sugary and coffee-y
when last we left our heros...
Hi, my name is Marc, and I'm a video game addict.
afternoon at the Mollberg's
More house stuff today. We got our sellers to sign off on our little changes to the contract, and we're a go. And now, the inspection. Sasha recommended her guy, so we met them at the property at 9:30am. His price included a termite inspector, who was already there, and under the house when we showed up. Lots of "bad" things, like wood-to-ground contact, and cement up against the house, and he recommended getting a full treatment before signing off. Hm. He didn't, however, find any evidence of any kind of bugs or infestation, so that's good.
Dave and Mel also showed up, bearing coffee and donuts. Mmm. We hung out and chatted for a bit while the inspector did his thing, crawling around under the house, up in the attic, measuring, poking, checking out every nook and cranny with his video camera. When he gave us his final report, and showed us what he found, there were some obvious trouble spots - rats in the attic, uneven pier-and-beam stuff underneath, corroded old water heater, and so on, but all in all, he said, pretty average for a house that old, in that price range. So, we consulted for a bit, and we're going to try to get the sellers to fix up the important things before we close, about five grand worth of much-needed repairs. We'll see how that goes.
Other than taking care of that, I've been pretty slack. In fact, I'm being slack about my slacking - that stack of Netflix is getting pretty dusty. Well, at least dinner with Dineen and Larry tonight will get me up and out for a bit...
So, when I was about seven years old or so, I was under the impression that I could cook. I had a Mickey Mouse cookbook and everything. I actually had pretty good luck with it - as far as I can remember, anyway - except for one time. I was making some sugar cookies, and after the first batch, decided that dropping the batter out into individual cookies was too much of a pain, and that one giant cookie would not only be easier, but it would also be, well, a giant cookie! So, I took the remaining cookie batter, completely covered a cookie sheet with it, and put it in to bake. I think I may have overdone it a little bit. I tried for the longest time, in vain, to first get the burnt-on cookie off the sheet, then to just scrub the thing clean. Eventually, it had to be thrown away, and I distinctly remember staring wistfully at it in the garbage for a week or so, until it was taken away forever.
Twenty-five years later, history repeats itself.
So, as I mentioned briefly before, or not, I picked up a cookbook for Bernie the other day. She's been learning to cook more lately, and I'm pretty partial to this saucy British chick who seems to really like eating. So, I was flipping through it last night, and saw that there was a recipe for merengues. I'm a pretty big sucker for those store-bought flavored merengues that are showing up everywhere nowadays, and they're pretty much just egg whites and sugar, so I picked up some supplies at Central Market today, and started in on a batch. I swear, I hand whisked those goddamn egg whites for half an hour, and I swear that those little bastards stood up in white, fluffy peaks when I was done with them. Unfortunately, when I poured the junk into the piping bag, and tried to dispense it onto the cookie sheet in neat little dollops, it pretty much just oozed out, and ran all together in one big, flat pool of sticky stuff.
Suddenly, I was seven years old again, and this minor tragedy seemed to turn into a pretty good idea.
I mean, the oven was already pre-heated, right? And there's no sense in just wasting all this edible, if a little flat, goop, right? So, into the oven it goes. Forty minutes later, I take it out, and I'm confronted with a very solid, very flat, and very unappealing mass of carmelized gunk. I managed to break off a little flake, and it tasted... okay, but not anywhere near what I was looking for. Fortunately, I had the good sense to follow instructions, and lay down a protective coating of waxed paper between the baking surface and the cookie-sheet-killing mess. A couple crunches, and it was in the garbage, and I was on my way to the local kitchen superstore to get myself a damn electric hand mixer. After a brief period of quiet contemplation, I picked one, and came home to start on my second batch. Much better. Just a minute or two of whipping with the new appliance was probably equal to a couple of hours of carpal-tunnel inducing work with the crappy old hand whisk. Added sugar and coffee extract, popped in the oven for half an hour or so, and there we have it - thirty perfect little crunchy coffee puffs. And now, I can make them any time I want.
I crammed them all down in a couple of hours, with very little help. At least, now I know that when I eat a whole batch, it's less than two eggs, and probably less sugar than I put in a morning's worth of coffee...
Speaking of disasters, today was the 17th anniversary of the Challenger explosion. Seventeen years ago, I was in tenth grade, and one of the kids in my math class told me that the space shuttle blew up. I thought that was a pretty stupid joke. Next period, in computer class, we started watching the replays on television, and emailing each other back and forth over our VAX accounts about it. I'm still pretty pissed about that setting the space program back so much, for so long. Sometimes I feel like those seven people dying did more to set back the United States than the three thousand or so that got exploded and crushed last year ever will.
Of course, then our Fearless Leader has to open his mouth and make me think twice again. I made the mistake of listening to the state of the union address tonight. So pissed off. It's not so much that he's an evil, corrupt, lying sack of shit; it's that he gets away with it, and he's so obviously smug about it. I just can't understand how anyone can sit there and listen to him lie, over and over again, without saying anything. Or doing anything. The kids in Oakland want to riot over something, I think they can find something worhtwhile to bust shit up over here. Sometimes, I'm glad that it was Bush that was elected on a "zero year", and not the other guy. Me, I'm just gonna wait and see, and hopefully everything will work out just find, and the bad guys will just go away. Really, what else can you do? I got my voter's card thinger in the mail today. It's the first time I've been registered since the first - and last - time I voted, against Reagan in 1988. (I don't even remember who was running against him. Mondale, maybe?) It didn't matter then, and it won't matter now. I can't even bring myself to vote for a Democrat any more - both sides are pretty much the same soulless shitbag corporate puppets these days. They're both bad, just different kinds of bad. And the plain fact is that nobody that I feel is worth voting for, that represents anything even remotely like my views, is ever going to have a chance in Hell of winning anything.
<majcher> i figure voting for someone who has no chance of winning is just as good as not voting at all, only difference will be that people can't say, "you didn't vote, so you shouldn't talk".
<noid> I would do anything to preserve my right to piss and moan.
<majcher> it's all about marketing. doesn't matter who's right, or what people really think.
<majcher> whoever has the best ad campaigns (or can buy the most judges), wins.
<scott> or whhoever can convince most of america that everyone else is voting for them.
<majcher> i can't make people stop liking julia roberts movies, i can't get britney off the top 40, and there's no way in hell that i can get anyone anywhere near what i want elected.
<majcher> just never gonna happen.
<ranter> maybe you want the wrong people.
<majcher> maybe i do.
<ranter> and hey, i like julia roberts.
Back in the tiny world of things that I can actually control a little bit, the house buying process seems to be moving along nicely. We met Sasha for lunch today at a pretty nasty Vietnamese restaurant that everyone else here seems to absolutely love, but which has given me and Bernie gastric distress every time we've been there. Anyway, there were a couple of things for us to initial and sign, and a couple of details to smooth out. The current owners wanted to add a clause which allowed them to lease the house from us for up to 60 days after closing, to make sure they had enough time to find a new house. We weren't crazy about that, but we really like the place, so we rolled with it, but made sure that everything else we wanted was in there, too. We're doing thing funky little thing that Derek, our mortgage broker, recommended, where we get the sellers to include the closing costs in the price of the property, so they actually pay that, we put a couple thousand less down, and work that off over the course of the loan. It all sounds like black voodoo magic to me, but if it works, it works. I'm just looking forward to getting stuff all set up, and not moving again for a long time.
In other news, my uncle Bernard is playing with a band, backing up some eleven year old girl at an all-day music festival on Saturday, and helping out with a banjo workshop there that evening. Sounds like it should be a hoot. I so need to practice more. Get back on the "not sucking" train.
Speaking of which, it's after 5am, and I'm not asleep. What's up with that? I was getting up around this time a week or two ago. Out of bed, out of the house, doing stuff. I blame society.
We're getting closer to homeownership. It's probably too late now for all but the most evil and resourceful of my many adversaries to thwart our plans, so I suppose it's safe to reveal the full glory of our new house. Of course, it's not our house yet, but it will be. Oh yes, it will be mine. Er, ours. Or something.
Anyway, on Saturday afternoon, we did an official walk-through of the place with Sasha. She helped us give the place a more thorough look-over, and pointed out a few things that we missed. A few cracks here and there, a small leak or two, a stuck window here and there, but nothing major, and nothing that changed our mind about the place. There will be many trips to Home Depot in the first year or two, of course, but that's all part of the fun, right? So, after satisfying ourselves that this was what we wanted, Bernie and I headed over to a greek deli/cafe down the street to fill out and sign the contract. Sasha made sure all the paperwork was in order, and submitted it to the seller's agent. Woo! And the game is afoot! Apparently, the husband half of the family that currently occupies the house is out of town until Monday, but we'll be hearing back from them directly.
So, with the real estate shenanigans taken care of for the day, and with no other pressing business to attend to, I came home and plunked myself in front of Mark of Kri, which I had on loan from Dave. Ten hours later, I was finishing up my second run through the game, completing all the challenges and unlocking all the secret stuff. Quick game - only six levels, but it's very well put together, and plays pretty darn fun. The animation and character design is excellent, done by the studio of Don Bluth, of Dragon's Lair fame. Plus, lots of decapitation, dismemberment, stabbing, thwacking, neck breaking and torso splitting action. Sure, there's no hookers to beat up, but it's still pretty brutish, nasty, and short. Just like I like 'em.
So, finally got to bed around 7 or 8 in the morning, and woke up around 4pm on Sunday afternoon. Returned a call from dad, talked about the house and the folks a bit. Found out that my sister broke up with her girlfriend, which sucks all around - plus, we liked her pretty well, but, you know, we didn't have to live with her, so. Well, maybe Kate will be able to get herself down here a bit easier now - I'm pretty sure that Kat was having none of the whole move to Texas plan. I think there's some sort of plan to go back to school somewhere, too, but who can tell? Crazy chicks.
Bernie and I were supposed to take my aunt Dineen and uncle Larry out to dinner at this kind of nice Indian restaurant tonight. ("Contemporary Indian Cuisine" == "overpriced, kind of snooty, and not really as good as the cheap place in the strip mall".) They took us to this great interior Mexican place just after christmas, so we wanted to return the favor; I also thought it might also be a good time to put out some feelers, and see if they knew anyone who could use someone with my kind of mad skillz, you know, for work and stuff. (Yep, it's getting to be that time again.) Unfortunately, Dineen came down with a sinus infection or something, so we're postponing until Friday evening. Oh, rearranging my busy, busy social calendar is so trying. *cough* So, movies tonight! Woohoo!
(Also, I've been having trouble getting to sleep at a human hour, and my morning gym attendance has been slipping badly. I tried the melatonin again, and although it put me right to sleep, now I wake up with a headache, and I feel all groggy and disoriented for the first half of the day. So, if there are any spelling errors here, I blame the drugs. Or jay. The confusion and lack of coordination is a condition that we refer to, for various reasons, as "huff fingers".)
In other news, some millionaires from out of town apparently lost some ball game to some other bunch of millionaires, and now Oakland is in flames. Normally, I'm all for burning stuff and beating up cops, but this time, I'm pretty much of the opinion that tear gas and rubber bullets are too good for these degenerates. All's I know is that if I was a property owner in the affected area, there's be a bunch of bodies on my front lawn wearing silver, black, and exit wounds.
For some reason, I find myself strangely enthralled with sumo wrestling. Maybe one of these day's I'll make it over there for a tournament.
And finally, apparently, there's been some kind of nasty "Slammer" worm going around, screwing up networks all over the place. I haven't really felt much of it, but a lot of people I know have been severely impacted. I heard rumors that it knocked most of Bank of America's ATMs offline for a day. And North Korea. For those of you keeping score at home, this was apparently yet another stupid bug in yet another crappy piece of Microsoft software. So, what I'm wondering is, why are they not getting the living shit sued out of them? I mean, if a company produced, say, hot water heaters that could be caused to overheat and explode or something, causing untold damage to homes and businesses around the world, don't you think there would be some sort of class action suit against them or something? How is software - Microsoft software, in particular - any different? (Take note that I am, of course, a highly trained legal expert, so my opinion should be taken with only the highest of regard.)
Enough ranting. Time to shut it.
So, band we saw last night turned out to be pretty damn good. Five guys, two guitars, a bass, a fiddle, and a mandolin. They all look pretty young, but they're all excellent musicians individually, and they rock out pretty hard. I think we're going to catch them again on Tuesday night at the Continental, maybe get some more people on down.
(I love how Threadgill's lists beans and rice with sausage and bacon under "vegetables".)
We got a little note on our door yesterday from the apartment management. They had a balcony and patio decorating constest for Christmas, and now they're requesting that people take everything down. Myself, I can't really abide the whole super holiday fun scene, but a note like that really makes me want to get a giant bleeding Jesus on a stick, plant it in the courtyard, and fetstoon his glory with strings of flashing lights.
Also got a little flyer from the Central Texas Civil Liberties Union - made me stop and look twice for a second, because their acronym seemed strangely familiar.
I need to get to an eye doctor soon. Floaters getting pretty bad. Sometimes, I feel like I'm an extra in From Beyond. Makes the whole detail-orented work on a computer screen thing pretty difficult sometimes. And, hey, that's what I do. So, fix it.
Just talked to Derek, our money guy, and he said that our loan is all good and ready to go! Doing the happy dance.
I'll post a URL to the place soon, after things are more solid, and I'm convinced that none of you bastards out there will steal it out from under us. We wants it, and the filthy readerses can't have it.
Today is all about calling people and arranging things, getting paperwork and other work together, and the like. Later on, after the gym, we'll be meeting up with our pal David Moses Fruchter and company at Threadgill's for some hillbilly music and CD trading. Arrrr.
So, I just got off the phone with Grandma Majcher down here - she said that she knew a pretty good accountant down here, and I think my taxes are going to be kind of funky this time around, with the whole working in two states thing. She's pretty fun to chat with; while gabbing about the weather down here, and how it's been a bit cold lately, she told me that my dad, up in Rochester, NY, is melting snow to use for toilet-flushing water, because the pipes froze and burst. Can't say that I miss New York winters all that much.
Back in real life, I dropped off our latest and hopefully last batch of pre-loan paperwork with Derek, our mortgage broker, and got the aforementioned lukewarm news. We also got a list of leads from Sasha the Realtor, and made a quick scouting mission after dinner at Magnolia. Most of the places that we can afford are pretty freaking crappy. Rotting boards, junky yards, and chicken wire. Again, another disappointment on top of the previous disappointment. However, the last place we looked, in the last place we would have thought of looking, we found The House.
We'd seen the listing on a website somewhere, but the picture was pretty unflattering, so we skipped it. In person, the house is totally different. The structure that, in the photo, looked like some crazy Tijuana junkyard or something, was in fact an immense and well-decorated front porch. We didn't expect to find anyone at home, but one of the owners was there, with her three kids and many dogs, and invited us in to look around. The floor plan is pretty straight through - giant living room, "master" bedroom, back bedroom, with the kitchen, laundry room, and office off to the side of each of these, ending in a sliding glass door that leads out to the back yard. Which is pretty big. Greenhouse, garden, bamboo edging, a red barn/shed thing, and a second shower outside in a little bathhouse type of thing. The yard continued around the side, big tree with a rope swing and all. Very nicely kept up, too. Also, the size and layout is such that it'd be pretty easy to have a whole bunch of people over, without too much trouble. The neighborhood is pretty decent, too, close to fun things, but back a ways, so's not to be noisy and busy. Plus, according to the seller, it's the second cheapest property in that region.
We want it.
(I also went on this whole rant on #noisier about it, pretty much the same thing. Man, I should just cut and paste select stuff from there sometimes...)
So, we've got a call in to Sasha the realtor, but she's out of town until Saturday. After that, it's back to Derek the money guy, and ... and then I don't know what happens after that. Hopefully, whatever it is, we'll wind up with a new groovy house, and out of this little scum pit apartment. After we'd come home and settled down a bit, I turned and asked Bernie what she wanted to plant in the garden. She jumped up, made some sort of skittering noise, and spun around a couple times, doing a little happy dance. I think she's pretty excited or something.
So, I went back to the farm. (My cows all got sick one night, and I had to spend a week nursing them all back to health. About half my crops have wilted, but I've got a full henhoues, too, and I'm mostly living on milk and eggs these days. That homeland might just get saved after all.) Later on, Dave and Mel stopped by, and they brought Mrs. Johnson's donuts! They were just at the rink - Dave Attell and the Insomniac crew were over there doing a piece on the derby girls, so, keep an eye out for the HellCats.
They've also been doing a lot of painting over at their place - their back office/house now has a shiny gold ceiling (and a matching shiny gold Beethoven bust to go on the piano), and they're working on the red and black walls now. With flames going up the side. Apparently, black and red are the worst colors to get on right, and they're painting on this textured surface, so, you know, hell. After eating warm glazed donuts and chatting for a bit, we went over to see their handiwork, and then did a drive-by stalk of our potential house to be. Yup, still there. Then home, more Harvest Moon, then bed, and here we are now.
So, today I finally woke up around 11am, after falling asleep writing around 2am last night. So totally not on the gym schedule any more. I'm actually feeling a lot more tired when I wake up later. When I was getting up at 5am, I'd bounce right up, go work out a bit, get breakfast, doopty-doopty-doo. But I sleep in late, and I'm pretty much a zombie until sunset or so. I really hate to say it, but I get a whole hell of a lot more done when I get up early. Problem is, I'm not sure exactly how to switch my schedule back, without spending a miserable week or so slowly pushing it around the long way. Maybe I should give that melatonin a shot again tonight. Ach, we'll see.
Now, ass out of bed, do stuff. Yep, here we go. Any minute now.
There was no entry on Monday, as I was observing Martin Luther King, Jr. Day by sitting around and watching movies and stuff.
(Of course, the advantage to not writing for a couple of days is that I actually have something to report besides, "woke up, went to gym, ate, worked some, watched a movie, time for sleep.")
So, Tuesday afternoon, yesterday, I guess it must have been, we got up a little later than usual, and went out to get the gym over with. (We're just into Return of the King, in the home stretch now. Got to find something else for my ears, to avoid the media wall.) Still kind of out of - I actually forgot to take off my shorts before putting my pants on, and left with the strange feeling that I was wearing some kind of diaper or something. Needless to say, I was more than a little confused, then concerned, to find that the Congress Street bridge was closed, apparently by a bunch of guys in army fatigues. We couldn't find out what the hell was going on, but eventually made it back around to our side of the river. Couldn't find anything in the news, but we did see a marching band on the other side, and I think troops were moving out of Fort Somethingorother, so it was probably just some USA! USA! Let's Go Stomp On Some Brown People parade. I was already fairly crabby, and that just shoved me over into Hate The World mode. So, good start.
(For some reason, and despite all appearances and indications to the contrary, I have the distinct impression that this whole Iraq thing is going to blow over without a major war. No idea why, but that'd be something, huh?)
After a quick shower and a bite to eat, I started to make my way up North, to retrieve a copy of my 2001 income taxes from the IRS office on the top side of town. Of course, crossing the bridge was an issue, and I waited about twenty minutes in traffic to get around the blockage, to another bridge. (Because, you know, celebrating our military superiority is a lot more important than letting people get around town. Doesn't everyone just scream around in jets like they do? I'm looking around, and I don't see a goddamn fleet, people!) After bypassing that, and a secondary snarl, I made it to the den of taxmen, took a number, sat down, and started reading a book of Greg Egan short stories from Amazon UK.
After waiting about fifteen minutes, the power went out.
Some transformer blew somewhere, and all the lights, computers, printers, data lines, and take-a-number systems were down. I kept reading. People started getting what they could get sorted out without computers sorted, and began filtering out. A big white guy came out and started helping little old mexican ladies, in pretty passable Spanish. Forms were distributed, and papers filled out. I just waited and read; I'd rather hang around and catch up on some sci-fi than make another trip up some other day. My patience paid off - the lights came on ten or twenty minutes later, and I sailed through the sparse line, got my printout, and left.
I stopped by Fry's for a little retail theraby, picked up a sale game or two, browsed the washers and dryers. After an uneventful trip home, I started putting together my 2002 financial info, based on invoices, pay stubs, and ratios from the 2001 return. Not so good. Turns out, I made a lot less money last year than I thought I did. Like, half. This whole tricking someone into giving us a hundred thousand dollars or two thing was starting to look not so good. But I just wrote down the numbers, and waited for the professionals to work it out.
Well, they worked it out today, and I don't think we're getting the blanket pre-approval that we were counting on. I think the loan is still on, but now we have to find a house first, then get that amount approved. Or something. This is all pretty much black magic as far as I'm concerned. Luckily, we've got a decent mortgage broker and realtor to make it all go. (Dave and Mel used them for their recent house purchase, and it all worked out just fine.) But I'm skipping ahead.
After I got back from my IRS adventure, we drove around some prospective neighborhoods to hunt for houses. Pickings are mighty slim for our meager price range, let me tell you. Even in the not-so-good areas, it wasn't looking so good. But, we had one or two potential maybes, and duly noted the names and numbers to pass onto Sasha, our house finding lady person. Afterwards, we dug in at the barbecue place around the corner, which was pretty decent and pretty cheap, for being so close. Should have tried that one out earlier. So, food makes it all better.
And then, I started playing Harvest Moon: Save The Homeland.
So, going to sleep at 7:30 in the morning, and waking up around 1pm after playing a video game all night sort of puts a damper on that whole "wake up real early, go to gym, get stuff done" thing I had going on. (It's 2am right now, and I'm just about to wind down.) Damn Phil and his damn wacky games. I feel like I can mark it down as a research cost, though - It's a pretty unique game, and I've got a handful of new ideas to incorporate into various projects of my own here and there.
(In other, totally unrelated news, a friend of ours from Organic reports that everyone has to undergo "sensitivity" training. I am so totally not taking the blame for that one. I'm not even in the state. Totally innocent. Of course, I think that the time would be better spent on some "do your damn job" training, but that's probably just me.)
(((Fell asleep. Finish up in next entry.)))
Today was all work, errands, and the webernets. Nothing too stunning. Picked up the new Games magazine and a cookbook. It was a warm, sunny day today, so Bernie and I took a walk down South Congress for lunch, but that was pretty much the extent of our adventures. We totally flaked on a housewarming party today, too - thought it was going to be an evening sort of thing, but we discovered too late that it had started at noon. Bah.
The only drawback to this whole getting up early thing is that I have to struggle to stay awake past 11pm or so. Blergh...
Another cold morning. It froze down to 25 last night, which isn't entirely unusual for winter here, but still something to talk about. On the way to the gym this morning, Bernie noticed that a fountain in the park had frozen over. We stopped to take some pictures of the icicles hanging off the steel lone star before the day warmed up and melted them away.
The plan for the day was to drive out east into the hill country to visit the Mollbergs - my dad's sister Kathleen, her husband Bernard, and my cousins Nick, Alex, and Laura. We drove out about 30 miles, through Wimberly - showing great restraint as we passed near the Salt Lick - and stopped by aunt Kathy's nursery, the Silverleaf. We caught Alex out back planting fruit trees, and Laura inside tending the store. Alex took us on a tour of the place, showing us the greenhouse, the chickens, his personal cactus patch, the piles of turkey shit fertilizer. We hung out and jawed for a piece, then headed on down the road to the Mollberg homestead.
They've got more than a hundred acres out on a mesa west of Wimberly, with gorgeous views all around. Bernard says that you can look across five counties from up there, and if you stand in the right place, you can pee into any of three watersheds on either side of the divide. They pretty much cleared the land and built up the property themselves, and all the buildings are pretty green. They're pretty close to being totally off the grid - they've got rainwater collecting into a 35,000+ gallon cistern, filtered and pumped into the house through a solar heating setup, and the main house is mostly rammed earth and cedar, with wood stove heat and a lot of thermal mass. There's a urinal in the bathroom, ostensibly to save water. I think the plan is to get some photovoltaics or wind power up there, and snip the wires for good. Again, the views from the house, especially from the deck around the upper floor, are amazing.
Kathy's got a pretty big garden out there, with chickens and dogs scattered here and there. Griswald, the irish wolfhound, is about the size of a pony, but very friendly. Bernie didn't believe the tales told of the great beast that thought he was a sweet little lap dog, but I reckon she does now. Bernard took us out to see his piano restoration workshop, too, which is also a sight to see. There's a dozen or more grand pianos in various stages of repair in the shop; some of them take a year or so to get into shape.
After a bit more exploring and visiting and drinking of the rainwater, Bernie and I made our way back to the bustling metropolis of Austin. There are a couple of banjo-related events coming up in the city next month, so I've really got to move "not sucking so much" a little higher on the to do list. There's a set of performances from noon to midnight on the first, I think, and then some sort of workshop deal after that. Bernard's been playing bluegrass and the like with bands here and there for some time now - he plunked some out at the family christmas gathering, and I thought it was great - and I think I've got an open offer to get some help from him on that, when I get around to getting my lazy ass around to it.
So, back home, a bit tired from the exertion of going outside and everything. We both got a bit of sun out there, which was actually good for a change. Now, it's pizza and movies and root beer, then bed.
It was literally freezing when I went out this morning. Chilly air before dawn, with the almost-full moon hanging over the river. 32 degrees in Austin, Texas. Who woulda figured? It's actually getting to where I can say it's cold without feeling like a complete wuss. Listening to the weather reports for the last couple of days has been pretty entertaining. "Well, it's 49 degrees out now, but with the wind chill factor, it's down to 44!" That's not wind chill. Wind chill is when it's fifteen degrees out, and the cold blowing takes it down to twenty below. Back in Buffalo, 49 degrees is right about where short sleeves don't cut it any more. I caught some of the weather 'round those parts on the news this morning, all snowplows and freezing. Pretty happy about not being there right now.
So, after about two hours of being where I was, I was feeling pretty rubbery. I was having a hard time getting breakfast to my mouth there for a while. Reckon I'll be a bit sore tomorrow.
Anyway, the main business of the day was our meeting with Derek, our mortgage broker. Apparently, there's a good deal of paperwork involved in this whole "let me borrow lots of thousands of dollars" thing. I thought I had most of it in one place, and a little searching got me everything except for my tax returns. I knew that they were all in a folder somewhere - I just didn't know where. So, I methodically tore apart the place inch by inch, starting with the office. Opened every box, looked in every drawer and storage bin. Then the bedroom. Then the hall closet. The folder finally turned up in the absolute last place I looked, under some books in an un-unpacked box on a shelf in the living room. Unfortunately, the one return, the one from last year, wasn't in there. Of course. I used turbotax online to figure and file electronically last year, and I didn't have a hard copy. Well, that's okay - it should be pretty easy to just download last year's return and print it out, right? Mmmmm.... no. Far as I can tell, that's more or less impossible.
So, we went to see the broker underprepared, and I think it went pretty okay. Once all the documentation comes together, we should be able to get the loan we were looking for. I just need to go down to the local IRS office and try to talk them into getting me the information from last year, which, according to irs.gov, shouldn't be too much trouble. Of course, it's the weekend, and Monday is a holiday, so it might take a few days. Anyway, the plan looks like it's a go! We should be pre-approved by the middle of next week, and we can start looking for a new home in earnest. Just in time, too. I may have to commit a vile felony against our upstairs neighbors if we don't get out of here before too long. Yappy dogs, and magpie girl-chirping are going to make me mad. That, and we think we found the source of the smell in the closet and the bathroom; there's water leaking out of the tiles, and I'd be willing to bet that there's mold in them there walls. So, have fun with that.
Hm. Bird feeder is getting low again.
Also, Michelle Yeoh rules.
Man, it's been a long time since I fired up Photoshop for anything. It sure is a whole hell of a lot snappier on a 2.2mhz Win2K machine than it was on my old Performa...
Also, I must report that the Magnolia Cafe, which is right next door to our current apartment, may very well just have the best carrot cake I've ever had. Mmmm, and the mode.
This morning, after the gym and breakfast, I called up the mortgage broker that was recommented to us, Derek. Seems like a nice enough guy, and, more importantly, seems pretty interested in getting us money, even though both Bernie and I have been contracting for a while. Apparently, if you haven't been working a full-time job for the last two years or more, lenders tend to regard you as some sort of criminal. There's something called a "stated income loan", though, that sounds like we might be able to swing. We just have to scrape up a ton of paperwork for our meeting tomorrow, and all sorts of grown up stuff. So ready to get this thing on.
I spent the rest of the afternoon looking for good photos of a bunch of my friends for a project. That involved going through my own extensive photo collection, as well as every other damn photo page I could find. I've got what I came to get, but my eyes are pretty bleary, and I've got that weird time-travel feeling you get after going back and forth over years of memory-laden media. Although, as far as I can tell, the degenerates that I hang out with have just spent the last several years drinking and giving people the finger.
Outside - yes, I went outside, someone's got to check the mail for goodies - it's a crisp, autumn-y day. Pretty nice. We might not get the weather in strict order, but we sure do get it all.
So, I finally got around to getting up to Pete's Flat Top Shop for a haircut. It's a pretty nice old-style barber shop, but I've got to say, the last three or four times I've gone to a place like this, it just hasn't turned out all that well, and I usually wind up just shaving it down a few days afterward. I'm just going to have to either resign myself to self-buzzing, or break down and try to find a salon somewhere that won't make me look like more of a freak than I already do. Bad freak, I mean.
To console myself, I stopped by Doc Holliday's pawn shop to oogle the cheap bits of other people's stuff for sale, then over to Comics and More to see what all they had. I wound up walking out with a short stack of cheap games and books, including Pokethulhu, which actually looks like it might be a fun game once you get past the insanity of the concept. Steve Jackson is also going to be producing some miniatures for the game, which look pretty fun as well. I also bowed to peer pressure and bought a Stikfas, which turned out to be a whole lot cooler than I originally thought it would be. I'm trying really hard not to go back and get a bunch more right now. They're eerily smooth, anonymous anthro-bot shapes to start with, but there's tons of customizations, even with the basic set. Riot shields, many guns, truncheons, ladders, helmets, and evil stormtrooper decals! They're like little fascist barbies for maladjusted lego-weary gamer-types. So up my alley.
Enough talking. Time for pork chops.
Just got an email from my uncle Bernard - cousin Nick helped him put up his first website for his piano restoration business. Not bad for a first try, I gotta say. I think we're going to try to head out there for a visit on Saturday. Maybe I'll bring my banjo along this time, and he can help me not suck so much.
Speaking of sucking, I know that I said before that I'm trying really hard not to let this turn out to be your standard "blog" crap. However, it's probably going to be more of a day-to-day diary of boring stuff for a while, so if that's no good, tough. We've also got a sort of community link-blog from the #noisier kids, so if that's what you're looking for, go there.
Well, that was easy. I just went out and got me a Texas driver's license. Ran down to the DMV with my California license, social security card, and forty bucks about half an hour ago, and now I'm back. In a week, nobody will be able to tell that I was a damn dirty hippie from San Francisco. I'll be able to get myself a sandwich from Thundercloud Subs without the stoners behind the counter mocking me when I pull out my wallet to pay. I'll be marginally less likely to be pistol-whipped by a state trooper if I ever get pulled over on some back road. And, of course, now I can apply for a concealed carry permit. Woot! I'll be a real Texan in no time.
Not me, the weather. Apparently there's some huge "fog storm" or something that's covering two thirds of Texas right now. Or, at least, that's what I gather from the soundless cable TV at the gym. Out on the road, visibility is maybe a couple hundred feet, and it's cool and damp, just like it was back in the Richmond. Pretty nice change, and I'm sure it'll be something wacky and different again in a day or so. Love that Texas weather.
I went to the gym early today to try out a yoga class, but the guy didn't show, so I just did elliptical while I finished up chapter 5 of the BBC LotR, which brings us to the end of the Fellowship, then made the usual circuit of strange and painful machines before heading out for coffee and home. On the way out, some pretty lady on the stairmaster looked over as I walked by, missed a step, and almost fell off. I'm not sure if she was startled, horrified, or smitten by my rakish good looks. Either way, it was pretty funny. Stopped at Jo's for coffee on the way back; the woman who works there who knows my name whose name I don't remember asked me if I've been coming there on the way to work these last few times. AAAAHHHAHAHAHA! Er, um, no. I told her where I was coming from, to which she replied, "Oh, the faaancy gym." Well, there's no pool, but it is filled with business-type asswads from downtown, so, I guess it sort of is. Dammit.
Fell asleep early yesterday; I suppose that 8pm-4am isn't a completely insane time to sleep, but I'd still like to bump it forward a couple of hours. (I don't know how this suddenly turned into a sleep diary, by the way, but hey, it's better than not writing at all.) Needless to say, we didn't make it to tai chi yesterday, but I did do a drive-by while I was out running errands yesterday, and unless I have the wrong address, I think it's just this guy's house. If we don't make it tonight, I'm going to stop saying, "I think we'll go today", until we actually happen to make it out. Slackers.
Let's see how my lazy day went: had breakfast, watched Freeway (which was pretty darn good, unexpectedly), went to get a haircut at Pete's Flat Top Shop, only to find that Pete's not there on Tuesdays, stopped by Dragon's Lair to pick up a few new card games (I'm putting that down as research), came home to find a box of goodies, including the new O'Reilly Flash MX book - the sans-serif headers make all the difference - a Crazy Harry Figure, and the Phantasy Star Collection for the Game Boy Advance. Also research. Really. Plus, three of the better RPGs ever made, on a chip that's smaller than my thumb. Which rules. Anyway, after oogling my new swag for a bit, it was beef stew for dinner, followed by some reading and some passing out. Which brings us to now. Exciting, hm?
In other news, Dave and Mel have been waylaid by some nasty stomach flu for the last couple of days. Mel was the first to fall into darkness, and Dave wasn't far behind. Bernie went over yesterday and left a care package of ginger ale and house decorating literature at their back door. At least, that's what she claims. If it was really a bag of flaming poop or something, I swear I had nothing to do with it.
Man, am I tired. Slept pretty well, from about 10pm-8am, with only a short wakeup around 4am-5am, then right back to sleep. I'm pretty sore, and pretty groggy, so I'm just having breakfast and staying home this morning. Maybe find out what this "pilates" thing is later on, or try to get out to tai chi again tonight. Other than that, I've got one conference call at 11PST, and the rest of the day is going to be sitting on the couch, writing documentation and watching movies.
Lots of stuff done today. Just finished up the "good enough for me" version of Tattoo, a map editor for an RPG engine I'm working on in Flash. (It's called Tattoo because the super-secret codenames for the interface and internals of the engine are "Flesh" and "Blood", so I figured something that lets you draw on the skin... hey, shuddup.) It's pretty cool, there's still a few minor bugs here and there, and the UI could use a little bit of smoothing, but I'd feel comfortable giving it to a designer or level editor type person at this point. Next step, more documentation.
As far as paying work goes, I'm still waiting to hear back on the big project I'm working on, to see if they read all my documentation, and actually want me to finish the job, or if the client stiffed them or something, and the project is quietly dying off. No big deal, either way, although a little more money would be nice, and it'd be good to get it the last 5% to get 100% completion, so I'd have another nice professional-quality Flash piece to point at. I also heard from a friend of a friend in San Francisco about some consulting, but we'll see how that goes. Another little Perl gig here, another little Perl job there... I think it's about time to start hustling for another big score if that house-buying thing is going to happen any time soon.
Did I mention how tired I am today? I'm tired from working out this morning and working on Tattoo all day, and I can smell the beef stew that Bernie has had cooking for the last many hours. Must eat soon, and then sleep soon. Tonight, I try out the melatonin, to see if I can get a full night's sleep for a change.
Oh, I also sat down and read Cory Doctorow's first novel today, which he put up online, as well as publishing it on dead trees. Short, but a fun read. Check it out, buy a copy if you feel like supporting the craft. Also got a batch of out of print Greg Egan paperbacks in the mail the other day, so I'm set for a few days of resting and reading, then back to it...
Oh yeah, one last thing. I was reading an article about the new super-duper high tech scanners they've got at airports nowadays - you know, the ones that can't tell the difference between a fruitcake and an explosive device? Well, I was thinking that it would be a hoot to book a cheap flight somewhere, and have a lawyer standing on call, then put a cheese wheel with wires curling out of it to a digital timer into a suitcase, and try to get it through security. It'd look just like your classic bomb, except, you know, it's obviously made of cheese. A cheese bomb! I mean, of course, they'd be totally right to run you in, take you in front of a secret tribunal, and lock you upside down in a box down in Cuba for the next twenty years, because cheese is EVIL. Remember, if you fly with cheese, the terrorists have already won. WHY DO YOU HATE AMERICA SO MUCH?
Hrm. Okay, I think I need a little time out.
I'm desperately trying to get back on a daytime sleeping schedule, but it's just not happening. I bought some melatonin today on our "shop for the week" trip to Central Market, but didn't get around to taking it. Rather, instead of taking it before bed at a reasonable time, I fell right into nap-land around 6pm, and just woke up now, a bit after 1am. It was actually the tasty greasy dinner I made tonight (spicy fried chicken chunks and baby portabellas) that whomped me into unconsciousness, or maybe it was the getting up at 5am or so.
But, the waking up? That was our new upstairs neighbors. Sounds like someone is moving their stuff in up there - at 1am. Maybe they're setting up a meth lab or something. In this place, it wouldn't surprise me. All sorts of crazy shit going on, and it gets crazier as the units fill up. But as far as I can tell, it's just fairly walking around and normal stuff going on up there right now; I can tell, because I can hear every goddamn sound that they make, loud enough to get me out of bed. This must be god hating me for keeping Robin awake with our sitting and our breathing back in San Francisco. Which is pretty wrong, because I specifically asked the apartment manager about inter-apartment noise before we moved in, and she said that you couldn't hear anything. She said that there were construction workers doing their thing in the apartment above her, and she never heard a sound. Just between you and me, I think that she was LYING. We've just been lucky not to have anyone above us for the last three months or so. Now, the real hating starts.
Well, we're slowly gearing up our search for a house to buy down here. Prices are pretty reasonable, and I'm interested in getting out of this apartment as soon as possible. We've got a six month lease, but at this point, I feel pretty comfortable telling them to go fuck themselves. Paper-thin walls, rats and roaches, the shower going from freezing to burning in a second, cupboards falling off their hinges, bad wiring, no circulation, no light, and strange algae or rotting smells that manifest themselves every now and then. Oh, yeah, and the scumbag apartment management. We're so out of here.
In contrast to the other day, it was around 40 degrees and spitting rain most of the time today. Mmmm, weather.
Just got back from a little pseudo-security gig at the roller derby. Lori "The Wrench" asked some of us to provide additional bodies at this pre-season exhibition match between the Holy Rollers and the Rhinestone Cowgirls. Basically, we just stood inside the danger tape, made sure no derby girls smacked into the pillars, and kept degenerates from the crowd off the track. Every once in a while, someone would wipe out, and we press the tape back around the track border, or retrieve a fallen trinket for one of the chicks. Pretty light work, as volunteer work goes, and it was fun to be "on the inside" for a minute. I didn't get a cool red BGGW security t-shirt this time (I had my Jim Rose Circus Security shirt on under my Airport Security/Slacker work shirt, though, so that's got to count for something), but The Wrench said I've got one coming, so, cool. It was a good match, too, and they introduced the new team, The Hustlers, who will be skating at the season opener, I think. Big fun.
I've been catching an hour or two of sleep here and there, and I'm pretty twired and cranky. Read a little, work in Flash a little, sleep a little, grab a snack, repeat. Little distorienting. That, and I think standing around inside a smoky music hall type place for three hours or so is giving me minor a minor nicotene fit, which doesn't help with the sleepiness or the crankiness.
Speaking of cranky, I came about two inches and two seconds from elbowing some guy in the head in the locker room this morning. Some ass in sales, with a cellphone, spiky blond hair and a hip pair of frames, counseling his friend on the other end what to do about his girlfriend, who apparently caught him watching porn or something. "Well, dude, you might want to mention to her that if she gave it up a little more often, you wouldn't be having this conversation." "Don't sweat it, dude. She's got bad skin." "Hey, dude, you going to Chili's tonight? Cool, dude! I'll see you there!" All the while oblivious to both my glare and that of the older gentleman standing on the other side of him in a towel, waiting for him to get the hell out of his way. I swear we should have just smashed his phone and shoved his scrawny ass in the locker. I bet he was the one with the BMW parked across two spaces in the parking lot, too. Or maybe he was the big black SUV crammed into a spot marked "Compact Only", with the "George W. Bush For President" sticker.
I tell you, I like that gym and all, but the morning clientele is making me want to keep a claw hammer in the car. Or maybe it was the really obnoxious spin class that was blasting that shitty U2 album so loud I couldn't hear my LotR disc. Fuckers.
Okay, now for dessert, and maybe some sleeps.
I think I'm getting onto a split schedule again. That is, sleep for four hours or so, wake right up, crash about eight hour later, repeat. It's like having two twelve-hour days instead of one 24-hour one. It's a little weird, but I could get used to it.
Today started at around 2:00am or so for me, when I woke up and couldn't get back to sleep, after going to bed around 9:00pm or so. Tried the old "lay still and be quiet" trick, didn't work. Got up and read and worked a little bit, no go. Warm chocolate milk? Tasty, but it didn't help me sleep. Finally would up at the gym around 7am, did an hour of elliptical thingy, listened to Lord of the Rings, and watched Nigella Bites on the cable TV wall. Yum.
When I got home, I got Bernie out of bed for breakfast at Magnolia, then a side trip to Book People to pick up a new Flash book, and now I'm back, and ready for my next four-hour nap. Maybe some reading first. I got some good work in on my Flash RPG engine last night between trying to sleep, so maybe I'll fiddle with that a bit more before I pass out.
Just got back from a nice little walk down the neighborhood. The sun's just going down, and it's about eighty degrees. We decided to take a stroll down to Amy's, to take a break from the computer room. Super nice day, and we wound up sitting on the sidewalk outside the japanese place next to Amy's, eating some super tasty ice cream sandwich flavored ice cream, listening to the pretty rockin' blues band coming out of the Continental Club next door. In January. Austin ain't that bad.
The sky was really nice today, too - I got a picture of it this evening, but it was really awesome this morning when I went out to the gym, and the sun was just coming up. (The best way to guarantee something cool to look at is to forget to bring my camera with me somewhere.) Did about an hour on the elliptical machine this morning, listening to my BBC Lord of the Rings CDs, then some weights. I'm so freakin' tired. I'm not sure who thought this gym thing was a good idea, but I think I need to find them and have a little talk about it.
Hm. Tai chi class started half an hour ago. Guess we're not making it tonight. Saturday morning, maybe.
So, didn't make it to tai chi class tonight. Staying awake at all is becoming a pretty big issue - I'm not sure that I could stand up for an hour straight, much less fool around with that martial arts stuff. Instead, Bernie ordered us a pizza. Bleah.
I've been pretty useless today. Little bit of reading, then bed real soon, and up early in the morning for either gym again, or a morning tai chi class. Promise.
(I'm going to experiment with a new format here. I think that part of what's keeping me from writing is that I feel like I've got to get my thoughts all collected and sit down for a serious chunk of time to deliver a scholarly treatise on my experience. That's not what I really want to do, and it's giving me an excuse to put off writing until everything that I want to say is forgotten. So, I'm going to try to post in smaller chunks, possibly several times a day, and see what happens. Hopefully, I won't sink into stereotypical "blogger" banality, or Winer-style fire-and-forget linking.)
We woke up around 3:30am because people were having a very loud conversation right outside our bedroom window, possibly about breaking into cars. Bernie went right back to sleep, but I was too jumped up to get back into bed, so I tried a little reading. That never works. I tried a 4am beer. No good. So, after realizing that sleep wasn't going to come until some inappropriate time, like noon, I decided that, as long as I'm up, I may as well take advantage of the early hour, and my dusty gym membership, and go work out.
Such a bad idea.
So, first off, the clientele at the gym is totally different in the wee hours than it is in the middle of the day. The parking lot was crammed with Lexii and SUVs, even a Jaguar, which is unusual, even for our slightly-upscale (for Austin) gym. In the locker room, almost all the unlocked lockers were occupied by neatly folded and pressed business-wear, and the usual biker bums and friendly gym fags were replaced with sneering professionals. Instead of the usual smiles and casual conversation, all I got were dirty looks and assholes who think they're too good to carry their own towels out to the basket by the door. But hey, I'm not there to socialize, I'm there to see if I can wake myself up enough to be a productive member of society today, and tire myself out enough that I can go to sleep at a decent hour tonight.
"Oh," I thought to myself, "they're just starting up a spinning class. I've never tried that before - sounds pretty easy, why don't I give it a shot?" Because it's not easy if you're an out of shape slob like me, working on four hours of sleep and a power bar. I always thought "spinning" was some sort of half-assed yuppie fad, with a stupid name, to boot. For some reason, it always reminded me of Sleeping Beauty, little bare bikes with poisoned spindles. Turns out, I was wrong. People who race bikes and stuff. Who could have guessed? Needless to say, my sorry exhausted ass didn't make it through the whole class. I probably could have, at the expense of puking and dying immediately afterwards. Anyway, I think I achieved my goal of getting up and pooped.
Now, I think I'll have a shower, some french toast at Magnolia, and maybe a little nap around noon...
1) Write specification for two small upcoming jobs.
2) Finish work on one big job (pending client feedback).
3) Start tai chi classes.
4) Get health and dental insurance in this state, see eye doctor.
5) Get Texas driver's license. Get CCW permit.
6) Finish writing specifications for at least one of the three games in the pipeline.
7) Finish website reorg and redesign and push it through my rendering system.
8) Get back on daytime schedule, go to gym more regularly.
9) Figure out if we're going to buy a house in the next couple of months, or look for someplace to rent.
10) Write something interesting here more than once a month, dammit.