Thursday, April 30, 2009

Early morning surprises

I woke up early so I could finish work early, but the work gods decided to upset my work ethics. I turned on the lamp, fired up the computer and monitor, and readied myself for the first download of work. It didn't come. I tried again. No joy. I emailed technical support at work, Reggie, who happens to be Filipino. No joy. There was no problem on his end. There was no problem on my end even though he made me shut down my browser, open it again and check to see if I was actually able to surf the net. I was, but I knew that before I emailed and then called him at his request. Give me credit for some brains and computer savvy.

He said they had a similar problem a year ago with two other MTs. Oh? What was wrong? There was an outage between their location and the home office. Okay, if you knew that, why did you have me go through all those steps when I told you at the outset the only problem I had was getting through to you at the home office? Obviously, a stupid question because all he could say was "Call your Internet provider and see if there's an outage." Disconnect.

I called my provider and they couldn't figure it out either even after I laid out the problem in considerable technical detail. "Well, we can't tell if there is something wrong with their provider."

"I didn't say there was a problem with their provider. I asked if there was an outage between my location and theirs since everything is working on both ends."

And it just keeps getting better

"Oh. Well, we checked your location and everything's fine."

Calmly, while gritting my teeth and smiling, "I know everything is fine here. Is there a problem between here and New Jersey?"

"Did you know you could talk to a technical rep at .....?"

Still gritting my teeth and smiling, "I checked that already and haven't received an answer. Is. There. An. Outage. Between. Here. And. New. Jersey?"

"We can't check that. What's the model of your modem?"

Things got worse from there. The barely English speaking Pakistani gave me the number for the modem manufacturer. I took it, said goodbye and hung up while he was telling me about all the new services Qwest offers.

The modem works fine. The computer works fine. I downloaded work just yesterday, and uploaded it, too. I can dial into the work servers by telephone, but the DSL link for the VPN is not working. The tech rep actually suggested that my virus protection could be interfering with my VPN even though I explained several times that the computer and configurations have been the same without any problems for four years. Nothing has changed except that I cannot upload or download work through my broadband connection. There is an outage between here and New Jersey. Obviously, I know more than the tech rep, but then I do speak English and actually live in the U.S.

Reggie called back and asked me to ping several addresses, including Yahoo. Every ping went through in a matter of milliseconds, except for work. He's going to call back in about an hour and have me ping again. It's not working. I've tried several times since then. I'm reduced to 12K dial-up and slow connections in downloading and uploading work on the last day of the pay period. I'm resigned to being used as a foil for the Powers That Be today.

As if things couldn't get any worse, I got another call. Thinking it was Reggie again, I answered without checking the CID. It wasn't Reggie. It was Don, my old lover Don. He's in town again.

To spare myself the usual round of him begging me to reconsider, I told him I wasn't interested in reconciliation. The line seemed to go dead. "You haven't changed your mind?"

"No, I haven't."

"Not even if I moved here?"

"Not even if you bought me a cabin in the mountains and laid your lottery winnings at my feet."

"How about for a bigger ring, a deeper colored amethyst in an antique setting that's hundreds of years old?"


"You haven't married someone else, have you?"

"No. And I'm not likely to remarry."

"At least see me."


Someone knocked on the door. I started to answer the door and said goodbye when it hit me. "Where are you?"


"Don't be cute. Where are you?"

"At your door."


We've arranged to have dinner tonight and I have to say he does look good. His arms around me felt good, too. The kiss . . . well, some things are best left private. For right now, I'll chalk it up to having a bad day, but then again... What do they say about second chances and the road not taken?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Insanity runs in the family

My mother has finally lost her mind. She is not the person I know, but I thought insanity ran from parent to child and not the other way around.

Growing up, there were some things my brother and sisters and I knew without question. Mom wouldn't drink or eat after us because it was unsanitary, but she would clean our dirty faces with her spit on a Kleenex. She didn't allow pets, like our cats and dogs, to sleep in the bed with her because it was unsanitary and she wouldn't go down to the basement to clean up the papers when we had another litter of German Shepherd puppies. That was my job, a job I did before breakfast so I didn't lose it while doing the job. Instead, I dry heaved my way around the basement gathering up urine-soaked and manure speckled newspapers that smelled worse than an outhouse in August. We were allowed pets, just not in the beds, and the idea that Mom would actually love one was ludicrous. Mom tolerated the dogs, although she was often fond of one or two. Gypsy springs to mind.

Gypsy was one from the second litter of Rinny's puppies and wore a cast on her right front leg because Rinny knocked an iron off the ironing board onto Gypsy's front leg. She was the cutest thing, stumping around the basement and eventually upstairs with her bulky cast and somehow that worked it's way into my mother's usually immune to cuteness heart and she became fond of Gypsy. The other dog we owned Mom tolerated so easily was Duke, a German Shepherd-Doberman mix who had stole covers if they trailed on the floor, usually laid on top of you as though he were a lap dog, hogged the heat from the registers and had a serious problem with flatulence. In short, he was a quirky sweetheart of a dog and everyone, but Mom, adored him.

When Carol sent me pictures of Mom lounging on the couch with a white long-haired cat, Cricket, and a funny looking little Chihuahua draped over her I knew something was seriously wrong. Mom was asleep in the picture, so I clung to the belief that instead of changing her nature, she was merely oblivious to the dog and cat using her for a pillow. After all, Carol has about 6 or 7 dogs and two cats, not nearly as many cats as her longtime boyfriend, Clark, who uses his country house full of cats to keep warm during the winter instead of turning on the heat, and Carol sleeps with Ashy (short for Ashton), her sickly Yorkshire terrier. Carol falls in love with animals quite easily, as does Beanie and my brother, Jimmy. It's a failing of all the family, except for Mom, that we all go absolutely ga-ga over dogs and cats and other assorted animals, like Beanie's iguana Iggy and Dad's foul-mouthed and antisocial Macaw, Rudy. It's in our natures. It is not in Mom's nature -- or so I thought.

I don't talk to Carol often because she starts cooing and baby-talking about her Ashy and it makes me almost as nauseous as when I had to clean up the puppy papers. It's not that I don't appreciate and care for the animals I have had, like my cat Shadow, but I don't treat them like babies or children. Carol is the one most likely to put her favorite pets in a coffin and give them a fancy send-off. I'm the least likely. I have dug graves for many dogs and cats, but they were just holes in the ground into which the pets were returned to the earth to fertilize next year's garden. It's not that I'm heartless, but I draw the line at treating pets like people. They're animals. I'm a people. There is a difference.

When Mom starting cooing and baby-talking about her Dinkers (the Chihuahua, Dinky) I knew there had to be a pod in the basement. The only flaw in that thought is that pod people are usually less emotional, but the only way to make Mom less emotional is for her to be dead, so pods have to work in reverse mode. I get off the phone when Mom goes on and on about her Dinkers; I just can't take it and not lose whatever I've eaten over the past week.

Mom feeds Dink whatever she eats. If Mom has a sucker, then Dink gets a sucker, and the same applies for everything Mom eats, and I mean everything. As if that isn't bad enough, she carries Dink around like a baby sometimes and coos at her for being "such a good Dinkers" until it's enough to make even the most hardened and ga-ga pet owner want to vomit. But the worst was yet to come.

Mom grousing about Cricket the cat being too fast for her and getting into her room before she can shut the door is normal. She doesn't like cat hair all over her clothes, and she has a lot of clothes, but finding out that she sleeps with Dink was just too much for my brain to handle. She. Sleeps. With. Dink. There has to be a pod. She kisses Dink when she wouldn't kiss us when we were children, especially not on the mouth. It would mess up her lipstick, but worse, it was unsanitary. But she sleeps with a dog. She sleeps with Dink. I can't get my head around it. This is the same woman who refuses to allow an animal near her clothes or in her room. This is the same woman who was fond of two dogs in her whole life, but always from a distance. This is the same woman . . . It's not possible. There has to be a pod. The more I think about it, the crazier it seems, until I began to think about pets and their owners.

Rick, an ex-boyfriend, lives with seven dogs and two cats. When I dated him, he had five dogs and no cats. He was a nearly 50-year-old bachelor who had never been married. It didn't take me long to figure out it had nothing to do with his house being full of cages or cluttered with newspapers, bills and dog food. The animals filled Rick's emotional needs and when he got the down low itch, he'd find himself a girlfriend to take soothe the itch. It didn't last long, but for Rick it was enough.

Carol has had four husbands and during her marriage usually had a dog. When she's single, that number goes up considerably, like now. Her daughter, Shanna, is the same way. Shanna surrounds herself with dogs, many of which end up at Carol's house.

Beanie has always had a dog, but I can tell when she's feeling unloved and things with her husband are less than happy because she gets a second dog. She's down to one dog now, Gander, but that's only because Rambo died a few months ago, and she has four or five horses, and her emotional needs are met by her horses. Her favorite is Blaze, a cantankerous and evil-minded animal, that allows only Beanie near her without trying to kill her, although Blaze has come close a few times when he bucked her off. She always gets right back on him and he adores her. He just has bad days. And there's JW, the yearling Beanie bred from Classy, her other horse. Beanie is nuts about JW.

It was difficult to tell about Jimmy because he's so silent and keeps to himself, but he has had some dogs that he obviously liked, at least until Flea-Flea, or Fifi, as Carol called her before Jimmy took her home. Flea-Flea, as Mom calls her, is one of Dink's pups. Jimmy is now ga-ga over her, rushing home to let her out of the bathroom so she can greet him with much tail wagging, licking and cuddling. Since Jimmy is divorced, the reason is clear; he's lonely.

So that must be the reason Mom has turned from a hardened pet avoider into someone who now sleeps, eats and talks to her dog. She misses Dad. I miss Dad, too, but he wasn't my husband, just my dad, and I've lived alone for a long time. The only pet I have owned was Shadow, and he was my shadow. Sleeping in my bed, on his own pillow once he got too heavy to lay across my neck when we slept, stretched out in front of my computer keyboard when I worked and usually in my lap with his hind end nearly in my face. He loved BBQ potato chips and followed me everywhere, even into the bathroom if I didn't shut the door fast enough, and I am the kind of person who leaves the bathroom door open all the time. After all, who's here to see me? I was heart broken when he got out after my apartment was broken into and he never came back. I haven't owned another pet since then. I moved around too much to keep a pet, although I'd like to borrow a mouser to get rid of the sneaky mouse that continues to evade poison and traps of all kinds. (Must be a she mouse.) I get my emotional needs met in other ways and I'm not about to turn into a raving lunatic over a dog or cat or any animal, except maybe for my very own praying mantis, any time soon. I prefer animals from a distance or visiting but not resident. Anyone who lavishes that much attention on a pet has some serious insanity issues and I don't want to get close enough to catch them.

It started with Carol, Jimmy and Tracy, and sometimes Dad, although he preferred plants to animals, insanity creeping from the bottom up, but it finally latched onto Mom. It's a good thing I don't live near the rest of them or I'd soon be as insane as they are. Insanity runs in this family, but hopefully I have run away far enough that it won't catch me.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Coming to America

“Let us say to the immigrant not that we hope he will learn English, but that he has got to learn it. Let the immigrant who does not learn it go back. He has got to consider the interest of the United States or he should not stay here. He must be made to see that his opportunities in this country depend upon his knowing English and observing American standards. The employer cannot be permitted to regard him only as an industrial asset.

“We must in every way possible encourage the immigrant to rise, help him up, give him a chance to help himself. If we try to carry him he may well prove not well worth carrying. We must in turn insist upon his showing the same standard of fealty to this country and to join with us in raising the level of our common American citizenship.

“If I could I would have the kind of restriction which would not allow any immigrant to come here unless I was content that his grandchildren would be fellow-citizens of my grandchildren. They will not be so if he lives in a boarding house at $2.50 per month with ten other boarders and contracts tuberculosis and contributes to the next generation a body of citizens inferior not only morally and spiritually but also physically.”

“This is a nation — not a polyglot boarding house. There is not room in the country for any 50-50 American, nor can there be but one loyalty — to the Stars and Stripes.”

~ Teddy Roosevelt

Monday, April 27, 2009

Extinct? Says who?

In my morning email was a link to some very strange animals, some of which are believed to have been extinct, but extinction isn't what it used to be. The Pygmy tarsier hasn't been seen in 80+ years, but it is alive and well and breeding like, well, tarsiers, in another region of Indonesia. There was also a frog discovered that no one had ever seen before, a lovely green tree frog, that is quite hardy and active for a nonexistent species.

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy. So said Hamlet to his friend. Hamlet spoke of ghosts and the night visitation of his father who wanted Hamlet to avenge his untimely death, but there are more things in heaven and earth than any of us have ever dreamt. I remember reading about a coelacanth, a fish believed to be extinct for millions of years, showing up in a fisherman's net and the giant squid feared by mariners for centuries finally found and filmed. More things in heaven and earth, indeed.

In our arrogant belief that we know everything there is to know about the earth and how it works, we rush to change, rescuing endangered species and deciding which animals and causes are most important at the moment to save from man's predation. We fail to realize that humans are animals and have been on this planet a very short time in relation to the species that have walked, crawled and flown before us and will continue to inhabit this planet long after we are extinct. We know more about the moon and our solar system than we do about the depths of the oceans and even about our own back yards, and yet we continue to believe that we know best. Compared to insects, were are a minor species. Granted, we are capable of terraforming our environment, but not nearly as effectively or with such devastating results as the marabunta. These South American killer ants destroy everything in their path, including humans, stripping a man to the bone in a matter of minutes. Good thing the marabunta don't have politicians and environmentalists telling them they are destroying the environment and could cause the extinction of humans.

Humans, especially of the political and environmental variety, have a tendency to believe in their own superiority, especially in matters of their impact on the environment, but they really don't know how it all works. These environmentally and politically correct humans take a small sampling of information, put it into a computer model with their limited knowledge and decide the future of species and the direction of human evolution and social consciousness. They don't realize that their meddling may create an even greater problem, like taking a predator out of its natural habitat where it is prey and putting it into a foreign environment where there is no predator above it to keep it in check. The predator ravages the indigenous species to the brink of extinction and another hue and cry goes up to save the newly endangered species. It would have been better had the humans stayed out of it and left nature to itself. Like the pygmy tarsiers and coelacanth that found new homes and adapted or stayed under the radar, extinction is not the absolute end, as humans would believe.

Species come and go on this planet and will continue to do so with or without the help or consent of humans. We are one cog in the vast machinery of nature that has, as my grandmother would say, gotten too big for its britches. The cog thinks it is the whole machine.

It is time for us to step back and go about our lives with some understanding of our impact, but without the urge to rescue the rest of the world. Humans may think they are at the top of the food chain, but we're not. We can be brought low by microscopic bacteria and viruses, eaten by predators and destroyed by fellow humans. We are a blip on the evolutionary scale and the best thing we can do is continue to survive, adapting to our environment and the world around us, until it is our turn to find some secluded spot far from predators' eyes to regroup until we can emerge from the shadows as an extinct species that has been rediscovered.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Dreaming Ethiopia

My seeds are sprouting, some faster than others, and two of my sunflower seeds are over 7 inches tall. It's always exciting and surprising that putting a seed in the ground, even the tiniest of seeds, grows into such beauty and height within such a short space of time. From bare brown earth to a carpet of green-backed color is a miracle. I wonder what it would be like if humans grew so quickly from seed and embryo to maturity. We probably would not be able to catch up mentally and emotionally to the physical explosion of growth, but plants don't have that problem. Even with all the time humans take to grow into mental and emotional maturity, there's still no guarantee their physical presence will ever match their intellectual, social and emotional presence. It's a bit of a crap shoot. Nature versus nurture or hard wired in the egg, so to speak. It's like trying to figure out how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. How about none? Angels aren't pixies and even Thumbelina was too big to dance on the head of a pin when she was born. It's one of those mental gymnastics that prove absolutely nothing.

In my dreams and out of them, I've been performing mental gymnastics trying to figure out the name of a main character in a book I just finished last night. I could name all the other characters, but not hers. Well, not her first name. I got the Doctor and the Chase part, but had to look up the first name, which turned out to be Carla. I knew it started with a C, but kept bumping up against Cordelia and getting stuck, as most people get stuck in Cordy's pseudologic that focuses solely on her as the center of the universe.

That led to thinking of my favorite story, Rappaccini's Daughter, and being unable to remember the name of the author. I knew he also wrote House of Seven Gables and The Scarlet Letter and finally Hawthorne sneaked in there, but the first name wouldn't come. I am wiling to chalk this up to being an Army brat and calling some people by their last names, as Williams (Steve) can well attest, but I don't think that's the problem. Somewhere along the line the synapses that point to first names is either atrophied or broken and needs welding. Nathaniel finally slipped in when I was musing over a dream about Ethiopian water holes and packing water to another country before telling off the ruler of Ethiopia. I explained that the people of his land were far more generous and accommodating than he was and that he needed to pay attention to the people, get out of his palace and away from all the sycophants to understand what was really important. He was making laws against giving away Ethiopian water to other countries and his people were blithely ignoring his laws because they were more interested in helping fellow farmers than in kowtowing to some distant ruler who didn't know his own people or the world they lived in.

Oh, well, in a world where leaders are completely out of touch with their people and engaged in pissing and penis size contests, what else is new?

For some reason, getting up to go to the bathroom every hour or so always brings strange dreams. I don't get deeply enough asleep to pass beyond REM and into the dreamless void and so I dream, often picking up one dream where I left it when nature shoved at my bladder and my dream self entered another bathroom, often in the midst of the weirdest places -- like the desert on the way back from the Ethiopian water hole. The whole bathroom thing is cyclical and I wonder if I truly am going through menopause since the cycle of bloat and voiding follows my normal hormonal cycles. Rather argues against the whole remaining ovary running out of eggs and beginning to fail scenario.

I doubt I'll ever understand the mentality it takes for someone who prefers playing the victim and getting little attention when there is no current crisis at hand to dangle a bloody steak in front of a hungry lion in hopes of getting mauled just so they can play the victim and get more attention. It's a sad commentary. Reminds me of a woman who stopped blogging about her real life and concocted a fictitious life where one disaster after another happened. She garnered a lot of sympathy and people avidly read her posts to find out what new disaster had struck so they could commiserate with her even more. She finally told the truth, but lost a lot of readers and people who considered themselves friends when they realized they had been played. It's just like the news. Newspapers and news services play up disasters, sexual exploits and anything explosive and/or sensational just to boost sales and readership. The stories about people who live ordinary lives and to whom nothing much happens either get no further than the center of the newspaper or are completely ignored. After all, who cares for good news when there's drama and bad news to be analyzed and rehashed?

Feet in the fire

Looks like President BO is going to have to do a fast shuffle on this one and Eric Holder's feet are in the fire.

It just keeps getting better and better.

That is all. Disperse.