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Yesterday morning when I arrived at work I received an emergency call from one of our remote locations. Tuesday they had a new floor laid and needed to empty the office. This included the computers and all the networking equipment. When they plugged it all back in, naturally, it didn't work (this isn't the first time they've done this sort of thing without telling us). I got to drive 110 miles up the Columbia River (and 110 miles back) in order to correct the problem. Despite the fact that it is a beautiful drive, I had things I needed to do and this kept me from them.

On my way back I stop at Wells Dam, Douglas County PUD's river spanning dam on the Columbia. There's a rest stop that overlooks the dam and because I am not allowed to smoke in my work car, it's scenic and a nice place to stop for a while. And I was there a while. For fun, because I'm kinda weird like that, I was checking the security a bit, finding the shadows in the surveillance system and what not. These dams are considered major terrorist targets. I know this because my work just put everyone through security awareness training, and seeing that I already had a hobbyist's interest in the subject, I though I might hone my skills a bit.

However, I got a bit more than I bargained for. When I walked back to my car, I noticed the fellow I was parked next to was still there. This was odd because I had been at the rest top for quite some time and he was still sitting in his car starring at the same map in his road atlas (and I'm pretty sure it was a map of the Grand Coulee area, which is odd because Grand Coulee is quite some ways away from Wells). I approached him and asked if he needed help with directions. He simply pointed at his ear so I leaned in and repeated the question, louder this time. He waved his hands and pointed at his other ear. "Oh, you're..." I started realizing the futility of making such a declaration to someone who's deaf.

I started to sign (I know about as much sign as I do German, I can order pizza and get directions to the bathroom) but he turned into his car scrambling for a pen and paper. He doesn't have a notepad handy? That's odd, I thought. One of the first things he grabbed was his vehicle registration, which he starred at for quite some time before realizing it was important and moved on to the next scrap of paper in his cluttered car. Finally he found something disposable on which I wrote my question. He peered at it and shook his head with a look of annoyance. Fine, I thought, it never hurts to be helpful. I smiled and walk around his car to mine, and I noticed he had camping equipment in his hatch.

Not even a mile down the road I started to think about the encounter. You know, he did sorta looked French. If he was and he had an accent, feigning deafness would at least throw someone off if not contain suspicions all together. That's something a spy would do. He never said a word to me, only hand gestures. Could he have been information gathering for the Frenchies?

Do they let deaf people drive? I had no idea. I know you can't listen to headphones when driving...you need to be able to hear, as well as see, what going on round you. (Today I discovered that deaf people are perfectly capable of driving.) And it was a rental car; do they rent cars to deaf people? That was it, I'd had enough double guessing. One of the things they taught us in security awareness training was to report anything you felt was out of the ordinary, and I certainly felt that way. I pulled the car over, called up the dam, and informed Wells security of my suspicions. (Yeah, I have the number memorized if you can believe that. My father has worked for them for 13 years now.) And that was that.

I called my dad today, told him this story and asked if he had heard anything about it. He said he hadn't but he works in fisheries, not security. At the time, I was fairly certain the man was a terrorist or spy or something. I kept rolling out scenario after scenario, each more ridiculous than the last, of what he might be up to. All from the extremely limited amount of information I gathered in our brief encounter. But now I can't be sure. For all I know he was a deaf traveler planning his next route. And I released the hounds on him. But at least America is safe.

Why does it matter if this is true or not? But because I've been getting a lot of messages about this, yes, it's completely factual. I really called security on the guy. I know, I know. But I kind of had to. When I am "on the clock" I am obligated to report these types of things. Also, because I told my employers what happened, I had to take it a step further, and I reported it to the State Patrol. I understand how ridiculous some people think this is, which is exactly why I wrote it down.

For what it's worth, they never found the guy...I must have scared him off...

It's been a while since I last daylogged, so here we go!

Anyways, the last three days of my life have been rather interesting. I am registering for Summer School at Georgia State University. 12 Credits. I hope it's not as much work as it looks like. I'm taking some neat classes, so it should at least be fun. Here they are:

  • Math 3000: Introduction to Higher Mathematics. This is a class that the school offers to math majors to catch up on all the things that we should learn instead of AP calculus, and never bothered to learn on our own. (That's what the course description says!) It's a credit, whether I know the material already or not.
  • Philosophy: Great Questions in Philosophy. No mention of answers. Oh well. Multicultural approach. Oh well. At least the professor is an expert in Hume and Descartes.
  • English: World Literature. I checked out RateYourProfessors.com, and this teacher was supposed to be really easy. I've read about 1/3 of the course material already, so the reading won't be quite as bad as normal. (Not just the excerpts in the Literature book, but the actual books they are from. The down side is a 5 and a 10 page paper.
  • Economics: Introduction to MacroEconomics. I don't know, it sounds fun. I've always been kind of interested in Economic theory. The downside is that I know it will be Keynesian Economics, but that what is en vogue nowadays, so i guess it will help me understand the crap coming from all the "educated" people about the economy.

Of course, I could take classes to fulfill requirements, but that's a bit silly, since I don't know where I'll be for college, and I may just go to Hebrew University and not get credit for any of these.

This afternoon, I took a nap. I normally like taking naps in the afternoon, but this afternoon, I set my cellphone alarm while my cellphone was on silent. I woke up half an hour ago, 7 or 8 hours after falling asleep. It's 3:15 AM. I guess I have all night to node...

Hope all the rest of you gets a good night's sleep. I'll try again on Shabbos.

I had an utterly brand new and instructive experience tonight.

I went to a double birthday party at a hip SoHo photography gallery, as a friend of a friend of one of the honorees. I genuinely enjoyed the images, especially the slightly distorted shots of underground parking lots and subway stations, which I was admiring when a young woman asked me if I liked the photos.

She said her husband shot them, and before we could say a word she introduced him to my friend and me. I remember thinking, "Shit, I was enjoying this," at the moment he put his hand on my shoulder. The first thing he said was "Have you ever been to London?" (His wife had an American accent, he was British.)

Before we could get away, he insisted that we needed to hear about how pure his artwork was. For example, he only used a double exposure to get that slightly blurry image, when it appears he could have done eight in the same one-second time span. And he never uses props or poses people. He insists on capturing "the perfect moment," because of course anything less than that would be less than real. And he never spoils his perfect picture by digitally retouching it. He directed his wine scented breath with amazing force, and always where I'd pretty much have to breathe it (I think I was supposed to swoon). And his wife asked why in the world I had to drink coffee when everyone else had wine.

On the way home, my friend April and I explored some of the assumptions we made about the people at the party, and some of the assumptions we assumed they made about us. We were guests of the less-cool birthday celebrant, the one who didn't know many people at the gallery. We took the time to look at the pictures, instead of engaging in witty conversation with the people around us. We used the word picture; which, as if our garage sale outfits weren't enough, proved that we were too unsophisticated for the scene. And we were drinking coffee! Could we at least make an effort to go with the flow?!?

For our part, we assumed that none of these people could conceive of doing actual work. How else could they fail to understand that most people are tired on a weekday night? And of course, they take pride in their uselessness - isn't that the very point in spending huge sums of money on art that most other people don't understand? We assumed that these things remove this sort of person from the plane of reality, to a certain extent. And at the same time, maybe because of their removal, we assumed that they exercise an exponentially greater deal of influence in the world than April or I.

We talked about the way these assumptions made us feel, and we agreed that we felt judgmental and moralistic. We also agreed that these emotions created chemical reactions in our bodies that made us feel good and gave us energy.

The End

So I was nearly in a car accident today.

Alana and I were on the way home from a none-too-impressive (though reasonably cheap) dinner; driving back westwards along Katella in Anaheim towards home. Medium traffic; Katella is four lanes each way coming up to Harbor Blvd., the southeast corner of Disneyland across the street. Right lane becomes a right turn there, so I was in the next over, rolling up on a steady green. Two left turn lanes too, so a full six lanes on this side of the intersection.

Someone in a black SUV, I think a Navigator or a Expedition, in the leftmost left and stopped at the red arrow decides all of a sudden that right, not left, is the way they should be going. Why, I have no idea, why the crazy urgency of it. Like the cops were after him, the way he took off, but nothing I could see. Maybe simply realising the 5 freeway was north on Harbor, not south. Maybe an argument inside, who knows.

But he takes off out of that left lane as if he's a stunt driver in a car chase. Without the preparation. Cuts across the other left land then across all the lanes of rolling traffic. Nobody in the first two right lanes close enough, fortunately for everyone, but he's right there in front of me all of a sudden broadside on and I'm headed right at him. My brakes jammed to the floor. Hard, screech of brakes, violently, smoke.

I was probably only cruising 20, 25, and my foot was off the throttle, hovering over the brakes, knowing those Disneyland tourists and how they're walking out of there, dead tired, fireworks in their eyes, heads full of Mickey, jaywalking right into traffic so damn often; and it's lucky I wasn't distracted, eyes off to the side for a moment keeping an eye on pedestrians or something. Came to a stop short of him and he sped off, tourists spilling on either side as they avoided him; he'd aimed straight at a dozen people crossing.

Even more fortunate Alana saw it coming and grabbed on. No shoulder belts in a '67 car.

I sat there for ... it felt like a while, but maybe five seconds, before Alana reminded me that the light was still green.

At the next light two men in an adjacent car were admiring the Thunderbird and told me they'd seen the idiot, were glad we weren't hurt.

Two tons of Detroit steel would have left more of a dent in a SUV's side than any damage he'd have done to me, I'm pretty sure, but that would be cold comfort indeed ... that the idiot could have been hurt clearly didn't even flicker in his mind. There's no deterrence when people don't think. Big SUVs make people feel godly, invulnerable ... is that the appeal? They make forty year olds feel seventeen and invincible again.

I'm still feeling shaken. Every time something like this happens, reminding me that I and everyone else is but one idiot away ...

Oh, and I preceded this by managing to lock my keys in the car. Juggling too much stuff, forgetting the keys were still in the ignition. Fortunately, the quick application of a coathanger sorted that one ... a good reminder of just how easy cars were to steal back when mine was made.

I ran over an unidentified small animal last night on the way home from work. I found this kinda sickening. whapcrunch! *cringe* It was definitely too big to be a squirrel and in the badly-lit half second that I saw it, it looked kinda orangey-yellow. I really hope it wasn't a dog or a cat or something.

I would however like to sing and dance for joy that gas prices have gone down again. $1.35 a gallon for regular at one of the smaller chains around here. That's the one thing that's cheapest here in New Jersey. I'd bet the low in New York right now is still like a buck fifty.

Of course, we do still pay out the nose for cigarettes. Such is life. I minimize the damage by smoking Newports and only buying them from Quick Chek. With the tax it comes to like 4.02 for Newports and a little more change for Marlboros.

I have to go clean my car now. Maybe I'll find some long-lost pack of smokes in there, as I did yesterday looking for my portable CD player. Hrm...that little fucker is missing again...

I was playing and singing silly songs with my 4 year old and we ended up with the following (sung to the tune of "Pop goes the weasel"):

Round and round the internet
The packet chased the router
The packet it thought it was all in fun
Pop! goes the router.

Kinda describes a DDOS attack, don't ya think?

June Carter Cash died yesterday and my face hurts, right under my eyes, not behind them, but right under them where you put your blush or rouge or whatever.

June Carter Cash died yesterday and my face hurts, but not as bad as Johnny's, I'm sure.

Mr. Cash will be a'going soon. Mr. Cash will want to follow his true one and only.

I'm sure of it.

As sure as I've ever been of anything.

As sure as I always am.

I had a few cow pies in my driveway this morning: looks like I'm going to have to inspect the property to see what damage they did this time.

My house is on the slope of a mesa overlooking the city of Albuquerque, New Mexico. While the center of the city is in the Rio Grande bosque -- a relatively green strip of land in the desert, filled with cottonwood trees or ditch-irrigated fields of alfalfa-- I live out on the outskirts up at a higher altitude, where the natural landscape is sparse, semi-arid desert grass land. With irrigation from my well, I support some trees around my house, as well as small lawns and flowers in courtyards protected from the prarie winds by high walls. The courtyards are relatively small: the walls don't enclose the entire lot. Most of my land is covered with natural vegetation: clumps of gramma grass and other desert weeds.

In fact, my land is unenclosed by any kind of fencing and blends in with the surrounding grasslands. The houses in this little subdivison were all built and landscaped with the same aesthetic: they are earth-toned "adobe" style (actually wood frame covered with chicken wire and stucco to look like a traditional adobe building made out of mud bricks) laid out in such a way that they blend into the contours of the slope.

This is not typical of the area. The typical homestead on the outskirts of Albuquerque consists of a trailer, with tires on the roof, dead cars scattered about. The natural weeds are usually scraped off the land right up to the border of the owner's property, creating a "Dust Bowl" look. The property line is clearly delineated with formidable fencing. The fencing varies from cheap (barbed wire strung on scrap wood) to the absurdly expensive (white-washed steel tubing favored by those who keep horses on their property). It's not unusual to see a dilapidated old single-wide trailer next to a stables and paddock that clearly cost more to build and maintain than my house. (It's just a question of priorities, I guess).

Much as I detest the desert junk-yard aesthetic, that approach has one advantage: it keeps the cows off their land.

People have been grazing sheep and cattle in the hills around Albuquerque since Spanish people settled here three hundred years ago. Up until very recently, the desert hills have been communally owned by the heirs and descendants of the original Spanish land grants. Nowadays, the land is owned by a private development corporation, which holds the land in trust for the land grant heirs, and which has been selling off pieces of the former grant, such as the piece on which my house sits. As a result, it's not really legal to graze cattle on the old grant lands anymore; but people still do it. And the cows love the lush green grass that grows around my place where I water my trees.

Usually, I only get to see evidence the cows leave behind. Aside from eating the weeds, which I don't mind, the cows leave a swath of destruction. They break off the sprinkler heads of my irrigation system and the branches of my fruit trees, and then drop of few cow pies to make sure you know it was them, and not some hoodlum kids.

One night I caught about six of them in the act, and went out to shoo them away. For those of you who have never been up close and personal with cattle, let me tell you: they're big. At night, when I encounted the cows hiding in the trees on the east side of my lot, I couldn't really see anything except their white faces, but I was still very aware of their presence. I could hear them breathe, and when I scared them off, I felt ground shake with the stamp of their hooves. Suddenly I understood the meaning of "stampede": if six cows could make the ground shake like that, just imagine what thousands felt like!

My close encounter of the bovine kind also made me reconsider my plan to get a hunting rifle and shoot them. I'd need a bigger pickup just to winch up and cart off the damn carcasses. So, an uneasy peace exists between me and the cows. I just repair my sprinklers for the thousandth time and hope the coyotes get 'em.

Every day this past week, the air conditioners have made the building icebox cold in the mornings and the afternoons, regardless of the temperature outside. I wore flannel to work today, it's that freakin' cold.

This of course made me think of Laurie Anderson's song "Big Science", from the album of the same name: Coo coo....It's cold outside... I finally remembered to bring the CD in today and have been listening to it while I work. I can do this on Fridays because half the company is gone and I have (relatively) long interruption-free stretches of time at my desk.

I first heard the album early in 2001, when a friend burned a copy and mailed it to me. That summer I lost that friend in an awful, painful parting of the ways. That fall, Hermetic committed suicide. The following day was September 11th. That winter, the crafts business my wife and I started earlier that year failed in the economic downturn following the terrorist attacks, leaving us crushed under a mountain of debt and a stack of boxes full of beautiful things no one wanted. My parents' business also went under and they were forced to file for bankruptcy. Shortly after that our family dog drowned.

Listening to the CD today, I realized with surprise that this is the first time since the spring of 2001 that I've been able to listen to Big Science all the way through without feeling unbearably sad. Which is good. Because dude, Big Science kicks ass.

I am having the shittiest of weeks. Good thing it's almost over.

So far:

  • Sunday, My main computer's power supply died and neither the CD player in the living room nor the one in my stereo are working properly. (I know it's the players and not the CD, because the one I used to test them - the eponymous Boy Hits Car album - still plays properly in another CD player, and has played in those two on previous occasions. Still, they might just need to be cleaned.)
  • Monday and Tuesday... nothing much happened. But Wednesday my ears got very badly sunburned, and I had to drive back to work (about 17 miles, almost all on surface streets) after forgetting to turn in a form they supposedly needed that day.
  • Thursday, some dihydrogen monoxide spilled on a cool little battery-operated clock I have (or rather, had), irreperably damaging the LCD. I guess when I go to Fry's Electronics for a power supply, I'll check to see if they have another of those (and how much they want for it). Also, some pigeons apparently decided the clothes I had hanging outsided doubled as toilet paper.
  • Today, I got lost twice during work due to them giving me a map which, I presume, should say "circa 1975" somewhere on it. I then came home to find the monitor to my secondary computer was dead.

    I'm a little apprehensive about driving to work tomorrow, for fear my radio will explode.
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