Of Fender Dents and Irony

November 12th, 2009

My brother and I were driving down the mountain for nearly the last time this morning. We were talking about how I needed to wash my car and replace the small reflector knocked from the front light assembly when he’d hit a deer on a foggy morning. It wasn’t major damage, but it needed fixin’. As we were having this conversation we passed very nearly the point on the road where the accident had happened. We were travelling about 40 miles an hour.

A big buck, maybe a six-pointer, came bounding down the cliff on the right side of the road and froze right in front of my car. I slammed on the brakes and dodged to the left.* The deer hit the car midway down the right fender, and his hindquarters swung around and slammed my passenger mirror into the window, breaking the glass. I got a good look at his face when it slammed antler-first into the windshield as he rolled up over the roof and was gone.

I stopped the car and glared at my poor passenger-side mirror, then looked into the driver side rearview in time to see the buck look around uncertainly and bound off down the hill. It didn’t seem fair, the son of a bitch taking a big chunk out of my car and then getting to bound, too.

Travis rolled down the window and reported a dent in the fender. At the bottom of the mountain I pulled off to the side of the road to check it out. A big dent, maybe a foot wide and eight inches high, but at least a smooth one. The elastic paint on the car had split into a series of parallel ribbons on one side but had not cracked otherwise. Maybe one of those glue-and-suction fix-a-dent kits and a little clear-coat might make it look decent until I can afford a real paint job. Don’t laugh. It could happen.

Irony: it sucks.

*–Thank you, anti-lock brakes and Porsche stability management!

Sliced cheese.

September 19th, 2009

You know what creeps me out about American cheese? It’s individually-packaged slices, how the creases on the slice are always the inverse of those on the wrapper and how it’s obviously cast into it, liquid. This cheese came into being in that wrapper, like some kind of pod creature or Frankenfood.

Or was the cheese melted first, and then poured in? Am I getting pre-melted cheese? Wikipedia will answer this for me. The truth is not pretty.

Rich People Neighborhoods

September 19th, 2009

Things I have learned:

In rich people neighborhoods, it is a bad idea to drive a busted-up car.

In rich people neighborhoods, the mail comes early.

Remember Iraq

August 20th, 2009

As the Iraq war sort of winds down, I thought I’d point this out, since most people don’t seem to remember it: the Bush administration lied. They said that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, that they were working with Al Qaeda, that they were behind 9/11, that we were going there to give Iraqis the gift of freedom, that we’d be welcomed as liberators, that Iraqi petrodollars would pay for reconstruction, and that we could fight the war with very few soldiers (but a lot of expensive equipment). These are, inarguably, lies. The people saying them at the time knew they were lies. Many people pointed out at the time that they were lies, and anybody who did a little investigation beyond watching Fox News or CNN or whatthefuckever could and did find out that they were lies.

As a result of these lies, thousands of Americans are dead. Thousands. DEAD. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis are dead. Halliburton, KBR, Lockheed Martin, and General Dynamics, among thousand of other members of the military-industrial complex general Eisenhower worried so rightly about are fat on more than seven hundred billion U.S. taxpayer dollars.

If you were one of the sheep I fucking told you about back then, I just want to remind you that I fucking told you so. I want to remind you that you’re a chump who paid good money to kill your friends and innocent people you never even met. I want to remind you that that blood is on your fucking dirty, dumb hands, and that any number of people you called traitors tried to tell you the truth.

Also, fuck you, asshole, you sorry piece of shit.

Try to do better next time.

I know you won’t.

Fucking sheep.

You think I’m kidding, but I’m really not.

Independence Day Weekend

July 6th, 2009

Kevin Jordan and his girl Stephanie came out on July 4th, and we barbecued up some buffalo hot dogs and what everyone present claimed without exception were the best burgers they ever had.* The sun set blood red over a very hazy day, and as the valley lit up orange and purple in the twilight, it started to explode. Rockets shot into the air and exploded in star burst, leaving umbrellas of smoke hanging in the darkening sky. All night long, until I went to sleep at two, the valley looked like LA in the opening shot of Blade Runner. We were so far away from the fireworks that at times we would watch the whole show go off in Sunnyvale or Cupertino before the first sound of explosions reached us. I watched transfixed all night. I was reminded somehow of the news coverage from Baghdad at the beginning of Desert Storm.

Sunday we drove to Big Basin and hiked 11 miles out to Berry Creek falls, and that also was perfect. Upper Silver Falls, in particular, looked like a hallucination when I stood in it, liquid metal pouring over obsidian. It is one of the strangest things I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen many strange and wonderful things.

*–The perfect burger; shopping by Kelly, cooking by Travis: Take plain ol’ 80/20 ground chuck, season with salt, garlic, and chipotle powder. Grill over low heat mesquite charcoal, top hot with American or habanero jack cheese.

Garnish with Mexican green onions, tomatoes, and butter-leaf lettuce. I used chopped Mexican onion greens instead of lettuce, and it was full of win. Dress with garlic aoili and serve on a corn-dusted Kaiser roll pan-toasted with margarine. For maximum win, serve with wedge-cut garlic fries, optionally dusted with whole ground chipotle pepper as well.


June 17th, 2009

I remember when I first moved here out to Mt. Hamilton road and saw the weekend and daily bicyclists heading up the hill, most on their way to Lick Observatory. They ranged from the relatively young to the very old, and I thought to myself: those are people in superhuman shape, to ride 40 miles round trip from an elevation of perhaps 300 feet up to 1600, back down to 600, then up to 4300 and repeating the whole thing in reverse. Superhuman shape.

I was right. Dear god, I was right.

Last Monday I bought a 21-speed Specialized Hard Rock mountain bike, about 14 years old and not the prettiest thing in the world but in pretty good mechanical condition. I’d ridden a bike about once in the last decade, but I’ve spent an hour most days on a stationary bike in an air-conditioned gym for the last few months, so it’s practically the same thing, right? Right?

Maybe not quite.

First I went up Mount Hamilton, which is a ludicrously scenic twisty two-lane highway with an average eight-degree grade, and this is, indeed, a pretty good way to get some exercise: go uphill until you’ve reached your goal, then turn around and cool off and air dry on the thrillingly effortless coast back down.

Today, my goal turned out to be about ten minutes uphill, because my seat is, in technical terms, maladjusted and what us bicyclists like to call “a pain in the ass”. In non-technical terms, it felt like somebody was trying to rape my butt with a bicycle seat.

I was having such a good time on the way back down, however, that when I got back to Rose View drive, I foolishly said to myself that I should just ride all the way to the bottom of the hill (1.8 miles and about 630 vertical feet) and see how long it would take me to get back up. I think, basically, I was just really enjoying the terrifying slalom and didn’t want to stop.

I did enjoy it, too, tremendously, watching the valley lit golden in the evening sun, even though in the back of my mind I knew I was going to pay for it.

Here’s the thing: I can’t make it back up the mountain. Well, I can, but not in one go. I had to get off and walk my bike an embarrassing number of times. Partly this is because I haven’t ridden a bike in so long, and never one with so many gears; I learned several things about gear selection on the way back up that would have made things a bit easier. That damned seat didn’t do me any favors either, but in the end saliva was dripping from my lips and my mouth was full of sand and I felt just a little light-headed, so I’m not kidding myself: riding up a mountain on a bike is hard work and it’s going to take me a week or two to even do the little stretch I have to do in order to commute with any kind of panache.

It’s not all bad, though: that walk takes me 45 minutes, and on my bike I made it in 25, although a good bit worse for wear than I’d have been on foot.

The Hot Tub

May 3rd, 2009

I have not written in some while. It is not that I have had nothing to write, but that I have been preoccupied with the doing of things rather than the chronicling of them. I have also decided that I should not rush what I write, but finish and edit them so that they shall be a proper record of my thoughts and experiences rather than a rush that gets only the guts of my experience rather than the flavor of it.

I have decided, however, that I must before long begin to write of this place where I live, a place not an estate but closer to one than any a dirt poor kid from the woods has lived before. If I do not describe these things then when my lease is done and I move somewhere cheaper to save the paltry sum I can save by doing so, my experiences will be lost. I will have only my fading memory to look back on in my old age, and it fails me so often now that I fear it will be worse than useless when the rest of my hair has gone gray.

This place is to me aspirational; the life I live here is the one I will strive to live from now on. It’s a vision not of richness but of aging quality, of sturdiness, simplicity and beauty.

It has a hot tub. A hot tub is a thoroughly middle class luxury, but it’s one I’ve never had before, and mine is built on a platform above my house so that it looks westerly down on the north end of the valley. It is often my pleasure early on a weekend afternoon to turn on the jets so that the water warms, and late on a weekend afternoon to dress in swimming shorts and a t-shirt and Birkenstock sandals, to gather a towel and a beer or a cuba libré and a volume of short stories by Ernest Hemingway or Ian Fleming and walk up the steps to the hot tub.

I can then spend the rest of the daylight warm under the shade of the canopy, reading the adventures of James Bond or Nick Adams while I drink my drink and watch the sun slowly fall down through the sky past the hill to my north, painting in rainbow the waters of the San Francisco bay and burning the clouds off the Santa Cruz mountains. I watch the city and the cities come alive with light, the crickets begin their nightly song.

When I am done I stand in the tub and pull up and over the heavy cover and when it finally thumps into place I feel a satisfaction of a job properly done. I gather my things and step soaking into my sandals, sloshing comfortably in the leather back down the steps, the wind chilling my body as I walk to the kitchen door.

Inside I squish across the tile floor of my kitchen (clean! or an approximation) and turn off the jets in the pantry, then squish some more dripping up the carpeted spiral to my loft, where I shower briefly in my spacious echo tile shower echo room under the hot water, then walk naked around the top floor that is mine and dry myself and look out the windows at the expanse of the valley below, a million twinkling lights with lives behind them and the still glowing pastel stained glass sky above the mountains, and I am content.

The next few years I will not live here, I will venture down into that valley for the small sum I can save by doing so and when I wake up in the morning and look out my window I will see only the house next door. When I watch the sunset from my home I will see if I am lucky some small slice of mountain below the sky. I will remember this place, though, and in time I will live in a place like it again.

A couple of my favorite Firefox plugins (screencast)

April 8th, 2009

(Skip the text and just watch the video)

I think I might do a little mini-series on Firefox add-ons, because I’m geek like that.

If you don’t use Firefox, then wise up and start. You can get it here, it’s a tiny little download, and it’s just about the best browser out there.

There are a few minimalists who will disagree with me, and some of those people actually spend a lot of time on the web, so I won’t denigrate their opinion, but I’ll say this: I spend a lot of time on the web: multiple-digit hours of every day in my browser. I don’t want minimalism. I want a flexible, full-featured environment that provides cool tools for me to build efficient work flows and have all the information in the world at my fingertips.

Firefox does that, through its “add-ons”, and this video demos a couple of my current favorites:

Delicious: Delicious is an online bookmarks site, sort of “social bookmarking” place where you can store bookmarks and tag them up, and you can share them with others or keep them private. They’ve got a really cool add-on for Firefox that does a whole bunch of neat stuff, but in this video I’m only demonstrating one: The delicious toolbar.

I use on average three or four computers a day, and until recently they all had their own toolbar, and the ones I didn’t use much didn’t have anything in the tool bar at all. Today, I use the delicious toolbar to maintain two different toolbars–one for work, and one for home–and to access those toolbars from any computer.

Personas: Personas is a theming system for Firefox that lets you pick popular themes from a pop-up menu, changing the theme on your browser at the touch of a button. Their website has a simple facility where you can make your own themes and share them with others. It’s surprising to me how much a tasteful theme can relieve the monotony of staring at a browser all the time.

The Highest Resolution Possible

April 6th, 2009

So my brother has this picture as his desktop and he think’s it’s the most awesome picture taken by anybody, ever, in the history of all mankind. I’m not gonna go out of my way to disagree, although really it’s pretty obvious that this is the best picture ever taken in all the history of mankind.

I was sitting up real close to the television and I noticed she was all kind of blocky looking, like she had some resolution issues, and I said something about it and he said yeah it’s not that great quality. So I said did you check for higher resolutions, because I knew it came from Flickr, and he said he did check for higher resolutions, but he didn’t think the one on the desk top was the highest resolution one, even though he’d had the better one right there in his browser.

So–and here’s the important part–so I say: I like my bitches in the highest resolution available.

I didn’t know I could be so profound. But then, profoundly what? Disturbing?

I mean how does that come out of your mouth? Is it a geek thing? An instinctually ironic generation X thing? A consequence of being digital? Or what?

At any rate, it was awesome so I twittered it.

I think I could get into twitter. Not as a serious thing the way it is with all these people broadcasting the minutest minutiae of their day-to-day lives, but as some kind of neo-haiku, maybe. some fiction, maybe, like those cell phone novels you always read about they have in Japan.


Diamonds are Forever

April 5th, 2009

Yeah, so, I don’t remember seeing Diamonds are Forever with Sean Connery before, but it is now just about my favorite Bond flick. It starts out all kind of low-key, but then it’s like whoa! Blofeld, and then there’s a fucking space laser, and it’s out of nowhere, and it blows up fucking everything. I say, it really is a winner.

I say my favorite Bonds are Sean Connery, Daniel Craig, Pierce Brosnan, and Roger Moore, in that order.