Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A post about OpenOffice in which I devolve into griping, as usual these days

I'm writing this post in OpenOffice.org Writer instead of Word. I switched recently, partly because my free trial version of Microsoft Word was expiring, but also because I think the idea of OpenOffice is just so cool. “Open source programming”? Where anyone who wants just chips in like Wikipedia to write a program, and it works just as well? That's such a cool idea to me that when I heard it, I knew I had to have it. I'm like that sometimes: anyone who has a cool idea, a product I think is “neat” or an innovative sales pitch, I fall in love with immediately. Multiple times before I've bought something I didn't need just because I thought the salesman really did a heck of a job. It's not a good philosophy, it's poor business sense, but I just can't shake the habit.

I'm also compelled to respect OpenOffice because I don't understand it. I thought I did, of course, but then my mom asked me to explain it, and I found myself completely unable to do so. The same thing happened with the whole idea of social networking (and blogging, for that matter), which I was at a loss to explain to my mom too. But the most ingenious solution is usually the easiest, isn't it? So I just did what I always do when someone older than I am doesn't understand anything remotely technological: I laughed a little and then shook my head as if to say, “oh, you'll never get it – you're so cute and fuddy-duddy.”

That approach always made me feel much better about myself until the other day when my high-school-age cousin tried unsuccessfully to explain to me why he couldn't go with Hayden and Alice and Fiona all together to the Christmas dance as a double date, and then gave me the exact same look after he finished explaining and I said “huh?” At that exact moment, I realized that my parents probably think I'm a jackass and that their feelings toward me lean less toward envy of my tech savvy than toward simple, mild contempt.

It's snowing like balls outside right now. Started at noon or so and supposed to last all night. Winter is depressing, but snow makes it a lot better. It's awful pretty. But emphasis on the awful there.

But at least Obama's our President-elect, right? Oh wait, that guy sucks. Since the election, he has backed off his “out-of-Iraq-now” pose, deferring to “the judgment of commanders on the ground,” and has in fact promised to deploy active military within the United States – 20,000 by 2009 (wtf?). He's ramped up the bailout package too, now tossing in bones for the Big Three (which should just go bankrupt already) and pushing the total to over a trillion dollars. And he's announced a gigantic public works program. Oh yeah, and he's promised that his first act as president will be to sign FOCA, which aside from its murderous character, is also a decimation of states' rights. With the shit he's announced, bigger military than he promised, huge government intervention everywhere else across the board, forget about calling him as bad as FDR; the closest twentieth century leader to Barack Obama is Joseph Stalin. I'm so not even kidding. But we elected him fair and square, and all I can say is we got what we deserved. It's going to be a godawful ride.

Umm, so, cheers! Have a great day anyway, what the hell.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Part Three - Chapter One

It all started so innocuously, the way the worst things always do, when Jenny fed too many scallion tails down the disposal drain. When you chop scallions, Jenny said, you clip off the squidian roots with the long green tails and only use the middle. The ends, short and white or long and green, you toss aside into the garbage. Or the disposal – which of course is anything but.

Another labor-saving device, the disposal never lived up to the spirit of the automatic bread-slicer in purely literal terms. A bread slicer sliced bread like the best thing since... whenever – and the disposal only disposed of mushy leftovers and baby food... maybe every once in a while something as strong as a carrot, but certainly never anything as strong as these scallion tails.

Once Jenny had heard of using a food processor to chop the most stubborn leftovers and then flipping them to the disposal. Saves your disposal, saves your garbage-hauling costs, saves everything. Except that twenty seconds of sanity that you save by chucking the damn things into the garbage can, and sometimes that's worth a lot more to you than a green world forever. If it came to going green, sometimes Jenny felt fine to peppering the garbage can with scallions.

Except this one time, she decided not to decorate the Glad bag with a garnish of green; she put her environmentalist hat on and threw the long strands down the drain. The environmentalist hat, Jenny always said, was too small for her, so small that it cramped her brain. An environmentalist hat would stop anyone from thinking, Jenny said.

I never understood that about her, her heartless conservatism, but there was a lot about her that I didn't understand, starting with everything. Starting with everything, culminating in something, and coming to a head with scallion tails dropped down the disposal.

Like a shot I was over there when she called me, because that's what good boyfriends do, right?

It was 8:30 in the morning. Who cooks scallions at 8:30 in the morning? I wondered. So I asked her when I arrived at her apartment, “who cooks scallions at 8:30 in the morning?”

“I was making an omelette,” she growled at me. She pointed to a tin bowl full of eggs, mixed, next to neat piles of shredded cheddar cheese, crumbled sausage, green pepper and yes, green onions.

Her hair wasn’t done for the day, and she was wearing big gray sweatpants and a plain white t-shirt. Her face was flushed with anger, the pink settling high on her cheeks, near her cheekbones. Her eyes, that opaque blue, tried to flash with fury, but only twinkled. She looked gorgeous.

I’ve heard a lot of people say it before, that some girl or other looks her best when she’s steaming mad. But for Jenny it was really true. I just wanted to smile and hold her as close as I could and make her laugh or love me. The only time she looked as good as when she was mad was when she was sharing an inside joke, across the table or across the room, when anyone else might see it but no one did.

Suddenly I realized that I was just standing there in front of her sink with a half-smile on my face, thinking about her while she was three feet away, staring at me and waiting. So I stuck my hand into the drain and started groping around.

I’d never fixed a disposal before; I’d never even tried. So I just made exploratory humming noises for a while, hoping to feel something inside the sink’s throat, or better yet, hoping the thing might magically fix itself. After about a minute and a half, almost enough time for her to realize that I was clueless, I pulled out my hand, rinsed it and shook tiny water droplets that spattered into the sink. “Feels jammed,” I said.

“Yeah, I know,” she said, with surprising patience. “Can you unjam it?”

I indicated her chair and white-formica-topped table next to the window. “Why don’t you sit down,” I said, “and tell me where I can find a screwdriver. Or maybe a pair of tongs.”

She reached up over my shoulder and grabbed tongs from where they hung on the wall above the stove. I took them with nodded thanks and ushered her out of the kitchen, the full twenty-five feet to the opposite end of her apartment to have a seat so I could concentrate on my work... or at least on figuring out what the hell my work was.

The apartment was almost as wide as it was long, almost twenty feet by twenty-five, but still, obviously, a very small place. The kitchen occupied one half of one of the short walls, separated by a wall from the entryway that took up the other half of the short wall. On the other short wall were her bed, opposite the kitchen, and her table, opposite the front door.

The front door, Jenny always called it the front door, although there was no back door or side door anywhere in the apartment. But she had a habit of domesticizing; her aparment was her home, and that door was the front door. I loved it about her – the habit of making things comfortable, not the door; there was nothing really special about the door. Not that it was a bad door or anything, I’d just never–

I saw her still staring at me from the table, so I hefted the tongs in a silent toast to her and poked them into the drain. For all her tendency to make things comfortable, she could still make people uncomfortable with almost no effort. It was funny when she did it to someone else.

After a minute or so of wiggling, I said, “Aha!” and removed the tongs from the drain. There was a smallish piece of scallion-tail clutched between the fingers. I raised my eyebrows in what I estimated to be a confident glance, paused for a dramatic moment, and then reached for what I thought was the disposal power switch. The light above the sink went on, then off again. Then on.

I cleared my throat. “Can see better now,” I said, and peered into the sink. I couldn’t see shit. Jenny reached over to the shelf at her shoulder, pulled out a book, and opened to the first page.

Sunday, December 7, 2008


Hi. I guess it's been a while. I have no idea how many Google Readers this is going to show up in. Maybe what we had wasn't as great as I thought it was... then again - what do we have to lose, you and I.

My name is Joe White.