Sunday, October 26, 2003

"We're just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl"

Pink Floyd, "Wish You Were Here"

So the Marlins won the World Series. It's been pointed out that they have had only two winning seasons in their entire (11-year) franchise history, and both of those seasons they won the World Series. And Florida has a payroll less than one-third of the Yankees.

Both pitchers in Game 6 are from the Houston area - Andy Pettite for the Yanks and Josh Beckett for the Marlins. Beckett won the MVP, but Pettite is now a free agent and is rumored to want to return to Texas. Now if the Astros' Drayton McClane will open his wallet we could use another starting pitcher...

(And yes, that's a trifecta of Pink Floyd song lyric post titles....)
"By the way, which one's pink?"

Pink Floyd, "Have a Cigar"

Next to go after the pink breakfast room curtains will be the flower-pattern curtains in the family room. The big problem with that is that a lot of other things in the family room either have the same southwest-y colors of pink, blue, green, mauve, etc. (area rug, wall paintings, kitchen/breakfast room wallpaper) or were made from the same material (the curtains, tablecloths, linen napkins, throw pillows). I don't totally hate it - the previous owners decorated it like this before I moved in 4 years ago - but I don't love it. It's just got too much pink. I kept it because it matched. Now that I'm dismantling it, I'm going to have to do all that myself. Yikes!
"Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day..."

Pink Floyd, "Time"

Happy End of Daylight Savings Time (even though Blogger doesn't think so). I was awake at the magical hour of 2 a.m. (as usual) so I got to celebrate the 1 a.m. hour all over again. Deja vu.

I celebrated the day by buying a new toilet seat and taking down the pink curtains in my breakfast room (no, the two are not related in any way).

Sunday, October 19, 2003

Old meat, too much heat, and a TiVo treat

I went shopping today. Ordinarily that's not a big deal, but when it was time to put my frozen stuff in the freezer, I found I was running out of space. So I had to get rid of some stuff. Rule of thumb: if it's been in there for a year or more, or if you can't tell what it is (was), throw it out. I'm not going to say how long those spare ribs had been in there.

I got my laptop back on Friday. It's a Dell Smartstep 200N, and I got it last summer right before I left for Australia. They don't make that particular model any more. It only took a month to get fixed, slightly longer than the 3-5 working days I was told when I sent it in. With just a couple days left on my warranty, I called in a service request to complain that the laptop was overheating and shutting down. It had been doing that pretty much as long as I owned it and it wasn't getting better on its own, so it was time to send it in for free repairs. As the weeks went on, I called a couple times a week and couldn't get through to anyone who knew how to talk to me about the problem (including people in India and the Philippines) - misrouted calls, people who said they could see my info on the screen but they couldn't talk to me about it because it wasn't their department, etc. Over the month I must have talked to a hundred different people. The worst was when I'd call the service department, who said "no, that's sales", and then the sales department would say "no, that's tech support", and then the tech support department would say "no, that's the service department." Irritated the fuck out of me. Several times I got the "we're waiting on parts" spiel - only to find out that the parts were a CPU fan and a heat sink. The repair depot in Kentucky didn't have any and I had to wait a fucking month for a damn CPU fan and heat sink, which I could have gotten and installed myself in a couple hours. Someone at Dell customer service is going to get a nastygram this week.

But yay for my laptop anyway. Now I can watch TV (via my TiVo) from my kitchen table or living room and do my daily surfing at the same time. In the last month my TiVo filled up since I lost an hour or two a day of watching time while I had to go upstairs to the computer. Maybe now I can get back on track. Fortunately some of the shows will be in reruns in the next couple weeks against the World Series, and I have to have room for Sweeps in November. At least my new TiVo (my second) has lots of room - now I can record four things at once and have Season Passes on two machines. I got it a couple weeks ago when Circuit City had a $99 sale with a $50 rebate.

Friday, October 17, 2003

"Hey now, you're an all-star, get your game on, go play"

Smash Mouth, "All Star"

You knew it would end up like this, the Cubs and Red Sox losing in their respective Game 7 of the League Championship Series. To get so far into the playoffs and to come up heartbreakingly short.

The world is safe from annihilation for at least another year - neither the Red Sox nor the Cubs will win the 2003 World Series. The Red Sox completed the Big Choke Perfecta of 2003 by giving up a 5-0 lead in the 8th inning Game 7 of the ALCS in tonight's game - shades of the Cubs who gave up 8 runs in the 8th inning of Game 6 of the NLCS two days ago. Both series went 7 games (the first time in MLB history that's happened), making the teams' crushing defeat all the more devastating to their fans.

Somehow the people of Chicago and Boston have the guts to say "Wait til next year." It should come easy to them, they share a combined (now) 180 years of World Series futility.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Sometimes it really is rocket science

So Yang Liwei joins Yuri Gagarin and Alan Shepard as his country's first man launched into space. Yeah, they're Godless Commies but it's still cool that everything went OK. They used a modified Russian Soyuz so the technology wasn't completely home-grown, but then again, it took Germans to put the pieces together for the Soviet and American programs in the 1950s-60s. Astronauts and Cosmonauts have a new counterpart for the first time since 1961 - Taikonauts.

In stark contrast with the Chinese ascent, the Chicago Cubs had a dizzying yet ultimately predictable collapse in the NLCS. Leave it to the Cubs to pull defeat out of the jaws of victory - "what happened Wednesday made perfect sense in a upside-down-is-rightside-up-and-crazy-is-sane-and-pigs-are-flying-through-a-frozen-Hell kind of way". Up 3 games to 1 in a best of 7 series, they lost 3 straight. Up 3-0 in Game 6 in the 8th inning, an unbelievable incident along the left field foul wall where a fan prevented a sure out combined with an unlikely shortstop error to spark an 8-run Marlins run and eventual win. Eight runs in the inning. The Cubs had it in their grasp and choked just like we all somehow knew they would - they wouldn't be the Cubs if they didn't find a way to lose.

Monday, October 13, 2003

Where in the world are nude pictures of Rena Sofer?

In addition to telling me what people are looking for, my tracking software (from Extreme Tracking) tells me where they are looking from, outside the US. I did have to visit the official Internet Assigned Numbers Authority page of ISO 3166 Top Level Domains (TLDs) to tell me who a couple of the countries were.

Going in decreasing order of number of hits and using the TLD as a guide (excluding .com/.net/.org/.gov/.mil), I've had visitors from Australia (.au), Canada (.ca), South Africa (.za), the United Kingdom (.uk), Netherlands (.nl), Italy (.it), Finland (.fi), Japan (.jp), Germany (.de), France (.fr), Sweden (.se), New Zealand (.nz), Belgium (.be), Mexico (.mx), Indonesia (.id), Dominican Republic (.do), Hong Kong (.hk), Austria (.at), Brazil (.br), Singapore (.sg), Iceland (.is), Spain (.es), Greece (.gr), Turkey (.tr), Uruguay (.uy), Philippines (.ph), Malta (.mt), Argentina (.ar), American Samoa (.as), Costa Rica (.cr), and Israel (.il).

All apparently looking for nude pictures of Rena Sofer (nearly 800 queries in 3 months).

Sunday, October 12, 2003

The Living, Breathing Nightmare that is Texas football

Damn Oklahoma Sooners. Four freaking years in a row, this time at 65-13 the worst loss ever to OU. The second-worst was in 2000. Thus the UT four-year graduating class of 2004 is the first class never to have beaten OU since 1985-1988. We tied in 1984, so when I graduated in spring 1988 my class was the first one. We also never beat Texas A&M during my tenure, giving the class of 1988 the dubious distinction of being the very first class never to have beaten either team.

Guess I can get rid of that $5 bet on Texas to be the BCS champion this year.

Thursday, October 09, 2003

Making Adjustments

Sigh. You never really see what someone (or something) means and how much they're in your life until they're gone.

It's so weird to not have to let my dog out in the morning. It's too quiet and still when I come home from work and nobody's there to greet me and wag their tail. I don't have to go for a walk after work and at night before bed, or out to the park on the weekends (I figure I will reclaim about 10-11 hours a week this way). Nobody's going to wake me up on the weekend because they want to go out for a walk, or sleep at the foot of my bed and crowd me over to one side. Even when she was sleeping, I could feel her presence in the house. Now it's just me, and the house is empty everywhere I'm not.

There's nobody there to eat my table scraps at dinner. Then again, Astra was never the brightest dog (I affectionately called her my "dumb dog") - if I tossed food at her, she wouldn't catch it in her mouth, instead she'd let it hit her in the nose and fall to the floor, where she'd finally decide whether it was food or not. Dumb dog.

The two hardest times I had with the whole situation were Sunday night when I was writing my first entry below (not when it happened - I was probably still in shock at the quickness and finality of the situation), and then Monday afternoon when I left the vet's office after dropping her off. I talked to the vet and gave him the final update on what happened, and then I thanked him for all he had done over the years. I started to choke up a bit when he thanked me for all that I did for Astra.

I decided on a communal burial for Astra. For an extra $100 I could have had her ashes back in an urn, but I didn't need that extra closure. Heck, with all her hair that's still around the house I could hold a symbolic cremation in my back yard. The other option (totally unofficially) would have been if I wanted to bury her, the vet would have accommodated that with some burial bags. So somewhere in the city, she'll join all the pets who were lucky enough to find a family that loved them and took care of them.

We had our first family dog, Peanuts (a beagle mix), from 1971-1987, and she went with us from Chicago to New Jersey to Houston. Then I got Astra (a spaniel mix) after I graduated and started working, and I had her all to myself from 1989-2003 in Houston. Somewhere around 2020 I'll have to go through this all over again, probably as a another family dog.

And sometime in the spring or so, after I've gotten my house cleaned up and the carpets steam-cleaned and my car detailed, I'll start over again. So far I'm 2 for 2 in getting a great dog from the SPCA, both of them mutts. That's where I'll start looking next time for that dog that catches my eye and says "I'm yours, please take me home."

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

This Week's Signs of the Upcoming Apocalypse

Apologies to "Sports Illustrated" for the title.

Sign #1: Both the Red Sox and the Cubs won their series, and each will play for their respective League pennant. If the Sox beat the Yankees and the Cubs beat the Marlins (so much for the Braves and Giants, the best teams in the NL), they'll play in the World Series. And as we've already discussed, that would mean the end of the world as we know it.

Sign #2: Maria Shriver, a member of the Kennedy dynasty, is married to the Arnold Schwarzenegger, one of the front-runners in the California recall later today. A Kennedy kin could wind up the First Lady of a Republican administration.

Monday, October 06, 2003

R.I.P. Astra

My dog died today.

As much as that sucks, it was almost a good thing that it happened and how it happened.

She was diagnosed with a heart valve problem back in March. She had been coughing so I took her to the vet, and after an x-ray and ultrasound, we found the cough was due to an enlarged heart - the leaky valve meant that not enough oxygen was getting into her blood, so the heart had to pump harder, which in turn made it bigger. Eventually it started to crowd out her lungs and windpipe, hence the cough. The vet said if it was a human, they'd put her high on the list for a heart transplant. But you don't do that for a dog, you just try to make their lives more comfortable. So she was on a diuretic to control the excess fluid that was building up, and another pill to lower the blood pressure.

When I asked the vet how long she had, he said "Two days, two weeks, two months, who knows. But whatever happens, it'll be sudden." Six months later, she was still hanging in there. I spoke to the vet just last Tuesday about what I should be looking for in her demeanor, how I'd know when it was time for me to say "enough". I wasn't looking forward to taking her to the office to be put to sleep. I told him it would be easiest for me if I just came home from work one day and found her lying there.

So today at my parents' place we went for our afternoon walk by the lake. After a few minutes I heard a splash and saw some ripples in the water, and ran down the hill to see her swimming in the lake. She had done this a couple times before, where she leaned over too far while trying to take a drink. But now she was dog-paddling away, she didn't have nearly the strength she used to, and she was half-blind from cataracts. I yelled her name and clapped, but she apparently was disoriented and didn't swim towards me, more like zig zagging. I saw that her body was getting lower in the water as she paddled, so I took off my shoes and took my wallet out, then waded in to get her. Just as I got to her, she went under, and as I grabbed her to push her up, I felt her go limp. By the time I made it to shore and managed to climb up the slimy, slick lake bottom, she wasn't moving. I oriented her head down on the hill, so that any fluid in her lungs might come out. I don't know if any did, but I started some sort of doggie-CPR, compressing her chest. She coughed a couple of times and then that was it. Time of death, right around 6 pm. There were no machines to go flat-line, but it was obvious.

As the vet said, whatever happens, it was going to be sudden. I figure that the stress and struggle to paddle finally made her heart give out. Maybe I didn't get to her in time and she didn't have enough strength to stay afloat and she swallowed some water. Probably some of both, really. But of all the scenarios I had thought of, this wasn't one of them.

I mentioned that it was almost a good thing. It wasn't painful for her, like coughing and slowly suffocating would have been. I didn't have to suffer watching her get worse and worse, and I didn't have to make the decision that it was time to take her in to be put to sleep. She died relatively quickly - it wasn't more than a couple minutes from when she fell in to when I pulled her out - and I hope relatively painlessly. And she died in my arms, as I pulled her out of the water.

Right now she's wrapped up in a blanket in the garage. I hate the thought of her like that, alone outside instead of lying under my bed as usual. This is the first night I've spent at my parents house without her being with me.

She was 14 years and 9 months old, that's like 103 in dog years. I named her Astra, after the dog on the Jetsons, when I got her in May 1989 (if she was a male dog, it would have been "Astro", thus the female version "Astra") at the age of 4 months from the SPCA shelter. She was light brown with a white stomach, had really long fur on her tail, and long fur on her feet. She liked to go the park and chase squirrels when she was younger, and she was successful at it twice. She never really figured out "fetch", she'd go after something when I threw it but then she'd run away and start chewing on it instead. She chewed up the carpet in my old apartment when she was a puppy, which was pretty much the reason why I got her before I moved into a house. She used to like playing tug-of-war with a pull toy or a sock. She loved to go for a ride and stick her head out the car window. She never needed a leash when we went for a walk, she always wandered off just a bit but not too far. She'd always lick my nose when I got too close to her face. She missed me when I left and she was happy to see me return.

Dammit, it may be a good thing that she went quickly and I knew it was coming, but it still sucks. I asked the rabbi at services tonight if there was a prayer for this situation (it seems there's some sort of prayer for everything) but he said no, there wasn't. But he told me that the Mourner's Kaddish was still appropriate. Despite the name, it's not actually a prayer of mourning, it's a prayer praising God. Essentially, instead of mourning the person, the prayer thanks God for letting them be with us.

So thanks for letting her be my companion for the last 14 years and change.

Friday, October 03, 2003

"Size Matters"

As expected, my traffic spiked again tonight after "Coupling" was on. Lots of people are looking for naked pictures of Rena Sofer. "We've turned the internet into an enormous international database of naked bottoms!" - Steve, in an upcoming episode entitled "Inferno".

Jeff defines the Sock Gap: "I mean, where exactly do you take your socks off? My advice is to take them off right after your shoes, and before your trousers. That’s the sock gap. Miss it, and suddenly you’re a naked man in socks. No self-respecting woman will ever let a naked man in socks do the squelchy with her."

The second episode (adapted from the UK first series, second episode "Size Matters") showed the cast a little more comfortable with their characters. Nothing major jumped out at me from what was in the missing 8 minutes, and there was a nice little original bit at the end (Susan grabs an electric toothbrush, which Steve mistakes for something else that vibrates). With only 8 or so episode per UK series, the US series will be adding some original episodes (according to people who have seen the tapings in LA, as reported on the BBC America "Coupling" message board - which series creator Steven Moffat also reads).