workshop on the in's and out's of unemployment, and how to use the "resources we have available." They gave us packets and pamphlets. They called us "customers." At the end of the session, they gave us little computerized cards we could swipe, to access our worksource resources.

"Oh, look," I thought, "A special card to let us know that we're poor."

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March 14th, 2005


10:13 am - Wanted: Skills from All Epochs: Cretacious, Jurassic, encouraged to apply


From a recently received job posting:

"Ease in technical communication, both verbal and written, is primordial for this position."

Primordial?

How would I answer that, exactly? "Why, yes, I have primordial communication skills...I've been developing them ever since I crawled out of the swamp, evolved, and learned to fend off sabre-tooth tigers."

...eesh.

The irony, of course, is that the sentence is about how they're looking for someone who can write well.

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March 10th, 2005


04:10 pm - cry cry cry
I broke up with Sam two weeks ago. So here's what I'm listening to:

"A Song for You," Donnny Hathaway. I'm not sure who originally wrote this song. The lyrics make me break down and cry like a baby every time I listen, and I try not to anymore but then it comes on and I must...the most heartbreaking lyrics are,

I love you in a place where there's no space or time
I love you for in my life you are a friend of mine
And when my life is over
Remember when we were together
We were alone and I was singing this song for you


Isn't that excruciating? It's just grueling....but much moreso with the music.

Then there's "Stardust," by Hoagy Carmichael. God, it is just so fucking bittersweet! The version I'm listening to...or, more usually, the version that gets stuck in my head, is Willie Nelson's. If you only know him as a country singer, you're missing out. He's a fabulous interpreter of standards, too. Lyrics:

Sometimes I wonder why I spend
The lonely nights
Dreaming of a song
That melody haunts my reverie
And I am once again with you
When our love was new
And every kiss an inspiration
Ah, but that was long ago
Now my consolation
Is in the stardust of a song

Beside a garden wall
Where stars are bright
You are in my arms
That nightingale tells its fairy tale
of paradise where roses grew
Though I dream in vain
In my heart it will remain
my stardust melody
The memory of love's refrain.


The line that always makes me cry is, "When our love was new / and every kiss an inspiration."

What's so haunting about this song is the melody -- it has a strange sequence of notes that's very reminiscent of two other jazz-era songs: "Autumn in New York," and "Moonlight in Vermont." Those three songs all sound like they're ripping each other off -- but they're all great songs, so who am I to say?

Then, of course, for pure pathos and suffering, there's nothing like Billie Holiday. I remember when I was a kid, I saw Lady Sings the Blues on tv one Saturday afternoon. I became obsessed with the song "Good Morning, Heartache." I must've been about 11 at the time. Anyway, I sang it to myself for years, in the bits and snatches I remembered, until I finally bought the album.

Now, of course, I empathize with the song quite differently. I think, "Yes, yes, that's just how it is...so true." I think that's the mark of a great song. You don't have to have been in love -- you don't even have to have finished puberty -- in order to love it and be moved by it. It appeals at different levels.

Then, for pure self-flagellatory (is that a word?) self-abasement, there's "Don't Explain" (Billie Holiday / Arthur Herzog, Jr.).

Hush now, don't explain
Just say you'll remain
I'm glad you're back, don't explain

Quiet, don't explain
What is there to gain
Skip that lipstick
Don't explain

You know that I love you
And what endures
All my thoughts of you
For I'm so completely yours

Cry to hear folks chatter
And I know you cheat
Right or wrong, don't matter
When you're with me, sweet

Hush now, don't explain
You're my joy and pain
My life's yours love
Don't explain


It's just so pathetic. That urge you have sometimes with a love, to just say, I will be your footstool, I will be your slave. Like that scene in Carrington, where Emma Thompson's character gives a penwipe to Anthony Hopkins. The cloth says, "Use Me," and she says, "That's how I feel about you."

...Well. Otherwise, though, I'm doing alright.

I lost my job, and I lost my boyfriend, my love. I do what needs to be done, send out resumes...and then have one or two or three crying jags a day. That seems to about do it.

I'm reminded of some Woody Allen schtick that went something like, "My girlfriend left me, but really I'm alright. Last night, I slept like a baby; woke up every 3 hours and cried.


...but other than that, as I say, I'm doing alright. Strangely, I'm doing quite well, considering. Taking very good care of myself, exercizing, and doing tai chi every day. I have 2 job interviews tomorrow, 4 hours total of interviewing.

Wish me luck.

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November 3rd, 2004


02:58 pm
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! AAAAAaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaAAAAAAAAAArrrrrrrrrrrruuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuggggggggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!

::grinding, guttural noises as my anguish cry of pain completely leaves the world of the verbal::

arugh. AAURGGHGHGH!!! ARArururura. ahg. aaaagh. aHHHhhhaaaaaagggg. ay! ay! ay! ay!!!!!

::pant, pant, pant::

aaauuuuuuuuuAAAAAAAAAUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUAAAAAAAAAAAAAAUUUUUUUUUUUUUHHHHHHHHAAAAUUUWWWWAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!

...ok. you get the idea...

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