Friday, December 30, 2005

Nothing much to report... Grossly behind schedule in my errands, and still have much work to do before our impromptu New Year's Eve fete, complete with bonus guests... (Not that I am complaining -- far from it, I always find New Year's Eve terribly boring without something to do. Seriously, for years it was my least favorite holiday -- Arbor Day easily beat it -- but then one year I attended a party MLW and her then roommate threw, and I found I really enjoyed myself... goofy games and all).

Anyway, I'm not typing to tell you about that. As I find now that I'm home at odd hours (and up and typing and even odder ones) daytime TV is still largely a wasteland. I found it redeemed however, by a tremendously entertaining cartoon called Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends. Yes, yes, I'm sure many of you know about it already, as according to Wikipedia, the show premiered sometime last year (2004), but what can I say, I'm slow...

Very amusing (and once again makes me wonder exactly how sophisticated today's youth are if they can get all the jokes and aside homages). Anyway, according to the Cartoon Network schedule, it's on Friday's at 8 p.m., but it also looks like it's on quite a bit over the New Year's Eve/Day schedule. Check it out; I think you'll like it.

(Oh, be forewarned though, I find that the theme song gets stuck in one's head like a bad commercial jingle....)

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Did ya miss me?

...Yeah, that's what I figured. Back from NJ , and boy are my arms tired... Or something (actually, that's not inaccurate... my cat is heavy, and you'd be surprised how much 12 lbs. can seem if he's lying in your arms for hours straight...) Took 7 hours to get back... blech.

So let's see what happened. Not much by my standards... We drove up (cat stopped yelling after about the first hour, so that was good), checked in to the hotel (very disappointed in them this trip), then hung out for a while. Then we drove up to the Treasure Island store where my sister works (they were crazy-NOT-busy). Then we drove to the Pizzaria Uno where we would eventually have dinner for her birthday (exciting).

On Friday we went to the comic book store (Dewey's Comic City in Madison -- yes, that's right, I still get my comics in NJ) and made sure to put him in the black for this holiday shopping season. Then we drove northward... and drove... and drove... and while I wasn't sure how we could still be in NJ, we were and eventually arrived to visit and have dinner with the (I went to high school with Kunze's: Rich (now the Town Manager of West Milford!) and his lovely wife Jessica and their precocious (but in the good way) daughter Sabina). Stayed there way late considering we had to be up early the next day...

For brunch with (strangely enough), Rich (who we'd seen less than 12 hours earlier), Mr. Huge & his lovely fiancee (who naturally live down here in VA), and a few other NJ folks (including another cute little daughter). Then we went back to the hotel for a breather (MLW was obviously sick at this point and getting sicker and hell, I'll always take a nap...) We then loaded the Mazur-based gifts into the J-Pod and drove Northward again to the lovely township of my youth. Or rather what's left of it in amongst all the construction. Seems that every time I drive up there's less mountains and trees and more townhouses... (As Jado would say, this mini-rant brought to you by old-age and bitterness. Old-age and bitterness, now with more crankiness!)

Anyway (my god, I'm boring myself just typing all this -- I can't imagine any of you reading it), we headed up to my folks place in WM, NJ. We had a nice visit with them (though all things being equal, I'm somewhat confused as to why my mom waited until we were LEAVING to change her hearing aid batteries...) and had (too much) food and got many presents. Then, seeing that MLW wasn't getting any better, we scadaddled back to the hotel.

Xmas day we got up and more or less did the same thing again. Although in this case, we called my in-laws and explained that MLW wasn't feeling that well, so that we'd be there a little later than originally planned and we went back to sleep (again, I'm always there to support MLW in her endeavors). We had more (too much) food, then exchanged gifts (also possibly too much) and then some of MLW's extended relations (uncle, aunt and cousins) came over (which was unusual, but a pleasant change of pace).

Monday, seeing that MLW was no better (and possibly worse) we cancelled our plans to go brunch with some more NJ friends (and their toddlers, who probably didn't need to be exposed to the ebola or bird flu or whatever MLW has), and instead drove home (see paragraph #1). Then unpacked (and unpacked and unpacked). And now we're ramping up for New Year's.

Like I said, not exciting, but what passes for my life.

Ah well, I need to get myself over to the gym (by way of the drycleaners and the bank), so I'm outta here. But here's an interesting article on automobiles and the possibility that their operating systems can be hacked.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Well, that's it, I'm outta here...

...well, not quite, but close enough. I don't know as that I'll have time to blog again before next week. So if I may take a moment to wish y'all the happiest of holidays (whichever one or ones you might be celebrating), and I will leave you with these two things:

I don't know if this is performance art or a group psychology exercise, but I think it's kinda cool.

And, as a special early Xmas gift, here's the first protoype of the Robot Doom Blog.

Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

This dial-up...

...speed is killin' me here. God.

Well, while it's taken far longer than it should have, this was supposed to be a really quick post...

Specifically, a link to a last minute Xmas gift MLW requested of me the other day. Now, I love her and all, but just... no.

I believe I made the correct call.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

What was I doing again?

...Oh, yeah, wasn't I, like, looking for a job or something?

I was trying to type this earlier and got sidetracked (how shocking, I know...) and now I'm rather knackered, so I'll give you the Reader's Digest version...

Two things really... The first was that when I was at the AOL Holiday party, OS's wife was doing a lovely job of networking for me (she seems to know nearly everyone there, if in some cases only by screen-name). She followed up with one guy later in the week (last week) and CC'ed me on the message. So who knows, maybe something will come of it...?

Also, as I mentioned in my December 7th post (completely forgetting to point out that it was Pearl Harbor Day, I now realize...), I was getting some information on some government jobs. In a sort of follow-up to that, I was on... well, I guess you could call it an informational interview on Thursday (that was yesterday, right? I still haven't gone to bed yet, so I say it's still Friday...) way out in Tyson's Corner. (Because you know what's fun? Driving over to an area with three malls, a week before Xmas, in a "wintery mix" storm.)

The interview itself actually went quite well, I thought. Not that I had that much to go on. But simply as interviews go, I thought it went well. It was very much a dialogue rather than a one-sided, "they'll-ask-questions-and-I'll-answer-them" sort of thing. Also, I'm told I was there more than double the average time (it was more than four hours), so I'm choosing to take that as a good sign (though we were clearly both talkers). If nothing else, I really enjoyed it as a conversation.

So, don't know if that amounts to anything or will, but I figure it beats telling y'all about how long it took me to file my unemployment claim this week (6 minutes, 23 seconds -- since I chose to use the telephone method rather than the web).

More to come.

Monday, December 12, 2005


Editor's Note: Okay, so apparently, when I thought I published this on Monday I was so tired I, in fact, only saved it as a draft. So, my bad. I'll leave the original/intended time stamp. And be advised that another post should be up later today.

My gods am I tired. I have no idea why the party prep (and actual event) seemed so tiring. True, MLW did wake me up on Sunday at like 9:30(!), which amounted to about 5.5 hours of sleep, because our houseguests (Jado, his lovely wife, and their unborn, "Thud") needed to leave early and MLW was making gingerbread waffles (which curiously involved a substantial amount of pumpkin puree -- they were, for the record, quite tasty, but I think I would call the receipte "spice waffles" or even "pumpkin waffles" rather than gingerbread... but I digress...)

Anyway, Sunday was largely devoted to cleaning up, and my going back to bed later in the day and sleeping for another three hours. I normally don't find parties that draining. I really don't understand what was up with that one...

(Though of note was the fact that MLW and I prepared/cleaned/decorated for it without getting into a single argument. A rare -- and quite welcome -- event indeed.)

Oh, I was going to include some photos from the festivities on Saturday, but I didn't know if people were okay with that... I can just see the emails now, "Um, JAM, we never said you could go and post our pictures on the web for all the world (and the robots) to see." I guess you folks should let me know if that's okay or not.

More later. I've got to try and salvage something out of this day...

Friday, December 09, 2005

You know that feeling you get...

...when it's 12:24 a.m. (yes, I mean after midnight) and you're bent down outside with a rubber mallet, hammering metal stakes in the ground, so you can set up the new outside Xmas lights before the "deadly" wintery mix* can arrive and bury the ground under maybe (at most) an inch of snow/ice?

You know that feeling? I think it's called "not. enough. time." So what am I doing typing here when I have so much to do? Good question...

* = See Huge's comments to my post of Monday for more on that topic.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Victory! Thou art mine!

After dispatching agents to points hither and yon as well as receiving countless suggestions and having at least one short phone conversation on the subject, I am thrilled to report that I have finally acquired, one brand, new, shiny.... Rotating Tree Stand!

(What? Did you think I was talking about something else?)

As my travels had taken me pretty far outside the Beltway today (Reston), I figured I would follow up on a lead that JC Penney's might have one. So checking online last night, I saw there was a Penney's at Dulles Towne Centre (which by the map anyway, didn't seem to be too far from where I was going to be). As it turned out, it really wasn't too bad, of course the fact that I was travelling well after rush hour may have contributed to that. So while Penney's came up empty, I figured since I was there I would scan the mall directory, and what did I find but a store called "Deck the Halls." I was in there and exiting with the tree stand in five minutes (would have been less, but the girl didn't know how to run a credit card through the machine...)

So there ya are...

Oh, also, the reason I was in Reston... I was at sort of a government career fair type thing. Learned about lots of interesting opportunities in the Dept's of Defense, State, Treasury, Homeland Security, etc. Some really intriguing ideas I'll have to follow up on. So more on that, um... later, I guess.

Now all that's left to do is decorate the entire house in time for Saturday....

Monday, December 05, 2005

Snowing, snowing, snowing...

...and thus Chinese Food Nite and Mah-Jongg are canceled. Thus leaving me with an "abundance of free time" (which is not true -- I never have free time -- I move from one thing to the next to the next to the next, which is why I am never bored. Yes, true, those include "sleeping" and "watching TV" but it is always something).

Anyway, naturally MLW is thrilled that it's snowing (she's kind of a snow maniac). And of course, being down here, panic has set in. 2-4 inches down here might as well be 2-4 feet anywhere else. But I'm sure Why I Hate DC has some excellent past posts on that topic (do a search).

Not much new to report. MLW and I went with OS and his lovely wife to the AOL Holiday gala which was held at the Udvar-Hazy Center (the Annex to the Air & Space museum that's out by Dulles airport). It's a huge museum -- they have the first space shuttle there for christsakes -- but somehow filled with all the various food stations, bands, tables, etc. it still seemed fairly crowded. Though I guess AOL has about 10000 employees, so... Anyway, we were going to see the level of excess involved, and I have to say, I was not disappointed. Plus, I got to wear my tux again, which is always fun (after the damn bowtie is tied anyway).

I think that's about it for today. I have an interview type thing tomorrow, that I fear may be rescheduled due to the aforementioned weather conditions, but here's hoping it isn't.

I guess I'll leave you with this device, brought to my attention recently by WPE. I think I must have one. I will have to see if they ship to the US or if some vendor here sells them.

More later, after I'm done finding the snow shovel...

Friday, December 02, 2005

Cellphone's Lament

I don't pretend to recall all of my of my senior year History seminar, but I do recall a rather spirited discussion we had about the subtle ways in which technology works its way into our lives.

I believe it was where I came up with the "Jiffy Pop analogy," which served me so well in my time as a web developer. It basically goes like this: when we were kids, making popcorn at home meant Jiffy Pop on the stove -- an affair involving the entire family that would take the better part of 15 minutes, not counting the sarcastic remarks and admonitions to not burn it. Today we microwave popcorn in less than 2 minutes, and that 2 minutes can seem like an eternity. Our temporal expectations have adjusted to match up with the technology. The point, I believe, of the book we were discussing in the seminar was that society is soon reaching critical mass on that score. There comes a point wherein technology will be faster than human comprehension, and what do we do then. But I digress...

My point in bringing that up was to talk about how quickly we become dependent on technology. In this case, I am lamenting the loss of my cell phone (which was thoughtfully provided by CPI with the service paid for by the contract I worked on). I should tell you that I was not one of those people who seemed to be permanently attached to the thing (thus inspiring that fun game, "Crazy? Or Cellphone?"), in fact, I often wondered if I lacked people to talk to. One day driving home from work and merging into what was always a messy merge onto 395, I noticed that I was the only person in any of the cars surrounding me who wasn't talking on a cellphone.

But in spite of that, the little gadget had wormed it's way into my life patterns. Most specifically, I find it difficult to shop now. I had become so dependent on being able to call MLW while I was at the store. "Should I get the red or the blue?" "Do we need butter?" "I'm at Home Depot, is there anything you need?" Etc. In fact, I almost had a minor scale meltdown last week at Target, staring at the literally hundreds of choices in Xmas lights, because I kept reaching for the phone that wasn't there. How could I make this decision myself without input? (Which is interesting, as it begs the question, did I become dependent on the cellphone, or just indecisive?)

But especially with my "never know when a thought is going to pop up" way of brain functioning, a cellphone was a useful tool. Doubly so when say I am now constantly tying up the phone line by being online...

So while on some level I find it odd, I do, apparently miss this small gizmo that wormed its way into my life. And I think that's enough from me right now, plus I have mouse hand (the phenomenon wherein the hand you're mousing with, and only that hand, gets ice cold for some reason...), so more tomorrow.

Recent Epilogue: Before I had the chance to publish this (yes, sometime I write a post in advance... I hope I haven't spoiled the blog "magic" by telling you that), MLW got me a new cellphone! Since she was on Nextel since I had been on Nextel for work, she simply expanded us to some sort of family plan, and got me a new phone. Have I mentioned lately how much she rocks (and how that's the sort of decision I would have agonized over for weeks and weeks comparing plans and carriers and phones and all that...)? Well, she does. New number available on request.

Ooh... nice one...

...from Jado: The Holiday Gift Guide from hell. Funny.

And from the Weird News Dept...

Thursday, December 01, 2005

"A rotating tree stand...

My Kingdom for a rotating tree stand!"

Okay, let's be honest. Not much of a kingdom these days.

In a recent (last year) decision, MLW and I decided to alternate "being in charge" of Xmas. I made this suggestion, because we have what would tactfully be described as "two, divergent styles" when it comes to Xmas decoration. She has what might be referred to as a "subdued, understated, and tasteful" style, whereas I have a "colorful, blinking, spinning, if it sitting still it will have lights on it and what do I care if it might induce a seizure by looking at it" style.*

To be fair, this is only the first year I'm trying this, so I really can only go by my family's reputation on the matter, which is fabled in story and song ("The 12 Pains of Christmas" by the Bob Rivers Comedy Group) and legend amongst my NJ friends. While we can't and won't have that much Xmas stuff here -- we simply lack the space and don't have a free-standing house the way my parents do -- I did want to try a few things differently than the "compromised manner" in which MLW & I have been decorating up until now. I even let her go first last year. (I also pointed out that after we each had a try, we could bag the alternating idea if she didn't like it).

So, anyway, long story longer than it needed to be, I need a rotating tree stand. And I haven't the faintest clue where to find one down here. Tried a bunch of usual places: Target, Home Depot, the entirety of Pentagon City Mall. Suggestions from local readers appreciated. (Snide remarks not-so-much, but largely expected.)

* = actual descriptions vary dependent on who is doing the describing.

So, I think I owe y'all a story...

...about my trip to the VA Employment Office, no?

(I will out-of-chronological order point out that I filed for the first two weeks today online, and the process could not be simpler. Curiously (or not) it won't let you file for the week we're in until the end of said week...)

So after filing my initial "paperwork" online, I had received -- I forget when -- I think back in the week of the 13th, which contained amongst other things, my last days at CPI -- a notice telling me that I needed to appear in person at the Alexandria office on Monday (11/28) to answer some questions about my claim.

Okay, reasonable enough (and hey, it's not like I have anything else to do), so I plan to do that Monday morning, which being me, winds up being about an hour and a half later than I'd figured, but it was still "a.m." when I got there. Of course, getting there was part of the fun. I'm looking at the address, thinking Cherokee Avenue... why does that sound familiar to me? I can't recall. So I look at a map and I head down Duke Street to where it becomes Little River Turnpike (which technically puts me out of the City of Alexandria, I thought, but hey, I'll never understand how they divide the boundaries down here in the Commonwealth...) and just about most of the way to my chiropractor's office (shout out to the gang at Pinecrest Wellness Center!) I take a left and head down Cherokee Avenue. Which seems to be entirely residential. And drive and drive and drive. By which I mean, less than five minutes later...

I come to the end of the road. But it's okay, because I've also come to a small office park. Okay, 5500, 5510... waitaminute, the road's ending in a T intersection... and that's it over there... to the right. That's not even the same road... Oh, well. Look right, look left, look ri... Hey, that BP [gas station] back on the left looks familiar, in fact... [looks over left shoulder] Crap, is that my gym? *chuckle* The VA Employment office I'm "searching" for is across the street and vaguely around the corner from my gym...?

So anyway, I go in, check in with the flamboyant info clerk (bright lime green sweater... which considering it was like 70+ degrees on Monday may have been a poor choice), and he tells me to have a seat, and so I do and I had brought a book, and conveniently, just as I get to the end of a chapter (been waiting for less than 20 minutes) this guy, who I'll call "Carl" (because that was his name) comes out, and takes me over to his cube.

And he's all, "So what can we do for you?" And I'm like, "Well, um, I got this letter... You wanted to see me with some questions?" And he's, "Well, we just like to see people in person with their IDs." (Which, in retrospect, he never asked me for...) But he was really nice -- and I'm not just saying that because he complemented me on my sports jacket, to which I replied, "Thanks. Costco." And he said, "Costco?! Really?" And I'm like, "yeah, sometimes they have good stuff there." And then we got into a whole involved discussion on how difficult it is to shop if you're an unusual size that isn't "big or tall" (because, well, it is... and apparently Carl can where a normal size 42 or 44 jacket, but then he has to get the pants altered because the waist or seat is too big, etc., etc. I heard where he was coming from...)

So anyway, he had me sign a couple of forms about the two days I worked the one week, and about the unused vacation they still need to pay me for, and he gave me some handy instruction booklet on how to file a claim by phone. Seriously, you can file by phone. And of course, via the Internet.

So points to the Commonwealth for their highly organized and efficient system and staff. Made what I feared would be a painful process quite the opposite.

Okay, my back is hurting (I have to bring the "six million dollar office chair" upstairs to the office yet), and so I think it's time for bed. More tomorrow, I'm quite sure.

Is that show aptly named...

...or what?

Watched LOST tonight as is my habit on Wednesdays. (Watch LOST, tape Veronica Mars... both well-written, both quirky in their own way, both in my Top 5).

I'm not sure I'm ever going to get where they're going on that show. And in case some of you haven't watched it yet, that's all I'll say.