Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Family, Conservatives, and Email Ettiquette

So.  I've been getting a couple of email forwards from a quasi-distant family member over the last week.  I say "quasi-distant" in part because he's my blood-aunt's husband, and I went to their wedding in 1992, so it's not like I have any sort of lifelong attachment going on here.  He's a nice guy, and he's married to my aunt, and he's family.  "Quasi-distant" also refers to the fact that I see him, at the most, 2 or 3 times a year. Always on Independence Day, and usually a time or two again before the next one rolls around.  Get it?  We're close, but I don't consider him "inner circle" of family.

He's also ridiculously right-wing.  I don't mean that he's ridiculous, because in my experience he carries on a good conversation and, to his everlasting credit, actually LISTENS when I shoot holes through the nutjob theories he gets from 1) his church, and 2) Rush Limbaugh.  But, he's that kind of ridiculously right-wing…the kind of person who thinks that Limbaugh is actually delivering the news, and not whack-a-mole weirdness that is one step removed from National Enquirer status.  And so, these are the emails I've been getting: über-conservative conspiracy theories, Gingrichian sour-grapes rants, and rah-rah "patriotic" pro-American diatribes.  Of course, they're not really emails per se…they're sent to everyone in his email directory, probably something that HE got sent, and so on, back and back, to some untraceable "family values" conservative think-tank.  (Question:  do they call it a "think-tank" because they want to do the thinking, and just want you to shut the fuck up and blindly follow?)

I should leave these alone, but fuck it:  you gonna send that shit down the pipeline, into my email inbox, well then you gotta pay the fiddler, buddy.  So I basically took these two things, tore 'em apart line by line, and appended a little truth.  But of course, I didn't just reply to my uncle.  Ohhh, NOOOOO!  Did I hit "reply to all"?  You bet I did.  'Cause, fuck it.  Why should I be on the receiving end of all that wicked bullshit, and just quietly delete it?  Read or unread, that shit's gotta stop.  I figured, "I'll stop replying to all this crap the moment I stop getting it!"  Which only makes sense, right?  Can't reply to what you don't get.  

Anywho…I started getting a couple of replies to MY reply, someone else on Unc's email list, asking how the hell this "crazy lib" got his email address, telling me to get a job and leave him alone, yadda yadda.  So of course I replied to THOSE as well, stirring the hornet's nest in a much more respectable way than he did.  (Haven't you noticed that about crazy libs?  We actually have respect for ALL people!  Imagine.)  His second email was even more hilarious:  since he couldn't argue the truth I'd presented (not worth going into here, but trust me, the original emails were easily-disproven lies), he started going on about God and country, telling me about all his family who died in W.W.II, on and on and on.  

This is my new motto with stuff like this:  never back down, never shut up, and never go away.  I'm tired of people putting crappy lies and all sorts of weird stuff out into the air, especially in the pseudo-anonymous way that email and the web encourages.  I will be unrelenting, and I will make sure that people who spread this garbage know that at least ONE person out there will have a different opinion, and will shout it loudly from the rooftops via wireless transmitters everywhere.

Monday, May 25, 2009

The New Computer

So, one of the things Miss Tessmacher and I decided we needed was a new computer.  We'd been dealing with a nearly-8-year-old Mac desktop of what I always called the "half-basketball" variety since early 2003…
and it had really hit its last legs, oh, probably about a year ago.  It had a 75 gig hard drive, which seemed so comically monumental in 2003 that I uttered the cursed phrase of computer users everywhere:  "God, why is it so BIG, I'll NEVER fill it!"  Since about 2006, of course, I've been moving lots of little-used song files, photos, and other big memory-eaters onto the Lacie hard drive, but by early this winter it had become depressingly apparent that even with all of that - and a Spring Cleaning thrown in to boot! - the computer just wasn't makin' it anymore.  I was going to wait until the END of the summer to take the plunge with a new machine, but it turned out we had the dough in the bank so we just decided to go for it.  Here's our new machine:

Notice how nice & clean the desk is?  (I actually had to take it apart and rebuild it, as it had swayed & the back fell out.)  Needless to say, it doesn't look like that anymore.

Now, when I'm working in Finale, instead of trying to enter a note, getting the little color spinny wheel, then the note appears, then click to enter another note, color spinny wheel, etc., I click and enter notes as fast as I want.  It has a ridiculous amount of memory again:  almost 600 gigs, which I'll NEVER use in a million years!  Uh…remind me of that in 6 or 7 years, okay? It runs at 2.93 GHz, making it almost twice as fast as the old machine.  The screen, at 24", rivals the size of our television.  And, the keyboard is this tiny little thing…I actually ordered a new one, 'cause I really use the numeric keypad when I'm entering grades.

All in all, it's a great machine, and we're loving it.  And now, with the Time Machine function, I'll never have to shift stuff over by hand in order to transfer to the NEXT new machine!  So, we're good to go.  Yay us!

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Phone Bitch

In my last post, I wrote that I really hate talking on the telephone. I'm not sure when this came to be, exactly. Part of it might simply be chalked up to generational divide: to wit, I was born only a few years after "long distance" was still considered exotic. My mom can relate funny stories about calling home from college (Mt. Pleasant to Bay City, or about 60 miles all told…so, not exactly the continental divide, right?) and hearing my grandma in an absolute flurry on the other end: "Bob? BOB! Quick, come in the house, it's Sandy, calling long distance!" And he'd run in, and they'd each try to cram an ear to the receiver - something more easily done on those hefty wall-mount phones of the early-'60s - and talk for maybe 4 or 5 minutes, then rush off to get second jobs because, presumably, that one call cost like a billion gajillion dollars. Or something.

So, when I came along in the late-'60s, I inherited THAT kind of attitude about the phone. Each house had one; you used it, like an ironing board, for a specific purpose, and then you put it away. Cartoon silliness aside, no one really ever surfed on an ironing board, right? You used it for what it was for, and in the case of the phone, you called every once in awhile to check in, or to quickly make an appointment, and that was it. Here are some phun phone phacts that relate to the way I grew up with telephony:

1) You didn't own your phone: Ma Bell did. There were no "phone stores," and you couldn't walk into Sears and buy, say, a Mickey Mouse phone. You moved in, you used a NEIGHBOR'S phone to call Ma Bell (or you went to the local office in person), and they asked you if you wanted a wall-mount or a "standard," and what color (pretty much limited to black, olive, brown, and black).

2) When my mom bought and refinished an antique wall-phone (the kind with a separate earpiece and mouthpiece), she ran an extra line and installed it herself. When we moved from that house, Ma Bell tried to get the phone from her: since she "couldn't" own it, it must by default have been theirs. (She kept the phone. It still works, and hangs in her dining room.)

3) When making a local call, you only had to input the last digit of the prefix, then the 4-digit number. Thus, I learned most numbers of friends by only 5 digits: to call Eric, I dialed 26264. This, believe it or not, still worked well into my '80s heyday with the phone: my friend Susan had the unbelievably easy-to-remember number 22446.

4) When I was in high school - HIGH SCHOOL! - and made a long distance call, the operator would actually break in after you'd dialed the number and ask you for your number…so they knew who to bill it to. A not-quite-friend taught me to give a different number to the operator, that way you could talk on the phone as long as you wanted…for free! Yayyy, free! Naturally, the person whose number I was actually giving called the phone company about these ridiculous charges; the phone company called the person I'D been calling and asked "Do you know anyone in (name of town)?"; and thus, it all came back to me. In a corporate gesture that wouldn't even be contemplated today, let alone put into action, the woman who talked to my parents about all this asked if she could basically scare the shit out of me with threats of juvvie, etc. Then, having reduced me to tears, she forgave the entire bill. WOW.

As a grade-schooler the phone was simply a kind of walkie-talkie: I'd ring Eric, ask to come over, and hang up. Why waste time? By high school, though, that waste of time was exactly what I craved, and Susan and I would spend hours - I kid you not, hours! - on the phone in the evenings, delving into the kind of meticulously detailed drama that would make a Desperate Housewife shed tears of boredom. When I was chasing Y., I discovered that calling from home was long-distance…but calling from the phone BOOTH was a 10¢ local call. Boom! Drive down to the public phone - literally a booth, by the way - insert one thin dime, and talk for as long as we wanted. Crazy. I was, in the term we used at the time, a Phone Bitch.

And I think that's what happened: I had my entire life's phone conversations in one go, a 5-year period from 8th grade through senior year. In college the phone reverted back to a hook-up device: whose house are we drinking at tonight? And then hang up, buy beer, and go. Since then things have only gotten worse, especially with email being so easy to use. Look at me: I'd rather waste time by sitting here typing for 30 minutes, than I would by calling a friend I haven't spoken to in years. (Sorry, Brent. Miss you! I was just listening to Hagar the other day, and I thought of you…call me! Leave a message!) I'm incredibly lucky to have tolerant friends who know I mean no disrespect to either them or the friendship by not returning calls. (Mike! Sorry I missed the "guy night" last Saturday…I was alone with Roz for the weekend. Oh, and happy anniversary from a few weeks ago! Call me! Leave a message!) I even tell my students not to call me, although with their obsessive yammering on cordless phones, that's actually a life-saver. But, I literally say those words in class on syllabus day: "I hate the phone, and if you call my office I probably won't answer it, and if you leave a message I probably won't return the call. Just…email me."

Sometimes it's the interruption: calls seem to come in right when I'm working on perfecting my hydrogen fuel-cell, and before I can get off the line that last equation slips out of my head and there I am, back at square one. Or, they come at the end of the day, when I'm pooped and just want to guzzle wine and watch movies. My mom always apologizes for catching me in these moments, and she's actually someone I enjoy talking to! It's my voice that gives it away: I'm wooden and unanimated on the phone, and I don't know why. In person I'm quite lively and energetic, but the phone just puts a damper on that for some reason.

Maybe that's why blogging appeals to me?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Creaking Back to Life

…with a meme! So much going on, most of it good, but there'll be time for catchup later. I stole this meme from Jenn-Jenn, several posts ago. It's short, it's sweet, and best of all, it's easy fodder. Read on, and worship me…worship me…worship me…

1. WERE YOU NAMED AFTER ANYONE? Yep. My first name is my dad's middle, and my middle name is my grandpa's first. I was "illegitimate," so when my dad found out what my mom named me, he was really pissed! And, actually, my LAST name is my mother's maiden name…which in turn is HER biological father's name (not the grandpa I grew up with), going back to my great-grandmother's first marriage in the '20s to Guy Harding. So, I cover a lotta ground!

2. WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU CRIED? Oh, last night, watching Dominique Bretodeau feed chicken oysters to the grandson he was just getting to know. If you have to ask…don't bother.

3. DO YOU LIKE YOUR HANDWRITING? All-caps printing, that's for me. Although I hold my pen funny, so I don't care much for writing; I try to type, and if I can't, I use a shorthand that I began developing in Jr. High. Convenient: kept people from borrowing my notes! Although, I once turned in a handwritten exam in grad school like that…the prof, bless his heart, called me in and asked me to read it out loud. I did, and he gave me the "A." *whew!*


5. DO YOU HAVE KIDS? One, Roslyn.

6. IF YOU WERE ANOTHER PERSON WOULD YOU BE FRIENDS WITH YOU? Oh, yeah! I'm the life of the PARTY, bay-bah!

7. DO YOU USE SARCASM A LOT? Re-read the answer to #6, and figure it out for yourself.

8. DO YOU STILL HAVE YOUR TONSILS? Nope. I'm Gen-X, man…first sign of a throat infection, SHOOMP! Out they go, to be replaced by all the ice cream and sherbet I could gulp.

9. WOULD YOU BUNGEE JUMP? 10 years ago? Probably not. Now? Yes, if accompanied by either 1) Mike, 2) Mac, or 3) Eric.

10. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CEREAL? Lately I've been eating a lot of Kashi Go-Lean Crunch!, mostly because it's tasty and easy. Honesty forces me to admit, though, that my TRUE fave would have to be Lucky Charms.

11. DO YOU UNTIE YOUR SHOES WHEN YOU TAKE THEM OFF? If they have laces, yes.

12. DO YOU THINK YOU ARE STRONG? I'll take this at face (physical) value and say no, not particularly. I'm pretty good for endurance, though.

13. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ICE CREAM? All of it, but I tend to go back to either Chunky-Monkey or Cookie Dough.

14. WHAT IS THE FIRST THING YOU NOTICE ABOUT PEOPLE? Well, again, honesty: I'm a guy, so it's usually tits. Although this tends to backfire when I'm walking toward a really fat dude.

15. RED OR PINK? I actually look good in BOTH, but for some reason Dr. Tessmacher isn't crazy about me wearing pink.

16. WHAT IS THE LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOURSELF? A tendency toward passive/aggressive behavior.

17. WHO DO YOU MISS THE MOST? George Carlin. (I'm lucky: the vast majority of the people I've really known and loved are alive.)

18. WHAT COLOR SHOES ARE YOU WEARING? Nada…although, when I WAS wearing shoes today, they were brown & orange Teva sandals.

19. WHAT WAS THE LAST THING YOU ATE? A Miller "Easter cookie." (Ground dates in a deliciously chewy dough "crust.")

20. WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW? The sound of the air cleaner in The Rozoleum.


22. FAVORITE SMELLS? The fudge pumped out onto the sidewalk on Mackinac Island; fresh baked bread; Play-Doh; newly-mown grass; pencil shavings; fresh snow on a cold winter day; tequila; really killer weed; a new record when you first take the shrink-wrap off; Roz's hair in the sunshine; Eric's basement…oh, screw it, and PUSSY, okay?!?

23. WHO WAS THE LAST PERSON YOU TALKED TO ON THE PHONE? Gawd, I *loathe* talking on the phone! Uh…I guess it was Tess' mom, so I could quickly hand the receiver over and be done with it!

24. DO YOU LIKE THE PERSON WHO SENT THIS TO YOU? Well, I assume I'd like the person I stole it from.

25. FAVORITE SPORTS TO WATCH? Paul Stanley doing his schtick in old Kiss bootlegs. (I like sports about as much as I like talking on the phone…in fact, I think my own Personal Hell would be an eternity spent talking to someone I don't really care for, with nothing but ESPN on the tube. *shudders*)

26. Hair Color? White.

27. EYE COLOR? Steely blue.

28. DO YOU WEAR CONTACTS? Nope. My vision HAS deteriorated, though…I'm down to 20/20. :-)

29. FAVORITE FOOD? Pizza. With meat. LOTS of meat.

30. SCARY MOVIES OR HAPPY ENDINGS? Both, in equal portions.

31. LAST MOVIE YOU WATCHED? Just started watching "Unbreakable" with Tess this eve.

32. WHAT COLOR SHIRT ARE YOU WEARING? Cantaloupe orange.


34. HUGS OR KISSES? Depends on the reciprocator…

35. FAVORITE DESSERT? Mississippi Mud Cake…my great-grandmother's recipe, and one that I don't myself make NEARLY often enough!

36. WHAT BOOK ARE YOU READING NOW? "Blonde Roots" by Bernardine Evaristo.

39. WHAT IS ON YOUR MOUSE PAD? A cheap ad for my college.

40. WHAT DID YOU WATCH ON TV LAST NIGHT? Mickey Mouse cartoons, then finished "Amelie."

41. FAVORITE SOUND? "You wanted the best, you got the best, the hottest band in the world…Kiss!" At about 130 dB.

42. ROLLING STONES OR BEATLES? Beatles primarily, since Tess is to the Beatles as I am to Kiss. But, I "grew up" with the Stones more, as they were still putting out music when I was a kid.


44. DO YOU HAVE A SPECIAL TALENT? Really, really killer air guitarist.