:: Ray's Periodic Rantings ::

Political blurtings, personal notes, musings and more from a Chicago area Mac guy, neon artist, Burner, remarried widower, and now father.
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:: Wednesday, January 28, 2004 ::


I don't write much about work here, usually. A personal blog isn't a great place to whine about employers that might read it, and I don't have much to complain about, really. At the moment, however, I am in the middle of one of the tougher projects I have handled for a while, and it has me a bit weary.

For a few years now, things have been remarkably stable there. We are an all Mac shop, running Filemaker Pro in a somewhat esoteric setup with scripted one-click network faxing and printing. This was all happy under OS9 and earlier versions, but now it is finally time to update to OSX for a number of reasons, and reproducing some of the features my users are accustomed to has proven difficult.

It doesn't help that part of my job is helping to take phone calls. I can't just flip back and forth between, "would you like fries with that?" and serious research, testing and configuration of software every few minutes. As a result, most of my "real" work doesn't get done until after 6pm, when the office closes. When my "real" work was mostly maintenance and minor feature adjustments, this was no big deal, but now that I have an important project and am under pressure to complete it, all I can say is, "ack!"

At least I am getting far more familiar with the peculiarities of OSX than I did in months of casual use at home.
:: Ray 11:38 PM [+] ::
:: Sunday, January 25, 2004 ::

Jackie, my biomom, is pretty cool. For Christmas, she usually gets me a fruit of the month club. This year when she asked what I wanted, I mentioned that the Bacon of the Month Club sounded fun. Yeah, you read that right...the Bacon of the Month Club. I didn't actually expect her to get it, and I wasn't aware of what it cost, but she did, bless her heart.

The welcome package came right away, including a membership certificate, a bacon t-shirt, and pig pen. The first bacon arrived on Friday. It's an extra thick cut from a smokehouse in New Braunfels, TX. The amusing thing is that I have actually been to New Braunfels. I had lunch there with Burning Man friends Chris and April when I visited them in Texas last year. The insert describes the noble German history of the town and the smokehouse that produced the bacon, and describes the bacon as extra-lean, "...slowly cured in sugar and salt then smoked over hickory wood embers. It has a robust, meaty, smoky flavor..." I ate some of it yesterday, and I will fry up more of it for a late breakfast right after I finish writing this entry. All I can say is, they know their bacon in New Braunfels. Yum. Looks like it's time to make another pot of Winter Vegetable Soup.

I can't wait for the next package, so I can begin to compare their tastes. I may not know much about wines, but how many people get to be knowledgeable about bacon? Thanks, Jackie!
:: Ray 12:00 PM [+] ::
Good moments

Sometimes being a single adult can be downright fun. At the moment, for instance, I'm staying up later than I should, watching a lame sci-fi channel movie about dragons, eating cajun fried turkey and homemade fudge from xmas. I don't need to be up early, and with my metabolism, I don't really need to worry about gaining weight. OK, the movie is really, really bad, but it's more the situation I am referring to, here. Sometimes not having any attachments can be kind of cool. I hope to not live this way for too long, so I might as well enjoy it while it lasts.

Last night I had one of those wonderful winter in the city moments. I was waiting for a bus outside the Newberry Library, a stone structure from the late 1800s, with a park across the street. Fresh snow covered the ground with a blanket of quiet and white. The air wasn't too cold. It was late. Few people were around. I enjoyed a few peaceful moments there, until my bus came.

You know, this dragon movie is so bad, I am starting to think about not finishing it.
:: Ray 2:15 AM [+] ::
:: Thursday, January 22, 2004 ::

A couple of random notes, written while I should really be doing something else:

Living in a house with both my own and Mary's things can be strange. I am in the middle of a long process of going through those things and integrating them into my life or discarding them, but sometimes I just don't know what I own. Case in point, a few weeks ago I made brownies with a recipe from the newspaper, excerpted from the Moosewood cookbook. They were good, though a tiny bit cakey. I wanted to make them a bit more fudgey, and was uncertain how to modify the recipe. Then one day I was going through my cookbooks for another reason, when I saw it. Turns out the Moosewood cookbook was already on my shelf, thanks to Mary. Its version of the recipe was more complete, and included the modification I was looking for. My second batch of brownies turned out just right.

I just watched this week's episode of Enterprise, the current incarnation of Star Trek. The Andorians (xenophobes with blue skin and antennae on their heads) were up to their old tricks again. In one form or another, Star Trek has been on TV contiguously for decades. It has been an old friend to me, allowing me a weekly escape into a world where mankind has solved its problems at home and hurled itself out into the void among aliens both friendly and hostile, a world of ubiquitous, cool technology with lots of blinking lights, and a few obligatory babes in spandex. Its canon is vast, allowing all kinds of amusing references to itself, and though the plots can sometimes by cheesy, more often they are just plain fun. Enterprise's ratings haven't been the best, and there are rumors on the net that this will be the last season. If so, for the first time in a long time, there would be no Star Trek on TV (except reruns, of course). I would miss it sorely. There is nothing else quite like it to be found. Long live Enterprise!
:: Ray 11:57 PM [+] ::
:: Tuesday, January 20, 2004 ::
Happy but sad

I knew it was coming, but I didn't want to believe it, for entirely selfish reasons. Tonight I attended a get-together at the kid's home at Maryville to celebrate his going away. He has been taken into foster care by a really nice couple that stepped forward after the tumult at Maryville last year. They have every intention of eventually adopting him.

The kid has longed for a home with parents more than anything else the entire time I have known him. In that time, he has grown quite a bit -- in body, yes, but also in maturity, acceptance, and demeanor. He will still be a handful, but I think his chances of thriving are far better now than they were three and a half years ago when I met him. I hope and pray it all works out as well as it possibly can.

It is difficult to let go. I will miss our time together. I will miss having a reason to organize and cook dinner on Monday nights. I will miss being looked up to (metaphorically, not physically) like he has done. Of course I will continue to see him in some capacity. I hope to continue to be a mentor and role model to him, but tonight I had to face the realization that our relationship will never quite be the same as it has been. Things change. Sometimes it is a good thing. Sometimes it sucks. Sometimes it's both.

He has at least one more thing coming to him from me that I haven't revealed yet, but will soon, and I know he will like it. He has always been fascinated with my stickshift VW, and I have let him shift gears on occasion while we drive slowly on the Maryville property. I plan to make the following offer: In a year or two, after he has had his driver's license for several months and can demonstrate that he is driving safely, I will teach him how to drive a stick.
:: Ray 12:27 AM [+] ::
:: Thursday, January 15, 2004 ::
Public Radio and thanks to the Net

I really like my local public radio station, WBEZ. They air some really interesting nationally and locally produced news and talk during the day. At night, however, they lose me at 8pm, when they switch over to what is, to me, mind numbing jazz. Local college station WNUR sometimes fills the gap, as I have written about here before, but tonight I found myself turning to a different old broadcasting friend. WDET in Detroit has a long tradition of eclectic and freeform music programming. When I tuned in a moment ago, I was rewarded with Aero Dynamik, a Kraftwerk track performed by them, followed by the same track covered by Stereolab (a track which I hadn't known existed). Go WDET and many thanks to internet radio!

Incidentally, in monkeying with my blog template a long time ago, I managed to mangle the permalink function. I am happy to say that as of tonight I have repaired it. Please feel free to link, link, link to any post that strikes your fancy. I'll also mention here that if you want to find something that I wrote about a while back, but you can't remember when it was, simply do a google search for "Ray Koltys" and a relevant word or two. It works, lickety-split.

Now I will stop procrastinating and get back to the project I am supposed to be working on. It's amazing what I can get done when I am avoiding my actual work.
:: Ray 12:10 AM [+] ::
:: Sunday, January 11, 2004 ::
Matrix. Envy vs Jealousy.

I went with friend Heather to see Matrix III on Saturday. We had both waited so long, all I could find was a noon showing at a megaplex in the northern suburbs. Because of this, I was worried it was going to be a chewed up old print on a tiny screen in a shoebox of a room. Fortunately, I couldn't have been more wrong. When we went to the box office, the tickets were $11.50. I was so stunned that I commented out loud, "When did movies start costing more than ten bucks?" The cashier replied, without skipping a beat, "its on the Imax screen."

Wow. The screen was big, the sound was great, and the print was immaculate, though there were some little black bits of dust or something that sometimes migrated around the picture. It looked like they were in the projector, not on the print.

Oh yeah, the movie? It was a lot better than everyone seems to whine about. I don't think there was an elegant way to wrap up what the brothers Wachowski started, but they did a pretty good job of it. I don't have profound things to say about it, I just enjoyed it.

I do have a few shallow comments:
Some of the digital effects didn't look as photorealistic as I have come to expect. The club scene with all the fetish wear was certainly shot with loving attention to detail, by someone with a delightfully twisted mind. And the APUs, large battle exoskeletons with huge machine guns for hands, controlled by humans strapped into them, would have been the stuff of wet dreams when I was about 14 (and I mean this in an entirely complimentary way). The shots of men in these things, machine guns blazing, straining at the effort, shooting streams of sentinels out of the sky, were simply wonderful. I also have to commend the brothers for creating a world on screen in which race, or rather racism, is entirely absent. It makes sense, when you think about it, that skin color might become a bit less important with humanity locked in a struggle for its very survival, but it is still gratifying to see it on screen.

On an entirely different subject, I was just now reading an article in the New York Times, and I snapped when I saw this sentence: "Adi admits to being flat-out jealous of city dwellers." The way I have always understood it, wanting something someone else has is envy, not jealousy, yet jealousy is misused in envy's place commonly in American English (I don't know if the Brits have this problem, too), and nobody seems concerned about it, not even the New York Times. Please humor me -- the next time you are about to say, "I'm jealous," stop and consider for a moment. Are you really jealous of someone (meaning you want to control that person) or are you, in fact, envious?
:: Ray 2:14 AM [+] ::
:: Friday, January 09, 2004 ::
Winter and pix

There is a funny thing about winter: it only takes a day or two of temperatures in the single digits and below zero to make the mid twenties seem mild and even downright pleasant.

The Wrigley Building is green! It's just temporarily lit that way at night, more precisely. It's the highlight of a winter lights thing the city and merchants on Michigan Ave have done for the past couple of years. And to be honest, this picture is from last year. I took it then, and never got around to posting it. And now it is conveniently current again!

I took some digipix while I was in Florida last week. iPhoto makes them absurdly easy to post, so here they are.
:: Ray 2:37 AM [+] ::
:: Tuesday, January 06, 2004 ::

I spent part of Sunday in shorts, taking some sun in a cow pasture in Florida. It was sunny and almost 80 degrees, a perfect day. Monday was a bit hellish, as I flew home through Philadelphia, only to have my Philly-to-Chicago leg cancelled. Fortunately I landed a standby seat on the next flight, and didn't get home too late. This morning, however, I left for work in an outside temperature of 3 degrees below zero. Ack. I'm no cold weather neophyte, and I was adequately bundled up, but it was pretty crisp out there. Winter is here.
:: Ray 6:38 PM [+] ::

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