July 31, 2003

80% of Tech Support

It's not the troubleshooting skills or the accumulated knowledge, it's just knowing where the damn software is kept in whatever office you're in.

And also the damn passwords.

Posted by Chris on 07/31/03

Backup Server Update

By Christ, there was a breakthrough on the backup server I am building. This is good because more and more I'm believing that me getting at least one of these servers up and running might well be the difference between having a job and being made redundant - AGAIN - as they say over here.

I installed and configured my first RAID on this server, took careful notes on what patches and service packs went on, and downloaded and installed the Veritas backup software. It's actually been neat. But then the software did not want to work because the underlying services would not start.

In my mind once you're to the point where you're dealing with services and ODBC updates and Jet 4.0 updates then you're nearly at the quantum level of the computer. One more level of magnification and you'll be ushering the 1s and 0s individually through the copper wires.

So I'm to the point where I'm reading the logs of why this service isn't starting. Error logs provide only the shortest possible grunt of an error message to you. They are intended, like much IT documentation, merely as a nostalgic reference point for people that have long ago figured this out and need no more help. They are not useful in and of themselves. Oh, there's always a number that accompanies the error, but this is useful only in looking up the error in a vast index of error messages online. Beside this number will be nothing - except for the little meaningless and vague grunt of an error message. Again, it's used only to remind the people that least need to look up an error message of that one time they didn't know how to fix this.

Your task is then to compare this minor utterance with the broader online documentation and help files of the operating system and software website. Expect to spend some time in the jungle of Microsoft's Knowledge Base. These documents will be hopelessly vague. It's like trying to find driving directions to a market in Ramallah by reading the Old Testament.

But somehow some tiny fragment of data in all the many sites I visited yesterday kicked off something in my brain and I fixed this problem yesterday. I fixed it. By myself. This was not a Level I tech problem - this was way up to III or IV, if they have such a level. And the answer was nothing to do with anything that had been in the documents.

Posted by Chris on 07/31/03

Filmmaking and Those Agents That Would Stop You

Congrats to the cast and crew of G.S.P. on Day 4 of the shoot. Producers / directors Simon and Macy front-loaded their shooting schedule with the hardest parts - the ones that would make me ulcerous with dread and worry. A bunch of extras, loading in to a working theatre location and competing with other renters because the theatre owner double-booked, scenes with the whole cast at once... friends, I am throwing up for you in sympathy. On one hand they are more prepared for their shoot than I have ever been for one of mine, but the first few days are always tough.

So why am I in London instead of helping make this film the way I said I would? That's what you want to know. You're staring at me with not-quite-accusing eyes, but I can detect the slight tone in your voice. Sigh. OK:

To me making a movie is a gargantuan, impossible task. We're not talking Camel Through The Eye of a Needle impossible, but close. It's physically grueling, and worse, it's a constant mental assault as well. Shepherding your bright and shining ideas through the months, watching them erode from a golden tower of euphoric expectations down to the smallest nub of a dirty molehill by compromise and reality. It's brought me closer to clinical depression and nervous crack-up than anything else in my life.

One of my compulsive mental habits during production or even near to production is to come up with the metaphor that will describe the process and articulate my misery. Past metaphors include:

1) Pushing a boulder up a steep hill; then running to keep ahead of it on the other side.

2) Running a gauntlet in your best new suit.

3) Spinning plates.

4) Running a gauntlet in your best suit, and also it's a marathon.

5) Stacking ball-bearings.

(#4 was the metaphor of choice for "Intervention.")

I reassure myself when I'm producing one of my own movies by mentally elevating the task to a mythic undertaking. In my mind Edith Hamilton would describe (Were she not dead, and also in the business of writing about independent filmmaking) my production in the same terms used to describe the defeat of the Hydra. It's not that I'm Making Art; it's just that I'm Doing Something That is Nigh Impossible.

There is a point where I proudly make the official announcement to my friends and the Universe that I am now Making a Movie. When I make this announcement, my friends usually smile and make polite noises of anticipation. But the Universe flies into immediate action.

The expression goes, "Be bold and mighty forces will come to your aid." But my experience is that the converse is more often true.

Upon learning of your plans, the Universe immediately dispatches several of its Agents - I sometimes refer to these Agents as "demons" - to hinder the task.

Generally these Agents work in the following way: 1) Locate someone that has committed to the project and who is somewhat invaluable to its completion; 2) Triangulate amongst all their friends and relations and find someone that could possibly have a wedding during that period; 3) Appear to that potential bride or groom in a dream and compel them to schedule their wedding during your production (some time-travel required here); 4) Imbue them with the burning desire to have your crew or cast member in the wedding party during your shooting party.

Another way these Agents work, if no one is available to be married and need your leading man to pour punch or hold the register at the reception - almost a statistical impossibility, by the way - is by laying down an embarassment of riches in front of a key player to entice them away. These riches are usually in the form of 1) A great role for an actor in a play at a premiere Chicago theatre, 2) Not even a great role in a play, but ANY role in ANY play, as plays are more important and legitimate than just a movie, or 3) A 6-week trip to live and work in London.

More in a bit after I destroy this computer.

Posted by Chris on 07/31/03

Hee hee hee.

Friend Scott sent me a link to this online comic, which I am enjoying. Help yourself to the archives:

(I HAD linked to a specific strip from the site that I liked, but it occurred to me that some webmasters may not care for my habit of liberal linkage to their images. Especially online strips, I would imagine.)

Posted by Chris on 07/31/03

July 29, 2003

English Accents

A few friends and family have asked jokingly if I have an English accent yet. No, but there is a real danger here. You wouldn't pick up an accent in such a very short time, but my problem is I am something of a personality magpie.

I don't really have a personality of my own, I just grab bits and pieces from other people. If a particularly dominant personality comes around that I like, it's all I can do not to start appropriating mannerisms and gestures and expressions as my own.

So I'm not exactly speaking with the accent, but let's just say that in that small small moment you have to edit your words before they leave your mouth, I'm having to do a lot of very quick conversion back into how I'd say it in Chicago.

Posted by Chris on 07/29/03

Happy First Day of Shooting

To the cast and crew of "Goat Song Project." Wish I was there for it!

Posted by Chris on 07/29/03


If you're not reading Achewood every day, then I pity you, friend.

Treat yourself and start from the beginning.

Posted by Chris on 07/29/03

Today I was mugged

By my job. I'm working longer hours over here because the office is bigger. I left today feeling like I'd been punched in the stomach. Request after request, and no matter how simple each one was, everything took forever. Someone new started, and I can't set up their phone and voice mail because I don't have the passwords, except I find the one for the Octel, but I can't get my modem to work for the switch, so I go down into the server room to do it at the terminal, but I forget the second key, so I go back and get that, then I set up his voice mail, but I transpose two of the digits, which I don't figure out 'til I've gone seven floors up, and it's two hours before I realize this, and here's this poor guy just starting who thinks I'm an idiot, etc., etc. , etc. And that was just one issue of several.

I come home, go jogging, heat up the stove for dinner, then don't have a can opener, so I turn off the stove (the cooker) and go get one, thirty minutes later I'm home, I heat up the stove, put the can opener away and find the other one where it was the whole time.

It's also clear to me that my new job is not coming easy. Gone are the days when I could learn slowly, through much example at the patient hand of FattyFat and INYF (FattyFat may have killed Bob Hope with his hate but he was the best IT manager ever). Now I am expected to know, to research, to divine, to perform, to intuit. In short, to do my job.

In my new job it is not uncommon for the OSI model to be spoken of freely when explaining a problem. Conversation is peppered with talk of ports and protocols. Everyone seems to read this stuff in their spare time. Sometimes I feel like screaming out THIS IS NOT MY REAL JOB - I AM A FILMMAKER!

Posted by Chris on 07/29/03

I see you, FattyFat!

Shakin' that ass! Shakin' that ass! Shakin' that ass!

Posted by Chris on 07/29/03

Lowering the Mask

FattyFat celebrates Bob Hope's death over on his blog.

Not to harp, but I forgot the most egregious part of Lilek's bleat yesterday:

"Let's review. Bush: supported legislation that wanted to open up an obscure distant corner of caribou country for oil production. The legislation failed; the drilling has not occurred. Saddam: drained the entire southeastern marsh of his nation, diverted the water, ruined wetlands and the Ma’dan, the people who lived in that ecosystem."

"An obscure distant corner of caribou country." I'm pretty shocked at his dismissal of the environmental issues here - and this is the same thing that shocked me about Dennis Miller's recent Ride to the Right. Because Saddam is in the world doing evil things, and because there are liberal critics in the world with little sense of proportion, Bush pretty much gets a free ride. I think we might hold our president to higher standards than Saddam, is all I'm sayin'.

And what fool set the left lower button on this Intellimouse to close web pages?

Posted by Chris on 07/29/03

July 28, 2003

New billing

I see that I have been given higher billing on INYF, if somewhat generically.

Posted by Chris on 07/28/03

Lileks, Lileks, LILEKS!

Disappointment with Lilek's Daily Bleat again. (Link on the right, though maybe not for long) I read his column daily because it is charming and intelligent and funny and I love his life. But his intolerance towards differing opinions on Iraq is more and more disheartening, and not what I'd expect from an intelligent writer in the least.

It's the feeling you get with a friend that's funny and intelligent and you enjoy being around them, but on one particular subject that's important to you they're rigid and narrow-minded and won't hear any dissent.

Today his point seems to be that if you weren't pro-military action in Afghanistan, you don't get to be happy for the newly-liberated Afghan women. He also happily shoves anyone who wants to discuss America's oil interests in Afghanistan or Iraq into a box labeled "Conspiracy Nuts," and then staples the lid shut, something that has always driven me crazy.

James Lileks is an intelligent, likeable person and I'm disappointed because I expect more from him.

I DON'T expect for him to agree with me all the time. Not at ALL. But I DO expect someone that's intelligent to be able to entertain other viewpoints and be able to discuss them on their merit - without dismissing them out of hand.

Let me spell it out: I'm very pleased that Saddam Hussein is - more or less - out of power in Iraq. I think that is a good thing, and a big Power to the People! to the Iraqis. But I still have questions about how and why the U.S. came to be over there kicking him out at this point in history. I am allowed to feel good about this change for Iraq and still question the U.S.'s motives. To suggest that I am not is to impose an absurd and childish oversimplification on logic and discourse.

And frankly, whenever differing opinions or questions are so heartily and quickly dismissed in this fashion it makes me believe that some might be afraid of the answers themselves.

Bush-Cheney were clearly falling over themselves to get us into Iraq. What was the hurry, fellas? We've got evil dictators all over the world! We got one in North Korea - also on the Axis, by the way! - that verifiably DOES possess WMD! We've got this terrorism problem in Afghanistan that still wasn't really sorted out! Where's bin Laden? Didn't you sort of forget to budget for the rebuilding of the country that you promised? What is it with Saddam? Why him?

Bush-Cheney were more than happy to feed the public the line that 9/11 was connected to Saddam, and that our safety depended on liberating Iraq. They traded in on the populace's fears over terrorism to get us there. They over-emphasized, spun and possibly lied about WMD* to get us there, and made sure that anyone who disagreed was tarred with McCarthy's old Anti-American brush, still sitting in the can of kerosene in the White House basement. They even brought out a NEW Anti-American rubber stamp, the dreaded DOESN'T SUPPORT THE TROOPS label. They went against the opinion of the majority of the world nations to get us there, squandering the rare good will we enjoyed after 9/11. There are connections between our administration's private business dealings and the companies selected to rebuild both Afghanistan and Iraq. There are business connections between the bin Laden family and the Bush family**. Bin Laden was someone we used to be working with to implement policy**. All this is fact. And I think it warrants looking into.

A more concise way to make this point: If we can spend $70 million on an independent investigation that existed to look for - well, really just about anything they could find on Bill Clinton, and ended up with an extramarital affair - I think we can afford one that is going to follow the money behind the scenes between our administration's private business dealings and all the international players in Afghanistan and Iraq, where actual lives are at stake and in fact are being lost every day.

And yes, you may put me in the box with Oliver Stone, but such an investigation will deal with OIL. A SEA of it.

I'm not exactly holding up a sign that says BLOOD FOR OIL right now. But I'm not mocking and dismissing anyone that is. (Although I do mock and dismiss the kids in the marches I was in that held up NO MORE OIL!!! signs. I'm definitely a proponent of alternative energy sources, kids, but are we really at the point that we can say No More Oil? Not everything can be run with hemp, fellas. Let's pick our battles and think about what we're saying.)

*And it's not that I don't think Saddam wouldn't want or go after a WMD if he could have one. I think he would - and again, I'm glad he's gone. But the amount of spinning and lying over the WMD subject leads me to believe that it's being used as a reason to placate the Joe Q. Lunchpails of the world, the ones that want this to play out like a movie Western.

**Believe it or not - I don't believe these things are evil prima facia. But I do think they warrant delving into.

Posted by Chris on 07/28/03

July 27, 2003

Update on Blog Disrespect

I see over on FattyFat that I am given an unwarranted backhand from Mr. Grumpy McGrumperton. And I see over on INYF that there are complaints over the Bloggerty-Non-Commentedness of my site.

But it occurs to me - why do I need to upgrade to Moveable Type when my good friends have already done it for me?

From this point on, if you need to leave a comment for me, just head over to INYF and leave it there, where they have thoughtfully already set up comments for just this reason!

In other news, I went to Hyde Park today and listened to the people spouting their opinions at the Free Speech area. Every thirty feet or so someone was standing on a ladder going on and on about something or other - Iraq, God, the many uses of olive oil. A saw an interesting exchange between a God guy - who never seemed to get to the point other than to indicate that Jesus Was Just Alright With Him - and a Palestinian. The crowd loved the Palestinian, who was making a lot more sense than God man.

Posted by Chris on 07/27/03

July 25, 2003

International Criminal!

Holy crap! Look at John's comments on iTunes licensing restrictions. But... I've been listening to my iPod here in London for nearly a week! Does this mean... I AM IN VIOLATION?!?


I see incidentally that John has not only reduced my billing to something like 35th along his site sidebar, but he has also refused to report my actual blog name. Bad form. I was thinking of raising his billing to #1 on my site, but I can see it needs to go down to the end now. Sad.

Posted by Chris on 07/25/03

Telemetry Technology for Analog Nostalgia

We went out to get a pack of VHS tapes before I left, because I want Ami to tape Project Greenlight while I'm away. A day before, I had just gotten a notice from my satellite company, DirecTV, of a special offer for a digital video recorder that would work with my service. I don't think it was exactly Tivo, or maybe it was. I gave the offer a few extra minutes before passing on it - I just don't have the yearning right this minute, although I sense it will probably be my next major purchase.

But then when I went to buy this pack of ten VHS tapes, I paused. TEN tapes? Wouldn't I be buying a DVR soon? Or if not soon, then at least before I went through ten VHS tapes, what with my liberal recycle policy?

It's been a while since I was right on the edge of two technologies - one comforting and known and reliable, the other beckoning and smaller and better. I started a CD collection relatively late - only eight years ago - and that was a big step. And now, iPod and Apple are making my transition to digital files for music instead of beloved shiny disks fairly easy, but that still feels strange. If I buy something from the Apple Store*, that's money spent on a digital version that I will never have a physical analog for. Don't point out that I've been buying software for years - with that, there's a lot of well-designed packaging, and more importantly a shiny disk. Am I going to be keeping up with stacks of hard drives for music now? And why does that make my music collection seem so fragile, when I have computer files saved from probably ten years ago that have never suffered any corruption?

Missing the physical element of a collection is going to be a bit weird. Perhaps Apple could market some sort of telemetry glove that allows me to "feel" my collection of "records," or somehow give me the tactile sensation of "perusing" a stack of tapes. They could offer plug-ins for any format I felt I might be nostalgic for - cassette tape (yes), CD (yes), 8-track (hardly), vinyl (not really), piano roll, wax cylinder, Cuneiform etching, whatever.

*The fact that Apple provides no easy way to transfer music bought through their store between the three Authorized Macs makes the digital-only storage feel even more fragile. Expert John: what am I missing here? Because I know there must be something. If I buy music on Work Macintosh (really the only place I do so), but want to bring it to Home Macintosh (both Authorized Macs), am I left to move it by transferring the MP4s via an external hard disk? Like, say, my iPod? But then they must be moved as "files" and certainly not music, as we know how iPod is a one-way dude.

Pray do not speak to me of third party software or command line copying or the mysterious "Check for downloaded music on this computer" option within iTunes - is it true that Apple is essentially leaving it up to us to use Sneakernet to move this music?

Posted by Chris on 07/25/03

July 24, 2003

oh sweet Jesus

Rosamund Pike.

On stage tonight.


I thank the Lord my God for this bounty.

Saw "Hitchcock Blond" at the Lyric tonight. I went because... Rosamund Pike is in it. It deals more or less with two film archivists who uncover some lost footage Alfred Hitchcock shot early in his career, and also with Hitchcock's own infamous personal weirdness, by moving back and forth from the present to the fifties, when Hitch was holding auditions for Janet Leigh's "Psycho" body double.

The "Psycho" shower scene is one of the most important and deservedly scrutinized pieces of film from just about any era, and this play revolves around it. It's been said to death, but the shower scene - and usually what people mean when they talk about this scene is the sequence of shots after the shower curtain gets pulled back - is truly a masterwork of visual suggestion without explicit depiction. But more importantly, Rosamund Pike went starkers in the bit where Hitchcock "auditions" her for the body double part.

I'm not sure I really loved the play, however. It had several good moments but didn't add up very well. I would have preferred more Hitch and Rosamund in the fifties and less of the framing present-day story. I was never really interested in the relationship between the archivists, even when it paralleled (slightly) that of Hitchcock and the Blond. And no, I didn't favor the fifties segments just because of Rosamund Pike (who appears naked), but also because of William Hootkins ("Porkins" in "Star Wars," the skeptical government agent that recruits Indiana Jones in "Raiders of the Lost Ark," and also Sargeant Eckhart in - yech - "Batman." ) doing a spot-on Alfred Hitchcock.

Also most excellent and in fact the only factor of interest in the present-day scenes was David Haig, who I had seen in "Four Weddings and a Funeral." And, beyond just appearing naked, Pike (Apparently in her stage debut? Can that be right?) was very good, adopting a surprising American accent a little like Cate Blanchett's in "Talented Mr. Ripley."

It was a shame they did so little with the visuals in the play, considering that it revolves around the idea of these specific cinematic images. The set was often a computer-generated scenery projected onto a scrim, which sounds cool but came off as a bit tacky. Occasionally, rarely, they would project a frame or two of what the archivists were restoring, and that was effective. Also, in a dramatic action scene they overlapped several pieces of restored footage, and there was an image of a girl projected onto the falling water of a shower, but these moments were few, and oh god did I tell you that Rosamund Pike she got NAKED? She DID.

Something I also have to comment on was how peripherally annoying the audience was. What a bunch of ninnies, only stirring when the broadest of comic bits came along to release them from their confusion at any subtlety. I believe, for instance, that Hootkins might possibly have been going for something besides just broad laughter with his unbelievably dead-on rendition of Hitchcock's speech patterns - but all he got for his trouble was guffaws at the bigger bits. Why am I such an elitist theatre and movie snob? But most importantly, as I scan over this, I don't feel I've fully emphasized that Rosamund Pike, pictured above, was onstage, naked.

Posted by Chris on 07/24/03

Laundry sympathies

Scott in Chicago sympathizes with my washer / dryer problems. I've been able to engage the dryer, but I haven't managed to get it to "buy-in" to this idea of really getting my clothes dry. At best the dryer is giving them a hot tumble, and leaving them basically damp. I suspect the presence of another hidden knob somewhere. Scott suggests that perhaps it's akin to one of those special Mortal Kombat moves...

"I think it's like those old Nintendo games where you SUPPOSEDLY could make the one guy rip out the other guy's spine, but to do it you had to remember and enter some insane, bizarre combination of key taps & thumb stick movements AT THE SAME TIME. 3 suns, a pinwheel, 2 cranks of the knob while you do another 2 suns AND a whirly AT THE SAME TIME. "

Today I picked up a bit of dry cleaning from the little laundry by the tube stop. The man seems to be operating out of a closet. I've only recently discovered the joys of dry cleaning at home. I don't know why it took me so long to come to it. Maybe I thought it would be really expensive. It's around $15 a week for me, with two or three pairs of pants and maybe five shirts at a time - and it's an expense I'll happily take on to be freed from the medieval task of ironing. I'm happy to do hard work if it feels I'm getting somewhere, but I'm such a bad ironer, I hate wrestling with the board / 2' cord / hot iron, it takes hours, and it feels like something that is ideal to be... OUTSOURCED.

But I pick it up here (3 prs pants / 5 shirts) and it's £34. That seems like a lot, right? Plus, it took him two days!

Posted by Chris on 07/24/03

16 vs. 11

"The press had high expectations of Clinton, which he did not succeed in meeting, and they had low expectations of Bush, which he surpassed. Plus, they like him more as a guy."

"...Bush's notorious 16 words in his State of the Union address erroneously talking up the Iraqi nuclear threat make up a far more important prevarication than Clinton's 11 ("I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky.") Moreover, the White House's fine parsing of the phrase matches Clinton's floundering over the definitions of "is" and "sexual relations." Consequently, critics argue, the political price that Bush pays for his lie should more or less match what Clinton paid. The stakes, after all, have been wildly disproportionate. "

"The longer the Democrats criticize Bush on the issue, Schnur says, the harder it will be for them to ever change the subject. "

From here.

Sorry to be such a one-source linker.

Posted by Chris on 07/24/03

July 23, 2003

Now that I am here I can tell you... Pt II

Pt I starts here.

Panic sets in. OK, this is bad. Before I go into Panicked Problem Solving Mode, however, I allowed myself a few moments of writhing in panic. Yes, I know the cab's meter is running outside, but I need this.


Yep - this was going to be bad. And embarrassing. But HOW bad? What did it mean? Am I in the clear to depart, since technically it's good for the flight time? And then I can just renew from the U.S. Consulate or Embassy or Protectorate or Missile Base or whatever in London? How did I counsel that friend of mine who had this happen that time, and how did it turn out? (All the while secretly clucking my tongue at him - I mean, NOBODY lets their passport expire!)

I have the cab driver take me back not to work, but the James Thompson building, that giant crashed U.F.O that Chicago commandeered for its administrative offices. This is of course not where I need to be; but through sheer dumb luck I locate a secret underground tunnel that takes me to City Hall and - AMAZING! - exactly the right office I need to be in to make a query.

Here a Kindly Official chuckles at my obvious distress, which calms me somewhat, although that calm is dissipated after he gives a low whistle when I tell him how soon I need to travel. My situation is beyond his powers; phone numbers and addresses of even more official and inner offices are given.

Clearly mine was a problem that might take me through the planetary core of city government. I may in fact have to appear before George W. Bush himself, in which case I hope he does not read this blog.

A call to the U.K. Consulate in Chicago (They do not maintain an Embassy or Protectorate or Missile Base here, apparently) yielded the information that the lovely-voiced clerk had "never actually heard of" anyone renewing their passport while abroad. I love it when I come up with the first instance of a problem in civilization!!! Panic increases - my last hope is that I could probably just report it as stolen while I'm there. She removes this last hope by pointing out that the airline would probably not let me on the plane at all for the departing flight, considering I'd just have two days in the country.

In the worst stages of panic, I admit that I considered buying a styrofoam cooler and a raw liver from the butcher and posing as an Organ Courier - to explain the short term of my Passport's validation.

The other number I am given is the Passport Office in Chicago, where an appointment must be made. The next day I go to my appointment, where I am in a room full of people in my situation. This calms me somewhat, but that calm is dissipated by the fact that I am in a Federal building and one gets the feeling that certain unknown extra laws may apply to you in a Federal building, and that perhaps I could be incarcerated forever there for a trespass or at least heavily taxed. It is here that I pay $115 for my rushed passport. I would have gone up to $215.

The good part is, no one needed to know about this crisis (until now), and I flew as normal. The bad part is, my karmic payment (in addition to a monetary payment of $115) is that I look like a Mole-creature in my new Passport picture, one that has only returned to the surface after a very long stay underground.

Posted by Chris on 07/23/03

Now that I am here I can tell you... Pt I

...the very embarrassing tale of how I almost didn't get to take this lucky six-week trip to London.

The chance to take this trip came up with relatively short notice. I think I had to decide in a day and then fly in three weeks. Once I was sure I was going I started making all the preparations. Contact the corporate apartment people, did I have the right kind of clothes for the weather, make sure I had all the files and passwords I needed, found a loaner laptop, cancelled some committments (which is an unfortunate tale in itself), etc. I got up to about a week away from the flight and a few times I'd thought about my passport. But of COURSE it was in order, right? That thing only expires once every ten years!

A few people asked in passing over the days following if I had my passport. OF COURSE I did. One doesn't even have to ask that, does one, it's such a common, understood thing! I really didn't even give it a passing thought. I know exactly where my passport is, I've kept it in the same spot in my top drawer for year after year. I was to fly on a Friday night - and then on Wednesday morning another person asked me in passing again about my passport. And it was then that the big red flag went up in my mind.


Normally one gets a series of smaller, progressively larger-sized red flags that appear in sequence as you get closer to some deadline. They're there to remind you of important things you must do before a certain date. I didn't get any of those flags - I just got the ONE BIG ONE that went up with a whoosh two days before I was meant to fly. It flew up and hit me in the face, letting me know:


Such was the sense of panic that gripped me that I immediately left work in the middle of the day and took a cab home to check. Remember - we're TWO DAYS OUT from flying. People in two countries and several time zones have made plans based on my assurances that I could travel.

I ask the cab to wait outside while I check the passport. This won't take a second! I'll just have a quick glance, and then chuckle at my worry! OF COURSE it's in order, these things expire only every ten years! I confidentally strode to the spot I've kept it in for ten years, and flipped open the cover.

Next to a picture of myself from 1993, there is the expiration date: 7/20/03.

The passport would expire two days after I flew out.

Pt II.

Posted by Chris on 07/23/03

The Truth revealed

So the dryer portion of the washer / dryer works this way: Two of the buttons actually extrude to become knobs, and these knobs set the time and temp of the tumble. Here's the problem, though: obviously this is a low-yield dryer so I'm not going to be putting huge piles of clothes in at once. But so far I can't get even a few pairs of socks and t-shirts to be anything more than really hot but still damp.

Posted by Chris on 07/23/03

What are the men of London wearing this season?

Mostly dark blue open-collar shirts with black pants, and looking very fashionable. Except that literally every other man on the street heading to work is dressed this way.

Posted by Chris on 07/23/03

July 21, 2003

Wanted: Rosetta Stone

Wanted: Rosetta Stone for the combination washer / dryer under the cabinet.

I graduated from college, right? I’m good at logic puzzles. But how in the name of all that is right and Holy do you get this thing to dry? There are no instructions – only symbols! Which one stands for DRY the clothes? The whirly one? The spinny-pinwheel one? The sun with radiating spokes? The one that looks like a toilet? Which one? WHICH ONE?

In other news: Mmmm! Orangina!

In other news: Mmmmm! Occasional nudity on BBC 5!

Posted by Chris on 07/21/03

Pathetic English Birds

I note this morning that my walk to work will take me by St. Paul’s. I decide it will be good luck to go by and feed the birds. I mean, IT’S JUST TUPPENCE A BAG, PEOPLE. COME ON. Give up a tuppence for the birds – it’s the right thing to do.

Posted by Chris on 07/21/03

WOKE UP this mornin'...

I had no currency, I had no underwear, I had no bath towels. I had no voltage converter. They'd left my luggage in Chicago. I WAS CUT OFF FROM THE LONDON GRID. Except for one grid – the Underground. In lieu of getting on the electronic grid I rode around the underground one all this last weekend.

Their underground does not smell of pachyderm the way our "elevated" underground does, and their advertising is much better. But I still don’t want to linger too long.

Ten points to the man or woman that writes a blues song using the line above.

Posted by Chris on 07/21/03

Just drug us

Since all airlines repeatedly ignore my free suggestion to them that they somehow mount the goddam beverage and food service from the ceiling and swivel it down the aisle, and incidentally it can then be lifted all the way up so that the 18 goddam people lined up behind it can go to the bathroom, let me then put forth for the THIRD time my premiere suggestion for them:

Since you continue to so miserably fail in your task; since you cannot fly us from A to C with an occasional connection in B without treating us like human cargo, then my suggestion is merely this:


Think of how much trouble you’ll save yourself. All you’ll need to do is check our pulse now and then and the I.V. drip. And we won’t notice how poor the service is, or how crowded it is, or how you put people off long-held travel plans because you're the only industry that gets the luxury of "overselling" their services, or how you can operate as irresponsibly as you want and still get to be bailed out by the government, or anything – we’ll be knocked out. You may as well – this is where you’re headed anywhere.

Those aliens waiting for us to evolve in their spaceship on the dark side of the moon? I don’t think they’ll budge until we get at least four more inches of leg room on these damn planes. What species that was truly sentient and worthy of a cancer-curing ray would subject its members to such treatment?

Posted by Chris on 07/21/03

I Have No Leg-room and I Must Shift

I do not know what professional Asshole and Writer Harlan Ellison’s book “I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream” is about, but I’m going to assume it’s about my airplane ride to London.

He might also have titled it “I Have No Elbow Room and I Must Slice Brisket” or “I Have No Leg-room and I Must Shift” or “I Have no Surface and I Must Place This Cup of Scalding Hot Coffee Down.”

Maybe another title he considered was “I Have No Easy Access to the Aisle and I Must Pee,” or “I Have No Luggage and I Must Change.”

I have written elsewhere with many exclamation points and much bold type about the state of air travel for the economy class, a class that I find myself in steady belongingment to. But not here! So here it goes again.


THAT’S what I’d be claiming if only I’d been a miniaturized version of myself, say around three feet high! I’d have had all the leg room in the WORLD!

It really is incredible. How much more can they make per flight with that extra row? If they could just remove ONE ROW then I’d be able to walk right now. It’s simply beyond belief.

During the meal service everyone was asked to bring their seat up – except for the man in front of me. I had to eat my food with my elbows pressed into my sides. I was like a Tyrannosaur, with those tiny spindly useless arms trying to tear into prey. This man did not raise his seat the entire time. He was sleeping soundly, God bless him! In a delirium of leg pain, unable to sleep myself, I began to picture him as Michael Gambon from “Gosford Park,” cradling some little shit of a dog and keeping me in debt by refusing to entertain a business proposal.

DAMN YOU, Michael Gambon, DAMN YOU and your little dog too!

Posted by Chris on 07/21/03

July 17, 2003

What is wrong with the world: Giant Squids and Meat-Trees

Here's the problem with the world: Every now and then you get headlines like these:

Meat Grows on Trees

Giant Squid Washed Ashore

And NO ONE SEEMS TO CARE. If people had an OUNCE of intellectual curiousity about them, then the DAY AFTER this is reported, the New York Times would have big bold headlines reaching all the way down to the fold: WE CAN GROW MEAT ON TREES NOW!


I mean, these headlines should be AT LEAST as large as the MAN WALKS ON THE MOON headline! What is wrong with people? Why does this not just blow them away?!?

Posted by Chris on 07/17/03


Why do I always check out this site, then always leave disappointed at the level of bias?

Everyone has some bias, but Instapundit believes that going to Iraq was a good thing, and from there all his link gathering and rationalizations flow.

Posted by Chris on 07/17/03

My current haircut: a status report

I'm very displeased with it. I know my forehead is steadily winning the war against my hairline, but it seems that it could be better than this.

It occurs to me that this is not MY haircut that I have, but Liza Minelli's. Perhaps I should pay more attention to the "Today's Special" board next time I go to the salon. It probably read "Today's Haircut du Jour is Coif de la Liza Minelli!" and I just wasn't paying attention.

Come to think of it, I shouldn't blame the salon. It probably has to do with that time I hit Liza Minelli with my car, and she placed that curse on me. But no - I am man of science, I must not let my superstitions get the best of me.

Posted by Chris on 07/17/03

July 16, 2003

It's Get Cheney Day...

... at Salon. Check out Rumsfeld's personal spy ring and Cheney must go. I'd LOVE for him to go.

They are the kind of articles from which I start copying so many quotes into emails, that eventually I just have to send the whole thing.

"The assurance that [we] knew exactly where the weapons of mass destruction were, or that Iraq was ready to employ chemical and biological weapons in battle within 45 minutes of an order -- all of those stories have proven wrong."

Regarding Cheney's likely role in fabricating or vastly spinning evidence to get the U.S. into a war with Iraq:

"This was no case of petty corruption of the kind that forced Vice President Spiro Agnew's resignation. This was a matter of war and peace. Thousands have died. There is no end in sight. "

And let me say that when I put forth this theory, I was scoffed at by members of the blogging intelligence community (guess who):

"[Bush's refusal to allow UN inspectors back into Iraq] has fed suspicions that the US does not want UN inspectors in country lest they impede efforts to "plant" some "weapons of mass destruction" in Iraq, should efforts to find them continue to fall short. "

The first article levels charges that Rumsfeld maintained a group within the Pentagon whose job was not to investigate the possibility of Iraq having Weapons of Mass Destruction, but to look ONLY for evidence of WMDs. It's called cherry-picking - finding just the facts that support a hypothesis.

It's something I think is dangerous on ALL sides of this issue. If you start every day's news-parsing looking only for evidence that BUSH LIED, I feel that soon you'll lose critical objectivity.

But for the record, let me state - I SUPPORT THE TROOPS.

Talked to some more friends last night who share FattyFat's view of the flag now. I say STEAL THE FLAG BACK FROM THE HAWKS! It's ours more than theirs!

Posted by Chris on 07/16/03

The Misunderstood SQL Slammer Worm

Why do we just assume that this worm is evil? Has anyone bothered to take the time to actually communicate with this entity? Why are we so quick to rush out and quarantine or DESTROY this creature? Perhaps it is trying to communicate with us in the only way it knows how. Perhaps its denial of service to us is just a cry for help!

Perhaps there is some long-standing feud between SQL and the Worm that we haven't even bothered to explore. We need more context about the tensions between these factions before we blindly take sides! For all we know, SQL is the one at fault, and we should be quarantining IT!

I call for increased understanding of this worm, and an advanced team tasked out to learn more about its culture before we just unilaterally move to destroy it!

If port 1434 were the only avenue available for HUMANITY to propagate itself, I assure you we'd want someone to do us the same favor!

Posted by Chris on 07/16/03

July 15, 2003

My Brief Conversation with the Lawyer Yesterday: A Review

Overall, I give my performance on the phone with the lawyer yesterday a B-.

I definitely could have been more on my game. Dealing with the lawyer who "represented" us during the Landlord Ordeal of '99 was good practice.

So - Lawyer for Chase Bank gives me a call yesterday, and without preamble begins berating me over how long he's been trying to reach Ami and I. It's a good technique, and my failure to see it as a technique MAY be understandable - but I would have liked to have been quicker. Unfortunately I rose to his taunt, and wasn't extremely articulate. This, more than anything else, is what has lowered my grade.

I assured him that I had no idea who he was, what he was talking about, and that my phone had been hooked up for quite a long time, but only after a few rounds with him. He should have been more easily and quickly dispatched on this point. Noted.

(Still, and I'm not disputing the grade, I feel it's worth mentioning the difficulty involved in this area. There's always the problem at my house in separating the telemarketers from those potentially legitimate callers regarding my wife's independent financial affairs, so I'm never quite ready to give someone the COMPLETE heave-ho. It's hard to have one's shield up and at the same time peer out over the edge for those legitimate volleys. And this guy was legitimate - the Saturn WAS, after all, I learn, kept over its allotted lease time [GRRRR].)

Legitimate or not, he was the very picture of the Asshole Lawyer. (I'm not lumping all lawyers into this category, but let's all admit that this is a very broad demographic.) While I'm still reeling with his claims that we've been completely inaccessible to him, he brushes aside my claims of ignorance of the matter. I AM after all on the lease of this car as well. Fair enough, and well played. Point to him. However, I parry this one well by simply asking that he get to the point. Nicely done! Continue play!

He then hits me with the one-two-three punch of 1) you owe $2300* 2) Possibly $3400* as you would be liable for court costs as well if Chase Bank chooses to pursue it, but 3) they are willing to settle for $1800*. I handle this well, considering the shock, by demanding that he repeat the only amount that pertains at this point - the final figure. I am ignoring his blustering about court fees. Nice.

(I find merely jotting down the bullet points of what they're saying helps me to focus on the content and not the asshole delivery, thereby formulating the pertinent questions quickly. This I did, although not without a slight hesitation in looking for a damn piece of paper and pen. Official Dictum Going Forward: Let there always be a pad of paper and a pen near every phone! As I have spoken, so let it be done!)

He also cuts me off when I begin to ask a question, and I cut him off right back. This is all happening two minutes into my call with this complete stranger; one minute ago I was innocently cleaning the bathroom, mind elsewhere! And it's taken me just seconds to get into fighting form with this creep! A star and a happy face on my paper!

So, we've bottom lined it all. I get all his contact info and he, mine. (I fumble when looking for a fax number he can send his slimy document too - bad form, that. Addendum to Previous Dictum: Keep current business cards of family on hand for all working fax numbers! Let it be so!)

In conclusion, the somewhat low grade of B- basically reflects letting Mr. Nice Suit in New York bait me into irritation at his initial smokescreens. But in the comments section of the paper I write "After an initial fumble, young McCaleb managed to get to his feet and defenses fairly quickly. Good work on recognizing this person fairly quickly for what he was. Next time work on cutting through their bullshit quicker."

*All values are estimates

Posted by Chris on 07/15/03



Good article. It definitely articulates something I've been having trouble saying, which is, the individual episodes don't disturb me so much as the overall accumulation of them.

It bothers me how much people have let these guys get away with in the name of "fighting the terrorists."

Posted by Chris on 07/15/03

July 14, 2003

The Inversely Proportional Post

A few other things I forgot to mention that I learned while reading Elegant Universe:

1) As you sit there reading this, you are now moving through time at the speed of light. Your speed through space is actually just a measure of how much of your energy is diverted from your trip through time.

I picture a needle on a meter labelled SPEED THROUGH TIME, with TIME on one end and SPACE on the other. The faster you go, the more it points towards space, but it pretty much is always pointing towards TIME.

2) There is a thing called the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle which is just great. To me it's the point where all this science talk really veers off into the hypothetical and abstract and you feel like they're just making it up. It's where they admit that the smaller you go on the scale, there are certain aspects of quantum mechanics that are known with less and less precision. Also something about not being able to know both the position and velocity of a particle at the same time, and at some levels, particles are computed to have EVERY POSSIBLE value at once. Yikes! Fun stuff.

If you're ever in a position where you have to fudge some answer about HOW FAST IS SOMETHING GOING along the "quantum physics" topic, just say "the speed of light" and most likely you're right. Also throw around how things are "inversely proportional," these scientists love that.

Posted by Chris on 07/14/03

The Universe is Elegant but Weird

I'd posted something earlier about reading The Elegant Universe as a place holder, and now I return to that. Every now and then I like to read a book about Our Current Understanding of the Universe, As Told By A Scientist That Is Good Explaining Things to the Layperson. I wouldn't put author Brian Green up there with Carl Sagan - who was surely the Mr. Rogers of science - but he's pretty damn close. We're talking about superstrings and quarks and warping space and time, and how it's not really even space and time but just spacetime, and quantum mechanics and Theories of Everything, and best of all: black holes!

I'm writing a new science fiction movie, and it deals mainly not so much with the hard facts about black holes but lots of pretend, made-up scary facts that a mean academic person perpetuates about them. I like to research a topic only up until the point that I feel I have enough fancy terms to throw around in a screenplay. So I felt the need to actually check in and get a fresh helping of Black Hole Facts for the Layperson, just to have a vague idea of what data I'm ignoring.

Since I read a book like this every so often, then forget what I've learned, I'm trying hard to PAY ATTENTION this time. I'm doing a lot of highlighting of phrases in the book, which makes me look like a real geek on the El. I also have TWO bookmarks in this book - one for where I made it the first time to about page 130, then a second for where I am currently in my effort to go back and re-read it and make marks and try to answer questions for myself.

Above all, the book has made me realize how much I misunderstood the implications of "relativity." Not that I ever had had a REALLY firm understanding of Einstein's concepts, but at least I've tightened the screws on my conception at this point.

I also have a better understanding of how Einstein came along and changed the Newtonian concepts that were held so justifiably dear for so long, (More on science and intuition later), and also where his theories don't go far enough to explain some of the inconsistances at the quantum level.

Another concept The Elegant Universe deals with very well: The constancy of the speed of light, regardless of how you're moving, and you're always moving, even when you're not.

I understood that the speed of light - c - is a "constant," but didn't truly know what this meant. Ask yourself this: if light is travelling away from you at 186,000 miles a second, and if you were to speed after it in your spaceship at 180,000 miles per second, won't the light now be effectively travelling only 6,000 miles a second away from you?


It's counter-intuitive, but according to Albert, if you're chasing after that light at 180,000 miles / second, the light will STILL be travelling away from you at 186,000 miles / second. Lots and lots of implications come from this, and lots and lots of previously-held dear to us ideas have to be overturned by this, but it's been proven.

Here's another key point about the state of things around Einstein's time that was well articulated: Newton's laws are perfectly well-suited for describing the universe as we humans experience it - but at much more massive speeds and masses, they fail. The good thing is, we have very little need in our daily life to know that, for instance, our clocks and scales might not agree with one another once we start moving REALLY REALLY fast, or how if our Sun goes missing we won't go flying off our orbit for around 8 minutes (instead of instantaneously as Newton implies). But if you are going to start thinking it through, Newtonian laws don't work the same for every situation.

On the scale of the immensely tiny or the immensely large, Newton doesn't pan out, but God bless him all the same.

Posted by Chris on 07/14/03

July 10, 2003

Sailing cancelled yesterday

Due to inclement weather. Too bad, because I was just picking up the bow line.

Previously all I could manage was the knot; granny, square, and gordian.

Posted by Chris on 07/10/03

July 9, 2003

FattyFat Doesn't Support the Troops

Not only does he mischaracterize my post, he attacks my heritage. Sigh.

It seems to me that we're complaining about the exact same thing, only he's aiming at the majority, so it's OK.

Posted by Chris on 07/ 9/03

This post is moving through space-time at the speed of light.

Reading The Elegant Universe, which replaces Dancing Wu-Li Masters as my favorite book on this subject.

Posted by Chris on 07/ 9/03

July 8, 2003

iPod Indexes My Life

According to my iPod, I spend WAY too much time listening to Elvis Costello. Every fifth song is Costello. Sometimes I suspect the randomizer needs to be reseeded (by the microscopic Department of Apple Agriculture that lives inside my iPod, I guess), and sometimes I think it's just a too-accurate assessment of how static my music preferences are.

But there are definitely songs on there that I've never heard iPod choose.

Precious iPod. So sleek, so simple, so useful.

Posted by Chris on 07/ 8/03

Total Blog Awareness

John keeps telling us about the crazy MIT site that does that thing about Total Government Awareness, but then when I go to check it out, it's always busy.

On the other side, McFall has been busy. I believe his current threads about flag abuse to be inspired or at least suggested by my inflammatory Puerto Rican Day post.

However, in the spirit of throwing some of my trash over the fence in order to start a fight, I'd like to point out that when I complained about the same thing in THAT post, he told me that it was "cultural," and therefore O.K. Hmmm.


Posted by Chris on 07/ 8/03

July 7, 2003

The Good Movable Type Samaritan

Good lord! Remember when I was talking about trying to install a test Moveable Type installation on my OS X machine? And I'd found a cool site that had a well-written step by step tutorial for doing just that?

So the author of the site checked his logs to find out what sites were referring to his, saw that one was coming from this blog, came over and checked it out a bit, AND EMAILED ME SOME UNSOLICITED HELP WITH INSTALLING MOVABLE TYPE. This is unheard of in my experience. Much thanks to Kevin at Lawver.net for the help! He describes himself as a travelling missionary for Movable Type. They should pay him!

Further progress on this front: I'd gotten it to see the MT images (because I remembered that I had changed my default web docs path, so I changed it back) So I took Kevin's advice about deleting everything in the db folder and starting afresh with a new login (mainly because I'd also forgotten the login and password I'd assigned myself.) I created the new login, and I notice at this point where, having signed on as mysterious super-user Melody Nelson, you assign permissions to tasks to users. Here's the part I missed before when creating a login - without images to go with these buttons, I couldn't see that I wasn't assigning myself enough permissions. I make myself a super-user, log out and in, and now ALL IS WELL!

Posted by Chris on 07/ 7/03

McFallian Containment Policy

I have a feeling that to be a staunch conservative right now must feel like McFall feels when we're at that point in Galactic Battlegrounds where he has so clearly bested me but continues to allow me to live.

Essentially he treats you as a big ol' mean cat would treat a little mouse that it has cornered. He'll give you enough latitude to move around and not overtly show himself, so that you think you have freedom; but if you venture outside a certain point, there's the legions of evil waiting to cut you down.

That's the attitude I feel Ann Coulter must have, that would allow what I assume must be a baseline rational human brain to come up with the theories she has.

Posted by Chris on 07/ 7/03

July 2, 2003

Our Feudal Lords II

(Check out part 1 below. )

Then came the big snow of '00, I think it was. The downstairs unit was unfinished and unheated, and our pipes froze. We were without water for ONE WEEK, and didn't have complete running water (to laundry) for ONE MONTH. During the initial week, he suggested we just use the bathroom over at another of his properties a block over. And as for laundry, wasn't there a laundromat just four blocks away? All this was suggested as if it were the most natural thing in the world.

We stayed in a hotel for a portion of the Without Water Week, which he agreed to. Then he said he'd only compensate us to the amount of what our rent would break down to on a daily basis - around $26. Is there a hotel in America that has such rates?

Again, what we let him get away with was ENORMOUS - it actually makes me madder at me than him. To my credit, though, it's hard to contemplate hiring a plumber and taking it off the rent when I have no money to pay the plumber. He had us over a barrel.

So we left, and when it came time to get our security deposit ($1000) back, he told us essentially to get in line with the rest of his creditors. At that point I was mad enough that I found the money to sue him. At that point I was willing to spend more money than I got back.

No lawyer in Chicago is interested in taking on a case involving landlords and unreturned security deposits, take my word on it; even those that have WE SPECIALIZE IN UNRETURNED SECURITY DEPOSITS in their ads. There's not a lot of money in it - that's why landlords can get away with it. It took us around three months to figure out we weren't getting paid, then something like six months to find a lawyer that would take the case. Then another six months to keep our lawyer interested in the case. And then another six months to get Landlord to show up to the trial, because all you need do as a landlord to avoid these things is to either not show up or to show up without a lawyer.

Around two years or so later we got a check for something like $1900. I believe another $700 went to the lawyer.

4. Current landlady. She's very nice and personable. Everything is fine as long as her job is just cashing the checks we give her. Any repairs are met with delays and denials. Our apartment (again, a basement level) has flooded twice. Meaning, the carpet in the center of the apartment was wet and splashy, everything in the closets was wet, cardboard boxes turned soggy. Big mess. She balked when we suggested she simply replace the carpet and pad underneath rather than task us with wet-vaccing it out. You know, I don't know much about fungus and mold, but I don't think it's good for you and I think it really really liked wet carpet pads. And we had to fight to get them replaced.

One more small but telling incident:

The upstairs tub started leaking and making the ceiling soggy. No big deal really to me, but her repair people (relatives or immigrants - never professionals) made a hole - for exploratory and diagnostic reasons - in the ceiling. That hole stayed there for two months while the task was forgotten. Again, minor. But then one of her relative / immigrant workers knocked over and broke a candle holder in our bathroom whilst working in there. Again - MINOR! No big deal. But they left the broken glass all over the floor. Didn't bother sweeping or picking up or anything. That was bad enough, but the worst part was her reaction when we asked her about it. She said she had no idea who had done it, and anyway she couldn't promise that this sort of thing wouldn't happen occasionally.

Landlording - it must be nice! Property ownership and minimal effort! The law favors them at every juncture, so there's really no need to follow up. The security deposit is a nod-and-wink signing bonus - they can keep it. They can ruin your credit rating with no recourse, and you can't leave the lease without danger of lawsuit. I believe if you check you'll find that Chicago landlords are legally within their rights to demand "First Night" privileges with your new bride, so grooms be careful where you honeymoon. And anyway, our landlord beat the soles of our feet with a wooden stick the other night, but since it was no wider than the thickness of her thumb, she's actually in the clear.

So I have no trouble at all believing that a porch wasn't up to code, or even coded at all.

Posted by Chris on 07/ 2/03

Our Feudal Lords

This Chicago porch thing. It hits hard because those three-story porches are so ubiquitous, and if you don't have one then you've been on one in the last three days, and at a gathering on one of them probably within weeks. It's terrible. My mind occasionally turns the subject over and I try to picture what the placement of people must have been for the toll to be so high, but that's useless information to dwell on. it's the sort of thing the Sun-Times or one of the Red _____ supplements might diagram for us.

I don't want to start a bum-rush of neglectful Chicago landlords over this thing, because that seems like a reactionary thing to do, but...

Next to insurance companies, there's no group I'd love to see get it stuck to them more than Chicago landlords. The amount of bad luck we've had with ours over the eight years we've been here is uncanny. It has to be a karmic thing; Wife Ami and I must have been either a despotic King and Queen in a former life, or perhaps a pair of Chicago landlords.

A brief rundown of the Troubles We've Seen:

1. Out in the burbs landlord: A corporate managing group. It was the summer that was as hot as 40 hells, and the AC unit kept breaking. So they kept replacing it with the broken AC units from other apartments. This was the summer I realized how people could in fact die from the heat. On one night if Ami hadn't forced me to leave with her I'm sure I would have gone into a coma. Boy, we thought we had it bad, even when they quite willingly released us from the lease early. But then we met...

2. First Chicago landlords. Up on Oakley Street just south of Irving Park. The location for my first real short. Our first garden-level apartment. The landlords feared that someone in the neighborhood was going to call the inspector on them because there was only one exit to the apartment and should have been two. So they told us that in the case of an inspector, they'd need to remove our stove and pretend that we lived with our upstairs neighbors. Irritating enough, but when we asked how they'd compensate us for the missing utility of a stove, they said "But you don't cook every DAY, do you?" Somehow we got out of this lease early too. I believe they were happy to see us go, as they wanted to hike the rent. Boy, we thought we had it bad, until...

3. Second Chicago landlord. Down on Erie Street just west of Hoyne. Whew. Now this guy WAS bad, as evidenced by the number of issues I'll list. In retrospect all the signs were there, and we should have paid attention. The place looked good inside, with shiny new floors and a great kitchen (also a location for a short), but outside and on the first floor it was in such disrepair that the place actually visibly leaned. Big piles of rubbish in the backyard. "Oh yeah - I'll get rid of that in a few weeks."

The heat and bathroom weren't working for the first week. It was icy cold, and I was working from home at that point. I learned about typing with fingerless gloves that winter. Could it have been worse? When I think back on how much this guy got away with... how much we LET him get away with because we were naive and unprepared.

From there the problems escalated. A lightswitch stopped working. It was on a parallel circuit with another switch. "So why don't you just use the other switch?" he asked. We had an all-in-one washer/dryer unit. The dryer wouldn't get anything dry, making it just a clothes-spinner, I guess. He suggested that maybe we were overloading it, which we weren't.

Where do they teach these guys this stuff? Is there a prerequisite to be able to sidestep logic and your responsibilities?

(Continued above because Blogger doesn't like big posts and I very nearly lost this whole thing which took an hour or so to write when it gave me an error to this effect, so thanks Blogger and hello Movable Type)

Posted by Chris on 07/ 2/03

Banning Films We Haven't Seen Is Easy and Fun

I very nearly had to respond to the religious email forward from a family member calling on everyone to sign the petition banning a film called "Corpus Christi" that - according to the email - depicts Jesus and the disciples as gay. Here's the text, after I have painstakingly removed all the many brackets:


Hi Friends,

At the risk of a bit of inconvenience, I'm forwarding this to all I

A disgusting film set to appear in America later this year depicts
Jesus and his disciples as homosexuals! As a play, this has already been
in theaters for a while. It's called "Corpus Christi" which means "The
Christ Body." It's a revolting mockery of our Lord. But we can make
a difference. That's why I am sending this e-mail to you. Will you
please add your name to the bottom of the list at the end of this e-mail?
If you do, we will be able to prevent this film from showing in America.
After all, the entertainment industry in under fire in our country right
now anyway.

Apparently, some regions in Europe have already banned the film. All
we need is a lot of signatures! Remember, Jesus said "Deny me on earth
and I'll deny you before my Father".

Hit forward, and when this letter comes up, delete any e-mail
addresses, fill in who you want to send it to, scroll
down to the last name (mine) and add yours to the list.

I could respond line by line at the absurdities. I particularly like how they're following the lead of some European "regions." I wonder if this list corresponds to the Nations of the Willing? And if not, does this mean we forgive them for not Supporting the Troops? But why waste the time. I have chosen to deny this email on the Earth.

Maybe I should thank them for alerting me to a film I wouldn't have otherwise bothered to see. 'Hey! Who's up for the Gay Jesus movie tonight?!?'

Posted by Chris on 07/ 2/03

On Spilling Half a Coke on My Desk: A Meditation

First of all, you may as well stop everything you're doing right then. Don't try to work around it. Take everything off the desk, and wipe it down with a damp cloth. Make sure to check the computers under your desk, because you forgot the pooled Coke on them, and that will be there for your iPod to soak up. Now THAT'S sticky, so wipe that down too. Make sure to check under the keyboard, because you forgot that and there's plenty of Coke under there too. The bottom of your mouse is now sticky, so you can try to clean that too but we both know it's a goner. That damp spot on your carpet will probably be damp or sticky for months, so maybe put a whole stack of paper towels there and stand on them to make them absorb.

After all this you forgot that your arm is sticky too from when you forgot about the underside of the desk where the Coke got to as well, so now your arm and everything you've touched needs to be re-wiped down. Just keep the Windex and the damp / dry paper towels on hand for a while - you're going to be like Andrea Martin in "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" for the next two hours. Go ahead and go gather up all the other rolls of paper towels in the office, too, because you'll somehow go through about twelve.

You may as well move out of the office, man - because everything's going to be sticky now.

Posted by Chris on 07/ 2/03