Wednesday, January 30, 2008, posted by Q6 at 8:19 PM
My latest saga is a bit drawn out. I'm gonna hit the highlights here (I can always address details based on comments) and you'll get the gist of what I'm going through.

My iPod got stolen. I was at work on a Saturday and someone boosted it from the dock on my desk. The feeling of violation was bad enough (one friend of mine compared it to "stealing the jewel from the eye of the holy statue from the middle of the temple," which I thought was cool), but I liked my little digital-bundle-of-80s-goodness. That, and the iPods went through another overhaul--you can't get the 30-gig classic anymore, and I don't have enough music--let alone data on my entire computer, to fill an 80-gig iPod.

So I went out and got an 80-gig iPod classic. Easy enough. The Apple Store even e-mails your receipt. I hooked it up, loaded everything, and was back to normal. (I don't take it to work anymore, though.) All was going fine with "Percy" (my fiancee named him--I don't know why, exactly, but she did, and it's cute)--then it was Apple that screwed me.

Every so often Apple updates its software and asks you to install the updates. I've read Internet horror stories about how these updates threaten your digital life, but I've never really had a problem with them (I won't do them every time, but I'll do the major ones). So my new iPod already had a software update available. I dowloaded it, and I installed it. Then Percy had to disconnect and reconnect for the changes to take effect (it was supposed to take about 20 seconds). Percy disconnected.

And that's the last we've heard of Percy. Percy's been in a coma since late last night. I did a bit of eResearch and discovered that if you hold two of the buttons down long enough, the thing resets and wakes back up, so I hooked him back into the computer and held the buttons down, as instructed. I got this:

I'm still following Apple's advice (what choice do I have, really?) and I took Percy in to the Apple Store for a checkup (and a cure). They have a service desk called the "Genius Bar"--the most pretentious name in the history of the world, as far as I'm concerned, for a service desk comprised of twelve-year-old computer geeks--and Apple's website said that I should go there since the iPod was still under warranty (after four days, it damn well better be). AND THEY TURNED ME AWAY because I didn't have an appointment. (And I thought the name was pretentious.) Seven stools, three "geniuses" and only two customers, but I needed an appointment.

Percy's going back in on Friday afternoon. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, January 28, 2008, posted by Q6 at 10:10 PM
I've lived in this house for ten years now, and I'm convinced that it was built after electricity was discovered but before it became popular.

This house has plenty of outlets, and switches on the walls, . . . but the switches control some of the outlets, and there's NO OVERHEAD LIGHTING in any of the major rooms (bedrooms, living room, dining room). I grew up in a house where the light was in the center of the ceiling, not on a stand halfway across a dark room; but I've lived with that, and adapted to it, and everything was fine.

Then I tried to make toast.

Electrical wiring is every bit as complicated as the schematic drawings make it look. There are several circuits throughout the house, and certain things are wired to certain circuits. Presumably some thought goes into what should be on the same circuit so that no one circuit has to carry too big a load and trip the breaker. WARNING: if your microwave is running, and plugged into the same circuit as the toaster, the entire house will die when one or the other machine finishes its cycle. After doing this for a while, I finally broke down and called an electrician.

Now anyone who reads this blog knows that I'm not an idiot when it comes to do-it-yourself remodeling. I've learned quite a bit, and learn more each time I do something. The only thing I won't do myself, however, is electricity because the risks are too high. Screw up painting, and it looks like crap; screw up carpentry, and things might break; screw up plumbing, and it's an expensive mess; but screw up electricity, and you die. So I don't do electrical. (I'd like to thank the fine four-man team from Archilectric for coming out for eleven straight hours in one day to get the whole job done in a single shot.)

I now have wiring set up for ceiling fans in the bedrooms (I'll go shopping for them this weekend), I have recessed lighting in the living room and library (on dimmers!), and I have switches connected to ceiling fixtures and all the outlets are constant.

And the microwave is on its own circuit now, so toast is back on the menu.
Saturday, January 26, 2008, posted by Q6 at 5:35 PM
I didn't start shaving my head because I was getting grey hair, but I have some. Over time I've watched my hair turn grey in my beard, on my head, on my chest, and even in my nose (slightly gross, but true).

Today I found some in my eyebrows, the only place left that had no grey hair. Will there ever come a day, I wonder, when I wake up and don't recognize my face?
Tuesday, January 15, 2008, posted by Q6 at 9:25 PM
Surprisingly, paintballs don't make the sound you think they would.

When it comes to my children, my life is governed by the laws of diametric opposition: one is a girl, the other a boy; one is olive-skinned, the other is fair; one lives in Northern California, the other in Southern California; one gets high marks in school, the other is . . . very witty. This year for the holidays, my daughter's big gift was a trip to a major musical production; my son, on the other hand, got a paintball gun and the supplies that go with it (much of it, of course, was protective wear). And so, just as I took her to the theater, I went with him to Camp Pendleton's paintball park. I, who have never fired a gun in my life that actually shoots anything (laser tag, apparently, doesn't prepare you for this), spent the day paintballing with teenagers and off-duty Marines.

Some observations: compressed air can shoot a little ball of paint pretty far; aim is irrelevant when you're using a rented paintball gun; shooting a twelve-year-old in the face was surprisingly therapeutic; it helps to have some sort of military mindset for group attack, but you lack the sophisticated communication devices so you're reduced to yelling; I have a renewed awe for combat soldiers, simply because it's harder than you'd think to reload a gun on a battlefield; paintballs aren't filled with latex paint, but with some watery, gooey paint that breaks down into a sticky mess; raising your hands in the air does mean that you're out, but it doesn't mean they'll stop shooting at you; paintballs are expensive, and you go through them pretty quickly; trendy protective gear can make any nerd look like a badass; and finally, I need to join a gym or something to get in better shape.

In the end, I walked away without serious injury. I was shot in the hand a few times, but I couldn't feel it because I had already scraped it up pretty badly (I tried to run--too fast, it turned out--to a bunker and ended up falling on my face, knee, and hand). I got shot once in the chest (no bruise), once in the back (a serious bruise), and once right between the eyes. Thank God for the goggles, although a piece of shattered paintball casing managed to fly in the air vent and scratch my nose. What I didn't count on was how out of shape I was: for three days now, my thighs have burned with a pain I haven't known in a long time. I was prepared to get shot, but it never occured to me that I would be running around all day long (I looked somewhat foolish on the stairs at home). I'm not old (my son will not allow me anymore to call myself "old"), but I'm clearly not 25 anymore.

No, "SPLAT!" isn't the sound a paintball makes. It makes the sound of sons and fathers laughing together; it sounds like friends and family experiencing new things together; it is the sound of memories being made.
Monday, January 07, 2008, posted by Q6 at 8:49 PM
If the movie's based on a book, and I like the movie, chances are I'll read the book. Such was the case with I Am Legend, Richard Matheson's novel about a lone survivor of a plague that turns everyone else into vampires. I don't know if the recent film, starring Will Smith, has made the novel popular again, but I was surprised to learn the other things the author's written. That "Twilight Zone" episode where William Shatner freaks out on the plane? He wrote that. Spielberg's first movie, "Duel"? That's his. The "Star Trek" episode where Kirk gets split into good and evil halves? Matheson. "Jaws 3D", too. The list goes on an on. He's a major influence in horror and sci-fi writing, it turns out. So I'm reading the book.

And I'm completely freaked out for reasons OTHER than vampires.

The film, if you've seen it, is about an army doctor who survives this big plague and is alone in a now-desolate New York City, trying to find a cure for a virus he helped create. The book, however, is about some ordinary schmo who is trying to figure out the virus (if it even is one) while trying to survive from the attacks of his now-undead friends and neighbors. And the book, unlike the movie, doesn't take place in New York City.

This book takes place in my hometown.

I grew up in Gardena, California, a little-known, drive-through-it-in-five-minutes suburb of Los Angeles. The house that the main character lives in is half a mile from the house I grew up in (and where my mother still lives). Growing up, I had two friends who lived on that very street. Matheson refers to streets and neighborhoods I'm familiar with, which helps me connect with the book even more.

And I LOVE connecting to books.
Tuesday, January 01, 2008, posted by Q6 at 3:31 PM
I'm not the kind of person that makes resolutions for the new year. My life--lately, anyway--has been all about making incremental, positive changes. Thinking about the year ahead, as most people tend to do in early January, has brought several things to mind. In the final analysis, I'm not making resolutions, per se, but I am strengthening my resolve to do certain tasks with more follow-through (something I've been criticized for by many people in the past decade). I'm blogging about this more for my own benefit than that of my readership, but what blog isn't, really?

Here's what some of 2008 will look like for me:

--We're going to get this wedding planned without any of that get-it-done-at-the-last-minute stuff I've become so good at. There's a set list of things to accomplish, and there's no reason why it can't get planned ahead of time.

--I'm going to fix up this house. It took me over a year to simply finish plastering and painting the ceiling in the living room, and I'll be kicking myself for a very long time about my procrastination (I got it done in two days, by the way). I'll do a little each week--it won't seem like much at the time, but it will be steadily done, not done in small bursts in between long periods of inaction.

--I'm going to get my book written the same way. on Christmas Eve my fiancee and I had very productive conversation about the ten pages I'd completed not long ago, and we've decided that the book should take a different path. The story will, in my opinion, be harder to structure; it will be easier to tell, however, and therefore the writing should come easier. Fondue restaurants are really cool, by the way.

--Professionally, I'm not sure what will happen. Something has to happen, though, because I'm in something of a professional rut right now (and not because I'm on Winter Break). I need to keep this job for several more years--at my current school, or somewhere else--more for financial reasons than anything else. As far as fulfillment goes, however, I fear I may have peaked . . . or perhaps I've become too frustrated with the current system to become innovative . . . in any event, I've got to figure out what's missing and fix it.

--Finally, there's my family. I'm going to call my mother more often (again with the procrastination problem--I've made this statement before), and I'm going to welcome my fiancee (in August, my wife) into the house. There are no problems there, and it's an adjustment I'm not only looking forward to but I'm thinking will be good for me in several ways. Then there's my son, for whom the coming year will bring grade improvement, the whole driving thing, and (hopefully) gainful employment as soon as child labor laws will allow. Challenges all, but ones I hope to work with him on rather than fight with him about.

For the schedule-related stuff, I'd like to thank the kind people at HassleMe, who will be sending me reminder e-mails; for my house renovation, I know that Home Depot won't let me down; for the motivation stuff, my fiancee is my rock, my muse, and (occasionally) the cattle prod I so desperately need. As for my son, well . . . he can and will rise to the occasion, and I will lead by example.

Bring on 2008.