Thursday, November 30, 2006

Snow Day!!!!!!!! I haven’t had one of these in a very long time. It’s just rain here in St. Louis but in H. the roads have already started to ice. I wasn’t worried about the drive in, as snow isn’t supposed to start accumulating until noon. I was worried about getting home. I have to work today anyway as grading is never done, but the couch without interruptions is a major boon.


Tuesday, November 28, 2006

It’s four forty two and I have a stomach flu. I would consider getting a sub, but honestly it’s more trouble than it’s worth. Better to spread your germs and by so sowing, hedge against a more bitter harvest of super-bugs. Better to rise and face the world, lest defeatist tendency defeat. I’ve been teaching Hamlet and my mind is churning with Elizabethan inanities like “canst”.

When I was teaching Beowulf my speech became unnecessarily alliterative. When I was teaching the sonnets I found myself issuing iambic utterance unintentionally. I guess catching the current of the period you peruse is portentously possible, even if pretentiously improbable. Laerties, neither a teacher nor a traveler be, for traveling oft loses both time and mental capacity. Sanity, left to long under moonlit drives, canst be so driven as to seem riven and thus may meander mostly unto drivel.

Or ere this, I should have fattened all the regions gas tanks with this slaves paycheck! Zounds for it cannot be but that I am lily livered and lack gall to get local employment. The jobs the thing wherein I’ll hook my consciousness brass ring.


Monday, November 27, 2006

We are back from Thanksgiving at my family’s Wisconsin farm. We traveled sans Sebastian (the dog) and thus made record time. It only took seven hours and forty minutes to get there and roughly eight hours to get back. I normally plan that as a nine hour trip, but without dog walks or much traffic one can apparently knock an hour off.

We did the family thing while there: we played lots of golf on my dad’s eighteen hole/one fairway course as it was sixty degrees; we played several rounds of sheep’s head in three, four and five handed variations; we watched A White Christmas and The Gods Must Be Crazy; and we ate four thousand pounds of food. I am back to work today and must dash as I need to be out the door by 5:30 and it’s already 4:50. I hope you-all had a happy Thanksgiving and are voiding tryptophan en masse.


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

LogoThere are:
people with my name
in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?


Sunday, November 19, 2006

I guess that my hiatus from blogging is proving hard to overcome. I have so little time and now that the habit is broken I have to wonder if I’ll ever get it back anytime soon.

It’s Sunday afternoon and Jes is off at a build-a-ginger-bread-house party. Ostensibly I am grading, actually I am watching Al Jolson in Wonder Bar and typing at you.

We’ve had a good weekend. Friday night we caught the new Bond movie with Derek and Lloyd. They were not having such a good weekend as they we supposed to have flow to a philosophy and religion conference in D.C., but unfortunately the St. Louis airport caught on fire. Actually, the power generators are what burned. For some reason American Airlines’ reservation system was not hooked up to the back up power system so no one could check in, even though the planes were still able to fly out.

Jes stepfather works at the airport – his office is one hundred yards from where the fire was – and he said that because of early Thanksgiving traffic the airport was running close to a one hundred percent booking of available flights. Talk about a bad time for any delays.

Saturday we went to the New Ireland show at the St. Louis Art Museum. I am more and more convinced that I need to write the New Guinea book about my family’s experiences there in the sixties and seventies. When we are next up in Wisconsin I am going to take a preliminary look at all of our old Kodak slides.

In the afternoon on Saturday we went by UMSL and fired the kiln. Jes let me punch in the numbers and I feel all cool about that. I am looking forward to eventually learning both ceramics and glasswork from Jes. Someday we’ll have our own studio.

Saturday night we had an impromptu visitation from Kim and her friend Gretel (Greta?). We yuppied-out with cocktails and games. While playing Clue and Scategories we discovered that Jes likes Cosmopolitans.

Today we had her mom and step dad over for Belgian waffle brunch and in the afternoon we met Kat out for fish purchases. Kat gave us early Christmas presents: Christmas stockings that she knit for us to hang on our faux fireplace. They are quite nice. We picked up another Pleco for the Cichlid tank – which is getting overgrown with algae – and we got three large Rosy Barbs for the death tank. We’ve started calling it the death tank because it has a high body count. I keep trying to get schooling fish and the existing fish in that tank treat them like buffet items. The current theory is that by not adding anything other than full grown fish we can achieve diversity of species without having to consider one of the species as a meal for the others.

I only have two days of work next week and it is all tests and presentations for the students. I can’t wait for the break. I’ve earned it.


Sunday, November 12, 2006

Paul and Caroline now have an Amelia Grace!!!


I suppose it could be a little disheartening to friends who haven’t had a chance to get caught up on our lives, having been so long departed from the blog world, only to have me return with a moderately interesting “comedy of errors” post, predicated on my stressed-out overreaction to a phone bill. (I asked Jes if everyone thought I was crazy and she said yes. Well, we all have our pressure valves.) I then followed that with a meme. I’m sure you’re more interested in what’s been going on generally and how we have both been adjusting to married life. The short answer is that we’ve been happy, but busy.

We bought the Suzuki Forenza in late August. I have already put over ten thousand miles on the car, driving three hours round trip a day to my rural teaching job. I’ve been buying books on tape at the Flying J Truck Stop, where liberal titles go for $3.33. I am spending over three hundred dollars a month on gas (I just did a budget yesterday in Microsoft Money by downloading my transaction data from the bank). We’ve looked for houses halfway between here and there, as Jes still is working here and we like here, but they are mostly out of our price range.

The houses in H, where I teach, that are within our price range should all be condemned. Because H is something of a resort community people attempt to price houses for overly enthusiastic vacationers. Consistently I would value the properties that we’ve seen – figuring on the amount of work that would need to be done to bring them up to code and to livable status - at between twenty and thirty thousand dollars less than the asking price. I think the local wisdom is that you add twenty thousand to whatever you think the property is worth in order to cover the cost of the listing and purchasing agents. Actually, I’ve been told as much. It’s a dying community with a lot of hope, fantasizing and fearful that it could be the next Branson. It seems like almost everyone but the truly in, want out.

I am enjoying the job, but the amount of property that is for sale is worrisome; as is the condition of said property. Outside of the city limits there is no building code. Most of the rural houses we’ve looked at do not have septic systems, but they do have lead paint. Before St. Louis I grew up in rural Wisconsin, where it is illegal to sell a home without a septic system sized to the number of bedrooms/bathrooms on the property. When I lived in Kirksville I saw economic depression, but H has it beat and I don’t see any solutions in the offing. Poverty is structurally endemic.

So that is the stress. Do we move there? I have other job offers. Do we take them? I actually have other job offers there from two neighboring universities. I’m really not sure what the best thing to do is. The only thing that is clear to me is that I love teaching, but the work load plus the commute is eclipsing the rest of my life – not a good thing for a newly wed. For the time being I am used to the commute. There are only six weeks left in the semester. We’ll have time to think with the breaks upcoming. I am willing to stay long term, but a number of things will have to fall into place for that to happen.

If you’re of a spiritual/shamanic bent I have a good story for you. After the wedding Jes kept the bouquets around the house in various vases, she kept them longer than you would keep an ordinary bunch of flowers as they had bridal significance. One of the elements of the bouquets were these dry and twisty willow branches that offset the living vibrancy of the roses. When people see the pictures they often ask, “What are those?” meaning the dry twig elements.

In the long left vases the flowers dried and wilted, as you might expect, but the presumably dead willow branches began to leaf and root. We will thus be able to plant and eventually tree the willows from our bridal flowers as they are currently as green and thriving as any spring sprouting. If you’re looking for an omen from this green man and his Bacchanal bride, methinks the willow doth provide.


Saturday, November 11, 2006

Are you from Wisconsin? Why yes I am.

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The Inland North

You may think you speak "Standard English straight out of the dictionary" but when you step away from the Great Lakes you get asked annoying questions like "Are you from Wisconsin?" or "Are you from Chicago?" Chances are you call carbonated drinks "pop."

The Midland
The Northeast
The South
The West
North Central
What American accent do you have?
Take More Quizzes


Did you ever think we would get back online? I have internet access at work, but we all know that blogging from work will get you dooced.

We had been talking about getting cable for a few months prior to the wedding. During the run up to the wedding our attention was on those details and not the details of the phone bill. For three months AT&T charged us sixty dollars a month for a service we were supposed to be getting for twenty five. When I called to get it cleared up I was told that it was up to me to know when my contract expired and they weren’t going to credit any of our bills. I was already angry about the overcharge and had been thinking about a switch to cable so I had them disconnect us right then and there. I told the manager that his business practices were costing him loyal customers and that was that.

We ordered cable in the next day or two to be installed the following Monday. Jes sat around all day and they never called or showed up. Late in the afternoon I got an automated call asking me how the installation had gone and I got to provide several negative responses in my evaluation of the non-appointment.

Our friend Erica works for the cable folks and she offered to do a three way call to ensure that dispatch knew there was some weight within the company pushing for this particular install. It was a humorous conversation with me providing the address and availability details and Erica providing the edged anger, “I happen to know they were there on that day even though the dispatch record shows that no one was home. They have a dog that goes crazy if anyone comes near the door and he didn’t bark once.” That’ll teach them.

The following Saturday I stayed home in the morning waiting for the cable guy. He called and told me he was on his way. He showed up. He was nice. He asked if I had a letter from my landlord giving him permission to drill the holes he would need to, to install the cable. I had no such letter and my land lord was in France for the next two weeks. I suppose I could have lied and told him I owned the place, but I’m not very good at that sort of thing. He also told me I would need to buy an additional wireless card for my desktop as he wouldn’t be able to run the line to both the TV room and to the computer room; so much for cable.

I got a letter the next day from AT&T asking me to switch back. It offered three months free and a much lower rate. Essentially it was offing everything I had originally asked them to do for me. I caved and called to set up the install. The dispatcher told me that since I hadn’t actually had the cable installed that I wasn’t technically switching back and she could only give me one month free. However, she could give me ten dollars off all my bills for six months, plus one month free, thus being more in savings then the original offer, if I would sign up for the slightly more expensive high speed connection. Sure.

This past Monday our new phone line and DSL was supposed to be active. The phone went active on Saturday so I thought the internet might be working. We started to get calls from Walgreens telling us that our prescription was ready. Neither of us take anything. I called the help line and got an idiot. I told him my phone number so that he could start working on our account; he read another number back to me. “No,” I said, and I read him our new number off the bill. Again he read a completely different number back to me. Three is a huge number in mythology in part because it takes idiots at least three tries to get information down.

He then put me on hold for a half hour. I gave up and hung up. I called back on my cell phone, trying to get another person to work with and before I could get through, the idiot called me back on our new landline number. He told me that our phone line had not been properly installed and that it was active at two residences: an old-school party line. He said that they couldn’t fix the internet connection until they fixed the phone mix up.

The following day at work I got an email telling me that our phone line was at last sorted out. I couldn’t deal with the internet during the week as I leave for work before six and often don’t get home until after six – thus not matching their business hours. Wednesday I got the same sort of automated “how are we doing” call from AT&T that the cable had made. I rated everything poor as my internet was still not active. How was my service? Non-existent.

Yesterday Jes spent two hours on the phone with another idiot tech who eventually realized that computers were beyond his expertise. He bumped Jes up to tier two tech support. That guy talked her through the DOS shell set up and had us working in no time. He even helped her configure our router, which technically they aren’t supposed to do since it’s not one of theirs.

We’ve had a little breather from both bills and access. We’ve been taught the important lesson that in modern America the consumer is the lap dog of inept monopoly, and we’ve learned to always ask the first idiot we talk to at AT&T to bump as up to tier two tech support.